Monthly Archives: July 2016

How to Study the Bible: 10 Practical Tips to help you Understand God’s Word

The Bible is a love letter, a set of instructions, the inspired Word of God and so much more. But if we’re honest, it can also be confusing, overwhelming and intimidating. With so many authors, parables and translations, it can be difficult to wrap your head around all the Bible has to offer. Get into the Word and begin to better understand the Gospel with these Bible study tips.

10 Bible Study Tips

  1. Prepare Your Heart: Say a prayer of thankfulness before diving into God’s Word. This will align your heart and your mind as you seek to know Him more.
  2. Strive For Consistency: Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, try to set aside a consistent time every day to dig into scripture.
  3. Set The Tone: Listen to praise and worship music before getting started to focus your heart and your mind. Stock up on your favorite tunes with our Buy One Get One 50% Off sale on all music.
  4. Avoid Distractions: Be honest with yourself about what pulls your focus away from God and avoid it during your quiet time.
  5. Engage With Community: While individual time with God is important, spending time getting to know Him with your brothers and sisters in Christ can be incredibly effective.
  6. Make Time: If you can’t find time to sit in God’s presence, write down everything you do for a few days. You’ll likely notice patterns and identify areas that are consuming you.
  7. Change Up Your Technique: Don’t be afraid to use more than one devotional or tool to avoid falling into a rut. Use a Study Bible or document your journey with God in a Journaling Bible.
  8. Revisit Verses: The beauty of God’s Word is that it is alive. This means scripture may speak differently to you depending on what season you are in.
  9. Pick Out Patterns: The Bible is full of promises, warnings and instructions. Choose a color for each theme and highlight passages that relate.
  10. Ask For Clarity: Ask God for clarity when you don’t understand something. He is ready and willing to impart His wisdom if we simply ask.

What are some of your go-to Bible study tips?

Why I Struggle to Pray for People

Why I Struggle to Pray for People by Suzie Eller

“Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent.” Exodus 33:10 (NIV)

We slipped through the side door into a small room. Women sat on the floor, their books open, while a fan pushed around the sweltering 110+ degree air.

When the lessons were complete, we were introduced. Shy smiles broke down the language and cultural barriers. A handful were Christian believers in the early stages of their faith. Others practiced a different religion.

We asked if they’d share their stories. As one talked, she pointed to her mother standing at the back of the room. Tears pooled as she said that her mother was very ill.

My immediate instinct was to pray for her, but I didn’t act on it.

How would it be received? We were guests in their community, in their culture and in this classroom. But the feeling wouldn’t go away.

As it neared time for us to leave, I whispered to the person who brought us to the class: “I want to pray for the girl’s mother. Is that OK?”

“It’s always acceptable to pray,” she answered.

She asked the girl’s mother to come forward. I rested my hands gently in hers and started to pray. The presence of God sweetly wrapped around us. It was tangible. It was so real. When I opened my eyes, I witnessed girls and women pressing forward, the cluster of faces totally expectant.

They wanted prayer too.

My friend, Lynn, and I prayed for each woman in that room, some of them twice as they came back for more.

It’s always acceptable to pray.

Or is it?

Somehow I’ve allowed my American culture to influence this belief. I’ve been told that it’s intrusive. Unwanted.

In today’s passage, we find Moses in the Tent of Meeting. It’s not a fancy place. It’s smack dab in the middle of the wilderness. But when Moses enters the tent to talk to God, the glory of God sweeps over the tent.

Those standing at a distance are so enthralled with what’s going on before their eyes, they can’t help but worship.

This is such a beautiful picture of prayer.

Moses prayed, most likely for the thousands that wandered in the wilderness. Some believed. Others didn’t. Some followed. Others grumbled. Prayer ministered to Moses, but it also drew others to God.

Has my fear of when and where and how to pray kept me from praying for others?

I think it has, and it’s something I’m asking God to help me with.

My friend in the hard place who’s lacking the words to ask for prayer? I can reach for her hand and let her know that she is not alone.

That stranger in the airport who is flying across country to attend her grandma’s funeral? I can pray for comfort.

There are numerous opportunities around us to pray for people.

We can listen for the tender, gentle voice of God who loves that person, who knows when it’s the right time. He knows when a heart is receptive, or hurting, or wondering if anyone is aware of their pain.

Just the other day, I listened as a friend described a bout with sickness. We were in a public place. Others milled around. Normally I would have listened, promising to pray later.

Can I pray for you?

Right there, right then. We bowed our heads and quietly reached for heaven. Some watched in curiosity. Others joined in. When we were through praying, I felt a hand touch my arm.

Will you pray for me, too?

Yes, absolutely yes.

Do you struggle to pray for people?

Listen to God’s voice. He’ll show you when to pray, and how. He knows who is standing at a distance, their hearts ready to worship Him too.

Dear God, I’ve allowed my culture to tell me that prayer isn’t acceptable when there are people who long to feel Your presence. Give me the courage to say yes to Your invitation to pray for others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Exodus 4:15, “You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.” (NIV)

Perhaps you struggle to pray for people because you don’t want to offend. Ask God for His guidance.

We have been given a Helper in the form of the Holy Spirit who will help us discern when to pray, and in a way that draws a person to God, rather than pushes them away. Read Romans 8:26-27 and thank God for His role in prayer.

© 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

If You’re Feeling Overlooked and Unappreciated…

If You’re Feeling Overlooked and Unappreciated… by Lysa TerKeurst

“After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’” Acts 13:22 (NIV)

Sometimes I wake up in the morning feeling a little grumpy. Time to do it all again. I’ll buy food that gets eaten. I’ll wash clothes that get dirty again. I’ll sweep floors that will somehow need to be swept again before the day is even done.

Is there more to all this than just doing the tasks of everyday life?

One day before I jumped into the normal routine, I sat with Jesus. And I found some big truths as I read my Bible and took a little glance into David’s life. Despite how others saw him, his own tendency to sin, and lack of position in his own family, David had the sweet reassurance of God. And that was enough.

Overlooked by everyone else. Handpicked by God.

To his older brothers, David was young … possibly even a pest. To his father, Jesse, he was just another son. To onlookers, he was a mere shepherd boy. But to God, David was the one destined to be king of Israel. And not just any king. He was from the bloodline from which Jesus would come.

Overlooked by everyone else. Handpicked by God.

Even the way David was anointed to be the future king is a telling story. In 1 Samuel 16, God reveals to Samuel that He has rejected Saul as king and chosen one of Jesse’s sons to be the replacement.

Think of the list of qualifications that must have run through Samuel’s mind for such a position: tall, smart, articulate, brave, groomed, well-mannered, a natural-born leader. Samuel saw some of these characteristics in Eliab, David’s brother. “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his outward appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV).

Samuel had Jesse line up all of his sons before him. All of them were to be considered. Yet, Jesse didn’t call David in from tending sheep. Was this an oversight? An assumption? A judgment call? A deliberate choice?

Overlooked by everyone else. Handpicked by God.

Samuel passes on each of Jesse’s sons and then asks, “Are these all the sons you have?” I imagine Jesse with a quizzical expression replying, “There is still the youngest … He is tending the sheep” (1 Samuel 16:11a, NIV). Surely one who spends his time taking care of animals is not the one to take care of a nation.

Overlooked by everyone else. Handpicked by God.

As soon as Samuel saw David, he knew he’d found the one. David was anointed to become king. But he was not immediately ushered to the throne. It would be many years before David was recognized by the world. So, where did he go after being anointed as king? To a refining school? A government academy? Military training? Nope.

He went back out to the fields and continued to shepherd his flock. A king-to-be doing lowly tasks. A future king whose character was refined in the fields of everyday life to prepare him for his calling.

How like us. In the midst of smelly laundry, dirty dishes, snotty noses, misplaced keys, overdue library books, bills and that birthday gift that still needs to be mailed — there is training there. There is character building. There is attitude shaping. There is soul defining. All of which must take place for us to become what God intends.

Do you ever feel overlooked by the world? Take heart — we are handpicked by God.

We aren’t just doing tasks. We are building a legacy. We are shaping God’s Kingdom. We are in the process of not only discovering our calling but that of our family as well. And I don’t know about you, but it sure does make me look at my everyday tasks (yes, even the smelly laundry) in a whole different light.

Dear Lord, I’m grateful that even when I feel overlooked, I can rest in the fact that I am handpicked by You. Help me live my life for an audience of One. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

1 Corinthians 15:58b, “Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.” (MSG)

John 15:16a, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you …” (NIV)

When have you felt overlooked or left out recently?

When you’re feeling discouraged, speak these words out loud: “I am handpicked and called by God. I may be rejected by others, but I am forever cherished and accepted by the Most High God!”

© 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You?

How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You? by Rachael Carman

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15 (NASB)

Like most mothers, I’d gotten into a daily habit of using certain phrases to keep my crew in line:
“Make your bed.”

“Stop hitting your brother!”

“Go to time-out.”

Sure, I also tried to throw in an occasional “I love you!” when I thought about it.

One day, one of my seven children was being passively disobedient. I responded with a full-blown sermonette composed of frequently used phrases:

“What part of this is unclear?”

“Do you understand what I am trying to tell you?”

“What is the problem?”

“I will never ask you to do something that I do not believe you are able to do or that I am unwilling to help you try.”

“Are you even listening to me?”

Suddenly, time froze. It was as if I could hear God saying, “Rachael, are you listening to Me? I think I’ve been pretty clear. I have some things I would like for you to do, and I promise to help you.”

My own chided child had disappeared during this moment of revelation, and I was left alone with my heavenly Father’s question: Rachael, are you listening to Me?

I was convicted. I hadn’t been listening. I’d been hearing but not obeying. In fact, I had been ignoring the very sin in me that I was so quick to point out in my child.

So often, the things we say to our children are the very things God wants us — His children — to hear:

“Be still.”

“I’m the Parent, that’s why.”

“Pay attention.”

“Please, just trust Me.”

Take out the trash.”


Look at the list of things you’ve been saying. Do you hear your heavenly Father whispering the same things to you?

God is speaking. Our key verse puts it simply, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15).

What do you hear?

Is He asking you to be still and wait on His timing? Is He calling on you to take action? Is He asking you to trust and know that He is God? Maybe He simply wants you to know that He understands how you’re feeling.

More than anything else, God wants you to hear that He loves you.

Dear God, help me listen carefully to what You have to say to me. Help me hear and respond the first time with obedience and joy. Your Word speaks clearly. All of creation declares Your glory. Incline my heart to be still and know Your will. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

John 10:2-4, “But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.” (NASB)

Think back over the last several days. What things have you said to your children over and over? Which words do you want to resonate with them long after they leave your house? Which words would you rather they forget? Are there words you want to make an effort to say to them more often?

Spend some time in prayer thanking God for your children (or other young people you influence) and what He is teaching you through them. Ask Him to help you as you seek to make changes to what you say to them.

Listen carefully to your children. Then listen carefully to the Lord. His Word speaks loud and clear, and the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth as you seek Him and make a relationship with Him your priority.

© 2016 by Rachael Carman. All rights reserved.

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

Three Things You Must Remember When Rejected

Three Things You Must Remember When Rejected by Lysa TerKeurst

“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” Psalm 34:19 (NIV)

I scooted into the restaurant booth beside my daughter Ashley. Her first-semester college grades had been posted for two days, but she’d refused to look at them. We decided to review them together at one of our favorite restaurants.

Together is a great way to press through something you’re afraid could make you feel a bit undone.

School hasn’t always been easy for Ashley. When she was in the eighth grade, her teachers requested a meeting with my husband Art and me. We were stunned to find out she was failing every class.

It wasn’t from her lack of effort. She simply wasn’t grasping the new curriculum her school had switched to that year. And their only suggestion was to have her go back and repeat seventh grade.

Immediately, I knew that would never work. I also think the school knew this wouldn’t work. So they offered to help us have her transferred to a different school.

It wasn’t intended as a rejection. But it sure felt like one.

Yet slowly, little successes at her new school gave her enough confidence to believe it was possible to turn things around. And by the end of that year, she was on the dean’s list. By the time she got into high school, she was making great grades and even graduated with honors.

Now in college, she’d chosen an academically rigorous major. She’d given it her all. But the exams all carried a lot of weight toward her overall grades, and she just wasn’t sure how she’d done. And though that eighth-grade rejection was very far from her at that point, the fear still lingered.

The enemy loves to take our rejection and twist it into a raw, irrational fear that God really doesn’t have a good plan for us.

This fear is a corrupting companion. It replaces the truths we’ve trusted with hopeless lies. Satan knows what consumes us controls us. Therefore the more consumed we are with rejection, the more he can control our emotions, our thinking and our actions.

So what’s a brokenhearted person to do? We must take back control from something or someone that was never meant to have it and declare God as Lord. To help us see how we can practice this when the worries of rejection try to control us, here are three things to remember and proclaim.

1. One Rejection is Not a Projection of Future Failures

It’s good to acknowledge the hurt, but don’t see it as a permanent hindrance. Move on from the source of the rejection, and don’t let it shut you down in that arena of life. It has already stolen enough from your present. Don’t let it reach into your future.

Replace the negative talk that will hinder you. Replace it with praises for God, who will deliver you.

2. There is Usually Some Element of Protection Wrapped in Every Rejection

This is a hard one to process at the time of the rejection. But for many of my past rejections, I can look back and see how God was allowing things to unfold the way they did for my protection.

In His mercy, He allowed this.

3. This is a Short-Term Setback, Not a Permanent Condition

The emotions that feel so intense today will ease up over time as long as we let them. We just have to watch how we think and talk about this rejection. If we give it the power to define us, it will haunt us long-term. But if we only allow it enough power to refine us, the hurt will give way to healing.

As I sat in that restaurant with Ashley and helped her process her fears through the filter of truth, courage emerged that no matter what happened — good or bad — she could trust God.

Finally, she clicked open the e-mail revealing her grades. Not only did she pass; she was on the dean’s list.

I was so thankful that day hers were tears of joy. But I’m also well aware that in the tomorrows that come, things could be different. Rejections big and small just seem to ebb and flow in and out of life. Troubles will probably still find us. But the Lord doesn’t just deliver us from some of our troubles. Our key verse Psalm 34:19 tells us He delivers us from them all!

And I’ll give that truth a big, huge AMEN!

Father God, I don’t understand this situation. But I do understand Your goodness to me. Help me replace the fears threatening to consume me with truth. I know You love me, You are for me, and I absolutely can trust You with all of my heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (NIV)

Look back at the three truths Lysa shared that you must remember when you’re feeling rejected. Which one do you need to proclaim over your life today?

© 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

You’ve Got the Wrong Girl

You’ve Got the Wrong Girl by Katy McCown

“‘You don’t have enough faith,’ Jesus told them. ‘I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.’” Matthew 17:20 (NLT).

With wings in place and fairy tutu around her waist, my daughter skipped over to her daddy. For days she’d been begging him, “Fly me like a fairy!” And today was her day.

Luke wrapped one strong hand around her wrist and the other around an ankle and with a slight bend of his knees he turned his toddler from an ordinary girl who walked on two legs into a fairy who knew how to fly.

She flew around the kitchen with a grin and a giggle. With her arms extended as far as they could reach, she relished this moment.

Right up until Daddy took it up a notch.

Apparently, the first few swings were merely a warm-up. As the swings became longer and higher, our fairy’s smile disappeared.

“Too high! Too high!” she yelled.

Maybe you know the feeling?

You pray and you hope for something woven deep in your soul. You dream of the day God lifts you off the ground and gives you wings. Then, God’s strong arm takes you higher than you expected and, instead of smiling, that rise in altitude leaves you reaching back down for the ground.

I think sometimes God refuses to let us walk because He knows — in His arms — we can fly.

More than a decade ago, I held my first son in my arms. The build-up to this baby was big.

I scoured magazines and stores for just the right nursery design. We darkened the edges of the baby name book considering syllables and meanings and how it fit with our last name. Joy oozed from our pores as we anxiously awaited the day we would meet our boy.

We loved him and held him and rejoiced at his birth … then, the doctors told us to take him home. Say what?

I sat outside the hospital with my bundle in my arms thinking, Who could possibly believe it is a good idea to send this child home with me?

Deep down in my heart I screamed, Too high! Too high!

With shaky hands we secured him in his car seat and took the plunge. The next several months I wondered where all these “instincts” were that I’d been hearing about.

And when it came time to have another child I told God, “You’ve got the wrong girl.”

I worried my way through my second pregnancy, confident I could barely manage one child and clueless about what to do with two.

Too high! Too high!

Now, I have six little bundles. Six! I have no idea how we do it, and we don’t do it well every day, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The other day, a few of those kids asked to plant mustard seeds in the yard. We had a little jar full of these seeds Jesus talks about in our key verse, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible” (Matthew 17:20b).

We lost a few seeds before any made it to the dirt. They really are tiny! Even in the palm of a tiny preschooler’s hand, the seeds seemed to almost vanish.

My favorite part of the planting was watching their eyes light up with wonder. Their excitement didn’t blossom from the near-invisible seed in their hands. Instead, it bloomed from the expectation of what it would become.

They’d heard Jesus’ words and believed Him … a small seed of faith planted in God’s power produces the impossible.

God took me higher than I ever imagined and I begged him to please put my feet back on the ground I knew so well. But, much like my fairy princess in her daddy’s arms, God’s strong grip secured me.

Dear God, I know in my own strength I can do nothing. But, I also know in my Father’s strong arms nothing is impossible. Help me run into Your arms today so I can soar higher than I ever imagined. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Ephesians 3:16, “Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen Your people. Fill their souls with the power of Your Spirit.” (VOICE)

Isaiah 40:31, “But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (NLT)

Is God calling you to do something that you don’t think you can handle?

Write a prayer asking God to help you trust Him and follow Him in this area. Then make a plan to take one step of obedience this week!

© 2016 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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

When Good Intentions Get in the Way

When Good Intentions Get in the Way by Kristine Brown

“And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord GOD! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it.” 2 Samuel 7:20-21 (ESV)

“We don’t have a coach for your son’s team. If someone doesn’t step up, the kids won’t get to play.”

The words weighed on my heart, but I had no idea how to coach soccer. I took dance lessons as a child — pirouettes, not penalties! I tried playing softball once. Even so, I don’t think you can count picking wildflowers in right field as actually playing.

But I felt a heap of responsibility as the league director gave the ultimatum. I understood his dilemma. He faced a shortage of parent volunteers. I didn’t want to be known as that parent — the one who never took her turn.

“I’ll coach the team.” The response sputtered out of my mouth. No turning back now.

I still remember the agony of stumbles and fumbles that followed. We lost every game. Every. Single. One. My eager group of 8-year-olds pressed through with smiles on their faces while their clueless coach wore a constant frown.

Each Saturday morning brought more apprehension. I would’ve rather eaten beets than face another brutal defeat. I read books. I watched videos. I tried everything possible to gain a glimpse of knowledge worth passing on to these potential soccer stars. I soon realized this just wasn’t my calling.

King David knew a thing or two about this, as we see in today’s key verse: “And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord GOD! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it” (2 Samuel 7:20-21).

King David spent years in battle, fighting enemies one after another. Not to mention running for his life from the former king, Saul. However, at this time God had given David a break from conflict. He enjoyed much-needed rest in his palace.

Then he got a brilliant idea.

David felt guilty living in luxury while the ark of God “dwelled in a tent.” (See 2 Samuel 7:1-2.) He resolved to do something about it. He was the king, after all. Who better to build a house for the ark of the Lord?

David shared his plan with Nathan the prophet. Since God was with David, Nathan encouraged him to go ahead. There was just one small problem: God didn’t tell David to do it.

That night, God spoke to Nathan with an urgent message for David. God had a different plan for the ark of the covenant, and He needed David to step out of the way. Even though David’s desire came from his best intentions, this job belonged to someone else. And through his mistake, God taught David a valuable lesson.

Sometimes, making a decision solely based on our good intentions interrupts God’s perfect plan.

David took the correction as an opportunity for growing closer to his Lord. And with the heart of a servant, David thanked Him for it. This is God’s desire for us too.

We work with such enthusiasm, don’t we? We try our best to love, help and give. In our zeal, sometimes we step into places God never intended for us. Just like a flower-picking ballerina attempting to coach little-league soccer. But God knows us so well, and He offers grace when we get ahead of Him.

That was my first and last experience with coaching. During the final game of the season, one of the other parents approached me. He asked a question that left me speechless.

“How did you get involved in coaching? This is something I would really enjoy doing!”

He could have been the next person on the list of potential volunteers, but my good intentions got in the way. Lord, forgive me.

In His firm yet gentle way, God teaches us to trust. And when we allow the Lord to guide our decisions, we find unmatched fulfillment. So let’s agree to seek His instruction today. We can race ahead wanting to serve, but let’s also listen for the times He says, “Stop.”

Then, like David, we can thank our loving Father for the training. After all, He’s the best Coach ever.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your guidance. Forgive me for getting ahead of Your plans, and help me know when to stop and listen for Your direction. Your ways are perfect, Lord. Thank You for offering gentle grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Psalm 33:11, “But the LORD’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.” (NLT)

What is one specific area of your life where you need God’s guidance today?

What steps can you take to listen for His divine direction?

© 2016 by Kristine Brown. All rights reserved.

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

Soak Up the Sun: 5 Beach Reads for Summer 2016

Who doesn’t love getting lost in a good book at the beach? Your toes in the sand, salt in the air and the sun on your skin – few things are more relaxing. Whether you’re planning a summer getaway or aiming your sprinkler at the patio, kick back and relax with these popular beach reads.

All books are Buy One Get One 50% Off at Family Christian now through August 25 making it the perfect time to stock your beach bag with these Christian fiction favorites.

The Things We Knew by Catherine J. West
After her mother’s death, Lynette Carlisle watched her family unravel. All her siblings eventually left Nantucket, silently blaming their father. Nobody will tell Lynette about that day that she can’t remember. But when Dad’s failing health and financial concerns bring everybody home, secrets begin to surface that will either restore lost relationships—or separate the Carlisles forever.

The Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry
In the summer of 1972, Matt Plumley forms a friendship with Jesse Woods, a tough-as-nails girl. But one night the wrath of the prominent Blackwoods and the secrets of Jesse’s family will collide and destroy the promise she and Matt make to each other. Will he ever learn the truth behind the only pledge Jesse ever broke?

The Second Half by Lauraine Snelling
Ken and Mona are looking forward to their retirement, but then they receive a call from their son, a Special Forces officer. Announcing that he’s been deployed overseas, he asks them to care for his kids. They find parenting a challenge, but it’s even harder when Steig stops contacting them. Can they trust God to bring him home?

Close to You by Kara Isaac
Allison Shire is done with love and travels to New Zealand to work as a tour guide for Lord of the Rings movie sites. But she doesn’t expect to meet Jackson Gregory, a would-be entrepreneur who’s pretending to be a Tolkien aficionado. Will the know-it-all guide and fake fan take a chance on romance?

Fading Starlight by Kathryn Cushman
A high-profile fashion internship should have launched Lauren Summers’s career—but instead, a red carpet accident left her blackballed. Working for a former Hollywood star in return for free lodging in a seaside cottage, she sets out to salvage her reputation. But will the old woman’s secrets raise new questions—and knock her off balance again?

What great beach read would you add to the list?

If You Ever Feel Lonely, Read This

If You Ever Feel Lonely, Read This by Lysa TerKeurst

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

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

On paper, these were my people.

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

Yes. I couldn’t wait to be with these people.

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

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

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

I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

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

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

In my head I started to have a little pity conversation: Well self, would you like a roll? Or 10 perhaps? It’s certainly an option when you’re sitting single at a table for 10.

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

To be set aside is to be rejected.

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

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

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

Have you ever been in this place?

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

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

1. Look for the gift of being humbled.

Proverbs 11:2b reminds us that “with humility comes wisdom” (NIV). In this set-apart place, God will give you much-needed special wisdom for the assignment ahead.

2. Look for the gift of being lonely.

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

3. Look for the gift of silence.

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

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

But as you pray through your feelings, ask God exactly what the psalmist does in Psalm 25:16-17, our key verse — to turn to you and be gracious to you in your loneliness. And then see if maybe your situation has more to do with you being prepared than overlooked.

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

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

John 15:16a, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you.” (NLT)

Think about your current struggle with loneliness and the three encouragements Lysa listed. Then, choose to look for one of those gifts in your situation.

© 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

A Praiseworthy Life

A Praiseworthy Life by Cynthia Heald

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised.” Proverbs 31:30 (NLT)

In today’s world we are enticed to buy products that will firm our skin, prevent wrinkles and keep us from aging. Why? So we can prolong our youthful good looks and hopefully receive praise for our lasting beauty. Certainly it is not wrong to want to be attractive, but Proverbs 31:30 reminds us that beauty does not last.

I’m grateful this scripture cautions us concerning the elusiveness of charm and beauty. Seeking beauty in order to boost our self-esteem and receive praise can subtly spill over into inauthenticity. Focusing on temporal beauty can keep us from experiencing any genuine praise we deserve.

This verse is special because it not only states the ultimate ineffectiveness of pursuing “anti-aging,” it also tells us what we can do to truly be appreciated.

In the next stroke of the pen we are instructed to desire the great praise that results from fearing the Lord. After recounting the various activities of the Proverbs 31 woman, we learn the secret for the admiration she received: She feared God.

I like concise summations that clearly and simply state what is necessary — in this case, her fear of the Lord prompted her commendation.

Initially in my walk with God, I struggled to comprehend what it meant to fear the Lord. Should I be “afraid” of God? As I have grown in my understanding, though, I have discovered that fearing God doesn’t exactly mean “fear” like we first imagine.

Instead, it means standing in awe of Him, reverencing Him, adoring and respecting him. I like this definition: “giving God His rightful place in your life.”

God’s role as Creator of everything in the universe establishes Him as the only One who merits this reverence. He is our almighty, majestic, redeeming God and He deserves to be first in our hearts.

Fearing God is a significant truth. We discover in Proverbs 15:33a, “Fear of the LORD teaches wisdom” (NLT). Only as we stand in awe of His holy and just character can we obtain wisdom and gain an eternal perspective on life. To revere and honor Him above all requires that we submit ourselves to His lordship and rule in our lives. As we acknowledge His preeminence, we become recipients of His wisdom — wisdom that gives us good judgment and the ability to make wise choices.

Because the Proverbs 31 woman feared God, she was honored by her family and her deeds were worthy of praise. She was a wife who greatly enriched her husband’s life; she diligently looked well to the ways of her household; she thought of others and she spoke wisely. She “laughs without fear of the future” (Proverbs 31:25, NLT) because when we fear God, we have no other fears. The Proverbs 31 woman’s fear of God enabled her to live a life worthy of praise.

For me, fearing God means that daily, I surrender my plans and agenda in order to follow my Shepherd. I take time to be still, sit at His feet and listen to His word. I talk with Him throughout the day. I memorize His word. I pray to make wise choices and become a woman who brings Him glory.

Fearing God frees me from seeking praise from the world. It frees me from self-centeredness. It frees me from pursuing beauty that does not last. But fearing God centers my life and bestows a gracious beauty of its own — one that reflects the beauty of the Lord and with this beauty is the promise of living a praiseworthy life.

Our Father, I humbly bow in reverence asking that my life would reflect a life that fears You. I pray that I will seek the beauty of the fruit of the spirit that comes from abiding in You. I pray that I will be a special blessing to my family and to all I meet. Thank You that I am Your child and that in fearing You I receive your wisdom and grace to live a praiseworthy life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Psalm 103:13, “The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.” (NLT)

Proverbs 15:16, “Better to have little, with fear for the LORD, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil.” (NLT)

How would you describe your fear of God? Are there any changes you can make? Write them down and commit them to prayer.

© 2016 by Cynthia Heald. All rights reserved.

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