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  • 3 Ways to Press Through Unanswered Prayer

    LYSA

    "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

    I opened the anonymous letter and my heart sank. It was from another mom who wanted to make sure I had a list of all the ways one of my daughters was falling short. There in black and white she listed my daughter's mistakes, shortcomings and frailties.

    And then just to make sure I took her nameless letter seriously, she informed me she'd be sending a copy to my pastor.

    My initial reaction was figure out who sent this so I could call her. Talk this through face-to-face. Assure her my husband and I were not only aware of some struggles my daughter was having but also working diligently to help her course-correct.

    But as I reread the letter, I discerned it wasn't sent from a place of love for my family or a heart that wanted to help.

    From the language she used and the fact that there wasn't a way to contact her, it was obvious she didn't send it because she wanted the best for my daughter.

    I sat on the edge of my bed and cried.

    It's so hard to have someone attack you in an area that's already rubbed raw with hardship. Her letter was like a bullet straight to my heart.

    However, it was also a wake-up call to get more intentional in praying for my daughter. I thought about her struggles a lot. I talked about her struggles. I worried about her struggles.

    But thinking about, talking about and worrying about something is not the same as praying about it.

    I determined to turn this letter that felt like a bullet into a blessing by using it as a catalyst to ramp up my prayer life.

    Through my tears I cried out to the Lord, "I will not sacrifice Your grace for my child on the altar of people's opinions. Of course I want my daughter to walk the straight and narrow path of great choices. But I trust You Lord to write her testimony. My main goal for her is not behavior modification but total heart transformation. I want her to want You, Lord, and Your best for her life. Give me the courage to not just pray about my daughter, but to pray her all the way through this."

    Praying her through the ups and downs wasn't easy. There were days I wondered if God was even hearing my prayers.

    It's tough to pray someone all the way through a messy, hard, complicated situation and not see answers. Maybe you've been there. Maybe you are there now.

    Can I speak hope into your heart with 3 ways to press through unanswered prayers?

    1. Know with confidence God hears your prayers.

    1 John 5:14 reminds us, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (NIV).

    2. Trust that prayer makes a difference, even when you don't see the difference.

    It may take a while for you to see God answer your prayers. But don't miss an "in the meantime answer" you can receive right away. Philippians 4: 6-7 reminds us of the immediate answer to every prayer: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

    Did you catch it? It's the peace of God that will guard your heart and mind in the process while you're waiting for God to reveal His answer to your request. When you pray, you can trust you are doing your part and God will certainly do His part.

    3. Tell fear it has no place in this conversation.

    These prayers are your gateway to feel an assurance you don't see yet. But fear will beg you to focus on the problem more than God's promises. Isaiah 41:10 says, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (NIV).

    It's been a year and a half since I got that hard letter that prompted more frequent prayers for my daughter ... that bullet that turned into a blessing. I recently visited her at college and could hardly believe my eyes.

    She's a completely different girl.

    At one point during our time together, I asked her, "What finally made following Jesus wholeheartedly click for you?" She said, "Mom, I've made friends who love Jesus. I saw a joy in them that I wanted. So, I started doing what they do even when I didn't want to. At first I thought getting up to do devotions was unrealistic, prayer meetings were boring, and listening to praise music, excessive. But as I kept doing these things, the Lord started changing my thought patterns. And when I started thinking about life from the standpoint of truth, I had so much more joy."

    She then paused and said words I've longed to hear and prayed to hear for so long, "Mom, I've just completely fallen in love with Jesus."

    I can hardly type those words without crying.

    I pray this infuses your heart with hope to keep praying. I pray you believe God can take the things others intended to harm you or the ones you love, and use them for good to accomplish His purposes as today's key verse reminds us.

    I need a visual reminder of these truths. And I'm wondering if you do too. This month Proverbs 31 Ministries has partnered with Fashion and Compassion to create beautiful jewelry using repurposed bullets from Ethiopia. Our hope is that when we wear one of the From Bullets to Blessings pieces, you and I can be reminded to pray with deep assurance that God hears us and will bring good from this in His time.

    And if you want my team and me to pray alongside you, visit my blog by clicking here and leave a comment about what you are believing for in prayer today.

    Dear Lord, only You can turn what was meant for evil into good. I thank You in advance for all that You're going to do in my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Reread the three truths Lysa talked about. Then, choose one that you're going to hold on to this week.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Sick-of-Me Life

    LISA

    "Then I pray to you, O LORD. I say, 'You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.'" Psalm 142:5 (NLT)

    I must be honest: I need God to consume me more than my life currently does.

    Life ... the often busy, imperfect, challenging daily ride that brings with it human struggle.

    The truth is, I am sick of me.

    I am sick of being afraid. I am sick of being hot and cold for God, depending on my circumstance. I am sick of wrestling with the same things I've wrestled with for most of my life.

    I want to be well. I want to be productive and joyful. I want to be useful for the Kingdom, valuable to my family, and have something to show of my time on earth. When I meet God one day, I want to say with open hands, Here's what I did with the life You gave me.

    I want God. I want Him to show up tangibly in me. I want Him to blow me away with insights and remind me that He is bigger than all my daily crazy. I want Him to sweep me off my feet and take me on one of His many amazing adventures.

    It is not a bad thing when we are sick of ourselves. It is, in fact, a good thing. Because that's when we will desire God in such a big way that we are willing to let go of the steering wheel of our life and let God drive us into our future.

    The sick-of-me life says:

    I'm tired of fighting for people to love me. I'm exhausted by this chase for approval.

    I'm tired of watching God use other people. I want Him to use me.

    I'm tired of being halfway in with God. I want to get off the spiritual roller coaster where I'm good one minute and the next minute I don't want to pray or read my Bible. I want to make progress.

    I'm tired of making decisions based on my fear of the unknown and my desire for comfort. I want to be free from the chains that have kept me bound.

    I'm tired of trying to control everything. I want to finally know and rest in God's ability to take care of it all.

    Here's something beautiful: If we want God, in all these areas and in any way we need Him, we can have Him. But we have to be tired of our usual life.

    We have to get to the point where we say, I am sick of me. Not in a self-loathing way, but in a way that says, God, consume my life. It is in this posture of humility where God can change things. It is here that He moves, alters, heals and takes over.

    Assuring us with His love while helping us change.

    Overwhelming us with His presence.

    Consuming us more than our daily lives.

    Guiding us into a soul revival.

    As only He can, God hears this sick-of-me heart cry and responds in an equally passionate way. Because He is good. Because He wants us to come to the end of ourselves so He can redeem and use our life.

    Because it shows Him we want Him, more than anything else. That's what He wants most too.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for being worthy of our desire. Help me, in the busyness and craziness of my life, to want You more than anything else. I am needy, and I am tired of my usual life — even a good life is not truly good without You. With Your help, I promise to do whatever it takes to change. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 2:4, "God is kind, but he's not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change." (MSG)

    John 3:30, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How does the "sick-of-me life" help bring you closer to Jesus?

    In what ways are you "sick of you" and ready for God to take over and change things?

    © 2014 by Lisa Whittle. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • Pray Any Time for Any Reason, However Small or Off-the-Wall

    LIZ

    "Pray continually, ..." 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NIV)

    My due date was circled in ink, but babies are famous for ignoring calendars. Two weeks after that long-anticipated day came and went, I wondered if our son would ever make his grand entrance into the world.

    Naturally, my main concern was delivering a healthy baby, though I was a teensy bit worried about handling my part. Okay, more than a teensy.

    On that hot August evening, when my husband, Bill, and I drove off to the hospital, we were certain our endless wait was over.

    Not quite. I labored in vain. And prayed nonstop.

    After 22 hours, I was hungry, exhausted and scared. Plans for a C-section were put in motion, beginning with moving me from my comfy hospital bed onto a narrow gurney with wheels. Not a big deal unless you're nine and a half months pregnant.

    The two young orderlies, with wary expressions, did not inspire confidence. A headline flitted through my addled mind: Mother Delivers Bouncing Baby Boy While Bouncing.

    I've prayed some unusual prayers in my lifetime, but Please don't let them drop me! was a new one. Even thinking those words felt foolish, but I silently prayed them nonetheless, desperate for a safe landing.

    Please, Lord. Help me be brave. And help them be strong. Please?

    A moment later, into my hospital room strolled an angel in blue: Don, the nurse anesthetist. Built like an oversized teddy bear swathed in scrubs, he stood next to my bed, his round face beaming. "Are you ready?"

    I gulped. Here we go. The dreaded mid-air move.

    After assessing the situation, Don waved away the two nervous orderlies and blithely announced, "I'll take care of Mrs. Higgs."

    My hero.

    I'd never in my adult life been carried anywhere. Even Bill hadn't swept me over the threshold of our honeymoon suite. We'd just held hands and jumped. Now I was going to allow a complete stranger to do what seemed impossible.

    Don leaned closer. "Can you put your hands around my neck?"

    I could and did, though they were clammy and trembling with fatigue. Would the Lord answer my prayer, or was it time to set the type for that banner headline?

    As if I weighed nothing more than a pillow, the big man with a big heart lifted me off the bed, swung me through the air, and gently placed me on the gurney without so much as a grunt.

    "Nothing to it," he assured me.

    Maybe not for Don. Clearly not for God. He'd sent His best — a Paul Bunyan of a guy, whose heart belonged entirely to Him.

    Four hours later, Don moved me again, this time into a recovery bed. He tucked a precious bundle into my arms and whispered, "Look what a gift God has given you this night."

    Don didn't know that the name we'd chosen for our son meant "gift of God." But the Lord knew.

    His Word tells us, "A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world" (John 16:21, NIV).

    So right. My pain was gone, my prayers were answered, and my joy was over the moon. God had provided safe transport in the arms of His willing servant, and He really came through on my prayers for a healthy baby — Matthew weighed 11 pounds, 12-1/2 ounces. Definitely healthy.

    Knowing the Lord hears every request, big or small, normal or off-the-wall, our job is clear. Pray continually. Wait expectantly. Trust fearlessly.

    Lord, You are beyond faithful. Even before we put our prayers into words, You know what we need and are working on our behalf. Thank You for always listening and always loving. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 5:2, "Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray." (NIV)

    Mark 11:24, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." (NIV)

    Psalm 66:20, "Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!" (NIV)

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

  • Controlling the Green Monster of Envy

    CHRYSTAL

    "It's healthy to be content, but envy can eat you up." Proverbs 14:30 (CEV)

    I was the maid of honor. I was supposed to smile. Be happy. Celebrate another.

    But I couldn't do it.

    I'm sure I faked it well enough. I mean ... I showed up didn't I? I participated in all of the required events and followed through on all of my responsibilities.

    But my heart was like ice.

    As the date for the wedding drew near, my heart was breaking. I was angry that it was her and not me. I was disappointed that I still hadn't met "that" guy. You know ... "the" guy. The one I desired to spend the rest of my life with — and who felt the same way about me.

    I was tired of celebrating everybody else.

    Although my mind directed my heart to revel in the moment of another, my heart was in full-scale rebellion and refused to soften. It was a sheer act of the will that made me show up at all of the functions. It was pure pain to stand next to the bride and watch her get exactly what I longed for myself.

    I was jealous.

    The green monster of envy had taken up residence inside of me.

    Jealousy was an issue for me even before this wedding stuff, but I assumed that infectious green organism was tucked away in a back room somewhere.

    I was wrong.

    That wedding was the key that unlocked the door and unexpectedly let the creature out of its secure location. Now, it was taking over.

    Somewhere down deep, the best of who I am wanted to feel joy for the bride. But I couldn't.

    It wasn't an issue of mind over matter. It was an issue of my misery overtaking my mood.

    I wish I could say I got control of that green-eyed monster before the actual wedding began. But no.

    I'm ashamed to say I allowed my envy to eat me alive. I'm ashamed to say that I was a blot on what was otherwise a beautiful day. And I'm ashamed to say that day was the day of my sister's wedding.

    I simply wasn't happy for her. I couldn't be. I was too consumed with myself.

    I had spent so much time and energy over the years lamenting the parts of my life I disliked, that I'd unknowingly left the door of my heart wide open.

    And when that small green beast slipped in, I didn't kick it out. In fact, I hospitably fed it, nurtured it and coddled it with brooding breakfasts, melancholy midday meals, snacks of sarcasm and dinners of dissatisfactions.

    I simply did not take my envy problem seriously and work diligently to get rid of it.

    I fed it, and it grew. I became an ugly green girl.

    That's what happens when we don't nip envy in the bud. Left unattended, it can become a difficult guest to move out.

    While it is not easy to deal with this sin of the heart, it is absolutely necessary if you want your heart to be clean and clear before God.

    How do you get rid of a jealous, envious heart?

    Give thanks. Learn contentment. But most importantly, love others.

    "Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud ..." (1 Corinthians 13:4, CEV)

    Where there is love, there is less room for things that oppose it.

    You may think: How do I love my way out of jealousy or envy when I don't feel love?

    You act like you do. In time, your feelings will follow your feet.

    Show love.

    Actively bless that person by looking for opportunities to show your care and concern. Encourage, praise and pray for the person. Practice shifting your mind from your own desires to needs of a sister or brother in Christ.

    Love so well that envy has no room to breathe.

    That day at the wedding, I fell short of God's call to love. But through His grace, I've been given more chances. And with His strength, I'm more able to kick that green-eyed monster out of my heart.

    Father God, forgive me for how I have allowed envy to grow in my heart. Sometimes I don't realize how easy it is to nurture jealousy and before I know it, I have turned into a green girl. Help me as I seek to learn contentment and show love to others in a way that pleases You. Wash my green clean with Your precious blood. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Galatians 5:26, "Let's not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other." (CEB)

    Romans 13:13-14, "Let us walk properly as in the daytime ... not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How has envy of another person or a situation affected your ability to experience joy?

    What can you do to love your way out of a place of envy? How can you encourage the one whose presence usually brings your green monster out of hiding?

    What will you do today to practice thankfulness and to choose contentment?

    © 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Recapturing Us in the Midst of Our Rush

    LYSA

    "Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other." Romans 12:9-10 (NLT)

    Do you ever wonder exactly what God wants you to do, especially when you have so many options and demands to manage?

    So often, we want big directional signs from God. But God just wants us to pay attention to what He places right in front of us. I learned this early on in ministry when I had dreams to do big things for God.

    However, when I looked at what was right in front of me at that time it was my neighbors, Ken and Mary. They lived right down the street and were known for their amazing hospitality, adorable farmhouse and parties that stepped out of the pages of a magazine.

    Mary was alive with creativity and always thinking of ways to bless others. Ken adored living out his retirement years helping his bride create a haven for family and friends.

    But cancer swept in and before long, Ken laid Mary to rest in the arms of Jesus.

    I remember seeing Ken not long after Mary's funeral. I knew I needed to stop and say something. But what?

    When I reached Ken, I just bent down and gave him a hug. "How are you, Ken?" Tears filled his eyes, "Not so good. The silence is killing me, Lysa."

    And with those words, I knew this interaction with Ken was an assignment from God. He was stirring my heart more and more as I began to sense I was to invite Ken over for dinner.

    I started having this argument with God in my mind, "God, he's going to expect food. Cooking isn't in my Top 10 talents. I mean, sometimes we just order pizza and call it a night. My cooking doesn't even hold a candle to Mary's. Are you sure about this?"

    But Ken hadn't asked for an amazing meal. What made his heart ache was the silence.

    So I smiled at Ken and said, "Well then, you must come to our house for dinner. I can't always promise it will be tidy and I'm certainly no great cook, but one thing is for sure ... my house is never silent."

    Thus started a tradition — Monday night dinners with Ken.

    We never had candles or tablecloths or even a properly set table. But the noise of our family was an orchestra of comfort and healing to Ken's lonely heart.

    We wanted to live out today's key verse, Romans 12:9-10, "Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other."

    Being knee-deep in the realities of small children made me feel like this wasn't my season of life to make a difference to the outside world. But offering what little I had was used by God!

    We just did life and let Ken join in. I would often ask about Mary's ways of doing things and his face would light up at the opportunity to keep part of her alive.

    And slowly but surely, as we all made time for these special dinners, we recaptured the sacredness of relationships that so often gets lost in the rush of our days.

    One night, as Ken was leaving our home, he stepped off the sidewalk to make his way over to a bush in full bloom. He tenderly picked up one of the flowers and pressed his face close, breathing in its scent deeply.

    He then looked back at me standing in the doorway and said, "Don't miss this. Don't rush through your life, Lysa. Make time to stop and breathe it all in."

    I've never forgotten that.

    Eventually, Ken met someone who could cook, got remarried and moved away.

    But my family and I still preserve that sacred space for Monday night dinners. We invite co-workers, acquaintances and friends who feel like family to join us. We take time to talk. Laugh. Process life. Breathe it all in.

    Although our to-do lists and schedules tug at our attention, we don't allow anything to take priority over these moments. I refuse to let the people I've been entrusted with get my "less" instead of my "best" because I'm distracted.

    I'm so thankful God entrusted me with that small assignment to give Ken noise all those years ago. A little gift placed in the hands of a big God can change the world. It changed ours and it changed Ken's.

    It's amazing to me that what started out as a simple gesture to help a grieving neighbor became one of the greatest ministry blessings of my life. And I've done a lot of breathing it all in ever since.

    Dear Lord, help me see the assignments right in front of me. I desperately want to unrush my schedule so I can love those You have entrusted to me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 John 1:6, "And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one small assignment right in front of you that God is calling you to fulfill? Commit to begin living that out this week.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Interview with Michael W. Smith

    The other day, I had the honor of interviewing Michael W. Smith! Enjoy!

    Kristen Jeffery

    Social Media Coordinator at Family Christian

     

    FC: Hello Michael! How are you doing?

     

    MWS:  Doing great! Thank you!

     

    FC: Well, I know you just released your newest cd, The Spirit of Christmas, so it is only natural that we ask a Christmas question.  Can you share with us a favorite Christmas memory that you have?

     

    MWS: Just growing up in my house…all the kids…. I mean I don’t even know where to start.  We have our traditions. Christmas is a BIG thing at the Smith house.  Just huge!   We’d pull out the Christmas albums every September 1; everyone opens a present on Christmas Eve.   A great Christmas memory is probably when I got my first red, sparkling drum set when I was 7 years old.  You know, I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven!  I’ll never for forget that.

     

    FC: Speaking of gifts, do you have a favorite gift that you received for Christmas?  I know mine was the Barbie Ice cream shop

     

    MWS: Love that!

     

    FC: I did too! Was yours your drum set?

     

    MWS: Probably so.  It was a game changer for me.

     

    FC: I heard a quote from you that in your 31-year career, The Spirit of Christmas is the most unique album you’ve created.  Can you expound on that for us?

     

    MWS:  Well I think it’s unique because of all the people who are on it.  I’ve never actually had as many guest artists on an album in my life, other than the artists that were on the worship album that sang in my choir.  These are people that are stepping out.  I’m singing solos with them and people that are mostly not from my genre, you know Contemporary Christian music.  This is an A Level group of amazing people.  Carrie Underwood being one of them. Bono’s on the record.  I mean it’s just insane.  I’m just sort of pinching myself that we actually pulled it off.

     

    FC: I’m sure.  When I was looking at the list of artists performing with you, it’s going to reach such a huge audience!  You’re hitting all the different tastes that people could have for the different genres of music and different talent it’s just phenomenal!

     

    MWS:  Well I think so.  You know I think we have something really special going on.  Just take me out of the equation and I think it’s just an amazing record, just from what these people brought to the project.  It’s pretty off the charts.

     

     

     

    FC: That sounds amazing! I know I will be picking up a few copies for my family this year.  You’ve got a tour going on this year and some confirmed tour dates for 2015 as well.  Is there anything else you are working on right now?

     

    MWS:  No, I did an exclusive album for Cracker Barrel that I worked on and then Sovereign came out in May and then the Christmas record and it’s just like wow! 3 records in one year for me.  Pretty crazy!

     

    FC: Here at Family Christian we believe strongly in the power of prayer.  In fact, we have a team that gathers daily to lift others up in prayer.  So how can we be praying for you right now?

     

    MWS:  You know what, probably just it’s such a busy, busy time.  It’s pretty non-stop from now till the end of the year, till Christmas.  Just pray for my health, for protection as we travel everywhere. I think just some of those things.  Kristen, business can wear you out if you don’t watch it so please pray that I’ll get my rest and that we will all stay healthy on the road and my family as well.  Thank you very much!

     

    FC: Thank you Michael! Have a blessed Christmas season!

  • Burned Out on Religion

    KERRI

    "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

    Tired. Worn out. Burned out on religion. All of those words described the state I found myself in just over three years ago. After being in full-time ministry for more than 12 years, I was so frustrated, frazzled and numb on the inside I was ready to quit! Nobody, not even my husband, knew how I was feeling.

    I was living a double life, in a way, but I was tired of the charade. I didn't want to fake it anymore ... I just wanted to let it go. The funny thing is, letting it all go was just exactly what I did. Only, I didn't let go by walking away from it all. I let go by learning to lean into God's grace.

    Jesus' invitation to let Him set the pace of our lives seems tailor-made to fit this generation of weary souls, even though He spoke these words two millennia ago. Recover your life ... real rest ... unforced ... free and light living. This lifestyle of unbroken fellowship with Jesus is the goal of the rhythms of grace. Rhythms of grace are God's divine tempo for your life. It's not about what we do or don't do. It's about Who is setting our pace.

    Think for a moment about rhythm and our most basic response to it: movement. I have a few playlists on my iPod that I listen to when I'm working out. There are different kinds of music for different kinds of movement.

    When I engage in the slow and sustained movements of stretching, I listen to ethereal tunes or piano instrumentals. But when it comes to cardio workouts, that won't do. I need energy! So I pump my favorite Christian hip hop artist into my headphones. Why? Because the rhythm makes me move. How I move — the speed, the motion, the duration — is a response to the beat I am hearing.

    The rhythm of the music sets my workout pace, but when it comes to the pace of my life, I have to ask, Who is setting the rhythm? The answer depends on who has access to my ears, mind and heart in that moment.

    People have different responses when it comes to dealing with the demands of life. Some people hop on the hamster wheel and keep going faster and faster, as if they can outrun the stress or even run away from it. Some people feel so helpless they just stop moving altogether. Others ignore problems hoping they will somehow go away.

    I understand each of those reactions — and I have experienced them plenty of times! Somewhere between the hamster wheel and the full stop, there is a perfect pace — a rhythm that's a custom fit for your life and the leg of the race you are running right now. This perfect pace is God's rhythm of grace for your life, His perfect tempo.

    Scripture encourages us to "run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1, NASB). Our Father's desire for all of His daughters is that we go the full distance of our life's race — and not just so we can crawl exhausted across the finish line. He wants us to enjoy the race and come to the end with our heads held high, a smile on our faces and our arms lifted in a double fist-punch! Reaching that moment, dear friend, begins with keeping time with God's perfect tempo for your life.

    Dear Heavenly Father, Help me tune into Your voice above all others. I want to move to Your rhythm and at Your pace so I can finish the race You have marked out for me with joy and wholeness. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 14:27, "My peace is the legacy I leave to you. I don't give gifts like those of this world. Do not let your heart be troubled or fearful." (VOICE)

    2 Corinthians 12:9, "... and finally He said to me, 'My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.' So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on — I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me." (VOICE)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What tempo is playing the loudest in your ears right now? How would you describe your "movements" in response to that pace?

    © 2014 by Kerri Weems. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • The Ultimate Promise Keeper

    LEAH

    "The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does." Psalm 145:13b (NIV)

    A couple years ago, a loved one broke a promise to me. At first, I was shocked. This was someone I completely trusted. Someone I had shared my secrets and dreams with for years. We did life together and I believed with all my heart I could rely on this person.

    My shock quickly turned to anger and regret. Anger that I'd been betrayed. Regret that I trusted this person in the first place. Moments of awkward silence and days of heartache followed.

    How would I ever trust again? Could this relationship ever be repaired? What good is making a promise if it's going to be broken?

    Anyone can make a promise, but let's be honest. How many of us have actually kept every promise we've made in our lifetime? A promise only has real value if it holds hands with commitment, faithfulness and perseverance.

    Broken promises hurt. They have the potential to sever relationships, bring heartache and wound deeply.

    In this tough world we live in, struggles and heartache are inevitable, and they may leave us wondering: Whom can we trust? Is there anyone out there who actually keeps every promise?

    The answer is a glorious YES and we find proof in today's key verse. Psalm 145:13b tells us, " ... The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does."

    If you're like me and someone you love has broken a promise to you, this verse is like a brilliant sunrise, illuminating hope in the midst of your dark and dreary circumstances.

    I've discovered three truths in this passage I'd love to share with you today:

    God makes promises. Who are we that God would promise us anything? Yet, out of His love for us, He established many promises that are not hidden or secret. We can easily find them in Scripture. "God is not a human that He would lie ..." (Numbers 23:19a, NIV). When God makes a promise to us, it will be accomplished through His sovereignty.

    God is trustworthy. We can count on God to fulfill His promises. He is dependable, reliable and worthy of our trust. God has already kept His greatest promise, by sending Jesus to die on our behalf so we can have eternal life in Him (John 3:16). If God fulfilled this sacred promise out of love for us, how can we doubt He will keep the other promises He has made?

    God is faithful. Not just sometimes or when He wants to be. God is faithful in all He does (Deuteronomy 7:9). God is loyal to those He loves. He is 100 percent devoted to His children and nothing will ever change that. The vow He made to you is eternal.

    Life is challenging. People will disappoint us. And, yes, as much as we try, we may even fall short in keeping some of our promises to others. But no matter what happens in life, we can hold on to this profound truth: God will never break His promises. Never. He is trustworthy and faithful (2 Timothy 2:13).

    God will do what He says He will do. And that, dear friend, is something we can confidently rely on forever!

    Lord, thank You for always keeping Your promises and loving me even in those moments when I haven't been faithful to You. Grow my faith and help me see You working in my life, so I can come to know You more. Let my trust in You increase as I learn to rely on Your faithfulness. Help me keep the promises I make to others. And when others have broken promises to me, let me never forget that Your promises and devotion extend for all of eternity. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 18:30, "God's way is perfect. All the LORD's promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection." (NLT)

    2 Corinthians 1:20, "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so through him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Has someone broken a promise to you recently? Have you resolved the situation? If not, pray and ask God to show you how He wants to mend this relationship and your broken heart.

    Reflect on how trustworthy God is from today's key verse (Psalm 145:13b) and ask Him to help you become more trustworthy and faithful to others. Ask Him to give you wisdom and perseverance when it comes to keeping those promises you've already made.

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Power of a Simple Prayer

    MAX

    "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don't forget to thank him for his answers." Philippians 4:6 (TLB)

    Want to see a father's face ashen or hear a mother gasp? Then sit nearby as they discover three words on the box of a new toy: "Some assembly required." What follows are several late night hours of squeezing "A" into "B," bolting "D" into "F," and hoping no one notices if steps 4, 5 and 6 are skipped altogether.

    Parents want a gift for their child. What they get is a project — sometimes a project for life.

    "Some assembly required." It's not the most welcome sentence, but it's an honest one. Marriage licenses should include those words, in large print. Job contracts should state them in bold letters. Babies should exit the womb with a toe tag: "Some assembly required."

    Life is a gift, albeit disassembled. It comes in pieces and sometimes falls to pieces. Part A doesn't always fit Part B. The struggle seems large and inevitably, something is missing.

    It's such a common problem. Who among us doesn't have an area of life that isn't working? How do you respond when the pieces don't fit? In frustration? In anger? In prayer?

    I'd like to say I always respond in prayer. The truth? I am a recovering prayer wimp. I doze off when I pray. My thoughts zig, then zag, then zig again. If attention deficit disorder applies to prayer, then I am afflicted.

    But I also know there's power in prayer, even simple prayers. Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew this too.

    Maybe you've heard the story. A couple thousand years ago there was a common wedding in Cana. The bride wasn't the daughter of an emperor. The groom wasn't a prince. Apart from one detail, the event would've been lost in time. But we remember it because Jesus was on the guest list.

    While Jesus was there, the wedding party ran out of wine. Enter Mary, mother of Jesus. For my nickel, she appears too seldom in Scripture. After all, who knew Jesus better than she did? So, on the rare occasion she speaks, we perk up. "The mother of Jesus said to Him, 'They have no wine'" (John 2:3b, NKJV).

    Consider this prayer of Mary. The pieces didn't fit, so she took the problem to Jesus. Mary wasn't bossy. She didn't say: "Jesus, they are out of wine. So, here is what I need. Go down to the grove at the corner. Accelerate the growth of some Bordeaux grapes. Turn them into wine." She didn't try to fix the problem.

    Nor was she critical. "If only they had planned better, Jesus. People just don't think ahead. What is society coming to?"

    Nor did she blame Jesus. "What kind of Messiah are you? If you truly were in control, this never would have happened!"

    She didn't blame herself. "It's all my fault, Jesus. Punish me. I failed as a friend. Now, the wedding is ruined. The marriage will collapse. I am to blame."

    None of this. Mary didn't whine about the wine. She just stated the problem.

    Then, "Jesus said to her, 'Woman, what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.' His mother said to the servants, 'Whatever he says to you, do it'" (John 2:4-5, NKJV).

    Apparently Jesus had no intention of saving the wedding banquet. This wasn't the time nor the place He had planned to reveal his power. But then Mary entered the story: Mary, someone He loved, with a genuine need.

    So what did He do? Jesus told the servants to fill the water pots with water, and that water became wine the entire party enjoyed.

    Problem presented. Prayer answered. Crisis avoided. All because Mary entrusted the problem to Jesus. Her simple request prompted a divine response!

    Like me, you might think if you take your problems to Jesus every time you have one, you'll talk to Jesus all day long. I think that's the point. After all, the writer of Philippians reminds us in our key verse, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don't forget to thank him for his answers" (Philippians 4:6).

    When life doesn't fit, it's easy to worry or be critical or try to fix it. But let's let Mary be our model. She took her problem to Jesus and she left it there. She stated her problem simply, presented it faithfully and trusted Him humbly.

    Father, You are good. I need help to lay my problems at Your feet. Help my friends to do the same. Thank You for hearing my cries for help and being faithful to respond in love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 6:18, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people." (NIV)

    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what areas of your life do you find yourself reclaiming problems even after you've given them up?

    What one thing do you need to trust Jesus with today?

    © 2014 by Max Lucado. All rights reserved.

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

  • How Being Well-Read Makes You Well-Rounded

    The Life Of A Page-Turning Adventurer:

    How Being Well-Read Makes You Well-Rounded

    Guest post by: Ciera Horton

     

    I have traveled for miles on a raft down the Mississippi River.  I’ve been on a circus train in the Midwest. I have journeyed into the heart of the Congo with ivory traders, I’ve burned books, I’ve witnessed a fisherman wrangle a marlin on open waters.  I have hitchhiked to the edge of the galaxy, flown to Neverland and back and time traveled to dozens of decades, all while never leaving my house.  I am a traveler, a wandering adventurer, a lover of the mystery of prose and all because I am a reader.

     

    Books were a foundational part of my childhood.  Growing up, I was memorizing Dr. Seuss stories at age two and reading chapter books before the first grade.  This sparked a passionate love for literature and has led me to pursue studies in English and creative writing.

     

    But in our culture, I am part of a shrinking minority.  Believers and non-believers alike increasingly reject the pastime of reading and replace books with gaming consoles and cell phone apps.  Mindless entertainment becomes the sole priority because the gratification is more immediate and the participation is passive.  However, this shift away from valuing books and their influence has detrimental consequences.  Literature not only expands readers’ comprehension of the outside world, but also aids internal, personal development of the mind and heart.  Christians should value reading because being well-read leads to a well-rounded worldview.

     

    With the rising popularity of Kindles, Nooks and e-books, people often turn in a library card for digital downloads they can take with them anywhere.  Much of the debate regarding the declining trend in paper books commonly relates to nostalgia.  Passionate readers assert that nothing beats holding a physical book in their hands — while I agree with this, I believe there is much more to the debate than simply sentimentality vs. practicality.  A study from 2006 with Nielsen Norman showed that the more people read words on a screen, the more they read in the “F” pattern, reading the top line and then scanning down the left hand side for information.  This nonlinear format makes it difficult to concentrate.  When you have an actual book in your hands, the sense of movement in actually turning and reading a different physical page instead of the same tablet screen helps you feel a sense of progression in the text, which aids in memory.  This increased focus and the ability to remember information helps readers formulate enlightened opinions and perspectives.

     

    Furthermore, an exposé in The Guardian illustrated how reading quality literature increases the three major categories of intelligence as commonly recognized by psychologists.  The first is “crystallized intelligence” which refers to the catalog of sensory information you retain.  The more books you read, the more vocabulary you learn and the more apt you are to recall the knowledge you gained.  “Fluid intelligence” means the ability to think critically, to be discerning and to strategize.  The relationship between reading and fluid intelligence is unique because the more you read, the better you learn to think analytically and with greater critical thinking you have better reading comprehension.  The final category, “emotional intelligence”, is perhaps the most telling.  Readers have been shown to have greater ability to interpret and react to their own and others’ feelings.  The journal Science published a study showing that reading literary fiction improves interpersonal relationships and responses to emotional situations.  Perhaps this is because readers have a wider depth of experiences they have encountered from the texts, which gives them discernment, empathy and emotional maturity.

     

    But the most essential part of reading is how it influences our worldview, our particular philosophy or way of looking at the world.  As Christians, we should be acutely aware of what things are filling our minds and changing our perspectives.

     

    Writer Pat Williams says, “We are changed by what we read. Close that book, and you are not the same person anymore. Because of what you just read, your worldview—your understanding, your compassion for others, your ability to engage intelligently with others—has expanded a little. Books help us grow….”

     

    When we read, we become a witness to the narrative of someone’s life, for all books offer us a glimpse into the tapestry of various ideologies and life-shaping encounters.  It is a formative investment of time and during this time we are being molded.  The active undertaking of immersion in the text stimulates our minds as we engage with the words.  While we are suspended in the illusion between fantasy and reality, the way we view others and ourselves is being influenced.

     

    Through Jane Eyre, I gained a greater appreciation for the difficulties that someone can face.  Through Fahrenheit 451, I became aware of the dangers of extreme censorship.  I saw myself as every single March sister from the beloved Little Women and Heart of Darkness opened my eyes to the plights of other cultures.

     

    The way I view my society and the manner in which I interact with others has all been influenced by the words that have filled my mind.  Yes, reading has its cognitive benefits.  But the power of the written word transcends the scientific.  It shapes who we are as individuals.  Quite simply, being well-read makes you well-rounded.  As Christians, we should read well because books are a glimpse into the human psyche, an illustration of the human condition, a reflection of God’s creation.  We should not be satisfied with the simplistic or the passive, but we should be challenged by intellectual pursuits and the joys in the pages of a novel.

     

    So be a page-turning adventurer.   Read and read well.

    Ciera Horton

    Ciera is a unique blend of academic and artistic: she reads Kerouac and Chaucer, paints still life and modern art and loves writing poetry on her vintage typewriter named Ernest.  As a writer and champion public speaker, Ciera enjoys sharing her outlook on culture and life through speaking and writing. You can read more on her blog: www.cierahorton.blogspot.com

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