Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Way to Break Free of Stress

The Way to Break Free of Stress by Ann Voskamp

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

When I feel like we’re drowning in all of life, our daughter Hope and I will go up to the lake and feel the waves pound, sense the serene fury of water.

As the waves break against the earth it quakes the inner cochlear, and there’s nothing else to hear but the breaking. Hope stands there with windblown strands of hair across her face, the electrical energy of each breath of wet, briny air sparking something in her.

“Is there anything lovelier, really, than the way waves keep touching the shore no matter what tries to keep pulling them away?” I lean into her and say it over the sound of the wind, of the crashing surf.

Hope tucks her hair behind her ear, “Love’s like waves — it keeps reaching out, no matter what tries to keep pulling it away.”

She and I stand there in the battering of the elements, watching waves, eyeing how the light catches in water, how the waves move like the earth’s own pulse, like our own heartbeat.

“You know — a pool isn’t like this.” I say it slowly, watching the waves, seeing it for the first time: “It has no power, no life — because it has no breaking of waves … Strange how that is: It’s in the breaking, there is life.”

What did my husband say again and again? “Never be afraid of being a broken thing … Unless a seed breaks, there is no life.”

All down the shoreline, the waves keep crashing and breaking … and living.

Hope slips her arm through mine.

All of life’s losses break us, break through us, scar us. I want them not to. Frankly, there are days I’d like to hide my scars and the jagged edges of my brokenness, days when I wish there were no marks to bear. But if losses don’t leave their mark — how can we say we were ever marked or shaped by love? Scars are signs that show the way we loved.

Hope’s hand rests on mine.

“You’re famous for helping; God, give us a break.” (Psalm 79:9, MSG)

Give us a break, God, in the midst of overwhelming stress and the pounding of waves, the storms of life.

And I don’t even realize I’m saying it out loud: “When you’re hit by the breaking waves, break deep.”

You’ve got three options when breaking waves hit, when you feel like you’re drowning.

Either let fear make you run hard — but fear never makes you safe, fear just makes you fall — and fall hard.

Or, fall back on your pride and try to stand against that wave breaking over you — and it will break you.

Or lastly, when you’re hit with a breaking wave — you can break deep. You can break deep into that breaking wave and let yourself be moved by Living Water and transformed and formed by Christ and remade by the rising current of His Love.

The only way through a breaking wave — is to break deep into the wave.

The only way through the overwhelming waves is to break deep into the roiling water and dive into the depths and stretch out both arms through the fathoms and let yourself be made into the shape of a cross.

That’s all there is: You can either be broken by fear or broken by pride — or you can break into the surrendered, cruciform shape of Christ.

Break deep. Break deep, and break free.

I turn to Hope — I kind of feel baptized. She and I — we can face stress, the waves coming from every side, because we can break deep into the wave of whatever comes at us, arms opened wide and choose to live shaped like a cross, cruciform. It feels like surrender. When you choose to break deep into the breaking waves — when you break the surface of the water again — you can feel born again. Remade into the image of Christ.

When you’re in over your head, you can touch the depths of God.

Hope turns to me. “Hear it, Mama? It’s like every crash of the waves is echoing it.”

Break deep — break free.

Lord, when waves of stress rise and threaten to overwhelm, cause me not to be broken by fear of being overwhelmed or by the pride of standing in my own strength. When I feel stress, cause me to break deep — break deep into whatever is coming at me, shaped like Christ, acting like Christ, formed like Christ, broken and given and surrendered like Christ, cruciform like Christ. Cause me to break deep today — and break free. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Ephesians 4:24, “And then take on an entirely new way of life — a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” (MSG)

Think of one stress today you are facing. What’s one way you can break deep into that wave, surrendered and living Christlike?

© 2016 by Ann Voskamp. All rights reserved.

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

But This Isn’t What I Prayed For

But This Isn’t What I Prayed For by Andrea Reeves

“… so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

One day, I was on my way to class when I saw one of my classmates crying while on the phone. I had just moved to the Northeast for graduate school and was having a hard time integrating my faith into new relationships. Maybe this is the opportunity I’ve been asking God for, I thought.

I waited for her to hang up and then approached her hesitantly, as if she were a deer that would run off if I spooked her. I sat next to her and asked what was wrong.

“It’s my pop, he’s having surgery today,” she said through her tears. It was hard for me to understand her — she was very upset and there was a slight language barrier between us.

From what I understood, her father was having surgery back home in China and she was understandably upset she couldn’t be there with him. I felt terrible. I couldn’t imagine my dad lying on a hospital bed while I was in a foreign country.

I questioned whether or not I should pray for her right in that moment, but doubt creeped into my mind. I don’t even know if she knows what prayer is. Will she be uncomfortable? Or worse, will she think I’m weird??

I said a quick prayer and decided to go for it: “I don’t know what you believe, but I believe in God. And I believe that God can heal your pop,” I said to her, pretty surprised at my sudden boldness. “I talk to God through prayer … do you mind if I pray to Him now?”

She nodded enthusiastically.

I began praying confidently, believing this was a conversation ordained by God. “Lord, I pray supernatural healing over her father —” I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“No, not my father,” she said. “My pop.”

I racked my brain for all the people in her life who could be called “pop.” Great, she probably already thought you were a crazy prayer lady, and now she thinks you don’t pay attention!

“Your grandfather?” I asked, hesitantly.

She spoke again. “No. My pup. My puppy.”

My entire body went numb. I’m supposed to pray for her sick dog? Completely embarrassed, I began praying again; this time, for her puppy, for the vets who would be handling the surgery and for her peace of mind. I was so caught off guard, I didn’t have time to think of any fancy words to use.

After I said “Amen,” she showed me pictures of her cute furry friend. I smiled at the photos, but still felt absolutely mortified at the change of events. God, what good is praying for a spunky little Papillon dog going to do?

Once we were done talking, she gave me a hug and thanked me, this time with a visible sense of calmness and relief.

In the moments before her hug, praying for a pet felt so silly and insignificant to me. But in the end, I saw a peace come over her that only my God could have provided.

Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

I was upset and embarrassed because I approached my classmate with my idea of what God’s purpose was for the conversation. When it didn’t pan out the way I imagined, I felt like my boldness had gone to waste.

I then realized this wasn’t about a dog, or how confidently I prayed or the type of cool, Christian impression I left on this girl … God used a simple prayer for a dog to show His love for one of His children. And He let me be a part of that assignment.

God will use us in small ways to make a big impression on behalf of His Kingdom … we just have to be willing to follow His lead. God won’t waste our efforts, no matter how big or small those efforts may feel to us.

These steps can be uncomfortable, and sometimes our efforts feel insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But together, as we all take these small steps side-by-side, we are able to make such a great, eternal impact on the world around us. One that will bring God glory.

Lord, thank You for letting me be a part of Your great purpose. Help me see the ones around me who need Your loving reminder, and show me ways in my life that I can impact Your Kingdom for the better. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (NIV)

Name a time God used a small act of obedience to make a big impression on behalf of His Kingdom.

How do you think God can use you today? Look for opportunities to show His love to someone who needs it.

© 2016 by Andrea Reeves. All rights reserved.

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

Godly Friends, Godly Wisdom

Godly Friends, Godly Wisdom by Tracie Miles

“Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.” Proverbs 19:20-21 (NLT)

I didn’t know where to turn, what to think or what to do. My emotions were running high, and I feared they were getting in the way of making wise decisions.

Over several months of dealing with a difficult circumstance, I received a lot of godly counsel from beloved friends and family. Yet I found it hard to heed their good suggestions at times, because my feelings seemed to be in control of my thoughts.

Recognizing this struggle within, I bowed my head and prayed: “Lord, please help me see with eyes that are wise, not eyes blurred with overwhelming emotions. Help me act out of a heart that follows You, not a heart heavy with worry. Help me think with a holy perspective, not a mindset based on my own opinions or feelings. Give me wisdom and discernment, and the ability to recognize and follow wise instruction when I receive it.”

I opened my eyes and reached for my Bible, and immediately came across today’s key verses, Proverbs 19:20-21 …

“Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.”

My heart quickened at the thought of God whispering the comforting answer I had just prayed for. I sensed His assurance that it was okay to accept and trust wise advice that aligned with Scripture, because His plans and purposes would always prevail even if my decisions weren’t perfect.

As the primary author of Proverbs, King Solomon obviously grasped the importance of listening to the advice of trusted, God-fearing believers. The book of Proverbs gives numerous wise instructions and advice for living an effective and faith-filled life based on the authority and direction of God. He even referred to the passages in this book as the “sayings of the wise” (Proverbs 24:23a, NIV).

Obviously my first place for wisdom and guidance is God’s Word and prayer, and I had been anxiously seeking His direction for weeks. But as I read this verse, I felt prompted to ponder all the people who’d offered me loving wisdom.

I thought about their relationships with the Lord, and how much I respected their faith and advice that was always laced with holy truth and love. I suddenly realized these people had been divinely designated in my life — long before I needed them — to be the voice of the wise during my trial.

With grateful humility, I bowed my head again to pray, intentionally thanking God for all the people who continually poured wise instruction into my heart and seeking discernment about the best advice to follow.

God sends people into our lives for many reasons, and in many cases, it is in response to a need we have — whether it’s now, or yet to come. No relationship happens in the Kingdom of God by circumstance or without reason, whether it’s to provide friendship, help us through a season of difficulty, provide wisdom or inspire us to stand strong in our faith when we feel weak and unsure.

Throughout Scripture we are instructed to choose our friends wisely, because with godly friends comes godly wisdom — just when we need it most.

Lord, thank You for the people You have divinely placed in my life who speak holy truth, love and words of wisdom. Give me a heart of discernment to know when You are using someone to speak instruction into my heart and my circumstances, and give me the strength and courage to follow through with that advice, even when it’s hard. Fill me with peace in knowing that even if I take a wrong turn, Your purpose will prevail. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (NIV)

Proverbs 12:26a, “The godly give good advice to their friends.” (NLT)
Proverbs 13:20a, “Walk with the wise and become wise.” (NLT)

Have you thanked God lately for the people He’s lovingly placed in your life? Those who are able to bless you with godly wisdom and advice? Write out a prayer for those whom you are most thankful for.

What decision/circumstance are you currently seeking discernment and wisdom about? How does it bring peace to your heart knowing that whatever choice you make, God’s purpose will prevail?

© 2016 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

When Shame Weighs You Down

When Shame Weighs You Down by Sharon Jaynes

“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me … Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead …” Philippians 3:12b,13b (NIV)

I sat on my back porch, wrapped in my fuzzy worn robe. The birch tree leaves shivered in the cool morning crispness, and the daisies that slept beneath the soil through the winter stretched their faces to the sun.

Then I heard him. The rooster.

ER-er-ER-er-ERRRR. I’m not sure where he lives, but it’s within earshot.

ER-er-ER-er-ERRRR. I thought of Peter. I thought of me. I thought of you.

Maybe you know the story. On the night before Jesus went to the cross, He had a chat with his friend Peter. He referred to Peter in his pre-disciple-days name — Simon, as we read in Luke 22:31-34.

“‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’”

“But he replied, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.’”

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.’” (NIV)

A few hours later, Peter did deny he even knew Jesus. Three times. And then the rooster crowed. ER-er-ER-er ERRRR.

Peter went outside and wept bitterly. He cried and cried and cried. The next morning, the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered his failure. And the next, and the next and the next. And Peter remembered all over again.

I have been there. I have failed. I have cried and cried and cried. And I have remembered. Shame has poked drain holes in my Spirit-filled confidence, and I have hidden behind the wall with Peter. And even though I asked God to forgive me, and I knew He had, the rooster still crowed in my heart, and I remembered failing all over again. I wonder if you have too.

I have been stuck like a trapeze artist who refuses to let go of the first bar — trying desperately to take hold of grace, but not quite letting go of the shame.

And God calls to me … Let go. Move forward. Live bold. It’s the only way.

And Paul tells me how … “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me … Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead …” (Philippians 3:12b,13b).

And I see it clearly. For me and for you.

When we finally take hold of, grasp and make our own all that Jesus has already prepared for us, we begin to experience life to the full — the faith we’ve always longed for.

But taking hold of what’s new is not enough. We’ve got to let go of the past.

  • Let go of shame-filled ponderings, and take hold of grace-filled pardon.
  • Let go of crippling bitterness, and take hold of radical forgiveness.
  • Let go of weak-kneed worry, and take hold of sure-footed confidence.
  • Let go of insecurity, and take hold of our true identity as a child of God.

God has placed lavish promises in my heart. And letting go of shame and taking hold of grace is where it all begins.

What did Jesus say about Peter’s failure? Three strikes, you’re out? Hardly. Jesus removed the shroud of shame hanging from Peter’s guilt-weary shoulders and called him to get back to ministry.

Jesus does the same for me and for you, but the rooster still crows.

The question is, What will we remember when we hear that crow?

May I suggest, not the sin … but the grace.

Let’s not let the enemy accuse us of what God has already forgiven! Don’t let him fool us into thinking that Jesus’ death on the cross was not enough. Take hold of what Jesus has already taken hold of and place it in you.

Heavenly Father, thank You for forgiving me and removing my shame. I’m so sorry I listen to the rooster crowing in my heart — telling me I am guilty and shameful. I know what Jesus did for me on the cross is enough, and there’s nothing I need to do or can add to his sacrificial gift. Thank You for wiping away my sins and loving me unconditionally. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Romans 8:1-2 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (NIV)

Psalm 34:5, “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” (NIV)

In John 21:15-19. Why do you think Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me” three times?

Are you hanging on to any shame in your life? Ready to let it go? If so, leave a comment and say, “I’m ready to let it go!”

© 2016 by Sharon Jaynes. All rights reserved.

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

Where I’m the Least Thankful

Where I’m the Least Thankful by Suzie Eller

“Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?’” Luke 17:17 (NIV)

I’m terrible at Thanksgiving crafts, but I see those gratitude jars on Pinterest and think they’re a fantastic idea. I imagine that I pull a Mason jar from the cabinet and tie a burlap ribbon around it. Then I’ll grab a slip of patterned paper to try my hand at calligraphy, but admittedly my “G” looks a little crazy.

I hang in there. It’s not about the jar, right? It’s about the little slips of paper I’ll put in there every day. I’ll be like a gratitude ninja and capture sweet moments for which I’m thankful. Of course, I’ll jot them down immediately and then — maybe later that year, say Christmas — we’ll pull them out and read them as a family.

Everyone will smile at the memories …

Then reality kicks in. It’s more likely my gratitude jar will have three or four slips of paper, and the jar will be shoved on a shelf somewhere, forgotten. It’s a great idea, but somehow a pretty jar doesn’t do the heart work for me.

In Luke 17:11, ten lepers dare to approach Jesus. They are unclean. They are contagious, at least in close quarters. Jesus sends them to the priest, and on the way their disease is healed. No more disfigurement. No more pain. They can return to their jobs and families. Imagine their joy as they danced into the temple, showing the priest their restored fingers and skin as new as a babe.

One, a Samaritan (foreigners whom Jews considered total outcasts), returns to thank Jesus.

Only one.

There is no doubt the other nine are just as elated, but only one is grateful enough to return and thank Jesus. Nine people are healed on the exterior, but there’s some inner work that still needs to be done.

Sometimes our greatest heart work takes place when we acknowledge where we are the least thankful.

Maybe this Thanksgiving your house will be full. There’ll be dirty dishes. Lots of them. Maybe your dad will tell that same old joke — the corny one that isn’t that funny, but he can’t help but tell it. It’s easy to get distracted by the noise or the mess, but I can’t help but wonder, What if we stepped into our ingratitude with honesty?

Dear Lord, today I saw the mess and heard the noise but failed to be grateful for the people around the table. Let me pause for a moment and point out all the reasons I’m thankful.

Perhaps you’ve been busy at work. I know I have.

Oh Lord, I gripe about my workload, when just a year ago I was praying for a job. Have I stopped to thank You for provision?

I just celebrated another birthday. When I look in the mirror, I see those years adding up.

Father, I see wrinkles and years gaining, but I failed to thank You for another day. I’d like to change that.

When we step honestly into areas of ingratitude, it has the power to change us. We run back to Jesus, aware of the immense gifts we’ve been given.

Maybe one day I’ll make that pretty jar with a burlap ribbon, but for now I’m asking the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to see where ingratitude might be taking root.

This Thanksgiving, let’s listen to our words. Let’s look for the miracles and write them on our hearts.

Let’s run to Jesus and tell Him … thank You.

Father, sometimes I take my miracles for granted, or I think You already know that I’m grateful. For whatever reason, I haven’t expressed that, and I want to do it today. I’m falling to my knees to say how grateful I am. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (NKJV)

Romans 14:6a, “Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord.” (NIV)

1 Chronicles 16:34, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (NIV)

We are often hyper-aware of others’ ingratitude but can be blind to our own.

Ask a trusted, godly friend if they’ll share one way that you express gratitude well and one way you can get better. Take those words and allow the Holy Spirit to begin His work.

© 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

Top 10 Christian Christmas Albums of 2016

Focus on the reason for the season with Christmas music that celebrates Jesus.

It’s beginning to look – and sound – a lot like Christmas! Whether you like classic carols, heartwarming hymns or old-fashioned favorites, our collection of Christmas albums will quickly become your holiday soundtrack. Celebrate the reason for the season with Christmas music that exalts the birth of our Savior.

Behold by Lauren Daigle
Behold plays like a jazzy audio time capsule of saxophones, trombones, upright bass, drums and hollow body guitars. This album showcases Lauren Daigle’s versatile vocals in a more mature and subdued context.

Tennessee Christmas by Amy Grant
This album showcases Amy Grant’s classic vocals with intimate arrangements, interspersed with personal stories and holiday memories. Tennessee Christmas features an updated recording of “Tennessee Christmas” and six new songs as well as traditional favorites.

It’s Christmas! by MercyMe
Soaring emotive ballads, up-tempo music and some original compositions make this album a must-have for the holidays. It’s Christmas! is our $5 deal of the season.

Unto Us by Matthew West
Returning with his second full length Christmas album, Matthew West is back to celebrate the season with five brand new songs and some of his biggest hits. Unto Us features radio singles “A Christmas to Believe In,” “The Heart of Christmas” and “One Last Christmas.”

Christmastime by Jody McBrayer
Christmastime features Irving Berlin’s “Count your Blessings Instead of Sheep” and the John Rutter classic “Candlelight Carol.” A jazz-quartet provides the accompaniment to these familiar tunes.

12 Christmas Favorites by Bill & Gloria Gaither
Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with Bill & Gloria Gaither and their Homecoming Friends who bring to life signature performances of 12 classic Christmas favorites including “Joy To The World,” “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” “Mary, Did You Know?” and more.

He Is Christmas by Triumphant Quartet
One of Southern Gospel’s most decorated quartets releases their first Christmas recording. He Is Christmas offers a variety of classics like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and new favorites like “Thank God for Kids” as well as some original tracks.

Top 25 Christmas Carols by Maranatha!
Maranatha’s #1 series brings you Top 25 Christmas Carols – melodies to inspire the warmth of this special time. Each track is produced in full instrumentation, many with accompanying vocals. Priced right for gift giving, Top 25 Christmas Carols is the perfect present for family and friends.

Christmas Is Here by Danny Gokey
A fast-rising country singer and songwriter, Danny Gokey shifts gears with Christmas Is Here, by performing some traditional classics for most of the songs on this holiday album. Each song on the album reverberates with the emotional honesty and life-affirming messages that have become hallmarks of his music.

A Pentatonix Christmas by Pentatonix
Grammy Award winning and multi-platinum selling recording artist Pentatonix releases their much-anticipated Christmas album. A Pentatonix Christmas features a combination of classic holiday tracks, modern favorites and some brand new originals.

These albums will get you in the Christmas spirit and inspire the whole family to spread holiday cheer.

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How to Turn Around a Downhill Day

How to Turn Around a Downhill Day by Arlene Pellicane

“The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the LORD will praise him — may your hearts live forever!” Psalm 22:26 (NIV)

When was the last time you had one of those days?

Sometimes that downhill day teaches us a lesson that sticks with us forever. For me, a pivotal day like that happened a few years ago. I walked into the post office mid-morning with my preschooler. It wasn’t the holidays, so I expected to get in and out quickly.

It turned out lots of people must’ve had the same thought because the post office was packed. The line was to the door and moving slowly. Two post office clerks worked as swiftly as they could, but there were just too many people.

“Did you bring a snack?” my little Lucy asked immediately.

Usually I was stocked like a well-appointed pantry for long outings, but I thought the post office would be a quick errand. I didn’t have a cracker to my name.

Lucy whined, “I’m hungry, Mommy!”

A few minutes turned into 25. Lucy and I were both unhappy campers. My day’s schedule was thrown out of balance. Later in the day, it was time for Lucy’s afternoon nap. She is usually great about taking her naps. But of course, on this non-perfect post office kind of day, she resisted. Protested. Fought. Struggled.

Finally, Lucy was sleeping soundly.

I work from home, but there was not any work getting done that day. Once Lucy was asleep, I turned toward the kitchen to prepare dinner.

I’m not really a cook; I’m more of a food assembler. But on this particular day, I had planned to make a casserole. Standing at my kitchen counter, chopping up pieces of chicken, I again realized why I don’t cook complex recipes (read here: things with more than five items). They take too much time!

I felt incredibly irritated about my wasted day.

My husband James was in the next room practicing his guitar. He’s a beginner, so insert creaky chords here. He was learning a praise song and without even thinking about it, I began to sing along.

Within just a few minutes of singing praises to God (I’m still chopping chicken), my whole demeanor changed.

The unfulfilled to-do lists and the burdens of the day lifted off my shoulders.

I was filled with gratitude instead of grumbling.

My irritation disappeared.

Instantly I was at peace. All my striving could not produce happiness, but when I looked to Jesus and sang praises to Him, all of a sudden, everything was made right.

I was satisfied just like the key verse says, “The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the LORD will praise him” (Psalm 22:26a).

When you praise God for who He is, even when the day has left your soul poor and hungry, you turn that downhill day around. God has given us the gift of song to praise Him. Our key verse of praise from Psalm 22 is sung even when everything is going wrong in the writer David’s life.

Psalm 22:1 opens the chapter with painful words that will be quoted by Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” (NIV)

But the perspective shifts in verse 3, “Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.” (NIV)

“Yet you …”

Let those two little words grab a hold of your heart today. You may be working in a dead-end job. You may be in a cloud of sadness. You may feel stuck in the kitchen or a crazed post office line: “Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One” (Psalm 22:3a, NIV).

Jesus Christ is worthy of all praise. The first verse of Psalm 22 speaks of despair. But the last verse, Psalm 22:31, speaks of praise and victory: “They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!” (NIV)

That day at my kitchen counter, I learned praise was the key to turning a downhill day around. Don’t use your circumstances to measure your days. Instead turn your eyes upon Jesus Christ.

When you praise Him, no matter what’s happening in your life, He will give you divine perspective. Peace. Calm. Joy. Even when you’re chopping chicken.

Dear Jesus, I worship You because You are worthy of praise. You have defeated death, and You can turn around my downhill days. Dominion, power, glory and blessing belong to You alone. Set my soul free from anxiety as I praise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Psalm 7:17, “I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High.” (NIV)

Psalm 100:4 “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.” (NASB)

What’s your normal response when the day doesn’t turn out as planned? Make a mental note to sing a praise song when this happens next.

What are a few of your favorite praise songs? Sing them to Jesus in worship today.

© 2016 by Arlene Pellicane. All rights reserved.

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

If Only I Had …

If Only I Had … by Lysa TerKeurst

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

Everyone Has a Story

Everyone Has a Story by Brandon Buell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2016 by Brandon Buell. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

Christmas Gift Guide: 8 Christian Gift Ideas for Her

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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