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  • If Only I Had …

    If Only I Had … by Lysa TerKeurst

    “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 (NIV)

    There’s a simple, yet incredibly dangerous little script many of us play in our minds. It might even be one of the biggest things that holds us back from feeling fulfilled in our relationship with God. It’s a script tangled in a lie that typically goes something like this: I could really be happy and fulfilled if only I had …

    … a skinnier body. … a husband. … a husband who was more tender and romantic. … more money. … a better personality. … a baby.

    I don’t know what your “If only I had” statements are, but I do know this: None of them will bring fulfillment. They might bring temporary moments of happiness … but not true fulfillment. Apart from a thriving relationship with God, even if we got everything on our list, there would still be a hollow gap in our soul.

    So instead of saying, “If only I had” and filling in the blank with some person, possession or position, we must make the choice to replace that statement with God’s truth. John 8:32 confirms just how powerful truth is: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

    Here are some examples that have helped me battle the temptation to let people, possessions or positions take God’s place in my life.

    People I no longer say, “If only I had a daddy who loved me …” Instead, I say, “Psalm 68:5 promises God is a father to the fatherless.”

    Maybe your gap isn’t left by an absent father but by a friend who hurt you. Or a husband who left you. Or the children you’ve longed to have, and you still don’t. Whatever that gap is, God is the perfect fit for your emptiness.

    Pray this paraphrase of Luke 1:78-79: “Because of the tender mercy of my God by which the rising sun will come to me from heaven — to shine on my darkness and in what feels like the shadow of death to me — I will find peace.”

    Possessions I no longer say, “If only I had more possessions …” Instead, I recite Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth and nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NASB)

    Any possession I ever long for, no matter how good it may seem, will only be good for a limited time. In light of eternity, every possession is in the process of breaking down, becoming devalued, and will eventually be taken from us. If I set my heart solely on acquiring more things, I’ll feel more vulnerable with the possibility of loss.

    Possessions are meant to be appreciated and used to bless others. They were never meant to be identity markers. It’s not wrong to enjoy the possessions we have as long as we don’t depend on them for our heart’s security.

    Position I no longer say, “If only I had a better position …” Instead, I say the words of Psalm 119:105,“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (NASB). I don’t need a better position to get where I should go. I don’t have to figure out my path and jockey to get ahead. I need God’s Word to guide me. As I follow Him and honor Him step-by-step, I can be assured that I’m right where He wants me, to be doing what He wants me to do.

    Whatever “If only I had” statement you’re struggling with, you can replace it with solid truths from Scripture that will never leave you empty.

    When God’s Word gets inside of us, it becomes the new way we process life. It rearranges our thoughts, our motives, our needs and our desires. Our soul was tailor-made to be filled with God and His truth, therefore, it seeps into every part of us and fills us completely.

    Dear Lord, I acknowledge only You can fill those empty places in my heart. Help me stop the “If only I had” cycle and instead be set free with Your truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 119:30-32, “I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. I hold fast to your statutes, LORD; do not let me be put to shame. I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What “If only I had” statements do you struggle with? What are some verses you could use to replace these lies?

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Everyone Has a Story

    Everyone Has a Story by Brandon Buell

    “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:3b-4 (NLT)

    Before our son Jaxon was born, whenever I looked at someone I didn’t know, I saw a stranger. Now I see a person with a unique story.

    Since Jaxon was born with microcephaly, a birth defect where the baby’s head is smaller than normal, my wife Brittany and I have become much more sensitive to people around us. We see young couples and wonder if they have children at home who struggle with health or emotional problems. We see middle-aged people and wonder if they’ve been through a situation similar to ours. We see older people and wonder if they’ve stood beside the hospital bed of a grandchild.

    What obstacles have they overcome, and how have they coped with their challenges? Have they been blessed to live relatively ordinary lives? Probably not. Everyone faces struggles. But most of us hide our challenges from all but our most intimate friends.

    Recently at my gym, I saw an elderly gentleman moving very slowly on a nearby treadmill. The “old me” would have laughed at the sight, wondering why he was wasting his time. But the new me wondered what that gentleman had been through in his lifetime. How had he become convinced to stay mobile? What if he’d been injured serving our country? Had he been an athlete in his youth? How had he found the courage to work out with younger, more athletic people?

    I doubt thoughts like these would have occurred to me in the “before Jaxon” years.

    Everyone has struggles. If you know someone without a problem in the world, just give them time. Hardships and sorrow catch up to all of us.

    Most people we meet don’t guess we’ve faced such significant challenges with our child. We usually try to maintain a positive attitude, but sometimes it’s impossible to hide our frayed emotions and private sorrows. We’ve learned when things get rough, we just have to feel those difficult emotions until we don’t feel them anymore. And that’s okay.

    I try to post to our Facebook page every day or so, which means I’m frequently looking at cute pictures of Jaxon. But pictures and videos don’t tell the entire story. They don’t capture his pain or our fears about how a common cold could result in a life-threatening infection for him.

    We don’t want to dwell on the hardships, however, because ultimately Jaxon’s story is one of encouragement. While we are honest about the difficulties we’ve faced and the challenges that lie ahead, our primary message is one of hope. Life is a precious gift from God, and we want to celebrate every minute of it.

    Now that I’m aware of how many people are living out difficult stories just below the surface, I find myself more sensitive to what they may be going through.

    The Lord is using our situation to teach us the importance of staying humble, and looking out for others’ needs — not just our own. Our key verse puts it this way, “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (Philippians 2:3b-4).

    When I’m at the grocery store and notice the woman in front of me has 20 items in the 10-item express lane, I wonder what sort of family emergency is forcing her to bend the rules and rush home. Maybe she has a sick child, or an impatient husband. Maybe she’s under pressure and simply forgot the express lane limitation. Whatever her reason, I do my best to be patient with her. Because she, too, has her own story.

    Dear Lord, help me to be compassionate and supportive of people who are different or those I don’t understand. Thank You, Father, that we each have our own unique story to tell and that we don’t have to live out our story alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 41:10, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (NLT).

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have you taken the time to look, really look, at others around you? Do you know your neighbors? Take some time to learn others’ stories this week.

    In the midst of challenges and difficulties, we need to make time for what matters most. Jesus took time to get away and feed His soul, even slipping away from His closest friends. What can you do today to help you fulfill your calling?

    © 2016 by Brandon Buell. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

  • Christmas Gift Guide: 8 Christian Gift Ideas for Her

    Excite and inspire the women in your life this Christmas with Christian gifts designed just for her.

    If you've got a bookworm, a trendsetter and a craft lover on your list – we’ve got the Christmas gift guide for you! Whether you’re shopping for your daughter or a dear friend, these Christian gifts for women are sure to excite and inspire her.

    Adult Coloring Books These adult coloring books are available in a variety of patterns and designs. Featuring Bible-based themes as well as geometric designs and wildlife, you’re sure to find a coloring book that will help that special woman in your life unwind.

    A Journaling Bible Journaling Bibles make a great gift and a lasting keepsake for anyone who values God's Word. The space in the margins provides the perfect way for her to journal her spiritual life. Her creativity and inspiration will flourish as she experiences God’s Word in a personal way.

    Jesus Calling Jesus Calling is a 365-day devotional authored by Sarah Young that is designed to teach readers how to enjoy peace in His presence. The Jesus Calling: Women's Edition features a pink keepsake leather cover, perfect for giving as a gift.

    A Cross Necklace A cross necklace is the perfect way to display your faith and a practical way to share it with others. With options for women and children in popular styles like gold, sterling silver, pewter and stainless steel, you’re sure to find one that fits her style.

    Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst Have you ever felt sidelined, sidestepped, or set aside? Lysa TerKeurst knows firsthand the sting of rejection and the power of Christ's love to overcome it! With biblical depth, honest vulnerability, and her trademark wit, she helps you embrace God-honoring ways to process your hurt, defeat core fears, pray to restore your confidence and more.

    Home Décor Encourage her to display her faith in her home with Christian home décor. Choose from over 300 of our most popular home décor items, including candles, decorative crosses, figurines, plaques, kitchen items, picture frames, pillows and more.

    The Willow Tree Collection by Demdaco Share the joy of life's milestones with the popular Willow Tree Collection figurines, angels, nativity sets, and ornaments. These sweet pieces by Susan Lordi make perfect gifts to buy for the special angels in your life. Each cast resin piece is hand painted and made from an original, hand-carved sculpture by Susan Lordi.

    Calendars and Planners These calendars and planners feature inspirational artwork and incorporate encouraging themes with Christian messages and scripture. With over 90 to choose from, you're sure to find a calendar theme that will inspire her.

    We hope these gifts encourage the women in your life and bring them closer to Christ.

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  • When You’re Looking For a Little Peace

    When You’re Looking For a Little Peace by Katy McCown

    “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts …” Colossians 3:15a (ESV)

    I hurried out the door, but moments later my steps came to a screeching halt.

    The day on the calendar told the story of my birthday. And this particular year, I asked for a pedicure. But the unfamiliar car parked in the driveway was not a part of the plan.

    "Luuuuuke," I yelled on my way back inside the house. "What is going on?"

    With a mischievous smirk, my husband let me in on the secret he’d been keeping for days. “Take a girls’ day,” he said. “I’ve got the kids. I'll see you tonight.”

    I walked back outside to find one of my friends poking her head out the window. Still a little startled, but with growing excitement, I hopped in the back seat and away we went.

    There I sat. No kids, no dishes, no laundry or list of to-dos. No demands to meet. No details to arrange. All I had to do was breathe. So I did. I took a big, deep breath, then smiled and settled back in my chair.

    The stillness spelled P-E-A-C-E … and that two minutes, or so, was awesome.

    But before we even made it out of the driveway, the wheels in my head started spinning. Are we going to turn in front of that car? I better buckle up.

    And so it began.

    The rest of the ride I balked from time to time. How fast are we going? Is the driver texting and driving?!

    My awareness at least prompted me to put up a fight for peace. But it became obvious that I can create my own state of tension and exhaustion. Anywhere. Anytime.

    Then the day after my birthday happened. In a nutshell: Total anarchy.

    The kids must have held a secret midnight meeting where they clearly decided to try to unseat me from my position of authority. It’s the only logical explanation for what went on at my house. Weeping. Kicking. Screaming. The mother of all meltdowns (mine and theirs). But as the day wore on, I noticed something inexplicable … a smile. On all of our faces.

    Stress in the car on the way to a girls’ day. Peace in the kitchen while all of my little blessings fight over where to sit. This seems backwards, I know, but I think our key verse sheds some light on it, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15a). In the midst of chaos, I chose to let Christ’s peace rule.

    It’s tempting to believe peace lies just around the corner of success or simplicity.

    When I get that promotion or potty train all the kids … When this relationship works out … When that vacation rolls around … That’s when I’ll find peace.

    But if we tie peace to the rise and fall of our circumstances, we’re likely to land on a ride filled with disappointment. Peace is not an arranged place or set of circumstances; it is an intentional position of the heart.

    The Amplified Bible describes the peace of Christ as “the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him.” This concept reminds me of my toddler, who likes to perch right on top of my feet.

    While I cook or brush my teeth or talk to a friend, she seeks me out and sits down. She usually tinkers with a toy she’s brought along. I hear her talking to herself or maybe singing a song. She never misses a beat … until I move. Because when I move, that means she needs to move, too.

    By positioning herself close to me, she knows where I am and when I move, and she has access to unbroken fellowship with me.

    God makes the same gifts available to us. Jesus’ nail-pierced feet eagerly wait to be our seat. Our place to find confidence to know His will, access to enjoy His fellowship and intimacy to walk with Him step by step.

    As we approach the holiday season, let’s make this truth the centerpiece. Let’s not sacrifice our daily walk with God for the daily urge to do more. Instead, let's purpose to pursue a heart, “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness … to God” (Colossians 3:16b, ESV). Because peace truly can rule in our hearts anywhere, anytime.

    God, I want the peace of Christ to rule in my heart. Show me the places I seek peace apart from the company of Christ and give me the courage to lean on You alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Where do you find peace? Is it dependent on a specific situation or set of circumstances?

    What is one thing you can do this week to move closer to the “inner calm of one who walks daily with Him”?

    © 2016 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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

  • Where Is God?

    Where Is God? by Lysa TerKeurst

    “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13 (NIV)

    I’m asked lots of questions when I meet people at conferences.

    Practical questions …

    “How did you get started speaking and writing?”

    Heart-wrenching questions …

    “How did you forgive those who hurt you so much?”

    Hard questions …

    “Why would God let this happen?”

    Honest questions …

    “How can I find God, and connect with Him in the midst of my everyday life?”

    It’s that last question that compels me to do what I do every day. It’s what brings me to sit at the computer and tangle with words and truths and vulnerable admissions. It’s what compels me to split my heart wide open and let people see the not-so-great stuff about me, mixed with the gracious goodness of God.

    Because if I can help a soul find an authentic, honest way to connect with God, all the other questions will settle down a bit. Wait more patiently. Maybe decide it’s okay if they go unanswered.

    Connection with God is such a deeply personal and uniquely individual process. Surely it can’t be reduced to three points and a poem. But there are two words that stir me. Move me. Show me. Propel me. Two words I hear Jesus saying over and over: “’Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19a, HCSB).

    Tucked within these two words, three syllables, 8 letters is the wild secret of a deep connection with God.

    If we want to know God, we have to abide in Him.

    How do we abide in Him?

    Follow His instructions.

    Follow His heart.

    Follow His example.

    Not just follow along as we mindlessly repeat the words of the Jesus songs and scribble some notes during the pastor’s sermon.

    No.

    Really follow. Follow hard. Follow passionately. Follow fully. Follow with engaged minds and willing hearts and open hands and ready feet.

    And where can we start this kind of all-out following?

    By asking God to let us see Him.

    When we pray, we invite the divine presence of the Almighty God to do life with us that day. Watch for Him. Look for Him. Make the connection of things that happen as direct evidence of His hand at work.

    In us. Around us. In spite of us.

    Ask Him to help you see His activity as you seek to follow more fully. And He will.

    Rest assured God isn’t trying to hide from us. He is waiting to be seen by us.

    “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

    Father God, oh how my heart longs for an ever-deepening connection with You. Thank You that You aren’t hiding from me. Thank You that Your heart isn’t to frustrate me or confuse me. You respond to my seeking. You draw near to me when I draw near to You. Teach me what it means to follow hard after You. And open my eyes to see You as I’ve never seen You before. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 91:15, “He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” (NIV)

    James 4:8a, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Part of abiding in God is choosing to actively follow His lead. After you spend some time in God’s Word today, ask Him to show you one step you can take to follow His instructions and His example in your everyday life.

    Prayerfully ask God to help you see Him at work today. Watch for Him throughout your day and then take time to journal before you go to bed. Documenting God’s faithful presence in our lives is always a blessing!

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Whose Kids Am I Raising?

    Whose Kids Am I Raising? by Julie Lyles Carr

    “… we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.” Galatians 5:26 (MSG)

    You’d think I’d be a faster learner.

    But there I go again. In a dressing room. Under those unforgiving florescent lights. Trying on that cut, this style, that fad that looks so cute on so-and-so.

    And not so cute on me.

    On these hips. At this age. With this coloring.

    Trying to copy what I’ve perceived as darling, cool, elegant, hip, effective on someone else. Trying to push it onto the confines of me.

    Pretending again that cookie-cutter approaches will yield a custom fit. Ignoring the individual nuances of my complexion, my build, my budget.

    It happens in dressing rooms. It happens when I’m trolling online message boards and blog feeds. More significantly, it happens relationally. In my faith. In my marriage. In my work and home life.

    And, gulp, in raising my kids.

    Confusing inspiration with impersonation.

    From the conversations I have with women, I realize many of us share the same conundrum. Whose life am I living? The one God destined for me? Or one that I’ve built from a pile of comparison? What about these children I’m raising? Am I raising them according to who God has designed them to be … or who others think they should be?

    We want to walk in wisdom. We seek great examples. We want to learn.

    But then something shifts. And we veer into a forgery, attempting to live a life that’s not our own. The line between gathering and applying wisdom versus falling into retrograde copycatting is a fragile one.

    I can be tempted to compare my kids, my work or my marriage with other people’s, feeling like I come up short. But nobody has ever raised my kids before. No one but my husband and I have conducted this particular marriage. No one but God and I walk the path He has for me. I can learn from others, and I can even gain wisdom, but their lives are not mine to copy.

    Because my life isn't meant to be a copy.

    If comparison is the thief of joy, it is also the mortal enemy of originality. Because our creative, imaginative God doesn’t bind us in cookie-cutter patterns. He is an eternal author, writing fresh narratives over each of His kids’ lives. I adore the way Eugene Peterson puts our key verse in The Message version: “… we will not compare ourselves with each other … Each of us is an original” (Galatians 5:26).

    Take courage with me in that amazing thought. We have much greater things to be doing than sizing ourselves up. Or down. Or measuring our kids against the neighbors’.

    We are bespoke by what He spoke.

    I read about a man who desperately wanted to be a great painter. He admired the great masters of the art. He studied their techniques, their color combinations, their subject matters. But instead of taking those lessons and applying them to creating masterpieces of his own, he became a prolific art forger.

    He copied.

    And was caught.

    Why would someone with such incredible talent — who could emulate the greatest painters of the age — reduce that to become a human Xerox machine with a paintbrush?

    But then again, why do I?

    Why do we?

    Because … it’s scary to lean into the originalities God infuses into us. It’s a launch into the unknown. When we live as originals — when we raise originals — we’re reminded that living life is sometimes a wild and unpredictable ride. We often prefer predictable patterns over leaning into the fresh story God is weaving.

    But we can choose courage over copy.

    Today, let’s compose. Let’s celebrate. Let’s see what God will do when we stop comparing and start embracing that God loves to do new things.

    In each of us.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for infusing fresh creativity into the making of each of Your kids. I praise You for the originalities You place in each of Your children. Help me not to cheapen Your original work with a comparison copy. Give me courage to live as Your unique child, to raise the unique children You’ve given me and not compare myself to others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 43:19a, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Our culture and our church communities often encourage and expect copycat approaches in everything from parenting to fads to faith. What is an area of your life right now that is a copy? What is one thing you could do today that honors the originality God placed in you?

    © 2016 by Julie Lyles Carr. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

  • Your One-Sentence Eulogy

    Your One-Sentence Eulogy by Karen Ehman

    “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.” Acts 9:36 (NIV)

    My kitchen contains some of my favorite things.

    My big red Dutch oven where a batch of cheesy potato-corn chowder simmers. A watercolor painting of a bowl of fruit, purchased at an estate sale. And my aqua hand mixer. Because, well, I like to bake, and I love the color aqua! But the object I adore most is a lettered sign my mother-in-law gave me, made from rustic barnwood and stenciled with this simple phrase: “Scatter Kindness.”

    I hung this inspiring inscription above the kitchen door that leads to the garage, so I’m sure to see it every time I exit my home. We live in a world filled with turmoil, sadness and despair. Of course, there are pockets of happiness too. On many days, though, it feels like the sadness overshadows the joy. It doesn’t take much looking around to find a soul in need of a little encouragement or a healthy dose of hope.

    I was once told that there are two types of people in the world: those who enter a room full of people and announce, “Here I am!” and those who walk into a room, seek out another soul and lovingly declare, “Oh … there you are!” It makes me wonder, someday — when I am long gone — will I be remembered as someone who sought to encourage others or sought only to make herself known? Which one will be said of you?

    The Bible tells detailed stories of the titans of the faith: Abraham, Joseph, Esther and Mary, to name a few. But sometimes it gives us an intriguing glimpse of some lesser-known characters, sketching their stories in a simple sentence or two. One such character is the New Testament woman named Tabitha.

    We meet Tabitha in Acts, where the story of the birth of the Christian church is recorded by a doctor named Luke. Acts also introduces us to the founders of the church, including Peter and Paul. But tucked away in its pages we also find a portrait of a woman who demonstrated how to put others first and scatter kindness. I love her one-sentence description: “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36, emphasis added).

    What a beautiful and unusual introduction! While most personal descriptions mention relationships (such as “a wonderful wife and mother”) or career accomplishments (“a dedicated nurse”) this woman was known for continually looking for ways to scatter kindness. Concerned about the poor, she actively worked to make their lives better. In fact, her actions so radiated Christ’s love that the author of Acts recorded these words for us to read 2,000 years later in our Bibles.

    One reason we know about Tabitha today is because she died, and Peter raised her from the dead. But as glorious as her resurrection was, her character is what impresses me: “She was always doing good and helping the poor.” Oh, how this one sentence shakes my soul and stirs my heart!

    If someone were going to record a one-sentence eulogy about us, what would they say? Would they observe about us — like Tabitha — that we were “always doing good” to others? Were we on the lookout for those who had a much harder row to hoe, or were we more concerned about our own safety and comfort, giving little thought to others?

    While sometimes we may think our life is boring, could we see our humble and common circumstances as an opportunity for God’s eternal purposes, just as Tabitha did? Could we seek to scatter kindness, discovering an important and fulfilling ministry as we do?

    Years from now, how will you be remembered? As a, “Here I am!” person or as an, “Oh … there you are!” sort of soul?

    What will be your one-sentence eulogy?

    Father, may I make it my aim today to scatter kindness as I go through life, reflecting to others Your kindness to me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Timothy 6:18, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Survey your life for a moment. Think about what actions of yours speak the loudest. What do you hope will be your one-sentence eulogy?

    © 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • FastPass, Please

    FastPass, Please by Wendy Pope

    “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 (NIV)

    A few years ago, our family took a vacation to the place where dreams come true, Walt Disney World Resort, one of the largest amusement parks in the United States. To prepare for the trip, I read websites and blogs and interviewed “experts” (a.k.a., friends who call Walt Disney World their favorite place on earth), so we could maximize our time there.

    In my research, I discovered something called a FastPass, which gives you access to the most popular rides without having to wait in long lines. You get a ticket ahead of time, allowing you to go to the front of the line at an appointed time. It is ideal for girls like me who don’t like to wait.

    Each evening, my family would map out our ride plan. When the park opened the next morning, we would rush to the FastPass machine. Our ride plan could not have worked out any better, but of course we were where dreams come true.

    Real life, though an adventure, is far from a day at an amusement park. Too often, we want a FastPass straight through God’s pauses to move directly to His plan. But God seldom hands out passes so we can avoid the wait and skip to the front of the line.

    And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as painful as it feels at the time.

    A rush through the wait has the potential to stunt our spiritual growth and dull our senses to what God wants us to learn. As the apostle James tells us in today’s key verse, God wants us to “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4).

    James advises those who follow Jesus not to take the FastPass through tests and challenges. He says that a pause will actually work in our favor. Our faith will mature, and we will become well-developed women of God, ready for all the good works He has prepared for us. God is the Creator of time. We can trust His pauses to be purposeful and perfectly arranged. God will make the most of our pause, and we should too.

    As we wait, we find ourselves in great company. Noah waited 120 years for the flood. Abraham and Sarah waited nearly 100 years to become parents. Jesus waited 30 years to start His public ministry. These and countless others waited on God and in the wait experienced Him in remarkable and miraculous ways.

    I know what you’re thinking: But he was Noah. They were Abraham and Sarah. And He was Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God. They’re all in the Bible! Rest assured, they are indeed all in the Bible, but not because of their perfection in waiting. Each one of them had moments of questioning God, but they were willing to wait and do the work necessary for God’s plan to come to fulfillment.

    Waiting isn’t meant to be a grueling process. What if we view it as a pause or an interlude, a place we can experience the peace of God while He works in us so He can work through us? He is actively working while we wait — a promise that never disappoints in the end.

    Dear God, waiting is hard and waiting well seems impossible. As I wait, help me see the good around me, rather than feeling neglected and dismissed. Lord, when I grow impatient, remind me how You are trustworthy and have my best interest in mind. Thank You for the good plans You have prepared for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Lamentations 3:25, “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What are some of your biggest obstacles to waiting? Conquer the power of waiting today by allowing someone to pull in front of you in traffic or order before you at a restaurant.

    © 2016 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Christmas Gift Guide: 8 Christian Gift Ideas for Him

    Shop Christian Christmas gifts that entertain and encourage the men in your life.

    You’re crafty, creative and committed to finding the perfect present – but tracking down gifts for the guys on your list can be tough. If Christmas shopping has become more stressful than successful, this Christmas gift guide is for you! Whether you’re shopping for your husband, father or friend, these Christian gifts for men will both entertain and encourage them.

    A Devotional Bible for Men The NIV Devotional Bible for Men inspires them to dig deeper into their soul and do more with what God gave them. The devotions are spiritually challenging and cover topics including leadership, relationships, financial stability, spiritual growth, substance addiction, culture, character and more.

    Active Faith Athletic Apparel Active Faith is a premium sportswear brand featuring shirts, hoodies, hats, sport bands and more. Former NBA player, Lanny Smith, created Active Faith to encourage Christians to spread the Good News whether they’re on the court, out for a run or running errands around town. Professional athletes seen wearing Active Faith include Stephen Curry, Demaryius Thomas, James Harden, Josh Hamilton, Clayton Kershaw and more.

    Tim Tebow’s New Book In this powerful book, Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow shares glimpses of his journey and how he’s stayed grounded in the face of disappointment, criticism and intense media scrutiny. Shaken features practical wisdom from Scripture and insights from others who have impacted Tebow in life-changing ways.

    Chris Tomlin’s Latest CD Often called America’s Worship Leader, Chris Tomlin returns with his new album, Never Lose Sight. Featuring “Good Good Father” and his new single “Jesus,” this album is filled with songs that give voice to our praises, prayers, cries and hopes.

    The Woodlawn DVD A gifted high school football player must learn to boldly embrace his talent and his faith as he battles racial tensions on and off the field. Woodlawn is a moving and inspirational new film based on the true story of how love and unity overcame hate and division in early 1970s Birmingham, Alabama.

    A Dad's Guide to Praying for His Kids Looking for a gift for dad? Steve Chapman offers an easy-to-remember plan for busy dads that include principles and strategies to help them intercede regularly. They’ll learn how to realize the impact of their petitions, taking steps to keep their focus on God's will and implementing accountability with other fathers.

    A Stylish Tie This stylish necktie features a simple, but elegant, blue and white pattern that is perfect for pairing with his Sunday best or any special occasion.

    A Leather Wallet This handsome men's wallet is made from genuine black leather and features an eagle emblem in the lower right hand corner, which symbolizes Isaiah 40:31. Inside there are two full-length bill fold pockets, an ID window slot, 6 credit card slots, 4 multi-function pockets and a small zippered compartment.

    We hope these gifts encourage the men in your life and bring them closer to Christ.

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  • When Your Life Changes … and the Change Isn’t Easy

    When Your Life Changes … and the Change Isn’t Easy by Chrystal Evans Hurst

    “For I, the LORD, do not change …” Malachi 3:6a (NASB)

    Change is hard. I recently moved from one house to another. We downsized. Downsizing is code for go-through-your-stuff-and-get-rid-of-everything-that-won’t-fit.

    Moving is already stressful. Downsizing takes that stress over the top.

    For quite a while, I couldn’t find my cups. The important papers from my desk in the old house are still buried in a box somewhere. I have yet to update my address at the post office. Oh … and my toothbrush? I just gave up looking for it and bought another one.

    I think the most stressful part of the move has been getting my phone service changed. For some reason the process has not been smooth. In fact, I would venture to say it has been brutal.

    Do you know how much time it can take to get to the right person who can help you? And for the love, why can’t I just press 0 and talk to someone?!?!

    I tend to be a creature of habit, and any shift in my routine requires me to expend more energy. For example … no more driving on autopilot to get from home to work. Now there are new patterns of traffic to learn and alternate routes to know for those times when traffic backs up.

    Moving has been tough. Change isn’t easy.

    If your body doesn’t work the way it used to, a change in diet, exercise or life pace can be difficult to navigate. When you lose your job and stare long and hard at a budget that doesn’t work, fear and anxiety can set in. And when a loved one dies, and the phone doesn’t ring like it used to, sharp pangs in the heart can abound.

    Sometimes change is not just hard. It is painful.

    But whether we like it or not, the living of this life involves change.

    Relationships change.

    Locations change.

    Jobs change.

    Our bodies change.

    We change.

    Life is change. The longer you live, the more you know that the only thing constant in this life is change. Whether our changes seem hard or make us happy, change teaches us that life is fragile, uncertain and temporary. Nothing lasts forever.

    Well something lasts forever. God. “For I, the LORD, do not change …” (Malachi 3:6a).

    In Psalm 102:27, the psalmist declares, “But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end” (NASB).

    God doesn’t change. He has always been and will always be never changing.

    I’m so glad to know that we serve a God who stays the same. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Whether we move homes, change jobs, experience relational, physical or emotional changes, God is a constant and dependable anchor.

    Not only does God stay the same but so do His loving plans for us that are based in His Word. Psalm 33:11 says, “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation” (NASB). Isaiah 40:8 tells us “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (ESV).

    And because His plans are unshakeable, His loving intention toward us never wavers. His Word is dependable, so we can find comfort in our relationship with Him whatever change comes our way.

    During my seasons of change, I’ve learned the importance of resting in the immutable God — the God who never changes. There are many things I cannot control, but I can depend on God to be a refuge in times of trouble, provide comfort to my aching heart and give guidance through His Word so I can effectively navigate life’s changes.

    Despite feeling like some changes in my life extend far beyond my control, I have come to know the beauty of resting in the arms of a God who is always totally in control of the circumstances of my life.

    Can I encourage you today? Nothing that’s happened to you surprised God.

    And because He does not change and is faithful to all generations (Psalm 119:90), you can trust Him to carry you through whatever changes you face today.

    If God has allowed a change in your life, let that change motivate you to draw closer to Him and to His Word. Let Him be your refuge, your comfort and your strength.

    Dear Jesus, You don’t change, but something in my life has. The change has not been easy, and I need You to help me walk through the new experiences in my life. Thank You for your Word. Please reassure and comfort me based on Your loving plans. I trust You to be with me during this and every season. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What difficult change have you experienced?

    How have you found comfort in your relationship with God or in His Word?

    © 2015 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

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