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Daily Devotion

  • How God Turns Your Past Into Purpose

    Posted on October 21, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie Miles

    "'Return home and tell how much God has done for you.' So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him." Luke 8:39 (NIV)

    As I sat in the church pew with my head bowed in prayer, I heard a voice reverberate so thunderously in my heart that it startled me.

    The voice was blaringly loud, as if it had been announced over the loudspeakers. I opened my eyes surprised to see that no one else was taken aback. All was calm.

    And so began my encounter with God.

    I felt God speak loud and clear a short message that held life-altering repercussions. Three powerful, commanding words: "Go and share!"

    I became overwhelmed with emotion. I was awestruck that God had spoken to me at all, but even more so at the three words I heard. Go and share? Go and share what?

    Then it hit me. Fear immediately overwhelmed me and I sank into the pew, trembling at what I thought God might be asking. I began to question God, "Surely You can't mean share my past, Lord. Surely You don't mean go and share what I prefer to keep secret." Yet, that is exactly what He meant. And I didn't like it.

    I didn't want to go, much less share. I didn't want to be transparent or vulnerable. I gratefully accepted His forgiveness and healing, but I wasn't ready to accept His call to give me a purpose. The man who was healed from demon possession in today's key verse experienced similar feelings.

    This tormented man lived as an outcast for many years, naked and alone in the tombs of Gadara, near Galilee. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees and shouted at the top of his voice, begging for mercy from God. Jesus commanded the demons to leave him and then cast them into a herd of pigs that rushed down the steep bank into a lake and drowned. The man was healed physically, but more importantly, spiritually.

    He was so overwhelmed with gratitude for what Jesus had done, he begged to travel with Jesus and stay by His side. But Jesus had other plans. Instead, Jesus told him to go and share his story. And he did.

    What had once been a burden to bear became a powerful story of holy transformation. This man's past, and the healing he experienced, became the foundation of a purpose in life that he would have never imagined — living his life as proof of the life-changing power of Jesus.

    The man's story became a testimony when he was willing to share it with others. How many people believed in Jesus and are now spending eternity with Him simply because this former demon-possessed man willingly allowed his terrible past to become a story of redemption and purpose?

    People can deny Christ, dispute Scripture and ignore prophecy, but they cannot deny, dispute or ignore God's transformational power in someone's life. Our stories of pain, adversity and overcoming in Christ are meant to serve as a testimony of God's faithfulness and power, evidence that God really can take what the devil meant for evil and use it for good.

    I've since learned it is always God's desire for us to go and share our stories, whether we want to or not.

    God never wastes our pain. Only we do that. God has a plan for great purpose and a beautiful future for all who believe in Him. Not despite our past, but because of it.

    Lord, help me find the courage and the desire to share what You have done in my life. Turn my past into my purpose and refuse to let my pain be for nothing. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)

    Isaiah 61:3, "... to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Have you been thankful for God's spiritual healing, but hesitant to share what He has done in your life?

    In what ways have you become an overcomer and found victory in Christ? How could you share that with others to impact their lives?

    How might God be able to use your past for a specific and unique purpose for ministry?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Luke

  • My Morning Prayer

    Posted on October 20, 2014 by Wendy Blight

    Wendy Blight

    "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." Mark 1:35 (NIV)

    I've always been indescribably drawn to the private life of Jesus.

    The Jesus who was led into the wilderness.

    The Jesus who agonized over His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    But the moments that interest me most are when Jesus withdrew to quiet places to pray — each prayer time a compelling picture of the Son's intimate connection with His Father.

    Mark tells us in our key verse that while it was still dark, Jesus slipped out of the house and went to a secluded place to meet with His Father. Mark doesn't tell us what morning this was. But we do know this prayer time followed a full day of healing the sick and casting out demons.

    After that kind of day, you would think Jesus might have slept in ... just for an hour or two. I would have. But not Jesus. He awakened before the sun peeked over the horizon to be refreshed and renewed for the ministry awaiting Him that day.

    Oh, how I long to know what Jesus said. How long did He pray? What did He pray? Could He audibly hear His Father's response? Were the angels with Him?

    And more practically, did His mind wander? Mine does. Sometimes I find myself praying and my mind travels to my "to do" list. Or I begin praising God but then the concerns weighing on my heart push through and usher out my praise.

    I imagine Jesus' mind didn't wander because He knew in those solitary places He was sitting in very presence of His Father. And what I forget — perhaps many of us do — is that when we pray, we too sit in the very presence of God, our Father.

    Although our eyes cannot visibly see Him, I picture Him drawing near, bending close to hear our every word. His Spirit surrounding us. His hands lifting our faces heavenward. His ears fixed on every cry of our hearts ... the praises, the confessions, the anxieties, the fears, the doubts ... He hears them all.

    Sometimes it's hard to awaken early. Hard to focus. And most of all, it's hard to fathom that the God of the universe, who holds the entire world in His hands, has time to hear our little prayers. But not only does He have the time, He calls us to come to Him. Jeremiah 33:3 says, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know" (NIV).

    So, let's band together this week for morning prayer. Each morning, find a solitary place to pray ... your own secret spot. Below, I've written a special prayer for us to open our time with God.

    Our Morning Prayer:

    Dear Lord, I don't know who or what will cross my path today. But I do know that You are my Rock and my Fortress. You are my Shield and my Strong Tower. Help me to anchor myself to You today. Teach me how to stand strong in You and choose only Your way today. Help me walk by Your truth and not my feelings.

    Help me to embrace anything that comes my way as an opportunity to see You at work and as an opportunity to point others to You.

    Thank You that You love me and nothing can ever take that away from me! Even if I fail today and fall short, You whisper Your unconditional love deep into my soul and remind me that Your mercies are new every morning.

    That truly amazes me, Lord.

    Thank You for meeting with me today. Would You wake me again tomorrow with the same sweet whisper of Your love? I can't wait to meet with You again. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Imagine the marvelous sight before God's eyes! Each morning this week, as Elohim, the God who created us, peeks over the edge of heaven, gazes across the continents, and spans the time zones, He will find His girls gathering to pray with one voice: Our morning prayer.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Jeremiah 33:3, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Write our Morning Prayer on a notecard or in a journal and pray it out loud each morning. At the end of the week, record how God has used this time to transform your heart for prayer.

    © 2014 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Mark

  • Value Is in the Eye of the Beholder

    Posted on October 10, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie Miles

    "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:6-7 (NIV)

    All they saw was a piece of useless junk. But I saw a precious treasure.

    Years ago on a cold winter morning, my young children and I were sitting around the kitchen table chatting about the gifts they wanted for Christmas. When my daughter expressed a desire for a new baby doll, memories from long ago came to mind.

    I remembered running excitedly down the stairs on Christmas morning to see my new doll sitting in front of the tree. She had big chocolate brown eyes, silky hair and a long ponytail that cascaded down her little pink ruffled dress. But her greatest feature was the cord in her back. When pulled, it wound all the strands of hair back into her head, transforming her long locks into a short bob.

    As I shared how beautiful and special this doll was to me, Kaitlyn said, "Awww. I wish we could have seen her." My eyes lit up with excitement as I shared with them that I still had her! I scurried to the closet, dug out the box and held up the doll with pride, thrilled to share a piece of my childhood with my children.

    After a few seconds of awkward silence, Morgan spoke up with child-like honesty: "Mom, she is ugly!"

    Then Kaitlyn said sheepishly, "Yeah Mommy. She kind of looks scary." Little Michael was too stunned for words.

    We all shared a laugh, but as I gently tucked my doll back into her box, I caught a glimpse of what they really saw.

    They saw an outdated toy covered in scuffmarks with missing eyelashes and oversized bulging eyes. They saw tangled, fuzzy red hair that had been pressed against the side of a box for 30 years and a faded dress that was stained and ripped.

    Yet because she was valuable to me, I saw beyond her imperfections. My love alone gave her value, and no one else's opinions would change that.

    As I stood in the aftermath of my kids shunning my doll, my thoughts wandered back to the years I spent questioning my own value — years wondering if the sins of my past or the failures of my present had stolen my value in God's eyes. Years not realizing how precious I was to Jesus.

    Apparently the disciples wondered about these things, too.

    In Luke Chapter 12, Jesus knew He and His disciples would soon be judged and persecuted. To calm their fears, He offered encouragement of their worth with the story about sparrows.

    In biblical times, sparrows had little value, other than being cheap food for the poor.

    Jesus shared with His disciples how God loved the little sparrows, even though they were worthless in the eyes of the world. He assured them God's love for them was immeasurably more.

    Jesus wanted them to understand He saw beyond their imperfections, sins and fears, and beheld them as valuable, no matter what anyone else thought. He loved them simply because they were His. He alone gave them great value.

    Like the disciples, Jesus values each of us, no matter what. Nothing we have ever done or endured has lessened our value in Christ.

    You see, real value is in the eye of the beholder, and Christ is the Beholder of us all. Our value not only makes us precious to God, but it also makes us usable for amazing purposes in His kingdom that we would have never imagined.

    Might you see yourself through His eyes today and embrace who you are because of Whose you are?

    Lord, I struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness due to the hardships I have endured and the mistakes I've made. Help me see myself through Your eyes and accept how valuable I am in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How have you allowed the opinions of others to convince you that you are not valuable to God?

    In what ways have your past experiences equipped you to serve God in a special way?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Luke

  • Family Secrets

    Posted on October 9, 2014 by Nancy McGuirk

    Nancy McGuirk

    "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

    Growing up, I was drawn to TV shows where the perfect family lived in the perfect home and their problems were always solved in 30 minutes. I especially loved the shows where the mom was always kind and gracious to her children. Oh, how I wanted a mom like that.

    But when the TV was off, my family life was anything but perfect.

    As much as we loved her, my father, sister and I lived in fear of provoking a reaction from my mom. Something was wrong, but I didn't know what. It became our family secret.

    Night after night, I lay in bed crying, God, why are my parents arguing? Why does my mom talk that way to my dad? I thought she loved him.

    I kept asking, God, can you help us? Can you make it stop? I would go to school each day carrying that burden, and no matter what I did or how many friends I had around me, I always felt alone. I thought I was the only one with a dark family secret.

    This family crisis caused my dad to seek God in prayer and Bible study. He often told my sister and me, "Your mom is not well; she doesn't mean what she says or does." His amazing example of dependence on God during those years showed me about how someone receives true healing when life is full of pain.

    As the years went by, I discovered my mother was a victim of an illness, not a villain on a mission. Though her pain was my pain, I began to separate what she did from who she was. I learned to extend her unconditional love.

    I also realized that our family wasn't the only one with a secret. Depression and mental illness affect multitudes of people.

    Through treatments, and by the grace of God, my mother's condition improved. She even gave her life to Christ. But sometimes I wonder if my dad would have grown as spiritually mature if my mother had not struggled. Would my sister and I have been exposed to as much prayer, patience and service at a young age if my father hadn't been such a godly servant to our family?

    My father followed Jesus by remaining faithful as he picked up his cross each day. Like our Savior, he learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8). And the power of a life dependent on Christ became the greatest witness to my sister and me.

    My family secret changed over time — from having a mother who was ill to discovering that God is my true source of healing. Today's key verse became truth in my life: "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Through my mom's struggles, God's works were displayed in our home in a way that they might not have been otherwise.

    Maybe you have family secrets. Maybe you are struggling to keep the faith and find it hard to be obedient. Trust me: He will remain faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). God may seem silent or absent today, but His purpose will become loud and clear in the future. Letting go of having life our way is always worth living in Christ and trusting in His way.

    Heavenly Father, help me remember that no matter what the crisis, no matter how much pain, and no matter how hopeless, Your goal is to always bring me closer to You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Luke 9:23, "Then he said to them all: 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'" (NIV)

    Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Identify any painful secrets you are keeping to yourself. How are they affecting you?

    How do you think knowing Christ and depending on Him could help you through this difficult time?

    © 2014 by Nancy McGuirk. All rights reserved.

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

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Psalm

  • The Stranger on the Bench

    Posted on October 8, 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst

    Chrystal Evans Hurst

    "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)

    A few years ago, my family took a road trip to Baltimore to visit my grandparents.

    We never visit the city without making a trip to the Inner Harbor. It's something my parents did with me and I have great memories of it, so it's something I love to do with my kids.

    This area is a very popular tourist attraction. It's also an area where lots of local folks from many different walks of life hang out.

    On this particular day, we were walking along the main thoroughfare. I stopped for a bit to glance in the window at one of the stores. I turned my eye every few seconds or so to make sure my son was still chasing birds along the sidewalk in an attempt to scare them away.

    After just a few moments, I turned to check and noticed that he was no longer chasing the birds. Rather, he was standing next to a park bench, seemingly just looking at the birds — or so I thought.

    As I walked a little closer to him, I realized that he was talking ... to the homeless man lying on the park bench.

    For a moment, my heart skipped a beat. My son was talking to a stranger. And based on the way this stranger was reclining on the bench, I wasn't sure if he was well.

    I heard my son say, "Hi! Are you okay, sir?

    "Do you need some water? Are you hungry?"

    And then my heart lurched forward outside my body when I heard my son say, "Can I pray for you?"

    I watched from a short distance.

    The man mumbled something unintelligible to me and then my son walked away.

    I stood convicted.

    When was the last time I had taken the time to notice someone, right in front of me, and ask what needs they had that I could meet?

    When was the last time I had offered the most basic human needs, water and food, to someone who wasn't a part of my church, neighborhood or social sphere of connection?

    When was the last time I had offered a stranger my prayers?

    Just because.

    Our key verse today makes it clear we are to show hospitality to people — even the ones we don't know.

    It's so easy to get caught up in our jobs, churches, community affairs and being nice to people we know or those who are easy to be nice to that we forget the most basic kindness — showing hospitality to a stranger.

    The world is full of hurting people. People you and I can touch with a kind word, a warm smile, a hot meal or a gentle touch.

    The world is full of people who would be eternally grateful if someone just stopped and prayed for them.

    When was the last time you offered a stranger a smile, a prayer, a cool drink or a helping hand?

    I'm sad to say I hadn't even noticed that man laying on the bench ... and even if I had, I can't say I would have stopped to inquire how I might show him a bit of hospitality, grace or understanding.

    I can't say I would have stopped to pray for him.

    I can't say I would have stopped to show him love.

    My son helped me remember that the most simple, basic actions can sometimes mean the most.

    He helped me remember that showing love to others doesn't need to be complex.

    He helped me remember I should not let fear, busyness or lack of understanding stop me from giving the most important gift of all to another ...

    Love.

    And isn't that the point? That the world would know we are Christians by our love?

    Father God, forgive me for how I sometimes forget to love others, especially strangers, in simple ways that honor You. Help me recognize opportunities to share the love You have given me with someone else who needs to feel Your love. Allow me to be Your hands and Your feet. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 John 4:21, "And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother." (ESV)

    Matthew 25:40, "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Has God given you the opportunity to show His love to a stranger? What happened? We'd love to hear your story. Share your experience in the comments.

    Why do you think so many of us struggle with reaching out to people we don't know? What practical ideas do you have for being more intentional about showing love to others — especially those that we would consider "strangers"?

    © 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Hebrews

  • Dear God, Where Are You?

    Posted on October 7, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa TerKeurst

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

    "Mom, I didn't make it. Please pray for me. I just feel confused about God."

    My heart sank. I felt my daughter's deep hurt. I felt it as clearly as if it were my own.

    I know what it feels like to want something so badly and have that dream shut down. That door close. That opportunity slip away.

    She'd been talking about going for this special achievement at summer camp for three years. Every time we talked about camp, she talked about going for this achievement. But she wasn't old enough to try until her fourth year at camp.

    Finally, this was going to be her year.

    She met every challenge and could see the goal in sight ... until the fire. She was supposed to light a campfire with nothing but three matches, one small square of newspaper and a few sticks of wood.

    She struck the first match and held it up to the newspaper. It didn't ignite. She struck the second match and held it up to the newspaper. It still didn't ignite.

    She stared at the third and final match. Knowing that a big part of the challenge was teaching the kids how to communicate with God and fully rely on Him, she'd been praying through every stage of the challenge. But now, she didn't just pray — she cried out to God.

    "Please help me, God. Please," she mouthed as she struck the third match. She held the flame up to the paper once again and watched in complete disbelief. The matchstick burned but the paper did not.

    As soon as the final match burned out, she lowered her head in defeat, and gave all her wood to the girls still in the challenge.

    When I arrived at camp to pick her up a week later, she asked if we could go sit by ourselves and process this situation.

    The fact that she didn't get the camp honor was not what was bothering her the most. What was bothering her the most was not experiencing God's power like the other girls. They all had stories of God answering their cries for help in amazing ways that carried them all the way through the challenge.

    "Mom, I didn't get that with God. Why?"

    This was a tough question. One of those questions as a mom that you don't want to mess up in answering.

    I asked her to help me recall every step of her challenge so we could intentionally look for God's hand. As she recalled every part, I listened intently for anything unusual and unexplainable.

    And when she got to the fire, I found it. There was no reason her newspaper shouldn't light. None at all. Everyone else's paper lit. Hers should have. But it didn't.

    "Honey, that can only be explained by God intervening. He was there. He was listening. And we just have to trust that there was some reason you shouldn't have continued that challenge. We may not know that reason, but we can certainly trust God was right there ... protecting you ... loving you ... revealing His power to you."

    She put her head on my shoulder, "You really think so, Mom?"

    I whispered, "I know so."

    I know so because I trust the truth God has given me. Truths like these are anchors that hold me to the reality of who God is:

    He is the One in whom I find comfort and reassurance: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NIV).

    He is right here with me in the midst of my trouble, I am not alone: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).

    Yes, I know deep hurt. But I also know deep hope. So, I whispered it again, "Yes, sweetheart, I know so."

    Sometimes God's power is shown as much in preventing things as it is in making them happen. We may never know why. But we can always know and trust the Who.

    Dear Lord, thank You for knowing what I need and what I don't — even when I don't agree. Help me see Your "yes" and "no" as protection and guidance. Today, I choose to trust You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 126:5, "Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Look back at a situation where you felt God didn't answer your prayers. Can you see His power in not allowing your prayer to be answered?

    Write out your prayers today. Focus on trusting who God is and not why He is choosing not to answer or delaying His response. Remind yourself, "God's power is shown as much in preventing things as it is in making them happen."

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Psalm

  • The Waiting Game

    Posted on October 6, 2014 by Leah DiPascal

    Leah DiPascal

    "The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him." Lamentations 3:25a (AMP)

    Sometimes I see God answer my prayers right away. I'm excited, thankful and ready to tell everyone about His goodness. Then, there are those other times when my prayers linger and miracles seem far away. As time creeps on, my doubts creep in.

    I used to think waiting on God to answer my prayers was like playing a game. Who would last the longest? Would I continue to ask, plead and persevere? Or would I give up first because I was tired of waiting? Or maybe God would give me what I wanted because He was tired of hearing all my whining and complaining.

    If my prayers were answered quickly, I'd give Jesus a quick spiritual high-five, shout Hallelujah! and then move on to my next request. But, if time went on and my miracle didn't show up, I'd get discouraged and frustrated. My waiting turned to worry. My perseverance shifted to pouting.

    Lord, why haven't You answered my prayers? What are You waiting for? Can't You see me struggling? You're taking too long and I just don't understand why.

    I began to think God might be holding out on me. Maybe He really didn't care about me. Or, maybe my circumstances weren't important enough to Him.

    But as I grew in my relationship with the Lord and learned to understand His character, my attitude changed. I realized how much God loves me and knows the desires tucked deep inside my heart. He promises to meet my needs (Philippians 4:19), and His miracles are not a thing of the past.

    Today's key verse tells us that after we pray and ask God for a need, want or desire, we should wait with expectancy and hope.

    You might be thinking, Leah, you just don't understand. I've been waiting for God to answer my prayers for so long.

    Maybe you've resigned to believing there's no hope. Sure, you started out confident and faith-filled, but as time goes by you've started to wonder if any good can come from your circumstances.

    Maybe you've wrapped an invisible wall around your heart so you won't be disappointed if God doesn't come through for you.

    Friend, I understand. I've been there. I've felt that way, too, and it's a lonely place to live each day.

    So what does it look like to have an attitude of hope and expectancy as we wait on the Lord to answer our prayers?

    I've learned to intentionally shift my focus to three things:

    God's Promises: I read Bible verses and speak them aloud daily. As the power of God's Word weaves hope into my prayers, encouragement fills the empty places in my heart. I'm reminded once again of God's unfailing love and faithfulness.

    Praise & Worship: I listen to praise music throughout the day in my house, car and at work in my office. The lyrics and melodies splash over me with joy as I sing along. I sense God's peace and pleasure and in those sweet moments, my worries fade, turning my doubts into confident expectancy.

    Thanksgiving: I thank God for the answered prayers and miracles in my past. I remember how God always came through in those tough times of great need, and I thank Him in advance for His answers yet to come.

    If you've asked God for answers but find yourself waiting longer than you planned, take a moment now to thank Him in advance for His answer. Trust that He is working behind the scenes on your behalf. Don't give up. Look forward in hope and expectancy for Him to respond and remember that the Lord is good to those who seek Him.

    Lord, thank You for remaining faithful to me. Help me have hope and expectancy as I wait for Your answers to my prayers. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Isaiah 30:15a, "This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength ...'" (NIV)

    Isaiah 30:18, "Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When was the last time you thanked God in advance for an answer to your prayers?

    Write Isaiah 30:18 on a 3x5 card and replace the word "you" with your name. Speak this verse aloud throughout today and wait expectantly as you seek the Lord in prayer.

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Lamentations

  • What Your Pastor's Wife Needs Most in a Friend

    Posted on October 3, 2014 by Amy Carroll

    AMY CARROLL

    {Editor's Note: October is Pastor Appreciation Month. We recognize there are women serving in churches in a variety of roles, and encourage you to show your appreciation for all those serving in ministry this month.}

    "One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend." Proverbs 22:11 (NIV)

    I sat in mute sadness, as I listened to the woman sitting in the driver's seat beside me.

    Tears streamed down this pastor's wife's face as she described her family's financial struggles. No one had asked her about her return to the workforce. She felt nobody cared about her as she transitioned from home to full-time work. Years before, a "friend" in the church gossiped about a confidence she shared, so this woman felt she could no longer trust anyone with her pain.

    Another pastor's wife stoically described the 20 years she spent alone in a pew Sunday after Sunday until one woman finally reached out in friendship. Her face lit up, as she told me about her new friend who now sits with her and banishes the painful loneliness she felt amongst the crowd at her own church.

    Isn't it strange? Pastors' wives are often some of the most admired women in the church, and yet they are often the most lonely. When listing my life-long friends, I realized two of the five are pastors' wives.

    That's a pretty big percentage, so what binds me to these women? Their loyalty, love and acceptance. They're a treasure to me, so I've been thinking: What does a pastor's wife most need in a friend? How can I be that kind of friend?

    When talking to my besties and searching Scripture, two main needs emerged. Pastors' wives need their friends to be: 1) free from expectations and 2) free from self. Here's what I mean ...

    Free from Expectations

    Both of my friends defy the stereotypes attached to a pastor's wife. They need friends who will let them be themselves, women with their own identity separate from a spouse or the church.

    Releasing our pastors' wives from our expectations is the greatest gift we can give.

    Pastors' wives are real women just like us with flaws, varying gifts, dust on their dressers, arguments with their husbands and a wide range of personalities. If we want to be true, pure-hearted friends without ulterior motives, we need to affirm all their facets, cover their imperfections with love and encourage them to follow their passions rather than just expect them to conform to a mold.

    Free from Self

    Some days, it's all about me ... or at least that's how I act at times. In my selfishness, I've had thoughts like: She hasn't answered my email. I wonder what I've done wrong. Or, I can't believe she just blew by me in the store. She must be mad at me.

    I'm learning to let go of selfish thoughts and give my friends space.

    Pastors' wives minister to the many people, carve out time for their husbands during their odd hours off, work, run their households, reach out to neighbors, care for their children and more. The list is unending. They need friends who are selfless, patient friends who give them grace instead of demand perfect performances.

    We also have to refrain from gossip. I hate to admit it, but there's a part of me that longs to repeat confidences when I want to feel more important or in the know ... like I'm part of the inner circle. As their friends, we have to overcome the desire to build up ourselves and to put our friend first by never, ever, gossiping.

    Both my friends expressed how important confidentiality is to them. It's a deal-breaker for your pastor's wife. As today's key verse points out, good leaders delight in friendships with those who are in pure in heart and speak graciously. Indeed ... sincere, caring, kind and genuine relationships give life to those who lead.

    In the midst of church life, we walk through all of life's joys and pain together with love and loyalty. It's what pastors' wives want in a friend ... and it's what I want, too. That's true friendship and a desire at the heart of everywoman, pastor's wife or not.

    Lord, help me to be a truly loyal friend to my pastor's wife, putting her needs above my own. Purify my heart and my words to be a joy and encouragement to all my friends. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 17:17, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity." (NIV)

    Job 16:20, "My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God ..." (NIV)

    Ecclesiastes 4:10, "If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is an action step God is calling you to do this month to encourage your pastor's wife?

    What is something you can do if you find yourself in a setting where there is gossip or criticism about your pastor's wife?

    © 2014 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

     


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Proverbs

  • What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do

    Posted on October 2, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA TERKEURST

    "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)

    I felt so fragile sitting in the parking lot of Target, too sad to stop crying. And although I had a list of things that really couldn't be put off another day, I was now entirely too tired to run errands or do much of anything. So there I sat.

    Alone.

    Moments earlier, a friend had called to tell me something she'd seen posted about me online.

    It was harsh and hurtful.

    I tried to give myself a little pep talk, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Who on God's green earth came up with that ridiculous saying? It's not true. I cried a little more.

    I pulled up the social media page my friend referenced, and there it was for all the world to see: Opinions about me flying through the Internet, intent on ripping me apart. As soon as I read the unkind words, daggers hit their mark deep inside my heart.

    It was only a handful of people but they debated me as if I were a product sitting on a shelf, void of a soul. A soul that feels and breathes and cares so very deeply about everything.

    Instantly, I wanted it all to stop.

    I looked up and saw people walking into Target and felt so very envious of them. They seemed peaceful, happy or at least neutral. I suddenly wished for a less risky life.

    Why do I display my heart to all the world typed up in pixelated letters?

    Words like, "calling" and "disciple" suddenly felt like burdens, not blessings.

    I looked back at my phone and reread the hurtful remarks posted online. What's a girl to do when she's feeling desperate to fix something that can't be immediately fixed?

    Should I defend myself?

    But I don't want to sound defensive.

    Should I pray for others to defend me?

    But I don't want to pull others into this.

    Should I just stay quiet?

    But then what if my silence just feeds their case?

    Every response felt like the wrong response.

    What do you do ... when you don't know what to do?

    Maybe you've sat in a Target parking lot crying, too. The circumstances might have been different, but the hurt is the same ... that sliced-open feeling of being judged, misunderstood and wrongly exposed for the purpose of a good debate.

    I wish I had the perfect answer. I don't. These kinds of situations are messy, complicated and unable to fit in formulaic boxes.

    However, I have an imperfect solution that will get us pointed in the right direction: Do the next small thing, the right way, right away.

    In other words, find some small right thing to do that negates the negativity. Do that right thing, right away, to prove to yourself what's being said isn't ALL true.

    There might be some small tangles of truth in the hurtful thing being said. We can pray about that and do something later when the hurt isn't so fresh.

    But first things first. We have to stop the bleeding from the deepest wound.

    Do the next small thing, the right way, right away.

    The small thing I decided to do was see their comments coming from a place of hurt, not hate. Hurt people hurt people. Something caused hurt to stir up in their hearts. Maybe I even inadvertently added to it without meaning to. Regardless, having compassion for them eased my pain.

    I called my friend who'd shared the hurtful comments and told her, "I don't know what to do except be a picture of love in this situation. If I respond out of hurt, things will only get worse."

    Our key verse, 1 John 4:7-8, reminds us of the importance of showing love to each other, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

    So, I must let love guide me.

    Love can empower me to feel hurt without becoming a person consumed by that hurt ...

    I can feel offended, but I don't have to be offended.

    I can feel insecure, but I don't have to act insecure.

    I can feel angry, but I don't have to respond in anger.

    That's the choice love makes.

    And please understand I'm not all Pollyanna about this and able to walk it out perfectly.

    I have to give myself permission to be honest about my feelings. But I don't have to compound the hurt by reacting out of those feelings.

    I never did make it into Target that day. And there are still days I feel so very fragile and vulnerable. Maybe you do too?

    Let's allow love to take us by the hand and empower us in each and every situation where we don't know what to do.

    We can feel afraid, but we don't have to be afraid to do the next right thing, right away.

    Dear Lord, I want love to guide me today. Help me to do the next right thing right in front of me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 13:10, "Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Are you in a situation that feels hurtful? Look closely at the options in front of you and choose to do the next right thing, right away.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

     


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with 1 John, Romans 3

  • When Your Best Isn't Good Enough

    Posted on October 1, 2014 by Renee Swope

    RENEE SWOPE

    "Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour. Be firm in the faith and resist him ..." 1 Peter 5:8-9 (GW)

    Have you ever gotten that awful pit-in-your-stomach feeling after finding out you let someone down? It felt like the wind had been knocked out of me as I read through an email from a client, sent to my manager and forwarded to me, describing how I had let some details fall through the cracks on a project.

    A horrible sense of discouragement and embarrassment moved in for the kill.

    In the past, I would have welcomed my uninvited critical thoughts to stay a while, resigned to the fact that I must be unable to do anything right!

    But not this time; too many hurtful experiences had taught me to recognize failure as an opportune time for my opponent, the devil, to devour me with feelings of inadequacy and shame. This enemy is bent on making me believe that when my best isn't good enough, I'm not good enough.

    Fortunately, times of pain have also included hours of poring over God's promises, gathering wisdom to deal with this unwelcome intruder. I have learned to be alert to the devil's schemes and ready to stand against them. In today's key verses, Peter tells us how:

    "Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour. Be firm in the faith and resist him, knowing that other believers throughout the world are going through the same kind of suffering" (1 Peter 5:8-9).

    After reading the email and letting my thoughts run wild for a few minutes, I knew I had to clear my mind. I asked the Holy Spirit to help me unclutter my thoughts with the clarity of truth from logistical, circumstantial and spiritual points of view.

    1) I jotted down a list of logistical truths: facts about what happened, what I did right, wrong or forgot to do at all.

    2) I also wrote a list of circumstantial truths: factors of my "reality" during the project.

    In six months time, a close friend died of cancer, our family adopted a baby from Ethiopia, my mom was hospitalized with blood clots in her lungs and moved in with us, and my father underwent emergency quadruple bypass surgery. Although I cut back on some things, I tried to push through on a few commitments I made before the bottom fell out. Exhausted and completely overwhelmed, I couldn't keep up. But I hadn't admitted or communicated my limitations to our client.

    3) Finally, and most importantly, I made a list of spiritual truths. Turning through my Bible, I found and wrote down promises to remind me of these facts:

    • "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:26, NIV).

    • "The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Your hands" (Psalm 138:8, NASB).

    Listing logistical, circumstantial and spiritual truths helped me quiet my mind to see all that was going on. Suddenly, I was aware of what God wanted me to do versus what my opponent was trying to do — devour me with discouragement.

    God wanted me to humble myself before Him, be honest with my limitations and make more cut backs in my schedule. After apologizing to our client and explaining what happened, she understood and things eventually worked out.

    Although I had done the best I could, my best wasn't good enough. But it didn't mean I wasn't good enough. It just meant I needed to make some truth-filled assessments and wisdom-based adjustments!

    Lord, some days my best isn't good enough, but it's all I have to give. Help me remember that my best is all You expect. Guide me with Your grace as I make truth-filled assessments of my life and wisdom-based adjustments as needed. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 90:17, "May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands." (NIV)

    ENTER TO WIN a copy of Renee's A Confident Heart Devotional and Lysa's new best-selling book, The Best Yes! Renee is giving away 3 "Fall Book-Bundles" that include a copy of each book and more! Enter on Renee's blog today.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Think of a time when you felt like your best wasn't good enough. Like Renee described, make a list of logistical, circumstantial and spiritual truths that relate to your situation.

    Looking at your lists, ask God to help you keep (or get) your mind clear of condemnation-clutter the enemy has piled on your thoughts. Then stand firm on God's truths and stay alert to His thoughts as you keep making truth-filled assessments and wisdom-based adjustments.

    © 2014 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Peter 5

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