The Night I Lost All Hope
Elaine Bonds, She Speaks Graduate

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)
I remember it so well – the night I lost all hope. I had been hoping that my prodigal son was not lying to me. While I was 99% sure he was, I still clung to the 1% chance he was telling the truth. My heart simply refused to give up that final thread of hope.

As a condition of living in our home again, we asked that our 21-year old son attend a weekly support group meeting. We wanted him back home; his other living choice was not a good one. But we needed to establish boundaries, offering a safe place to live without tolerating or enabling his destructive behavior. We wanted to start rebuilding the trust we had lost. One building block was his Friday night support group meeting. Though our son said he was attending, in my heart I felt something was wrong.

One night I just had to know if he was living up to his commitment. I drove to the place where his meeting was held and my fears were confirmed: he was nowhere to be found. I went right home and waited. When he came home I asked about his meeting. “The meeting was fine. I’m tired and going to bed.” I had caught him in a lie!

Hope left me and discouragement came quickly to replace it. I couldn’t even confront him – at least not yet. I needed time to wrestle with the loss of the 1% of hope. It was just a tiny bit of hope. No big loss, right? … Wrong! That last 1% of hope is what I held onto the tightest. I was so angry and crushed. But then, God spoke. He chose a friend to speak His Words to me the very next day. She had no clue what was happening with our son. She just prayed what God prompted her -- for me to have HOPE! She emailed me her prayer:

“Father, You are the God of all hope. Your Word tells us that those who hope in You will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, and they will walk and not be faint. I pray this for Elaine this morning … that she will place her HOPE in You and You alone …”

Reading her prayer, it suddenly became clear to me. My hope had been in my son and in that weekly meeting. The hope I had lost – that 1% I’d been clinging to – was human hope. That kind of hope is in limited quantity, and when it runs out, you are left drained, discouraged, disappointed and …hopeless! Oh, it may masquerade as “hope,” but it is completely different from the hope that God provides. God’s hope renews and refreshes. It empowers, uplifts, and strengthens. God’s hope does not disappoint! There is an unlimited supply of God’s hope.

God knew I had been clinging to human hope, and He knew that last 1% of weak, feeble hope would run out. He wanted me to cling to Him, the God of true, lasting, unlimited hope. So, as I wiped my tears, I waited as the winds of God’s hope blew my way. My circumstances were still the same, but my heart was now filled with the hope that only God can provide.

Dear Lord, Thank You for Your wonderful, everlasting hope. Please help me always put my hope in You and You alone. Thank You that with You all things are possible. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know the Giver of hope?

Divine Prayers for Despairing Parents by Susanne Scheppmann

Finding Hope in the Midst of Depression by Mary Southerland

Join us for more Everyday Life Encouragement

Application Steps:
Pray today about a situation you’ve considered hopeless. Ask God to give you His perspective and His hope.

Ask God to reveal where you are placing your hope. Are you hoping in your husband, your bank account, your job, a program, a promise from someone? Or, are you truly placing your hope in the Lord?

Let 2009 be a year that you place your hope in God alone.

Power Verses:
Psalm 42:5, “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)

Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

Psalm 147:11, “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Elaine Bonds. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , ,

Spiritual Curfew
Tracie Miles

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:11-12 (NIV)

I thought my parents were from another planet. As a young teenager, I just didn't understand how they could sit at home on the weekends, which I was sure had been created for the sole purpose of endless socializing. As is the norm for most teens, I was convinced the curfews my parents had set for me were overbearing and pointless. But now I know that although I couldn’t see the benefit of curfews then, my parents knew what was best for me.

Have you ever felt like God’s Word has too many “don’ts” and not enough “do’s”? I have heard non-believers say that being a Christian is too rule-oriented, too strict, or simply no fun. At times, this could be the viewpoint of Christians too, who are trying to live a life for Christ but finding it difficult to turn from their old ways.

For many years in my Christian life, I played by my own set of rules. I thought that God’s commands were for religious fanatics. However, I now realize that early on, had I adhered to the “spiritual curfews” set out for me in God’s Word, many painful experiences and bad decisions could have been avoided. As it turns out, God knew what was best for me!

If you are like I once was, you too may think that some of the biblical guidelines for Christian living are overbearing, maybe even pointless. But consider this: if parents allowed their children to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, with whomever they wanted, is it likely that they would learn right from wrong, take the right paths, and make decisions that are in their best interest? Of course not! Children need guidance, encouragement, discipline and direction from their parents. As children of God, we need those same things from our heavenly Father.

Sometimes it is hard to understand why God asks us to think a certain way, do certain things, or refrain from doing other things that are not indicative of someone living for Christ. That is where our faith must come in. Faith is our motivation to abide by the spiritual curfews that God outlines in His Word. If we doubt His reasoning, wonder why certain guidelines matter, or change the real meaning of a scripture to accommodate our own selfish purposes, then we are setting out on a path that will dishonor God and lead to sin.

What godly principal are you battling to obey today? I remember my mother telling me to choose my battles, since not every situation was worth fighting for. Living a Godly life is sometimes a battle. This is one battle we should always fight: to honor God’s Word. If we believe the Bible is truth, we should follow its guidelines. In a world where moral values are crumbling around us, Christians need to fight the good fight.

Even though God’s Word may sting our hearts at times, and we may feel convicted by the Holy Spirit when we do wrong, let us never forget that God truly does know what is best for us.

Dear Lord, Please give me the strength and courage to stand for what is right in Your sight, even if those around me do not agree or understand my beliefs. Help me to fight for what I believe in, and obey Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Jesus?

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Dear Jesus: Seeking His Light in your Life by Sarah Young

Visit Tracies’ blog

Application Steps:
Read Exodus 20:1-20 and Ephesians 5.

Consider any things or behaviors your life that you know do not please God. Pray for strength to fight the battle of breaking that habit so that you can achieve victory over that area of your life. We’d love to pray for you! Click here to let us know how we can.

Power Verses:
Hosea 10:12, “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.” (NIV)

Exodus 20:20, “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.’" (NIV)

© 2008 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

Labels: , ,

Cutting it Close to the Line
Karen Ehman

“When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:13-15 (NIV)

“Impossible!! How can this be? Why, I’m certain I never crossed the line!”

Out tumbled the words from my disbelieving mouth during a recent trip with my family to nearby Illinois. My husband and I stood staring at the two left wheel wells on our family mini-van that now sat spattered with bright yellow paint. While driving through construction in the Chicago area, it seems I traveled a little too close to the freshly painted yellow line that separates traffic.

While I was keenly aware that the workers had just finished placing the sunny stripes on the pitch-black pavement, I was sure I had driven in a manner that, although closely hugged the lines, had not crossed them. Much to my dismay, when the van’s tires rolled to a halt at a local rest stop, the truth was revealed. Crossed the line? No, I actually hadn’t. There was no paint on the actual tires. However, my getting ever so close was enough to cause the wet paint to stick itself stubbornly to my vehicle’s wheel wells resulting in a nearly neon public display of my too close behavior.

Sometimes we do the same thing with sin. Oh, we make sure we don’t actually cross the line, but we dangle dangerously close to it. We toy with temptation. We wink at seduction. We let bad behavior beckon us.

Perhaps it is with our tongues as we say just enough that it borders on gossip and gets our point across, while still technically remains innocent. Maybe it is fudging a slight bit on our taxes or other financial papers. What about the books we read, the shows we watch or the sites we visit? How about “innocent” but bantering relationships forged with members of the opposite sex. Do we reason and reckon that some of these behaviors aren’t “that bad,” but in reality they come so close to the line that they drag us away from God. And once the dragging starts, we’re hooked. Then we just might find ourselves standing in a very public way with sin spattered all over us.

Instead of asking ourselves how close we can get to the line, perhaps the opposite approach is best. We must remind ourselves just how desperately near we must stay to the Lord Jesus. So near that wandering even slightly away feels foreign, not familiar. Let’s vow together to stick safely by our Savior and a world away from that nasty line of sin.
Dear Lord, Prick my heart when I begin to veer from Your perfect path and wander dangerously close to the line of sin. At those times, may I obey Your commanding voice, however still and small it may be, and rush back safely to Your side. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Confession of an Adulterous Christian Woman: Lies that got me there, Truths that brought me back by Lyndell Hetrick Holtz

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

For more on this topic visit Karen’s blog

Application Steps:
What practical actions can help me from coming too close to crossing the line of sin in my life?

Is there someone who could be my accountability partner, asking me tough questions about my seemingly secret behavior? What could I have them ask me each week? Could it be about my viewing habits, how I spend my free time or even how I relate to members of the opposite sex?

Is there a time in my life when I wandered so close to the line that it got me into trouble? In retrospect, how could I have handled the temptation differently?

What tempting topics covered in scripture could be beneficial for me to investigate and memorize? You can use Bible Gateway to search for verses by keyword. Then you can cement them in your mind and have them on your lips when you need to draw from your arsenal of scripture to fight temptation.

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

Psalm 119:10-11, “With my whole heart have I sought You, inquiring for and of You and yearning for You; Oh, let me not wander or step aside [either in ignorance or willfully] from Your commandments. Your word have I laid up in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (AMP)

© 2008 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

Labels: , ,

Treasured Thoughts of a Mother
Wendy Pope

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."Luke 2:19 (NIV)

I remember it like it was yesterday: the long-awaited arrival of my first born. Conception had evaded us for two years, so when she finally arrived and was placed in my arms, I could hardly contain myself. I counted all her fingers and toes, then inspected every inch of her soft, pink wrinkled skin.

Family and friends came from many miles away just to see our little one. As I stared at this long-awaited miracle I wondered about her life. What would it be like? The thoughts and emotions I felt were too much for words. I treasured these moments in my heart like another young mother I once read about.

This mother's name was Mary and the name of her long-awaited miracle was Jesus. Her baby was born in a stable. People heard of his birth and traveled many miles just to see her little one. She must have wondered what his life would be like. Her thoughts and emotions were too much for words. She treasured and pondered them in her heart.

Mary, a young teenage girl, was chosen to be the mother of the Savior of the world. I have often wondered exactly what Mary knew about her son's future. Did she know he would heal the sick and raise the dead? Did she know that he would calm storms and feed the hungry? I am not sure what she knew, but according to scripture she got a glimpse into to her son's future as well as her own when she and Joseph, following Jewish custom, brought the newborn into the temple to be consecrated to the Lord. A man by the name of Simeon was in the temple that day and was moved by the Spirit to speak prophecy over the infant child.

He spoke, "And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed--and a sword will pierce even your own soul--to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35, NASB).

I can't even imagine what this young mother thought as she heard these words prophesied about her tiny miracle. How does a mother respond to hearing the news that a sword would pierce her soul, the very soul that days earlier had treasured the wonders of the birth of her first born son? Did Mary spend her entire life wondering, "Is today the day my soul will be pierced?"

Her soul was pierced 33 short years after she pondered the first moments of her son's life. Her soul was pierced on a hill called Calvary where she was an eyewitness to the purpose of her son's life. The events that took place on that hill tell us what her son's life was all about: He was born to die. The purpose of His life was to give my life and your life purpose. For a moment, will you treasure these thoughts and ponder them in your heart?

How will you respond to the treasured thought that Jesus’ death means life for you? Perhaps your thoughts are leading you to desire to call Him Savior for the first time. If so, would you let us know?

Dear Lord, I want to live a life of gratitude. Thank You for the sacrifice You made to make sure that I would spend eternity with You. Consume my thoughts today. Awaken my soul to new delight in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Unwrapping His Christmas Presence CD by Renee Swope

i am not but i know I AM by Louie Giglio

Join Wendy to talk more about this topic together on her blog.

Application Steps:
Re-read Luke's account of the birth of our Savior. Take your time. Treasure up all the details of the story and ponder them in your heart.


What does Jesus’ birth mean to me?

What is my reaction to God when He calls me to do a God-sized task?

Power Verses:
Isaiah 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (NIV)

Luke 1:29-33, "Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ’Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.’" (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)

© Wendy Pope. All Rights Reserved.

Labels: , , ,

The Ultimate Gift
Gina Parcells, She Speaks! Graduate

“… God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” 1 John 5:11b (NASB)

Christmas day at my house had become all about the presents. The décor, the shopping, the parties, the tree…it all culminated with those gifts when it should be culminating with the Gift. Something needed to change.

What can I do to see Jesus as a gift, and to help my family see Him as well? I wondered. A light bulb went on in my head, about the same time the light strand went out on my tree, and a plan was birthed.

Phase one: Baby Jesus was removed from the displayed nativity set. He was carefully boxed and wrapped in my fanciest paper, intentionally labeled with a specific name, and gingerly hidden under the myriad of gifts at the foot of our tree.

Phase two: During our family gift exchange on Christmas morning, the disguised gift was handed to my unsuspecting daughter, the named recipient, just one of her many gifts. It could have been an I-pod or a sweater or another book…after all, there was no host of angels announcing the valuable contents. But knowing what I knew, I watched with great anticipation as she opened it.

Phase three: A bewildered look came across her face. Haley didn’t speak. I asked, “Haley, what did you get?”

“I got Jesus.”

An entire family discussion ensued as we discussed the ultimate Gift in the midst of all of our other presents. We compared the gift of Jesus with other gifts that would wear out, that would be outgrown, and that would eventually lose appeal.

We began to ask and answer lots of questions such as:

What is a gift? What is the purpose of a gift? What can we know about the giver of the gift? Why might the giver choose to give a gift to you specifically?

Together, we came up with truths about God…that He gave us the Gift that we need, that we want, and that we could never afford to get for ourselves. He wrapped that Gift in a blanket and gave – voluntarily, sacrificially, and lovingly – to each one of us, the named recipients of His greatest Gift.

We’ve invited Jesus back into Christmas to take His place as the perfect Gift that never stops giving. I can hardly wait to experience today’s conversation as a new family member opens the box and announces, “I got Jesus!”

Dear Lord, Too many times I have excluded You from my Christmas and been satisfied with presents and stuff. Let me not be content until I experience the gift of You in my heart. Cause me to see You as the ultimate Gift. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Have You Received the Ultimate Gift?

Homespun Memories from the Heart by Karen Ehman, Kelly Hovermale and Trish Smith

You are Special Today Plate

Listen to today’s radio show for more ideas of celebrating Christmas all year!

Application Steps:
Try wrapping up your nativity baby Jesus for a family member or a friend, and discuss the Gift He is during your gift exchange.

Print and store this page with your nativity set as a reminder next year to value Jesus as a gift.

Have you “got Jesus?”

How can I help my family to view Jesus as a gift?

Power Verses:
Isaiah 9:6, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (NASB)

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (NASB)

Romans 6:23b, “… the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NASB)

© 2008 by Gina Parcells. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , ,

Will They Know What it Cost?
Glynnis Whitwer

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (NIV)

My daughter Cathrine went on a field trip to the Grand Canyon last year with her fourth grade class. As I picked her up upon her return, she couldn’t wait to show me an adorable little stuffed brown bear. She started to say that it was for everyone, and then her words got jumbled up as she tried to explain how she ran out of money when she was trying to buy gifts. I could see she was distressed but wasn’t sure why.

To understand the rest of the story, it might help to know that Cathrine was born in Africa and experienced deprivation of every sort for the first 11 years of her life. Although she has made remarkable gains, she struggles with communication and math - especially money.

After we got home that night, I understood what Cathrine was trying to tell me about the bear. She had originally taken $20 of her own money to buy a souvenir of some kind. Before buying herself something, however, she wanted to buy some small gifts. So she started with two of her teachers and bought them each a small ring with the first initial of their last names. I looked at the price on the rings and saw each was $3.99. Times that by two, add tax, and Cathrine would have been left with $11 for other gifts and herself.

I imagine she stood at the gift store counter bewildered by what she had just done. She probably was embarrassed to ask any of her classmates for help. And maybe the teacher wasn't around. There she stood with just over half of her money left, and three brothers and a sister left to buy for. She decided to get a group gift, and that’s where the bear came in.

Standing in our kitchen, looking at the three items she purchased, I smiled brightly and told her how everyone was going to love their gifts, and what wonderful purchases she made. She smiled back and the night ended well.

The next morning as she wrapped up the little rings, I kept thinking about those two teachers who were going to receive a gift. All they would see is a little silver ring. They are wonderful women and I knew they would be very loving and appreciative. But would they truly understand the sacrifice Cathrine made?

Would they understand that their gifts cost Cathrine half of what she had? Will they understand the frustration and worry it caused Cathrine as she realized she didn't have enough to buy her family gifts? Would they treasure those little rings, or would they put them in a drawer with gifts from other students throughout the year?

As I pondered these thoughts, I considered a gift I was given 2000 years ago as God sent His son into the world as a baby, knowing Jesus would die on a cross for me. Do I truly understand the sacrifice of that gift? Do I understand the anguish God the Father must have felt? Do I treasure this gift, or do I take it for granted?

Christmas is a time for celebration. It is also a time to remember God’s sacrifice. For it is in understanding the cost, that we fully appreciate the gift.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You this Christmas season for the gift of Your son, Jesus. Help me to fully grasp what this gift must have cost You. As I give and receive gifts this month, help me to remember that the relationship I enjoy with You, and the eternal life I look forward to, came at a great cost. For that I am truly thankful. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Jesus?

A Thankful Heart by Carole Lewis

Provide educational opportunities and important life skills to a child in need through Compassion International

Visit Glynnis’ blog

Application Steps:
List one thing you can do this week as a way of saying “thank you” to God for the gift of Jesus.

Have you ever given a gift to someone, only to have them not appreciate it? How did you feel?

Consider what it cost God to send us Jesus. What do you think was the greatest sacrifice?

Power Verses:
John 4:10, “Jesus answered her, ’If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’" (NIV)

2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (NIV)

Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , ,

Christmas JOY
Marybeth Whalen

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:11 (NASB)

Presents to buy. Presents to wrap. Groceries to buy. Parties to attend. People to see. Wishes to fill. So much to do, so little time! We might have begun the Christmas season with the intent of finding joy this year, yet lost our good intentions somewhere between our children’s case of the “gimmies” and the crowded parking lots at the mall. Where is the joy we sing about in all those Christmas carols? Where is the Christmas spirit we are supposed to have?

As our verse tells us today, it’s not in any of those things that fill our days this time of year. It’s not in the candy-streaked faces of our little children. It’s not in the guilt we feel that we can’t possibly see all the family we want to. It’s not even in those moments of giving or serving our families. We can’t manufacture joy, or create eternal pleasures, though we try so hard to. Oh, we might get glimpses of joy—but we won’t experience the fullness of joy unless we immerse ourselves in God’s presence.

You might be thinking, How can I do that? You haven’t seen my “to do” list!

Might I offer a suggestion? Tomorrow morning, set your alarm for fifteen minutes earlier. Just fifteen. Then turn to a psalm, or a chapter in one of your favorite books of the Bible. I love the richness of Isaiah, the encounters with Jesus in John, and the wisdom in Proverbs. Ask God to help you choose what you most need to hear from Him. Then get out a journal or spiral bound notebook and write out some concerns you are having, jot down a verse that meant something to you. This is yours, so there is no right or wrong way to do it!

Next, spend a few minutes praying, marking the beginning of a conversation that will go on throughout the day. Then go and begin your day, taking God’s presence with you. When stress mounts, ask Him for peace. When chaos reigns, ask Him for clarity. When anger boils, ask Him for gentleness.

I am not promising a perfect life will result. Nor am I promising instant change. What I am promising is that slowly but surely, as you build on this habit, your time with the Lord will increase out of desire for more, and your dependence on Him will too. This is not something you do out of guilt or obligation. It’s not something you do to be a “good Christian,” scanning the ceiling as you dutifully have your quiet time, hoping He sees you and pours out His blessings in return. Instead this is about experiencing what it means to have a “friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24, NIV). It is about knowing the joy that is only found in His presence, because you carry it with you—at Christmas, and all through the year.
Dear Lord, Thank You for helping me realize that I can’t make joy happen this Christmas. Help me in the coming days to intentionally enter into Your presence, and help me find true joy when I do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
A Recipe for Christmas JOY (e-book) by Marybeth Whalen

Share your story about spending time with God. Visit Marybeth’s blog.

Walk with Me Today, Lord: Inspiring Devotions for Women by Emilie Barnes

Application Steps:
Spend some time today planning for your time with God tomorrow. Anticipate and prepare for it. Gather your Bible, your notebook, a pen, a candle, and any other supplies you might want to have. Have everything in one place, waiting for your date with God. You might even want to have a special tea or flavored coffee creamer waiting for you, to make your time with God even sweeter!

If you are already beginning your days with God, yet still feeling overwhelmed, have you spent time praying about it? Ask God to show you ways that you can experience His presence - even when the kids are crying and the bank account is strained. Jesus promised us that in this world, we would have trouble (John 16:33, NIV), but He also promised us that He would send a Comforter to be with us (John 14:16, KJV). Do you need to be comforted today? Ask God to supply this need, and trust Him to do it!

Power Verses:
Psalm 89:15-16, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness.” (NIV)

Hosea 6:2, “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

Labels: , ,

A Christmas Solo
Zoe Elmore

"For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (NKJ)

Though I’m an untrained singer, I had the privilege of singing a solo in our church’s annual Christmas program for over ten years. You can imagine how thrilling it was to hear the orchestra and one hundred voices behind me as I sang “Oh Holy Night.” Each and every time I sang that song, I was transported into the presence of the Lord. I felt as if my feet were leaving the ground as each note climbed higher and higher until the final crescendo. I think I now understand why angels fly as they live in God’s presence!

This wonderful annual experience came to an abrupt end several years ago after an illness and medical condition removed my ability to sing. My ability, but not my desire! While my mouth can no longer sing praises very loud, my heart still soars as I squeak out the words to Handle’s “Messiah.” I still love to sing spiritual songs, especially those of the Christmas season.

The Lord knows this, and has given me one of the sweetest gifts I’ve ever received: a new inward heart-song of worship and awe. Even with such a tender and lovely present from the Holy Spirit, I’m amazed at how easily I become distracted by the shopping, parties and food of this season. The “need” to decorate and bake often shouts louder than my need to sing my heart-song. While none of these holiday preparations are bad in themselves, they can easily overshadow the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The trimmings and trappings can far too easily eclipse the true meaning of this marvelous season, stealing my new heart-song and silencing my worship.

This Christmas I have made a commitment to concentrate on celebrating the name of Jesus by continuously singing my heart-song. It is the Name we bless in times of thanksgiving; the Name we call upon in times of trouble; and, the Name that brings us the love, joy, peace and salvation we need at all times.

Will you join me in making the name of Jesus the centerpiece of your Christmas celebration this year? In the midst of the songs your mouth will sing, ask the Holy Spirit to give you the gift of a new song in your heart. A new heart-song celebrating the powerful, lovely, wonderful, life-giving, everlasting Name of Jesus! Sing forth praises to the name of Jesus today!
Dear Lord, I bow before You as my Savior, Lord and King. I ask You to help me celebrate Your presence in my life with a new heart-song of worship with You as the centerpiece. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Jesus by name?

Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas by Sharon Jaynes

31 Days of Praise by Ruth Myers

For more ideas of celebrating Christ at Christmas visit Zoë’s blog

Application Steps:
What can I change about my Christmas celebration to foster a new heart-song of worship?

How can I encourage my family to celebrate this Holy season with a heart-song of their own?

Power Verses:
1 John 5:11, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (NIV)

Psalm 40:3, “He has put a new song in my mouth - Praise to our God…” (NKJV)

© 2008 by Zoe Elmore. All rights reserved.

Labels: , ,

The Beauty of It All
Rachel Olsen

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Proverbs 24:3-4 (NIV)

Everywhere I go this month I take in the splendor of Christmas. Twinkling lights. Sparkly ornaments. Decorated cookies. Packages with shiny bows. Warm, spicy gourmand scents, mixed with the smell of fresh evergreen. A warm, crackling fire. Sounds of carols filling the air. Christmas is a feast for the senses!

Beauty pays a visit when we celebrate Christmas. Yet when I think back upon the story of Jesus’ birth, there seems little lovely about it. The weariness of travel. No vacancy signs. A dusty manger. No running water. Smell of farm animals. The pain of childbirth. Damp, night air. Hay poking and scratching through makeshift blankets. I wonder then, why do we celebrate the day of Christ’s birth with such decoration and adornment?

Then I notice how God marked the birth of His Son those thousands of years ago, and I begin to understand more about the ways we celebrate.
God heralded the arrival of His Son with a divine outdoor concert. According to the gospel writer Luke, shepherds sat on a hillside watching over their sheep that evening, when an angel of God appeared to them, surrounded by bright light. He said, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 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" (Luke 2:10-12, NLT). Just as quickly as the first angel appeared, a large group of angels – a whole choir full – appeared. Praising God together, they declared, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests" (2:14, NLT). Suddenly our tradition of singing Christmas carols seems fitting.

God also announced the birth of His Son to the entire universe, according to the gospel writer Matthew, with a glorious new star in the sky. Millions of light years away, a massive ball of explosive gas began to blaze that day. Through it, God called wise men from far away lands to find and worship the true king. These wise men brought Him gifts: the spicy scents of frankincense and myrrh, as well as sparkling treasures of gold. Suddenly, the twinkling lights, the smell of fresh-baked gingerbread houses, and the carefully chosen gifts under the tree seem perfectly fitting.

In fact, the sharp contrast between our homes and towns at Christmas time and Jesus’ first days on earth makes me realize just how humble Jesus is. It foreshadowed the entire life and ministry of this man who lived quite simply on earth, yet reigns as King of heaven.

I’m certain the most beautiful thing about that night centuries ago was the radiance that surely shined from the newborn cheeks, and twinkled through the precious eyes of that promised child. Yes, Beauty paid a visit that first Christmas, and He remains with us today. How glorious that we have become this king’s temple. How splendid that our hearts become His majestic throne – with no lights, ornaments or holly branches required.

I think I’m beginning to understand the beauty of it all.

Dear Lord, Give me eyes to see and ears to hear all the beauty that You bring into my world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Jesus?

Visit Rachel’s blog – where she is posting daily advent readings.

A Recipe for Christmas Joy (e-book) by Marybeth Whalen

Creation Globe for children.

Application Steps:
Let the Christmas decorations you see carry your mind back to that night some two thousand years ago, and reflect on the beauty of God’s plan for salvation.

How can I allow the beauty of Christ to shine through me today?

Power Verses:
Ephesians 4:7-8, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” (NIV)

Ecclesiastes 3:11-14, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.” (NLT)

© 2008 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , ,

Gold, Incense, and Myrrh
Marybeth Whalen

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Matthew 2:11 (NIV)

Whether you grew up in church or not, you’ve probably heard the story of the three wise men placing gifts before the baby Jesus, throwing their own little royal baby shower. Christmas carols tell of it and many a Christmas pageant has featured children with crowns askew, tottering in with their royal gifts.

Yet far from soft blue blankets and a selection of baby toys, these three kings brought seemingly odd gifts for the tiny Savior. They placed at His feet gold, frankincense and myrrh. The Bible doesn’t tell us what Mary and Joseph did with Jesus’ gifts, but I have to wonder. Unless she understood what they meant, I can almost picture Mary saying, “Wow, umm, thanks. I know just where I’ll put these!”

I recently learned that each of these gifts has a symbolic meaning. When we study these meanings, the wise men’s gifts take on much greater significance, a significance that is at once sobering and amazing.

Gold has always been a symbol of royalty. This gift signaled the wise men’s understanding of who this child was, and how we should receive Him. Because of this child, we are transformed from lowly paupers to royalty seated with Christ (Ephesians 2:6). He had to leave the perfection and grandeur of heaven in order to walk among us, trading His royalty for a time, but never losing His deity.

Incense was a symbol of His purity. Because He was born sinless and lived a perfect life, Jesus was that perfect lamb, without blemish, offered up for our sins. Incense was used as a fragrant offering to God. But the beauty of the scent couldn’t be released without being touched by fire. Jesus’ life became a fragrant offering through the flames of affliction. And in His death, we receive His purity.

Myrrh symbolized death, as it was used for embalming in those times. Nothing says “congratulations on the birth of your baby” like a little symbolic death! As these men laid this odd collection of gifts at the feet of this child, a little shiver had to have run down His mother’s spine when that last one was placed before Him. Already Lord? She had to be thinking. Do I have to start letting Him go already? But I suspect Mary knew that to accomplish His purposes on earth, Jesus’ life had to end. And now as we seek to follow Him, our lives have to end as He asks us to die to self and to take up our cross and follow Him.

Have you ever asked yourself why the wise men chose those gifts? While we will never know for sure this side of heaven, I think it’s because they listened to God. He directed them to bring these gifts as an outward statement of Jesus’ ultimate purpose. Each one points to suffering and death that ultimately leads to transformation. Jesus didn’t come to earth to be born, He came to earth to die so we could be reborn.

This Christmas I pray we keep our hearts focused on the meaning in the wise men’s gifts – and give our lives to Him, just as He gave His life to us.

Dear Lord, I praise You for being willing to come here, be born in a stable and endure an agonizing death so that I might be saved. I thank You for allowing me to know You, and I pray You would keep my heart focused on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know this sweet Savior?

A Recipe for Christmas Joy (e-book) by Marybeth Whalen

Pursuing the Christ: 31 Morning and Evening Devotions for Christmastime by Jennifer Kennedy Dean

Application Steps:
In your personal quiet time, use your Bible concordance to look up additional verses on gold, purity, and dying to self. Write down a few and meditate on them this Christmas season.

Have you always wondered about the gifts the wise men gave the baby Jesus? Does this explanation help you grasp what their gifts said about the recipient?

How can you live your life in such a way that it is a gift to Him?

Power Verses:
Job 23:10, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (NIV)

I John 3:2, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (NIV)

Isaiah 53:12, “Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , ,

Four Special Gifts
Tracie Miles

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)

I love everything about the holiday season, and Christmas morning is no exception. As I watch my family members excitedly unwrap their gifts, I find myself truly understanding the meaning of the phrase, “It is better to give than to receive.”

As much as I love giving gifts, I admit that I love receiving them too! I can’t help but be excited about a pretty box with a big bow with my name scribbled on the tag. Recently I began thinking about all the gifts that God gives me throughout the year, and then realized that I often forget to thank Him for those gifts.

Our key verse today really wraps up the true meaning of Christmas. In this one little verse we are given four amazing gifts. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we got as excited about the gifts of God, as we do the gifts under our tree?

The first of these gifts is love. God loves us more than we can imagine - more than we can love our children, our spouses, or our family. He loves us with a measure of love we cannot understand. For some, the holidays are a difficult time. They may bring feelings of loneliness and being unloved more than any other time of the year. Through this verse, we learn the magnitude of God’s love.

The second gift is His son; His only begotten son Jesus Christ. God not only gave Jesus in birth to live as man, but to die as man as well. He gave the gift of Jesus’ life as our example, and the gift of payment for our sins through His death. He paid the ultimate penalty so that our slates are wiped clean in heaven.

The third is the gift of faith. We can believe in Him – for life, for love, and for the power to overcome. Power to overcome even death. This gift requires trust, and helps us get through every day, every circumstance, and every period of trouble. It is a gift that offers a holy hand to hold and a holy shoulder to cry on. A gift that holds the answers of hope and joy.

The fourth and most precious gift is the gift of eternal life. This gift promises a secure future: a life after death, free of pain and suffering. It is a gift we do not deserve, can never repay, and will not fully understand or appreciate until we are face to face with Jesus for eternity.

If you handpicked a special gift for someone and they pushed it aside or discarded it, I imagine your feelings would be hurt, as would mine. I wonder how God feels when He gives mankind these four priceless gifts and so many choose not to accept them?

As we celebrate the holidays, we’ll get excited about presents, even though eventually most of those gifts will be forgotten, broken, or discarded. But God’s gifts never expire, never spoil, never break, and never perish. The gifts of heavenly love, a Savior, faith and abundant eternal life are given to each one of us. We have the choice to unwrap and enjoy them or push them aside.

God has four special gifts for you this holiday, and on the tag your name is written in red. Will you remember to unwrap these gifts this season?

Dear Lord, Forgive me for taking for granted the amazing gifts that You have blessed me with in life, and for eternity. I praise You for who You are, and for being so willing to pour Your gifts into my life when I humbly reach out to You. Help me remember that You truly are the reason for this season. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

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

Unwrapping His Christmas Presence message on CD or DVD by Renee Swope

For more holiday encouragement, visit Tracie’s blog

Application Steps:
Wrap four empty boxes in red, and on the gift tags write “From God.” Put them under your tree to help you remember the most special gifts this Christmas.

If you never have accepted Jesus as your Savior, click here to find out how you can open and accept His special gifts today.

Am I more concerned with about sharing gifts from the store, or sharing the gifts of God?

Power Verses:
Romans 5:6-8, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

Labels: ,

Are You Ready for the Holidays?
Van Walton

“What matters is not your outer appearance... but your inner disposition.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 (MSG)

This year I am tempted to keep a close count of the number of times I hear the question, “Are you ready for the holidays?”

What does that mean exactly? If I were to guess what people mean when they ask one another if they are “ready for the holidays,” I would say most are not talking about spiritual readiness. I bet what they typically mean is, “Have you made a list of all the stuff you need to do before the 25th and have you checked it off?”

Usually the answer that follows is a long list of to-do’s before Christmas day. Baking, sending Christmas cards, buying and wrapping gifts, hiding presents from the children, or delivering them to neighbors, choir or play practice, preparing for guests, or preparing to travel. My list also often includes planning and attending parties, house cleaning, and finally – my favorite – decorating.

I wonder, if Jesus were making a holiday preparations list, what would He include? What if those who were there on Christ’s birth day could advise us on getting ready for Christmas? What would be on their list?

Joseph might recommend we listen closely to the voice of God to prepare.
Mary may suggest we ponder the miracles of heaven.
Perhaps the angels would propose we sing about the King.
The shepherds may gently guide us to follow their act of worship.
Possibly the wise men would teach us to give Jesus our most valuable gifts.
The innkeeper may suggest “Hospitality: open your heart and home.”
And Jesus’ list would likely encourage us to be a light on the hill pointing the way for others to know Him.

Comparing my to-do list to the ones above, I wonder if I lived at that time, would I have missed Christ’s birth? Would my busyness have kept me from slowing down to take time to worship in the stable? Unfortunately I have “missed” many Christmases in the here and now because I’ve not slowed down long enough to bow my knees and experience the miracle.

I want Christmas for my family to be more about an act of worship and awe than a frenzy to decorate, shop, and jump through the world’s hoops. I don’t want to miss the true reason we celebrate.

A few years ago I set out to purposefully plan the way I celebrate. As a result, my Christmases have become increasingly simpler and at the same time my heart has become increasingly more satisfied.

Are you ready for the holidays?

Father, Thank You for sending Your son to point the way to You. Please remind me that preparing my heart for You is more satisfying than any other preparations I could make. Simple and pure devotion to You is what makes this season so special. Help me balance my time and keep my focus on You this year. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Advent: Making Christmas About Christ by Lisa Robertson

The Air I Breathe: Worship as a Way of Life by Louie Giglio

Visit Van’s blog

Application Steps:
In addition to reading the Christmas story in the New Testament click here to read about the prophecies that gave hope to the Old Testament generations.

What traditions can I develop for myself and my family that will keep Jesus as the focal point of Christmas?

What holiday practices might I eliminate in order to create a more worshipful and meaningful Christmas?

Power Verses:
I Peter 3:15a, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” (NIV)

2008 Van Walton. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , ,

Sitting in the Middle of My Mess
Glynnis Whitwer

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said.” Luke 10:38-39 (NIV)

I tend to consider myself a "Martha" type personality. And I don't mean Martha Stewart. By this time in December, that Martha probably has her hand-made cards mailed out, 10 batches of candy made and gift-wrapped, and her entire home decorated.

No, I'm nothing like Martha Stewart. In fact, last year I didn’t even manage to decorate the tree. It got put up and because it was pre-lit, it had lights. I managed to put a few gifts under it before Christmas. That only happened because my dear children kept looking at me with those big hopeful eyes, asking when I was going to wrap SOMETHING. But that was it.

Last Christmas ended one of the most stressful years of my life. I'm thankful nothing devastating happened to my family. But the demands on my time exceeded my available time. When that happens, I get behind ... on everything. So I spend lots of time just trying to keep my head above water.

Back to being a Martha. If you know the Luke chapter 10 story of Martha and her sister Mary, that's the Martha I'm talking about. And it's not a flattering comparison. That Martha had the privilege of hostessing Jesus. Jesus actually came to her house. Instead of sitting at His feet like her sister Mary did, Martha worked and actually complained to Jesus that Mary wasn't helping her enough.

Jesus gently chided Martha, and affirmed Mary's choice to sit and spend time with Him in the middle of all the work that had to be done. I remember the day clearly last December when I decided to follow Mary’s example and sit in the middle of my mess to spend time with Jesus. Normally, I feel as if everything has to be clean before I can "treat" myself to some down time. I believe I have to have the dishes clean, counters cleared, urgent emails addressed, laundry going, home-based business checked for orders, etc.

Normally, by the time I've done all that, something else has demanded my attention, and my time with Jesus is neglected - much like what happened to Martha.

But not that day. That day I sat at the kitchen table and looked at my mess. It was big. There were papers strewn over every surface, a lunch box left on the counter from the day before, breakfast dishes everywhere, jackets from yesterday, blankets that had been left on the couch, dog fur forming balls, and the list went on. I had to fight my instinct to get up. And I won.

I sat in the middle of my mess, and spent time with Jesus. I pictured Him sitting across the table from me. It was pure pleasure ... and the mess amazingly faded from my view. My stress melted away, and I felt renewed.

This Christmas, whether you've gotten your house decorated or not, whether you've mailed out cards or not ... Jesus has come to your house for a visit. I had such a good time sitting in the middle of my mess with Jesus last year, I’m planning on doing it again. Will you join us?

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for sending Jesus to be a companion during my hectic days. Help me to remember that peace can only be found when I choose to set aside the pressing demands of my life, and quiet myself with You. Teach me to look for Jesus’ presence in the middle of my mess. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Can Martha Have a Mary Christmas? by Brenda Poinsett

Do You Know Jesus?

Homespun Memories for the Heart by Karen Ehman, Kelly Hovermale and Trish Smith

Visit Glynnis’s blog

Application Steps:
Identify 30 minutes sometime this week when you normally would be working – then commit to spending that time with Jesus.

What are some of the hurdles you face when trying to find a quiet time with God?

This month, what practices can you implement to recognize Jesus’ presence in your home?

Power Verses:
Psalm 37:7a, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him …” (NIV)

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

Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

Labels: , ,

Anne’s Devotion
Wendy Pope

“Nicodemus said, 'But if a person is already old, how can he be born again?'” John 3:4 (NCV)

If there was ever a woman who fully displayed the hope of Jesus, it was my dear friend Anne Belk. Anne was a beautiful wife, caring mother, and gifted woman in ministry. Around Proverbs 31 Ministries, she was not only a beloved board member but she was also an inspiration to us all. Earlier this year, Anne received the fulfillment of her promise of eternal life. She went to be with Jesus after a painful battle with cancer. This month Anne would be celebrating her 46th birthday.

Even through her illness, Anne spent her life living with an eternal point of view. She did not focus solely on her own promise of eternal life. Anne longed for others to receive the gift of eternal life too and celebrate their own spiritual birthday. Her ways of sharing her faith were quiet and gentle, yet powerful and significant. Her influence carries on. It is the reason for this devotion, to celebrate Anne’s devotion to her Savior. Anne had the hope she carried because she was born again.

Like Nicodemus in today’s key verse, perhaps you are asking, "How can a person be born again?" Being born again simply means you experience a spiritual rebirth. Maybe you are making it more personal, "How can I, a woman with my past, be born again?” Maybe you believe the guilt of your past is too much. Or, that the Lord won’t welcome you because of sin in your life. Friend, these are lies.

It is because of God’s grace we can be born again. Grace is the unmerited kindness of God. This free gift was demonstrated on the cross, when God gave His only Son Jesus as a sacrifice for your sin. He paid the ultimate sacrifice so that you might live free from the bondage of your past sin, the stronghold of present sin, and the allure of future sin. Later in today's key passage Jesus tells Nicodemus this, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16, NLT).

Eternal life is our spiritual birthday gift from God when we are born again. How do we receive this gift? By following what God tells us in His Word: confess and believe. His Word says "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" (Romans 10:9, NIV).

As we celebrate our dear friend Anne today, we’d like to share a part of her eternal point of view,
"I woke up in the middle of the night Wednesday singing, ‘This little light of
mine, I’m gonna let it shine.’ I had not heard that song in a month or two so I
know it was God reminding me of it. It is so important for us to recognize
God’s power. It is so important for us to recognize the Holy Spirit. That
Holy Spirit is the light shining within us. When we allow the Holy Spirit
to direct us that light can be seen by others. They see it in the deeds we
do…in our attitudes… in the way we share the gospel…in our care of others…. in
the truths we speak…in our longing to be closer to Christ…in our desire to do
His will. And the wonderful thing about letting our own light shine is
that it encourages others to do the same."
(Excerpted from Anne's journal, used with permission.)

Anne would have no greater joy than knowing that our celebration of her physical birthday led to the celebration of your spiritual birthday. Today is your day! Will you confess with your mouth "Jesus is Lord" and believe in your heart He came to save you?

Dear Lord, Thank You for the promise of a future full of peace and contentment and free of pain and suffering. That You would sacrifice Your only Son for me takes my breath away. It is my desire to live my life allowing Your light to shine through me so that all may be drawn to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Application Steps:
We would love to celebrate this day with you. Please follow this link to share with us your decision to be born again, or to recommit your life to Christ.

Perhaps you already have the light Anne spoke of but you know someone who does not. Would you consider shining your light by forwarding this email to them? Like Anne, you can let your light shine and share the gospel.

How do I let the light of the Lord shine through me?

What can I do to show my devotion to God?

Power Verses:
Acts 13:38, “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” (NIV)

Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , ,

Does God Really Care about Me?
Lysa TerKeurst

“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” Psalm 61:1-4 (NIV)

Do you ever feel lonely? Recently, I was at an event full of people. Everyone else seemed gabby and like they were effortlessly making easy connections with others. I just felt out of sorts. Someone had said something to me earlier that day that hurt my feelings and knocked me off kilter. It was one of those, “I would really like to be at home alone, in a bubble bath, eating something chocolate” kind of nights. But I had to go to this outing, so here I was – feeling lonely.

My shifting emotions caused me to get in such a down state, I even started wondering if God cared about me.

I politely smiled my way through the evening, and finally got to go home. As I crawled into bed that night, I asked Jesus, “Why am I letting some thoughtless comment made by someone affect me like this?”

There was no deep explanation. There was no Bible verse that instantly popped into my head. There was no sudden rush of peace through my heart. Only a very gentle reminder in the depths of my soul that Jesus loves me - insecurities and all.

Jesus loves me, that simple little song I learned all those years ago. Very simple, yet so powerfully profound, that one statement grounds me in the truth of who God says I am. Friends can’t make you feel accepted all the time. Accomplishments will never truly make you feel secure. Having lots of people around you does not mean you won’t ever feel lonely. And chocolate, while it is deliciously distracting, is just a little too temporary.

So, I turn to the One who is Everlasting, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel - God with us. I draw close to Him so He can help me separate solid truth from shifting emotion.

See if you can identify with any of the shifting emotions listed below. Then, rejoice as you read God’s solid truths upon which we can find a firm place to stand and a sure place to park our feelings.

Shifting Emotion:
I don’t always feel noticed by other people. Everyone just seems to be wrapped up in their own lives. Sometimes I even wonder if God notices me.

Solid Truth:
God not only notices us, He is with us at all times. We are to keep ourselves in God’s love whether we feel Him or not. By praying, and filling our minds with God’s truth, His love will grow in us and through us. Then we won’t be so consumed with wanting others to notice us. We will become people who notice others and let God’s love shine on them. Jude 1:20-21, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” (NIV)

Shifting Emotion:
I don’t feel very loved. Therefore, I don’t feel like being very loving towards others.

Solid Truth:
We are dearly loved by God. His love enables us to display compassion, kindness and patience even when we don’t feel like it. Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (NIV)

Shifting Emotion:
Does God really care about this situation I’m in?

Solid Truth:
God is with us. As we cry out to Him, we are reminded of His help. Psalm 61:1-4, “Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” (NIV)

Dear Lord, Help me rid my mind and heart of the doubts shifting emotions cause, and be filled with only Your solid truths. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa TerKeurst’s blog to enter to win a resource package

Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Print these solid truths off and carry them with you. When shifting emotions start to tug at your heart, be reminded of God’s truths that can turn around any situation.

What are some other verses that might specifically apply to areas of struggle for you right now?

How might it help to keep these verses close at hand and reflect on them often?

Power Verses:
Matthew 7:24-25, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , ,

God Does Not Make Mistakes
Lara L. O’Brien, She Speaks Graduate

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

Have you ever felt like one of those toys from the Land of the Misfit Toys in “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer?” Boy, I sure have! Growing up, an overwhelming sadness haunted me. Inferiority and worthlessness were constant companions and I wondered if God had been sleeping on the job when He created me. Those feelings manifested themselves in a deep depression.

By the time I was a teenager, anorexia consumed me and I was determined to destroy myself. Because my life felt so out of control I needed something I could control. In my case, it was what I did or did not put in my mouth.

Years spent in my anorexic prison molded my self-image into one of self-hatred. Why would anyone want to be with me? Why am I here? Do I even want to live anymore? These were just a few of the questions that constantly bounced around in my head. Feeling like a square peg in a round hole, I quite honestly wanted to die. The pain of day-to-day living was so hard for me.

Despite being surrounded by amazing family and friends who loved me, I believed many things that were not true. I whole-heartedly believed I was a mistake. I believed I could get the affirmation I desired from guys, most whom were abusive towards me. I believed I was worth nothing and deserved the hits, scratches, and horrible, hateful words. I thought they were my rightful punishment.

Growing up I believed something else too…I believed in God. But did I believe Him? Did I believe all His wonderful promises were meant for me personally? Did I believe God could love me when I was such an absolute mess?

After years of depression, suicide attempts, abusive dating relationships, and starvation, I had an encounter with my Savior. I met God with my pain and messy, mixed-up life and He met me with His love and acceptance. He showed me I was His child, made in His own image. The Lord also led me to an amazing Christian counselor. Revisiting my painful past through counseling was a hard journey, but well worth it. I felt God’s infinite healing and love for me, and for the first time I began to believe that God had a plan and a purpose for my life.

The Lord is now using my life and experiences for His good. I have a passion to minister His healing and love through written and spoken words to those who suffer or have suffered as I did. How about you? Are you hurting? Do you feel worthless and like you do not matter? Please don’t. You are not a misfit toy.

A friend once told me that if God had a refrigerator, my photo would be on it. Your picture would too! God loves you so much and created you in His beautiful image. His Word says you are made with love. Choose today to believe it.

Dear Lord, I pray for those who are hurting and who believe that they do not matter. Please meet them in the middle of their pain, and shower Your love and affection over them. Thank You that You created all of us in Your wonderful image. You never make mistakes. We praise You for that. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know the Healer of All Wounds?

Your Scars are Beautiful to God by Sharon Jaynes

Shaped with Purpose CD and companion Workbook by Renee Swope

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

Application Steps:
1. Dive into God’s Word…His love letter to you, His child. Let His love for you
pour off the pages into your heart.
2. Keep a journal. Writing is a wonderful way to express your feelings.
3. Talk to God…He loves you and wants to hear from you.
4. Seek godly professional help if you need it. Please do not feel ashamed to do that.

What experience or situation caused you to feel the way that you do (or did) about yourself?

In light of God’s Word, do you now believe how special you are to Him?

Power Verses:
Psalm 139:13-14, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (NIV)

1 Timothy 4:4, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” (NIV)

Colossians 1:16, “For by him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Lara L. O’Brien. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , ,

Let It Be With Me Just As You Say
Wendy Blight

“Yes, I see it all now: I am the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.” Luke 1:38 (MSG)

Have you read the Christmas story yet this season? Join me today for a fresh look at this familiar story.

In Luke’s first chapter, he introduces us to a young woman named Mary. We can glean from the gospels that she was an ordinary girl, much like you and me. Scripture tells us she was betrothed to a man named Joseph. Luke does not tell us much about her every day life, but we can believe one thing...Mary knew and loved God. How do we know this? By the truths taught in her story.

In one moment in time, this ordinary girl who lived an ordinary life came face to face with an extraordinary God. The angel Gabriel greeted Mary with these words: “You will become pregnant and give birth to a Son and call His name Jesus. He will be great, be called ‘Son of the Highest.’”

Mary asked Gabriel how this would happen since she had never slept with a man. He answered that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, hover over her, and place the child within her. He then told her, “…the child you bring forth will be called Holy, Son of God.”

Considering the immediate impact this message would have on Mary’s ordinary life – she’d have to explain to her family and her fiancé that she was pregnant – her response is powerful and such a witness for you and me. She told Gabriel, “Yes, I see it now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.” How could she have so quickly and easily put aside all that this surprising proclamation would mean and surrender her will to God’s?

How did Mary come to that place? I believe that in her journey up to that point there were many small steps of obedience where she had experienced and witnessed God’s faithfulness. Perhaps places where she said, “Yes, Lord,” even when it was difficult or did not make sense. Choosing to say “yes” on ordinary days prepared her heart to say “yes” on this extraordinary day!

You and I have those ordinary moments in our lives too ... moments that in and of themselves do not seem significant but when weaved together create a heart of obedience. One day God will ask us to trust Him for something extraordinary. Where will our heart be? Will we be ready to say “yes” to God, even when what He is asking seems impossible?

My prayer for you and for me is that we use this day to prepare our hearts for those moments when our extraordinary God will invite us to join Him on an extraordinary journey. Say “yes” to Him today.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You that You are my Savior and Redeemer. I pray I would know and trust You the way Mary did. Would You give me a heart of obedience and help me to say “yes” in the small, every day decisions? In the busyness of this season, please remind me to humble myself before You and hear Your voice. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and make Your Presence known in real and powerful ways. Help me to be faithful in the ordinary, and in that, prepare me for the extraordinary. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know this extraordinary God? If not, click here to learn more about Him

Pre-order your copy of Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner: The Transforming Power of God’s Story by Wendy Blight (available February 2009)

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst

Move Me Aside CD by Lindsey Kane

Application Steps:
Spend some time alone with God this Christmas season, asking Him to reveal Himself to you in very personal ways. Pray for opportunities to say “yes.” Listen for Him to speak. Expect to hear Him and expect great things to happen as you obey what you hear.

Is something in your life keeping you from saying “yes” to God? Will you trust God with whatever it is? Ask Him to help you surrender it to Him so that you can discover the extraordinary and wonderful things God has in store for your life.

Power Verses:
Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (NIV)

Mark 11:24, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , ,

Burnt Snowmen
Susanne Scheppmann

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” 2 Timothy 1:6 (NIV)

The snowmen dressed in red mufflers and black stovepipe hats stood cheerily on the dining room table. Amidst all the Christmas decorations, their presence brought the most oohs and ahs. Everyone at the party asked my friend, “Where did you buy them?”

I smiled. I had bought the snowmen candles for my friend as her Christmas gift. I thought to myself, “You did well!”

A group of us chatted around the dining room table, nibbling on sugar cookies. Holiday gaiety floated through the room. We laughed together until, all of sudden, I noticed smoke emitting from all three of the wax snowmen candles. Before I could speak, flames spewed up and out of the stovepipe hats. The candles burst into flames, igniting the other table decorations! My friend shrieked for help. Her husband, a firefighter by profession, ran into the room and doused the candles with the bowl of fruit punch that sat on a side table.

We sat in shocked silence. Instead of feeling pride over my gift, I hung my head in embarrassment. Now everyone wanted to know where I had purchased the fire hazard, because they didn’t want to buy anything of the same nature!

The apostle Paul encourages us “…to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you ...” (2 Timothy 1:6, NIV). Much like the candles burst into flames from a catalyst within, our gifts are to burst forth through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. Our God-given gifts are to be used to bless others.

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s great for others, but I don’t have any gifts to share.” My friend, God’s Word promises “…each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that” (1 Corinthians 7:7, NIV). I encourage you to seek the Lord and ask Him to show you what gifts He’s placed within you.

Consider Romans12:6-8, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” (NIV).

So what spiritual gift do you have that Christ wants you to use this Christmas season? I encourage you to allow your spiritual gifts to burn brightly during the Advent Season. And, as we fan our gifts into flames, let’s pray that others will see and recognize the glory of the Most High God.
Dear Lord, Thank You for giving me spiritual gifts. Please show me the gifts You’ve placed within me. Teach me how to use my gifts so that others may see You and desire to know You more. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know the Giver of gifts?

Birds in My Mustard Tree by Susanne Scheppmann

Walk With Me Today Lord by Emilie Barnes

Shaped with Purpose CD and companion Workbook by Renee Swope

Application Steps:
Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, 27-30; Romans 12:3-8; and Ephesians 11-13. Read the Power Verses below and search your concordance for scriptures that speak of spiritual gifts. Then ask the Lord to reveal your personal spiritual gifts.

Do I know what my spiritual gifts are?

How do I utilize the gifts that God has given to me?

Am I fanning my gifts into flame to burn brightly for the glory of God?

Power Verses:
Exodus 35:31, “And he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.” (NIV)

1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (NASB)

© 2008 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Labels: , ,

Site Search
Recent Devotions
Articles About...
Grab our button!