Secret Places
By Lisa Whittle, She Speaks! Graduate

"He searches the sources of the rivers and brings hidden things to light.” Job 28:11

Have you ever noticed how often Satan uses secret things to trip us up on our journey…those secret places that reside deep within our soul that we keep hidden from others and even try to hide from God?

Think about it… pornography is usually done in secret. Excessive shopping can be done over the Internet, with no one watching. Eating disorders develop in isolation when we binge by ourselves, then purge with no one around. Or when we publicly pretend to eat, but privately starve ourselves.

The things we watch, what we think and how we spend our time are the “secret places” Satan can and will use against us. Yet often we continue in our secrecy, afraid to reach for Truth. Why?

Secret places seem safe. Secret places are familiar. Secret places feel comfortable to us. So we cling to them.

It’s not that we don’t want to be honest and get real about the secret places in our soul. It’s just sometimes easier to keep the truth hidden than it is to get real about things from the inside-out. Though most of us crave authenticity, our fears of being “found out” are what keep us living in secret, exactly where Satan wants us to stay. The crafty, conniving one knows that if he can get us to continue to bury our secret places deep within our heart, we can’t be effective for God. He knows that thoughts of our private sins will eventually eat away at us, causing us to feel fraudulent and unworthy of the love and acceptance of others, and most of all, our Heavenly Father. But the truth is, we are the ones who don’t love and accept ourselves. Not God.

Friends, the message of Jesus Christ is one of hope and restoration. It is one of freedom. It is one of unconditional love and acceptance. And it is one of Truth and spiritual exposure. What He is after from all of us is greater authenticity, greater genuineness, and the Truth, found in Him. In His sovereignty, He knows it is what we truly crave. “What you’re after is truth, from the inside-out” Psalm 51:6 (MSG).

So, how do we combat those secret keeping habits we’ve developed over time?
1) Practice telling the truth. Telling the truth is a choice and needs to be a conviction. Healthy habits can and will be formed when practiced repeatedly, and truth telling is an important habit to get into.

2) Develop a genuinely authentic faith. Recognize the importance of authenticity, and begin making it of utmost priority. Do things to strengthen your walk (prayer, Bible study, etc.) and guard your mind.

3) Recognize that no one has it all together. See Satan’s lie for what it is and determine not to get into the comparison trap with others. You cannot know what a person is all about by what they look like on the outside.

4) Stop trying to be perfect, act confident, appear happy, and seem super spiritual. These are some of the most common ways we, as women, pretend. It is only when we operate in a spirit of truth and openness that we will be able to live without pretense.

5) Determine to live your life with a genuineness that others will cling to and want to emulate. Honesty facilitates honesty. When you begin to get real and honest, hiding nothing in your relationship with God and others, people will begin to take notice and follow suit. This will strengthen all of your relationships and build up your self-esteem!

When we no longer hide in our “secret places,” we can venture down a different path of greater authenticity and truth, bringing us to a place of ultimate and lasting freedom. And it is in freedom that we find no value in being a secret keeper any more.

Lord Jesus, thank You for knowing me completely, and loving me just the same. Help me to seek Your Truth and deny my natural tendency to hide from You and others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
The Seven Hardest Things God Asks a Woman to Do by Kathie Reimer and Lisa Whittle

Do You Know Him?

For more on this topic, visit Rachel Olsen’s blog as she discusses the new book
Behind Those Eyes: What’s Really Going on Inside the Souls of Women by Lisa Whittle

Application Steps:
Submit yourself to the scrutiny of the Lord and ask Him to show you the areas of your life that you are trying to keep hidden. Write them down and pray over each one, claiming the victory in your life by the power of God over each and every area.

How does keeping secrets affect my relationship with others, God and even, myself?

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

Job 28:11, “He searches the sources of the rivers and brings hidden things to light.” (NIV)

Show Me the Money
By Van Walton

“Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money!” Psalm 119:36 (NLT)

Of all the furniture I purchased early in my marriage, I have only one piece left: an antique oak china cabinet.

I hold on to it because it represents many of my life’s values, especially those relating to financial matters.

When it came time for my husband and me to “set up house,” we had no money for lamps, end tables, pictures, or rugs. We had to make a plan. What would we purchase first? How much would we pay? What was necessary? What was not? When could we even make the purchases? We had no money!

First we both had to find jobs, go to work, pay the necessary bills, save a bit, and pile up a few dollars for the items on our list. Let me add that giving to our church and charities fit into our financial plans also.

Putting our heads together, we made a list of necessary items. We prioritized and estimated costs. Then we wrote how long it would take to save until we could purchase the washer, table, couch, lamp, or sound system.

As we plotted our course and followed the path that first year, we laid down a foundation for future financial strategies, procedures we’ve consistently practiced throughout our marriage.

So what does the china cabinet have to do with my financial values?

The bottom line for our financial strategy became, “show me the money.” If we didn’t have the money in hand – the actual cash – we could not seal the deal.

One day while browsing antique shops with friends I spotted an antique cabinet I liked. Once I saw it, I found it hard to move on. Of course the price tag depressed me. I had no money to show. Later that night I told my husband about it. He shook his head. It wasn’t on the list.

So, do I ever get to buy the things I want? Of course! I remind myself of our family agreement: Show me the money.

SHOW – Has the store’s SHOW case or marketing techniques tempted me?
Rule #1 Never make unplanned purchases, even if you’re thinking, “I have been on the lookout for this.” If that is the case, it should be on your list.

ME- Is this about ME or the best interests of the family or community?
Rule #2 God didn’t give us money just to make us feel good. When it comes to money topics in the Bible, money is used for things like personal care, giving to others, and paying taxes.

THE – What is THE purpose for the purchase?
Rule #3 Treat money as if it were a serious tool to be used for the following: glorifying God, providing for the family, and serving others.

MONEY- Do I have the MONEY for this? If not, what can I do to get the money?
Rule #4 This rule is so simple it hurts. When there is no money, there is no shopping.

So how did I end up with the antique oak china cabinet? Because I had not spotted a table (we ate off a card table and camping chairs for many months), we agreed to slip the cabinet onto the list, replacing the kitchen table and chairs. Each week I set aside $10. Eventually I returned to the antique store, gave the owner the cash, and loaded up what is now one of our family heirlooms - the little chest that taught me the value of financial planning.

Dear Father, everything I have is Yours. Help me to use it wisely. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Looking for something to help you manage your money or tackle your debt? Best-selling financial expert Dave Ramsey is offering resources at a special $10 price for a limited time. Click here to learn more.

Visit Van Walton’s blog

Application Steps:
If you struggle financially, consider looking at your past six month’s spending habits. Track and categorize your expenditures. You may be amazed how much money you spend frivolously that could be saved for important purchases.

Does window shopping or catalog browsing tempt me?

Do I need to give up those pastimes?

How much money could I give to my church or non-profit organizations if I curbed my spending habits?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 21:20, “The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.” (NLT)

Matthew 6:24, “You can't worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you'll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can't worship God and Money both.” (MSG)

© 2008 by Van Walton. All rights reserved.

I Have a Headache
By Luann Prater

“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.” 1 Corinthians 7:3 (NIV)

A study done by Dr. Lew Losoncy revealed why women listen to advice from their hairstylists more readily than from their shrinks – because hairstylists have license to touch them. We all long for closeness, for someone we trust to reach out and touch us.

In the 1980s I owned a busy hair salon with six stylists. On late nights and Saturdays the place would be swarming with people anxious to tell someone about their day. We would hear stories that could curl your hair without a perm!

Our shop had both male and female clients, so we often heard both sides of the story. Unfortunately, we witnessed the decline and destruction of many marriages. Many times all three involved in love triangles were our customers; the feeling unappreciated wife; the husband wondering what happened to his princess; and the other woman looking for solace in someone else’s prince charming.

Divorce claims about half of all marriages, even in our churches. The number one thing couples fight about is finances, followed closely by sex. Yes, I said the 3-letter word. When we fall in love, our passion burns for our spouse. But over time, children, bills and routine can get in the way of true intimacy with our mate. That intimacy is essential for a couple, and if it is not found at home, Satan often takes the opportunity to show us other places to find it.

Wives in our salon admitted that they used sex as a tool or as a weapon in their marriages. Husbands would lament to us that the wind had to be blowing in just the right direction before their wives were “in the mood.” We saw lonely women, longing to have a man in their lives, making it their mission to find out and provide what pleased these unhappy, married men. An affair might start from a single deep conversation, or maybe a tender touch, or a gentle hug that lingered.

In Genesis 2:24 God tells us, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” When we make the commitment to become one, we no longer have sole ownership of our bodies. In 1 Corinthians 7:4 it says, “The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.”

God tells us this for a reason. He longs for us to enjoy our spouse through physical intimacy. When we put stipulations on intimacy, or neglect this area of our marriage, we prime ourselves for trouble. Closeness with our spouse is essential for a healthy, happy marriage – and physical intimacy is a large part of that.

If your marriage or martial intimacy is on the rocks, God can help you restore it. If He can calm the waves and raise the dead, He can bring life back to a loveless or sexless marriage.

Dear Lord, give me the desire to love my husband sexually and the ability to enjoy him. Teach us both how to be more loving and intimate with one another. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
The Man You’ve Always Wanted is the One You Already Have by Paula Friedrichsen

Do You Know Him?

Confessions of an Adulterous Woman: Lies that Got me There, Truths that Brought Me Back by Lydell Hetrick Holtz

Visit Luann Prater’s blog

Application Steps:
Begin to pray intentionally for your mate each day. Ask God to shine his light on your soul and reveal the things in you that cause strife in your marriage. Ask for forgiveness, and for intimacy to be restored between you.

Ask if your husband if he is willing to pray out loud together for your marriage.

Write love notes to your spouse and mean them.

Seek counseling if need be.

What did I love about my husband when we met?

When will I make time for him today?

How can I show him that I love him?

Power Verses:
1 Corinthians 13:4-5, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (NIV)

Ephesians 5:33 “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." (NIV)
1 Corinthians 13:6-8, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Luann Prater. All rights reserved.

The Adventure of Obedience
By Glynnis Whitwer

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

The story is told that when Dr. David Livingstone was working in Africa, a group of friends sent a letter saying, "We would like to send other men to you. Have you found a good road into your area yet?” Apparently, Dr. Livingstone sent this message in reply: "If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don't want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all."

I wonder if God thinks this about us sometimes. I wonder if He ever calls us to obedience without showing us the path we will travel, or the end result, just to see what we will do. Kind of like a test. Will we obey without a road map?

And I often wonder why following God isn’t easier. There are days when I feel tired of getting called out of my comfort zone to obey God. On those days I’ve been known to whine in my prayers asking God if there isn’t any way I can serve Him from the safety of my recliner. But that’s not God’s ways. God’s heart is to reach people in every cul-de-sac, city, country and continent, and that often involves a risk on our part.

Maybe there is something within us that is revealed when we are pressured from without. Maybe the call to obey shines light on the truth about our faith. I know that in order to grow, faith must be stretched, and that’s often uncomfortable.

You see, I have not learned to trust God in the easy ways of faith. I have not learned to trust God by reading a book or listening to a great sermon. Nor have I learned to trust God by hearing how my friend trusts God. No, I am learning to trust God by stepping out into an adventure of obedience and discovering for myself that He is trustworthy.

This happened when my husband and I started tithing (after I resisted for years), and watched God cover all our needs and more. This happened when I obeyed His command to write a book (even though I didn’t know what I would write about), and watched God open doors of opportunity. This happened when we said yes to adoption, and are watching the blossoming of two little girls who now have a hope and a future.

Obeying when God hasn’t revealed the steps along the way or the final destination is challenging. But when we choose to walk by faith and not by sight, God gets all the glory in the end because we KNOW we couldn’t have done it on our own!

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise You for being completely trustworthy. Thank You for having my best interest at heart, even when the path to obedience seems scary. Help me to take the next step of faith, even when I don’t see where I’m going. I will choose to trust You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
6 Habits of Highly Effective Christians by Brian T. Anderson & Glynnis Whitwer

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

Visit Glynnis Whitwer’s blog

Application Steps:
Identify one thing you know God wants you to do that you haven’t done. What action can you take now towards obedience?

For deeper study, read Hebrews 11 and list the people of faith mentioned, and why God recognized them.

If you could do anything for God, and knew you wouldn’t fail, what would it be?

What are some common reasons women have for not obeying God?

Power Verses:
Hebrews 11:8, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (NIV)

2 Corinthians 5:7, “… for we walk by faith, not by sight …” (NASB)

Deuteronomy 28:2, “All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God.” (NASB)

© 2008 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

A Bag Full Of Love
By Marybeth Whalen

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

Recently, I received a gift bag filled with the following items: a birthday candle, a page from a calendar, a list of words, a thread, and a picture of a baby. I loved what each item symbolized so much that I wanted to share them with you!

The birthday candle symbolizes that God knew the day you were born. He ordained the circumstances and people who were involved in your birth. He knew what you would look like and who would welcome you. He knew how much you would weigh, what your cry would sound like, and whether you would be bald or have a head full of hair. (Psalm 139:16)

The page from the calendar symbolizes that each of your days was planned before you were even born. He knew how you would spend your days—what your hobbies and interests would be, what your job would be, and who you would share your days with. He knew the days you would spend honoring Him and the days you would wish you could do over. (Psalm 139:2-3)

The list of words (which could be a typewritten list or a page from an old dictionary) symbolizes that God knows every word you say before you even say it. The nice words and not-so-nice words. The angry words and the words of encouragement. The times you should have held your tongue and the times you thought of the right words to say hours too late. He knows the times you have spoken up on His behalf, and He sees the times you were too shy and unsure to speak. (Psalm 139:4)

The thread represents the hairs on your head, which the Bible tells us are numbered. Straight hair or curly hair, red hair or gray hair, real or “bottled” color. God knows every detail of you, His marvelous creation. He counts your freckles, knows the ridges on your fingernails, and sees the blemishes you try to hide. He truly loves you, warts and all. (Matthew 10:30)

Finally, the picture of a baby is to remind you that He knit you together in your mother’s womb. He knows you better than your parents, your spouse, your children or your friends. He knows the parts you don’t show anyone else. He sees the tears no one else sees. He hears the dreams and frustrations no one else hears. He knows you, inside and out. (Psalm 139:13)

The Bible assures us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. I once read that the word “wonderfully” in the Hebrew is “palah,” which means “to distinguish, or to be set apart.” God created each one of us to be unique and distinct in some way. We each have a special destiny only we can fulfill. In a world of comparisons and keeping up with impossible standards, it is so easy to forget that our uniqueness is His gift to us. Too often we see it as a curse.

Psalm 139:14 says “I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” God wants us to praise Him for the way that He made us. He wants us to celebrate the little details He thought of. A friend bought a tee shirt for her little boy that said, “When God Made Me, He Was Just Showing Off.” Oh, that we could all feel His pleasure in us to that extent!

I love that the contents of this bag helps me to focus on God’s love for me - a love that exceeds my limited understanding, a love that goes far beyond skin deep.

Dear Lord, You love me and You created me exactly as You intended. I confess that sometimes I forget that. Help me to see what You had in mind when You fashioned me. Help me to remember that You have set me apart for Your purpose. Thank You for that reminder today, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
P31 Woman magazine

Do You Know Him?

P31 Tote bag

Visit Marybeth’s blog

Application Steps:
Make up a bag like this for a friend, a co-worker, someone in your Sunday school class, or even one for each of your children. Include a note about what each item means and some scripture verses. Give the bag to the person this week and spend time praying that they will discover God’s love for them in a whole new way.

Do you need to make one of these bags for yourself? How about taking each of the items and displaying them somewhere prominent with the verses from this devotion written on an index card?

Do you need to remember how much God thinks of you instead of tearing yourself down?

Power Verses:
Psalm 139:1, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.” (NIV)

Psalm 39:4-5, “Show me O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.” (NIV)

Isaiah 43:7, “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

More Than One Special Day
By Tracie Miles

Genesis 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.” (KJV)

I overhead a lady talking, commenting how she had carefully chosen her wedding dress, the cake and the color of the bridesmaid’s dresses. I thought she had it all planned out until she exclaimed; “Now I just need someone to marry!” Apparently she had made plans for everything except the most important thing – the husband! I was surprised by her comment, but understood her desire for a fairy tale wedding. As a young girl, I also dreamed of my wedding day and remember spending hours browsing the pages of bride’s magazines. Then after four years of dating my fiancé, and a lot of planning, we did have a beautiful wedding.

However, once the honeymoon was over, real life happened! We had to go to work every day; pay bills; stick to budgets; do housework; repair the car; change diapers; and handle parenting issues. As a result of real life occurring, we began to complain about work; quarrel about child rearing; accuse each other of not doing their fair share; fuss over money management; and exhibit little tolerance for each other’s habits. I came to realize that all those elegant pictures in the bride’s magazines didn’t portray marriage at all - they only portrayed a picture of one special day. I had been unknowingly persuaded by the media into thinking that the primary focus was planning for a great wedding, instead of planning for a great marriage.

Our culture today seems to put more focus on that one special day than they do the years that will be spent together. On the other hand, the scriptures say almost nothing about weddings, but they do say a great deal about marriage and the importance of Christ-centeredness. God desires that we reach for His book to plan for our marriages, long before we reach for trendy magazines to plan our weddings. Although in God’s Book we won’t find any suggestions for tropical honeymoon destinations, we will find recommendations for how to love our husbands when real life happens. We won’t find fancy pictures of white gowns and flower arrangements, but we will discover pages that are filled with romantic love stories, advice for being a loving wife, and tools for building a Christ-centered relationship.

Scripture makes clear God desires marriage to be a lifetime commitment. When real life happens, however, the enemy can persuade us to think that breaking our commitment would be easier than hanging in there. God yearns for us to understand that we can find happiness and contentment in our marriage – though it may not look like the pages of the bridal magazines – if He remains our focus.

In our key verse today, the word “cleave” means “to adhere to.” So, in other words, we are to hold together – through the special days and the not so special days. This isn’t always easy, but Christ can be the glue that holds us together.

Marriage is not a fairy tale wedding, it is real life. A successful marriage can’t be built from a bride’s magazine, but from God’s book. We can win the battle against the enemy who wishes to destroy our marriages, if we cling to the Bible as our instruction book for marriage. Whether you are a bride-to-be, or have been married forty years, pick up God’s Word today with excitement! Browse through the pages, searching for the beauty that a Christ-centered marriage can offer. A marriage offers so much more than one special day.

Dear Lord, please help us to honor our commitment to marriage, despite the challenges that we face. Give us the courage and strength to deal with challenging relationship issues and a passionate desire to build a strong Christ centered marriage. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

Visit Tracie Miles’ blog

Application Steps:
Read the Song of Solomon; 1 Corinthians 13; and 2 Corinthians 6:14-15.

For brides to be:
- Am I spending more time planning my wedding, than preparing my heart for a Christ-centered marriage?
- Does my future husband seek a Christ-centered marriage?

For wives:
- Can I honor my marriage commitment by changing my attitude or perspective in some way?
- Am I making Christ a priority in my marriage?

Power Verses:
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)

© 2008 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

Servant Friends
By Melissa Taylor

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

Hayley Grace and Sydney liked each other from the moment they met. They immediately bonded over music, dancing, making up cheers, and selling rocks. That’s right, I said selling rocks. Allow me to explain.

My family sponsors a child named Maria through Compassion International. Maria lives in Ecuador and she is absolutely beautiful inside and out. I had the privilege of meeting her last summer and it was a moment I will never forget. This child has brought my family and I closer to each other and to God. We talk about her as if she were a part of our family. We pray for her every night,write her letters, and send her pictures. She writes us, too. My daughter, Hayley Grace, is especially fond of Maria. She tells everyone about her and how they can help children just like Maria. We make sure that we not only send money to Maria, although that is much needed, but also carry on a relationship with her. That relationship is grounded in Christ.

One day, Hayley Grace was over at her friend Sydney’s house. She told her about Maria and how by giving just a little bit of money each month, Maria’s life has been changed. They decided to raise money together to make a difference in the life of a child. Sydney’s mother called me and said, “You won’t believe what our girls are doing. They set up a table, made a poster, and gathered rocks to sell.” We laughed and thought it was so cute. Their poster read, “Give Money for the Pore”… note the poor spelling. We thought surely no one would buy the rocks, but to our surprise those girls made $10 selling those rocks. They have since set up their “rock selling business” a few more times and the money collected so far is up to $22. Every penny will be going to Compassion International to help sponsor needy children.

The story doesn’t end there. Donna and Sydney have also decided to sponsor a child through Compassion International. As the Lord would have it, their child is a little girl named Nataly, the same age as Maria and also living in Ecuador. Now, once a month, we all get together for a rice and beans dinner (similar to what our sponsored kids may be having) and write our letters to Maria and Nataly.

There are many qualities of a good friendship, but when friends serve together, something special happens. They bond by being together, but they also bond by helping someone else. They can feel good about what they’ve done knowing they have personally made a difference in someone’s life. My daughter and her friend Sydney have taught me that.

Have you ever considered serving with friends? Look around. Opportunities are everywhere to contribute and serve. Try serving with one or more of your friends and soak up the blessings it will bring. Happy Serving!

Dear Lord, Thank You for blessing my daughter with a heart to serve. Thank You also for sending sponsors to Compassion International for Your children in need. Please provide a sponsor for each child who is still waiting for help. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.

Related Resources:
Child sponsorship through Compassion International

Do You Know Him?

A Love Worth Giving: Living in the Overflow of God’s Love by Max Lucado

Visit Melissa Taylor’s blog

Application Steps:
If you are not already involved in a service opportunity, ask God if there is a place He would like for you to serve. Think about a cause you are passionate about and rally a few friends to help you out with it.

How can I make a difference in the world?

Where would I like to serve?

Power Verses:
Matthew 20:28, "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NLT)

1 Corinthians 12:4-6, "There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve the same Lord, and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do." (CEV)

© 2008 by Melissa Taylor. All rights reserved.

The Most Important Time of My Day
By Lysa TerKeurst

“… Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Matthew 4:4 (NIV)

Is it really that important to have a quiet time with the Lord everyday? I mean, the Lord knows how busy my life is, so if I just toss up a few prayers and listen to a Christian song on the radio while rushing off to work, that should suffice, right?

It’s easy to let the busyness of life crowd out time for prayer, Bible reading, and sitting with the Lord. There are a million things on all of our to-do lists, time is tight, and quiet moments seem few and far between. But I’ve learned that if I make the choice to be with the Lord first thing in the morning, my outlook on life that day and my ability to handle things seems to go so much smoother.

Also, I’ve had to change my mindset on having a quiet time. Spending time with the Lord in the morning doesn’t end when I say “amen” and put my Bible back on the shelf. I’ve just invited the King of Kings to participate in my day. So, I get up from spending time with the Lord in the morning and start eagerly looking for His hand of activity in my life.

I think about the Bible verses I read that morning and look for ways to apply them to my life that very day. I watch the circumstances that come my way hour by hour and ask the Lord to constantly give me wisdom to process life in the way that would be most honoring to Him. My mindset is healthier, my attitude more positive, and my ability to extend grace to those who rub me the wrong way is increased just by setting aside some time to be with the Lord.

If you are struggling with having quiet time with the Lord each day, try these helpful ideas:

Be honest with God and admit your struggle. Ask God to give you the desire to set aside time to be with Him.

Start with just a small amount of time. Even if it is just 5 minutes at first, give this 5 minutes solely to the Lord without any other distractions. Over the next weeks and months, your desire for more time with Him will increase.

Use a version of the Bible that lends itself to study. I use the NIV Life Application Study Bible and I love it. It helps me understand the context each book was written in and gives me commentaries to understand specific verses.

Ask God for understanding as you read the Bible. When I first started reading the Bible I had a hard time, so I started praying that God would open my spiritual eyes to see the truths in a life changing way for me.

Write some of the verses that seem most applicable to your life on 3x5 cards and use them in your prayers. For example, Matthew 6:19-20 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” So, I could use this verse in my prayer time by praying, “God, help me to know how to store up treasures in Heaven. Help me to relinquish my tight hold on my earthly possessions so I can use them to build your kingdom now. Show me how to best use that which you have blessed me with. Give me your mindset for the money I have.”

Get involved in a Bible Study with friends. This will help hold you accountable to getting your study time done and will open up great discussions to deepen everyone’s understanding of applying God’s truths to everyday life.

Dear Lord, I want a more vibrant relationship with You and I know having a daily quiet time is an important part of that. Help me make this my most important priority each day, no matter how busy life is. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
P31 Woman magazine

Visit Lysa TerKeurst’s blog today for some more suggestions on having great quiet times with God

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
If you don’t know which book of the Bible to start with, I’d suggest either Matthew or Philippians. These are two of my favorite books that are rich with life application opportunities. You may also want to read a chapter from the Book of Proverbs. There are 31 chapters, one for each day of the month.

The summer months seem to be a time where we take a break from our normal routines, which is great. But, I have to be careful to never take a break from having time with the Lord. How can I safeguard this time and make it a priority each day?

Power Verses:
Matthew 6: 11, “Give us today our daily bread.” (NIV)

Matthew 6: 33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

In Training
By Wendy Pope

"Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)

I have said it before and I will say it again: I don't like exercise! However, I have once again made the commitment to get in shape. I am sure there are many who can identify with the "once again" part. I have tried everything from Tae Bo to Pilates. Now, I am on the treadmill. No matter what method I choose, I want the outcome to be success. God has shown me that exercise is a discipline and an act of the will. In my training I have also seen the need for accountability. Sound familiar? The same elements that go into getting in shape physically go into getting in shape spiritually: discipline, act of will, and accountability.

Discipline is a benefit we have because of our relationship with Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:7 reminds of the love and self discipline (sound mind) we can use to achieve success in what we are attempting. I have the discipline I need to meet my goal of becoming a healthier me. To exercise my faith in God, I must discipline myself to spend time with Him everyday to develop a healthier and more intimate relationship.

Self-discipline gives me the determination to get on the treadmill even when I don't feel like it. Likewise, in my relationship with Christ, I don’t always feel like doing the things He asks me to do. But I know I have the capacity (sound mind) to make the right choice to follow God's leading despite my feelings. My feelings will eventually catch with the action.

Accountability is another crucial component to success. Of course I have to answer to the Lord concerning my commitment, but when I also have friends who can and will ask about my progress, it makes me more likely to keep up the habit. I like having sisters in Christ who keep me on my toes and ask about the truths I am learning in my walk with the Lord. If nobody asks me about what I am learning from the Lord, I am less likely to deem learning God's truths is important.

The training required both in physical exercise and in growing in an intimate relationship with the Lord is sometimes strict but the positive outcomes of both are too numerous to ignore. There are prizes to be had. Do you like rewards? I love them and definitely want to get those due to me. I want that crown that will last forever. It excites me to think that one day I will have rewards to lay at the feet of my Savior. What an awards ceremony that will be!

Dear Lord, thank You for the physical ability to exercise. Help me to be as disciplined with my excercising as in my in walk with you. I look forward to one day laying my rewards at Your beautiful feet. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Out of the Mouths of Babes by Wendy Pope

Visit Wendy Pope’s blog

Living Free in Christ-audio CD by Wendy Pope

Application Steps:
Memorize 2 Timothy 1:7.

What do you sense God leading you to do that requires these elements of training?

Are you confident in your success? If yes, why? If no, why not?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 1:7, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline."

Hebrews 12:11, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

© 2008 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

Nothing Is Too Small for God
By Melanie Chitwood

“And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30 (NLT)

When I encouraged a friend at church to pray about a troubling situation, she responded in a way that, at some point, we may have all felt. She discounted my suggestion by saying, “God has much more important things to worry about than my little problems.” I assured her that nothing was too small to present to God, but I don’t think I convinced her.

Later as I thought about her response, I wondered what had led her to this incorrect conclusion about God. Had she heard this idea while she was growing up? Had someone important made her feel like her needs were insignificant and then she transferred this idea to God’s thoughts about her?

We have to be careful that our ideas about God come from God, not from someone else, not even from a Christian teacher or pastor or book. To know who God is and how He views us, we need to go to God’s Word.

When we look at Scripture we see that God’s character is strikingly different from this lady’s conclusion about who God is. God’s Word affirms over and over that He is a God who cares about the details. In Matthew 10:30 God is so intimately acquainted with us that “the very hairs on your head are all numbered” (NLT). Psalm 147:4 tells us that God “counts the stars and calls them all by name” (NLT).

In Mark 5 we learn about a woman who has been bleeding for twelve years. Perhaps this woman in Scripture is like my church friend. She’s believed God has more important things to worry about than her small health problem. However, in her desperate desire to be healed, she decides that if there’s even a chance that her suffering will end, she’s taking that chance. Scripture tells us she “touched his cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.” (Mark 5: 28-29 NIV).

Immediately Jesus stops and asks who has touched Him. Considering the circumstances, it’s astounding to see Jesus pause for one woman. With a huge crowd pressing in on Him, with dust and noise and pulls and tugs, Jesus stops. He stops for one small woman who had the faith to reach out with one small touch.

Scripture tells us who God really is. He’s not a God who loves from afar. He’s a God who cares about the details of our lives. Nothing is too small to present to Him. Nothing escapes His attention, His care, and His love.

Dear Lord, I am amazed that You are intimately acquainted with the details of my life and that You, the Lord of the all the Universe, care about me and the small matters of my life. Thank You for being such a personal God. Thank You for the ultimate proof that You care about me, Your death on a cross. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Intimacy with God: Your Daily Guide to Prayer by Tara Furman

Self Talk, Soul Talk by Jennifer Rothschild

What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

Application Steps:
Write down three words to describe God. Find a Scripture verse to confirm that this characteristic truly describes God’s character. Try using to search for the verses. Write down the verses and reflect on them daily.

What relationships do you think have colored your view of God?

Think of some circumstances which have influenced your understanding of God.

Spend some time praying and asking God to reveal to you any inaccurate pictures you have of Him.

Power Verses:
Psalm 139:1, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” (NLT)

Psalm 139: 14,15, “You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.” (Message)

© 2008 by Melanie Chitwood. All rights reserved.

Marybeth Whalen

“Then Paul said to him, ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck.”
Acts 23:3 (NIV)

Have you ever painted over a dirty wall, only to have more handprints and marks appear just days later? I noticed this recently after we had some interior painting done in our home. The painters had painted the wall that leads down our stairs—the same wall that our kids drag their hands across as they race up and down the stairs. This wall had grown dingy gray from years of dirty hands, stray pencil marks, and the occasional crayon scribble. After the wall was painted, I admired how clean and pristine it looked. Ahhh, I thought, at last.

About a week later, I discovered marks on my beautiful wall. While the wall had been painted over, the habits had not changed. The children were still racing up and down the stairs, dragging their dirty hands behind them. Making what was once white and clean, gray and dirty all over again. As I looked at that wall, the Lord showed me that I am like that wall if I am not careful. I can cover what’s there—wear the cool Christian tee shirt, carry my Bible, smile like everything’s great and talk a good game about my walk with the Lord, but deep inside the ugly old habits are still there, waiting to be revealed the moment life gets messy. If I am not careful, I can become a modern-day Pharisee who focuses on the whitewash covering and ignores the dirty stuff underneath.

In Matthew 23:27, Jesus called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs because they appeared perfect on the outside, but inside were full of deceit, lies and hypocrisy. In Biblical times, tombs were whitewashed to make them attractive and visible, but that didn’t change the death and decay they held inside. Jesus compared the religious Pharisees to these tombs. He knew the danger that lurked inside an overly religious person who spends more time perfecting how they appear than working on the condition of their hearts.

For those of us who are in the church and living committed Christian lives, I think it is easy to slip into the mindset of the Pharisees. The more comfortable we get in our Christianity, the more tempting it is to think certain ways and allow that thinking to supersede grace, mercy and compassion. So, how can we stop that from happening? We can stay in the Word, concentrating on what Jesus taught as He walked on this earth and connecting with who He ministered to—the broken, the less-thans, the lost and lonely. We can focus on being thankful and rejoicing in Him. We can pray often, asking God to reveal any patterns of behavior that are more surface-oriented than heart-oriented. We can surround ourselves with friends who are real and transparent and allow us to be as well.

Most of all, we can admit that, while we are saved, we are still sinners who struggle with bad habits and bad decisions just like everybody else. In a world that is mostly based on appearances, it is easy to become concerned with how we appear to others. We have to daily depend on Jesus to bring us freedom from striving and peel the whitewash away.

Dear Lord, Help me to remember that it’s not the outside You care about, but the inside. Help me to be more concerned with what You think of me than what others think of me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
P31 Woman magazine

Visit Marybeth Whalen’s blog

For the Write Reason General Editor Marybeth Whalen

Do You Know Him?

Application Steps:
Write down anything God brings to mind that you do that is more surface-oriented than heart-oriented. Work on these issues in the coming days, making this a matter of prayer.

Am I more concerned with how I look to others than how I look to Jesus?

Do I tend to gloss over my bad habits or sins?

Power Verses:
Matthew 23:27-28, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (NIV)

Luke 11:40, “You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?” (NIV)

Psalm 51:7, “Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

(Step) Father’s Day
By Luann Prater

“…’honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'.” Matthew 19:19 (NIV)

“BUS!” he cried. Every morning was the same routine. The kids would poke at their breakfast, take forever in the bathroom, then struggle to find their book bags. Of course one sock would be on and the other not when my husband would hear the rattle of the big yellow bus coming to a stop at the end of our driveway. The doors screeched as they opened, then the familiar cry would bounce off the walls announcing time was up.

My husband came into their lives during these middle school years of frantic mornings. And quite frankly, he wondered if anything he tried to say or do for them was sinking in at all.

Today I found confirmation that his efforts were noticed and appreciated. I came across a card my daughter gave her step-dad at Father’s Day after her senior year. She wrote:

“I was thinking about it, and there is a difference between Dad and Step-dad. A Dad just is. It’s Dad. But the word Step is one of those polite substitutes for what it truly is: a LEAP; a PLUNGE; a FREEFALL on to the side of an unknown mountain, knowing no matter where you land on it – you MUST climb and fair the weather along the way if you want to reach the top.

The Step – much like the jagged blender blades which create the blended family – is what it takes to bridge the chasm from your heart to mine. And you took that Step, that Leap, that Plunge. I cannot thank you enough. You stand by me. You listen – really listen. And perhaps what most impresses me is that you opened your arms to me – from the first day we met. You were willing to love me, and hold me. For once I could be held by a man and trust, to feel SAFE.

I cannot thank you enough…for being a father to me…my incredible Step-dad. I love you, Tiffany.”

I know it must have warmed his soul to receive that celebration and confirmation.

The Greek word in the Bible for father is “pater” which means: one who has infused his own spirit into others, who actuates and governs their minds; one who stands in a father's place and looks after another in a paternal way. Much like Joseph did with Jesus, there are many men who are privileged to step into the role of becoming a father through marriage.

Let’s celebrate all the dads who, like our Heavenly Father, selflessly infuse their own spirit into the lives of others. Is there someone in your life that fills that father role – thank him today.

Dear Lord, thank you for giving us the example of what a father should be. Thank you for being a father to me. Bless the fathers in my life and around the world today who are looking after others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture by Mary E. DeMuth

Do You Know Jesus?

Visit Luann’s Blog

Application Steps:
Think of some step-parents you know who have shown God’s love to their families. Send them a note of thanks for allowing the Spirit to work through them.

What family may need my prayers today?

How do I infuse God’s spirit into other young lives?

Who in my world needs the Father?

Power Verses:
Matthew 15:4, “For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’” (NIV)

John 13:15, “I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (NIV)

1 Peter 2:17, “Show proper respect to everyone. Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the King.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Luann Prater. All rights reserved.

Framing a Masterpiece
By Amy Carroll

“Righteous are you, O Lord, and your laws are right. The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy.” Psalm 119:137-138 (NIV)

I love watching Antique Road Show. It never ceases to amaze me when people joyfully discover they’ve had something of great worth under their noses for years. My heart sinks in sympathy, however, when people discover they’ve unknowingly diminished the worth of their piece by refinishing, reupholstering or reframing a valuable masterpiece.

Artists are very careful about framing the great works of their lives with the correct frame. The right frame enhances the picture by highlighting its style and bringing out the beautiful colors. A shoddy framing job can significantly devalue the painting.

God calls us to use scripture as a frame to give us the correct perspective on life. As humans, we are so prone to draw the wrong conclusions about life. The inductive thinking that is supposed to lead us to truth and happiness often leads us astray. We tend to look at “what is” in order to decide “what is supposed to be.” For example, I could look at a struggle in my marriage and decide that I should divorce because of the intense conflict. It seems reasonable to me.

God’s ways are not my ways, though. God’s ways goes from “what should be” to “what is.” “What should be” is God’s divine law that is revealed to us in scripture. It is unchanging through time and circumstance. Through a commitment to live by scripture, my thinking is changed. In the example used above, I look at God’s Word and see He wants me to stay in my marriage (I Corinthians 7:10-16). I know that God is the One who not only has higher ways than me, but loves me and wants higher things for me. I need to pray that “what is” becomes conformed to “what should be” by staying in my marriage and taking the steps needed to bring peace and love back into my home.

It’s not easy to accept this framework of scripture. It takes time to learn, and study to understand what it says. It will teach us ways to live that are different than our culture teaches. It will set a standard that is more about our character than our comfort.

However, you are a masterpiece, God’s own unique and dearly loved creation. His plan for you is a life of priceless value. If you allow scripture to be the framework for your life, you will bring glory to the Master Artist as well as live a life of great joy.

Lord, I trust You as my creator for knowing what is the best for me. I commit myself to studying Your Word and applying it in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Amy Carroll’s blog

Do You Know Him?

Women’s Devotional Bible (NIV)

Application Steps:
Sign up for a Bible study class in a local church.

Commit to doing the homework and attending.

Spend time everyday reading scripture and asking God to help you to apply it.

Am I more committed to my own opinion or to God’s Word?

Are my decisions based on my own reasoning and emotions, or on scripture?

Have I taken time to learn what God says in His Word?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 30:5, “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (NIV)

II Timothy 3: 16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (NIV)

My Scribble Scrabble Heart
By Charlene Kidd

“And everyone who has this hope [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure (chaste, undefiled, guiltless). Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God's law by transgression or neglect – being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will). You know that He appeared in visible form and became Man to take away [upon Himself] sins, and in Him there is no sin [essentially and forever].” 1 John 3:3-5 (AMP)

Today my five-year-old daughter explained to me her perception of sin. Sarah said, "When you say bad words and you do mean things, the Bible says that is sin and it looks like scribble-scrabble in your heart." I was totally taken aback with the wisdom that flowed from my baby girl.

Her words created a vivid word picture for me. I thought about all of the times I am sinful. I pictured my bad words, short temper, judgmental thoughts and unkind glances creating scribbly black lines through my heart. I wondered if others could see my heart behind all those squiggly lines, or notice God’s presence there. I wanted to reach for a big eraser!

Thinking of the scripture in 1 John 3:3-5, God reminded me of the sacrifice His son made over 2,000 years ago. He did all the erasing back then. I must accept that and just be faithful to confess my sins as I become aware of them. I can also become less apt to commit them.

I love how God uses our little ones to teach us mighty lessons. My young daughter has motivated me today to keep the squiggly lines of sin out of my heart. As I do so, I trust others will be able to see traces of God’s love there, rather than the scribble-scrabble of sin.

What does your heart look like today?

Dear Lord, I ask that your Holy Spirit would convict me when I am not careful with my thoughts, words, or actions today. I pray that I would continuously keep my heart clean and with out messy lines blocking You out to a watching world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

The Women’s Devotional Bible

The Character of God: Understanding His Heart for Us by Brian T. Anderson and Glynnis Whitwer

Visit Charlene Kidd’s blog

Application Steps:
Spend some time today quietly reflecting on anything that may be contributing to scribbly lines cluttering your heart. As things come to mind, repent and ask for forgiveness, and then ask for the discipline to make better choices from now on.

What situations or circumstances cause me to falter?

What can I do to guard against them?

How can I be a better example to those around me?

Power Verses:
Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in).” (AMP)

John 16:8, “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Charlene Kidd. All rights reserved.

The Weight of Waiting
By Van Walton

“Why doesn’t the Almighty bring the wicked to judgment? Why must the godly wait for him in vain?” Job 24:1 (NLT)

My must-have-in-order-to-survive-today’s-busy-lifestyle high-tech equipment doesn’t function right. After dialing technical support and listening to instructions, I press one button and then another. Finally the phone rings. And rings. Relieved when I hear a voice, I anticipate a rapid resolution. Instead, I get a recording, “Please WAIT for the next available agent.”

Arghhhh! I don’t like having to wait. It can bring out the worst in me. Once after a long holding session, I actually threw my phone across the room, fell in a heap on the floor, and sobbed!

God knows me. He is well aware of my weaknesses. So He calls me to His workout room were my weights are actually waits. “Here lift these. When you have completed this exercise, you will emerge a stronger woman.”

So I begin to “strength train” with the waits in my life.

Daily I encounter light waits that serve as a warm up for the heavier waits. How I behave as I wait in line at the post office or grocery store, for example, becomes a testimony to my growing strength and maturity. Sure I sometimes drop the load rather than handle the wait well … I occasionally give in to impatient eye rolling, snide under-my-breath comments, or quick steps to assure my place in line.

Thankfully, God believes in me as a savvy coach believes in his well-chosen athletes. He hasn’t given up on me. He continues to assign me to His wait room where I’m learning daily “wait training” strengthens me for the larger times of waiting. Like the time I had to wait for my first job. As I waited for a call back, my self-esteem plummeted. Yet in God’s good timing He opened the doors to the perfect position. Or, the time I waited as my dad’s health deteriorated. Sadness threatened to overwhelm me. But I emerged from God’s wait room wrapped in my Father’s comfort, having learned to trust Him.

I’ve discovered that waiting isn’t a waste of time, but an opportunity to grow my character. When the wait feels impossible I try to focus on building patience and my relationship with Jesus, rather than fretting. I spend a lot of time in God’s wait room. Next time you find yourself there, remember that God provides the ability to endure when we willingly yield to His strength training process.

Father God, please forgive me for my impatient behavior when having to wait on You. Help me to use time of waiting to grow stronger in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
The Character of God: Understanding His Heart for Us by Brian T. Anderson & Glynnis Whitwer
Visit Van Walton’s blog for more insights on waiting

From the Pound to the Palace by Van Walton

Application Steps:
Make a list of the times you have been challenged to wait. Beside each describe your reactions. How can you better hand these situations?

What possible reasons could God have that I should have to wait?

Have the challenges I faced while I waited improved my character or exposed my true nature?

Do I believe God can use the down time of waiting to draw me closer to Him? How?

Power Verses:
Psalm 5:3, “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; …I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” (NIV)

Isaiah 49:23 b, “Those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.” (ESV)

Romans 15:4, “…the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.” (NLT)
© 2008 by Van Walton. All rights reserved.

By Julie Coleman, She Speaks! Graduate

“O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1 (NASB)

I was headed for a writers’ conference in northern Philadelphia last August, when I realized I had better start thinking about stopping for gas. I have a strange gas gauge in my car. It stays on full for a long time then starts a quick accelerating descent on its way to empty. There are probably twenty miles left between a quarter tank and empty. On this trip I had been very preoccupied with all of my conference preparations and hadn’t given much thought to the car. Now I was driving on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, “no man’s land,” and the gas warning light came on. Not a good situation.

Normally when I get gas, I am fussy about where I stop. My gas stations of choice are well-lit, clean, possess a dependable brand name, and let me pay by card at the pump. A nice place to buy a diet cola doesn’t hurt, either. But as I drove the lonely stretch of road, I began to feel desperate. Mile after mile passed without a sign of human life. I was in trouble. It was a hot day, the hottest it had been all year. I turned off the air conditioning to conserve fuel. Now I was sweating. And more nervous by the minute. Lord, please, a gas station, I prayed. Any gas station.

Soon the gas gauge was resting solidly on empty. Any minute now, and I would feel the motor down-shift and my car coast slowly to a halt. I would be stranded on a deserted road in the hot afternoon sun, which was baking the air to one hundred plus degrees. I didn’t even have a water bottle.

Suddenly a small sign appeared on the horizon. As I drew closer, I saw to my extreme relief that it sported a gas station icon. I took the exit. There was a sign pointing me in the right direction, or at least what I hoped was the right direction. I drove several long miles of deserted back road (by now in sheer terror) until I came to a tiny crossroads. Four houses, and . . . a gas station! Was it open? It was! I almost wept with relief. It looked like it could be called “Joe’s Gas Station and Storm Door Company,” but I didn’t care. I was so happy to see that pump.

I probably would have turned my nose up at that station in another circumstance. But clearly at that moment this little station was the best thing I had seen in a long time. Funny how our circumstances can totally dictate how we feel about things!

David, in fear for his life, spent years hiding in the desert from his enemies. While on the run, at some point he penned Psalm 63: “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (NASB). You have to wonder if David would have been able to seek God with such intensity if he had been resting on pillows in the cool palace, surrounded by servants, food, and drink. The sparseness of his supplies, the fear of being killed, and the discomfort of forever sleeping on the ground in the elements wore on him. He was in need, so he sought the Lord.

Isn’t that true for us, too? How quickly we forget to seek God when things are going well. How easy it is to rely on our own strength! So I believe He allows things into my life that remind me I need Him. And I am helplessly drawn to the Throne of Grace, forced to acknowledge that I thought I was self-sufficient. And as I once again hand over the reins, I am right where I should be once more.

Dear Lord, Thank you for not letting me forget just how much I need You. I praise You for being so intimately involved in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Dear Jesus by Sarah Young

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

Do You Know Him?

Application Steps:
As you pray today, ask the Lord to show you areas you have avoided His involvement. Commit those things to Him.

What circumstances in your life cause you to be on your knees?

Are there any areas in your life where have you become self-sufficient?

Power Verse:
Psalm 143:6,8, “I stretch out my hands to You, my soul longs for You, as a parched land. . . Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me to walk in the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift my soul.” (NASB)

By Zoe Elmore

“You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord's hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” Isaiah 62:3 (NIV)

“You are absolutely worthless! Why do they even pay you?” Everyone in the reception area overheard her shrill, piercing voice and waited for my response. I could feel my face flush with embarrassment as all heads and eyes turned in my direction. I let out a nervous giggle and muttered, “Oh they just pay me to look cute.” I thought a little comic relief would soften the woman’s anger, and the tension in the room. I was wrong. She screamed, “You’re not even cute! You should give them back their money!” Then she turned and left the office angry because I was unable to fulfill her demand for an appointment. Once again, all eyes were on me as I prayed for the floor to open and swallow me up. I smiled back at the watching eyes, apologized for the disruption, and returned to work.

Welcome to the glamorous and exciting life of a receptionist. While every patient I encounter is not as outspoken as the one I just described, my job does require me to be gracious no matter how angry or frustrated the patient becomes. I’ve learned to handle these uncomfortable situations. If the same situation had occurred five years ago, my reaction would have been radically different. I would have completely fallen apart, broken into uncontrollable crying, and disrupted the entire office because I would have believed her words and placed them on my shoulders like a wet and heavy blanket … wearing them for all to see.

I’ve spent much of my life looking to people to validate my self-worth, relying on their words as truth and not relying on the words of truth from my heavenly Father. Friends, I’m here to tell you that looking to people for validation and self-worth has been exhausting and fruitless. Perhaps it’s my increasing age, or maybe my spiritual maturity is catching up with my age. Whatever the reason, I’ve discovered it is better to walk in the confidence of my value in Christ, than worry about other people’s opinions. Being secure in my heavenly Father’s love for me and finding my worth in the pages of His Bible equips me to let situations like this “roll off my back.”

I wonder how many other women struggle with self-worth and value? I use to be a charter member of the “secret sisterhood of low self esteem.” In fact, I probably invented the secret handshake. Friends, if you’re still a member of that “secret sisterhood,” let me encourage you to resign. Being a member only brings you heartache, heartburn, and ulcers. When I took the time to discover God’s truth about how valuable His children really are, I resigned and stepped instead into the glorious light of self-worth and value in Christ. You can too.

Dear Lord, I’m grateful to be Your daughter and to experience the benefits of finding my worth and value in You, my King. Help me encourage other women to do the same. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Beautiful in God’s Eyes by Elizabeth George

Visit Zoe’s Blog

Application Steps:
Begin to record scripture verses that confirm your true value and worth.

Choose a different verse and mediate on it each week.

Who can I encourage to find their value and worth through God’s word?

Power Verses:
John 15:15, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (NIV)

Luke 12:24, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” (NIV)

© 2008 by Zoe Elmore. All rights reserved.

Deep Grief
By Lysa TerKeurst

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”
Psalm 30:11 (NIV)

Sometimes when we lose things it causes a temporary panic that rises and falls in a mini-tidal wave fashion. Like earlier this year when I lost my camera with all our ski vacation pictures on it. The panic escalated, crested with some hand wringing and mind racing, and then slowly ebbed away.

But sometimes a loss cuts into your heart so viciously that it forever redefines who you are and how you think. It’s what I call “deep grief.” The kind that strains against everything you've ever believed. So much so you wonder how the promises that seemed so real on those thin Bible pages yesterday, could possibly stand up under the weight of enormous sadness today.

I once stood at the side of a casket too small to accept. Pink roses draped everywhere. And I watched my mom as she lay across the casket, refusing to let go. How could she let go? Part of her heart laid within, so quiet and so still.

I stood paralyzed. Just days ago we were doing everyday things and assuming that all of our lives stretched before us in spans of many, many years. And then suddenly it all stopped. In the flurry of funeral plans and memorial services we all operated on automatic. People were everywhere. Soft chatter filled in the gaps that our stunned silence could not. And enough food was brought in to feed the whole neighborhood.

But eventually people went back to their own lives. The soft chatter dissipated. The food stopped coming. And we were forced to carry on. Only we had deep grief wrapped about us that made our throats feel strangled and our feet stuck in mud.

I remember I tried to go to McDonalds to order a happy meal. But I couldn't. I sat in the drive-through with the speaker spouting words at me I couldn't process. She kept asking if she could take my order.

Yeah, I had an order. Take away my bloodshot eyes. Take away my desire to hurt the doctors that couldn't save my sister. Take away my anger toward God. And then take away my guilt for being the one that lived. I'll take all that with no onions and extra ketchup, please.

I drove away sobbing. How dare they offer happy meals. No one should be happy today. Or tomorrow. Or next year.

This is the reality of deep grief. Even when you love God and believe in His promises. Even when you know without a doubt that you will see your loved one again. Even when you know hope is still there.

It takes time.

It takes wading through an ocean of tears.

It takes finding a possession of your loved one that you thought was lost, and realizing God did that just to comfort you. It takes discovering one day that the sun still shines. It takes being caught off-guard when you catch yourself smiling… only to realize it's okay.

It takes prayer. It takes making the decision to stop asking for answers and start asking for perspective. It takes telling people to please not avoid saying her name - you want to hear it, over and over again.

Then one day you take off the blanket of deep grief. You fold it neatly and tuck it away. You no longer hate it or resist it. For underneath it, wondrous things have happened. Things that could have only come about when Divine hope intersected with a broken world.

And finally you can see years stretching before you once again. You look up, blow a kiss, wipe a tear and find it's still possible to dance. In light of their own recent loss, may we all keep the family of Steven Curtis and Marybeth Chapman in our prayers for all the time it will take them to shed their deep grief and discover their dance again.

Dear Lord, Thank you for assuring us that your principles and promises hold true even when life seems to betray us. We praise You that Your love reaches to any depth we find ourselves in. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa TerKeurst’s blog today to read about how to help a friend that is grieving.

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

Who Holds the Key To Your Heart? by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Is there someone in your life who is grieving right now? Visit my blog today for suggestions on how to help. Commit to reaching out to them this week.

Death is a reality of life. So, how can you live more intentionally each day with those you love?

Power Verse:
2 Corinthians 1:2-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

Conversations with God
By Tracie Miles

“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.” John 14:26 (NIV)

Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation with someone you didn’t know? It usually doesn’t get very far – the conversation is strained, and there is a lack of two-way communication. As Christians, we want to talk with God, and we yearn to “hear” His voice. But how do we know when He is speaking? Communication begins with a relationship. I had to get to know God before I was able to engage in fulfilling conversations with Him.

In my quest to hear Him, I realized that God is always speaking, I just did not hear Him because I was not tuned in to His voice. For example, when we turn off our radio, the signal is still being sent out, we just cannot hear it because we have chosen not to listen. Hearing God’s voice is a conscious choice, and in order to hear Him, I had to be tuned in and listening for Him to speak.

In Old Testament times, God spoke to believers in various ways, including through dreams, prophets, and angels. Today, now that we have the Holy Spirit with us to help us recognize it, God often speaks to us in subtle ways. I have realized that God often speaks to me in such quiet, non-eventful ways that I’m often not certain at first that I heard Him. But once I got past the notion that I needed to hear from God in magnificent, loud, supernatural ways, I was able to recognize the still, small voice which He usually uses. I was then able to see Him using His quiet and gentle voice to shape my heart and protect and guide me in every circumstance in my life. The more I looked for His presence, and the more I expected to Hear from Him in whatever way He chose, the more I began seeing Him at work in my life. As I began to obey the subtle signs that the Holy Spirit was giving me, my sensitivity and awareness of God’s voice began to increase.

I have been receiving these Proverbs 31 devotions for several years, and I always enjoy them. However, on some days, the words and scriptures in the devotions seem a direct answer to a prayer or problem I’m having. At other times, God has used people, circumstances, His Word, and my own thoughts to bring comfort or provide some clarity for an issue I’m dealing with. I choose to view these incidents as God “speaking” to me. If something ironic happens, I often trust that God used that person, scripture, or circumstance to speak directly to me.
Do you want to begin hearing from Christ on a more consistent basis, and feel more confident in your conversations with Him? Does the thought of hearing God speak to your heart fill you with excitement? Here a few suggestions to help you begin tuning in to His voice:

1) Pray for God to help you hear His voice.
2) Every time you open the Bible, ask God to illuminate scriptures for you and speak to your spirit.
3) Be willing to take a risk, and say YES to God when you believe you hear Him.
4) Wait with anticipation to hear from God.

Dear Lord, please make your voice loud and clear to me in ways I will understand. Increase my awareness of Your presence, and help me trust You in all things. Fill me with the Holy Spirit and awaken my heart as I wait with anticipation to hear from You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Tracie Miles’ blog

He Speaks To Me, by Priscilla Shirer

Today’s P31 Radio Show

Application Steps:
Begin practicing the four things listed above.

Do I frequently write off irony as something other than God? Next time consider if it could be God at work.

Is it possible that God has been speaking to me, and I have not been in tune to His voice?

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

Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

The Sacred Voice of Love
By Rachel Olsen

“… I will call them My people, who were not my people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.” Romans 9:25 (NKJ)

When you quiet your heart and focus in on God, can you hear Him calling to you? “Beloved,” that is what the Lord calls you and I, in today’s key verse. It takes my breath away to realize God not only loves me, but really LOVES me.

You know the difference: I love Starbucks, but I really LOVE my husband. I love our youth pastor, but I LOVE my two children so much more. While the Lord loves the sweet-songed sparrows He created, He really LOVES you and me. Matthew 10:29-31 explains, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your heavenly Parent. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows" (NRSV).

As an adjective, “beloved” conveys “to a great extent.” Do you realize the great extent to which the Holy One loves you? It was demonstrated on the cross where God sacrificed His only, perfect Son in order to gain you and I as daughters. I know that I am a flawed and often selfish woman, so I can’t fully comprehend why God loves me so dearly that He wanted to draw me to Him through the cross. Though I may have a hard time understanding how God could love me so much, my inability to comprehend it makes it no less true.

Some synonymous for the term “beloved” are “much-loved,” “dearly loved,” “adored,” “favorite,” “darling” and “highly thought of.” This is the image God holds of you. Is this the image you hold of yourself? Try declaring this out loud: “I am wholly and dearly loved by the Holy and Almighty God.” Do you experience any hesitation or doubt when you say that?

Henri Nouwen said, “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being beloved constitutes the truth of our existence.” How different could our lives be if we agreed with the sacred voice, rather than the condemning voice? We have to choose each day, sometimes hour-by-hour, which voice we will listen to – the sacred voice of God, or the lying, condemning voice of Satan. Romans 8:1 assures, “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT).

Paul says in Romans 8:38, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love” (NLT). Nothing. You, my friend, are beloved – highly thought of and adored. Rejoice today, beloved, because you will always hold that status in your Heavenly Father’s heart and nothing can separate you from His love. Now quiet your own heart and focus in on God a minute, and see if you can hear Him …

“You are my beloved.”

Dear Lord, thank You for loving me with an everlasting love. May I listen to Your sacred voice today in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Rachel Olsen’s blog for more on hearing God.

Do You Know Him?

God’s Purpose for Every Woman: A P31 Devotional Gen Eds. Lysa TerKeurst & Rachel Olsen

He Speaks To Me, by Priscilla Shirer

Application Steps:
Read Psalm 103:11 and Romans 8:38-39 and take a few minutes to contemplate the heights and depths of God’s love for you. Go ahead and wallow in it!

Whose voice do you typically hear in your head?

Do you obey it?

How might your life be different today if you accepted your beloved status, listened to the Sacred voice of God, and ignored the lies of Satan?

Power Verses:
Nehemiah 9:17, “You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” (NIV)

1 John 4:16, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (NIV)

Psalm 103:17, “From everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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