Women: Friend or Foe?
Rachel Olsen

“I'm a friend and companion of all who fear you, of those committed to living by your rules.” Psalm 119:63 (MSG)

Not long ago I would’ve told you that I don’t much like women. I counted a few as friends, but the rest of the gender I dismissed categorically as too much trouble! Never a “tomboy” by any stretch of the imagination, I just found guys so much easier to be friends with. They generally say what they mean, let you know where you stand, and never size you up to determine who has the better haircut.

I didn’t want to distrust women, but the majority of females in my life at the time evoked that response. They were catty, competitive, and conniving. They gossiped, backstabbed and manipulated. I have to readily admit that I often acted in kind. I like drama in movie plots, unpredictability in novel endings, and rivalry in sports arenas. But I decided I wanted stability and camaraderie in my relationships.

Isn’t it strange how addictive relational drama can be? I’m told you can put a frog in a pot of cold water on the stove and gradually turn up the heat, and it will stay in the pot until it reaches a fatal boil without attempting escape. Evidently the frog doesn’t realize how unhealthy the situation is slowly becoming. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of that fable - I’d never boil a frog - but I’ve been in a few friendships that were like that. I stayed way too long in the pot before I realized this isn’t healthy for me, and I got burned.

So what lead me to flip-flop my position on having girlfriends? First, I began to worship Jesus – I became a Christian. That brought about many beneficial changes in my mind and spirit. Where I had become cynical and guarded, God’s love penetrated and softened my heart. I learned the meaning of Proverbs 18:24, “There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (RSV). Christ was now my forever friend who could be completely trusted.

I also made changes in my choice of girlfriends. With the help of the Holy Spirit and the lessons on character from the Bible, I learned to recognize which people and relational patterns were unhealthy for me. The Bible teaches, “He who walks with the wise grows wise” (Proverbs 13:20, NIV). I wanted to walk with wise women through life. So most of my friendships ran their course and dissolved. A few I deliberately phased out because my own character wasn’t strong enough yet to remain Christ-like in their company. Meanwhile, I prayed for quality friendships with women of faith. God heard my prayers, just as the Bible promises He does. Fun-loving, God-loving, gracious women at my church sought me out and invited me out. And I made the choice to trust them and invest.

Over time, God birthed in me a huge compassion for females. I began seeing women through His eyes and not just the lens of my own hurtful past. I realized that not all women are like those I had encountered. I learned to forgive those who had hurt me. With empathy, I could now understand and reach out to women who feel lonely, insecure or betrayed. That’s a rough place to be emotionally, and as the Bible says, “one should be kind to a fainting friend” (Job 6:14, NLT). Today I can finally say, “I love women!”

What about you … do you find yourself entangled in an unhealthy relationship? Are you in emotional hiding after being burned? Maybe you’ve written off an entire gender because of the “bad eggs” you know. Take that to God and ask Him to work restoration in your heart and life. Study the Bible and learn the traits of trustworthy character so you can develop them yourself and recognize them in others. Ask God to send wise, emotionally healthy women of faith into your life. Then muster up the courage to respond and befriend them.

Neither gender is categorically a foe – but I count myself happy to be sipping Starbucks, playing dominos, and sharing my dreams with sisters of the fairer sex. Won’t you join us?

Dear Lord, I want to have good friends, and to be a good friend. Help me to develop godly friendships, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Traveling Together: Thoughts on Women, Friendship and the Journey of Faith by Karla Worley

Get Over It and Get On With It by Michelle McKinney Hammond

Listen to Today’s Radio Show

Application Steps:
Read through the book of Proverbs in the Bible for guidance in wise character.

What is the current state of your friendships?

What is the current state of your heart?

Power Verses:
James 2:23, “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God's friend.” (NIV)

Proverbs 22:11, “If you love purity of heart and graciousness of speech, the king will be your friend.” (GNT)

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Gutter Free
Luann Prater

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

It was Oswald Chambers, the author of My Utmost for His Highest who wrote, “God not only knows where we live, he knows the gutters into which we crawl!”

I’m sitting on my deck overlooking the lake. A crisp gentle breeze kisses my nose and I need someone to pinch me. How can I be in this place, with this life, resting in my God’s arms? Rewind my life just a few years and you would not believe that I could be here, reading my Bible, praising my God.

In 1956 my dad, who had been a hopeless alcoholic, accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. His life was abruptly changed. From that day forward he didn’t have a drop of liquor or smoke another cigarette. It was a radical change.

So you would think his daughter, who was then raised in the church would just color inside the lines and walk the straight and narrow path, right? Wrong. I made horrible decisions in my youth which left me feeling worthless. Those “feelings” then led to more unlovely decisions and soon I had to look up to see pond scum. Trying to lift myself up, then inevitably crashing, created a circle of defeat. I was in the gutter.

I knew about God, but didn’t know God. I had heard the stories of my dad’s miraculous transition which often made me feel even more flawed. What in the world was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just get it right? For years it was my own effort, my own thoughts, my own decisions that traced the lines of brokenness in my life. Sure there were temporary moments of simulated peace, but when failure arrived again, crawling into the gutter seemed only natural.

Then I met Jesus and He shined a light on my soul and the shattered debris of a “me, mine and I” way of living. I discovered that without making some changes, there really wasn’t any room for Him in there. I stopped trying to imitate Christianity and began a journey to know my Savior. Mine was a slower process than my dad’s. When I faltered, my natural tendencies wanted to find the nearest trench, yet the new creation inside gave me wings to fly above it. In the 16th chapter of John, Jesus tells us, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me." John Darby’s synopsis of this verse says, “Nature is occupied with that which it loses. Faith looks at the future into which God leads.”

God calls to each of us day-by-day, minute-by-minute. He uses creation and circumstances and people we haven’t even met, to bring about His purposes, His plans and His hope. Sometimes He works like an overnight sensation, but more often than not, He touches and changes us one predicament at a time. Either way, we are guaranteed a gutter-free life when we seek His face.

Dear Lord, how insufficient we are at finding our true path in life. We need You to navigate our steps. Our own efforts at trying to be good are never good enough, we need You to take us by the hand today and lead us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Who Holds the Key to Your Heart? by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
If you want to climb out of the gutter, take Jesus’ hand by clicking here: Do you know Him?

Read John chapter 16 in the Bible.

Pray in Jesus’ Name that He will replace your natural tendencies with His Holy Spirit.

How often do you read God’s letter to you - the Bible?

Why do you insist on finding your own way?

Power Verses:
Acts 2:38, “Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

John 14:26, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (NIV)

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A $5 Wallet
Glynnis Whitwer

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2 (NIV)

“Wouldn’t it be weird if someone only had $5, then bought a $5 wallet?”

My 11-year-old son Robbie laughed at his own wit, as he related this latest pearl of wisdom. After passing along that gem of insight, he ran off to play. I considered his words, and the idea of someone spending their last dime on something, only to be unable to use it properly.

What started out as a humorous observation became a haunting question for me over the next few weeks. I knew God had a message in it for me, and one day I got it! I was that woman who bought a $5 wallet with her last $5. Only it wasn’t money spent on a wallet. It was my life!

A woman who spends all her money is living with no margin for financial emergencies. She doesn’t even have money for necessities. However, my problem wasn’t monetary. It was my schedule. I had invested so much of my time in “good” activities that I had no margin in my days or my life for any emergency, let alone all the things I had to do. My overloaded schedule left me drained and empty, both emotionally and relationally.

The year 2006 was a challenging one for me. My husband’s consulting business was growing, which left me assuming most of the household responsibilities. Plus our two adopted daughters consumed so much of my time. Add to that the needs of our other three children, the blessings of my own work, volunteer roles, writing and speaking, and I knew I was on overload. There was simply no margin in my life. Christmas was the final straw when I barely got the tree up and then left it sparsely decorated.

So I started praying and asking the Lord to reveal the things that needed to be dropped. A few things were easy and obvious and those went quickly. I had to ask for help in a few areas of my life, and am learning to accept things done around the house in ways different from mine. I’m still praying because there’s more to be pruned. The last options are big and I need to be sure of the Lord’s direction before I eliminate something based on my frustration rather than the Lord’s leading.

My son’s innocent comment has become a profound guiding principle in my life. I don’t want to be the woman with a beautiful wallet that is empty on the inside. I know Jesus came to give me an abundant life, but that meant spiritually, not an over-flowing to-do list.

In 2007, I think I’ll keep that “$5” and forgo the “wallet.” I’d rather have the margin (and the spiritual, emotional and relational health that comes with it) than more great opportunities.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the wonderful blessings You have given me. I thank You for my church, ministry opportunities, my job, family and for health. Help me to align my priorities every day with Yours, and to make decisions that bring honor and glory to You through how I live my life. Please show me what I need to prune in order to create more margin in my schedule. I want to give You all the glory through my obedience. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
When You're Running on Empty, Hope and Help for the Over-Scheduled Woman
by Cindi McMenamin

P31 Woman Magazine

Application Steps:

Consider if your schedule is overcrowded. Ask God to reveal one responsibility that can be delegated or released. Then act upon His answer.

What does having margin in our schedules really mean?

Why would God want us to have more flexible time?

What relationships/commitments take the most time in your life? Are these at the top of your priority list?

What is one thing you know God is asking you to do, but you haven’t done yet?

Why haven’t you done this?

Power Verses:
John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (NAS)

Isaiah 26:3, “You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.” (TEV)

Ephesians 5:17, “Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.” (MSG)

P.S. We wanted to let you know that Lysa TerKeurst, President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, will be on the Oprah Winfrey TV show this Monday, January 29th to share the amazing story of adopting her two sons from war-torn Liberia, Africa.

Please join us as we pray that Oprah and her millions of viewers will see God’s hand in Lysa’s story; that seeds will be planted and His mighty Kingdom will increase; and that, above all, God will be glorified!

If you would like more information on adopting children in Africa, please visit www.acfinet.org. Or, if you are interested in helping children in Africa through sponsorship, Proverbs 31 Ministries has partnered with Compassion International and supports their humanitarian efforts in Africa and other areas of the world. For more information on sponsorship, visit Compassion International.

We treasure your friendship and prayers!

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A Sunny Perspective – Part Two
Lysa TerKeurst

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:7-9 (NIV)

It sounds so dream-like to dress your little darlings in clothes that match, hear them say that you are the best mom in the world, bake cookies together in the afternoon, and relish their sweet spirits while listening to their bedtime prayers. But woven all around the ideal moments are whiney voices, childish attitudes, sibling fights, strong-wills, messy accidents, snotty noses, stained clothes, and strained nerves. It all comes down to choosing what to focus on, for those things will become what’s most magnified.

Re-read today’s key verse above. Let’s take a look at each section and bring it home in everyday motherhood terms:

Whatever is true: It is a blessing to be a mom. Many women have empty arms and would do anything to have children. There are hard days, but they won’t last forever and God will fill the gaps as we walk in obedience with Him.

Whatever is noble: A noble mom recognizes that children are taught most effectively by example. They may remember what you say momentarily, but they remember what they see for a lifetime.

Whatever is right: A Christian’s pursuit is to exemplify Christ-likeness. This involves making right choices that honor God. View each choice as one step toward your ultimate destination.

Whatever is pure: Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” If I want to see God in my home, I must seek to purify my heart. If I want to see God in my marriage, I must seek to purify my heart. If I want to see God in my children’s lives, I must seek to purify my heart. If I want to see God in my everyday life, I must seek to purify my heart.

Whatever is lovely: If someone were to ask me about being a mom, what is the look that would cross my face? Is my facial expression lovely? Am I smiling, or scowling? What would my kids say is my view of motherhood?

Whatever is admirable: The investment of time and energy you put into being a mom is admirable. The sacrifices you make are admirable. The love you have for your children is admirable. Nurturing, protecting, and caring for them is admirable. While the world may not esteem you, and while your kids may not rise up to call you blessed today, God notices, and He says you are admirable.

If anything is excellent or praiseworthy: The calling of being a mom is reason for great celebration and joyous praise to the Lord. You are participating in shaping a life for eternity. Even if you’ve struggled, choose to pursue excellence from this day forward. Praise God for second chances and mercies that are new every morning.

Dear Lord, thank You for the reminder that whatever I choose to focus on will be magnified in my sight. Help me to focus on You today, and the blessings You have placed in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained
by Lysa TerKeurst

Listen to Today’s Radio Show

Application Steps:
Teach your children through your example of choosing to focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable.

Are you being robbed of the joys of motherhood today because of what you are focusing on? I often find that even when my children anger me to no end, if I choose to focus on the lovely, the excellent and praiseworthy, and the pure things surrounding the situation, I frequently have the opportunity to make them into teachable moments. It then allows me to look back at the situation with no regrets.

Power Verses:
Psalm 4:6-7, “Many are asking, ‘Who can show us any good?’ Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord. You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.” (NIV)

Psalm 119:15, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” (NIV)

Romans 13:14, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (NIV)

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A Sunny Perspective – Part One
Lysa TerKeurst

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:7-9 (NIV)

There is such joy in leading women closer to the Lord, but I have to make the choice to see the joy and not be bogged down in the mundane duties that surround the calling. It all comes down to choosing what to focus on, for those things will become what’s most magnified.

In Philippians, Chapter 4, God clearly explains what we are to focus on. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

I was contemplating such things on a recent flight from Illinois to Missouri. The day in Illinois had been very grey, dreary, and frightfully cold. It seemed the sun had taken a vacation and headed south. However, as we ascended from the ground and the plane broke through the clouds, I was astounded by the brightness of the sun. It had not gone anywhere, but was bright and warm and gleaming for miles.

That’s when the reality hit me – the people below don’t see the sun, therefore they may be tempted to think it is not there. The clouds and the dreariness magnify in its absence. Those below don’t have the same perspective as those who have risen above the clouds. Even though the clouds roll in and block the sun, it’s still there. It’s still bright, warm, and gleaming.

A smile crossed my face as I turned to let the sunlight spill over it. It became bigger and more magnified, redefining my day. When I got off the plane in Missouri, I looked up to the sky. Again, it was grey, cloudy and very cold. Though no weather reports said it was a sunny day, I knew the truth. The sun was there. May the sun forever shine brightly on your face and may the Son forever shine clearly in your heart! So, remember to look up and let God redefine your days.

Dear Lord, thank you for this visual reminder that even when the clouds of circumstance attempt to block my vision of You, that You are still there. Your love, grace, forgiveness and encouragement are there even if I don’t see it or feel it. Thank you for the days when I see You clearly – when You are bright, warm and beaming. But even on those days when I don’t see You I will thank You still. Keep my focus on You, Jesus, trusting that You alone can redefine my day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Leading Women to the Heart of God by Lysa TerKeurst

The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained
by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Focus today on the reality that God is there for you, regardless of what you can see from where you stand.

Are you being robbed of joy because you are focusing on the wrong things?

Power Verses:
Psalm 4:6-7, “Many are asking, ‘Who can show us any good?’ Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord. You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.” (NIV)

Psalm 119:15, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” (NIV)

Romans 13:14, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (NIV)

P.S. We wanted to let you know that Lysa TerKeurst, President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, will be on the Oprah Winfrey TV show this Monday, January 29th to share the amazing story of adopting her two sons from war-torn Liberia, Africa.

Please join us as we pray that Oprah and her millions of viewers will see God’s hand in Lysa’s story; that seeds will be planted and His mighty Kingdom will increase; and that, above all, God will be glorified!

If you would like more information on adopting children in Africa, please visit www.acfinet.org. Or, if you are interested in helping children in Africa through sponsorship, Proverbs 31 Ministries has partnered with Compassion International and supports their humanitarian efforts in Africa and other areas of the world. For more information on sponsorship, visit Compassion International.

We treasure your friendship and prayers!

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The Yes Path to God
Marybeth Whalen

"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:11 (NIV)

I got an email the other day from some of our church friends—all the way from their new home in Papua, New Guinea. As I read the description of their lives in this primitive place, I was struck by how amazing their transformation has been. When I met Dane and Kema just a few years ago at a Proverbs 31 banquet, they were a young, attractive couple raising two kids in suburbia, living a comfortable life. In fact, they were planning to build their dream home on a piece of property they had bought, and excitedly shared their dream with us at dinner that night. In short, they had a life others would envy.

But behind the scenes, God was doing a work in their hearts—getting their attention in some different areas. First, God laid it on their hearts to sell that piece of property and downsize their dream so they could give to the church’s building fund. Then God used a mission trip to open their eyes to the needs beyond suburbia. Through that trip their hearts were opened to both missions and children from that part of the world. Not long after, they adopted two children from that area, making four children in their home under the age of five! All of these seemingly isolated events eventually led to the biggest change of all. Dane announced he was selling his orthodontic practice and going to the mission field, where God was calling them.

When I think back to Dane and Kema’s journey, I realize that they were on what I call the “yes path” to God. God had a destination for them that was so radically different from where they were He could not reveal it to them all at once. If He did, they probably would have run away screaming! Instead, He gently and gracefully revealed His plan one step at a time, one “yes” at a time. Yes Lord, we can do this for you. Yes Lord, we will do that for you. Along the way, God prepared their hearts for the future He had in mind.

God has a path for each of us if we will only take that first step with that first “yes.” My path looks different from Dane and Kema’s. Your path will look different from mine. The path is not important and, in reality, the destination is not either. What is important is the relationship you develop with God along the way. God wants to see you take that first step by saying, as Dane and Kema did, “Yes Lord, I will do that for you.” He wants you to reach for His hand and say, “I can’t do this alone.” At that moment, you will be on the yes-path to Him and you will also be more dependent on Him than ever before. I am sure you will find that the yes-path to God is an exciting and life-changing place to be!

Dear Lord, I want to say yes to what you ask of me. Help me have the courage to take steps on the path that leads to a closer walk with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
For the Write Reason
, Marybeth Whalen, General Editor

Shaped with Purpose by Renee Swope

Listen to Today’s Radio Show

Application Steps:
Do you have verses that challenge and encourage you to take the steps God is asking of you? Write those verses down somewhere prominent so you can meditate on them.

Reflection Points:
What is God asking of you? Are you saying yes or pretending you don’t hear? What obstacles in your life do you need to remove so you can say yes? Don’t let anything stand in the way of drawing closer to God!

Power Verses:
Matthew 7:14, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (NIV)

Psalm 139:24, “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (NIV)

Psalm 143:10, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” (NIV)

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White Noise
Susanne Scheppmann

“Then Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Mark 4:9 (NIV)

The vacuum roars as the baby sleeps sweetly in her baby swing. It seems the constant background noise of the vacuum helps little Emily to stay in a deep slumber. The vacuum lulls her to sleep while blanketing other distractive sounds. Her mommy certainly appreciates this phenomenon of background noise.

This phenomenon is known as “white noise.” It works so well that white noise machines are available for purchase. Many use them as a sleep aid, but they also aid students who need to focus on studying. The device blocks background sounds as the student reads silently to his or herself. Some businesses provide employees white noise CDs and headphones to block out irritating distractions.

Although white noise carries benefits, I am not sure this holds true in our spiritual life. I cannot count how many times I have let the busyness of my life become like white noise. My to-do list shouts at me each time I pass by the fridge where it hangs. Emails demand my attention. People I love, ask me for favors. My church desperately needs volunteers. My weary body wants to take a nap. It all becomes white noise to my soul.

This white noise of life causes me to become hard of hearing—spiritually. It drowns out the Lord Jesus beckoning me to come sit quietly at His feet. Luke 10:38-42 demonstrates a wonderful example of a woman like me who has too much white noise in her life:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (NIV)

Oh, how I long for Jesus to say, “Susanne has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her.”

Although, I know it will be a struggle, this year I will strive to be more like Mary and less like Martha. I want to eliminate the white noise of busyness. I desire to have ears that hear the voice of my Lord.

Would you like to join me in a commitment to eliminate spiritual white noise from your life in 2007?

Dear Lord, give me ears to hear You. Remind me each day of the upcoming year to put time aside to sit quietly and listen. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
He Speaks to Me by Priscilla Shirer

Listen to Today’s Radio Show

Application Steps:
Determine today to allow at least ten minutes sitting quietly with the Lord Jesus. Place it as your number one priority on your things to-do list.

What becomes spiritual “white noise” in your life?

What steps can you take to eliminate it this year?

How does busyness squeeze out your quiet time with the Lord?

Power Verses:
John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (NIV)

Isaiah 28:23, “Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say.” (NIV)

Isaiah 32:9, “You women who are so complacent, rise up and listen to me; you daughters who feel secure, hear what I have to say!” (NIV)

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Laying Down Your Life for a Friend
Sharon Glasgow

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15: 13(NKJ)

We bought a charming old white farm house. The first day we lived there the well dried up. The next month the furnace blew up. The same month I found out I was pregnant and had no maternity insurance. Then the electric wires started to burn through the walls. Then, when we jacked the house up, the plaster walls cracked.

We decided to gut the house. We chose one room to live in while the demolition began on the rest of the house. Friends came and helped with the gutting. They took sledge hammers and ripped the walls down. Over the next year we redid the wiring, plumbing, walls and put a new heating system.

It was a challenging year, being pregnant and having all of those hardships, but I had a friend. She wasn’t just any friend; she was the living example of our verse for today. She brought us meals every week for a year. I would go to the bank and find that she had made a deposit into our account. She would mow our grass. She would call other friends to come help us get the day-to-day labor done. If there was a job to be done, she did it. She lived out the example of being a servant, in front of our kids, everyday.

She and her husband devoted countless hours to helping us drywall, paint and everything else you can imagine. They weren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination and they certainly didn’t have extra hours in their day, they always gave with sacrifice.

One day I asked Jackie, “Why are you doing all of this when you don’t even own your own house?” She paused for a while and then said, “Why would you ask that? Isn’t this what Christ tells us to do for our friends?” What could I say in response to that? It is what Christ expects of us, but so few of us take Him literally.

I never deserved such a friend. I think that’s what touched my heart the most. She was a living example of how Christ laid down his life for us. That was 10 years ago. She and her husband have moved further away so we don’t see them as often but one day not long ago a truck backed into our driveway and a brand new Sears riding lawn mower rolled down the ramp with a bow on it.

Who else would do this but a friend who bears another’s burdens and in doing so fulfills the law of Christ? Who do you know in your life that doesn’t necessarily deserve it but needs a friend that will lay down his life for them?

Dear Lord, Thank you for friends! Help me to be a better friend to those You have called into my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
At the Feet of Ordinary Women by Angie Conrad, et al.

Traveling Together: Thoughts on Women, Friendship and the Journey of Faith by Karla Worley

P31 Woman Magazine

Application Steps:
Ask God to help you see the needs of people around you each day. Be obedient to help others in what ever way you are capable of helping. Ask God to show you who the people are that He wants you to invest in.

Are you so busy with your life that you don’t have time for helping others?

You don’t have to have extra money or extra time to be a good friend. Just give from your heart and God will provide the rest.

Power Verses:
I John 3:16, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (NKJ)

Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (NKJ)

Proverbs 18:24, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (NKJ)

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Know Whose You Are
Melanie Chitwood

"See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” 1 John 3:1 (NAS)

One day at church when a man asked my five-year-old son his name, Zachary responded, “Zachary Patrick Chitwood, son of Scott Joseph Chitwood.” I’m not sure what that little five year old was thinking or why he responded that way. I had certainly never heard this answer before, but I sure liked it! Zachary knew who he was. He knew who he belonged to!

How would you answer if someone asked you who you are? My first response would be that I am Melanie Chitwood: a wife, a mother, a daughter, a writer, a speaker, a teacher, a friend, and a child of God.

Yes, like Zachary, I know Who I belong to. I know I’m a child of God. When I was sixteen years old at a Young Life camp in North Carolina, I sat on a rock, gazed up at the stars in the night sky, and prayed a prayer that changed my life. Lord, I know that You love me and want me to be in a relationship with You. Thank You that You died on a cross to pay the penalty for my sins. Thank You that I am forgiven. I want You to be my Savior and Lord. I want to live for You. From that day forward, I was a child of God.

The truth is sometimes I forget who I belong to. I forget that God alone gives me my identity. If I dig a little deeper and answer with complete honesty the question of who I am, my answer includes these responses: I am someone who struggles with losing the same ten pounds; sometimes I respond in fear rather than faith; I can be selfish and not want to serve others; I’ve made mistakes in the past and can carry them around like a ball and chain.

The truth is that sometimes I let my past, my feelings, and others’ disapproval of me define me; rather than letting God and His Word define me. However, the closer I grow to the Lord, the more I understand that those other definitions are lies, not the truth. God’s enemy, Satan, is a liar who wants to keep me from walking in the truth. The truth of who I am is found in God’s Word. I know who I am when I know Whose I am.

Let these statements remind you of who you are and Whose you are:

Nothing can separate you from God’s love (Romans 8: 35 – 39).
You are God’s work of art, His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10).
God does not condemn you (Romans 8: 1,2).
God loves you so much that the price He paid to have a relationship with you was His own life (1 Corinthians 6: 20).
Jesus is your Daddy (Romans 8:15).

God’s love for you is everlasting and unfailing. He wants you to have a relationship with Him where you grow closer to Him and look more like Him as you abide in His truth. Rest in the truth that His steadfast love never fails.

Dear Father, I am so thankful that I am Your child and that You love me. I am thankful that Your love never changes and that nothing will take Your love away from me. Open my eyes to any lies I’m believing about myself and my life. Help me to believe only You – not Satan, not my feelings, not what anyone else says. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Who Holds the Key to Your Heart? by Lysa TerKeurst

The Confident Woman by Anabel Gillham

Do you know Him?

Application Steps:
When you are tempted to believe lies rather than God’s truth, practice taking your thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). For example, if you begin to think to yourself, “God could never forgive me for this sin,” recognize this is a lie. Replace the lie with a truth: Jesus has promised to forgive every sin – past, present, and future (Colossians 1: 13, 14).

Are you certain you are a child of God? Have you prayed for Jesus to be your Savior and Lord? You can pray right now and know that forever you are His!

Do you recognize any lies you’re believing? Ask God to reveal them to you.

Power Verses:
Colossians 1:13, 14: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (NAS).

Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (NAS).

2 Corinthians 10:5: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (NAS).

Proverbs 23:7: “For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (NAS).

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Character Worth Praising
Lysa TerKeurst

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” Proverbs 31:30-31 (NIV)

In today’s high stress, performance driven society, I think a lot of moms are struggling to keep up. We constantly throw down a measuring stick of sorts to see if we are successful moms and if our kids are excelling as much or more than everyone else. I don’t want to get caught in the comparison trap. I want to point my kids to Jesus, tell them that He has a great plan for each of their lives, and instill in them the character to match their calling.

Of course, I do constantly wonder if I’m doing the best I can to teach them how to make the right choices in life. They will take with them the lessons I’m teaching them, so I have to wonder if I’ve prepared them to make the right choices when I’m no longer there to help them through the consequences. The choices and consequences are small now, but when my children get older, their choices could be life changing.

I love the chapter of Proverbs 31 for many reasons, but perhaps my favorite verse lies at the very end: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” This chapter, written to reflect the words of wisdom spoken by the mother of King Lemuel, gives us a wonderful blueprint for living a productive life as a busy woman in today’s world. But more than anything, I believe King Lemuel’s mother spoke this particular verse because she wanted him to recognize the value of character in the woman he should someday choose for a wife – a woman who fears the Lord.

The Proverbs 31 woman accomplished many things in her life, but she also made choices that portrayed a character shaped by having a relationship with God. We as mothers are given the same task – to instruct our children on not only how to be productive individuals, but to point them to Jesus so He can shape their character to model His own heart. God also promises that the one who does this receives a reward. We don’t know what that reward is, specifically, but we know there is one and that praise is a part of it.

A friend of mine, Michelle, was dealing with many of the questions I had been dealing with regarding my children. So, she created a wonderful way to help her family learn about choices and the many consequences of them. What I love about Michelle’s approach is that she’s determined to not only celebrate her kid’s achievements, but to celebrate their good character. When her children make positive choices, she recognizes them. Knowing that character and values are the root of how we make decisions, she began focusing on the character traits that lead to them.

For example, when her 4 year-old daughter, Emily, learned to ride her bike, her dinner was presented to her that evening on the Family Honor Plate; a plate that only those who have shown good character and values receive the honor of dining on. When presented, her daughter knew why she was getting it and was very proud. She exclaimed that she was getting the honor plate because she learned to ride her bike today. She was kindly told, “No.” What? Yes, it was exciting that she learned to ride her bike, but what filled mommy and daddy up with so much pride was her amazing attitude and the way she never gave up. She had the spotlight at dinner and was motivated to make the same choice in behavior when the opportunity presented itself again.

Like King Lemuel’s mother, remind your children that good works are great, but what is most important is a character that reflects the spirit of Christ. Then, praise their good works and give them the reward they have earned when they model it.

Dear Lord, help me to be a mother who teaches her child how to model Your heart. Work in them in the areas of character and attitude so their choices will reflect Your presence in their lives. Enlighten me with creative ways to reward them for their noble efforts and right choices. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained
by Lysa TerKeurst

Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child (CD and Character Chart) by Renee Swope

Read Psalm 33:12-15.

Just as we must make choices each day, so God has made a choice—the choice to welcome us into His kingdom if we will only accept Him. This passage shows us that God watches over us. He formed our hearts and knows us intimately. He knows the dark places, the secrets and the things we don’t tell anyone else – and He chose us anyway. What an awesome revelation!

Power Verses:
Proverbs 16:2, “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” (NIV)

2 Timothy 3:14-15, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from who m you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

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All Power is Given to You Over your Enemy
Sharon Glasgow

“Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord even the demons are subject to us in your name. And He said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven. Behold, I give you authority to trample serpents and scorpions, and over the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” Luke 10:17-19 (NKJ)

Our daughter Jennifer had just gotten a summer internship in Hollywood, CA. She needed her car for commuting, so we decided to drive cross-country from our home in Virginia to California. We had never had a problem with her car until this venture. The car struggled, breaking down every time we slowed the engine. The air-conditioner broke on the first day and the temperatures in Arizona and New Mexico were averaging 115. Steam escaped from under the hood every time we stopped. We prayed the whole trip. By the time, we rolled into Hollywood we were completely wiped out.

Neither Jennifer nor myself had ever been to Hollywood or knew anyone there so we used the Internet to book our hotel. We were so proud of ourselves that we had made it across the country on less than $300. That was including gas, food and hotel. Well, once we drove onto the hotel property we knew instantly why it was so cheap. Cheap is not always smart.

Exhausted we threw our luggage down and plopped onto the beds. Bone tired we couldn’t decide if we had the strength to take showers, but we did. The tub had a leak and all the water flooded out of the tub and into the next room. The attendant at the desk was so scary we didn’t want to call to report the flood.

We read our Bible, prayed and went to sleep. Within just a few minutes we were both instantly awaken and simultaneously sat straight up in bed. Strong fear had gripped both of us. We shared with each other what we had experienced right before we were awoken and knew instantly what we needed to do. Out loud we commanded anything evil to leave our room in the name of Jesus Christ never to return to us. We knew from the Bible that we had all authority over anything evil.

The next morning we left that scummy slithering place and 10 miles down the road the car broke down! We called for a tow truck and a rental car. My flight home was scheduled for the next day. It was so hard from a mother’s heart to leave after all of this. Jennifer knowing my thoughts said, “You and God have taught me that I truly do have power over the enemy. What Satan plans for harm God uses for good. I know you are concerned, but I am thankful for what God has allowed us to witness on this trip and in times past and it is in that, that I have all confidence in the power of Jesus and His name. I’m going to be fine, Mom.”

I left Hollywood knowing that Jennifer would experience more challenging days, but that she knew the plan of escape from the enemy’s plots to bring her down. She knew that in Jesus’ Name, she had authority, and in that she has joy and freedom.

Lord, we come to You with joy and thankfulness that You give us authority inYour Name to conquer our enemy. Help us to never forget that in our hours of battle.In Jesus’ Name Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

When You're Running on Empty, Hope and Help for the Over-Scheduled Woman by Cindi McMenamin

Application Steps:
Make Jesus Lord of your life. He is Truth and the truth will set you free. His righteousness will cover you.

Read your Bible it is your sword of the Spirit, it is your weapon against the enemy.

Your faith in Jesus will shield you and you will be given peace.
Remember to pray because God is just waiting to answer you!

Remember that Satan and his angels (demons) cannot hear your thoughts but they do hear your words and there is power in the Name of Jesus! Read your Bible out loud. Turn your worship music on and worship the Lord your God, because this is what breaks the chains of bondage.

Power Verses:
I Peter 5: 8-11, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever, Amen.” (NKJ)

Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (NKJ)

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God’s Holy Word
Tracie Miles

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

When my son turned six years old and started the first grade, he took part in a special ceremony at our church where he would receive his own Bible. My son was beamed with excitement, for he could not wait to get his very own special Bible. He sat quietly, anxiously awaiting his turn. When his name was called, he jumped up, looked straight at me, and gave me a smile so big that it reached from ear to ear. You would have thought he had won an Olympic gold medal based on the pride on his face at that moment!

After receiving his shiny new Bible, he headed back to the pews. For the next thirty minutes, he admired his Bible; he held it close to him; he caressed it; he flipped through all the pages looking for pictures of the Bible stories he knew about; and he even kissed his Bible over and over. Later that day, he picked up his Bible and said, “Mom, did you know that I have God’s holy word right here in my hands?”

My son reminded me just how precious God’s word should be to us, and I was almost envious of his genuine love for the most holy book of all. Although he is too young to understand all of the lessons that the Bible teaches us or what that book will eventually mean to his spiritual growth, he knew in his innocent little heart just how precious God’s word really is.

How often are we, as devoted Christians, overwhelmed with genuine, unfailing love for God’s holy book? Most of us have a Bible, but it is not enough just to have a Bible in our homes, or even numerous Bibles in our possession. It is not enough just to carry our Bible back and forth to church as if it were a purse. It is not enough to just read the Bible or to be able to quote scripture.

We are to be in love with God’s word and have a genuine passion to bask in its knowledge and power every day. If we are truly in love with God’s holy book and with his Son Jesus, we should be starving each day for its nourishment to our souls.

Although it is often difficult to find time to spend in God’s word due to the never-ending demands on our time, God desires, and requires, that we make Him a part of our day.

Psalm 79:8 says “… may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.” (NIV). God is our daily portion, and He is all we desperately need. Time spent with God is time well spent. When we sit with God and read His Word, we are approaching His throne, and He is listening to us, and speaking. Just as a little girl eagerly runs to the door each evening when her daddy returns home from work, and sits at her daddy’s feet listening to his wisdom, so should we do each day with our heavenly Father. And as my six-year-old son so eloquently put it, never forget that God’s holy words are right in our hands; we just have to choose to pick it up.

Dear Lord, please give me a thirst for your word that can only be quenched through spending time with you and reading my Bible. Help me to remember that I am so blessed to be able to read your word and to worship you freely. Forgive me for taking that for granted. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Out of the Mouth of Babes by Wendy Pope

He Speaks to Me by Priscilla Shirer

Application Steps:
Today call out to Jesus and ask Him to give you such a thirst for His word that you cannot carry out your day without meeting with Him to quench that heavenly thirst. Pray for His love, protection, and guidance to surround you each day.

Do you value God’s word as one of most your treasured possessions?

Do you sometimes take for granted that His word is right at your fingertips but we often allow it to sit on the coffee table and collect dust?

Do you ever feel desperate for encouragement from God, but neglect to spend time in His word in order to provide Him an opportunity to bless you?

Power Verses:
Psalm 119:9, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word” (NIV).

Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (NIV)

John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (NIV).

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

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Old Faithful
Susanne Scheppmann

“I will sing of the Lord's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.” Psalm 89:1-2 (NIV)

We waited and waited. Then finally, I stood in awe as the geyser, Old Faithful, spewed steaming water 150 feet into the air. The Yellowstone National Park ranger told us that it was myth that the geyser erupts every 96 minutes. He said it is faithful to spray the water, but not on man’s timetable.

Doesn’t that sound like God? Scripture repeatedly states that God is faithful beyond our imagination. However, sometimes we doubt. The problem is that we want Him to act in faithfulness according to our requests, standards, and time allotment. We especially feel that way when problems rattle our lives. We ask, “Where is the faithfulness of God right now?”

We want the Lord to react like a genie in a bottle. We call out our wishes and we demand that He bring about miraculous results. I recently witnessed this attitude in an unbelieving friend. She landed unexpectedly in the hospital with an undiagnosed problem. Frustrated she said, “I cried out to God last night and He didn’t help me! What kind of God is He?” Although, my friend never gave a thought about God until a crisis arose, she expected His immediate help when she called out. She demanded the Lord be faithful to her needs on her schedule. Her disappointment resulted in a defiant attitude of doubt.

In addition, I have discovered another intriguing similarity between the geyser, Old Faithful, and God’s faithfulness. The park guide explained after an earthquake, the time between eruptions lengthens. Earthquakes in 1959, 1983, and 1998 increased the average length between the geyser’s eruptions from 76 minutes to approximately 90 minutes. Just like Old Faithful, I have found that as God increases my faith, He sometimes increases the time between my “earthquake” and His rescue. By allowing a longer time span between crisis and aid, God brings me to believe in, rely on, and depend upon His yet unseen faithfulness.

Although doubt of God’s faithfulness may raise its ugly head, He has never been unfaithful to me. He may not rescue me as quick as I would like. He might answer my cry in a way I do not expect. However, He will always aid me in the manner that will help me increase my faith. He wants to teach me to sing of His faithfulness regardless of my circumstances as the psalmist did.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging . . .
"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
Psalm 46:1-3, 10 (NIV).

Yes, just as I stood and waited in awe for Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, I will wait in anticipation for God to show Himself faithful in my life. I will “be still and know He is God.” Will you wait with me?

Dear Lord, help me to recognize Your faithfulness in my life. Aid me in understanding that You work according to Your faithfulness and not my desires. I pray that You increase my faith. Help me to relax and know that You are God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Good To Me by LaTonya Mason

Listen to Today’s Radio Show

Application Steps:
Jot down the Power Verses for today on index cards. Keep them in a handy place so that when you begin to falter in your belief of God’s faithfulness, you can remind yourself He is always faithful.

In what areas of my life do I doubt God’s faithfulness?

Do I expect God to react to my demands?

Does my faith depend on my circumstances?

Power Verses:
Romans 3:3, “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness?” (NIV)

Psalm 36:5, “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” (NIV)

Psalm 89:8, “O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you.“ (NIV)

Psalm 100:5, “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (NIV)

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God’s Truth Sets Us Free
Glynnis Whitwer

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’” John 8:31-32 (NIV)

The accusations were unsettling – the suspected infidelity of a husband, who was also in full-time ministry. Some called for his resignation, while others stood by him – his wife, Trisha*, was one of them. She chose to believe her husband when he denied the rumors.

The controversy swirled, no proof was ever uncovered, but this man stepped down from his position. His wife, although eaten up inside by the turmoil and suspicions, continued to support her husband. She refused to believe the rumors and stood firm on what she believed to be true about the man she had committed to love and honor so many years before.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after he resigned, that Trisha’s husband claimed to have lost his love for her and moved out. Divorce papers followed a few months later.

Confused and hurt, Trisha sought answers in prayer and God’s Word. She wanted to know the truth and asked that God bring it to light. She read the Bible with a revived hunger and wrote down Scriptures that brought peace and hope. She printed them out on index cards and carried God’s Word with her throughout the day. Although her heart was heavy with grief and filled with questions, my friend chose to turn to God for comfort. God was faithful and filled her with peace.

Trisha accepted the situation, but continued to pray for truth to be revealed. It bothered her to not know the whole truth of what happened, until one day when God spoke to her through John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” In the quiet of her heart, Trisha realized that God had been showing her the truth all along – only it wasn’t the truth about what happened, it was His truth.

With each Scripture she read, God planted His truth in her heart … truth about her value, God’s character and His great love for her. God’s truth was setting Trisha free from the bondage of needing to know the truth about her husband.

There’s so much we may never know for sure in this life. Worry and fear can hold us captive. Yet Jesus promised freedom when we know the truth. In order for that to happen, we have to read God’s word for ourselves and allow God to plant it in our hearts. Then, like my friend Trisha, we can move on in life, free from the bondage of uncertain circumstances and standing firm on the rock of God’s truth.

* Name has been changed.

Dear Lord, I praise You for Your holiness. All Your ways are good, right and true. In our unfaithful world, only You offer us the truth. Open my eyes to understand Your truth and apply it to my life. I pray for a renewed love for Your Holy Word, where the truth that sets us free is found. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
When Your Marriage Dies: Answers to Questions about Separation and Divorce by Laura Petherbridge

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

P31 Woman Magazine

Application Steps:
Identify a circumstance in your life, past or present, where you believed you never learned the whole truth. Identify one truth about God that brings you comfort.

What is the must frustrating part of not knowing the truth about a situation?

From what does God’s truth set us free?

Read Ephesians 6:10-18. This passage equips the believer for dealing with Satan’s schemes. What are some of the weapons God provides Christians?

Truth is mentioned first. How is truth a weapon in spiritual warfare?

Power Verses:
Psalm 31:4-5, “Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth.” (NIV)

Ephesians 6:14, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.” (NIV)

1 John 1:6, “If we claim to have fellowship with him, yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” (NIV)

Proverbs 16:20, “Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” (NIV)

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The Single Mom Praised
Sharon Glasgow

“And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:8 (NKJ)

It’s hard being a single mom. I grew up in a home without the support of a father. He didn’t help financially or emotionally to the well being of our family. Mom was not only mom, but also dad, breadwinner, plumber, mechanic, fix it person, doctor, cook, and everything else.

Many days I saw her cry, she didn’t know how we would survive financially, plus not having companionship left her lonely. She battled hard with depression and anxiety.

However, no matter what was going on in our life she always listened to us as if it were her only job in the world. When we grew out of our clothes and shoes she never rolled her eyes and complained that we needed too much. She always heard our needs and graciously said she would see what she could do to meet them. She made a family dinner every night no matter how bad the circumstances of the day were. We always sat together talked and asked for God’s blessings over us and the food. At Christmas she would work over time to make extra money to give us gifts. She never seemed to resent having to work so hard for us.

Mom struggled, and we had many dark days. But every night she would set aside time to pray for us. We knew she was praying and felt the protection all the time. God blessed her obedience to pray for us.

Being a single mom has got to be one of the hardest jobs, but I know first-hand that God will give you the ability that you need as you need it. Rely on Him and love your kids with all your heart even when it’s hard. They’ll grow up one day and know what sacrifices you made to raise them and remember how God helped your family. I do.

Dear Lord, Help me to have Your ability when I have none of my own to be the woman and mother You want me to be. Help me to keep my eyes on You and not on the circumstances of the day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child (CD and Character Chart)
by Renee Swope

The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained
by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Get in the habit of reading the Bible for your wisdom and your hope.

Teach your children about God and His requirements for a successful life.

Every time Satan whispers hopelessness and defeat, know where the lie is coming from and return the lie to him by praising God.

Get involved at a church.

Reflection Points:
Are circumstances dictating your parenting skills?

What are you depending on for your daily strength?

Power Verses:
Colossians 3:12-15, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body and be thankful. “(NKJ)

Deuteronomy 6:6-9, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (NKJ)

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The Hope Diamond
Van Walton

“It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone—like jasper as clear as crystal” Revelation 21:11 (NLT).

Recently I visited the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. I remembered that the Hope Diamond – a deep blue, 45.52 carat diamond and the world’s largest diamond - could be seen somewhere within the walls of this famous museum. Getting a glimpse of the notorious diamond became my goal for the day. I knew I was getting close to the priceless treasure when I encountered the long line of people flowing into and out of a small alcove.

Being in that line frustrated me. The line moved steadily through the room, keeping me from lingering as long as I would have liked. As I approached the display case, I felt irritated and disturbed. You see, I wanted to stop and stare for as long as I desired. I did not want anyone to push me away until I’d gotten my fill. I was also bothered that I could only look – not touch, not feel. Too quickly, the line moved as throngs of people pressed past the grandiose jewel.

As I walked away from the display I overheard others’ reactions: “That was disappointing. I waited in line all that time to see a huge diamond. So what? What purpose does it serve if it just sits there, lifeless, useless, cold, and hard?” I thought to myself. “What is all the hype about this rock? Where is the hope in the diamond?”

For the rest of the day I contemplated my encounter with the big rock. I’d left empty. I gained nothing from the encounter. The experience of standing in its presence did not impress me.

The Hope Diamond may be a precious treasure, but I know a more valuable Rock. I know the “stone that was rejected” (1 Peter 2:7), the One who is Hope. I don’t have to line-up behind others to gain access to God on His throne. I don’t have to wait to see Him. When I do stop to peer at His face, I can linger as long as I desire and I am blessed. I can reach out to Him and find everlasting life, purpose, warmth, and compassion. I never leave His presence with a feeling of emptiness.

Next time you get in line to be wowed by some person or thing that claims to be the biggest, best, most valuable, longest-winning, or the most unique, remind yourself to keep it in its place. Don’t expect what it cannot give. It will only disappoint. Instead, step-up to God’s throne and then expect wonderful and marvelous things.

Dear Lord, You are beautiful. You shine! Forgive me for allowing myself to be wooed by something You have created. You are the Creator, high and lifted up, worthy of my worship. Remind me that only You can meet my expectations. There is no other. May I learn to turn to You for my fulfilling, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst

Who Holds the Key to Your Heart? by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Begin to practice contentment. Long for a desire to be filled by godly living – regular prayer, daily Bible study, continual worship, and fellowship with believers.

Reflection Points:
Have you recently been disappointed by a worldly object, activity, person, or group? Were you surprised to find yourself disenchanted?

What steps can you take to keep from being dissatisfied by the life in which you find yourself?

Do you find yourself seeking satisfaction in the world? Realize that it takes spiritual discipline to turn from the world and to seek after God.

Power Verses:
Exodus 34:6-7, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! … filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin” (NLT).

Isaiah 6:1, “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple” (ESV).

Psalms 24:3-5, “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation” (NASB).

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It’s Nothing Personal
Susanne Scheppmann

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

I stared at the card that read, “It’s nothing personal. I just need my space right now.” The words pierced my heart. To me it was intensely personal. These words were penned by someone I love. I didn’t understand. I still cannot comprehend the cold, unfeeling words written by someone who had always demonstrated a gentle and kind personality.

The hurt haunts my thoughts. I question, “Why?” At times, I want to retaliate with my own bitter words. Sharp retorts spring to mind, but then the Spirit of God whispers, “Forgive.”

This brings to mind one of my favorite stories in the Bible when Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone. Thinking he would impress Jesus with his own willingness to grant forgiveness, he asked, “Seven?” I think Jesus probably smiled as He replied, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:22, NIV).” Oh, how I wish I could have seen Peter’s crestfallen face.

As I reflect on this each day, I long to follow the model of Jesus. People smirked, ridiculed, and laughed at Him. His disciples often misunderstood Him. The religious leaders criticized Him. However, no matter how people treated Jesus, He never retaliated. He responded with gentleness and love.

Forgiving someone can be difficult, especially when you feel you are innocent in the situation. Although the card stated, “It’s nothing personal,” the words indeed are very personal. I want to respond, “How can it not be personal to all of a sudden be shut out of someone’s life?” Nonetheless, God’s truth doesn’t change, for even in difficult situations His command is to forgive. He commands us, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3 NIV).

With those thoughts, I will “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” It will not be easy and will require much prayer to keep my hurt pride from lashing out at my loved one. Although the words, “It’s nothing personal” still do not make sense to me, I will decide not to hold on to my personal hurt. Moreover, I will personally forgive as Jesus has asked me to do.

Lord Jesus, enable me to forgive those who hurt me. Remind me to keep the unity of peace as far as it is within my ability. Grant me an extra measure of the Holy Spirit to love those whom I need to forgive. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
Get Over It and Get On With It
by Michelle McKinney Hammond

Sandpaper People: Dealing with the Ones Who Rub You the Wrong Way by Mary Southerland

Application Steps:
In your Bible concordance, look up references for the term forgive. Write down the verses that speak to your heart. Read them each time a memory of hurt comes to mind and ask God to help you implant them in your heart.

Reflection Points:
Do you tend to carry grudges?

Do find it difficult to forgive someone?

Is there someone you need to ask to forgive you?

Power Verses:
Matthew 6:12, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (NIV).

Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (NIV).

Ephesians 4:2-3, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (NIV).

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Trusting To a Fault
Tracie Miles

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

My children are so perfect. Since they have been raised in a loving, Christian home they are grounded in their faith and are always able to stand up for what’s right. They steer away from anything that is against their morals and I know they will always make good choices. NOT! Just as we are far from perfect so are our children, despite our best efforts to instill strong Christian values in them.

My precious twelve-year-old daughter does very well at school and has lots of friends. She is very involved with her youth group and Bible studies, and overall is just a great kid. Even so, that’s no guarantee that she’ll always use her best judgment as I recently discovered.

One afternoon, while I was getting ready to go to an appointment, the thought suddenly popped into my mind to check the website history on the family computer. This was such a bizarre thought, for I had never feel the need to do this before. But since the thought came from out of nowhere (obviously planted by God), I took a moment to check. I was stunned and shocked at the sight of a couple websites that had been visited several times, which contained inappropriate content for children. I confronted my daughter about this, and after a few minutes of denial, she confessed to the crime of visiting one of the sites. I was very upset that she had violated my trust, and that she did not own up to visiting the other sites. So I left for my appointment with the situation unresolved.

Driving to the appointment, I was consumed with despair and sickened at the images that were now in her innocent mind. I was so mad at Satan for entering my daughter’s life and tempting her into sin. I have always heard that the spoken word is powerful, so in my solace in the car I yelled out in a loud voice: “Satan, get away from my family and my daughter! You will not gain control over us, in the Name of Jesus.” Within three seconds, with my spoken words still hovering in the air and my tears streaming, my cell phone rang. It was my daughter. She was sobbing, admitted to her actions, admitted to knowing it was wrong, and begged forgiveness.

This was a great lesson for us both. For her, it was a lesson on standing up for what she knows is right. She had apparently been pressured into visiting certain sites by peers who did not have her best interest at heart. She stood up to those peers the following day. For me, it was a lesson to not put so much faith in my own parenting skills, that I forget that Satan is right around the corner trying to tempt our children at every turn. As we teach our children values and morals, we must also accept the fact that they may not always take the right path.

The following Sunday after this situation occurred, my daughter came out of her Sunday school class with tears in her eyes. She shared with me that the topic for the day, was standing up for your faith. She was shocked at how God had actively intervened in her life and amazed that He loved her enough to arrange a special message just for her.

When we give God control in our lives and our children’s lives, He will always triumph. He is always there to comfort us and give us exactly what we need in times of trouble. In the midst of His will being played out in our lives, we gain wisdom to be better parents. We receive His mercy so that we can show our children that same mercy when the time comes.

Dear Lord, fill my children with a conscious that will help them to make the right decisions. Please give them enough strength and courage to stand up for their beliefs when peers are pressuring them to do things against their better judgment. Grant me the wisdom and grace to be the best parent I can be. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
Being a Great Mom Raising Great Kids
by Sharon Jaynes

Application Steps:

Keep an eye on the family computer and monitor the sights that your children are visiting, no matter what age they are, or how much you trust them.

Make a point to remind your children how to deal with the pressures of today’s worlds and how to stand up for their beliefs.

Reflection Points:
Am I too trusting, at times, of my children?

Do I assume that since I am a Christian and my family goes to church that my children will always do the right thing?

Can I do more to help my children understand how to deal with peer pressure?

Power Verses:
1 Corinthians 16:13, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.”

1 Peter 5:9, “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

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Rachel Olsen

“God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God's generosity can flow through you.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NLT)

The Twelve Days of Christmas – the ones we often sing about – are counted from December 25th until January 5th. Epiphany is the climax of the twelve days, falling on the thirteenth day after Christmas. It is an occasion for feasting in many cultures, with a special King's cake often baked as part of the Epiphany festivities.

This Saturday, January 6, is the day of Epiphany. The term “epiphany” means "to show," "to make known," or "to reveal." This holiday remembers the wise men, who brought gifts to the young Jesus, and by so doing, revealed Jesus as King to the world. Their story is told in Matthew 2:1-11:

Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him."
Herod was deeply disturbed by their question, as was all of Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law. "Where did the prophets say the Messiah would be born?" he asked them.

"In Bethlehem," they said, "for this is what the prophet wrote: `O Bethlehem of Judah, you are not just a lowly village in Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’ "

Then Herod sent a private message to the wise men, asking them to come see him. At this meeting he learned the exact time when they first saw the star. Then he told them, "Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!"

After this interview the wise men went their way. Once again the star appeared to them, guiding them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (NLT)

These men came to the King, bearing gifts. You and I have gifts to bring to the King of Kings as well. Ephesians 2:10 reveals that we are each masterpieces of God – one-of-a-kind creations - complete with certain gifts and talents. These gifts help us fulfill God’s good plans for our lives. When we use them to bless others, we bless our King as well.

Do you have the gift of HOSPITALITY? Bake a needy neighbor some cookies, throw a party and invite others in.

Do you have the gift of TEACHING? Teach a bible study, coach a softball team, volunteer in your local school system, or offer to tutor a neighborhood child.

Are you blessed with the ability to GIVE graciously? Give not only to your church, but to the poor and to organizations doing Kingdom work, such as Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Do you have the gift of MERCY? Visit a shut-in, or volunteer at your local crisis pregnancy center, or work at a battered women’s shelter.

Are you good at sewing, baking, penny-pinching, or gardening? Just look around – there are others who could benefit from your expertise!

As we celebrate this day, let’s consider how we can bring our gifts as an offering to our King. In so doing, we’ll allow God's generosity to flow through us to others - just as the apostle Peter encouraged in today’s key verse. Happy Epiphany!

Dear Lord, today I crown you King of my heart. Help me see ways I can use my gifts and talents to bless You and others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
Shaped with Purpose by Renee Swope

Application Steps:
Plan some ways to celebrate the Day of Epiphany. Perhaps bake a King’s Cake and deliver slices to your friends and neighbors.

Consider how you can use your talents to generously bless others.

Reflection Points:
What talents did God gift you with?

How are you using them?

How can you bless people in your family, at work or in your community with your talents?

Do you need to reorganize your priorities or schedule so that you can better utilize and share your gifts?

Power Verses:
Romans 12:6, “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.” (NLT)

1 Corinthians 12:4, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.” (NIV)

Proverbs 25:14, “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of gifts he does not give.” (NIV)

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