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  • A Christmas Prayer for the Merry ... and Not-So-Merry

    "But the angel reassured them. 'Don't be afraid!' he said. 'I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!'" Luke 2:10-11 (NLT)

    Editor's Note: Today, and always, we pray you experience God's love through the gift of His Son, Jesus. We wish you a very Merry Christmas! From your friends at Proverbs 31 Ministries.

    Father God,

    We thank You and praise You today for the miracle of Your Son's birth. Thank You for bringing great JOY to the whole world!

    Thank You for giving us the assurance that because You came to us in the form of a human, we who believe in Jesus can know with absolute certainty that we'll spend eternity with You.

    We thank You, Lord, for the many reasons we have been given a merry Christmas. And we rejoice for each blessing. New life. New love. A home. A job. New opportunities. Second chances. And more.

    We know, Lord, that You bring the sun and the moon and set the stars in motion. You tell the ocean where to stop and the snow when to start. And we thank You for the mighty gift of Your creation.

    Thank You, Father, for spiritual leaders and faith-filled friends who keep encouraging us when we are close to giving up.

    And although we have many reasons to rejoice today, Lord, we also know December 25th can be not-so-merry for a whole host of reasons. We pray for those who are experiencing loss this Christmas: relational, financial, spiritual and physical.

    We pray for those who are coping with loving a prodigal and our friends and family members whose hearts are far from You. We pray for those dealing with unemployment and addictions and chronic sickness ... and unending pain and frustrations of all kinds. Thank You, Lord, that You are The Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace, even in the midst of our not-so-merry circumstances.

    Finally, Lord, we ask You to grant us peace. Peace in our homes, peace in our churches, and peace in our hearts, when the world all around us spins out-of-control.

    Help us to stay focused on You, this Christmastime and always. Thank You for loving the whole world enough to send the greatest gift, Your Son, so that we might truly have a very merry Christmas.

    In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 3:16, "For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (NLT)

    Luke 2:10, "But the angel reassured them. 'Don't be afraid!' he said. 'I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.'" (NLT)

    1 John 5:13, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (NIV)

    Psalm 95:1-2, "Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song." (NIV)

    Job 38:8-11, "Who kept the sea inside its boundaries as it burst from the womb, and as I clothed it with clouds and wrapped it in thick darkness? For I locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores. I said, 'This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!'" (NLT)

    Psalm 72:12-14, "He will rescue the poor when they cry to him; he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them. He feels pity for the weak and the needy, and he will rescue them. He will redeem them from oppression and violence, for their lives are precious to him." (NLT)

    Isaiah 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (NIV)

    1 Thessalonians 5:23, "Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again." (NLT)

    Prayer © 2014 by Steph Raquel. All rights reserved.

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

  • God is With Us

    MICCA CAMPBELL

    MICCA

    "'The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means 'God with us').'" Matthew 1:23 (NIV)

    I woke to the cooing of my 8-month-old son in need of a dry diaper and a bottle. By the time I got to his room, I was fully awake to my reality. It was Christmas morning. Sigh. I had dreaded the arrival of this day.

    It was the first Christmas after my husband's death.

    Most of my days consisted of loneliness and grief. I knew facing the holidays would be worse. I felt so alone.

    My heart was joyless. There was no one to wish a Merry Christmas. No gifts to open. No celebration. For me, it was just another ordinary day of going through the motions. I'd care for my son and try to survive the grief and loneliness.

    Have you ever been this lonely? Your situation may not be like mine, but I do know during difficult times God often feels distant. Uncaring. Unresponsive. Unaware. And yet, Psalm 139:7 challenged my feelings that Christmas Day.

    "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?" (NIV)

    The Psalmist was clear. God is everywhere. There is nowhere I can go that God is not already there.

    As I pondered this truth, hope began to rise in my heart. I am never alone because God is with me in every situation, good or bad.

    Isn't this the message of Christmas — God is with us? Isn't this the essence of our faith — God is with us?

    Perhaps this is what inspired Matthew to write our key verse: "'The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' (which means, 'God with us.')" (Matthew 1:23).

    That name, Immanuel, holds great significance for you and me.

    This Name tells us Christ didn't come that holy night to say "well done." He didn't come to pat us on the back or encourage us for just a time. He came to stay. God came to dwell among us and to reside within us forever.

    Sure, God has always been with us, but this truth took on a whole new meaning when Jesus was born. The astounding truth of Christmas is that God put on human flesh and became one of us. A babe, lying in a manger, was proof He had come and His name was the message. God is with us in human formImmanuel became one of us and suffered as we suffer so that He might understand our pain. So that He might know how to comfort and help us.

    That's not all. This baby Jesus didn't come only to walk among us. He came to deliver us and set us right with God. The coming of Jesus meant God the Father had now sent His Son to deliver the world from sin.

    What does this mean for you and me? It means no matter the challenge, you are not alone. Whatever your need — deliverance, strength, hope — Immanuel is present. He is not some far-off God. He is right there beside you this very moment.

    My days grew brighter as I looked for God's company amidst my pain. Eventually, I no longer trudged through ordinary days because my extraordinary God met me at my point of need. The secret is this. The more I learned to acknowledge His presence, the more of His presence I experienced. You can, too.

    No matter where you are this Christmas Eve, you are not alone.

    You may feel alone. It may appear that you are alone. But Christ is there with you. He sees you. He understands. And He can help you.

    Tomorrow can be different. You can celebrate Christmas morn with new joy because He — God Himself — has come to be with you. In His magnificent company, though you may be down and out, you are not without. You are not without His love or His all-sufficient strength. You are not without His safety. You are not without His care or provision. And you are not without His presence.

    This is the best news of all. Immanuel, God is with us!

    Lord, Thank You for your promised presence. I can move forward in faith knowing You are with me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Hebrews 13:5b, " ... because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How will you respond to the Christ child this Christmas?

    © 2014 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Didn't Have The Courage

    RENEE SWOPE

    RENEE

    "The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD..." 1 Chronicles 29:9a (NIV)

    I didn't want to go first. As much as I knew God wanted me to trust Him, I didn't have the courage.

    It was June 1989. I had given my life to Christ six months earlier and was on a college youth retreat. While reading my Bible one day, I sensed God wanted me to share my story. First with my large youth group, and then with others in the coming weeks. Not just the happy parts of my story; but also the hidden, redeemed-by-His grace parts.

    I didn't want to tell people the hard parts of my story, especially not my struggles with depression and anxiety. Yet I knew God wanted me to share the reasons behind the life-changing hope I'd found in Christ.

    I wish I could say I gave my story freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord, to use for His glory. Just like King David and his leaders gave their gifts to build a temple for the Lord, as we see in today's key verse, 1 Chronicles 29:9, I wish I could say my heart responded with a courageous "Yes!"

    But that's not what happened and here's why:

    I couldn't see the why behind God's will. Why would God want me to share my story? How could my story help people? Their smiles and seemingly happy-go-lucky Christian lives convinced me they were doing fine. I assumed their problems were minor and their need for Jesus was minimal compared to mine.

    I didn't realize pride had blocked my perspective. I thought I was afraid to share my story, but I'm pretty sure pride was the problem. Sadly, I was more concerned with what people thought about me than what they thought about God. Clinging to the details of my story like priceless jewels, I would not give my brokenness to use for others' good or for His glory.

    I didn't have the courage to go first. I had never heard Christians share their emotional and spiritual struggles. And I did not want to be the first. What if depression and anxiety were topics under a secret "things we don't talk about" category I hadn't been told about? That would be awkward. Maybe if someone else went first, then I'd go next.

    I didn't share my story that weekend or in the 10 years that followed.

    I didn't have courageous willingness like King David. But eventually I became like his leaders and like the people who saw their example and "rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD ..." 1 Chronicles 29:9a (NIV).

    You see, God brought women into my life who followed His lead even when they didn't understand the why behind His will. Women who recognized pride's ability to block our perspective and keep us from God's best.

    Women who were willing to go first, which gave me the courage to go next.

    Through my church, speakers at women's conferences and here at Proverbs 31 Ministries, God has surrounded me with women who give Jesus full access to their lives and their stories because they trust Jesus more than their fears.

    God uses women who are willing to go first — to give others courage to go next.

    I want to be that kind of woman. A woman who is willing to say, "I'll trust Jesus even when it's hard. I'll let my guard down so you can see Christ working in me. I'll be brave so you know you can be, too. Watch, I'll go first."

    Why? Because He's worth it and you're worth it. We're worth it, friend. We're worth the work it takes to follow Christ with all of our hearts and willingly give Him all we've got.

    Let's do it. Are you with me? I'll go first.

    Lord, make me brave. Give me courageous willingness to go first — whether it's sharing my story or saying I'm sorry. And when I feel afraid, remind me that You went first so I could go next. From Bethlehem to Calvary, You have gone before me and You are with me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Chronicles 29:11, "Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Proverbs 31 Ministries exists to be a trusted friend who comes along side of you and millions of women around the world each day — a friend who says: "You can do this. We know it's hard, but you're not alone. We are with you!" It's why we share our struggles and our stories held together with God's truth through our FREE daily devotions, radio shows and Online Bible Studies. But we can't do it without your help. Will you prayerfully consider making a year-end gift or becoming a monthly partner?

    Like King David and his leaders, we've invited our staff, board of directors and speaker team to go first with us in our giving by making a year-end gift or becoming monthly partners during our year-end campaign. We would love for you to join us as we invest in building God's kingdom through Proverbs 31 Ministries. Make a DONATION here. Thank you for your prayers and generous support.

    © 2014 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • If You're Longing For Home This Christmas...

    ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    ALICIA

    "Jesus replied, 'Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.'" John 14:23 (NIV)

    In January, my son cried every night when the moon rose high.

    Moving boxes replaced our Christmas boxes as we started the new year in a new house, in a new town, in a new state 450 miles away from the only place Joshua had ever called home.

    When the Legos were abandoned and the pingpong paddles laid to rest, when the clamor of the day grew mute and the quiet of the night grew noisy, my littlest boy would lie in his top bunk and remember where he was.

    Or where he wasn't.

    The shadows danced differently on those new bedroom walls, and the wind rattled the windows in a curious cadence. The owl in the big evergreen sang to the stars with an eerie screech, and the streetlamp cast a golden beam on the closet door.

    I wanna go home, my son would cry as salty tears dampened his pillow. I wanna go home.

    Sometimes the words seeped angry. Other times, the syllables dribbled like a dirge echoing lonely in the darkness. But every time, I'd lie next to my snuffling son with my heart aching and my head quaking. And I would pray until he surrendered to sleep.

    Crammed between the cold wall and Joshua's little frame, I prayed for new friends and for fresh courage. For comfort and for peace. But most of all, I begged God to make our new place home.

    I prayed that line all through the long hours of that first homesick month until one morning I realized that my prayer had already been answered.

    I was lingering in the 14th chapter of the gospel of John when the 23rd verse made my heart leap.

    "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."

    I shifted my gaze from the Bible on my lap to the moving boxes piled high in the corner, and I soaked in the comfort of my Savior's words.

    We may have left a house behind when we followed the moving truck east, but we hadn't relinquished our home.

    You see, home isn't a place, it's a Person.

    Home isn't a refuge from the storm. It's a Perfect Love that storms our hearts.

    Home isn't the light at the end of the road. It's an unquenchable Hope that lights our way.

    And right before Jesus went to Heaven to prepare a forever place for you and me, He reminded us of that simple truth.

    We don't find home by following a yellow brick road. Home finds us when we follow Christ's commands and choose to live as His beloved.

    Our zip code may change and the familiar may fade, but when we build our lives on the cornerstone of Christ, we are never far from home.

    Because home isn't summed up in an address.

    It's captured in a name. Immanuel.

    Matthew 1:23 says, "'The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' (which means 'God with us')" (NIV).

    Dear Jesus, I want to build my life on the unchanging reality of Your love, so that no matter where I go, I will always feel at home. Thanks that You are always with me. Teach me how to live in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (NIV)

    Psalm 90:1, "God, it seems you've been our home forever ..." (MSG)

    John 15:5, "I am the Vine and you are the branches. Get your life from Me. Then I will live in you and you will give much fruit. You can do nothing without Me." (NLV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: As you decorate for Christmas, pray about the ways you can "decorate" your heart, Christ's home, in honor of His birth. Ask God to show you if you need to sweep out some cobwebs of unforgiveness, hang a garland of prayer, or re-arrange your priorities to put others first.

    Set up a simple manger scene somewhere in your home and let it remind you of the gift of Immanuel — at Christmastime and always.

    © 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • Is Jesus Just Pretend?

    TRACIE MILES

    TRACIE

    "But he replied, 'I won't believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.'" John 20:25b (NLT)

    She looked up at her daddy with eyes filled with concern, trying to put into words the fears and doubts which had crept into her 3-year-old mind.

    It was a day dedicated to prayer and worship at my niece's Christian preschool where her father works and where they'd spent the morning praying for Jesus to join them and be present.

    When the service finished, Berkeley tugged on her daddy's shirt, and as he looked at her distraught little face, he asked what was wrong. Hesitantly, she innocently asked "Daddy, is Jesus just pretend?"

    He was taken aback by her question, but gently answered, "Of course not honey. He's very much alive and with us today."

    Berkeley replied, "But He didn't come." They had asked Jesus to come, and in her mind, He hadn't shown up.

    When my brother told me this story, my first reaction was a chuckle. How adorable is that? But my second thought was how even as adults, we sometimes wonder if Jesus is just pretend, simply because we don't see physical evidence of Him when we want to. Even one of Jesus's disciples, Thomas, doubted Jesus was really alive until he saw Him with his own eyes.

    After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders (John 20:19), and Jesus appeared before them saying "Peace be with you." He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side and they were overcome with joy.

    But Thomas was not there that evening to witness this encounter. Since he didn't see Jesus himself, he didn't believe Jesus had actually shown up. In today's key verse, Thomas stated he needed proof before he could believe Jesus was really alive and active.

    I've been a doubting Thomas before myself.

    I've spent nights wondering if Jesus was really with me when my heart was breaking, my mistakes were heavy burdens, and my problems seemed overwhelming. I've walked through days begging for Jesus to give me a sign, any sign, to prove He was with me. And just like Jesus showed Himself to Thomas, there was one particular day He showed Himself to me.

    I was participating in a Bible study and instructed to do a timeline of my life. I half-heartedly began the exercise, but over the next hour, as I scribbled out decades of experiences, good and bad, my spiritual eyes were opened for the first time. I suddenly saw a picture of God's handiwork, and how He had been at work every step of the way.

    When they were written in black and white, I began to see the happenings of my life from a new perspective — as tangible proof of Jesus. They were no longer just memories, but experiences that all fed my life story and mapped out a divinely designed future, purpose and plan just for me.

    Only after Thomas saw Jesus for himself did he believe He was alive. Similarly, when the proof of Jesus was staring at me from my scribbled paper, I could not help but believe either.

    However Jesus wants us to believe in Him even if we don't see the proof. In John 20:29b Jesus says, "Blessed are those who believe without seeing me" (NLT).

    Sometimes we want proof that Jesus sees, cares and loves. But if we sincerely look for proof in our lives, seeking how and where He has been at work, what we see with our spiritual eyes will be so much better proof than what we could ever see with our physical ones.

    Dear Jesus, I want to see with new spiritual vision how You have been at work in my life. Give me wisdom and discernment to see how You have been shaping me for purpose. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Genesis 16:13, "She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: 'You are the God who sees me,' for she said, 'I have now seen the One who sees me.'" (NIV)

    Joshua 1:9, "This is my command — be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (NLT)

    Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Reflect on a time in your life when you felt Jesus was "just pretend." Ask Him for spiritual vision to see how He was with you and at work.

    How might God want to use a difficult experience from your past to help others understand He is real, alive and active?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • I'm Worried About My Child's Future

    LYSA TERKEURST

    LYSA

    "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps." Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

    Have you ever felt pressured to ensure your child's success in school because you thought it meant success in life?

    A couple of years ago I overheard my daughter Hope telling a friend she was glad I didn't get all worked up over grades. Not trying to be nosey but totally wanting to be nosey, I kept listening.

    She explained that she and her siblings were expected to do their best, but in the end, as long as they worked hard, my husband Art and I were okay with whatever grade they received.

    For the most part, that's right.

    This hasn't always been the case. When Hope started kindergarten, I felt compelled to help her succeed. I felt enormous pressure because I believed success in school meant success in life, and I wanted to set my child up for success.

    She was a bright and articulate child. But all through kindergarten, she couldn't read.

    Then came first grade. All of the other kids in her class were reading with ease. Not my daughter. I panicked. I had her tested. I worried constantly that I must be doing something wrong as her mother.

    In the end, it was a readiness issue. When she was ready, she starting reading.

    Then along came my next child, who was reading at 4 years old. Finally I'd done something right, I reasoned.

    But then child number three came along, and she was my slowest reader yet.

    Through all of this, God started to untangle the misperception that success in school determines success in life, and as a parent, it is up to me to push, plead, demand and determine my child's future.

    Slowly, I realized God has a plan for each of my kids. As long as I'm depending on the Lord to guide me as a parent, nothing I do or don't do will mess up their futures. I'm reassured of this with our key verse, Proverbs 16:9, "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps."

    As their parent, it's my job to guide them, but worldly success shouldn't be the ultimate goal. My guiding should focus on leading them into a relationship with God, where He'll make their path straight, no matter what their grades are.

    This revelation has provided such freedom.

    I can celebrate when one of my kids excels in a subject, trusting that particular success is needed for whatever God intends for them in life. If, however, a child struggles and can't grasp a certain subject — well, that's also part of God's direction.

    Of course, working hard, doing your best and being a conscientious student is important. But in our home, grades are not the ultimate determination of success.

    This child may never make marks in school that the world esteems, but giving her freedom to excel as God has designed her is already paying off. She has an eternal perspective that's more valuable for her future than any academic accolades.

    I'm convinced her struggles in school are actually God's way of keeping her on the path He's had for her since she was conceived. Hope was conceived only four months into our very rough start of a marriage. Art and I were two broken sinners thrust into the responsibility of trying to raise a child.

    The day Hope was born I saw God like never before. His tender grace was handed to me wrapped in a pink blanket with eyes so wide, so blue, they were a sea of forgiveness forever staring back at me.

    I'd never physically touched God until that day. And maybe for the first time in my entire life, His hope rushed inside of me and started rearranging and redeeming my brokenness.

    Hope.

    We named her Hope.

    Now, we won't talk about the conversations I had with God when His Hope kept me up in the middle of the night for months after that. And we will save the story of how His Hope has always felt it was beneath her to be the child, and she would put her hands on her toddler hips and tell me not to boss her.

    We'll save those stories for another day.

    But I'll never forget an e-mail I got from His Hope while she was on a mission trip. Hope was walking the broken roads of Ethiopia navigating poverty her mind couldn't quite process. She bumped into sheep and a woman whose house was made of cardboard and ripped bed sheets.

    Hope's steps were steady, though her heart felt shaky as she loved on 30 kids dying of AIDS in a forgotten orphanage on the forgotten outskirts of town.

    She wrote to say, "Mom, I've fallen in love. The kids rushed at me when I walked in and I tried to hold all 30 of them at one time."

    His Hope.

    From a broken mama. Into a broken world. His Hope is still going forth like only His Hope can.

    All that to say, yeah — I don't get all worked up over grades anymore. Trusting God's plan is the only secret I know in the gentle art of not freaking out.

    Dear Lord, thank You for Your truth that says You determine our steps. Help me to remember that when I'm anxious over my child's future. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 138:8a, "The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;" (ESV).

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What things are you worried about for your child? Write them down and then ask God to orchestrate every detail that concerns you.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • How Do I Trust Again?

    SUZIE ELLER

    SUZIE

    "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8 (ESV)

    We walked into the doctor's office fully expecting good news.

    We walked out carrying a slew of pamphlets and news that we didn't see coming.

    Cancer is a place we've been through before as a couple. Except back then it was me, and now it's him.

    In the hours after his diagnosis, we attended a sweet birthday celebration for a grandchild. We danced under the stars at a family wedding. When the busy weekend finally passed, I sat in the living room with my Bible in front of me. Sun streamed in through windows as I grieved.

    Lord, I don't want to do this again.

    I glanced at my open Bible and read the Scripture verse in Jeremiah I'd committed to memory the week before:

    "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit."

    As I memorized it, I had pictured a tall tree, its leafy branches hovering over the water, roots reaching for nourishment. The tree was laden with fruit, though everything else around it was burned and dry.

    Now I sensed the heat coming our way. Hard decisions. Financial burdens. Emotional uncertainty.

    With tears, I whispered the beautiful words over and over until they soaked into my heart: Blessed is the {woman} who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.

    Maybe you are in a hard place today. Perhaps it's a place you've encountered before, and it's the last place you wanted to be. I pray that Jeremiah's words bring guidance to you, as they do to me.

    First, Jeremiah reveals that we can be honest about how we feel.

    Sometimes, in that hard place, we don't give space to the feelings trapped in our hearts. We somehow believe that acknowledging our emotions is a lack of faith.

    Jeremiah doesn't paint a pretty picture with his words about what is taking place. Instead, he describes intense heat that withers everything around the tree. But He also points to a God who is close by. Our God knows what we are going through. He's our safe place.

    While we are being strong for others, He will be strong for you and me.

    Second, we can run to the life-giving Source.

    Hard places require wise choices. Hard places can make you feel empty. Yet there is a promise of refreshing that runs so deep that we are strengthened and nourished in spite of what is taking place.

    Last, let's settle into this promise found in today's key verse: When we remain close to God in the hard places, there's fruit.

    Because I've walked this path before, I know it to be true.

    Fruit might come through joy that makes no sense in relation to circumstances.

    Fruit can spring forth in laughter that erupts where darkness wants to take hold.

    Fruit is the very real promise of eternity.

    Fruit is planted inside of us as we hold tightly to a faith that is bigger than we are.

    I'm still rocked by the news, and I still don't want to be in this hard place, but I know what to do. I'm pushing my roots deep in my faith. I'm scooting closer to my God in the midst of drought. I'm even anticipating the fruit that will drop from our lives as a result.

    Today, let's whisper it together. Let's hold close to it in the hard place: Blessed is the {woman} who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.

    Dear Jesus, today I intentionally walk to the water and I dip my roots in deep to find all that I need in this hard place. Thank You for being my Source. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (NIV)

    Psalm 118:14a, "The LORD is my strength and my song." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Matthew 11:28-29 offers rest when we feel overwhelmed. Isaiah 40:29-31 promises renewed strength. Romans 8:37-39 assures us that He keeps us company in hard places.

    Read these verses and underline the words that describe what you need from God today.

    © 2014 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • If You Ever Feel Lonely, Read This

    LYSA TERKEURST

    LYSA

    "Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses." Psalm 25:16-17 (ESV)

    There were many feelings I expected to have at this conference I'd been looking forward to attending. Acceptance. Fun. Camaraderie.

    On paper, these were my people.

    They lead organizations. I lead an organization. They are vulnerable. I am vulnerable. Like me, they know the stresses of deadlines, trying to balance kids with ministry, and the nagging sense that we should keep hidden the fact that we have the pizza delivery place on speed dial.

    Yes, these will for sure be my people.

    And the great thing about gathering with people you just know you're going to bond with is that they will get you. Really get you ... like on the level of having inside jokes that makes every conversation comfortable and delightful.

    I couldn't wait to be with these people.

    And I couldn't wait for the deep friendships that would surely bloom as a result of our time together.

    I walked into the meeting room and quickly located the table of the people I was excited to meet. Every seat had a nametag attached so I circled the table looking for mine. As I got to the last chair and realized my name wasn't there, I got a sinking feeling.

    I milled around the room looking for my name, feeling increasingly out of place. Finally, at a table on the opposite side of the room, I found my name. I rallied in my heart that the Lord must have a special plan for me to meet and connect with the others assigned to my table. I took my seat and pulled out my cell phone as I nervously waited for my tablemates.

    I waited.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    As the prayer for the meal concluded and the event got underway it became painfully apparent to me that the others assigned to my table weren't able to come for some reason. So, I'd be seated alone. Very alone.

    In reality, I don't think anyone else really noticed my predicament. After all by this time everyone in the room was busy passing rolls and salad dressing options.

    In my head I started to have a little pity conversation: Well self, would you like a roll? Or ten perhaps? It's certainly an option when you're sitting single at a table for ten.

    And that's when a very clear sentence popped into my head, "You aren't set aside, Lysa. You are set apart." It wasn't audible. And it wasn't my own thought. I knew it was a thought assigned by God that I needed to ponder.

    To be set aside is to be rejected.

    That's exactly what the enemy would have wanted me to feel. If he could get me to feel this, then I'd become completely self-absorbed in my own insecurity and miss whatever reason God had for me to be at this event.

    To be set apart is to be given an assignment that requires preparation.

    That's what I believe God wanted me to see. If He could get me to see this, I'd be able to embrace the lesson of this situation.

    Have you ever been in this place? Maybe you're there this Christmas season. It's tough when everything around you screams "merry" while you're aching with loneliness and feel anything but.

    I wasn't just in this place at the dinner that night. I've been in whole seasons of my life where, though I had people around, I felt quite alone in my calling.

    Can I give you three thoughts that might encourage you today?

    1. Look for the gift of being humbled.

    Proverbs 11:2b reminds us that "with humility comes wisdom" (NIV). In this set apart place, God will give you special wisdom you'll need for the assignment ahead.

    2. Look for the gift of being lonely.

    This will develop in you a deeper sense of compassion for your fellow travelers. You better believe when I walk into a conference now I look for someone sitting alone and make sure they know someone noticed them.

    3. Look for the gift of silence.

    Had I been surrounded by the voices of those people I was so eager to meet that night, I would have surely missed the voice of God. I'm trying to weave more silence into the rhythm of my life now so I can whisper, "God what might You want to say to me right now? I'm listening."

    I know it can be painful to be alone. And I know the thoughts of being set aside are loud and overwhelmingly tempting to believe in the hollows of feeling unnoticed and uninvited.

    But as you pray through your feelings, see if maybe your situation has more to do with you being prepared than you being overlooked.

    There is something wonderfully sacred that happens when a girl chooses to look past being set aside to see God's call for her to be set apart.

    Dear Lord, help me see the gifts hidden in this season of loneliness. I'm believing today that I'm set apart, not set aside. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:16a, "You didn't choose me. I chose you." (NLT)

  • I Don't Want to Fit In

    LYNN COWELL

    LYNN

    "Then a herald shouted out, 'People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king's command! When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar's gold statue. Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.'" Daniel 3:4-6 (NLT)

    I knew I needed to stop talking about him, but as a new bride, I just couldn't. Fresh and new, I could often be found gushing about my amazing husband!

    However in my work environment, I quickly realized being happy and being married wasn't all that popular. The positive comments I made about my husband stood out from the daily hubby-bashing of my peers. So it didn't take me long to find my own complaints about marriage to add to the conversations.

    I worked to find something negative about Greg to throw in the fire. But although my words fit in well with my peers, making negative comments hurt my heart. I knew better. It wasn't a matter of simply letting something slip; I was choosing to be someone I was not.

    When we hear the words "peer pressure," we often think of just teenagers. But pressure to conform doesn't go away once we leave our school days. It isn't limited to any one age, gender or status group. In one form or another, every culture is influenced by the pressure to belong.

    In our key verse today, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon commanded "people of all races and nations and languages" to bow down and worship an image of himself. All people, of all types, were subject to his pressure to conform.

    We, too, are under pressure to conform daily.

    To bad mouth our spouses. To keep our clothes, cars or condos up to date. To meet society's demands about body image. Daily we can be pushed to "bow down" to the gods of bellyaching, buying and beauty.

    Although my early marriage days are long gone, I still experience the pressure of society's standards.

    But I've decided I don't want to do it any more. I don't want to fit in, if fitting in means going against God's best for His glory and my good.

    Like the three brave young men who stood up to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3 and bravely refused to bow down to the gold statue of the king, we too can be brave and refuse peer pressure. We can reach out to Jesus for the strength, courage and determination to not "bow down" to culture's definition of behavior. Boldly, we can choose to be women who exude the traits of Jesus — the fruit of the Spirit. And in turn, we can teach our children to be bold too.

    When we display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control we become different. And it's a difference that is gorgeous and godly.

    Jesus, it is all too easy for me to just go along each day with what society calls "normal." Yet You call me to stand up and stand out for You. Help me today to choose to be different and choose to allow Your life to flow through mine. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (NIV)

    Romans 12:2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what ways do you face the daily pressure to conform to culture's norms?

    Do a word search using the concordance of your Bible, or an online version, to discover what God's Word has to say about this particular struggle.

    © 2014 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Don't Feel Like Being Nice

    GLYNNIS

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

    Grocery shopping alone! Oh how I'd taken that luxury for granted before having children.

    As I headed to the store after dropping my children off at a church event, I was nearly giddy with the joy of it all. A whole hour to myself. I had it all planned. I'd start with a soda, and leisurely meander through the aisles, actually looking at my coupons and thinking through meal planning.

    No "Mommy can I get this?" or "I have to go the bathroom!" comments would interrupt my time. I was going to be the most effective shopper in that store!

    It felt like I had all the time in the world, and I was really enjoying myself. Until I looked at my watch. Then panic set in.

    How had that much time gone by? I'd been there over an hour. I wasn't finished and still had to check out.

    I grabbed the last items on my list, rushed to the checkout lines and scurried between them trying to find the shortest line. I mentally assessed the checkout clerks, trying to determine their speed. Glancing at my watch for the fifth time, I picked one hoping Murphy's Law would not apply to me.

    The clerk proved quick, and soon it was my turn. Although I could feel myself getting impatient (as I looked at my watch yet another time) I tried to keep it under control. But the time was really late. And not only did I still have to pick up my children, but I told my sister I'd meet her for lunch after that. Everyone was waiting on me.

    And then the clerk hit a snag. One of my items wasn't ringing up correctly. He called for backup. But the first manager couldn't help. "I'm sorry Ma'am," the young man cringed. "I'm going to have to call the meat department."

    Seriously?! I thought to myself. Just give it to me for free so I can go!

    I could feel myself getting more and more anxious. Everything in me felt like showing this young man how impatient I was. I could roll my eyes, sigh with exaggeration and set my wallet down hard on the counter.

    I sensed the Lord was telling me to be nice, but I didn't feel like being nice!

    Thankfully, then the Holy Spirit stepped in and clearly spoke to my heart: Don't sacrifice kindness on the altar of your impatience.

    Immediately I was repentant. I knew I was the one to blame for neglecting the time. Not this clerk. And rather than impatience, God prompted me to show kindness to this flustered young man who could not get my ham steak to ring up.

    "It's okay," I said with a sincere smile. "I'll come back another time."

    Whew, talk about a close call. I could have easily given in to impatience like I'd done plenty of times before. And then it probably would have snowballed. Especially when I got back to the church and my children sauntered up to the car. Yet rather than snapping at them to hurry, they got an apology and a much nicer mother.

    I so desperately want to be a woman who shows grace and kindness to others. One who puts the feelings of others above her plans. However, too often I allow impatience to direct my actions, sacrificing kindness when others most need it.

    God has such a beautiful, loving plan for us as we live together on this earth. In one sentence we have all the rules needed to get along: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32).

    At this busy Christmas season, it might be easy to feel impatient as stores are crowded and lines are long. If you're like me, you've got too much to do in too little time. Yet in the midst of the hustle and bustle, when impatience starts to rise, perhaps we might make a choice.

    Could we choose to be kind even when we don't feel like it?

    Perhaps we could even start a kindness revolution ... at home first, then work, church and the store. Rather than impatience, let's create a culture of kindness wherever we go, showing God's love to those who need it most.

    Lord, thank You for showing kindness to me when I least deserved it. Help me to be Your loving hands, feet and words to a world that desperately needs You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Colossians 3:12, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what situations do you find yourself the most impatient?

    What things can you do differently to create a culture of kindness in your life?

    © 2014 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

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