Advent All Year
Marybeth Whalen

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7 (NIV)

The word “advent” means “to come.” So the advent season we are entering is a time of preparing for Christ to come. Figuratively, we are to see ourselves in the place of those who sought the newborn Savior: the shepherds, the wise men, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna. This season becomes a time to turn our hearts towards the practice of seeking Him. And indeed, during this festive time on the calendar, many hearts are turned, and many intentions renewed. This is part of the excitement of Christmas!

In the gospels, Jesus refers to the Church as His bride. He speaks of a day when He will come for the Church and there will be a wedding ceremony like no one has ever seen! In the midst of a struggling economy, failing marriages, and brokenness everywhere I look, that is a vision that motivates me beyond my circumstances. And yet, is it a vision that is kept within the confines of Christmas? Or can we look for Jesus to come all year?

When Jesus used the marriage analogy to describe His relationship with His people, He knew that His listeners would attach certain cultural perceptions about marriage to this word picture. In Biblical times, it was common for an engaged couple to spend a year apart. The bride would spend time with her mother and other women she respected, learning to run a household and getting prepared, becoming a student of the desires and expectations of her groom. She took this time very seriously as she readied her heart and life for what was to come. The groom also spent time preparing. He would spend his time making a home for them to live in, the place he would bring his bride to with pride. Both parties had a pivotal role to play.

What a beautiful picture this is for the Church and her Bridegroom! Christ has, as promised, gone to prepare a place for us. While we are apart, we can trust that He is working to build something beautiful. But we have an equally important role to play. While we are apart, we must learn what it takes to be His bride. We must study Him, learning how to keep His house in a way that pleases Him. This is not merely a suggestion, but an expectation. We can’t lose that expectation in the shuffle of changing times and cultures! We know that He keeps His promises, so we can trust that He is building our house for us. Don’t we want to be a bride who is prepared?

Though traditionally the season of advent is hemmed in between the dates of Thanksgiving and New Year’s, let’s not leave it there. Let’s make this season merely the beginning of our preparation for what is to come. We can commit this time that we are apart from our Bridegroom to prepare for Him, to anticipate His return, and to focus not only on when He came, but when He is coming again.

Dear Lord, thank You for coming and thank You for the promise that You will return. Lord, I want to prepare for You as Your bride, learning about You and drawing close to You. Thank You for preparing a place for me and finding me worthy to be Your bride. I want to make my whole life a season of advent—a time of anxiously anticipating what is to come. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Advent: Making Christmas about Christ by Lisa Robertson

Marybeth’s Christmas e-book, A Recipe for Christmas JOY

Visit Marybeth Whalen’s blog

Application Steps:
What are some ways that you personally are preparing for Jesus’ return?

Make a list of ways that you can be intentional about becoming a student of your Bridegroom.

Spend time in prayer, thanking and praising Him, for what He came to do and for the promise of His return.

Have you ever stopped to consider what your role is as Jesus’ bride? How has thinking of it this way altered your perspective?

How can you celebrate advent all year, every year?

Power Verses:
Matthew 25:5, “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.” (NIV)

I Thessalonians 5:6, “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.” (NIV)

Romans 13:11, “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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My Thanksgiving
Rachel Olsen

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” 1 Chronicles 16:34 (NASB)

This morning I will wake up thankful. Not because my life is perfect and I have everything I could want or need, but because I’m taking the time to count my blessings and give thanks to God.

I’ll be thankful that my husband and I are off work today, and that we have work to return to.

I’ll be thankful that my children are able to enjoy a day of play at home, and thankful that they have days of learning ahead that will help shape them into who God intends them to be.

I’ll go downstairs. As I pass my desk on my way to the kitchen, I’ll select one of several Bibles on my shelf.

I’ll be thankful for the Word of God that I am able to freely read, distribute, and teach in this country.

Mostly likely, I’ll do as I did last year and put on my “Through All Generations” CD. It’s an album of hymns recorded by my friend Gwen Smith.

I’ll be thankful for the various friends in my life – both far and near – who enrich me, challenge me, lend me their ear, pray for me, and make me laugh. And I’ll be especially grateful for the friendship of God.

I’ll also be thankful for the blessing of music and its ability to lift my mood, touch my heart, energize my body, and connect my soul to an eternal God.

I’ll turn the lights of my Christmas tree on – I like to have my tree up by Thanksgiving Day. The lights and ornaments will twinkle amidst the backdrop of an evergreen tree.

I’ll thank God for giving us some trees that stay green all year long despite the cold weather.

I will thank Him for giving us the day and the night, and the stars that twinkle in the sky. I will also be grateful for the Light of the World and the eternal life that He brings, represented by the evergreens in our holiday decorations.

Soon it will be time to start cooking the Thanksgiving meal. In my home that will be turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, green beans, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy. Oh, and deviled eggs.

I’ll be thankful for God’s provision of food – including thankful for the farmers and ranchers, and for the kind family member who gives us a turkey and a box of sweet potatoes every year.

I’ll remember contributing to a local church’s Thanksgiving ministry for those less fortunate, and I’ll be thankful for the people who act as the hands and feet of Christ in ministry – they inspire me.

As I cook, I’ll set aside any cans, plastic bags and cardboard boxes to put into our recycling bin.

I’ll be thankful for this beautiful planet teeming with life and flowing with water that God entrusted to humankind to steward. And I’ll look forward to the day when I, like the writer of the book of Revelation, see a new earth recreated by God, free of Satan’s influence.

More family members will join us and we will gather around my kitchen table to eat. We are no Norman Rockwell painting - our family has its struggles and issues just like the next family. But on this evening, we will set aside any differences as we laugh together, talk together, pray together, and eat together.

I’ll be thankful for the bond of family – that there are people who know you fully, and love you anyway. And I’ll be grateful for the family of God to which I am bonded through Christ.

After dinner we’ll play cards or board games, or perhaps watch a movie. Then I’ll say goodbye to our guests, tuck my children in bed, sit and reflect on the day. I will ask God to show me any blessings I missed or failed to count, because I’m convinced each one of us has more to be thankful for than we ever notice. Today, let’s purpose to notice, and to be grateful.

Dear Lord, thank You for the blessings You have bestowed – help me notice them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Through All Generations CD by Gwen Smith

As we close this year with thanks, let’s open next year with gratitude by spending each day in the Word with the One Year Chronological Bible (NLT)

Submit a praise report of thanks and gratitude!

Visit Rachel at her blog today

Application Steps:
Pause to count your blessings today. A grateful heart can usher you into God’s presence.

Stop by my blog and share something you are grateful for today. The ability to connect with others via the internet is one of the blessings on my list!

Perhaps you don’t have family at home with you today, or much food to prepare, or a Christmas tree to gather by. But you have a godly purpose to fulfill in this earth, a world of beauty outside your door, and most importantly, you have eternal life and the friendship of God available to you. Do You Know Him?

Power Verses:
2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (NASB)

© 2008 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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Gift Giving Wisdom
Sharon Glasgow

“She sees that her trading is profitable.” Proverbs 31:18 (NIV)

This weekend holds the busiest shopping days of the year as people rush out to buy holiday gifts for friends and family. It’s so hard to find the “perfect gift” for everyone on your list.

I’m reminded of a gift I once received that I didn’t much care for. Everybody was staring at me as I opened the present. My acting abilities aren’t exactly silver screen quality, but as I pulled the suit out of the tissue, I mustered every ounce of enthusiasm I could, “Thank you … you shouldn’t have!”

The style of the clothing just wasn’t “me.” With a quick glance, I also noticed that it was about 3 sizes too big. Whew, that will be my excuse, I thought, its just way too big. She asked me to try it on. “Oh Sharon, it’s perfect on you!” What was she looking at? It swallowed me whole.

I was thankful that she had blessed me with a gift but after staring at it for a week, I just couldn’t bear the thought of wearing it. There were no price tags on it for me to exchange it, so I decided I would take it to a consignment store to sell.

The next week I was shopping with my girls. Walking by the suit section of a department store, my eyes caught glimpse of the same suit I had just taken to the consignment shop. A hot flash went over my face as I saw the price.

The price tag said $280. What?! How could anyone spend that much money on me? Immediately I called the consignment shop I’d left it at. They were closed until Monday.

Monday morning 15 minutes before they opened I was at their door waiting anxiously. As soon as it was unlocked, I pushed through the door and quickly asked if they still had my suit. They had to go to the back to find out. The minutes ticked by like years. They found it! “Funny thing is ma’am that was the most popular suit this past weekend, many tried it on but it didn’t fit anyone.” “Thank you,” I said and I took the suit back out of the shop.

I took it back to my friend, thanked her, and told her it was a beautiful suit but it just wasn’t my style and didn’t fit properly. No, I didn’t tell her the whole consignment shop story, I probably never will - unless she reads this!

My point is, choosing gifts is hard even for talented shoppers or even for those with plenty to spend. Receiving gifts can be just as hard sometimes. This holiday, speak up if someone asks you what you need or would like to receive. Try asking friends and family to window-shop (online or in a store that you have access to) and make a list of items they like. Or ask them if there is a service you can treat them to like a car wash, a night of babysitting, or a manicure. Gift certificates are usually a good choice as well.

Shopping this way may not seem “special” enough, but it’s better to be wise with the money God entrusts you with than to gamble on buying an expensive gift the recipient might dislike, or worse, consign to sell. Not only the money, but the time you spent shopping would be wasted.

Finally, remember that the good news of the baby Jesus is the greatest Christmas gift ever given, and it doesn’t cost a dime to share it with those on your gift-list this year.

Dear Lord, help me to be wise this year in my gift-giving and make the best use of my shopping time and money. Help me bless others and bring glory to You this Christmas. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Homespun Gifts from the Heart by Karen Ehman

Can Martha Have a Mary Christmas? by Brenda Poinsett

Consider sharing God’s peace, perspective and purpose with a gift subscription to P31 Woman Magazine

Application Steps:
Be a good listener throughout the year and when someone mentions something they would like, write it down for future shopping.

Consider how to show the eternal gift of Christ’s love to your loved ones.

Are you anxious about holiday gift-giving?

Have you set a pre-determined amount you will spend on gifts?

You’ll have more time to celebrate Christ this Christmas if you get organized regarding your budget and gift-giving now.

Power Verses:
2 Corinthians 9:7, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. “ (NKJ)

Luke 6:38, “Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (NKJ)

Ecclesiastes 7:12, "Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor." (NIV)

© 2008 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

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I’m Right There With Ya’
Sylvia Basham, She Speaks! Graduate

“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” John 14:18 (KJV)

“I’m right there with ya’!” a mom of a three-year-old boy commiserated to another mom of a three-year-old boy. We were at an all-day volleyball tournament for our daughters and the little tikes (as well as the moms) had already had about as much excitement as they could take. We were all having a late-afternoon meltdown.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I overheard this exchange, and I thought, “I wish I was right there with ya’.” My son Jonathan, had he lived, would have been there also.

Before the trickle of tears could become a raging river, God’s truth proclaimed in my heart, “I AM right there with ya’!” I smiled through my tear-blurred vision and thanked God for His comfort, and for the hope I have in Him. I thanked Him for sustaining me through this journey of grief.

I am thankful that I can be content that I have Christ and He is all I need. As our key verse tells us, Jesus will not leave us comfortless. He will be there. It is a journey to get to that place of contentment in Him, and wanting more than anything else on this earth to be right there with Him. It is also a destination that can be reached if we don’t misplace our hope.

My experience has made me realize there are hurting people, especially as we approach special days during our holiday season, who will be grieving and missing a loved one. This grief may feel all-consuming at times, and they may forget that Christ is right there with them. They will have misplaced their hope. Just as mine had been misplaced in the past, their focus will be on what they don’t have instead of Who they do have. The temporary will displace the eternal, leaving them feeling empty.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 says, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (NIV). Having hope when others do not is a choice to believe that this scripture is true.

Now there’s where I really want to be. As Isaiah 35:10b says, “Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” That’s what a life filled with hope looks like.

It’s incredible how the grief still sneaks up on me sometimes – how moments like that one at the volleyball game make me feel so alone and how my heart is still so tender especially around those special dates. At those times, the journey continues as I draw closer to my true Hope. He is right there with me as I remain right there with Him.

Dear Lord, In times of grief, help me remember You are my Hope and You are right there with me. I pray You open my eyes and heart to others who are hurting and help me remind them of the Hope. Please give me boldness and compassion during this season to introduce the ultimate Hope to others in need of hope. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Spend time in the shelter of your Hope with the Sanctuary Devotional Bible (NLT)

Through a Season of Grief by Bill Dunn and Kathy Leonard

Listen to Today’s Radio Show to hear how God showed up with hope on a rainy day.

Application Steps:
Read and meditate on Psalm 42.

Have I forgotten where my hope lies? What things am I allowing to blur my hope? What should be my remedy?

Am I spending time refocusing on my Hope, right there with Him in His word and in prayer, each day?

Is there someone in my life who is in need of direction, or redirection, to true Hope?

Power Verses:
Psalm 42:11, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (NIV)

Psalm 16:8, “I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (NIV)

Jeremiah 31:13, “Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” (NIV)

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Thank You Power
Rachel Olsen

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

In my (part-time) job as a university teacher, I’m frequently reading research. I know, I know … it sounds as dry as an over-cooked turkey. Sometimes it is but often I find interesting stuff in that scientific prose. For example, this week I read about a study from the University of California that showed just how great it is to be grateful.

The researchers found that grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, more satisfaction with life, and more vitality and optimism. All good qualities I want more of in my life. They also found grateful people show lower levels of depression and stress - two things I’d like to experience less in my life.

What’s more, they found that people who keep journals about gratitude on a weekly basis are healthier. They exercise more regularly, report fewer physical symptoms, and feel better in general than people who journal about neutral or negative life events. That sounds great, and I’ll take all the help I can get in the exercise department.

Finally, the research showed that people who daily count their blessings report higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, and energy. Wow, the benefits of being grateful are remarkable and many! I guess that shouldn’t surprise me after considering today’s key verse. The Bible urges us to give thanks … all the time … in every situation … because this practice is the will of God.

Let me be clear, there are terrible things that happen to us that may not be the will of God, but us praising God and giving thanks in spite of them certainly is the will of God. As Christians, we can always find reason to give thanks – thanks for the salvation of Christ, the nearness of God, and the counsel of His Spirit for starters. The psalmist declared, “I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High” (Psalm 7:17, NIV). We can do that too.

Christian poet John Milton once wrote about every grey cloud having a silver lining. Purposing to give thanks, no matter the weather, will train us to look for it. Continuing in this manner day after day ensures that gratefulness will become our normal mode of operation.

No wonder those researchers found that people regularly counting their blessings grow happier, healthier, and more optimistic. After all, that research wasn’t discovering anything new, but rather confirming the will and wisdom of God. God already knows how great it is for us to be grateful. Now “science” does too.

What can you give thanks for today?

Dear Lord, thank You for this day. Thank You for Your Son and Your Spirit, given to me. Thank You for the provision of shelter and food I have today. And Lord, thank You for this reminder to become more mindful of my blessings. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Visit Rachel Olsen’s blog

Thankful Heart by Carole Lewis

Do You Know Him?

Application Steps:
Start a gratitude journal. At the end of each day between now and Christmas, take a few minutes to jot down 3-5 things you are thankful for. Keep the notebook and pencil by your bed. Your list can include “big” things like good health, or “little” things like pansies in bloom. Give thanks to God for all of these.

See if you feel any happier, healthier, or more optimistic after a few weeks of regularly giving thanks. I’ll be doing this right along with you, so stop by my blog to let me know how it’s going with you, and to read some of the things for which I’m thankful.

How often do I give thanks to God?

Do I notice, or remember, the little blessings in my days?

Do I want to feel happier, be healthier, and think more optimistically? More importantly, do I want to do the will of God?

Power Verses:
Psalm 118:19, “Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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The Best I Can Do
Marybeth Whalen

“Is anyone of you in trouble? He should pray. Is any one happy? Let him sing songs of praise.” James 5:13 (NIV)

I waited for my friend’s small group leader to finish her conversation with another lady before I shyly asked her if she had heard from my friend, whose husband had left her just a few weeks before. I knew my friend was probably not going to be at Bible study but I wanted to make sure she was doing okay. Her small group leader told me she had spoken with my friend and that she was, considering the circumstances, doing well. I told her I was glad to hear that, and asked if she knew of anything I could do for my friend during this difficult trial. Her leader put her hand on my shoulder and replied, “I told her that people will say that all they can do is pray. But really, that’s the best we can do. We can pray for her. We can storm the gates of heaven on her behalf. She needs our prayers right now so we will just keep praying.”

As I walked away, I thought about our conversation and wondered how many times I had idly commented that praying was “all I could do.” What I meant was that my prayers were a last resort, something to do when there was nothing else I could do – no meals I could bring, no Band-Aids I could apply to the hurt, no actions I could take. And yet, I was missing the best possible response I could have. I needed that reminder that praying is not a last resort, it’s a first response. It’s not the action of a powerless, hopeless person whose hands are tied in every other way. It’s the powerful, Heaven-summoning activity of a warrior who doesn’t want to fight alone. Praying, as I learned that morning, isn’t all I can do, it’s the best I can do.

Are you facing a situation right now that you can’t do anything about? Maybe you are watching someone go through something that you can’t help with. Do you wonder what good it will do to pray? Do you despair of anything changing, or of your prayers helping? Have you, like me, shrugged your shoulders and commented that all you have left is prayer—when really your prayers are exactly what is needed?

Let’s focus today on doing what’s best. Let’s get on our knees for ourselves, our family members, our spouses, our children, our neighbors, our friends and our nation. Let’s focus on the power in our prayers. Our intercession, and nothing more, might be exactly what God desires. Let’s not forget that we can offer the most help when we are on our knees.

Dear Lord, Thank You for being there any time I need to come to You. Thank You for giving us a way to talk to You and for Your promise that You will hear us when we pray. Help me to remember that prayer isn’t all I can do, it’s the best I can do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

31 Days of Prayer by Ruth Myers

Recipe for Christmas Joy e-book by Marybeth Whalen

Visit Marybeth Whalen’s blog

Application Steps:
Is there someone on your heart today who needs your prayers? Spend today lifting that person up, then send them a card telling them that you have been praying and will continue to. Include any verses that God brought to mind as you prayed. You never know when these verses will serve as a powerful comfort or confirmation of what God is doing in their life.

Do you see prayer as the best thing you can do or is it a last resort?

How can you make a shift in attitude and begin to see the power of prayer, going to God first when trouble comes instead of after all other efforts have been exhausted?

Power Verses:
James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (NIV)

Luke 18:1, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (NIV)

Psalm 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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What if I Don’t Want to Trust?
Lysa TerKeurst

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)

I hated middle school. It was one of the worst times of my life. I constantly felt my life was like one of those snow globes. As soon as things would settle and seem normal, something would come along, turn life upside down, and pieces of my scattered world were suddenly tumbling all around me.

Interestingly enough, my daughter who is in middle school right now, collects snow globes. Oh, the ironies of life. And her life has taken some upside down turns lately. Friendships, academics, emotions - they all seemed to be in constant upheaval.

I know a lot of this is normal for middle school. I've lived through the angst of these years with my two sons and my oldest daughter. But with this particular child, I was sensing a change was going to be needed.

For over 3 years, she has been attending a small Christian school that I love. The classes are small. The students get lots of attention and hands on learning. And they start everyday with a beautiful devotion time. This seemed to me, to be the very best environment for her to be in.

But this year, things just started falling apart. Doors started closing. And as much as I wanted to force the doors to stay open and to make things work for her in this small schooling environment, I knew I had to back off. I love to fix things... a.k.a. control things to make them easier to deal with.

Then the Lord started challenging me to turn all my fix-it energy to prayer and embrace what He was doing. I won't lie, it was very hard.

Things unfolded that I didn't want. Tears were shed over things I could have fixed, but knew the Lord was challenging me not to. And then one day my precious, full-of-life girl refused to get out of bed and go back to school.

So, I embraced another option. The option the Lord had been impressing on my heart that I'd been so resistant to even consider. I took her by the hand and walked her into the halls of our local public middle school containing over 1,400 kids.

I got her enrolled and watched the tears roll down her cheeks as it was time for me to leave her in her first class.

I pressed a card full of handwritten Bible verses into her back pack that I had also doused with my perfume that morning. I reminded her that every time she smelled it, to remember the many, many prayers I'd be praying for her all throughout the day. I gave one last hug and walked away.

Everything in me wanted to run back and whisk her away. I think just about everything in her wanted me to do some whisking as well. But I knew the Lord was challenging both of us to embrace this. To trust Him. To lean not on our own understanding but to press into His.

And you know what? She survived.

She got into her big brother's car that afternoon where I was waiting on his cell phone. Breathlessly she exclaimed, "It was great. I made two new friends but I don't remember their names. I didn't like my first or last class but I can deal with those. I loved everything else."

Now, I'm no fool. I know there will be hard days to come. But our plan is to keep embracing what God has for her today. To trust Him with today. And then tomorrow. And then the next day.

Dear Lord, forgive me for sometimes having a hard time trusting Your plans. Forgive me for trying to lean on my own understanding rather than embracing Yours. Help my faith and trust in You grow, day by day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa TerKeurst’s blog

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst

The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
What are you having to trust God with right now?

Visit Lysa’s blog for more practical thoughts on trusting God.

Remember... One day at a time. We can't let fears or worries over tomorrow steal our joy for today. One prayer at a time. We can't forget the source for all wisdom, perspective and peace is but a prayer away. One step of faith at a time. If I'm going to call myself a woman of faith, I'm going to have to be willing to live a life that actually requires a little bit of faith. Off to write some more verses and spray some more perfume...

Power Verses:
Jeremiah 17:7, “"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.” (NIV)

John 14:1, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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Power Surge
Amy Carroll

“Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by gettingto know, personally and intimately, the One [Jesus] who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received!” 2 Peter 1:3 (Message)

After another act of childish disobedience, my tiny cousin stuck out her chin, grit her teeth, and spat out the phrase that had become her signature: “I didn’t do it, and I won’t do it again!”

Unfortunately, her slogan is often too close to the truth of my own life. In my own strength and with a huge dose of denial, I struggle with my weight, plus trying to control my wagging tongue, and to fight my self-sufficient attitude. Now, I’ve aired my (partial) list of dirty laundry and bad habits. Do you have a list of your own?

If you do, you can take a trip to Barnes and Noble and find a whole shelf or two of self-help books to aid you in overcoming these. There will be authors who address everything from negative thinking to bad behavior in your marriage. However, I’m not convinced about the power of the human spirit to overcome these problems. I have gone from Weigh Down to weight back up. I’ve moved from South Beach where the beautiful people live, back to the North Beach where those who could stand to lose a few reside. I’ve done “Weight Watchers,” only to rejoin Cake Watchers. I’m pretty disciplined in lots of areas, but in others I fail over and over again. As many times as I repeat “...and I won’t do it again,” I end up doing it again.

Our struggle with sin is the same way. I think everyone would say they want to be a good person, but most of us also often feel powerless to do so. The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that He Himself gives us the power. All we have to do is tell Him that we need Him, ask forgiveness for past sins, and build a relationship with Him personally. In 2 Peter 1:3 in the New International Version it says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (emphasis added).

The truth is, I really am powerless to overcome sin on my own. The Good News, though, tells me that God has provided all the power that I need through a relationship with His son Jesus. I think I’ll head back to Barnes and Noble to return that stack of self-help books. I’m definitely a work in progress, but I have all the help I need.

Dear Lord, I turn to You for help. I can’t deny that I act in ways that offend a perfect God, and I acknowledge these things as sin. I ask for Your forgiveness. I want to give my life to You and build a personal relationship with You. Thank you for loving me and accepting me. I’m so grateful that in You I find the power for change. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

i am not but i know I AM by Louie Giglio

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

Visit Amy Carroll’s blog

Application Steps:
Read the Gospel of John in the Bible. It’s a great way to get to know Jesus!

Find a person who has been a Christian for a long time. Ask him/her to teach you about Bible study, prayer, and living the Christian life.

What areas in my life am I obviously powerless to change?

Have I come to the end of my own rope? Am I ready to agree that I need a Savior?

Power Verses:
John 14:6, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (NIV)

Romans 10: 9-10, “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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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Making the Christian Life a Reality
Micca Monda Campbell

“God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” I Corinthians 1:9 (NIV)

For a long time I was confused about the Christian life. After I trusted Christ to be my personal Savior, life didn’t change as I had hoped.

At first, I was filled with genuine joy and passion. I couldn’t get enough of God and His Word. I prayed a lot, attended church a lot, shared my faith a lot, and spent a lot of time reading my Bible. But somewhere along the way, I grew weary. My attempt to live the Christian life in my own strength quickly gave out. Why didn’t it last? I wondered.

I’m not alone in my struggles. Many believers I meet are just as confused as I was. Guilt ridden, some give up while others choose to just pretend. Then, there are those that still desire but question, “Is a changed life even possible? If so, why isn’t it a reality in my life?” It’s often why we came to Christ in the first place – for freedom, forgiveness, peace, and purpose. Yet, instead of living an empowered life, many of us are living an exhausting one.

I could sense there was something more, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing. Discouraged, I’d speculate…Could it be that God isn’t holding up His end of the agreement? Or, is it me? Maybe you’ve asked yourself the same questions.

It took a long while before I realized that the Christian life isn’t about following a bunch of rules. It’s not even about trying my best to be good. The Christian life is all about relationship. It’s about knowing and loving the God who already knows and loves us. It’s about being a friend of God. This changes everything.

Friendship requires commitment. The same is true in our companionship with the Lord. We often neglect vital portions of our relationship with Him. Sometimes that neglect is due to a lack of understanding in how to commune with Him. Other times it is sin or apathy in our lives causing us to overlook our need to fellowship with God.

In order to stay passionate about our faith, and live an empowered life free from sin, you and I must participate in our friendship with God by:

1.) Abiding in Christ. (John 15:4, NIV)
2.) Praying daily. (Mark 1:35, NIV)
3.) Meditating on God’s Word. (Joshua 1:8, NIV)
4.) Putting off the old and putting on the new. (Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV)
5.) Being continually filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18, NIV)
6.) Exercising God-given gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, NIV)
7.) Actively sharing the gospel with others. (Mark 16:15, NIV)

Which of these areas are you lacking in? Could that be the key to jump-starting your empowered-by-the-Spirit life?

The Christian life is real, satisfying, and available to all who are willing to have an on-going daily relationship with the Lord. Once I came to understand my role and participate in the relationship, I found the empowered life I was looking for. I’m convinced you can too.

Dear Lord, I have neglected my relationship with You. Forgive me. Lord, I want to know You and Your ways. Reveal Yourself and Your power in my life as I commit to uphold my friendship with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Who Holds the Key to Your Heart? by Lysa TerKeurst

The Air I Breathe by Louie Giglio

Visit Micca Campbell’s blog for more in-depth information on living out steps 1-7.

Application Steps:
Look again at steps 1-7 above … what is missing from your daily routine? Implement those things and watch your relationship with God come alive.

How has your life changed since you came to Christ?

Would you describe your Christian life as an empowered one or an exhausted one? Explain.

What areas of your relationship with God have you neglected lately? What do you plan to do about it?

Power Verses:
2 Corinthians 13:14, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (NIV)

John 10:10b, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have life more abundantly.” (KJV)

© 2008 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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License to Sin
Tracie Miles

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

I heard the following story on the radio one day …

Since her divorce, a mother had been consumed with guilt for not being able to hold her marriage together. She felt bad for her children in the wake of the divorce, and wanted them to be happy. So she refrained from punishing her children. She felt that if she could be the nicest mom in the world, her children would be happier. As a result, she continually allowed her teenage son to treat her disrespectfully and take advantage of her. The younger children eventually began to mirror the actions of the teenager. The result was that the children were not happier and their mom continually struggled with feelings of insecurities.

I felt sad for this mother. The radio host stated that the actions of this mother were actually giving her children a “license to sin.” That statement really struck me. Do I give my children a license to sin?

I thought about the process of teaching a child to drive. We ride beside them, teaching them the rules of the road, and when they master those rules, they can get their license. In the same way, as children grow, we teach them the ways to live and to treat others, and at a certain age they are given a license to live independently. What we’ve taught them up until that point will greatly determine the direction they will go once on their own.

When we avoid disciplining our children, we neglect to help them develop godly character. Not teaching them what the Bible says about respecting parents and other adults, and holding them to it, is like an invitation to sin. Not disciplining them is like giving them a license to continue sinning this way day after day. If children are allowed to behave in ways that are not only disrespectful, but also displeasing in God’s eyes, they will eventually begin to believe that the misbehavior is acceptable, and this can cause life-long problems.

Throughout scripture, we find biblical references on the importance of teaching children to respect and obey their parents. Although disciplining our children is not pleasurable, it is a part of parenting according to God. Being a parent is not just a responsibility, it is a calling. If God has blessed you with children to raise, or even just to influence, then He has called you to instruct that child in the ways of the Lord. He has given you a ministry to carry out each and every day right inside your home. That ministry includes providing loving discipline.
Although you want what is best for your children, perhaps you hesitate to hold them accountable for their actions because you have grown wary of being a disciplinarian.

Maybe you have a health issue that prevents you from doing all the things you would like to do as a mom, so you feel guilty when you have to punish your children.

Maybe you have financial restraints that prevent you from buying things for your kids that all the other kids seem to have.

Maybe you harbor guilt for being unmarried, separated, or divorced.

Maybe you simply do not feel qualified to hold the title of “mom.”

If you are practicing the art of self-condemnation due to any of the above circumstances, or for different reasons, friend, you are listening to the wrong voice. The enemy lurks at all times, waiting for opportunities to pull our children away from us and ultimately away from God. As parents, we must be dedicated to developing our children into all that God intends for them to be, and that requires not only discipline, but a faith that depends on the Lord to guide all of our actions.

The happiest and most secure children are ones whose parents strive to both nurture them and to teach them appropriate conduct according to the Bible. God disciplines His children for their benefit, and expects us to do the same with those He has entrusted to our care.

Dear Lord, grant me the courage to be the parent You want me to be. Help me control my temper and my anger, so that I can discipline my children in a loving way that will help them see You in me. Help me both display and teach godly character. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Be the Parent, Seven Great Choices You Can Make to Raise Great Kids by Kendra Smiley

Being a Great Mom Raising Great Kids by Sharon Jaynes

For more parenting tips and discussion, visit Tracie Miles’ blog

Application Steps:
Read the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy.

Am I neglecting to teach my children appropriate behavior? Why?

If I were stricter with my children about their behavior, would it help them to better build godly character?

Power Verses:
Leviticus 19:3, “Each of you must respect his mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God.” (NIV)

Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother – which is the first commandment with a promise – that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (NIV)

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Psalm 131
Rachel Olsen

“… I have calmed and quieted myself like a little weaned child with its mother …” Psalm 131:2a (HCSB)

I found Psalm 131 curious at first read. It is very short – only three verses long. (You can read it in the power verses section below.) In it, the writer David portrays himself as a child who has been weaned.

Several places in scripture God is depicted as a mother, even a nursing mother. This may seem jarring if you are used to His “God the Father” title, but it’s a warm and nurturing picture of God. It conveys a loving life-giver who wants to see their child grow up healthy and strong. Psalm 131 shows us that weaning must take place in order for that to happen.

My first-born would rather nurse than do just about anything the first 12 months of her life. She was not interested in crib toys, stuffed animals, blankets, the baby swing, a pacifier, or a bottle. She only wanted to nurse, nearly all the time. She didn’t need that much food – all that nursing made her happy but it also made her chubby. Plus, she couldn’t go on nursing forever. While she was getting more nutrition than she needed at the time, it wouldn’t provide all she would need in the coming years. She had to wean and learn to eat the more mature food I put on the table.

Weaning caused some anxiety for my sweet daughter. She did not like having what was comfortable and familiar taken away. Sometimes she would even throw tantrums over it. However, once the weaning process was complete, she was content with her new reality. Through the weaning process, her appetites were changed. It also gave her more time to master walking and enjoy playing. She was now able and eager to stand at her mother’s side and explore her world as a toddler.

Determining the right time to wean depends on the child and the parent but when the time comes, weaning involves withholding from the child what he wants, but no longer needs. God often withholds things we want but do not need, in order to change our appetites. This is not meant to inflict anxiety or pain, but to mature us and prepare us for the next level in our walk with Him. Too often we want life to be easy and comfortable. We don’t want to grow up and face responsibilities. But that would lead to stunted development. We forget that growth and maturity are almost always forged through some type of hard work or difficultly.

Other times, however, we do want to grow up – WAY UP – and we get in a hurry to do so. We’re like the toddler who assumes she is can do everything herself. Psalm 131 speaks to this tendency in us as well. David says in the first verse that he keeps his soul from being too proud or overly ambitious. Basically, David is saying he has to make sure he doesn’t get too big for the britches God has given him!

The Message writer Eugene Peterson puts it this way: “God, I'm not trying to rule the roost, I don't want to be king of the mountain. I haven't meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans. I've kept my feet on the ground, I've cultivated a quiet heart …” (Psalm 131:1-2a).

Psalm 131 ends with David urging us to place our trust and hope in God. So today, I will not hope in my ambitions or grand plans for the future, nor will I desire an always-easy path so I don’t have to face difficulty. Rather I will leave all that to Him and I will simply stand at God’s side, ready to explore my day.

Dear Lord, remind me through Your Spirit to keep my ambitions and desires in check. May I grow and walk with You today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

i am not but i know I AM by Louie Giglio

Visit Rachel Olsen’s blog

Application Steps:
Read Psalm 131 in its entirety below.

Click over to Rachel’s blog to discuss today’s reflection questions.

Can you recall something you have “weaned” off of, and now your appetites are changed?

Is there something you are being weaned from now? Or something you know that God wants to wean you from?

Are you obsessing over ambitions or roles that you have created for yourself?

Power Verses:

Psalm 131, “My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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Even a Great Husband Makes a Very Poor God
Lysa TerKeurst

“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'I am the LORD your God…” Leviticus 18:2 (NIV)

I’ve often wished I could travel back 16 years ago and give my “young bride self” some advice. But since that’s not possible, I love sharing what I’ve learned with others.

Recently, I had dinner with a 28 year-old friend who would love to one day be married. During our time together the conversation flowed freely about all sorts of things. Blogs. Writing. Leaving your comfort zone because God said so. Biscuits. You know, girl stuff. And then we moved on to the subject of relationships and marriage.

I shared with my friend that when I was single I thought marriage was all about finding the right partner. I thought if you find "the one," you'll be happy, secure, and fulfilled. I do think it's good to have a list of standards that you look for in a spouse. However, it can never be with the expectation that if you find that special someone, he'll right all your wrongs and fill up all your insecurities. The problem with this thinking is the pressure it will eventually put on your spouse.
To expect another person to make you feel happy, secure, and fulfilled will leave you disappointed at best and disillusioned at worst. Even a great husband makes a very poor God.

Only God can settle those deep heart-needs. A man can never do this. If a husband could meet every need his wife had, we'd have no need for God. Therefore, instead of just focusing on finding the right partner, let God work on your heart to help you become the right partner. The time to start working on becoming a wife is now. Before the white dress, delicate bouquets, unity candle, bacon wrapped shrimp, and reception punch, there is some heart stuff to consider:

Getting married doesn't instantly make you selfless... it makes you realize how very selfish you can be at times.

Getting married doesn't make you feel loved... it makes you realize love is more of a decision you make than a feeling you feel.

Getting married doesn't take away loneliness... it makes you realize true companionship comes not when you demand it but rather when you give it to another person.

So, what does marriage give? A beautiful chance to make the choice to...

Laugh whether or not the jokes are funny.

Love by folding his collar over his tie every morning.

Pretend like you don't need flowers, but delight when he buys them anyway.

Cheer him on through both failures and successes.

Tell him he's a great man everyday.

Thank God for the privilege of being his wife.

After our time together, my friend thanked me for our talk. She said it gave her a lot to think about. To be honest, it gave me a lot to think about as well.

Dear Lord, only You can fill my heart, right my wrongs, and make me feel loved. I pray that You would show me how to keep my expectations of my husband in check. Help me to be the wife he desires. And help me to remember that marriage was never meant to make me happy all the time. Marriage is a decision to honor You by honoring the one you’ve entrusted to me to be my husband. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Click here to visit Lysa’s blog today and read about how she met her husband.

Capture His Heart by Lysa TerKeurst… perfect for those married or those just thinking about marriage!

The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained by Lysa TerKeurst

What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

Application Steps:
If you aren’t married yet, think of some ways God might want to work on your heart before marriage.

If you are married, think of a way you’ve tried to get your husband to fill a need that only God can meet. Pray and ask God how you can rely on God for this need instead of your husband.

Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I could be a great wife if only my husband would…”? Or, “If only I was married, I could really be…”

Remember, it is impossible to control what another person says or does. Therefore, waiting for your spouse to change in order for your relationship to get better, will only cause frustration. If, however, we take responsibility for our own actions and reactions, God can help us make real progress.

Power Verses:
Proverbs 3: 5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (NIV)

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

© 2008 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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Home: More than Just a Word
Marybeth Whalen

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10 (NIV)

I opened up my email to discover another one of those forwards we all get from time to time. I almost hit “delete” but my eye landed on this acronym for the word “Home”:

Honor the Lord
Obey His Word
Minister to one another
Establish walls of truth

I was glad I took a look at this forward, because it made me think about whether or not these four components are present in my home. When looked at it in this light, the word “home” means so much more than just a place to live. Isn’t that what we want all of our homes to be? More than a place to sleep and eat and occasionally clean, we want our homes to be a place where lives are shaped into God’s design. This little acronym zeroes in on four important goals we should have for our home. The exciting thing is, no matter who lives there, or what problems we are facing, or what limits we feel like we have, with effort and intention our homes can be places where these four things happen.

Honor the Lord: We can honor God with our lips, but yet our hearts can be far from Him (Mt. 15:8) — and the people who live with us will be the first to know when we do this! Let’s seek to honor Him behind the closed doors of our homes, living out our devotion to Him in a visible, gentle way as we realize that our families are watching.

Obey His Word: Obeying His Word at home is not always easy. The Bible tells us to be submissive to our husbands, to love others more than we love ourselves, and to pick up our cross (as we pick up after our children, or care for our elderly parents). When we do these things with humility, those we most want to impact will notice. More than that, they will file it away in their hearts, and our lives will echo in theirs in ways we can’t possibly foresee.

Minister to one another: Ministry requires us to love others, to reach others, and to lay down our lives for the sake of those God has placed in our sphere of influence. This must happen at home first. And yet, if we’re honest, it’s usually the last place it happens. We go out and give the best of what we have to offer to others, then give our leftovers to the people we profess to love the most. Let’s minister to those in our own homes first.

Establish walls of truth: When I first read this, I will confess that something prickled in me. Establish walls? How is it Biblical to establish walls? I questioned. However, I soon realized I was thinking of walls as a means to keep people out. When in actuality, we need to be building walls of truth—God’s truth, designed not to keep others out but to guard our hearts and give us a safe place to retreat and to rest. These walls of truth make our homes into fortresses—a place to run to when our daily battles wear us out.

These are not things we can just do once and move on. They are daily requirements, regular sacrifices, and even personal struggles. We won’t ever do it perfectly and there will be days we feel we are taking one step up and two steps back. But with God’s help, we can keep working to make H.O.M.E. mean so much more.

Dear Lord, make my home a place that includes these four components. I want my home to be more than just a place to live in—I want it to be a place where lives are impacted and relationships are strengthened. Lord, I need Your help to do these things. Thank You for Your promise to always help me when I ask. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Dwelling: Living Fully from the Space You Call Home by Mary Beth Lagerborg

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

To talk about practical ideas for our homes, visit Marybeth Whalen’s blog

Application Steps:
Choose one of the four components of the word HOME and concentrate on it today. Ask God to show you creative ways you can live for Him within the walls of your home.

How do you honor God, obey His word, minister to your family, and establish walls of Truth in your home? Can you share some practical ideas—even simple little things you have seen work? Pop over to Marybeth’s blog today and share your ideas if you wish.

Power Verses:
Isaiah 32:18, “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” (NIV)

Proverbs 3:33, “The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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“What If?”
Susanne Scheppmann

“Then Esther sent this message to Mordecai: ’Go and gather together all the Jews of Shushan and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day; and I and my maids will do the same; and then, though it is strictly forbidden, I will go in to see the king; and if I perish, I perish.’” Esther 4:15-16 (TLB)

“Are you afraid of snakes?” my friend’s son asked with a smirk.

I felt a surge of fear at the question. Then I noticed his hands hidden below the kitchen counter. I swallowed hard as I realized he probably held a snake in his twelve-year-old hands.

What if I answered, “Yes”?
What if he tossed it in my lap to watch my horrified reaction?

“Not much,” I answered.

Sure enough, he came around the corner holding a wiggly, white and orange snake.

However, my answer had clearly deflated his mischievous intentions. He brought the harmless critter closer but held it tightly in his hands. Bored with the result, he left the room with the snake in tow to find a different surprised soul with a phobia of snakes. I breathed a sigh of relief and unclenched my sweaty palms.

Don’t we often react in the same manner with God? We fear that if we decide to trust Him, He will allow something horrible in our lives. We ask ourselves all sorts of fear-filled questions. What if God sends me to be missionary in a remote country? What if I get cancer? What if He wants me to live a life of poverty? What if He takes one of my children? What if He desires I stay single? What if? What if? What if?

An ancient queen, Esther, faced a tremendous “what if” in her life. She was called upon to stand up to an evil man, Haman, at the risk of losing her life. At first, she reacted with a stout refusal. But her cousin Mordecai challenged her with these words, “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NLT). Esther overcame her fear and responded with the words found in our Key Verse, “though it is strictly forbidden, I will go in to see the king; and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:15-16 TLB).

I want that kind of courage. I desire to have God’s Spirit to overcome all my “what if” fears. I desire to trust Him in every area of my life. Whether it is in overcoming a fear of a silly, wiggly snake or a terrible, malevolent tyrant, I need His peace in my life.

Dear Lord, help me to overcome my fears of “what if” and to trust in Your divine purpose in my life. Give me Your peace when my fears rise up. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

This devotion is excerpted from Birds in My Mustard Tree by Susanne Scheppmann.

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
List the “what ifs” that you fear. Browse through your Bible concordance to find Scriptures that will help combat your fears.


Are my “what ifs” a result of needless worry or a likely reality?

How can I push through my fear?

Do I trust the Lord’s sovereign will in my life?

Power Verses:
Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (NIV)

Daniel 3:17-18, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (NIV)

[Excerpt © Randall House Publishing, 2008. Used by permission.]

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Clean House and Clean Heart
Tracie Miles

“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 (NLT)

I was tired of tripping over shoes, left over belongings, stray hangers, and dirty clothes!

I finally admitted I had to clean out my closet. After hours of sorting clothes, I stepped back to admire my clean, neatly organized closet. I breathed a sigh of relief and reveled in my success. Although it took quite a long time, it was well worth the effort. I could hardly wait to get up the next morning and enter my tidy closet, looking for my clothes with a fresh, new perspective.

Cleaning is something we all prefer to avoid, but its something that is necessary. When it comes to cleaning house, the more we neglect doing what is needed, the worse things get, and the longer it will to take to get clean again. That was the case with my closet.

As I admired my coordinated closet, I considered how our hearts are like messy houses at times. On the outside we look in order, but on the inside our hearts are full of clutter – clutter such as unforgiveness, bitterness, self-condemnation, sadness, lack of joy, worry and much more. All this clutter makes for a huge mess behind the closed doors of our hearts. Just as putting off cleaning our homes creates chaos around us, the longer we allow our hearts to stay cluttered and messy, the more messes our bad habits make in our lives. Think about the havoc negative self-talk, selfishness, or grumpy attitudes have caused in the past.

I felt God nudging me to do a little house cleaning, or should I say, heart cleaning. For example, in a house with two young teen daughters with changing hormones, busy social lives, and lots of drama, sometimes I have to remind myself that they need a happy mommy, not a grumpy mommy. They need a patient mom, not an impatient mom. They need a forgiving mom, not a mom who constantly reminds them of their mistakes. My husband needs a happy wife. My friends need a faithful friend. My church needs a willing servant.

The mentality of cleaning up our heart can apply to every area of our life – marriage, family, work, relationships, and even self-image. Let’s face it, as nice as a clean house is, it is more important to have a clean heart!

Today’s verse reminds us how we should desire a clean heart. When David prays this prayer, he desires a new heart, a clean heart, and a spirit that desires to be like Christ. David knew that the only way he could achieve a clean heart, was through the power of Christ. So it is the same with us. Therefore, we must ask God to create a new heart, a clean heart, within us and believe that as a result, our spirits will be renewed.

Maybe you know you have some serious house cleaning to do, but could it be you have some heart cleaning to do as well?

Dear Lord, I seek Your face today and ask You to restore in me a clean heart. Help me to rid of all the clutter in my heart which is keeping me at a distance from You, and preventing others from seeing You working in and through me. Infuse me with a desire to maintain a clean heart throughout each day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Cleaning up the Clutter by Emilie Barnes

My Heart’s At Home: Becoming the Intentional Mom Your Family Needs by Jill Savage

Visit Tracie Miles’ blog

Application Steps:
Pick an area of your home to de-clutter this weekend. As you clean, pray for God to purify your heart.

What has been burdening your heart lately? Is there some unforgiveness there? Bitterness? Or doubts?

Ask God to renew your perspective and help you begin the cleaning process.

Power Verses:
Jeremiah 17:9-10, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve." (NIV)

© 2008 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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Little Noises
Marybeth Whalen

“You have seen many things, but have paid no attention; your ears are open, but you hear nothing.” Isaiah 42:20 (NIV)

The squeaking that was coming from under the hood of my car was getting louder and louder, to an unavoidable degree. “Mom,” my son said as he got out of my car in the carpool line at school, “Please do something about that. It’s embarrassing.” I had to admit he was right. Something was definitely wrong with my car. The funny noise was a warning sign to attend to the problem lest I end up stranded on the side of the road with smoke billowing from the hood. Even though the noise was annoying and embarrassing, I had to admit I was grateful for the chance to attend to a problem before it got serious.

Whether it’s a squeak, a ping, a knock, or a rattle, we all have those little noises in our life as well. And even though they might drive us crazy, we have to admit that they can serve a great purpose. We need to be alerted to the more serious underlying problems that exist, lurking where we might not see them. God is gracious to provide those for us—if we will only learn to listen and respond. Those noises might annoy us, nag at us, and be most unwelcome sounds, but just think where we might end up without them!

There is that whiny sound that comes from a child who needs your attention and affirmation—an indication that perhaps a special day for just the two of you or a heart-to-heart conversation is needed.

There is that grumbling sound that comes from a husband who is feeling neglected—an indication that regular date nights need to be reinstituted in your marriage, and that less time should be spent on distractions and more time spent on him.

There is that rumbling earthquake noise that comes from a boss who has made one too many little comments about your job performance—an indication that it’s time to pray for God’s wisdom and for job security in these uncertain times.

There is that loud chainsaw noise that comes from bills that are stacking up and creditors that are calling—an indication that it might be time to get some help with managing your money.

There is that nails on chalkboard sound of all those little worries that nag at you—an indication that it’s time to get intentional about turning your worries and doubts over to God, laying them at His feet and trusting Him to take care of the rest.

Most of all, there is the noise of a gentle, rushing wind that is God’s constant whisper calling out to us—an invitation to draw close to Him and experience His presence, banishing the loneliness, hurt and rejection when we do.

What little noises are you hearing in your life? Do you need to attend to them now before a relationship suffers, or you lose something valuable? It’s hard to stop in the midst of all our busyness and attend to things that aren’t quite urgent yet. Still, those little noises are often big indicators of much deeper issues. Don’t ignore the warning signs in your life. Ask God to help you hear them when you need to. I know I need to turn my ear towards those noises instead of away from them as I am prone to do. Ignoring them won’t make them go away. I don’t want to end up on the side of the road in my relationships, my job, or my life because I didn’t pay attention to those little indicators that something was wrong.

Dear Lord, I need You to draw my attention to those little noises in my life. Sometimes I get so busy and forget to listen. And sometimes I hear them but I just ignore them because I don’t want to deal with what’s not right in front of me. Lord, I know those noises are little indicators of bigger problems lurking. Help me to hear them and respond before it’s too late. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
When You’re Running on Empty by Cindi McMenamin

He Speaks To Me: Preparing to Hear from God by Priscilla Shirer

Listen to today’s Radio Show for more encouragement

Visit Marybeth Whalen’s blog

Application Steps:
Do you have a story of a time when you ignored one of those little noises and later wished you hadn’t? Maybe you have learned good ways to deal with little noises in life that you could share with others. If so, drop by Marybeth’s blog and leave a comment.

What is a little noise in your life that you have been ignoring? Has God brought it to mind even as you have read this devotional? Take time today to pray for wisdom in how you can best address this little noise—and the need behind it—in your life.

Power Verses:
Isaiah 6:10, “Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (NIV)

Jeremiah 6:10, “To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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Hiding My Junk
Whitney Capps

"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ" Philippians 3:8-9 (NIV)

My husband and I put our house on the market this week. We've been prayerfully considering moving closer to our families, but couldn't settle in our hearts the ideal timing for such a change. God answered our prayers for clarification when we discovered that we are pregnant with our third child. That means three babies, three pregnancies, three varied and growing sets of stretch marks in less than four years. God has been so faithful and gracious. So, we are moving closer to home. Here we grow...

We spent all weekend cleaning our house to get it ready to show it. It's amazing how much more junk I notice when I think about strangers walking through and evaluating our home. It was a full day's work. We cleaned out, threw away and hid an obscene amount of really unnecessary stuff (i.e. junk). I have watched enough HGTV to make this process a little bit easier. I knew ahead of time that less stuff equals more open space. Without the visual interruption of clutter, the eye can take in the full size of the room, the bones and beauty of the space. We all know that buyers appreciate a clean slate. It's easier to see the good stuff without all the junk around. I know this, but in the midst of all the cleaning out, I still questioned if people really care.

Let me be a little more specific. Could a buyer overlook the winter coats and hats dropped in the bottom of my pantry floor? Would they mind the empty video game boxes stacked neatly in the corner? I know they'll look in my junk drawer to see empty medicine bottles, matches, broken sunglasses, playing cards and takeout menus. But doesn't everyone have a junk drawer? Surely, visitors won't mind boxes of the boys’ winter clothes clogging up the closet space.

During the process, I couldn't help but wonder if it was time for a spiritual open house. I sense that I've been storing unsightly clutter for far too long. It's a lot of junk really. I think I could make a better use of the space if I'd just let some things go. I'm afraid when people look at my life they see spiritual clutter (i.e. sin). Can they appreciate the bones and beauty of the work of God in my life or does their eye stop on all the junk? Do they see an overcrowded life that squeezes out the space God longs to fill with His peace, presence and holiness? Will they notice good but unnecessary things that fill the void?

Let me be a little more specific. Could someone look past my too-often indulged habit of gossip? Will they really mind the irritability I often display with my husband, and what about the petty jokes made at his expense? I know they will look at me and see gluttony, pride, a love of television and a lack of discipline. But doesn't everyone have stuff they struggle with? Do they wonder about a woman who leads small group, teaches women's conferences and disciples youth, but has a hard time regularly sitting and being still before the Lord?

My personal challenge for the next few days is to look at my life not the way a perfect stranger would, but the way a Perfect Savior would. It's unlikely He will look past the things that I'm far too complacent about. Once I've taken a spiritual inventory I'm not going to just hide the junk. I don't know about you, but that junk always seems to reappear and at the worst possible time. No, I'm going to do my best to let my junk go. Friends, I'm moving closer to my Father. Here I grow...

Dear Lord, I want to live free of the junk of sin. Forgive me and help me make the move to living according to your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Breathe: Creating Space for God in a Hectic Life by Keri Wyatt Kent

Sanctuary, a Devotional Bible for Women (NLT)

Whitney Capps’s blog

Application Steps:

Look for examples of sinful clutter in your life.

Identify these trouble spots and make a plan to begin dealing with each area.

Have you been avoiding dealing with areas of sin in your life?

Are there negative effects of sin keeping others from seeing the work of God in your life?

Power Verses:
Luke 12:15, Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (NIV)

© 2008 by Whitney Capps. All rights reserved.

Handprints of Love
Renee Myers, She Speaks Graduate

“Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.” Proverbs 31:31 (NLT)

Oh, the memories of summer days spent with my husband’s parents at their cozy lake cottage. My mother-in-law Jeanette was a wonderful hostess who always made us feel welcomed and loved. Their peaceful home sat on a canal that led to the lake. The views from the windows looked across a tree-shaded yard to the canal where their boat was docked. At any time you could look out to see ducks wandering in the yard or floating by, cranes flying overhead, boats motoring along, or fish jumping out of the water. Our young son loved to stand at the windows with his hands pressed against the glass to catch these fascinating sights.

While talking to Jeanette after one of our visits she said, “This might sound funny, but I haven’t washed the windows since you were here last. I still enjoy seeing your son’s handprints on the glass and just can’t bring myself to wash them off.” Silently I thought to myself, “No, that doesn’t sound funny at all. I never wash our windows either!” Then my heart allowed me to be touched by what she’d just said. Although she was an excellent housekeeper who liked everything neat and tidy, she looked past perfection and sought preservation of the moments her grandchild spent in her home, leaving his handprints behind as evidence of the happy times they’d shared.

Hmmm…I had a lot to learn from her. I was so busy trying to be a good mom and keep up with my tasks (which included wiping off all the sticky handprints I found), that I was overlooking precious “handprint moments” with my own son. I wasn’t allowing myself to stand back and cherish them as my mother-in-law had so wisely done.

Psalm 127:3 tells me that children are a gift from the Lord. In the busyness of motherhood, I failed to see and cherish him as such. Wisdom spoke through the loving words of my mother-in-law to remind me.

I’ve learned many lessons from Jeanette’s kind and gentle ways. She treated me as a daughter-in-love, not a daughter-in-law. I’ve never heard her raise her voice or speak negatively of others. Although Jeanette was a retired elementary teacher, she never stopped teaching the things that mattered most. She took pride in her duties as a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother up until the day she lost her life to cancer.

She left handprints of love on my heart that will never be wiped away, evidence of deeds that publicly declare her praise (Proverbs 31:31).

Dear Lord, please help me to leave handprints of love on my loved ones hearts, just as You have done on the hearts of those who turn to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained by Lysa TerKeurst

A Life That Says Welcome: Simple Ways to Open Your Heart and Home by Karen Ehman

A Love Worth Giving by Max Lucado

Application Steps:
Think about ways you would like to be thought of and remembered by your loved ones. Read Proverbs 31:10-27 for reminders of how the Bible teaches us to be loving women.

Whose handprints of love are on your heart?

How might you live your life so that you can leave handprints of love on the hearts of others?

How can you honor those whose love-lessons have made a difference for you?

Power Verses:
Titus 2:1, “But as for you, promote the kind of living that reflects right teaching.” (NLT)

1 Peter 1:22b, “Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (NIV)

John 15:12, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (NIV)

Read Through the Word
Wendy Pope

“For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

Have you ever set a goal for yourself you truly wanted to accomplish, but in your mind doubted that you would be successful? It seemed every goal I set, I would fail. My failure to meet goals would make me feel less of a person and unworthy. This had happened to me so many times I subconsciously refused to set goals. Then one day, a few years ago, I decided to accept a challenge that was made through the air waves of a local Christian radio station. The challenge was to read the entire Bible in a year. This was something I had longed to do for years but was completely afraid I would fail. Short terms goals were hard enough for me, but more manageable than a long-term goal such as this one. I felt the Lord's encouragement like I never had before. I knew this was something He wanted me to do.

Fear of failure raced through my mind, arguing with the truth that God wanted me to know His Word and use it as a light for my path. I feared that I would not understand His Word, but remembered God had given me an ear to hear and learn His instruction. I feared I would not have the discipline to complete a yearlong goal. I did not want to disappoint my Father. God reminded me that as part of my salvation I received love and self-discipline, not fear. I had almost convinced myself that it was impossible when I heard the words of Jesus saying, "With man this is impossible but with God all things are possible." I begin to feel His confidence building in me. Recounting His truths over and over, combating the lies of the enemy who wanted so desperately for me to give up, I accepted the challenge.

I shared the goal with my husband. He supported my goal by giving me a Bible with daily readings. My bookshelves were full of different Bibles with different translations. Why would I need another Bible to accomplish this goal? I asked myself.

The Bible my husband gave me was unlike any Bible I had ever seen. It was a Chronological Bible written in the New Living Translation. The format fascinated me. The Bible was written in the order in which things happened and in an easy to understand translation with daily readings that were not overwhelming. The goal was beginning to look more attainable than ever. I could not wait for the New Year to start so I could begin the challenge set before me.

With fear and trembling as well as great anticipation, I began reading through the Bible on January 1, 2006. I missed days and many times gave ear to the attempts of the enemy to make me lose sight of my goal. However, I made up the days I missed, overcame the enemy, and finished reading the Bible in 2006 … then again in 2007 … and I am on my way to completing the readings again for 2008.

I don't share this with you to receive any "atta girl" or other praise. All praise and glory go to God. I share this with you today to encourage you to read through the story of God's Word. Maybe like me, God has prompted you before, but you have left Him at bay. January 1st is not far away and the Chronological Bible I will read again in 2009 is now available through our resource center at Proverbs 31 Ministries. Will you take the challenge to know the Savior's story like never before and join in me reading through God’s Word in 2009?

Dear Lord, thank You for Your perfect gift of salvation, love, and self-discipline. I know that all things are possible with You; will You help me believe it? With the help of Your Holy Spirit's guidance, I can make Your Word a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

The One Year Chronological Bible

God the Builder-Audio CD by Wendy Pope

Visit Wendy Pope’s blog to hear more about reading the Bible in a year.

Application Steps:
Commit to reading through God's Word in 2009. Through prayer and today's power verse, overcome your doubts and the enemy’s attempts to convince you this goal is unattainable.

Purchase the Chronological Bible early, and begin to pray about completing this goal … become empowered to accomplish the goal in 2009.

Do I fear setting goals? Why or why not?

Do I truly believe all things are possible through Christ? Explain.

Power Verses:
Isaiah 50:4b, "He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught." (NIV)

© 2008 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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