Do You Hear Him Calling?
Tracie Miles

“And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'” Luke 15:5-6 (HCSB)

My family recently went on a vacation to the Caribbean. One beautiful day we ventured onto the white sands and crystal waters, prepared for a wonderful day of sun and fun. This beach offered lots of family activities including paddle boats, kayaks, snorkeling and a water trampoline. Two of my children were not interested in jumping on the water trampoline due to it’s long distance from the shore. However, my fearless ten year old daughter was pleading with me to allow her to play on it, assuring me it was perfectly safe. Against my better judgment, but being confident of her swimming abilities, I agreed. About fifteen minutes after she had swum off into the distance, I lost sight of her. I tried to distinguish her little head from all the other bobbing heads in the ocean, but they all looked the same so far away. Out of sheer panic I convinced my husband to swim out and look for her.

After what seemed like forever, he finally reached the trampoline. Although I could not see his face, I could see his body language change as he searched for her on, around, and even under this huge blown up water toy. He jumped off the trampoline and began swimming to another water activity even further into the ocean. He was yelling out her name. Total strangers joined in and began calling her name, as well. Meanwhile I was begging the beach guard to take the rescue boat out. He finally did, but could not locate her. Twenty more minutes passed. I was in a sheer state of panic and despair, tears streaming down my face, barely breathing, and repeating out loud, the words, “No! No! No!” My other two children clung to me, crying and worrying about their sister. My oldest daughter was blaming herself, regretting that she had not gone with her sister to play in the water. In my heart, I fought off the fear that my daughter had perished in the strong currents. I prayed and cried to God for his mercy on her, not to take her little life, but instead to save her. Rescue her. Bring her back to me safely.

Minutes later, as my heart was beating out of my chest, I saw them - my husband, and my little girl, swimming towards the shore. My legs felt weak and I dropped to my knees. I thanked God for this blessing and for His mercy on us. When they finally arrived to shore, I grabbed my precious daughter and held her tightly in my arms. Her confusion quickly turned to tears, because all the while, she had just been having fun and had no idea that we were fretting over where she was. She had been completely unaware that we were frantically searching for her.

Later, as I thought back on this scary ordeal, I thought about how God must ache for His lost children. He loves His children more than I can love my own, and scripture tells us He is yearning to rescue those who are lost (Psalm 50:14-15). Many people live day after day; completely unaware that God is searching for them and frantically calling their name. If you have never truly accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, dear friend, know that He is searching for YOU today, and He wants you to find Him. If you feel like you are drowning in the sea of life, take heart in the truth that Jesus is searching for you, anxiously waiting for the moment when your eyes will meet, and He can wrap His loving arms around you, and rescue you. He is patiently waiting for you to hear Him calling your name, so that He can rejoice in knowing that you have been found. God knows YOUR name… He is calling YOU… are you listening?

Dear Lord, search my heart, call my name, and help me to hear Your loving voice. I want to know You. I am in desperate need of rescue from the churning sea of life. Rescue me Father. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Reinventing Your Rainbow by Tracie Miles

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Application Steps:
Spend time in prayer and ask God for the discernment to clearly hear His voice.
If you feel you are lost, and in need of a Savior, visit the Do You Know Him link above.

Is my heart open to Christ, so my ears can hear His voice?

Power Verses:
1 Corinthians 5:3, “But the man who loves God is known by God.” (NIV)

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

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Bow to Your Partner
Renee Myers, She Speaks Conference Graduate

“Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She will not hinder him but help him all her life.” Proverbs 31:11 (NLT)

Do you square dance? I don’t, but I love watching square dance couples here in the South. They’re usually senior couples dressed in their finest square dancing regalia, happy and having a good time. They’re enjoying each other. Isn’t that something? After what must have been many years as partners, they’re still having a good time together! And I think I know why. It’s because they “bow to their partner.”

In square dancing, couples assemble in ‘squares’, music begins, and a Caller calls out steps to lead them through their dance. The caller begins by telling the dancers to “bow to your partner,” and without missing a beat, they do. Looking their best, with smiles on their faces, they make eye contact and bow to their partner.

Can you imagine what a difference it would make if each time our “Caller” told us to bow to our partner we tried to look our best with a big smile, made eye contact with our husband, and paid him some respect without missing a beat? If I were better at bowing to my partner, I suspect we’d be having a “good ol’ time” all the time like those square dancers I’ve seen!

The Bible doesn’t teach us about square dancing, but it does tell us about the Proverbs 31 woman bowing to her husband as a “wife of noble character” in the 31st chapter of Proverbs. Being a godly wife is first priority for the Proverbs 31 woman! Making your husband second only to God is the best way to “bow to your partner.” This means putting him before children, jobs, and other priorities in your life.

Bowing to our partner is about honoring our husband. Today’s verse teaches we can honor our husbands by being trustworthy. Our husbands should be able to depend upon and rely on us. This includes not being deceitful, hiding things from them, or doing things behind their backs.

Proverbs 31:11 instructs us to enrich our husbands’ lives. Ask your husband how you can do this for him. Perhaps it will be to keep his laundry done and the house organized. Maybe it will be reduce chaos in your home and create more peace. Or he might request that you put other demands aside so you can focus dedicated attention on him.

For me, “bowing to my partner” by enriching his life means keeping my mouth shut when it wants to snap; doing something nice because it’s the right thing to do even if it doesn’t seem deserved; and expressing my love, appreciation, and respect for him. I haven’t mastered these things, but I’m trying!

Today’s verse is summed up by instructing us “not to hinder him but help him all of our life.”

It might sound one-sided or unfair that we are asked to bow to our partners in these ways, but I’ve found that when I give a little, my husband will respond and give a little, too. Bowing to your partner will become a two-way venture. You’ll soon be doing the “do-si-do” of life together into a future of love and happiness! And if it makes you feel better, 1 Peter 3:7 says, “In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives…” I have that verse circled in my Bible!

Dear Lord, Please help me to honor my husband and be pleasing to him. In doing so, I’m not just honoring him but honoring You too, as I seek to be a godly wife. Lord, I pray for the wives who are struggling in their relationships and ask that you will put in their hearts the desire to “bow to your partner” and bless their marriages accordingly when they do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

Capture His Heart by Lysa TerKeurst

Join us for more Everyday Life encouragement

Application Steps:
Read Proverbs 31:11 slowly and carefully, being mindful of words that jump out at you. God is speaking to you in those words.

What did God bring to your attention as you read Proverbs 31:11?

What can you do to “bow to your partner”?

How might these changes improve your marriage?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 15:33 “…humility precedes honor.” (NLT)

Hebrews 13:4 “Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage.” (NLT)

Hebrews 13:1 “Continue to love each other with true Christian love.” (NLT)

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Missing the Forest for the Trees
Lysa TerKeurst

“What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.” 2 Corinthians 5:11b-12 (NIV)

Sometimes I’m guilty of being such a rule follower that I tend to miss the forest for the trees, as the old saying chides. I look at things from too narrow a perspective, only to miss the bigger picture. It’s easy to slip into the mode of looking at but not really seeing others. Our hectic schedules leave little white space to venture beyond the surface issues. Because of this, it’s easy to pay attention only to the negative. We also have a tendency to cast judgment on those whose hearts we cannot understand. We are guilty of simply being human because, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

For example, I recently gave my children a Language Arts assignment. They were to write a one-page paper about a place they wanted to visit and what they would do there. As they turned in their papers I was intrigued by their responses.

I was instantly frustrated with my daughter, Ashley’s (9 years old) paper because the city name was misspelled. I also found many grammatical errors. I thought, “She doesn’t think enough of this assignment to do her best work. Is she really struggling with spelling and grammar or is this a heart issue? What does this say about her work ethic? What does this say about her character? What does this say about her educational future?”

I sent her to her room to re-write the paper – and do her best this time. Then I noticed her original work tossed aside on the counter, so I read it one more time. Here is an excerpt:

Monrwia (Monrovia)

I want to go to Africa and see the litter (little) kids in the orfneg (orphanage). And brig (bring) them sutuff (stuff) like clous (clothes), toys, shous (shoes), blakits (blankets), and moms and dads. I want to pick up the litter (little) kids and hug them. Maybe I can be an ortnesig (orphanage) helper one day and make it a good place.

Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees! I had totally missed the beauty in Ashley’s heart because I was looking at the surface, catching every mistake I came across. Her compassionate heart was plain to God, and putting her desire on paper should have made it plain to me as well. But I was so busy worrying about the spelling errors that I callously overlooked her heartfelt response.

Ashley wasn’t trying to impress me with her grammatical skills; she was sharing a God-given desire with me. It was a chance for me to take pride in the way God is shaping her for a possible future ministering to orphanage-bound children. She needed me to see her heart, but I only saw her writing flaws as they appeared on paper.

Let me encourage you to learn from my mistake. Capture a moment today where you really see someone else. Look beyond their surface mistakes to see their heart. Maybe it’s your child. Or maybe it’s a spouse, neighbor or friend.

Heavenly Father, forgive me for often making judgments of others based on outward appearances. Help me to take time to really see their hearts and understand where they are coming from, and when they align with the things of you, to affirm and support their choices. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained by Lysa TerKeurst

Personality Plus by Florence Littauer

Application Steps:
Spend today focusing on someone’s heart. Don’t focus on what they look like, act like, or talk like. Don’t let Satan tempt you into misdirecting your attention towards superficial things. Dig past all the stuff on the outside, all the stuff screaming for your attention. Dig deep. Listen. Ask questions. Pray with them and hear their souls echoing in their prayers. Push out the busyness and sit.

What prevents you from really hearing someone’s heart? Is it busyness? A pre-existing negative attitude toward them? The desire to make yourself look good?

Choose to take captive these potentially dangerous factors and make them obedient to God’s will – His desire to look at the heart.

Power Verses:
1 Samuel 16:7, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (NIV)

1 Chronicles 28:9, “For the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.” (NIV)

John 7:24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” (NIV)

Romans 2:29, “Circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.” (NIV)

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Feeling Different
Laura Boggess, She Speaks Conference graduate

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” Revelation 2:17 (NIV)

“If I could change three things about me, they would be my hair, my freckles, and my name.” I looked in the rear view mirror at my redheaded, freckle-faced boy named Theodore, and my heart ached.“I love those things about you. They’re part of what makes you who you are. Why would you want to change them?” “Because they’re different. Everybody else just looks normal, and has normal names. Not like me.”

I chose my words carefully, trying not to chastise or judge. Something in his tone reminded me of a little girl I used to know. A little girl who hated her freckles too. “That’s what makes them so special. Believe me, sweetie, it’s not a good thing to be like everyone else. That’s boring. That’s why God made us all different. It keeps the world interesting.” “Oh, Mom, you just don’t understand.”

Some truths are given little credence when spoken from a mother’s lips. No matter what I said, he remained unconvinced. I felt like I had failed him somehow.My son is not the only one who struggles with feeling “different.” Countless adults battle feelings of inadequacy every day when they look in the mirror. Whether it’s that extra ten pounds, an undesired birthmark, or a secret emotional scar; we all have some mark on our being that we are sure others will revile.

Our differences can leave us feeling insecure and alone. Still, there is One who celebrates our uniqueness, One who is charmed by our oddities and loves even our scars. This One sees every part of us and still calls us beautiful. He is El Roi, the God who sees. Yet, we, like my son, turn our ears away from our loving Parent. It’s too difficult to grasp that He loves us with all of our flaws and imperfections. We say, “Oh, Father, you just don’t understand.” But we are wrong. He understands all too well.

Scripture tells us, “…He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering…” (Isaiah 53:2b-3a NIV). Yes, He understands how it feels to be different.

That week, I prayed for God to help me explain this truth to my son in words that he would hear. I wanted so desperately for him to understand how special he is, not just to me, but to his Heavenly Father, as well. The Lord is faithful, and He placed Revelation 2:17 in my hands. I sat my son down and shared this scripture with him, explaining that God has a special name set aside just for him. I told him that no matter what he is called during his time here on earth, there is a name waiting for him in heaven. A name that will have nothing but love attached to it.

While we were at it, I read him Psalm 56:8, and told him that God loves him so much, He keeps track of every tear that has fallen from his eyes. Then: Luke 12:7; He knows the number of hairs on our heads. (No matter what color they are!) And He probably counts freckles for fun.

We are set apart, dear ones, but we are not alone. Our Heavenly Father sees us... all of us ... every secret scar and past sin... every freckle that has ever graced a nose... each and every red hair. And He is “enthralled” by our beauty. (Psalm 45:11NIV)

Dear Lord, I know with my mind that you love me. Help me to know this with all of my heart. Help me to see my differences as you see them. Show me how to help others to accept the beauty of their differences by loving them as you do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Listen to Today’s Radio Show

That's My Son, How Moms can Influence Boys to Become Men of Character by Rick Johnson

Your Scars are Beautiful to God by Sharon Jaynes

Application Steps:
Read the scriptures in today’s devotional and take them to heart.

Make a list of all the things about yourself that have ever caused you to feel different or ashamed. Write down today’s scriptures and place this paper over the first one. God’s love covers you in all things.

Do you believe you are special?

Do you believe that God loves you?

How does your view of your worthiness affect your children or those that you love?

Power Verses:
Ephesians 5:-2, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (NIV)

1 John 3:1-2, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (NIV)

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Lighten Up
Wendy Pope

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29 (AMP)

The writer of Hebrews describes me perfectly in 5:11, "but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn." I describe myself to many as SLD, Spiritually Learning Disabled. When God is trying to teach me something and sees that I am just not getting it, He - through His grace and mercy - allows me to live it. Can anyone else relate?

Recently I was asked to speak at church and the theme of the day was taking on the yoke of the Lord. In preparation, God taught me the lesson and is still teaching me the lesson of trusting Him enough to lay down all the things that are going on in my life. I must allow His perfectly fitting yoke to lead me to a place of blessed rest in the assurance that He is in control.

Let's examine today's key scripture and see what the Lord's yoke is like. The Lord's yoke is:
· Easy
· Light
· A place to learn
· A place to find rest, relief, ease, refreshment, recreation and blessed quiet
· Useful, good (not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing), comfortable, gracious, and pleasant

That sounds like a yoke that I would like to wear. How about you? Contrary to modern fashion designers who claim "one size fits all" on the label of their garment, God's yoke is truly "one size fits all." Eugene Peterson translates our key verse this way:

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly" (MSG).

Try it on His yoke. Keep it on. Don't go shopping for another garment to wear such as pride, control, or self-sufficiency. This garment never wears out and doesn't need to be laundered. The God of the universe is inviting you wear His yoke and to keep company with Him. Come on! Try it on for size!

Dear Lord, I want to surrender control of all things to You right now. Lovingly and gently place Your yoke upon me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

i am not but i know I AM by Louie Giglio

Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Intended to Bear by Max Lucado

Move Me Aside by Linsdey Kane

Application Steps:
Write down the three things that are troubling you most. Read them aloud. Pray today's prayer aloud, replacing the words “all things” with your three things. As you dress each day, symbolically put on the yoke of the Lord and read today's key verse.

Describe the yoke you are currently wearing.
What hinders you from wearing the Lord's light yoke?

Power Verses:
Psalm 25:9, "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way." (NIV)

Matthew 11:28-30, "’Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.’" (NASB)

Colossian 1:29, "To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." (NIV)

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Lord, What Should I Do?
Micca Monda Campbell

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3: 15-17 (NIV)

Let’s be honest. When it comes to making decisions, we tend to base them on our emotions and our thoughts. This is what I call using our “feelers” and “thinkers.” You’ve done it. I’ve done it. Haven’t we all said something such as, I’m just not “feeling” it, so I’m not going to send my kid to that school. Or what about, I "think” it’s the right thing to do.

I’m not saying that emotions and thoughts are entirely wrong; they’re just not entirely reliable. However, the principles of God are. So we need to trade in our indicators for God’s indicators. In today’s key verse, God lays out a map that will help us make good decisions based on His reliable principles.

First, our key verse tells us to let the word of Christ dwell in us. The truth of God is whatever God is saying to you. When you hide God’s Word in your heart, the Holy Spirit will use it to guide you in decision making. So before you decide who to date, what to do for a living, or which house to buy, listen to what God says first. Then compare what you think is right to what God says is right in His Word. The Proverbs warn us that “there is a way that seems right to man [and woman] but the end is death” (Proverbs 14:12, NIV). God’s way always leads to a good decision and a great life.

Second, we’re told to let the peace of Christ rule or reign in our hearts. The Greek word for rule is the word we would use for referee. A referee is someone who wears a whistle. If the ball is about to go out of bounds, the referee blows the whistle. You and I have a heavenly referee, the Holy Spirit, who gives us a great deal of freedom to live our lives. The Christian life is not a restricted journey. We are free to live and move and make choices. Although, when we are about to step out of bounds, the Holy Spirit blows his whistle as a warning. That warning comes often in the form of a lack of peace.

Finally, today’s verses tell us that whatever we do, to do it in the name of the Lord. If I can’t take the name of Jesus and stamp it on what I’m about to do, say, or where I am about to go without embarrassment or apology, then its best to back off. It’s not worth it, whatever it is. If you and I have the nature of Christ living in us then it doesn’t make sense for either of us to do something that isn’t consistent with His nature. So, if we can’t stamp His name all over the decision we’re about to make, then we should not do it.

Some of us today have families in trouble, and we’re trying to figure out which way to go. Others may be struggling emotionally or with financial decisions. There are those who are facing their career ahead, and others who are facing their retirement. Decisions need to be made. Yes, you have feelings and thoughts about these situations. They are not entirely wrong; they’re just not entirely trustworthy. Only the principles of God are entirely dependable. So take God’s map and let the spirit of God walk you through it. He’ll lead you in the way you should go.

Dear Lord, I don’t want to do anything that I can’t put Your name on. Thank You for providing a way for me to make good decisions while glorifying Your name. As I meditate on Your Word, speak to my heart and guide me with Your peace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
30 Days to Taming Your Tongue
by Deborah Smith Pegues

Pierced By the Word: 31 Meditations for Your Soul by John Piper

Listen to Today’s Radio Show

Application Steps:
Begin studying and meditating on God’s Word today so that He can speak to your heart about any situation you face. Remember to compare what you think to what God says. Wait for peace, and be sure that you can stamp His name on it. If you can, then go for it!

What is you method for decision making? How has your method been a benefit to you?

How will following God’s principles for decision making benefit your life?

Who do you think is wiser when it come to the decisions you need to make in life: you or God?

Power Verses:
Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (NIV)

John 16:13, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (NIV)

Isaiah 58:11, “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (NIV)

Luke 1:79, “To shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." (NIV)

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No Matter What
Marybeth Whalen

“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:14-15 (NIV)

A few months ago, my husband and I attended a Dave Ramsey seminar. Dave is known for his financial topics, but on that day he said something that I have been pondering ever since. Dave said that he taught his children in their teens to establish “no matter what’s” in life. He was referencing a situation in dating, but this principle could be applied to many different situations. I wondered what my “no matter what’s” are. After spending some time thinking about that, I thought perhaps I should share it here, so you could also be challenged to set up your “no matter what’s.”

In the area of finances, my husband and I have determined to never again go into debt, no matter what. This means going without and planning ahead. It means staying in a house that is cramped, and driving older cars. It means taking large portions of any money we receive and socking it into the debt we currently have until we have paid it off.

In the area of marriage, my husband and I are committed to each other, no matter what. This means letting some things go when I really want to say something. It means embracing each other’s insecurities and inadequacies. It means loving each other even when we don’t like each other. It means forgiveness in some pretty hard areas. We are married, no matter what. We are committed to that fact—even when we don’t feel very committed to each other.

Most importantly, I am focused on God, no matter what. God and His word are what I turn to for wisdom and instruction in how to do life. God provides my comfort and strength. He grows and stretches me when I need it. He rocks me in His arms when I need it. I find rest and hope in Him. I have learned what it means to lean on His everlasting arms, as the old hymn says. I must walk out His call on my life no matter what. As I have learned to do this, I have also learned I can rely on an unchanging God as the culture seems to spin faster out of control.

God has used my “no matter what’s” to shape who He wants me to be. I know, above all else, I will continue to stay focused on these “no matter what’s” as the future unfolds. Have you considered how your “no matter what’s” could affect the lives of others—your children, your co-workers, your spouse or your neighbor? Look at where God is leading in your life, and how He might use you to help someone else form some “no matter what’s” of their own.

Dear Lord, Please show me what my personal “no matter what’s” should be. I want to live a life of conviction and commitment to the things that matter. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey

Living Life on Purpose by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
In your journal, write down some “no matter what’s” that you already have in place.

Now write some that you would like to implement in your life.

What actions can you take this week to begin to do so?

Are you being tossed about by the waves? Or are you living a life of conviction? How are you modeling this for the people you love?

Power Verses:
Ephesians 6:11, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (NIV)

James 1:6, “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (NIV)

Psalm 119:104, “I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.” (NIV)

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Planted by Water
Glynnis Whitwer

“He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:8 (NIV)

My daughter Cathrine came running into the kitchen saying that the flowers needed watering. Without waiting for my help, Cathrine grabbed a cooking pot, filled it with water and ran back outside. Curious, I followed to see which flowers worried her.

I walked outside to see Cathrine knelt beside an iris, carefully scooping water into her cupped hands and pouring it over the flowers. Over and over she poured water over a wilting blossom. Cathrine knew the flowers needed nutrition, she knew they needed water, and she was trying to help them in the most obvious way.

I know what it’s like to try and water something from the outside. I’ve tried to nourish my faith that way. I’ve done it by quickly reading a Bible passage without applying it to my life. I’ve sung the worship songs while planning lunch. And I’ve heard a sermon and thought it applied to someone else. I’ve also prayed on the run without spending time in quiet contemplation. Yes, I know what it’s like to try and nurture something from the outside. It doesn’t work very well.

It’s at those times of shallow watering that my spiritual roots curl their toes and shrink from healthy growth. Jeremiah 17:8 speaks of a completely different type of watering and growth … the kind that’s deep and rich: “He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

This passage depicts a tree that is “planted” by water so its roots grow deep and strong. Planted. What a concept. The only way to get roots that are deep is to stay planted by water. This Scripture invites me to place my trust in God, and inspires me to plant myself in His Word so that its truths wash over and through me. I’m drawn to rest in God’s presence while my soul is given refreshment. My heart is called to be open to God’s love as it fills me to overflowing. When my spiritual growth is healthy, I don’t have to worry about outside pressures.

A sprinkle of water didn’t help my flowers, despite my daughter’s good intentions. Those flowers needed to drink deeply from within. Just like them, I need to be planted by and drink deeply of God’s living water so my spiritual roots grow deep and strong.

Dear Lord, I thank You for your overflowing love that reaches deep in to my soul and waters my thirst for You. Help me to be planted in Your Word and to spend more time in Your presence in prayer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

Come Thirsty: No Heart Too Dry for His Touch by Max Lucado

Application Steps:
Identify one thing you can do this week to deepen your spiritual roots.

Why is it sometimes difficult to go deeper into the things of God?

If spending time in prayer is a challenge for you, consider the reasons why.

How can you tell if your spiritual roots are receiving enough water?

Power Verses:
Romans 1:25, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen.” (NIV)

Psalm 42:1, “As the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you, O God.” (NIV)

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

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Keep on Shining
Melissa Taylor

“Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all.” Matthew 5:15 (NLT)

Huge crowds were following him. He was the talk of the town, and everyone wanted to see him and hear what he had to say. Was this man who spoke with such wisdom for real? The crowds hung onto every word spoken by him. His name was Jesus.

In Matthew 5-7, Jesus delivers what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. This teaching, which took place on a hillside near Capernaum, was given over the course of a few days. Each day the crowds returned. They couldn’t get enough of Jesus. As Jesus taught rich and powerful lessons, he also presented the crowds (and us) with challenges. One of them is recorded in Matthew 5:14-16:

“You are the light of the world---like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (NLT)

I will be honest with you. I never thought of myself as the light of the world until I realized that I’m not the light, but Jesus is in me. This raises a few questions to which the answers came pouring out when I asked them to myself.

Is my light shining for all to see? No, not all the time.

What am I hiding the light (the light of Christ) under? What are my baskets? (Get ready, I bet you can relate to a few of these.)

1 - Focusing on me
2 - Worry
3 - Not spending daily time with God
4 - Being quiet when I should speak (or the other way around)
5 - Going along with the crowd
6 - Ignoring the needs of others
7 - Concern over how I look
8 - Fear of what others will think
9 - Insecurity and uncertainty
10 - Busyness

So often the light that lives in me cannot shine because it’s hiding under one of these baskets.

There will always be something in life that will compete to keep my light from shining. But these verses, specifically Matthew 5:15, tell us “don’t hide your light….” There is a good reason for that. When my light is dim, then others can’t see God’s power in my life. I want my family, friends, neighbors, and everyone I meet to know that my light is the light of Jesus Christ. I trust Him and love Him with all my heart. If I focus on me, that light dims. When I focus on Him, that light keeps shining, even when faced with hardships.

Don’t listen to the thoughts that bring you fear, worry, and insecurity. Those are not from God and they will put out your light. Instead, remain focused on Jesus. Trust Him with your life, all of it, and shine that light of yours for everyone to see. Who knows, the light that shines through you may just be the light that will transform someone’s life today “…so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Dear Lord, Today let Your light shine through me for all to see! I claim Your Word today and I give to You all the things in my life that are the baskets that hide it. I pray that others may know You as they see You shining in me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

i am not but i know I AM by Louie Giglio

The Confident Woman by Anabel Gillham

Application Steps:
Write the verses from Matthew 5:14-16 on an index card and post them on your bathroom mirror as a reminder to let your light shine today.

Is your light shining for all to see?

What are the “baskets” in your life that hide the light? Make a list and pray over it.

Power Verses:
Psalm 18:28, “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” (NIV)

Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation---whom shall I fear?” (NIV)

John 8:12, “Jesus said to the people, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.’” (NLT)

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Zoë Elmore

“’I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.’ Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.” I Samuel 15:11 (NIV)

My husband has many stories about his childhood and playing with friends that lived across the street. They played ball almost every afternoon and would spend hours in the woods building forts, pretending to be GI Joe or swinging from tree branches like Tarzan. Tom grew up on lots of land, and he could play just about anywhere he liked with the exception of one simple rule: always ask permission before crossing the street. One afternoon when Tom spotted his best friends playing ball, he decided to “ask permission” of the side porch (inanimate objects always seem to give us the answer we’re looking for), instead of taking the time to ask his mom’s permission. When the porch “granted permission,” Tom crossed the street to enjoy an afternoon of fun with his friends.

When his mother looked out the picture window and saw Tom playing ball on the other side of the street, you can image the disappointment and discipline that followed. When asked why he had disobeyed her, his rationalization was that he did in fact ask permission before crossing the street. Her rule never mentioned anything about her being the only one who could grant permission.

Even though Tom had asked permission from an inanimate object, I doubt many of us would agree that Tom obeyed his mother’s rule. This story is a reminder how easy it is to become entangled in the downward spiral of disobedience. It all begins with making excuses for our behavior. Then we usually blame others and finally we resort to self justification to explain away our sin.

Look at this story of Saul as he spared an enemy king and kept the finest riches in the kingdom in disobedience to God’s command. The Lord had commanded Saul to destroy everyone and everything, but Saul allowed selfishness and rationalization to draw him into the downward spiral of disobedience.

Initially, Saul argued that he had followed the Lord’s command, with the exception of sparing the rival king. He then lied when he stated everything had been wiped out (I Samuel 15:13, 15). When Saul was rebuked by the prophet Samuel for his disobedience, he continued in his downward spiral by blaming the people. Finally, in an attempt to justify his plan to offer the riches as a sacrifice his continual disobedience caused the Lord to withdraw His blessing from Saul’s reign.

It’s tempting to think our arguments and rationalizations are convincing to the Lord, but God isn’t fooled. Delayed obedience or partial obedience is not obedience at all. It is disobedience, and we are wise to remember that there are always consequences for our disobedience. If you have become entangled in the downward spiral of disobedience I encourage you to confess your sin. Receive the Lord’s forgiveness, and change your behavior. You will begin to experience the blessings of obedience.

Dear Lord, I confess my disobedience to You. Thank You for the forgiveness You offer. I ask You to help me become a woman of obedience in thought, word and deed. I’m ready to experience the blessings obedience brings. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst

P31 Woman Magazine

Listen to Today’s Radio Show

Application Steps:
In your prayer time, ask the Lord to reveal the areas of your life where you practice delayed or partial obedience. Make a decision to obey the Lord without excuses, arguments or rationalization.

What are the areas in my life where disobedience has a stronghold?

How would my life change if I practiced obedience?

Memorize the verses regarding the blessing of obedience.

Power Verses:
Proverbs 21:3, “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (NIV)
Deuteronomy 6:3, “Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you.” (NIV)

Deuteronomy 28:1, “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.” (NIV)

Psalm 119:1-2; 4-5, “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!” (NIV)

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Reaping and Sowing
Melanie Chitwood

“… for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” Galatians 6:7 (NAS)

My friend Amy really made an impression on me by one simple little thing she did recently for her husband. She had scheduled a hair appointment on the day Mike was off work. She didn’t tell him about the appointment; she just knew that he loves to be with his little girls and that he’d agree to be home while she went to her appointment.

The day before, however, Mike said he was planning to go golfing with a friend on his day off. Now here’s where she impressed me! She simply said, “Sounds great! Have fun!” She didn’t even mention the hair appointment!

She could have responded in so many different ways. She could have begrudgingly responded, “I have a hair appointment, but I’ll reschedule.” She could have dug in her heels and said, “No way. I already have plans, and I need you to watch the girls.” She could have complained about her lack of freedom, as she’s the mother to two little girls and her husband travels frequently.

But she didn’t. Instead she responded selflessly. With her gracious response to her husband, she lived out Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (NAS).

As Amy sows into her marriage godly principles such as selflessness instead of selfishness, she’s reaping the blessings of a unified, intimate, and joyful marriage.

Let’s ask ourselves today: What attitudes and actions are we sowing into our own marriages? Here’s a few to consider: Respect or contempt? Thankfulness or complaining? Submission or rebellion? Gentleness or harshness? Patience or irritability? Forgiveness or unforgivness?

If we’re experiencing strife or distance in our marriages, we need to ask God to show us if we might be reaping what we’re sowing. God will reveal to us any attitudes or actions which grieve Him. Then we can confess them and replace them with obedience to God’s principles for us as wives.

Dear Lord, Thank You for my husband and my marriage. Reveal to me any attitudes or actions which hinder my marriage. Please make me willing to obey You, knowing that in obedience I’ll find closeness to You and to my husband. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

Capture His Heart by Lysa TerKeurst

Join us for more Everyday Life encouragement

Application Steps:
Write out on a 3 x 5 card one of the verses found in today’s devotion, or another which will help you in your marriage. Carry it with you and repeat it through your day.

Read the list of attitudes listed in the devotion. Does one of these stand out to you? Pray specifically today that the Holy Spirit will transform your heart to reflect a godly attitude.

What is one specific action you can do today which will foster unity in your marriage? For example, when you talk to your husband on the phone, even if you’re in the middle of something when he calls, can you respond with patience instead of shortness? Or if he wants to share a dream with you, can you listen with love and gentleness, instead of telling him what an impractical idea it is?

Sometimes it’s not necessarily the words we say, but the way we say them that might create distance in our marriages. Consider your tone of voice and the expression on your face as you talk to your husband.

Power Verses:
1 Corinthians 16:14: “Let all that you do be done in love” (NAS).

Colossians 3:17: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (NAS).

Colossians 3:12-14: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (NAS).

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He's Coming Back!
Van Walton

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth… But you know him, because he lives with you now… and No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you." John 14:16-18 (NLT)

Recently I took an extended trip and, knowing that I would be gone for a month, my dog joined me. He had never been in the car except to go to the vet or to the kennel. Suddenly I thrust him into what must have been a most confusing experience. Sitting in the back of the SUV he traveled for two days, 1,000 miles. Finally we reached our destination – a house on the lake in the middle of wooded acres, completely different from his normal environment in suburbia. Here my little dog took some time to acquaint himself with his new surroundings. After two days I left him. My mother became his new caretaker. I had no qualms about leaving my faithful companion with Mother. After all, she had taught me all I knew about dogs. I knew her to be a trustworthy expert of "man's best friend."

I continued my travels. All along I knew I would return for my pet, but did he know? According to my mother he constantly watched the door, the place from which I had left. She knew he was checking to see if I would return. In the meantime she fed him, walked him, played with him and gave him lots of attention. He was in good hands. Ten days later I showed up. I cannot tell you how happy my puppy was to see me. He barked. He ran circles around me. His tail did not stop wagging. He did not want to leave my side.

I live a life similar to my dog's life. God created me to live on this earth and to worship Him in all I do. He placed me in the midst of confusing and sometimes disturbing circumstances. He sent His Son to teach me how to maneuver through life's trials and to offer me salvation. Then one day Jesus left. He did not leave without providing a care taker, a friend and counselor, one to comfort in time of trouble and loneliness.

Jesus has promised to return for me and you, if you have asked Him to be Lord of your life. I don't know about you, but I am constantly looking toward heaven wondering when He will return. I want to be ready. I want to live a life of obedience and integrity defined by holiness and righteousness because when He comes back I don't want to run in fear. I want to sing praises to Him. I want to run and leap and dance for joy before him. I want to sit at His feet and never let Him out of my sight.

Do you know that Jesus promised his disciples that he will return for his own one day? Are you aware that any day the clouds could open up and God's Son will step into our atmosphere to call the believers to join Him in the place He is preparing for us? Are you ready?

Dear Lord, the promise of Your return fills me with hope and overwhelming excitement. I want to spend my days living for You, so that when You appear I will have confidence and not shrink from You in shame at Your coming. Give me wisdom to live for You. I pray these words in Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

From the Pound to the Palace by Van Walton

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Read Mark 13:34-37.

Click on the title to take a moment to worship with the music group Mercy Me as they sing I Can Only Imagine.

According to the above passage in Mark, have I given much consideration to the instructions Jesus has given me?

Am I prepared for Jesus to return for me?

How will I react when I see Him face to face for the first time?

Power Verses:
Mark 13:32-33, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come." (NIV)

John 14: 2-3, "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (NIV)

Philippians 2:10, "…so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth." (NASB)

1 John 2:28, "And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming." (ESV)

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Friendship Choices
Lysa TerKeurst

But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Ruth 1:16 (NIV)

“I want to quit school!” Oh such delightful words to hear from my twelve-year-old. Growing up is hard to do, especially in those ‘tween years. It turned out my daughter was having problems with her girlfriends. One of her friends had made plans with Hope and then cancelled when a more appealing offer came along from another girl. To me it seemed like a simple sign of immaturity on her friend’s part. But to Hope, it was devastating. So, I hugged her, prayed with her and gave her some tips on dealing with friends when they hurt your feelings.

A few days later she got in the car after school and said, “Mom, I’ve decided you have a choice with your friends. You can either deal with their quirks or stop hanging around them.”

I replied back, “Hope, that is profound wisdom. If you can remember that piece of relationship advice it will serve you well not just for the middle school years but on into your adult friendships as well.”

Do you ever find yourself struggling in your friendships and ponder how you can change those things about your friends that annoy you? Well, changing someone else is nearly impossible and very frustrating. Maybe we would do well to take the focus off of changing this other person and on improving ourselves. Making this subtle shift will allow real progress. Because while you can’t change the way someone else acts and reacts, you can control yourself. Make sure that your actions and reactions are honoring to God and reflecting the types of friendship qualities that you long for in a friend. After all, if we want a really good friend, we have to be a really good friend.

Once you’ve determined to make positive changes in yourself, pray for that friend that has qualities that are less than desirable. Chances are she has a lot of great qualities that you can choose to focus on. Praise God for her good qualities and mentally hand over each thing troubling you in your friendship. God will either give you the patience to love her despite your differences or He will show you how to create a healthy distance that will serve you both well.

Dear Lord, thank you for the precious gift of friendship. Help me to see and appreciate my friend’s good qualities without getting caught up and frustrated with her negative qualities. Lord, give me wisdom to know when to draw boundaries in my friendships and how to choose my friends wisely. My heart desires friendships that characterized by your love. Help me to be the kind of friend I long to have. Thank you for friends with whom I can laugh, learn and journey through life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

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

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

Application Steps:
Ask God to give you a lifetime friend that characterizes your desires in a friendship. If God has already given you this kind of friend, look for ways to bless her and thank her for her friendship. Let her know that you will stick by her through thick and thin. Look for ways to grow closer together by growing closer to God through praying, studying God’s word, or doing ministry together. Write her a note today that reminds her that she is loved and list all the reasons you appreciate her.

Do you have a friend whose occasional “quirkiness” bothers you? We all have friends that have annoying and often frustrating habits, but we choose to love them and stand by them anyway. God’s Word has a lot to say about friendships gone wrong, but Jesus came to teach us how to love unconditionally and bring unity. Read today’s power verses on what those scriptures tell us.
Power Verses:
Proverbs 12:2b, “A righteous man is cautious in friendship.”

Proverbs 12:18, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Ecclesiastes 4:10, “If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”

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Freshen Up
Wendy Pope

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." John 7:38, (NLT)

We are in the middle of a drought where I live. The air is stale. The luxurious feel of the once cool, green grass has long since faded into hard brown weeds that crunch under your feet when you walk. As I washed dishes the other evening I noticed my house plants were shriveled, as well. My heart saddened as the petals drooped on my beautiful Peace Lily. I thought to myself, "I can't ever keep any plants alive. I wish I had a green thumb." Then a thought popped into my head to, "give the plant some water." So I did. Do you know what happened? The next day the leaves were reaching out to me as if they were saying "thank you." Within the next couple of days I noticed a bloom opening. "Wow God," I said, "that is really cool."

I have confessed many times before I have a learning disability. I am "spiritually learning disabled." In layman's terms, it means that God has to take my face in His hands and speak real slowly to me. He held me face at this moment and said, "You need some water, too, my child. No water, no fruit."

In the long, hot, sometimes, drought days of summer, it is easy to become spiritually fatigued. Most churches, because of summer vacations and family activities do not offer Bible studies. It is so easy to mentally decide to "take the summer off" from in-depth study of God's Word. Oh friend, let me caution you to mentally be determined not to take the summer off.

Do something new with something old. Pull out a previously completed Bible Study and read your margins notes. Take the time to study your Sunday School lesson. Take a fresh look at scriptures your Pastor teaches in his sermon by looking them up in various translations. Nothing makes scriptures come alive for me outside of the Holy Spirit's power than reading the ancient words in other translations. Read aloud the following translations of Zephaniah 3:17 and see which one refreshes your soul more.

“The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing." (NIV)

"For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will give you victory. He will rejoice over you in great gladness; He will love and not accuse you." Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord Himself exulting over you in a happy song." (LB)

Can you almost hear the happy song? Dear sister, take time to refresh your walk with the Lord this summer. Those who drink His living water will never thirst again, even in a drought.

Dear Lord, The majesty and glory of Your name overwhelms me. Lead me to the refreshing living water of Your Word. Awaken my soul with a happy song. I pray that I will delight myself in You and that You will enjoy my company. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Worship: Nearing the Heart of God by Brian T. Anderson and Glynnis Whitwer

Out of the Mouth of Babes by Wendy Pope

Join us for more Everyday Life encouragement

Application Steps:
Pull out a previously completed Bible Study and read your margin notes.

Take the time to study your Sunday School lesson.

Take a fresh look at scriptures your Pastor teaches in his sermon by looking them up in various translations.

What can I do to renew my relationship with the Lord?

How much time do I spent with the Lord each day?

Is spending time with the Lord a priority in my life?

Power Verses:
Jeremiah 31:25, "I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint."

Psalm 51:10, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."

Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

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Living Free
Amy Carroll

“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19 (NIV)

What is it about the very word “freedom”? It brings a hope and lightness to my heart even as I say it. George W. Bush is quoted as saying, "Freedom is not America's gift to the world; it is the Almighty God's gift to every man and woman in this world." It’s true, isn’t it? Although we are blessed to live in a nation that esteems the freedom of men and women as one of our highest values, each of us has this sense that it’s something deeper than just our government or environment. God has created us each with a longing for freedom.

I’ve been thinking about the true meaning of freedom as I garden. I just love bringing home a carload of cell packs with tender little plants in them. The fun really begins, though, after I’ve dug the hole and popped the plant out of its temporary home. Many times I’m met with a plant that is “root bound”. As the plant grows in the confinement of that small space, the roots begin to wrap around and around inside the container. An experienced gardener knows that this is a situation that must be remedied before the plant is placed into the ground. Gently, I must pull the roots out of the tight ball. Sometimes it even requires breaking or cutting some of the roots. If something can “hurt” a plant, this must be it, but without loosing those roots, they will continue to grow in that tight ball. The plant will never grow and thrive. It doesn’t use all the space around it to expand and draw water, and it will eventually wither.

My heart aches as I look around the church and see so many root bound believers. In John 8:31-32, 34-36, Jesus says, “…’If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’….'I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’” God has designed His children for lives of freedom and yet so many are living in the bondage of secret sin. Instead of bringing sin into God’s glorious light, repenting, and having God tenderly straighten out the roots for growth and thriving, Christians are daily sweeping sin and temptations under the rug. There are lots of reasons that people in the church do such a thing. There’s pride, but there’s also the fear of judgment and being dealt with harshly.

Let’s think about things that grow in the dark for a minute. The list includes mildew, mold, slime and other stinky stuff. Things that are swept under the rug don’t disappear or just lay there. They rot. What’s under some of our rugs? Anger toward our husband, a flirtation at the office, harshness with our children, addictions to alcohol, pain pills or pornography, sexual relationships outside of marriage…we can all fill in our own blanks.

I don’t want to beat you up with this. I want to plead with you! In this month that our country celebrates freedom, experience a renewed personal freedom. Don’t waste another minute. Drag all of your sin out of the dark and out from under the rug. Lay it all out in God’s light and trust Him to set you free from it. Share it with a trusted, godly friend and cry out to God together. Don’t spend another moment root bound by the confines and bondage of sin. Thrive and grow in freedom!

Dear Lord, help me not to waste another minute in bondage. I long for the freedom that is found in the righteousness given in your Son, Jesus. Give me the strength to clean out the dark places. I confess these things to you now. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Your Scars are Beautiful to God by Sharon Jaynes

Application Steps:
Spend time with God, and ask Him to search your heart. Sit in silence and see what He reveals. Ask for forgiveness. Embrace freedom!

How much time do I let go by between sin and asking for forgiveness?

How can I shorten this “gap time”?

Who has God put into my path that loves me and would speak truth to me and pray with me?

Power Verses:
Luke 4:18, "’The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed….’” (NIV)

Romans 8:2, “…because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (NIV)

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When God Stoops
Marybeth Whalen

“The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” Psalm 14:2 (NIV)

My four-year-old will often buzz by me in a flurry of motion—usually running too fast while fleeing the scene of a crime or carrying a sharp object. If I yell after him some form of admonishment, he rarely hears it. I have found that for my discipline and instruction to have the most effect, I must stop what I am doing, stoop down on his level, and look him in the eye. When I do this, he and I can connect on a meaningful level.

The other day I came across Genesis 6:8, which says, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” A note in my study Bible informs me that the word “favor” in this verse is from a root meaning “to bend or stoop.” Basically this verse points out that God stooped down from His place on high to offer His favor to a lowly human who didn’t really deserve it and could never earn it. God was condescending, which means “to deal as an equal with one of inferior rank.”

This idea is mentioned again in Zechariah 12:10, when God promises to “pour out… a spirit of grace and supplication” on the people. The image painted in this verse is of God, seated on His throne in heaven, pouring down His grace upon His people. Just like I must look down to see my precious child, God must look down upon us to truly see us. The God of the Universe is willing to stoop down to connect with us. I don’t want to lose sight of His willingness to do that for me. I don’t want to be too busy and active—like my four-year-old—to hear His voice. How humbling it is to know that even when I do buzz by Him, unaware that He is calling out to me, He is still willing to pause in the midst of all His creation to offer me His favor - the grace and love He so freely pours out.

The other day, as my son was running out the door for a visit with his grandmother, I stopped him to tell him goodbye. I stooped down and looked him in the eye. I drank in the sight of his precious face and focused intently on him as I told him I loved him. This moment reminded me again that God loves me enough to stoop. I hope you will remember today that He loves you that much, too.

Dear Lord, help me to hear Your voice. Help me to remember how much You love me, and how much You long to connect with me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

He Speaks to Me by Priscilla Shirer

Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer

Application Steps:
Write down what is keeping you from hearing God’s voice right now. What can you do to remove those things from your life? Take steps to do so today. If you are in a time of stress and feel overwhelmed, commit to pray more often and more fervently than ever before. Rest in the fact that God in heaven will stoop down to connect with you, His precious child.

How does your view of God keep you from seeing Him as a loving God who would stoop down in order to connect with you?

What can you do to refocus your view?

How much does knowing His love mean to you?

Power Verses:
II Samuel 22:36, “You give me your shield of victory; you stoop down to make me great.” (NIV)

Psalm 113:5-6, “Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?” (NIV)

Isaiah 57:15, “For this is what the high and lofty One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite’.” (NIV)

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Melissa Taylor

“I love you Lord; you are my strength.” Psalm 18:1 (NLT)

I just finished reading an article telling me that once you hit the age of 40, you start to lose muscle. Well, recently I hit 40, so this piqued my interest. After further reading, this same article stated, “Muscle loss slows down our metabolic rate, makes it harder for us to control our weight, weakens our bones, and leaves us more susceptible to diabetes” (“Saving Muscle”, Nutrition Action Newsletter, April, 2007).

Wow, I thought. The same is true of our spiritual muscles. With the exception of the age-40 part, the same thing happens to us when we don’t exercise our spiritual muscles. You know what spiritual muscles are, don’t you?

Our spiritual muscles are our heart and mind. In order to keep our heart and mind spiritually fit, we must exercise them by reading God’s Word, praying, and keeping a godly perspective in everyday life. If we stop doing these things, our spirit grows weak because we don’t have the fuel we need to handle life free of fear, worry, insecurity, and uncertainty. I’ve learned the hard way that when I don’t exercise my spiritual muscles daily, these weaknesses creep back into my life and I forget the awesome power I once had.

As I continued to read on in this article about saving our muscles, there was some good news. It said that even if we haven’t exercised in years, our bodies will give us a second chance. “Just two months of strength-building exercises can reverse two decades of a typical person’s muscle loss.” That’s encouraging!

Guess what ladies? There is even better news for our spiritual muscles. If you make a decision to spend time filling yourself with God’s Word, drawing strength from Him, pursuing an ongoing and personal relationship with Him, you can reverse a lifetime of hopelessness, weakness, fear, or any other kind of bondage. Our spiritual muscles can be built or rebuilt. It begins as soon as your first workout!

So, if you find that busyness, work, family, or just life in general has kept you from your spiritual workout, decide to make a change today. It’s never too late! God is all about second chances. Plus, when you tackle life with strong spiritual muscles, the rest just seems to fall into place.

Dear Lord, I love You, and You really are my strength. Help me to never forget that as I go through my days. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

His Princess, Love Letters from Your King by Sherri Rose Shepherd

The Confident Woman by Anabel Gillham

P31 Woman Magazine

Application Steps:
Read all of Psalm 18. Underline or highlight all the words that pertain to strength and being strong spiritually.

Are you taking good care of yourself both physically and spiritually?

What changes can you make so that you are getting a good spiritual workout each day?

Is the Lord your personal trainer?

Power Verses:
Psalm 18:32, “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” (NIV)

John 15:5, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (NLT)

Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (NIV)

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Lessons from a Kitty
Karen Ehman

“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” Galatians 4:8-9 (NIV)

“Aw, come on Mom and Dad….pleeeeease!” During a summer’s afternoon drive, our kids spied a “free kittens” sign and begged for their first real pet. My husband and I caved and pulled into the farm house. After weeks of pestering, our offspring had won. We would get a kitten and they would get the chance to prove to us that they could handle the responsibility.

Eight-year old Spencer chose a tiger kitten and proudly toted him out of the barn. When he gently placed the somewhat frightened fur ball in the car, the kitten became frantic and dug his claws into Spencer who let out a scream and let go of the cat. It scurried under the driver’s seat, crawled up near the clutch, and somehow managed to squeeze through a small opening and climb into the dashboard where we could not see him.

We were afraid that if we started the car the cat would be history; a victim of the roaring engine. My husband assured us that the kitty was safe from its gripping gears. We waited a while before making the trip home with the stowaway up in the dash. Once home, he still wouldn’t come out. We pulled the car into the garage, opened the driver’s side door and put some milk and food out on the garage floor near the car. Surely the little kitty would get hungry and come out. He did - a full two days later.

We promptly named him Dash and he became a normal, playful kitty. But we noticed something about Dash. Whenever he wanted to escape, he would crawl up under the engine of our van and sleep. When we’d start the engine, he would dash out and run into our woods. Apparently, even though his first few minutes with us had been traumatizing, they had made a lasting impression on him. When he wanted to take a break from life, he went back to what felt familiar, even though it initially had been a horrible experience.

Sometimes we are no smarter than that ridiculous cat. When we feel like throwing in the towel for a while, we revert back to a not-so-nice habit just because it feels familiar - a brownie laden with ice cream and hot fudge eaten in secret, a somewhat steamy show or questionable novel, or perhaps a phone conversation to “let off some steam” while engaging in some gossip. Our hidden habits and besetting sins entice us to participate just a little. They promise to offer us rest and a feeling of familiarity, but in reality they are a dangerous place for us to lodge. Today’s verse, in fact, calls things that enslaved us before we knew God “weak and miserable.” And that is just what they make us - weak and miserable.

Determine today to stop hiding out in old destructive habits. Instead, come out into the light of His glorious grace and learn a new method of coping. Run to Him instead of to the old and familiar. His Word is alive and active. It can help us break bad habits and form new and godly ones.

Dear Lord, forgive me for running to the familiar instead of to You. Break sin’s hold on me as I strive to break old habits for Your glory alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Redemption by Karen Kingsbury and Gary Smalley

A Life That Says Welcome, Simple Ways to Open Your Heart & Home to Others by Karen Ehman

Do you know Him?

Application Steps:
Recruit a friend to help you resist becoming enslaved by old habits. Call her for prayer when you feel yourself slipping back into wrongful ways.

Write the power verses below on an index card. Keep them near you so you can refer to them. Memorize them as weapons in the war against your flesh.

To what familiar habits to you regularly revert? Write them down. Next come up with one or two alternative actions you could take the next time you are tempted to participate in an old pattern.

Power Verses:
1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (NIV)

Romans 6:16-18, “Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (NIV)

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False Advertisement
Micca Monda Campbell

“So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.” 1 Peter 2:1-3

My youngest son loves chocolate milk. He doesn’t just love any kind of chocolate milk. It has to be made with Hershey’s chocolate syrup. One day as I stood stirring the syrup into a tall glass of milk, I noticed that the label read “Genuine Artificial Flavor.” I was shocked! What appeared to be real, looked real, and tasted real, was actually artificial! As I stood with my mouth hanging open in disbelief, I felt cheated, mislead, and deceived. Finally, I was able to speak out loud: “This is false advertisement!”

Earlier that morning, I had read today’s key verse. "So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You've had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God's pure kindness. Then you'll grow up mature and whole in God." At the time, the scripture didn’t seem to have much impact, but now the Holy Spirit was using the incident with the chocolate milk to speak to my heart.

As Christians I wonder how often we display false advertisement in place of genuine faith. Instead of feasting on God’s Word until it brings about real change in our lives, we taste just enough of God to pretend that our faith is genuine. We might know the right words to say, have memorized some key verses, and can even pray a prayer that is convincing to others, but inside we can’t convince ourselves that our faith is real.

Eventually, we won’t be able to persuade others either. How often do you and I fuss and fight with our families on Sunday mornings from the time we get up until we pull into the church parking lot? Isn’t it strange how the feuding stops there? It’s as if Satan jumps out of the car once we’re at church allowing us to return to our normally kind selves. Who are we fooling? Shouldn’t we be the same at home as we are at church?

What about gossip? Pretending to build one another up in love, we camouflage gossip with prayer. “Did you hear about sister so-and-so? We need to pray for her. I heard that…”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve stood guilty many times. That’s why the Holy Spirit brought me back to our key verse. Each phrase of it motivates me. I need to examine myself for symptoms of malice, pretense, envy, and hurtful talk. I need to stay close to God and become a mature Christian in His eyes and an authentic Christian to others. I don’t want my life to be a false advertisement for Christ, and neither do you.

God never meant for you or me to pretend. Genuine faith is real. It comes as we feast on God’s Word and learn how to apply His ways to everyday living. It’s a faith that should be recognized by a changed life that others can see as well in our actions, our speech, and our works. Genuine faith is our best advertisement for Christ. Let’s be intentional about it.

Dear Lord, Search me for any signs of malice, pretense, envy or hurtful talk. Then, Lord, lead me in Your righteous ways. Make my faith strong and genuine so that I can be a faithful witness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Listen to Today’s Radio Show

The 7 Hardest Things God Asks a Woman To Do by Kathie Reimer and Lisa Whittle

Application Steps:
Allow today’s key verse to motivate you in displaying genuine faith. Ask God to sweep away all malice, pretense, envy and hurtful talk from your life. Then, drink in His righteous ways and apply them to your life. Soon, you’ll be a mature Christian whose life is an advertisement of genuine faith.

Why do you think people gossip about others?

How does gossip and envy affect your faith and ability to witness for Christ?

What does being a mature Christian mean to you?

In what areas of your life have you displayed false advertisement instead of genuine faith?

Power Verses:
Ephesians 4:22, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires” (NIV)

Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” (NIV)

Ephesians 4:13-15, “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” (NKJ)

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