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Daily Devotion

  • How Do I Choose?

    Posted on March 3, 2015 by Family Christian

    Sally Clarkson MARCH 3, 2015

    How Do I Choose?
    John Ortberg

    "…See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut…" Revelation 3:8a (NIV)

    Life is full of tough decisions.

    How do I know if he/she is "the one"? Which college should I go to? What should I major in? Which job should I take? Which church should we attend? Should I change careers? Now that the kids are grown, should we downsize? Is now the right time to retire?

    People hate making decisions. Mostly because we’re terrified of making the wrong one.

    Choosing thrills us. Choosing scares us. Choosing comes from the core of who we are. When we truly choose, we have no one to blame and nowhere to hide. And that can be downright terrifying.

    My wife, Nancy, and I were at a restaurant once, and the waiter responded to every choice we made by saying, "Brilliant," "Perfect" or "Excellent decision." This happened so steadily throughout the meal that I finally asked him if he ever told anyone they made a lousy choice. He told us that the restaurant managers had discovered diners are so afraid of choosing the wrong thing, they actually print a list of "affirmation words" that the wait staff is required to say in response to everyone’s order.

    Think about that. Even a question as simple as, "Soup or salad?" renders us so vulnerable that restaurants have to turn their wait staff into therapists!

    In a way, we do the same thing with God. Terrified of making a bad decision, we lay all of our choices at God’s feet and ask Him, "What is Your will for my life?"

    But, what if God’s will for us is that we develop the wisdom and discernment to make our own decisions in light of His Word, and the faith and confidence to know He will be there guiding us regardless of which path we choose?

    Doesn’t that sound freeing?

    God wants us to learn how to choose well. That may be why, when we look at the Bible, there is no chapter devoted to ’How to know God’s will for your life." Paul doesn’t write about "6 Steps to Determine If He’s the One" or "5 Ways to Discern God’s Best Career Path for You."

    What we do see are statements like this: "If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you" (James 1:5, NRSV).

    Or "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best" (Philippians 1:9-10a, NIV, 1984).

    So the next time you face a difficult decision, instead of asking God what His will is for your life, begin by asking for wisdom. And don’t live in fear of making the wrong decision. Even if you walk through the wrong door, as long as you walk through it with the right heart, God’s will will be done.

    Remember, God’s will for your life is not about whom, or if, you should marry, which job you should accept, or which neighborhood you should live in. God’s will for your life is that you become a magnificent person in His image, somebody with the character of Jesus. And nothing can stand in the way of that.

    Dear God, we know that You are the God of the open door. Every moment of every day is an opportunity for us to grow and serve and make a positive impact on others. Because of Your love, we don’t have to be afraid of failure, nor do we have to live under the tyranny of always making the perfect choice. We pray You will give us the courage and wisdom to walk through whatever doors You open before us. And we pray that through our actions, Your will will be done. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." (ESV)

    Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    How do we determine God’s plans? If you’re searching for more on discovering God’s will for your life, you’ll enjoy John Ortberg’s new book, All the Places to Go … How Will You Know? To dig even deeper with a small group or Sunday School class, explore the 6-session DVD Curriculum.

    Enter to WIN a copy of All the Places to Go … How Will You Know? by John Ortberg. In celebration of this book, John's publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, March 9.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Some decisions seem much harder to make than others. Think back to the last genuinely difficult decision you made and compare that to a relatively simple decision you’ve made recently. What made one so much harder/easier than the other?

    Think back to the last "bad" decision you made. What did you learn from the experience that made you a better person?

    © 2015 by John Ortberg. 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

  • There’s no Such Thing as a Perfect Mom

    Posted on March 2, 2015 by Family Christian

    Tracie Miles MARCH 2, 2015

    There’s no Such Thing as a Perfect Mom
    TRACIE MILES

    "Her children arise and call her blessed;" Proverbs 31:28a (NIV)

    A teenage pregnancy landed me in an abortion clinic. And for years afterward, I was tormented by regret and shame, worsened by the secret fear that God would never bless me with another child. Yet 14 years later, as I held my first baby in my arms, I began thinking hope-filled thoughts for the very first time.

    I peered into Morgan’s little blue eyes and wondered … Maybe God doesn’t despise me after all. Maybe He does see some good in me. Maybe He does love me, despite me. After all, if God would allow me to be a mom to something so tiny and precious, could He really hate me?

    Those questions were the start of my healing, as Jesus began to mend my shattered heart through the cries of a newborn.

    Over time, I embraced God’s love for me. Yet I still believed I had a lot to make up for. I was convinced I had to be the best mommy in the history of all mommies. I intended to prove to God, this baby and myself that I deserved her. I devoted every waking moment to meeting every need of this treasured child.

    Irrational? Obsessed? Overachieving? Yes, I was all of those things. I desperately wanted to be a good mom, the best mom. In fact, I hoped I could make up for my past mistakes if I were the perfect mom. So I set standards for myself that I couldn’t meet — no one could — and constantly felt like a failure.

    I imagine many moms feel that way at times. We set our minds to being the most patient, loving, thoughtful, caring, kind, generous and selfless mothers ever, but life and reality get in the way. Colicky babies, tantrum-throwing toddlers, defiant third graders, disrespectful middle schoolers, and hormonal teenagers shake our quest for perfection.

    No matter how hard we try, we can’t live up to the standard of being perfect moms with perfect kids who rise up every day and call us blessed.

    When we read today’s key verse, it might make us wonder if we’re enough as a mom — especially on those days when we don’t feel like enough. But the truth is, this woman’s husband and children, who knew her better than anyone else, were recipients of her love, care and unselfish habits. They believed she was a good mother and wife and respected her faith and who she was overall, and they were proud.

    It doesn’t say she was perfect, just that she was perfectly loved and respected.

    All of us have made mistakes or endured hardships in life, but we don’t have to let our past become a stumbling block for our future or impact the futures of our children. God has called us all to a divine purpose in this life, and sometimes the highest, most divine calling of all, is being a mom.

    Not a perfect mom, but a mom who loves the Lord, and seeks grace when she stumbles and strength when she’s weary. A mom who pushes past her lack of confidence and regrets from the past, and allows God to use those experiences to shape her into a faith role model for her kids.

    A mom who simply tries her best, while remembering she has a God who will guide her through each season of parenting, one imperfect day after another. A mom who loves her children enough to teach them to love Him too, even in the midst of her own short-comings.

    And one day, those sweet babies just might rise up and call us blessed, simply because we built a legacy of faith and love. Then every prayer for grace, mercy, forgiveness, patience and perseverance will be well worth the wait.

    Jesus, sometimes I feel like a failure at mothering, and often wonder if my past choices affect my ability to be a good parent. Help me to remember I am flawed, but dearly loved, and that in Your strength and wisdom I can succeed in this calling of motherhood. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 22:6, "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    For more encouragement on being the woman and mom God called you to be despite the mistakes of your past, consider purchasing Tracie Miles’ book Your Life Still Counts: How God Uses Your Past to Create a Beautiful Future.

    Visit Tracie’s blog for 5 Tips of Encouragement for the Less-Than-Perfect Mom and learn about her upcoming book study.

    Want to help put Truth into your children’s hearts? ABC Scripture Cards were designed to bring Scripture memory to life in the heart of your home. Each decorative card contains a verse to memorize with your child as you help instill God’s word into their heart and mind.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How have you held yourself to unreasonable standards as a mom?

    How might this journey of motherhood be different if you stopped trying to be perfect?

    © 2015 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Day I Saw My Son Drowning

    Posted on February 27, 2015 by Family Christian

    Katy McCown FEBRUARY 27, 2015

    The Day I Saw My Son Drowning
    Katy McCown

    "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." Matthew 25:35-36 (ESV)

    It all happened in a matter of seconds.

    We stormed through the hotel pool’s gate with kids, towels, floaties and a stroller. Still wearing my street clothes, I played pool police while my husband, Luke, secured the little ones into life jackets.

    Our 4-year-old son, who knows how to swim, waded down the steps with confidence. But this marked our first time at the pool since the previous summer, and time took its toll on Micah’s memory. He’d forgotten how to swim, but didn’t realize it until it was too late.

    I spotted him first and shouted, "Luke! Micah!"

    Since my husband stood only a few steps away, sporting a swimsuit, I figured he was the guy for the job. I assumed my tone would communicate the urgency of the situation and expected Luke to hop right in and rescue Micah.

    But he didn’t.

    Luke looked at me confused. He didn’t see Micah. He didn’t know what was happening. And every second I waited for my husband to save our son, Micah struggled to breathe.

    I stood steps away, knowing he needed help. But because I reasoned someone else was more prepared or better suited for the job, I did nothing.

    I share one of my worst moments as a mother because I often see the same struggles in our spiritual lives. We see someone drowning and, with good intentions, wait for the "right" person for the job.

    But God put us in front of the ones who need air. We see them with our eyes. We understand the need. God chose us for these jobs. And while we wait for an expert to jump in, someone is drowning.

    Like the new girl at Bible study who unloaded her burdened heart into the middle of our comfortable circle.

    Just minutes earlier, I had greeted her with a smile and tried to make her feel comfortable. I didn’t know much about her, so I asked questions to ease the newness of it all. We grabbed some goodies then shuffled into the living room, where the group gathered in our usual circle.

    We shared and prayed and pondered God’s Word and will for our lives.

    Then the dam broke. The headache in the heart of this new face made her wince as the words poured out of her mouth. Floods of self-doubt and confusion gushed through the gaping hole in her soul.

    She described the uncertainty of new things, the unsettled places of old things and the unraveling of too many things. When the words ran out and the tears came close to spilling over, she lowered her head and pleaded, "I just need to know what to do."

    And we all sat silent.

    The girl who invited her should be the one to say something, I reasoned. Or surely the leader of the group will shed light on her situation. Or at least someone who’s known her longer than five minutes! I thought to myself.

    Everyone else must have rationalized the same way I did. Because not one of us offered a life preserver or anything to help keep her head above water.

    In today’s key verse, Jesus paints the picture of the day we stand before God. He says people will ask Him, "When did we see you hungry and feed you? Or when did we see you naked and give you clothes?"

    In Matthew 25:40 Jesus shares the startling truth, "And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’" (ESV)

    Thankfully, my son Micah’s story ends brighter than the woman at Bible study. That day at the pool, a stranger rescued my son. He saw Micah drowning and took action. I wish it had been me, but I thank God for that man who chose not to hesitate.

    The Bible study visitor never returned. She likely left disappointed and embarrassed. I pray God uses someone else to draw her to Him. I wish it had been me.

    I urge you today, if you see someone drowning, jump into the water. Grab them by the hand and guide them to the only true Life Preserver. Whatever you do for them, you do also for the King of Kings.

    Lord Jesus, give me the courage to jump. I want to be Your vessel who brings hope and rest to those You love. Give me Your eyes and help my arms be like Yours and reach for those who are sinking. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Philippians 2:12b-13, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose." (HCSB)

    2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Do you long to write powerful words that are memorable and life changing to someone in need of God’s hope? Today’s devotion author, Katy McCown, is a member of COMPEL, a resource for those who want to write words that move people. Click here to learn more or become a member of COMPEL today.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries also hosts She Speaks, an annual training conference for writers and speakers. You’re invited to join us in Charlotte this July 23-25, 2015, for a unique combination of spiritual inspiration and practical application.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Take inventory of the places where you spend time and make a list of people around you who might be sinking beneath rough waters. Ask God to show you how you can offer His hand of hope.

    Considering 2 Timothy 3:16-17, what’s one thing you can do today to feel better equipped to for the good works God has in store for you?

    © 2015 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Don’t Want to Raise a Good Child

    Posted on February 26, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst FEBRUARY 26, 2015

    I Don’t Want to Raise a Good Child
    LYSA TERKEURST

    "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

    When my daughter Hope was in high school, she decided her senior year should be adventurous and a little out of the "normal" box. A lot out-of-the-box, actually.

    She withdrew from traditional school. Applied with the state to homeschool. Enrolled in online college courses that would allow her to get both high school and college credit simultaneously. And planned to spend a month serving in Nicaragua doing missions.

    This didn’t surprise me, really. Hope has always liked charting her own course. This thrills me now. But it didn’t thrill me so much in the early years of raising this strong-spirited child.

    When she was really little I was scared to death I was the world’s worst mom, because Hope was never one to be contained. And I honestly thought all her extra tenacity was a sign of my poor mothering.

    One day I took her to the mall to meet several of my friends with toddlers to grab lunch. All of their kids sat quietly eating Cheerios in their strollers. They shined their halos and quoted Bible verses and used tissues to wipe their noses.

    Not Hope.

    She was infuriated by my insistence she stay in her stroller. So, when I turned away for a split second to place our lunch order, she wiggled free. She stripped off all her clothes. She ran across the food court. And jumped in the fountain in the center of the mall.

    Really, nothing makes the mother of a toddler feel more incapable than seeing her naked child splashing in the mall fountain. Except maybe that toddler refusing to get out and said mother having to also get into the fountain.

    I cried all the way home.

    Not because of what she’d done that day. But rather because of how she was every day. So determined. So independent. So insistent.

    I would beg God to show me how to raise a good child. One that stayed in her stroller. One that made other people comment on how wonderfully behaved she was. One that made me look good.

    But God seemed so slow to answer those prayers. So, over the years, I changed my prayer. "God help me to raise Hope to be who You want her to be." Emphasis on, "God HELP ME!"

    I think I changed my prayers for her because God started to change my heart. I sensed He had a different plan in mind for my mothering of Hope.

    Maybe God’s goal wasn’t for me to raise a good rule-following child. God’s goal was for me to raise a God-following adult. An adult who was just determined and independent and insistent enough to fulfill a purpose He had in mind all along.

    Today’s key verse reminds us we are training children so that when they are old they will not turn away from Biblical principles, but rather implement them in their life-long pursuit of God. Remember, the things that might aggravate you about your child today might be the very things that, when matured, make them great for God’s kingdom tomorrow.

    I’ve certainly seen this in raising Hope.

    I don’t know which mama needs to hear this today. But let me encourage you from the bottom of my heart with three simple mothering perspectives you must hang on to:

    1. Don’t take too much credit for their good.
    2. Don’t take too much credit for their bad.
    3. Don’t try to raise a good child. Raise a God-following adult.

    And all the mamas of fountain-dancing children said, "Amen!"

    Dear Lord, I know You desire for me to raise a God-following adult. Please give me Your wisdom as I seek to become the parent You called to this high honor. Redirect my perspectives and equip me for this task today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Deuteronomy 11:18-19, "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (NIV)

    Isaiah 40:11, "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Learn how to make God-honoring decisions throughout your motherhood journey with Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes. Get your copy here.

    Find community with other moms when you hold The Best Yes Bible study in your home or church! Click here to get started.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Which of the three mothering perspectives Lysa shared resonated with you the most? Focus on that point this week as you spend time with your kids.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Keep Your Lips Zipped

    Posted on February 25, 2015 by Family Christian

    Karen Ehman FEBRUARY 25, 2015

    How to Keep Your Lips Zipped
    KAREN EHMAN

    "Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!" Psalm 141:3 (ESV)

    I still remember the first time I witnessed the power of zipped lips.

    Sitting around my tiny dorm room with a group of girls in college, the topic of someone else on campus came up. One by one, everyone chimed in and shared their opinion about this person.

    That is, everyone but my roommate. She sat silently on the bed, staring out the window. Even when another girl asked directly, "Don’t you think so, too?" she said nothing.

    Finally, someone asked if she was listening. Her reply was classic. "Oh, yes. I am listening all right. And I don’t think I have anything to say. We shouldn’t be talking like this behind her back."

    The silence that followed was deafening. But I learned a good lesson.

    My roommate was right. None of us would want others to talk about us, so why were we so eager to talk? Yes, perhaps the most effective way to avoid gossip is to simply keep our lips zipped. And if you want another powerful tool to do that, you might try what I started doing a few years back.

    Make a Promise; Keep a Commitment

    Years ago, I received a call from someone wanting to know if I’d read the newspaper that day. I hadn’t.

    But I didn’t need to see it, because the caller then related all the details about a news story* from the small town where I lived at the time. They asked if I knew a person mentioned in the article — who’d just been arrested for a horrific offense.

    I did know the person. A close relative of theirs was a friend. My heart ached as I imagined what my friend might be experiencing since she was totally blindsided by the situation. Soon my phone started ringing and I heard the computer alerting me to new email messages.

    Knowing it was wrong to talk about this situation, I chose not to pick up the phone and ignored the emails for fear someone might mention the incident to me. I wanted so much to honor God — and my friend — and avoid gossiping about this situation. It was then that I felt God nudge me, saying, "Really? Then tell her that."

    So I sent my friend a text. I said she was loved and treasured, that I could not imagine what she was going through, and then added this note: "I just want you to know that I will not be talking about this situation to anyone other than God. Please let me know how I can pray for you. And if you want to talk or need anything at all, call or text me. We love you."

    I wanted (and needed!) the Lord to help me refrain from idle talk about what was happening to this family. The author of Psalm 141:3, today’s key verse, obviously need the same help when he wrote: "Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips."

    By contacting my friend and making a direct commitment to her, I felt like I had set a "guard over my mouth." And if I ever felt tempted to bring up the situation, I zipped my lips before any words emerged. I simply would not go back on a promise to a friend or to God. Making this commitment to my friend was life-changing. Because I promised her I would not gossip, I didn’t. (Thank God for that!)

    If someone else brought up the situation, I said I’d promised my friend not to discuss the situation with anyone besides her and God. The promise helped me refrain from gossiping, and encouraged a few other people to do the same.

    In our gossip-rich culture, the choice to remain silent will be hard. But like the psalmist, we can ask God for help, knowing He’ll be a faithful guard over the door of our lips.

    Lord, help me honor You with my words. Please set a guard over my mouth when I’m tempted to say something that will hurt You and someone else. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 10:19, "Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut." (NLT)

    Proverbs 20:19, "A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If avoiding gossip is something you’d like to know more about, you’ll appreciate Karen Ehman’s latest book, Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It and When to Say Nothing at All.

    Join the discussion on how to zip your lips today on Karen’s blog. She is also giving away a book and DVD Bible study bundle of Keep It Shut.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Do any of the verses above prick your conscience you as you read them? Is God asking you to make a call, send a text or craft a private message asking for forgiveness?

    Will you commit to not gossiping about someone else’s "newsworthy" life in a gossipy sort of way? If so, tell one trusted friend about your commitment.

    *Special Note from Karen Ehman: Some details in this story have been changed to protect my friend, who granted me permission to use it.

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Make Time for You

    Posted on February 24, 2015 by Family Christian

    Jessica Turner FEBRUARY 24, 2015

    How to Make Time for You
    Jessica N. Turner

    "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139:13-14a (NIV)

    Without attention, our schedules become a litany of have-tos that so often cover everyone else’s needs but our own. The idea of making time for ourselves might seem frivolous, but caring for ourselves, and pursuing our passions, is part of becoming who God created us to be.

    I’m reminded of the importance of making time for our unique gifts and talents by watching my children.

    One of my biggest joys in motherhood is seeing my children express their passions. My 6-year-old loves art of every kind. He loves to draw, paint and create. With a marker in his hand, his imagination runs wild.

    My 3-year-old daughter loves to sing and perform. Anything can become a microphone, and the world is her stage. You have never heard a more passionate rendition of "Let it Go" than hers.

    When my son and daughter wholeheartedly live out their talents, their happiness is contagious and their dispositions are cheerful. The evidence that these passions are God-given is undeniable.

    As their mother, I love encouraging their personal expressions, knowing that in doing so, I am helping them to celebrate and live in the way God planned for them. A big part of this encouragement involves giving them ample time to pursue their creativity.

    One of the many prayers I have for my children is that they will always make time for their passions. I see how taking time to do the things they love positively impacts their lives.

    And you know what? I pray that prayer for myself too, because I know that too often, as adults, we don’t prioritize our passions.

    When we invest in ourselves and the talents God gave us, we are more fulfilled individuals. That personal wholeness makes us better wives, moms, friends and co-workers.

    Personally, I often use the fringe hours of my day for my creative pursuits. Fringe hours are those pockets of time that often go underused or wasted all together. Yours might be different than mine, but it’s amazing the fringe hours we can find when we look.

    Sometimes, maximizing fringe hours means I let go of something else. Maybe the dishes wait or the dusting doesn’t get done, and that is okay. Instead, practicing self-care and being intentional with my time for creative pursuits, helps me better live out the other callings God has on my life.

    When I include my own passions in my day, I feel closer to God because I’m proactively pursuing all that He’s made me to be. God didn’t just make me a mother, a wife, a friend — God made me Jessica, a uniquely designed individual with a creative set of passions all my own.

    Today’s key verse in Psalms 139:13-14a is a reminder of how God formed us: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

    My favorite part of that verse is when the psalmist writes that God "knit" us together. I love the imagery of "knitting," because not only is it an investment of time and creativity but because the finished product is unique, beautiful and one-of-a-kind — and the same is true for you and me.

    When God created us, He didn’t just make a physical being, He made a being full of life, giftings and personality. It is incredibly important that we prioritize ourselves so that, as evidenced in my children, we can be our best selves.

    Are you ready to start making your passions and God-given talents a priority? Are you ready to start living wholly as God made you to live? Redeem those fringe hours and you’ll find that you’re a more joyful person, reflecting the beauty of our Father.

    Heavenly Father, may pursuing my passions glorify You and make me a better steward of the blessings You have bestowed upon my life. Thank You for making me a unique creation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Matthew 10:30-31: "And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (NIV)

    1 Peter 4:10, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If you yearn for more time for yourself but don’t know where to begin, check out The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You. This practical and liberating book will empower you to make time for your passions and live the life God intended for you.

    Connect with other women who also want to make time for their passions in a free online book club of The Fringe Hours. Hosted on (in)courage by Angie Smith and Jessica Turner, this study features engaging videos, free resources and honest discussion. Visit (in)courage to learn more and join in.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Look at your schedule today and determine where you might find some fringe hours to do something just for you. Then take advantage of that time!

    © 2015 by Jessica N. Turner. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Revell 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

  • When My Mind Says "You Failed"

    Posted on February 23, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lynn Cowell FEBRUARY 23, 2015

    When My Mind Says "You Failed"
    LYNN COWELL

    "My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises." Psalm 57:7 (NLT)

    Fail. It’s a word I’ve heard my kids use when something goes wrong. Just plain "fail."

    It’s a word I know as well. Failure is what I felt when I’d done all I knew to do to make a large project successful. Yet, according to my measurement, I had fallen very short. All I could think was, You failed.

    I found my mind swirling, trying to process what happened. Confused, I wondered, God, why didn’t You help me? The project was for Him, after all. You would think He would have stepped up and helped me, at least in the way I was looking for help.

    What did I do wrong?

    Maybe I’m just not cut out for this?

    My confidence was gone.

    Can you recall a time when you thought you were doing what God wanted you to do, yet it didn’t turn out how you anticipated? Was your confidence shaken, not just in yourself, but in God?

    Friend, you are not alone. It’s so easy to lose our confidence when things aren’t going well.

    In today’s key verse, David speaks of confidence: "My heart is confident in you, O God."

    Reading these words, we might assume David wrote them when his life was going well, possibly moments away from marrying the king’s daughter and living happily ever after.

    His reality, in fact, was far from happy. As David penned these words, he was literally running from a mad man (King Saul) who not only wanted to kill him, but also had the power to do so. {You can read 1 Samuel, chapters 19-22, for more of this story.}

    When David wrote these words found in Psalm 57:7, "My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises" – words filled with faith and hope – he was hiding in a cave. Not alone, but with 400 guys who were also running from trouble, in debt or just plain discontented with life as they knew it.

    Here, in this awful situation, David reaffirmed his security hadn’t changed even if his circumstances did. His confidence was still built on God.

    According to my study Bible, the word "confident" in the original Hebrew means: "set in place, make secure, to be made ready, be attached."

    I love this last definition: "be attached." My mind pictures a new bride, attached to someone who cares deeply about her, with her face glowing. Her relationship brings her confidence.

    David’s relationship brought him confidence as well. Despite his horrific circumstances, David experienced security and contentment because he knew God was with him even in those circumstances.

    God can make us brave whether our lives are coming together or falling apart. We can have a heart and mind that is set in place, secure and attached, even when our circumstances seem to say, "You failed."

    I want to be like David. Confidence attached to God. Unshaken by any situation or circumstances. Unable to hold back His praises.

    Dear Jesus, the way You define failure and the way we define failure is so very different. Help me see when my circumstances are a set-up, an opportunity to build my confidence in You. Always and only in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 10:35, "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded." (NIV)

    Philippians 4:12, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (NIV)

    Ephesians 3:12, "In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Do you know a young woman who needs to learn to build her confidence on God instead of cues from culture? If so, Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants, by Lynn Cowell, empowers young women to move beyond negative thoughts, capricious emotions and others’ opinions to gain unshakeable confidence.

    Visit Lynn’s blog today for 10 Verses For Building Unshakeable Confidence. She is also giving away a Confidence Combo — a set of resources to help you build your confidence on God.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Think of the last time something in your life didn’t go as planned and you felt like you’d failed. How did you respond? Were you able to press into God or did you struggle in self-defeat?

    Write out Hebrews 10:35 and place it where you experience the greatest struggle with your confidence: the scale, your desk, your calendar. Read this verse out loud, allowing God’s Word to fill your heart with His confidence in this area of your life.

    © 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Need to Hit the Refresh Button

    Posted on February 20, 2015 by Family Christian

    Wendy Pope FEBRUARY 20, 2015

    I Need to Hit the Refresh Button
    WENDY POPE

    "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

    It never fails. The moment I sit down to work at my computer, I’m interrupted.

    I tend to multi-task, so I can be writing a devotion, working on a speaking message or helping my high-schooler with research for a project, all at the same time. As a result, I often have multiple websites open.

    That’s when the interruptions start. Bzzztt.

    The buzzer rings to move the clothes from the washer to dryer. The water is boiling for spaghetti noodles. Inevitably, "Mom, I need your help!" bellows from the other room.

    Hours later when supper is over, the laundry’s completed and the problem is solved, I finally return to my computer. As my PC awakens I notice the opened websites look exactly the same as when I left them hours before. Untouched. Unchanged. Suspended in time.

    But as soon as I hit the refresh button, all the information on the untouched, unchanged, suspended-in-time pages turns instantly current.

    Something similar happens when we leave our Bibles untouched and then begin reading again. As we read in today’s key verse, God’s Word is "alive and active." Reading it refreshes our souls and can touch and change our lives.

    Recently while I was reading Psalm 23, King David’s words became alive and active. It felt like God hit the refresh button in my spirit to show me the current application of this familiar Psalm. Can I share with you how I was refreshed by these six short verses?

    "The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever." (NLT)

    Refreshed, these ancient words reminded me:

    • He gives me all I need. (v1)
    • He lets me rest. (v2)
    • He leads me. (v2)
    • He renews me. (v3)
    • He guides me. (v3)
    • He keeps me company. (v4)
    • He protects me. (v4)
    • He raises me up. (v5)
    • He honors me. (v5)
    • He pursues me. (v6)
    • He will spend eternity with me. (v6)

    Do you feel refreshed? I know I do. God’s Word has power. Each time we read it, words penned thousands of years ago come to life over and over again! His Word is truly alive and active. God longs to touch and change our lives each day with His power. I just love God’s Word! And I pray if you don’t already, some day you will, too.

    Dear Lord, thank You for leaving Your Word for me to read. Help me experience its power in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 119:15, "I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways." (NIV)

    Psalm 119:93, "I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Trusting God for a Better Tomorrow: A Study of Psalms by Wendy Pope can help you "hit refresh" to see God’s Word come alive.

    Would you like to bring the message of this devotion to the women of your church? Click here to find out more about considering Wendy Pope as your next retreat or keynote speaker. You can also visit Wendy’s blog for more on living redeemed.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What are your thoughts about God’s Word being alive and active? Have an honest conversation with God about them.

    If you’re struggling to feel refreshed from His Word, tell God you’re inviting Him to help you hit the refresh button in your own life.

    Read Psalm 119. In your journal, write all the new and fresh insights you learn from God’s Word.

    © 2015 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

  • A Wedding Prayer, A Marriage Prayer

    Posted on February 19, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst FEBRUARY 19, 2015

    A Wedding Prayer, A Marriage Prayer
    LYSA TERKEURST

    "The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry." Psalm 34:15 (NIV)

    When my husband Art and I got married, we had a tough time transitioning from being two independent people into a unified couple. We didn’t have huge marriage issues to overcome — we had a lot of little everyday annoyances that started to chip away at the foundation of our relationship.

    Slowly, we stopped seeing all we had and started focusing on all that was lacking in each other.

    Honestly, enjoying each other got lost in all the efforts to fix each other. And that can be so disillusioning.

    It can open your marriage up to a world of attack and the temptation to think, Did I marry the wrong person? I didn’t know it was going to be this hard.

    Do you ever find yourself in this place? Me too.

    The other day I came across the prayer Art’s dad prayed at our wedding. And it occurred to me this is much more than a wedding prayer. It’s a marriage prayer.

    As I read back over this prayer, I am amazed at how God has answered so many of the requests intertwined in the words. This was being prayed over two broken, fragile, headstrong, needing-to-learn-a-lot individuals. Individuals who five years into our marriage weren’t sure we were going to make it. But we did.

    And so can you.

    I would encourage you to take your spouse’s hand and either have someone read this prayer over you or read it together. Use it as a reminder and recommitment.

    And if your marriage isn’t at a place where that’s possible, pray this in the quiet shrine of your heart. As our key verse, Psalm 34:15 tells us, God hears you. He knows. He loves you. He will show you the way.

    Father in Heaven, thank You for this husband, ______, and wife, _______, and their commitment to Christian marriage. As we look ahead, we pray that their future will never lack the convictions that make a marriage strong.

    Bless this husband, ______. Bless him as provider and protector. Sustain him in all the pressures that come with the task of stewarding a family. May his strength be his wife’s boast and pride, and may he so live that his wife may find in him the haven for which the heart of a woman truly longs.

    Bless this wife, ______. Give her a tenderness that makes her great, a deep sense of understanding, and a strong faith in You. Give her that inner beauty of a soul that never fades, that eternal youth that is found in holding fast to the things that never age. May she so live that her husband may be pleased to reverence her in the shrine of his heart.

    Teach them that marriage is not living for each other. It is two people uniting and joining hands to serve You. Give them a great spiritual purpose in life. May they seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness, knowing that You will sustain them through all of life’s challenges.

    May they minimize each other’s weaknesses and be swift to praise and magnify each other’s strengths so that they might view each other through a lover’s kind and patient eyes. Help them every day to be kind and gentle, more like You. Give them a little something to forgive each day, that their love might learn to be long-suffering.

    Bless them and develop their characters as they walk together with You. Give them enough hurts to keep them humane, enough failures to keep their hands clenched tightly in Yours, and enough of success to make them sure they walk with You throughout all of their life.

    May they never take each other’s love for granted but always experience that breathless wonder that exclaims, "Out of all this world, you have chosen me." Then, when life is done and the sun is setting, may they be found then as now, still hand in hand, still very proud, still thanking You for each other.

    May they travel together as friends and lovers, brother and sister, husband and wife, father and mother, and as servants of Christ until He shall return or until that day when one shall lay the other into the arms of God. This we ask through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the Great Lover of our souls. Amen.1

    ~ ~ ~ Dear Lord, thank You for the opportunity to come before Your throne with every concern I have and blessing I desire for my marriage. I pray these blessings over my husband and myself today, believing You will do immeasurably more in us than we can imagine. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    1 Adapted from Dr. Louis H. Evans’ Marriage Prayer for Bride and Groom.

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

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If you feel like your marriage is constantly getting your "less" instead of your "best," learn to re-prioritize with Lysa’s book, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands.

    Pop over to Lysa’s blog today for a free, printable version of this marriage prayer! Download yours here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Take time each day this week to pray specifically for your marriage and spouse. Ask God to breathe new life into your relationship and show you anything He wants to bring to your attention.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • What Do I Have to Prove?

    Posted on February 18, 2015 by Family Christian

    Glynnis Whitwer FEBRUARY 18, 2015

    What Do I Have to Prove?
    GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice." Proverbs 12:15 (NIV)

    A new city, new neighborhood and new school for my children had me feeling very new, too. And insecure. And lonely. And wondering, How would I ever fit in and feel a part of this new community?

    So when my children brought home a flyer for the PTO (Parent/Teacher Organization) meeting, I stuck it to the refrigerator, marked the date on the calendar and decided this was the perfect first step to meet other moms like myself. But that wasn’t all, I also wanted to use my experience and talents somehow.

    The meeting night came, and after a few wrong turns on the unfamiliar campus, I saw a light glowing through the library door. I rushed across the breezeway and walked in with seconds to spare. I’d hoped to meet a few people before the meeting started, but every table was filled with smiling, laughing, we-are-already-friends women. So instead I found a back table, and sat next to a father who seemed as out-of-place as I felt.

    Discussion centered around teacher mini-grants, playground equipment, trees and the annual t-shirt sale. The organization was very well run, and at first it seemed they had no need for me. Until the Spring Fun Fest conversation began.

    Then it became apparent they needed someone to organize the snack bar. The room was silent when they asked for volunteers. Of course, I should have asked what was involved, but I’d been organizing projects since I led my childhood friends into starting clubs, putting on plays and hosting backyard fundraising carnivals. So I raised my hand, and found myself in charge of running all the food service for the event.

    You know that feeling when you are in your sweet spot? That’s how I felt organizing the snack bar. This was something I could do easily. I got myself a new pocket folder to keep my notes, added some crisp lined paper and started making lists. People to call, things to buy, supplies we’d need. They were going to be amazed at how well this was organized! Maybe it would even be the best snack bar EVER!

    Everything was going great, and then the next PTO meeting arrived. One of the other moms, a veteran PTO gal, walked up to me with a huge smile and said, "I found a great sale on soda, so I picked up some for the snack bar. Let me show you where I stored it."

    Rather than appreciating a kind gesture from someone who knew how much work the snack bar really was, I immediately felt defensive. Did she think I wasn’t capable of buying soda for a snack bar?

    I followed her to a storage room and saw stacks of soda — every variety. At that moment, I should have been grateful. I should have oozed thankfulness. But I didn’t. She sensed something was wrong, but didn’t quite know what, and the moment got very awkward.

    My insecurities came from a deep desire to prove myself worthy. To show I have what it takes. When my abilities were questioned (at least in my eyes), I felt like a porcupine with its quills standing at attention. And my potential new friend felt the sting of the barbs.

    Rather than walking into that situation with humility, I walked in with pride. Rather than asking for advice and help, I tried to prove something by doing it alone. My approach hindered what my heart really wanted to do: make friends.

    God later convicted me of my prideful attitude, and used that situation to teach me an important lesson that has stayed with me:

    I need to walk into every new situation with something to learn, not something to prove.

    Being a know-it-all isn’t God’s way nor is it the wise way. In fact, the book of Proverbs is clear that wisdom comes from humility. Our key verse says, "The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice" (Proverbs 12:15).

    As I’ve practiced this approach over the years, I’ve learned it’s much easier to make friends. Plus, I’ve learned I really don’t know the best way for everything. God still has new things for me to learn every day, and He usually uses people to teach me. Even when I’m in my sweet spot.

    Father, thank You for teaching me Your ways are always best. Help me approach every new situation with a heart that is open and gentle, ready to learn whatever new things You have for me that day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ecclesiastes 4:13, "It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice." (NLT)

    Proverbs 19:20, "Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    I Used to Be So Organized by Glynnis Whitwer can help you manage the emotional and practical sides of being overwhelmed.

    Visit Glynnis on her blog today for more encouragement on dealing with defensiveness.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Maybe you’ve experienced a time when wanting to prove yourself caused a conflict. What lesson(s) could God want you to uncover from a past mistake?

    What needs to change in your heart to walk into the next new situation ready to learn?

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

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