My Thoughts vs. God's Word
By Melissa Taylor

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." John 10:10 (NKJV)

Do you ever question if you are good enough? I do – I have all my life. Do you dwell more on what's wrong with you than what's right with you? I do that a lot too.

However, one day I realized I was only surveying myself to get those answers. Well, myself with a little help from my enemy, Satan. For a long time I didn't even recognize him for who he was. My negative thoughts and deceitful suggestions just sounded like my own voice.

The Bible opens with the warning of a serpent slithering into the lives of Adam and Eve, filling their heads with lies that separated them from God. They chose to believe the lies. Jesus, too, was tempted by this liar. He was ready though. He knew the Word of God and that was the only weapon He needed to defeat the evil one.

I know I’m not Jesus, but I can strive to be like Him. I find great comfort in knowing He is with me every step of the way. I can also find great comfort knowing I have the same weapon that He had. I have God's Word available to me in the Bible.

When I compared my negative thoughts to God's Word, I was amazed at the differences:

My thoughts tell me to give up.
God's Word tells me to be committed. Matthew 5:33-37

My thoughts tell me “I need it now!”
God's Word tells me to exercise self-control. Galatians 5:23

My thoughts tell me I deserve to come first, be selfish.
God's Word tells me to have humility and put others first. Philippians 2:3-4

My thoughts tell me to get mad and hold a grudge.
God's Word says forgive as many times as it takes. Matthew 18:21-22

My thoughts tell me to seek revenge.
God's Word tells me to be a peacemaker. Romans 12:18-19

My thoughts tell me take all the credit.
God's Word tells me to glorify Jesus Christ. John 17:5

My thoughts tell me I need to look good on the outside and no one will notice the ugly inside.
God's Word tells me to be pure on the inside and the outside won't even matter. Proverbs 31:30

My thoughts tell me I'm ugly
God's Word tells me I'm wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

My thoughts tell me I'm all alone and no one understands me.

God's Word tells me He will never leave me and He knows the plans He has for me. Deuteronomy 31:6, Jeremiah 29:11

My thoughts tell me that I'm just not good enough.

God's Word tells me that I'm His gift to the world and that I was created in His image. Psalm 127:3, Genesis 1:26

I learned the lies must be replaced with Words that are true. That way, when Satan’s lies slither back into my head, I'm ready and I can defeat the enemy.

I admit this has been a challenge for me. I'm so thankful that: I have friends in place who know I struggle with this to remind me of my true identity; I was brave enough to seek counseling when I needed help; I learned that anxiety and depression were not always my fault and I was open to receive medical attention from a professional in this area; my family, especially my husband, who stood beside me even when I was miserable to be around; and, each time I felt like quitting or giving up, I never did.

I don't want to waste time that God has given me to live with negative thoughts about myself and lies that aren't true. That only keeps me from Him and keeps me from the work He has purposed me for. Evaluate your thoughts. Condemning thoughts are not from God. Renew your mind with the Word of God. Do not allow the enemy to separate you from the love of God and the life that was meant for you.

Dear Lord, Fill me with Your Word so that I can live in freedom. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Becoming a Woman Who Listens to God by Sharon Jaynes

Hope in the Midst of Depression: How to Embrace Life Again by Mary Southerland

Visit Melissa’s blog: I Am Beautiful

Application Steps:
Read the verses in this devotion and write down what God's Word says.

Are your thoughts reflective of who you really are?

Do you look at yourself the way God looks at you?

Power Verses:
Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (NIV)

Romans 8:1, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

My Nameplate
By Luann Prater

"Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: holy to the LORD.” Exodus 8:36 (NIV)

Recently I received a license plate with my company’s logo on it. They strongly encouraged us to place it on the front of our car so that everyone can see who I work with at a glance. I was pretty excited and proud to do it - at first. However, when someone cut me off in traffic and heat rushed up my spine, sending my morning smile into a scowl, I remembered the plate that identified me! I forced the grimmace to leave my face and replaced it with numbness. Arghh! The realization hit me, I can’t just react now without thinking of the impression it will leave on others. I must admit at times I’ve wanted to intentionally drive through a mud hole to mask the name on that plate.

My girlfriend won’t let her husband put a fish symbol on their car, a symbol of their faith, because she knows that car can sometime reflect a little “road rage.” She is afraid it might reflect poorly on her Savior. What if we had to wear the seal of God on our forehead for everyone to see? Would we act any differently? Would we be nicer to the store clerk, the grumpy boss or the bratty child? If at a glance the world could see who we were with, would it alter our behavior?

In Ephesians 1:13 it says, “… Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” So we ARE marked with a seal, and it is not just on our foreheads, it should be oozing from every part of our being! When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, it is as powerfully evident to others as an engraved nameplate welded to our face that we belong to Christ. How? Matthew 5:16 tells us, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Surprisingly, I have become accustomed to to the nameplate on my car. I think now before I react. I consider the consequences of my driving. It has seriously made me a better driver and less stressed. Isn’t that amazing? It no longer makes me anxious or afraid that I will discredit my company. People recognize me coming now and wave.

So who is reading your nameplate? Do they recognize the light of Christ in your actions?

Father, we often try to blend in with the world. Give us freedom today to proudly display the righteousness You have given us by reflecting your light onto others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Dear Jesus: Seeking His Light in Your Life by Sarah Young

Visit Luann’s blog

Receive the P31 Woman magazine

Do You Know Him?

Application Steps:
Make a sticky note name-tag that states, like our key verse, “Holy to the Lord” and wear it today. Allow God to work through you and in you as others notice Who you are with.

What makes me hide the fact that I am a Christian?

How can I purposely shine on others today?

Why do I act as if no one is watching? God not only sees, His Holy Spirit is with you…during the good and bad reactions.

Power Verses:
Matthew 28:20b, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

Col. 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (NIV)

1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (NIV)

© Luann Prater 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Bearers of Light
By Amy Carroll

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD.” Psalm 89:15 (NIV)

As a lover of history, I was fascinated by a story that I heard about Benjamin Franklin recently. Franklin had decided that lighting the streets of Philadelphia at night would add both beauty and increased safety to his city. Instead of embarking on a campaign of speeches and writing to persuade the other citizens, Franklin himself bought a large and beautiful lantern and mounted it on a long bracket in front of his home. He kept the glass clean and sparkling, and each evening at dusk he faithfully lit the lantern.

Soon his neighbors began to take notice, and they began maintaining their own lanterns at their residence. Like wildfire, the trend spread throughout the city, and it eventually became a city-wide, city-sponsored program. As the story is told, Benjamin Franklin influenced the entire city of Philadelphia without a word. He simply began to enact change in his own sphere and spread light to all those around him.

As a Christian, I sometimes look around my world and feel horror at the darkness around me. One hour of the evening news is enough to leave the bravest heart running for cover. Stories of child abuse, murder, the spread of deadly disease, starvation, extreme poverty, the heart-break of war and the evil of man swirl around me on the airwaves and churn daily from the printing press. The truth is that we live in a hard world where bad things happen to good people and bad people alike. It’s often a frightening and confusing place.

But there’s another truth that we must not overlook. God is sovereign. Those three words bring hope and comfort to my soul. God is sovereign, and He calls His people to bring His light into the world. I may not be able to change tomorrow’s newscast, but I can be a bearer of God’s light to those around me. I can make sure that my family’s Bible is well used and that my children know about His love for them. I can share His hope and pray with neighbors that are hurting. I can behave ethically in the workplace. I can serve in my church and community and share my time with others.

I John 1:5b says, “...God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” If we are walking with Him, He fills our lives with light that shines on those around us. By our words and actions, we are called to bring Light into a very dark world. Let’s resolve to be Light-bearers to those in our sphere this week and pray that the Light will continue to spread in our community.

Dear Lord, even though I live in a dark world, help me to focus on Your light. As I fix my eyes on You, make me transparent so that Your light can shine through into the darkness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

A Life that Says Welcome: Simple Ways to Open your Heart and Home to Others by Karen Ehman

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

Visit Amy Carroll’s blog

Application Steps:
In a dark room, light a candle. Reflect on how the light illuminates all the corners and dispels darkness. Read I John 1 and John 1 in your Bible.

Pray and ask God for specific assignments to share His light such as starting a family devotion time, serving at a homeless shelter, or helping an elderly neighbor with grocery shopping.

How can I spread the Light without words?

Power Verses:
Acts 5:38b-39, “For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (NIV)

I John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

Attention: This is Only a Test
By Micca Monda Campbell

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:34 (NIV)

Say the word “test” and most people cringe. That’s because tests bring undue stress and pressure that we’d rather live without. Nonetheless, tests have many purposes. They analyze our intelligence or skill; determine what we have learned, and reveal who we are. Then there are spiritual tests. They often try our faith and commitment to God.

Remember the story of Abraham and his beloved son, Isaac, found in Genesis chapter 22? Pause to read it if you haven’t. Through Isaac God was going to build a nation! Can you imagine the pride Abraham must have had for his son? Nothing makes me prouder than to see one of my children succeed, and Abraham knew God had great plans for his son. What on earth could go wrong—especially with a promised child?

You and I both know a lot can go wrong. We’ve probably stood in Abraham’s sandals once or twice in our life times too. And like Abraham, we’ve clung to the promises of God. Yet, sickness lingers, financial troubles invade, friends betray us, and eventually death calls. How do we respond?

Abraham responded with great love, trust, and commitment when God asked for his only son to be sacrificed. Don’t think it was easy for him. Just because you and I know the outcome of the story doesn’t mean Abraham did. He had to trust God every step of the way. Abraham’s mind must have been plagued with thoughts such as, “This doesn’t make sense, Lord.” “You promised, Lord.” “Help me, Lord.”

Determined to obey God no matter the cost, Abraham prepared to take his son’s life. In that dramatic moment, and just in the nick of time, God called from heaven and released both the child and Abraham from the test.

It was only a test. God never wanted the death of Isaac. He wanted the surrendered heart of Abraham. Just as God planned, the test revealed Abraham’s undying love and commitment to God. I believe that Abraham’s faith was expanded too that day in the sufficiency and care of his loving Father.

Unfortunately, this is an area God will always test you and me. More than anything God wants our whole and committed hearts. As painful as some tests are, God is using them to grow us into all He has designed us to be. When our trials don’t make sense, we can trust God. He has promised to set limits on our trials—to walk with us in the midst of them, and to bring forth good.

The question for you and me today is this. When God doesn’t behave like we think He should, when it seems like He has turned the other way and broken every promise, will we still love and trust Him?

When the pregnancy test is negative, will you still love Him? When your loved one dies, will you still love Him? When the job interview falls flat, will you still love Him? When no treatment can be found, will you still love Him?

Dear Lord, I’m guilty of chasing your blessings more than chasing after You. You are all I need. I recommit my heart to you and I will trust you in my present situation. May your will—not mine—be done, In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
God is not Through with Me Yet by Thelma Wells

Trials of Today, Treasures for Tomorrow: Overcoming Adversities in Life by Janet Eckles

Visit Micca Campbell’s blog

Do You Know Him?

Application Steps:
Recall a past circumstance that required trusting God even though it didn’t make sense. Remember His faithfulness during that time and then commit to trusting Him in your present situation.

What do you think God is trying to accomplish through this difficult time in your life?

What do you need to do to pass the test?

Power Verses:
Matthew 28:20, “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (NIV)

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

1 Peter 4:12, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

The Urgency to Be Debt-Free
By Sharon Glasgow

“Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth . . The LORD will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.” Deuteronomy 28:1,12 (NASB)

Call me an extremist, and you just might, but the cost of gas and the condition of our economy have put me on high financial alert. My nation’s dependency on oil continues to rise, and answers to our deficits don’t appear to be in the immediate future. Therefore, the way I see it, I’ve got three choices. I can panic and become paralyzed by fear. I can ignore the obvious and keep living and spending as usual. Or, I can follow biblical guidelines for managing my money and receive blessings for it. I’ll take that last option any day!

After reading what God says about opening His storehouse for us in today’s key verse, my husband and I became dedicated to being obedient with our money and getting debt-free. We’re on a family mission to save every penny we can to pay off our debts. That means we’re not turning on the air-conditioner—we’re sweating through this summer. We’re turning off the water heater, except a few hours each day for showers. We aren’t going out to eat. We’re buying any needed clothes at consignment shops. We’re driving our old vehicles until the cost to repair them is more than the cost of a newer vehicle. The urgency to become debt free is propelling every financial decision we make.

Saving money is not the only way to do it. Making extra money to pay down debt is just as important. Yard sales are one idea, though they don’t yield much income or on-going income. So how can you earn more cash flow? What did God call or equip you to do?

Our daughter Hannah is still in college, and knows she must make money this summer to help with her college expenses. She looked everywhere for a job to no avail. We asked Hannah, “What passion has God put in your heart?” She said to serve elderly people, especially sick or needy elderly people. She followed God’s nudging and found a job doing exactly that and she’s making enough money doing it to offset her college expenses.

Perhaps you could look for a new job, or an extra side-job doing what God created you to do. This could propel you straight into God’s will for you today, and help you pay off debt. Be proactive in your financial well-being.

With oil prices soaring and the uncertainty of our economy, one doesn’t have to be an extremist to know we should have a plan of action to reduce our spending and debt. It’s just common sense to prepare for the future. I love what Dave Ramsey says: "If you really want to get out of debt, you've gotta get MAD. You've gotta get wired up and fired up. You've gotta sell so much stuff, the kids think they're next. We see it every single event. People come to the event depressed and beaten down by debt, but they leave with hope and determination to eliminate it.” I agree with Dave, we’ve got to attack our debt and get out from under the weight of it.

I believe the Lord wants to open His storehouse of treasures for you. He’s just waiting for you to be obedient in all that He commands … and then you will be the lender and not the borrower just like Deuteronomy 28 says.

Dear Lord, Help me to be obedient to Your leading with finances. Help me to be diligent and to work hard at paying off my debt. Help me Lord not to become discouraged but to become energized by this call to freedom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
For more help in tackling your debt, visit financial expert Dave Ramsey’s website.

A Tip A Day: 12 Months worth of Money-Saving Ideas by Ellie Kay

Application Steps:
Go online and check out Dave Ramsey’s plan for getting out of debt. Consider ordering his book The Total Money Makeover.

Make a plan for how you will cut spending and save money in the coming months.

What are you doing daily to help get out of debt?

Do you have 1 year, 5 year, and 10 year goals for your finances?

Do you want your kids to follow your financial pattern? How can you be a living example of financial freedom?

Power Verses:
Romans 13:8, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (NKJV)

Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” (NKJV)

© 2008 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

The Kindred Spirit
By Zoe Elmore

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)

For twenty years people have found the “Kindred Spirit” nestled between the dunes and the pampus grass on Bird Island. The “Kindred Spirit” is a plain, rural mailbox containing an assortment of notebooks and pens. Visitors to the small coastal island - people from every place imaginable and all walks of life – put pen to paper and share their words, thoughts and prayers here.

I’ve visited the Kindred Spirit for years and each time I open the door to the unassuming mailbox and remove a journal, I’m amazed at what people have written. Funny stories, poetry, and heart wrenching confessions fill the pages. People pour out their deepest and darkest secrets and write prayers of desperation, just to replace the journal in the mailbox, close the door and return to their everyday lives. I find this fascinating!

Everyday people with everyday lives are willing to put down on paper the very things they would never share with family or friends and place them in an ordinary mailbox on a secluded island. I think these writings are an indication of everyone’s need to be heard in a safe environment; a place to get things off our chest without interruption or condemnation.

As a child of God we have a true Kindred Spirit available to us so we can pour out our hearts. He truly listens and hears us whenever we call; a Kindred Spirit that offers real menaing and value for our lives. His name is Jesus. He is readily accessable to everyone; you only need to call out His name to experience His presence. He is waiting to listen to your inner fears and most private thoughts without interruption or condemnation.

Perhaps you have things you’re longing to share; things you’ve kept secret far too long. If you’re longing to have a Kindred Spirit experience of you own, I have great news for you! It is possible to experience the freedom these mailbox writers enjoy, and visiting Bird Island is not a requirement. Simply call on the name of Jesus, invite Him to enter Your heart. Acknowledge Your sins and ask the Lord to fill you with his Holy Spirit. Enjoy the freedom of expression. Experience His presence. Just like the Kindred Spirit on Bird Island invites visitors to say what they wish to say, Jesus invites us to pour out our hearts with confident abandon because He is present and listening.

Dear Lord, Thank you for being our “Kindred Spirit,” I’m grateful You are always available to hear the cries of my heart and I am comforted knowing I can expereince Your presence simply by uttering Your name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Intimacy with God prayer journal by Tara Furman

Visit Zoe Elmore’s blog

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

Application Steps:
Begin to journal your thoughts and prayers.
Ask the Lord to fill you with His Holy Spirit.

Are you ready to share the secrets you’ve been hiding?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (NIV)

Romans 10:9, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Zoe Elmore. All rights reserved.

Running By Faith
By Tracie Miles

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)

It was finally here. My favorite time of year, and my favorite place to be. I hopped out of bed with an unusually eager attitude to do my morning exercise. I stepped out the door into the crisp morning, and inhaled a deep breath of salty beach air. I headed for the soft white sand, and began jogging briskly at the edge of the surf, admiring the vastness of one of God’s most amazing creations. After a short while, the morning sun became exceptionally bright, causing me to squint. It was then that I realized that in my haste to experience the beautiful Carolina surf, I had left my sunglasses behind. I tried to keep my eyes open, but it was just too bright. I thought to myself about the open area around me, and decided it would be safe to go a short distance with my eyes closed completely. Knowing that miles of empty beach lay ahead of me, and that there were very few people, if any, at the beach this early in the morning, I confidently ran forward with both eyes closed tightly shut.

As I continued running blindly, and spending time with God in prayer, a startling thought leapt into my mind - “is this what God means when He tells us to walk by faith and not by sight?”. I allowed my mind to drift away from my surroundings and focus on this concept. In the case of my morning run, I already knew that there was nothing in my path to bump into. There were no people, dogs, umbrellas or flying frisbees yet, so I felt completely confident running with my eyes closed. However, life does not always have a bump-free pathway for us to run on, but rather is packed full of obstacles, big and small. During this prayer time, I felt God nudging me to recognize whether or not I would be willing to run with my eyes closed through the bumpy patches of life, and solely rely on Him for my confidence, even when I did not know what lay in front of me.

I found myself asking God, “Lord, what things do I need to walk by faith in, and not by sight?”. For the next several minutes, with each exhale of breath, God brought something to mind that I needed to have a stronger faith about. A family member’s chronic illness. A friend’s job search. A damaged relationship. Someone whom I needed to forgive. Raising my children. Marriage. Health concerns. The war. Who would lead our country. The future.

It became crystal clear to me in that moment, that I rarely walk by faith regarding issues of great concern. It seems that when the burdens get heavy, I try to carry them on my own. I fret and worry. I imagine the worst case scenario. I try to determine what I can do to remedy the problem. I waste time wishing things were different. When what I should be doing is giving God the opportunity to do His work. Worrying will not change a thing, but faith can change everything.

Walking by faith and not by sight, does not mean we need to walk around with our physical eyes closed, but that we need to live with the eyes of our heart open. God wants us to put our faith in Him, believing with full confidence that He will take care of the obstacles, guide us around the problems, and carry us through to the end. The NIV version of 2 Corinthians 5:7 puts it this way, “We live by faith, not by sight.” We are not commanded to merely walk by faith, but live by faith, each and every day.

If you are like me, I want to not only walk by faith, but run by faith. I want to have the type of faith in Christ that will allow me to close my physical eyes, and see through the eyes of my heart instead, while running full force ahead with no fear.

Dear Lord, thank You for Your goodness, and for Your reassurance that You are always there. I praise You for never leaving me, and I ask that you instill in me a faith that is so strong, that I will trust You above all things. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Today’s P31 Radio Show

P31 Woman magazine

Visit Tracie Miles’ blog

Do You Know Him?

Application Steps:
Ask God to bring to mind people or situations where you need to exercise a stronger faith.

Do I worry or try to solve problems on my own, instead of trusting that God is in control?

Power Verses:
Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

Full to the Rim
By Lee Merrill, She Speaks! Graduate

“…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13 (NIV)

I am what you might call a perpetual dieter. My husband says I should get an honorary degree in fad diets because I own most of the diet books and magazine articles that have ever been written on the subject!

In my heart, I know that all I have to do it eat less junk, move my body more, and the weight will come off. But, the dreamer in me hopes that one of these miracle diets will actually work and cause me to "lose 48 pounds by Labor Day."

Today, the Lord gave me a brand-new “diet.” As I was reading in Ephesians, I came across chapter 4, verse 13, which deals with the body of Christ being united in faith so we can grow to be fully mature and overflowing with the character of God.

I completely understand the context of this scripture, but the Lord made one phrase stand out to me in a little bit different light: "attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (V.13b NIV)

Now, when this professional dieter sees the word "full" I only think of one thing: full of chocolate pie, cheese enchiladas, sweet tea, or double cheeseburgers.

This morning, when that phrase lit up with holy neon lights, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to my hungry soul, Child, if you will work on being full of Me, I'll take care of the rest.

Do I think the Lord will make my weight fall off and my muscles firm up overnight as a reward for spending extra time in His word? Uh...I wish, but no!

I think the Lord is trying to tell me that I spend way too much time worrying about changing myself when what I really need to be concerned about is letting Him change my heart.

With a changed heart, I will be focused on the comfort He provides rather than the french fry “comfort” I am so used to wolfing down.

With a changed heart, I will seek His approval rather than the fleeting approval of people, which usually throws me into a pit of despair. With a changed heart, I will develop the discipline I need to move my body more and move my jaws less, so my body can keep up with my spirit.

Dear Lord, Change my heart. Fill me up to overflowing with Your spiritual sustenance so that my spirit will be full, not my stomach. I know that if I’m full of You, there will be no room for the sins of gluttony and emotional eating. You are my portion, and I want no more than that. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Balance that Works When Life Doesn’t: Simple Steps for a Woman’s Physical and Spiritual Health by Susie Larson

She Speaks conference

Application Steps:
When your stomach starts to rumble, use it as a reminder to pray for a hunger and thirst for God and His Word.

Use the money you would spend on purchasing one more fad diet book to sponsor a hungry child through Compassion International.

What activities can you participate in today that will push you toward the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ”?

Which sister-in-Christ could you partner with on a mutual journey to seek “more of Him and less of me”?

Power Verses:
Psalm 42:1-2, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (NIV)

Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the [woman] who takes refuge in him.” (NIV)

God Knows the Big Picture
By Marybeth Whalen

“They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.” Exodus 29:46 (NIV)

I’d been reading in Exodus when the Israelites were leaving Egypt and God told them to ask for gold and valuables from their neighbors. He said, “Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” (Exodus 11:2) Now, for the Israelites, this was probably very strange. First of all, how awkward for them as slaves to approach their masters and ask them for, not just a handout, but a valuable handout! They had to have been questioning what God was asking them to do. Secondly, they probably were wondering why in the world God would have them tote all that stuff when they were obviously going on a long journey. Hadn’t God heard the phrase, “Traveling light?”

Then I got to the part when God instructed the Israelites to make the priests’ garments and the tabernacle furnishings. As He carefully listed off what the people should make and how to make it, it was clear that God was thinking ahead when He asked them to take the gold and other valuables from the Egyptians. He knew in advance what He was asking and how it would all turn out. Exodus 12: 35-36 says, “The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.” Even though the Israelites couldn’t see the big picture of what they were facing, God could. He had it all under control. He didn’t ask them to do anything He hadn’t already prepared them to do.

This story was a great comfort to me today as I pondered the “Egypts” in my life. I thought of the times when God asked me to trust Him and obey—even when what He was asking sounded crazy. I thought of how He knows the future and provides our needs ahead of time. I thought of how He can soften hearts as He did with the Egyptians and how I can trust every situation to Him. He sees the big picture, when all I see is what is right in front of me. I need to rely on Him when the future looks scary. I need to say “yes” to whatever He asks of me, instead of arguing based on my limited view. I can only have a big picture of life when I see it through His eyes. That truth continues to bring me peace—even in the midst of this crazy, mixed-up world. I hope that it will bring you peace and hope today in whatever you may be facing in life.

Dear Lord, help me to rely on You, and not on what is in front of me. Help me to trust in the outcome simply because I know it is in Your very capable hands. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

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

Do You Know Him?

Application Steps:
Has God asked you to do something that sounded crazy in the past, yet later made perfect sense? Journal about that incident so that you will have it to go back to as a record of His faithfulness in your life.

What does your Egypt look like? Is there something God is asking you to take from there in order that you might be equipped for His purposes?

Power Verses:
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.” (NIV)

I Corinthians 2:9, “However, as it is written: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (NIV)

Exodus 23:20, “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

I Hate to Burden You
by Renee Swope

Never stop praying, especially for others. Always pray by the power of the Spirit. Stay alert and keep praying for God's people.” Ephesians 6:18 (CEV)

Although my email was intended to be a prayer request, it started out more like an apology. I needed my friends to pray, but I was hesitant to ask them. I didn't want my request to be a burden. After all, the group of friends I was sending the email to already had so many burdens of their own: illness, job loss, death, stress, relationship strains, overloaded schedules, etc.

I wondered if my need rated high enough on the urgency “Richter” scale? Was it bad enough to ask for prayer or should I wait to see how things turned out?

The first sentence in my email went something like this: "I hate to add to your list of burdens, but I need prayer for JJ."

My husband had signs of a health problem and was having tests done that week. I didn’t know whether it was going to be anything serious in the end. I just knew that I didn’t want to walk through it in fear, in denial, nor in my own strength. I didn’t want to go through it alone either. I wanted my man to have as much spiritual protection as possible. I wanted those doctors to be anointed in prayer, and I knew if my girlfriends were praying, it’d be all right!

Within fifteen minutes after I hit “send” my friends who were on their computers started telling me they were praying. Not only did they pray, they thanked me for sharing what was going on and for letting them be there for me. One friend shared how someone she knew had been through a similar situation. Another asked questions and made some great suggestions. Then another cracked a funny joke that made me laugh, which I really needed to do!

The night before we went to the hospital, I got an email from my friend Amy saying, "I've been lifting prayers heavenward for your family since your last email. Know that you'll be in my thoughts and prayers tomorrow. Let us know as soon as you hear results. We're all in this with you, friend."As I read her last sentence, it was as though I could feel the softness of her hands gently squeeze my shoulders and hear her voice saying, "We're all in this with you, friend."

What if I had not shared our need with my friends? I would’ve missed out on the comfort of having them “with me” and the peace that came as a result of their prayers.
They would’ve missed out on the opportunity to be the “Body of Christ” by guarding our hearts and minds with God’s promises and the power of prayer. They also would have missed the joy of celebrating medical tests that went really well, peace that surpassed our understanding and recovery that was quick. Even as we wait for the test results, their prayers and God’s peace remain as our constant companions.

I am so glad I didn’t listen to those thoughts that made me feel like my request was a burden.

God is teaching me much about prayer. For someone who hates to impose on others, I need to be reminded that asking for prayer isn't about putting burdens on my friends. It's about letting them walk by my side down a path that I was never intended to walk alone. In return, they let me do the same.

Lord, thank You for never seeing my prayers as a burden. Please teach me more about the power and the purpose of prayer in my life and in my friendships. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Renee Swope’s blog for the rest of the story, and for more ways to connect with God and your girlfriends through prayer.

A Busy Woman’s Guide to Prayer, by Cheri Fuller

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

Application Steps:
Ask God what friend He wants you to pray for this week, and who He wants you to ask to pray for you as well. If you don’t have someone (or if you want to have more than one), visit Renee’s blog where she’s connecting women through prayer – sharing requests and praying for each other - for the next few weeks.

Is it hard for you to share prayer requests with others? Why or why not?

Power Verses:
Psalm 68:19, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (NIV)

Philemon 1:4, “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.” (NIV)

Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

What Is In a Name?
by Kathy Lay, She Speaks! Graduate

“James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder).” Mark 3:17 (NIV)

When my husband was a baby, he crawled so fast that his parents had a tough time keeping up with him. Zipping here and darting there earned him the nickname "Bug." It stuck around through adulthood and to this day when his dad calls, he asks, "Is Buggy there?"

As noted in today’s key verse, James and John also earned nicknames. I can imagine the scene when Jesus imparted them ... brothers James & John are approaching Jesus and the others. Jesus elbows Matthew in the ribs and says, “Check it out. Here come those Sons of Thunder!” Matthew chuckles knowingly at his bold spoken friends. Or maybe Jesus has each of his outstretched hands on James’ and John’s shoulders and says affectionately, “I love your boldness, guys. You are definitely my special Sons of Thunder and you’re gonna do great stuff for my kingdom.”

Throughout scripture we see numerous examples of God changing someone's name in light of something they've done or will do for Him. In appointing James and John, Jesus used a powerful noun – thunder – that captured their dispositions. I think it’s interesting that their special gift of boldness, to be used for the Lord’s glory, was the very same characteristic that drew criticism from the others when the “Sons of Thunder” asked to be seated closest to Jesus in Heaven.

Having a “thunderous” personality could be fruitful or lethal, depending on how James and John handled it. Had they been “thunderous” on their own or for their own purposes, the results might have been disastrous. But being “thunderous” under the direction of Jesus bore precious fruit for the kingdom.

As we see in this wonderful example in scripture, God calls us to tasks for His Kingdom according to our nature — the very nature He designed and gave us. And as James and John learned to do, we must submit it to His Lordship so He can grow us to our full potential.

So what might your nickname be? Daughter of Mercy? Sister Sunshine? Faithful Friend? Soft-spoken Servant?

Dear Lord, I praise You that You call us according to how You created us. We’re not random, but rather purposefully chosen to be used in certain ways. How special that makes me feel! I want to bring my predisposition under your authority today, Father. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
The Message of Leadership: 31 Essential Insights from Proverbs by Daniel Southern

Shaped with Purpose: A Personal Guide to Discovering God’s Purpose for Your Life Workbook and CD by Renee Swope

A Life that Says Welcome by Karen Ehman

Do You Know Him?

Application Steps:
Try to recall all the nicknames that friends and family have bestowed on you. What do they say about you? Do these names reflect who you really are?

What might your Lord call you in identifying your personality and characteristics?

How can those traits further His Kingdom?

What nickname(s) would you like to earn?

Power Verses:
Isaiah 62:2, “The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.” (NIV)

Isaiah 43:1, “But now, O Israel, the Lord who created you says: ‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.’” (NIV)

© 2008 by Kathy Lay. All rights reserved.

“I Love You, The Heart of a Married Woman Filled with Shame"
by Melissa Taylor

“The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” Genesis 2:25 (NIV)

My husband, Jeff, is a treasure in my life. He has provided me with unconditional love and is my very best friend. We have 4 children and a healthy marriage, but that didn’t come without a price. For a long time I carried much of my childhood baggage, especially shame and fear.

If you read yesterday’s devotion, you know that I carried some heavy burdens. Being sexually molested at age 7, being there when my grandfather had his stroke, the brokenness of my family, and looking for love in all the wrong places still accompanied me through married life. I knew how much Jesus loved me, yet the shame of my past would not leave.

We have an enemy in this world named Satan. He knows our weaknesses and what brings us down. He used my past to keep me from totally experiencing the fullness of God, and I listened to him.

Intimacy was a struggle for me. Even though I was married, I still felt dirty and ashamed during our moments of close physical contact. The lights were off, “Please don’t look at me,” I would say. For a while, my motivation for making love with my husband was to get pregnant. Of course my husband needed more of me than that. I needed more of him too, but I didn’t know how to overcome my insecurity in this area.

Jeff would look at me with those bedroom eyes and I would roll my eyes at him. He would reach out to hold my hand or touch me and I would respond, “Oh please not now honey, I’m exhausted.”

Occasionally when he’d had all the rejection he could take, he would blow up shouting, “I love you! You are beautiful and I want us to share everything! I need you to love me. I need your touch. God made us to need that from each other. Don’t do this to us!”

Instead of taking these words to heart and hearing them as they were intended, I continued to listen to the thief in my life. The one who was stealing my joy and whispering lies of shame and guilt from my past so that they would still have a hold on me.

Lord, help me to be a normal wife, the wife my husband deserves, I prayed.

I began reading books by Christian women sharing their life experiences. My struggles were really no different than many others. That brought me a little peace. I gained confidence reading how they were able to overcome the lies of the enemy and restore their lives through accepting the grace and peace offered by Jesus Christ. I believed this, but I wasn’t taking hold of it for my life.

I decided that I would slowly introduce real intimacy into my marriage. I began scheduling time to be intimate with my husband each Monday night. By planning it, I had time to mentally and spiritually prepare. I would pray about it, make sure the kids were fed and bathed early, and even spruce myself up a bit. I began to look forward to Monday nights, in fact I enjoyed them so much, I eventually added Thursday nights to our schedule too. My husband thought he had died and gone to heaven!

Today, there is no need to schedule intimate moments, they naturally occur. God’s Word has been crucial in reminding me of who I am in Christ. When I go without it, I begin to slip. I have to be intentional on listening to His voice so I don’t believe that other voice that is waiting to replace God’s. Today, I can be naked and not ashamed, and with God’s help, my marriage will last until death us do part.

Dear Lord, You do not want me living in the past or believing lies about myself. Help me to live in the fullness of Your truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

The Confident Woman, Knowing Who You Are in Christ by Anabel Gilham

Becoming the Woman of His Dreams by Sharon Jaynes

Confessions of an Adulterous Woman: Lies that Got Me There, Truths that Brought Me Back by Lyndell H. Holtz

Application Steps:
The story doesn’t end here. Melissa learned that she and Jeff had opposite love languages. Visit Melissa’s blog and read how marriage counseling and learning to show love differently helped to save their marriage.

What lies are you believing?

Does your past keep you from living fully now?

Have you discussed your feelings with your husband? With God?

Power Verses:
John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (NIV)

Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (NIV)

© 2008 Melissa Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

"Love Me" The Heart of a Lost Teenage Girl
by Melissa Taylor

“Now let your unfailing love comfort me, just as you promised me, your servant.” Psalm 119:76 (NLT)

There was a teenage girl who seemed to have her life all together. She had many friends, excelled in school, was kind to others, and made her mom very proud. On the outside, this girl’s life seemed amazing. The inside revealed a much different story.

I am this girl. I know that looks can be deceiving.

When I was 7, a neighbor sexually molested me. When I was 8, I witnessed my grandfather falling out of his beloved rocking chair, the victim of a stroke. At age 10, my dad went on a business trip, and never returned. My parents were getting a divorce. My world seemed to get worse by the year. What would happen next?

Tired of my heartache and circumstances, I decided to ask Christ into my life - only to be disappointed. Why did I still feel guilty and dirty (sexual abuse), disappointed and scared (my grandfather’s stroke), unworthy and empty (my family was broken)? Was it too much to ask for someone to love me?

Jesus, if you won’t fix my life, I’ll do it myself. I proclaimed.

I was able to satisfy the people in my life through my achievements, but on the inside I was a wreck. My heart was still empty and aching. The outer me didn’t seem to satisfy the longing in my heart, so I tried other, more destructive ways.

I gave into the temptation to feel loved and accepted by another person. While on an un-chaperoned beach trip, I crawled into bed with another searching-for-love soul. We were two people looking to feel complete – but looking in the wrong places. This was a friend of mine, someone who loved and cared about me. That made it okay, right?

I had dreamed of what my first time would be like. My plans had been to save myself for marriage. I had visions of my groom carrying me into our beautiful honeymoon suite and there two would become one. Instead of a honeymoon suite, I was in a run down motel room. Instead of my groom, I was with a lost high school boy. I cried. What had I just done?

A friend picked me up the next morning and we drove home. I don’t think I spoke the whole time. Growing inside of me were the bitter seeds of guilt, shame, disgust with myself, and the familiar emptiness.

After years of continuing to try to fill the emptiness in my heart with all the wrong things, I realized the truth. Jesus was there. He had been in my heart since the day I invited Him in. He was waiting and watching over me. I had to learn the hard way that He was the only One that could fill my heart completely.

I’m much older now. I’m far from perfect, but I’ve learned that there is nothing in this world that can satisfy the desires of my heart. Believe me, if it were available for purchase, I would’ve bought it. If it came from good looks and pretty clothes, I could’ve had that too. Or if it came from a human relationship, my heart would not hurt. But none of these things can do what Jesus does.

Do not be fooled by the promises of this world; believe the promises of God’s Word. You are His precious child. He loves you. He desires a relationship with you no matter what has happened to you or what you’ve done. Trust and give Him the chance to be the One who fills your heart with love.

Dear Lord, I don’t even have to ask to You to love me, because You already do. Oh God, please remind me often of how much You love me and help me not to give into what the world is offering me to make me feel better. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Want More Love? By Kathy W. Buchanan

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

Application Steps:
Visit Melissa’s blog today to read more of her story, or to share your story.

Have you given into temptation, even when you knew it was wrong?
Do you know that God can and will forgive you?

What makes you feel important?

Power Verses:
Matthew 19:26, “Jesus looked at them intently and said, ‘Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.’” (NLT)

1 Samuel 16:7b, “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)

1John 2:16-17, “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father but from this world. And this world is fading away along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (NLT)

© 2008 Melissa Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

An Unhurried Life
By Glynnis Whitwer

“Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’ Jesus stopped and called them. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked.” Matthew 20:30-32 (NIV)

I am drawn to un-hurried people. I'm pretty sure it's because I'm the opposite - and wish I was more like them.

Unhurried moms take the time to explain to their kids where they are going. Hurried moms tell their children to get in the car and they'll find out soon. I think the children of the unhurried mom learned a bit more about their city, streets and addresses.

Unhurried women take time to chat with a tired sales clerk, and brighten her day. Hurried women rush in and out, glancing at their watches, and tapping their nails on the counter if there's a delay. I think the sales clerk got a touch of Jesus from that unhurried woman.

Unhurried women think about how to show love to others - whether it's picking out the right gift, a hand-written note of encouragement, or a phone call. Hurried women wish they had picked out the right gift, written a note, or made that phone call.

Although Jesus was busy, the Bible never mentions Him being in a hurry. Others around Jesus tried to hurry Him up, but Jesus refused to be rushed. He always made time to hold a child, touch a sick man or talk to a woman whose wrong choices ostracized her from others. Jesus could have hurried – He had more to accomplish in three years than we can imagine accomplishing in a lifetime. But He chose to put people over His schedule.

The solutions to a hurried life are simple, yet difficult to incorporate into a life that is addicted to rushing. For those of us who hurry out of habit, we must choose to slow down. We might choose to speak slowly, to walk slowly, or to eat slowly. We might get up 30 minutes earlier so that we aren't rushing our kids in the morning. We might have dinner in the crockpot so we can sit and read a book with a child, or chat with our husbands on the patio. We might not schedule business appointments so close together that we don't have time to ask a co-worker how his or her family is doing.

Some of us must address the issue of hurry if we are to live the grace-filled lives Jesus calls us to live. So take a deep breath, let it out slowly, pause to pray, and enjoy an un-hurried day.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for taking the time to show Your love for me today. Thank You for giving us Jesus – who modeled a life of love and patience. Help me to address the issue of hurry in my life, and choose to take the time for things that are important to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
10 Minute Time Outs for Busy Women by Grace Fox

Breathe by Kari Wyatt Kent

30 Days to Taming Your Stress by Deborah Smith Pegues

P31 Woman magazine

Application Steps:
Identify the most rushed part of your day. Brainstorm one or two changes you can make that will ease the stress, and allow you to slow down.

Why is it difficult to love others when we are in a hurry?

What are some causes for a life that is chronically hurried?

What are the benefits to yourself and others if you cultivate an unhurried life?

Power Verses:
John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”(NIV)

Mark 10:13-14, “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” (NIV)

Ephesians 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

What Are We Looking At?
By Rachel Olsen

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

In the movies, you can usually tell the good guys from the bad guys. The good guys wear white and want justice. Meanwhile, the bad guys wear black and seek their own selfish gain. Some movies I’ve seen, however, surprise me at the end with who is really on which side. Jesus told a story like that.

In Luke 18:10-14, Jesus tells of two men who went into the temple to pray. We learn that the first guy is a devout worker in the ministry of God. These individuals were known to carefully follow God’s laws and encourage the people to also do so. We learn that the second guy does not work in the service of God, but for the government … in a job usually filled by corrupt individuals. These individuals had a reputation for abusing the system and swindling the people for their own gain.

From Jesus’ description of their vocations, I can imagine the first guy looking clean-cut, praying with sincerity in his voice, and maybe even wearing a white robe. The second man I imagine as somewhat dirty and gruff. I picture his eyes dark, hard and intimidating. I imagine him going through the motions of prayer, without really meaning it.

Not only does Jesus tell the two men’s occupations, but He also reveals exactly what they prayed. The first guy prayed in a way that was traditional for rabbis according to the Talmud. He gives thanks to God that he is set apart as a holy man, and not a blatant sinner like the other guy in the room is known to be. He prayed, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get,” (Luke 18:11-12, NASB). He is clearly feeling pretty good about his status in life.

The other man, however, was feeling unworthy to even approach the altar. Jesus said he stood at a distance and wouldn’t even lift his eyes up to heaven to address God directly. This man was not going through the motions as I would’ve imagined, he was feeling emotional. He beat against his own chest with his fist, very aware of his need for God as he begged, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13b, NASB). Jesus said it was this man and not the first who left that temple having been made right with God.

To Jesus’ audience, this ending was a shocker. The tax collector for the Roman government, and not the religious leader for the Jewish people, was justified by the God of Israel. Jesus’ audience probably thought this unfathomable. But notice that the tax collector was the only one of the two who actually asked to be forgiven and justified. I don’t think the first guy realized he needed to be made right with God. He looked at his white robes and righteous actions, and ignored his pride and sin.

So, we can’t always tell who the good and bad guys are—in the movies or in real life.

Jesus’ story of these two men prompts me to look at my own sin. It also prompts me to remember that while I tend to focus on appearances – mine and everyone else’s – God is looking at the motives of my heart. Thank God, He grants mercy to those who ask!
Dear Lord, please have mercy on me – I am a sinner in need of a savior. I have an unclean heart that needs You to make it pure. Help me to look at others and myself today through Your eyes. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

To read about two women who found out God is more interested in our heart than anything, visit Rachel Olsen’s blog

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

Application Steps:
Take the time to write down any sins for which you need to ask forgiveness. For instance: lying; coveting; stealing what belongs to God; being prideful; sexual sins; placing too much value on money or power; refusing to forgive someone; putting something like your work, your family, or your recreation ahead of your relationship with God; judging others instead of loving them … Then ask for mercy in Jesus’ Name.

Before reading this devotion, which of the two prayers would you have been more likely to pray today?

Power Verses:

Matthew 23:27, "How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead people's bones and every kind of impurity.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

Running Toward a Dream
By Lysa TerKeurst

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

Yesterday, my friend Holly and I decided to get up early and run.

Now make no mistake, what Holly and I call running would not impress athletic people. But to the untrained eye, our shake and shuffle jogging works.

Since we were at the beach and in an unfamiliar setting, we needed to plot our course. We set our sites on a water tower in the distance and decided to make that our goal. We wouldn't stop running until we were standing beside the water tower.

It wasn't long before my legs and lungs started protesting. They were sending lightening bolt pleas to my brain to stop and stop now. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Stop!

I wanted to stop.

But much to the dismay of my sweating body, I wanted to reach my goal more. We pressed on though the water tower seemed FOREVER away. There were no short cuts or easier routes. It would require step-by-step determination. Putting one foot in front of another and making the decision to refuse to quit.

Never has a water tower come so slowly.

But it did eventually come.

We were soon in its shadow.

Then we were right beside it.

And then we ran by it.

Reaching our goal was so invigorating, even my legs and lungs gave the thumbs up to keep going. We ran all the way to end of the road and turned and looked back.

No one step had been more important than another. Each step served a purpose. Each one was necessary to get us to the goal and beyond.

As we turned and headed back, I realized how much this morning run mimicked my life's journey toward the dream of writing a book. There were many times my insecurities or my feelings of inadequacy screamed out for me to stop.

At times the goal of seeing a real book with my name on the cover seemed so far away. So illusive. It was not easy and there were no short cuts. Just the decision to embrace each step as necessary and refusing to quit.

Then one day, I lifted up a little yellow book with a strange looking green flower beside my name on the front cover. And as sweet as the shadow of a dream come true was, I just couldn't stay there. I kept on running. And smiling. And dreaming some more.

Do you have a dream tucked in your heart?

I suspect you do.

Sweet sister, bring your dream, whatever it is, back out into the light of day and press on.

I once had someone ask me what was the one thing I did that finally helped my dream of getting published come to pass.

To be honest, I can't say one thing.

Each part of the journey was essential. All the rejection letters. All the prayers. All the soul searching to check my motives. All the input from family and friends. All the studying and reading and researching. All the discouragement, and all the encouragement.

It was all part of it.

Step by step.

And looking back, I wouldn't have it any other way. After all, it was never really about getting a book published. It was about gaining a deeper relationship with God along the way.

Dear Lord, Help me discern which dreams in my heart are from You and which are not. Help me to make the pursuit be more about growing closer to You than anything else. And give me wisdom to know how to follow my dreams and the courage to take the next steps. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa TerKeurst’s blog today to participate in a Q and A about book publishing.

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Ask God to help you verbalize the dreams that are tucked in your heart. Write what He reveals to you on paper.

More than achieving my dream, how might God want to grow my faith through the process?

Power Verses:
2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (NIV)

Acts 20:24, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

Christmas in July
Susanne Scheppmann

“Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 (NKJV)

I should have used that newly advertised “prescription strength” deodorant today. Our outside temperature was a sweltering 115 degrees. It felt more like 350 degrees in my car as I toodled around doing my errands. The air conditioning never had a chance to cool the car before I’d open the door and drag myself into the next store.

I roasted as I drove. To my chagrin, a traffic signal changed to red and I braked reluctantly at the busy intersection. The car stopped and I saw waves of heat radiate off the pavement.

Then I saw something … a mirage maybe … a bouncing Santa Claus. Upon closer inspection, I discovered a bulky, garish balloon outside an electronics store. A sign hanging in the overheated air read, “Celebrate Christmas in July!” The sign tried to cajole potential consumers to spend their money in the store, without acknowledging the true meaning of Christmas.

Suddenly, an idea pushed its way into my overheated thoughts. “Why couldn’t we celebrate Christmas in July? Wouldn’t it be fun to have a little Christmas celebration without all the holiday fuss of December?”

As the car idled, my mind raced. My family could celebrate the birth of our Savior and make it intentional—especially if it was in July. We could decorate a tree in our backyard. We could barbeque a turkey breast. Then after dinner, we could sit on the patio and read the Christmas story as we watch the sunset.

The light changed and so did my attitude. I no longer dreaded a day full of errands in the sun-baked desert. In fact, I added a couple more stops to my list. First, I swung into a discount store to pick up a stronger deodorant and a few “stocking stuffers” for my family. Then I headed off to the grocery store to prepare for Christmas dinner on the grill in July.

I believe honoring Christmas in July will help my family to focus on the birth of our Savior in a unique way. And who knows—it may become a family tradition that will create lasting memories for our family and our faith.

So, “Merry Christmas in July!”

Dear Lord, help me to remember to celebrate You throughout the year. Grant me innovative ways to weave the story of Your life throughout my family’s ordinary day-to-day routines. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Today’s P31 Radio Show

Visit Susanne Schepmann’s blog

Perplexing Proverbs for Women Bible study by Susanne Scheppman

Application Steps:
Read Luke 1:1-2:20. Consider how you can celebrate Christmas throughout the year.

This month plan a special activity to honor the birth of Jesus.

Do I reflect on the birth of Christ only in December?

How might my life change if I celebrated the birth of Christ year round?

Power Verses:
Matthew 1:23, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel - which means, ‘God with us.’” (NIV)

Luke 2:11-12, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (NIV)

John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (NIV)

Further Still with God
By Sharon Sloan, She Speaks Graduate

“And He went on a little further, and fell on His face, and prayed….” Matthew 26:39 (KJV)

Have you ever felt God calling you “further still” with Him? It is those times when He is connecting with you so personally and so deeply, and gently calling you to go further in your relationship with Him.

These places of “further still with God” are places where it’s just you and Him as He beckons you to step into deeper levels of intimacy and trust. As you pray and search His scriptures, you listen for and hear His still, small voice. During these “further still” seasons with God, He matures your faith, broadens your trust, and reveals intimate treasures from His heart to yours. It’s a beautiful time when you crave less of the world and more of Him.

I have been in one of those “further still” seasons with God recently. He has called me out of my comfort zone into unfamiliar, but prepared and safe places. Just as He required bravery of Joshua in the Old Testament, He calls me to bravely trust Him too.

During this season, He has been tenderly lifting my head so I fix my gaze upon Him alone. My husband lovingly gives his counsel to me, and my sisters in the Lord pray on my behalf. I am so thankful for my husband and friends, yet I know that as God calls me “further still,” I am the one who has to continue stepping forward with confidence in Him. No one can do that for me. He reminds me to look to Him alone, to please Him and not people.

In his book Reflecting His Image, KP Yohannan writes, “You see, when it is only God and you, you are more apt to face your pride and your sins. With everyone else we argue these things away and look wonderful and smile. But when we are all alone before God, we face ourselves, and the cleansing and purification will take place. We become less phony the more we are with the Lord.”

Is God calling you further still today? Our Heavenly Father is completely faithful and entirely trustworthy. He stands with His strong and loving arms opened wide beckoning you to take steps of faith in your walk with Him. Though the place you step may be unfamiliar, remember He has gone before you. He wants you to see more of Him - His flawless character and His amazing love. He has a heart full of treasures to unearth for you.

Dear Lord, You are perfectly faithful and trustworthy. As You gently take my hand to lead me further still with You, fill me with Your peace and courage. Fix my gaze on You alone. Thank you for the heart full of treasures You have for me. As You unearth them in me, use my life to glorify and honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

P31 Woman magazine

Application Steps:
Make time every day to be alone with God. Seek His face in prayer and in His Word.

Read John 15:1-17.

If He is beckoning you to go “further still” will Him, prayerfully trust Him as He leads you forward.

Remember those precious seasons in your walk with Him when He matured your faith and revealed more of Himself to you.

Power Verses:
Daniel 2:47, “The king said to Daniel, ‘Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries…’” (NIV)

Isaiah 41:13, “For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand, and says to you, ‘Do not fear, for I will help you.’” (NIV)

Jeremiah 32:41, “I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.” (NIV)

Wobbly Steps
By Melanie Chitwood

“I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.” Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG)

After several months of continuous stress and challenges, I felt like giving up and saying, “This is just too hard, God. Find someone else for this assignment!”

Then, through an adorable little girl, God gave me encouragement to press on.

One-year-old Catherine is learning to walk. She takes a few wobbly steps and then falls down. She sits for a minute, as if to gather her determination, and then she pushes herself back up on her little legs. With each step Catherine attempts, we cheer her on like it’s the greatest thing we’ve ever seen, as if we’ve never seen anyone walk before.

Then, when Catherine is getting tired or frustrated, her mom reaches down and holds her little hand. Catherine looks up at her mom, where she finds just the extra encouragement she needs to push herself back up and keep going. One wobbly step after another.

I think that’s how God looks at us. Even our wobbly, uncertain steps please Him. He will never give up on us, and He will never be disdainful of our imperfect attempts to obey Him. He sees our hearts, which want to please Him, and He cares much more about our surrendered hearts than our perfect performance.

When we feel discouraged, frustrated or tired, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus where we’ll find just what we need to press on.

Dear Lord, You know just how I feel. I feel discouraged, tired, and overwhelmed. I find such comfort in realizing that You know all about my feelings and all about my circumstances. As I set my eyes on You rather than my problems or my imperfect performance, I thank You that you will give me strength to press on and not to turn back. Thank You for holding my hand and walking with me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

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

What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

Application Steps:
Pray about the challenge you’re facing that threatens to discourage you. Sometimes we think about the challenges, but we forget actually to pray about them. As you pray, hold out your hand. Imagine Jesus taking your hand in His and walking with you.

When we face challenges, we have a tendency to do one of the following: to give up entirely, or to keep trying harder in our own efforts. Which do you tend to do?

Do you think you’re facing the challenges in your life the way God wants you to?

Power Verses:

Psalm 37:24 “When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.” (NASB)

Hebrews 12:2, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Melanie Chitwood. All rights reserved.

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