Lead Me Lord
Wendy Blight

"Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

Do you pray for direction, and hear nothing?

Do you wonder if God even heard your prayers?

Friend, you are not alone. Often I come before God, pouring out my heart in prayer, seeking His will for different areas in my life. Then I hear nothing. He is silent. Not wanting to wait, I forge ahead on my own. In my busyness, I fail to sit and wait. No time, I say, because someone is waiting for an answer. No time, I say, because I need to act now.

Yet, when I examine Scripture, God consistently teaches: sit, pray, and wait. Jesus began His ministry by fasting forty days alone in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). He spent an entire night alone in prayer before choosing His twelve disciples (Luke 6:12).

Esther fasted and prayed for three days before she took the bold and courageous step of going before the king on behalf of her people, knowing it could mean her death (Esther 4:8-16).

Elijah went into the wilderness for forty days to hear the "still small voice" (1 Kings 19:11-18).

What do these great people of faith teach us? To know God's leading, to hear His voice, we must listen and wait. Maybe we think God is silent because we never take the time to sit in God's Word and wait. When we do, He promises it will penetrate us to the marrow of our bones, to the deepest places in our heart. Hebrews 4:12 says His Word is living and active and "sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow" (NIV).

When we choose to get alone with God, He promises to meet us there. Jeremiah 29:13-14a says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you" (NIV). Take the challenge to meet Him in His Word.

Do you want direction? Follow these steps.

1) Read God's Word: 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the [woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (NIV) God was actively involved in the writing of Scripture. It is the infallible and authoritative Word of God written to speak Truth into your life today.

2) Study God's Word: 2 Timothy 2:15 says, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (NIV). When you study His Word, He plants it deep within your heart. His Spirit then takes the Word and bends your heart in His direction, enabling you to hear His Voice.

3) Pray God's Word: Isaiah 55:11 says, "...so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purposes for which I sent it" (NIV). Prayer is God's living Word spoken out of your mouth. When you pray in faith, you hold God' Word up to Him in prayer. You put Him in remembrance of His Word, and His promise is that Word will not return void. Furthermore it shall accomplish that which He purposes and pleases.

Join me today in applying God's Word to the circumstances in your life. Know that when you do, God promises to do abundantly more than you could ever ask or imagine!

Heavenly Father, I need direction in my life today. You seem distant and silent. Yet I know that You are not because You promise to never leave me or forsake me. Today, I commit to search Your Word. Open my eyes that I may see the wonderful things in Your Law. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear Your direction in my circumstances. Thank You, Lord, that in my seeking You will meet me. Thank You that as I trust in You completely, You will lead me down Your paths! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner: The Transforming Power of God’s Story by Wendy Blight

He Speaks to Me by Priscilla Shirer

Stop by Wendy’s blog

Application Steps:
Commit one area of your life or one situation with which you struggle to hear the Lord. Search His Word for verses that speak to your situation. Write them down on a card, commit them to memory, and pray them back to God. Wait and watch for God to do a mighty work. Share your story with me on my blog. I would love to celebrate God's faithfulness with you.

Sit and soak in Psalm 119 and marvel at the many blessings that flow from knowing and obeying God's Word.

Power Verses:
Read, study, and pray the verses listed in the body of the devotional.
© 2009 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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No Condemnation
Melissa Taylor

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

Today's key verse is one of my favorites. It has comforted me many times in my life. It gives us freedom from the condemnation we often project on ourselves. If God promises freedom, then why is it so hard for us to believe, feel and grasp the fact that there is indeed "no condemnation" for Christians?

Self-condemnation just comes natural to me. If I didn't purposefully keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and remind myself of who I am in Christ, I'd beat myself to pieces with condemning thoughts and words.

The Lord has the neatest ways of reminding me there is no condemnation as His child. Just this morning God spoke to me directly through a devotion I read in Sarah Young's book Jesus Calling. I felt as if the author had been following me around and knew exactly what I needed to hear. Actually I knew it was God Who knew exactly what I needed to hear. It read, "Do not listen to voices of accusation for they are not from Me."

Hello Lord. Are you talking to me? You know that I often feel down and disappointed in myself and call myself names. You knew my feelings had been hurt by someone's comments. I hear You telling me not to listen to the voices of accusation. Thank you for that reminder right when I needed it.

The devotion continued, "Pause before responding to people or situations, giving My Spirit space to act through you. Hasty words and actions leave no room for Me."

Lord, is that You again? You know that I spoke unkind words to my husband last night and You reminded me to "pause before responding." Thank you Lord for bringing me these words as a reminder of what You want from me. I needed these today, right now.

I get so excited and amazed when this happens. It just affirms that God cares about me. He loves me. He is real in my life today. Have you ever had a "God moment" like this?

If left to defend myself from self-condemnation and condemnation from others, I'd be defeated every time. Fortunately we don't have to defend ourselves. In fact, In fact, “the Lord Himself will fight for you” (Exodus 14:13-14). We have the greatest defender in God and His Word. As we take the time to listen to Him, He can remind us that He is with us, He loves us, and it's true..."There is NO CONDEMNATION in Christ Jesus!"

Dear Lord, when I forget, please remind me that I am not condemned. Help me to see the difference between conviction and condemnation and keep my eyes and thoughts on You. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young

Spend quiet time listening to the Voice of Love with Sanctuary: A Devotional Bible for Women

For more encouragement on this topic, Listen to Today’s Radio Show, March 30, 2009 edition

Share your “God moments” with Melissa on her blog

Application Steps:
When spending time with the Lord, pause and ask Him if there is something He's trying to tell you. Ask Him to help you apply His Word to your life.

Am I listening to God?
Are there condemning thoughts about myself that I am believing?
Am I fixing my eyes on Christ?

Power Verses:
Exodus 14:13-14, "Don't be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm." (NLT)

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

© 2009 by Melissa Taylor. All rights reserved.

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Under My Skin
Lynn Cowell

"…and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of depair..." Isaiah 61:3a (NIV)

It wouldn't stop burning. Like a sunburn after hours at the beach, the heat on my hands stayed for hours. As a blessing to my family, I had made Aunt Carol's jalapeno peppers. With the sharp knife and chopping block, I transformed eighteen forest-green peppers into little boats of tasty fun. What I hadn't counted on was that ten minutes of exposure to the pepper's oil to my dry, cracked winter skin produced a burning that lasted for hours.

As I looked at my red, cracked hands, I was reminded of another part of me that looked dry and under-nourished not so long ago. In the heat of the summer months, my heart was in bad shape. It felt like a stone. When I would go to church, I sang the songs, but my heart was not truly singing praise to my Love, Jesus. I assumed it was the church. Surely, something had changed. We needed new music; something fresh.

Soon after something did change, and it was me. I re-discovered the oil of gladness and oil of joy by personally coming into the Lord's presence daily. Although I had never stopped reading my Bible and praying, I hadn't been taking the extra time and effort to come into His presence.

With the help of a prayer journal, I started beginning my time with the Lord each day by exposing myself to Him in praise. In her journal, Intimacy with God; Your Daily Guide to Prayer, Tara Furman suggests several ways to come before Him: repeating His attributes, calling out His names, and singing hymns or worship songs. My favorite is reading out loud the Psalms. Just yesterday the repairman heard Psalm 103 coming loudly from my lips as he banged away on my wood floor.

Opening the day with praises to my King has transformed my heart. Now, when I go to church, I no longer wait to enter into His presence; my heart is already there. I have found that my outlook through the day is different. Like the oil from the peppers, the burning effect of His presence is felt in my heart many hours after the exposure.

Dear Lord, as it says in Psalm 100:4, help me to enter into Your gates with thanksgiving and into Your courts with praise. Help me to give thanks to You and praise Your name. You are good and You deserve my heartfelt worship each day. I love you! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

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

His Princess: Prayers to My King by Sherri Rose Shepherd

Visit Lynn’s blog

Application Steps:
Put your favorite worship music on and find a place where no one can see you. Spend some time worshipping Jesus as you feel He would enjoy: singing, arms raised, clapping, dancing, whatever you feel would bring glory just to Him!

Choose some new worship music to breathe fresh air into your time with Him. Check out our Shop P31 page for new CDs.

Ask a friend what her favorite Christian worship music is and swap for a week.

What holds you back from worship?

Does your heart feel dry and cracked, like it needs some ointment? Ask the Holy Spirit to soften your heart.

Power Verses:
Ezekiel 11:19, "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh." (NIV)

Psalm 103:1-2, "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits." (NIV)

Psalm 9:1-2, "I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High." (NIV)

© 2009 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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Finding God's Purpose and Perspective
Renee Swope

"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)

A few weeks ago, I shared a devotion about the day I wanted to quit being a mom. I spent time that afternoon writing in my journal, processing my emotions with God and asking Him to help me. Later that day I read something in Zig Ziglar's book, Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World, that God used to completely change my perspective as a mom and as His child. Here's what I read:

Andrew Carnegie was the wealthiest man in America in the early 1900s, so wealthy that he employed over 42 millionaires! One day a reporter who was intrigued by Carnegie's wealth asked how he developed these men to become so valuable that he would pay them that much money. Carnegie explained, "Men are developed the same way gold is mined. When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold, but one doesn't go into the mine looking for dirt — one goes in looking for gold. And the more he looks for, the more he finds."

After this story, Ziglar challenged parents to look past their children's mistakes and mine for gold in them. I'd been buried in the dirt that day! My discouragement and feelings of failure as a mom left me so disappointed in myself. I was also convinced God felt the same way about me.
Pity set in and I started wishing I had a gold-miner in my life who could see beyond my mistakes and find the gold in me. That's when God whispered to my heart, "Renee, I am that gold-miner. You are the one who is so critical of yourself. You are the one who focuses on your faults. But I see the gold of My image in your heart, and I want to bring it to the surface so your kids can see Me in you."

As I sat there trying to process what God was whispering to my heart, stories and promises from the Bible started flooding my thoughts helping me believe that God really does see beyond who I am to who I can become. It would take time for those truths to sink in, but that day God used His thoughts to give me a new perspective - of Himself and of myself. Then He challenged me to look for ways to transfer that perspective to my children.

It's easy to get buried in the dirt of discontentment, disobedience and discouragement. You may even be thinking, Where's the gold in it all? I wondered, too. But after reading Carnegie's story and hearing God speak to my heart, I wanted to become a gold-mining mom.

As I thought about the gold I'd like to find in my children, character traits like patience, kindness and contentment came to mind. I decided to make a list of golden attitudes and actions and look up Bible verses we could learn together. I even made gold nuggets by balling up foil and spray-painting them gold. I decided that each time my kids showed a golden attitude or action, I'd reward them. When they saved up enough nuggets, they'd get a special treat.

Each week we'd find a new character trait and Bible verse, write down ideas to live it out and make them part of our family devotions. God's Word became a part of our everyday lives as He taught me to take my eyes off of my children's habits and focus on their hearts. Not only did it change my kids' attitudes and actions, it changed me, too. For the first time in months, I was excited about my role as a parent. God had given me a new perspective, and a whole new sense of purpose as a mom!

Dear Lord, thank You for not focusing on the dirt in my life but seeing beyond who I am to who I can become. Help me believe that, receive that and give it away to my kids, my husband and my friends. Help me look at their hearts and encourage the glimpses of You that I see in them. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Renee’s Blog for more practical ways to connect spiritually with your kids. Also, sign up for a chance to win D6 Devotional magazines for parents and children.

Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child Chart and CD: Wisdom, encouragement and tools to develop character in your kids. By Renee Swope

Click here to find out how you could win an all-expense paid trip for two to the The D6 Conference.

The Mom I Want to Be, by T.Suzanne Eller

Application Steps:
Encourage character in your kids by noticing and celebrating things they do like sharing a snack (generosity), putting away toys (responsibility), feeding the dog (initiative), concern for a friend (compassion), and saying thank you (kind words).

What character trait and Bible verse can you and your kids learn and demonstrate together this week?

Power Verses:
Ephesians 5:1-2,"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering to God." (NIV)

Colossians 1:28, "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ." (NIV)

© 2009 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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Despairing Parents
Susanne Scheppmann

"My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word." Psalms 119:28 (NIV)

Thud! I heard my son's feet hit the dirt outside his bedroom window. My heart sank. I had been right when I told my husband, "He's going to run-away. Watch."

The whole afternoon and evening had spun into a disaster. My adolescent son had gotten into trouble. We were in the middle of discussing it with him when the phone rang. My husband listened as his ex-wife told him that his daughter had run away that afternoon. I watched the panic cross my husband's face as he dug for more details about what had happened.

In addition, I spied my son's alert face and witnessed a light bulb go off in his adolescent brain. I could tell he thought, "I'm going to run away too!" We sent my son to his room while we managed the bigger problem of the moment – my stepdaughter.

Sure enough, he went on the lam. My thoughts raced. Should I go after him? Should I lock him out of the house? Or should I wait and search for him later? I felt emotionally and physically exhausted.

Both my husband and I were stricken with confusion and sadness as we battled through all the drama and trauma in our family. That evening we despaired. How could this happen? We tried to be good parents. It seemed that with three teenagers, life was a never-ending crisis.

Things did turn out OK. My stepdaughter returned home to her mother. We found my son, and my husband coaxed him home. Everyone went to bed, and two exhausted parents prayed for a better tomorrow.

That was several years ago. Children mature. Time heals. And God is faithful to the prayers of a despairing parent. He feels our heartaches. He sees our tears. He grants us the courage and guts to keep on parenting.

Our key verse today acknowledges the pain we may experience, but it also points the way to gaining strength—God's Word. If you are a despairing parent, seek the Lord's comfort, wisdom and strength by reading and praying Scripture each day. God is our source of strength when we come to our wit's end in the life-long career of parenting.

Dear Lord, thank You for the gift of my children. I am honored You set me apart to be their mom. Yet, at times parenting is hard! I ask You for guidance and strength. Remind me of the joys of parenting when I despair. Help me keep a balanced outlook. I ask You to provide me with special Scripture that I can pray for my children. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Divine Prayers for Despairing Parents by Susanne Scheppman

Blended Families by Maxine Marsolini

Listen to Today’s Radio Show for more encouragement when parenting is hard

Visit Susanne’s blog

Application Steps:
Read and memorize Psalm 4:3 and 5:3. Then pray for your children and know that the Lord hears you call to Him. Wait in expectation for His guidance.

Where do I place my trust and hope when it comes to my child?

Do I recognize that Jesus loves my child more than I do?

Power Verses:
Psalms 144:12, "Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace." (NIV)

Psalms 147:3, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (NIV)

Isaiah 49:25, "But this is what the Lord says: 'Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save.'" (NIV)

© 2009 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

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Scribbled-On Dreams
Marybeth Whalen

"Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you have planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare." Psalm 40:5 (NIV)

Recently I learned that a book that I had given up on was miraculously going to be published after all. I was amazed at God's power and His timing. I was ecstatic that He opened doors that I thought were shut forever. As I dug out the original notebook I had once designated to hold the papers and notes I would need for this project, I was shocked to find that almost every page in that notebook was scribbled on by my youngest child. Her artwork made every page unusable! I chuckled to myself as I closed the notebook and went in search of another one to use instead.

Later I reflected on my decision to hand over that notebook to my child. What had made me do that? I knew that it was because the project was, in my estimation, worthless, forgotten. The notebook represented something that would never be. It epitomized the death of a dream. Why not let my daughter fill in the pages with her toddler scribbles? I must have reasoned that nothing else would ever fill those pages!

And yet we serve a God who can blow new life into a dead dream. I had forgotten all about the book I once yearned to write. I had moved on in search of a new dream. But God had not forgotten. His plan was different—and longer—than mine. His vision was further reaching. His outcome never consisted of me writing my dream off as worthless and unachievable. Instead He wanted me to trust in Him even when the situation looked hopeless.

Do you have a dream that looks dead from where you are standing? Have you thrown in the towel, chalked your efforts up to experience and moved on? Just don't move so far that God can't bring you back to the dream when He is ready. Don't fill in the pages of your notebook with hopeless scribbles and not give Him room to fill the pages with His Word, words of life and hope and vision. Yes, surrender your dreams—holding onto them lightly and always keeping His plans as your purpose, ready to lay down anything He asks because no dream is more important than Him. But also remember that God loves to bring about the unexpected, throwing us little surprise parties that bring joy to His Father's heart.

My notebook now serves as a reminder—in childlike script—of God's ability to overcome the impossible and open doors that were once slammed shut. I wouldn't trade those scribbled-on pages for anything! Now I look forward to filling the pages of a new notebook with all new dreams. Dreams that were handed back to me when I least expected it.

Dear Lord, please help me to trust You when things don't work out and I have to surrender my dreams. Help me to rest in the fact that You see things from a much bigger vantage point than I ever could. Help me to know that You always have my best interests in mind, even when You close doors I wanted open. And help me Lord to be ever mindful of Your power that is always at work—even when I can't see it. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
For the Write Reason General Editor Marybeth Whalen

Learning to Live Financially Free: Hard Earned Wisdom for Saving Your Money and Your Marriage by Marybeth and Curt Whalen

Marybeth’s blog

Application Steps:
Do you have a dream you believe is dead? Spend some time writing about that dream in your journal today. Describe it in detail, and then ask God for His purposes to be revealed and His plans to be accomplished. Then spend time praising Him in advance for what He will do with your dreams.

Why do you think dreams are important to us? Do you allow yourself to dream? Have you allowed broken dreams to stop you from dreaming altogether?

Power Verses:
Psalm 75:1, "We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your Name is near; men tell of your wonderful deeds." (NIV)

Psalm 136:6, "Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever." (NIV)

Psalm 105:4, "Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always." (NIV)

© 2009 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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Drawing Near
Amy Carroll

"…and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." Hebrews 10:21-22 (NIV)

As he passed the entrance to each home, the inhabitants rose and moved to their doorway. They watched as Moses passed by them and walked beyond the boundary of the camp to enter the Tent of Meeting. The man who had endured such disrespect suddenly felt reverence from his people, for both God and himself.

As I read Exodus 33 which contains this story, I felt a deep sense of relief. The Israelites were finally back on the right track after a colossal derailing. I had read chapter 32 and grieved at their failure. Even after seeing miracle after miracle—the parting of the Red Sea, water from a rock, manna and quail—it had only taken the Israelites 40 days of Moses' absence to fall back into idol worship and immorality. God was so offended by the sin of the people that He announced His intention to send an angel to direct them as He withdrew His own presence.

So I was comforted to read about their return to worship. I rejoiced that God gives second chances and that the Israelites were rising to the occasion. They finally understood their need for God and for Moses' leadership. Moses set up a tent outside the camp where anyone could go who was inquiring of the Lord. They had a place to go to speak to the Lord, but the people responded by watching as Moses went to meet with God while they worshiped in the entrance of their tents.

In a discussion about this passage, my friend Tricia brought up some great questions. Why did the people stop at the entrance to their tents? Why did they worship from so far away? All the people had been given access to the Tent of Meeting and were invited to meet God there. Why was their journey toward God only partially complete?

Her questions resounded in my mind all week long. I started to realize that I identified with the Israelites that stood to worship in the doorway of their tents. There are times when I too worship God from a distance. Sometimes it's from a sense of unworthiness. Sometimes there's sin that separates me from Him. Sometimes its residual shame or fear from past sins that keep me from drawing near to where God waits for me. Sometimes I'm disappointed when I don't understand God's ways, and occasionally I'm just world-weary.

In looking at this Old Testament scripture, I remembered that there were times when God in all His holiness drew a line for the sinful people and basically said, "You can only come this close to me." He did it as the people stood in awe watching His presence approach Mount Sinai. Jesus' life, though, was purposed to erase any of the barriers for those who desire to know and worship God in a completely up-close way. As Hebrews 10 tells us, Jesus is our great priest who allows us to "draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith."

I ask you to come with me and draw near to God. Let's start walking away from the safety of our "tents" and shed all the fear, shame, weariness and unworthiness as we move toward His throne to worship. He has invited us to come close through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. I accept!

Dear Lord, help me to worship you in the closeness that You desire. Your Spirit has issued an invitation for me to draw near, and I want to be in Your presence. Thank You for making that possible through your Son. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Jesus?

The Air I Breathe by Louie Giglio

Broken into Beautiful: How God Restores a Wounded Heart by Gwen Smith

Visit Amy’s blog

Application Steps:
Remember that you are God's precious child. If you have accepted Jesus as Lord, you are adopted into His family.

Read the power verses below and ask God to help you develop a new intimacy with Him.

What keeps me from worshiping God up-close?

Power Verses:
Hebrews 4:16, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (NIV)

Romans 8:15, "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, "Abba, Father." (NIV)

© 2009 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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A Smashing Success
T. Suzanne Eller

"Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel." Jeremiah 18:6b (NIV)

The first time I spoke to a large group I was age 16. My knees knocked together with such force that I was sure no one could hear what I was saying. I was fresh in my knowledge of Jesus, but my youth pastor had faith in me. I decided to speak on Revelations. Not just about Heaven, but the whole book! About 45 minutes in, I saw the panicked look on the youth pastor's face. My audience's eyes were glazed over. When I was through I stumbled to my seat, making a promise: I would never, ever speak again.

Funny how promises like that can be broken!

Three years ago, I was with a team of women speaking across Europe. We spoke in Budapest, Hungary and Vienna, Austria and were on our way to Germany to meet with military spouses to complete the 10-day tour. That night I sat in the small room snuggled in the high vineyards and I prayed. Thank You God for what You did today in the hearts of these families, and women. I will always obey You. I will walk through the doors You open.

In the darkness I felt God. The words that rang inside of me were gentle, but a rebuke.

It is good that you obey, but when will you embrace who I made you to be with joy?

I was a speaker because doors had opened for me to share my love for Him. I studied. I prepared. I prayed. I loved what God did every single time! But mentally, I showed God the error of His ways: Lord, can't You see her? I think she would be great at this. What about that woman, Father? She's creative and funny! Why don't You pick her?

I was a strong woman of faith, but in this one aspect I was still the young teen inside, my knees knocking, grateful but absolutely sure that God had made a massive mistake.

The Potter's plans were not deterred by a painful past, or how shy I once was, or who I thought might fit the call better. That night God smashed the clay down and with it, all my pre-conceived notions. The next day I spoke in Germany. Absolute joy filled my heart as I embraced what my Heavenly Father had allowed me to be. Not just as a speaker, but as a mom, as a wife, as a woman, and as His child.

What about you? Do you see yourself through the eyes of your past, or through the words of others? Do you point out the hurdles or obstacles to overcome rather than the Creator who personally created your DNA? He may not be calling you to speak, but there are certainly tasks He has for you. There are areas where He believes in you! Do you struggle to see it the same way? Are you willing to put it all in the hands of the Potter today?

Heavenly Father, success is not about the applause of people. It's in beautiful brokenness as You remold us and remake us into what You intended from the very beginning. If there is a pebble or a mar in me today, remove it and reshape me according to Your plan. I offer my life–every aspect of it—to You today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
P31 She Speaks! Conference

The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future by T. Suzanne Eller

Visit Suzie’s blog where she’ll list links to additional sites or resources about this topic

Shaped with Purpose Workbook and companion CD by Renee Swope

Application Steps:
Are you willing to redefine "success"?

Do You Know the Potter?

What area of your life do you offer up to the Potter today?

What tools or resources do you need to help you embrace this new direction?

God shapes the course of our lives as we submit it to Him.

You might stumble as you take steps out of your comfort zone, but you will also grow.

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

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

© 2009 by T. Suzanne Eller. All rights reserved.

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Lysa TerKeurst

"A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back." Proverbs 29:11 (NKJV)

Yesterday, I was just mindlessly looking out the window of an airport watching a few seagulls dart about overhead while airline workers were busy loading bags. Nothing about the scene outside the airport window spoke of danger. But then suddenly I remembered the flight from New York just a few weeks ago that was brought down by a few geese. That seagull that faded into the background just moments before became a point of extreme interest to me. What if?

It's amazing if you stop to think about it that a huge airplane could be brought down by just a few birds. Birds. Who would have thought? It makes me think about other seemingly small things that can cause great destruction as well … especially when it comes to my marriage.

Words vented in frustration can seem so small.

Slightly disrespectful attitudes can seem so small.

Complaining about lack of finances can seem so small.

Brushing off his desires can seem so small.

Making mental lists of things you wish were different about him can seem so small.

But each one of these seemingly small things can so easily and tragically wedge itself into the core of a marriage and send it screaming toward destruction. Entire families have been ripped apart by things that once seemed so small.

Listen to the heartbreak in this note that was anonymously posted on my blog the other day:

"Girls...I know this seems small...but, it's really not. Take it from someone who has blown it more times in marriage than not. Now I have blown it enough to make myself a single mom. It's too late for me. But, it's not for you. Please be aware of the little things. I wouldn't have you join me for anything in the world. Be on your guard and protect your marriage."

I am challenged by this. I can't just mindlessly assume that my marriage is coasting along okay and that little problems can't topple even the most seemingly stable of legacies. I can't get complacent. I can't get prideful. I can't get lazy. I can't take the gift of my marriage for granted.

I have a great marriage but sometimes I slip into automatic and stop getting as intentional as I should about investing richly and deeply into our relationship. So, I've decided to declare this my get intentional week. Today I'll focus on my words. I'm praying for God to interrupt my mouth at every turn today. I am going to hold my tongue against saying anything careless. I am going to intentionally use my words as gifts to my husband today and nothing else.

Not that one day of doing this can protect my marriage forever - but it sure is a good start. Care to join me? Oh you know there will be challenges ahead sweet sister, but I'm up for it. What about you?

Dear Lord, help me to realize that with each word I speak, I am making the choice to bless or to curse. Please help me to speak words that are pleasing to You - even when my emotions run high and my feelings beg me to betray this commitment. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa’s blog to see a list of more helpful Scriptures about stopping careless words.

Capture His Heart by Lysa TerKeurst

The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Identify the areas of your marriage you may be struggling with – complacency, pride, laziness. Look up verses in God's Word that address each.

Spend intentional time in prayer this week for your marriage and your husband.

What have I said recently to my spouse that seemed so small initially?

What have I done recently to my spouse that seemed so small initially?

What have I thought recently about my spouse that seemed so small initially?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 15:1, A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (NIV)

Psalm 19:14, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." (NIV)

Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (NIV)

© 2009 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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A Divine Love Note
Karen Ehman

"He said to him the third time, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me?' Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, 'Do you love me?' and he said to him, 'Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed my sheep.'" John 21:17 (ESV)

Long before the current craze of texting messages back and forth on cell phones, in my junior high we had our own way of communicating with peers: it was called passing notes. When the teacher wasn't looking, we shot a simple, folded piece of lined notebook paper to our friend sitting a few rows back. We crossed our fingers and hoped the teacher's second set of eyes—the ones in the back of her head—were focused elsewhere. Otherwise, our note just might get read to the entire class!

While notes from our girlfriends were fun, what really got our excitement up was when the folded and scribbled message was from a boy. Usually it read something like this:

Do you like me? Check one: Yes ___ No ___ Just as a friend ___

Of course we would think long and hard before taking our pencil and marking our answer. Then it was passing time again; back to the boy who had posed the all-important question. It seems to me in today's scripture Jesus was sending a divine love note to Peter, quizzing him about the strength of his love for Him.

We pick up the story a few verses earlier when after breakfast, Jesus asks Peter, "Do you love me?" Peter seems a bit surprised and says, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus then tells him to feed His lambs. No sooner had he finished talking than He asks Peter the same question again. Then, a third time. Each time it appears as if dear Peter answers the same way. In a nutshell, "Ah…yeah Lord. You know everything. You know I love you. Haven't I made that clear? Why the twenty questions?"

This passage of scripture used to puzzle me, until one day I discovered, with the help of my husband's old Greek textbook from college, that Peter and Jesus were using two different Greek words for love in this famous exchange.

The word rendered 'love' in our English Bibles here is really two distinct words. One is "phileo" and one is "agape." Phileo is defined as brotherly and tender affection; true friendship. It is based on common interests. Agape, on the other hand, is sacrificial and giving love; a love that can't stand being apart from the other. It isn't based on having a common interest with someone. It loves the other not for what they do, but for who they are. It is the laying down your life for another kind of love.

It is helpful to know that the first two times Jesus posed the question to Peter, He asked him "Do you agape me?" Peter answered, "Of course I phileo you!" It was as if Jesus was asking, "…so you really, sacrificially love me, based on Who I am? And you'd gladly lay down your life for me?" And instead, Peter was checking the box that said "Just as a friend!"

The third time Jesus posed the question, He asked Peter, "Do you phileo me?" And Peter truthfully answered "yes." Now, before we are too hard on ole' Simon Peter, we must assume that He indeed did grow to love our Lord in the agape sense of the word. History tells us that Peter met his death by crucifixion. However, he did not feel worthy to be crucified in the same manner as the Lord, so he was crucified upside down!

What about us today, in 2009? If Jesus passed us a divine love note asking if we love (agape) Him, which box would we check? Undoubtedly, many people today would scoff and check the "No" box. There are millions who care nothing of Christ and His love. Others would check "Yes." They are fervent Christ followers who love until the end. I am reminded of many modern day martyrs who have willingly given up their life for Christ.

I fear that many of us would check the "Just as a friend" box. We love, but just to a point. We aren't afraid to hang around Jesus, we just don't want to be asked to share in His sufferings! Oh may God turn our temporal phileo fascination with Jesus into an all-out, agape, laying-down-our-life, love for the Lord.

Pencils sharpened? He is asking us this question today!

Dear Lord, I don't want to be just Your casual friend. I want to love You sacrificially and passionately. Help me learn how. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

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

For more on loving God, visit Karen’s blog

Application Steps:
Take time this week to be encouraged by reading the life stories of some great heroes of the faith who truly loved God. Try Jim Elliot, Fanny Crosby, Dwight L. Moody, Bill Bright, Mother Teresa or William Wilberfource.

How would you rate your love of Christ right now? Cold? Lukewarm? On fire?

Was there a time in your walk with the Lord that your love and devotion for Him was very strong? Why? What happened to change it? More importantly, what steps do you need to take to rekindle that fire again?

Power Verses:
John 14:23, "Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.'" (NIV)

© 2009 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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What People Notice Most
Glynnis Whitwer

"Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?" 1 Peter 3:13 (NIV)

My husband and I run an online store from home. On any given day, you'll find me wrapping file folders in bubble wrap or typing up a shipping label. I'm a stickler for customer service because I know the woman ordering online needs someone on the other end of the computer making sure she has a high quality product.

Even with the utmost care, every once in a while we make a mistake (like shipping the wrong product) or we overlook a small flaw. Such was the case with the woman who ordered a white wire bathroom shelf. When she opened it, apparently a small section was damaged. We must have missed it, otherwise we would never had shipped it. She called me and asked what she should do about it. I told her we'd ship a second one out to her immediately and not to worry about returning that one. If we didn't have another one in stock, I would credit her account.

The next morning she called and left a message saying the damage was so small that her husband was able to fix it and touch up the paint. Now that's going above and beyond what she should have done, in my book. But she did it. I didn't give the incident further thought until we received her feedback on the order.

It's part of our procedure to send every customer an email asking for feedback on our service. I was shocked when I read this woman's response. I wouldn't have been surprised to see some negative comments about shipping an inferior product, but that's not what happened. She responded giving us "excellent" ratings for everything. Then proceeded to comment on how we handled her problem and how impressed she was by the service. We were touched by the kindness and grace she showed us.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened. We can run our business smoothly, get everything out in a timely manner, ship product that's in perfect condition, and everyone is pleased, but not terribly surprised. But when we handle a problem in a manner that's respectful, prompt and shows we take responsibility, people sit up and take notice.

Making a mistake isn't the end of the world. In fact, I've noticed it's actually an opportunity to be a witness for God. People notice how you handle mistakes much more than how you manage success. Admitting mistakes is hard. It always takes me swallowing the pride that threatens to surface. But people are always watching to see what I do.

I'm so relieved I don't have to do everything right. I tried that life for many years, and ended up discouraged. This incident reminded me once again, that even in my weakness, God can still use me to touch another person's life, or reflect His character.

I will probably never meet this customer who purchased a wire bathroom shelf, but I pray she knows there is a God who stands for honesty and justice, and that there are people who are trying to follow Him, who stumble, yet keep pressing on.

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise You for being perfect, and for sending us a perfect Savior. There are so many times I fall short, and make mistakes. Thank You for loving me in spite of my weaknesses. And I thank You for calling me into Your service and seeing my potential, even when I don't see it in myself. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Work@Home: A Practical Guide for Women Who Want to Work from Home by Glynnis Whitwer

The Tale of Three Trees retold by Angela Elwell Hunt

Visit Glynnis’ blog

Application Steps:
Think about the last time you made a mistake. Identify one thing you wish you would have done differently. Ask God in prayer for help to make a change the next time.

Many women would rather go to the dentist, than admit they made a mistake. Why do you think that is?

How does covering up mistakes harm us?

What is freeing about admitting we made a mistake?

Power Verses:
Galatians 6:10, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (NIV)

Ecclesiastes 10:4, "If your boss is angry at you, don't quit! A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes." (NLT)

James 3:2, "Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way." (NLT)

© 2009 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
Micca Monda Campbell

"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand…" Isaiah 40:12a (NIV)

My family and I love to vacation at the beach. As my husband and I sit digging our toes into the warm white sand, our children play in the emerald green salt water. The massive size of the ocean always reminds me that God is bigger and more wonderful than my mind can comprehend. I'm always compelled to quote out loud Isaiah 40:12 while sitting on the beach:

"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?" (NIV)

What a superb reminder of God's mighty power in the creation of the universe and galaxies. Even more amazing, He measured the span of them between His thumb and first finger. Hold those fingers up and look at their span for a moment. Now imagine God looking at the space between His thumb and first finger while saying, "I think I'll make the universe about that big." If that doesn't give you a picture of just how big our wondrous God is, think about this: He poured the oceans from the palm of His hand! Oh, friend, when I gaze upon a huge body of water that could swallow me up in an instant, and I realize that God, at some moment in time, held the entire ocean in the palm of His hand, it simply blows me away!

As I consider this truth, I find myself awestruck by the greatness and glory of our God. The Lord God is so gigantic that He knows every creature that lives in that great body of water. He sees every ship that sails its waves. With a God this big, what could ever escape His attention? What need could we have that He cannot handle? Where could we go that we are not in His presence? What on the earth, above the earth, in the earth, or below the earth can make us afraid? Certainly, we can place our trust in a God so big that even the ocean waves obey their boundaries.

And yet we doubt instead of having boundless faith in an unbound God. We live in fear instead of living carefree in the care of God. Let me ask you—what person or thing can compare to Him? Who or what is more stable than God? Is anything more powerful or glorious? Too often I forget the wonder of God even though all of creation declares His glory. I need to remind myself daily of His greatness. In doing so, all my fears tend to fade in the light of His presence.

Today will you take time to recall how great and magnificent He is? Do it again tomorrow and the next day, too. See if you don't find yourself awestruck by the One so magnificent we can scarcely wrap our minds around the thought of Him. But, oh how we need to try! It will do wonders for our faith and put to death our fears that smother our peace. Nothing gives me hope nor soothes my anxieties like meditating on the attributes of God. For what's impossible for a God who holds the whole world in His hands? Nothing—absolutely nothing!

Dear Lord, You are Lord of all and over all, whether Your people acknowledge it or not. All of Your creation declares Your greatness and beauty. Stir my heart to worship You so that the rocks don't have to cry out. You are worthy of all my praise. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

31 Days of Praise: Enjoying God Anew by Ruth and Warren Myers

An Untroubled Heart: Finding Faith that is Stronger than My Fears by Micca Campbell

Visit Micca’s blog

Application Steps:
Take time to recall how great and magnificent God is. Do it again tomorrow and the next day, too. See if you don't find yourself awestruck by the One so magnificent we can scarcely wrap our minds around the thought of Him.

When did you last sit and ponder God's creation?

How does His creation speak of His greatness?

How can you use God's creation as a witnessing tool to unbelieving friends and family?

Power Verses:
Jeremiah 32:17, "Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you." (NIV)

Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." (NIV)

Luke 19:38-39, "'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!' And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, 'Teacher, rebuke your disciples.' He answered, 'I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.'" (ESV)

© 2009 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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Jealous Much?
Marybeth Whalen

"So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess." Deuteronomy 5:32-33 (NIV)

"Do you ever get jealous?" my friend asked me. I could tell she was hesitant to ask me this. What if I said I don't struggle with jealousy, and she was left alone with her feelings spread out in front of us, vulnerable and exposed.

In that moment, I had a choice to make - be honest and vulnerable with her or gloss over the truth with some spiritual platitude. To say out loud what I wish weren't true, or purport those feelings I wish were true. In a split second, I made the decision.

"Of course!" I responded. "I struggle with jealousy more than I wish I did." I watched her breathe a sigh of relief that she was not alone. And then we spent some time talking about the things we find ourselves being jealous of, how petty we feel about it, and how we keep our focus in the right place, redirecting our thoughts to where they need to be instead of running off on a jealous tangent.

I wish I wasn't prone to those jealous feelings. Jealous that this person got a book contract by a company that turned me down. Jealous that this person got booked to speak at an event I really wanted to do. Jealous that this person gets waaay more blog comments and waaaay more hits than I ever dreamt of. Jealous at this person's true gift for writing, and that person's unique blend of humor and profundity. Jealous of houses, clothes, weight. It's so base, so silly, so human.

God has taught me much about jealousy - how to turn from it, how to guard myself against it. But unfortunately, knowing what to do and actually forcing my mind and my will to do it are sometimes two different things. Through the years, God has shown me "the rest of the story" when people I was jealous of in the past had terrible things happen to them. And I heard His whisper: "Still want her life?" Oh, how ashamed I was for wanting what was never mine to have, because I couldn't handle the burdens that accompanied that life. He knew it, why couldn't I accept it? Yes, the big green-eyed monster does rise up within me unbidden, too often for my taste. I want to slay him forever but he seems to have multiple lives, returning again and again to take up residence in a heart that isn't supposed to be his home.

Do I ever get jealous? Absolutely. Do I want to be jealous? Not at all. Each day I focus on who God created me to be (complete with gifts as well as limits) and the situation He has placed me in. I re-situate my mental blinders so that I am not tempted to look to my right or my left. I keep my focus on Him, and Him alone. When I do that, jealousy has no place in my life. The trick is to keep doing that every day, learning to be content where He has me and resting fully in that.

Dear Lord, please help me not to be jealous of others. I know I can do this when I stay focused on You and trust Your will for my life. Please help me to keep blinders on, not looking to the right or to the left at the people around me, but constantly training my eyes to look to You and Your Word. Thank You Lord for Your perfect plan for me and I am excited to see what You will bring about in the fullness of time. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
The Uncommon Woman: Making an Ordinary Life Extraordinary by Susie Larson

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

For the Write Reason General Editor Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth’s blog

Application Steps:

Synonyms of the word jealous are: anxious, resentful, possessive, demanding, and begrudging. Antonyms are: satisfied, confident, trusting, content, and unresentful. Ask the Lord to reveal friends or situations in your life that you feel jealous (anxious, resentful) of. Confess these to the Lord and ask Him to replace those emotions and thoughts with satisfaction, trust and contentment.

Am I jealous of friends or family members?

Do I trust the Lord to satisfy my needs? If not, why?

Power Verses:
I Corinthians 3:3, "You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?" (NIV)

Philippians 4:12, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (NIV)

Proverbs 27:20, "Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man." (NIV)

© 2009 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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Just Remove It!
Van Walton

"…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Matthew 6:13 (NIV)

This past January, our close friends moved in with us for the weekend when temperatures dropped to the single digits. Frigid weather coupled with their mal-functioning heating system forced the family and their dog out of their house.

As a recent empty-nester, I welcomed the prospect of having children in my home again. And I love dogs. At one point, an opportunity presented itself to teach them a powerful spiritual lesson.
While talking with their mother, I heard the two little people collectively scream out, while giggling, "No! Bad dog." Their mother and I looked over to see their darling little cocker spaniel on my kitchen table. We removed her from the table. The kids explained, "She does that. We don't let her, but she does it anyway."

"Oh?" I walked around the table and pushed each of the chairs up under the table.

"What are you doing?" six year-old Morgan asked.

"I'm removing the temptation."

"What's that?" Her crinkled up expression gave away the fact that she was not familiar with my vocabulary.

But her older brother Terrelle was. "You know – like the apple in the garden. That's temptation."

Morgan nodded, remembering the story. I showed the children how a chair, left out, allowed their doggie to use it as a stepping stool to hop up on the table.

Temptations are like that, I explained – stepping stools to wrong choices…steps to sinful behavior.

Then I added, "Removing temptation helps us all make good choices."

It was a moment for learning spiritual truths. We discussed how removing temptations from our lives could be highly beneficial.

Their mother, who was dieting, chimed in saying, "I've removed cake mixes from my grocery list." Her children's eyes widened. They understood.

Terrelle immediately jumped in, pouting I might add, "Mommy and Daddy don't let me have a TV in my room." Yes, because televisions tempt children when they should be sleeping or studying.

"We can't take mommy's lap-top into our bedroom either," Morgan chimed in. Yes, there are many dangerous perils on the internet that threaten young minds.

I thought about my own house-rules set up for my boys as they grew up. Many of them were developed to spare them from temptation:
1. On school nights, quiet time began at the same time every night. Overly-stimulated children don't sleep well, and tired teens fall asleep in class and struggle with self-control.
2. My boys could visit friends only if their friend's parents were present. Unsupervised teens tend to find trouble.
3. There was no "hanging out" in malls and stores. Loitering leads to boredom, which may lead to overspending, vandalism or shoplifting.

I'm not naïve; I taught high school for years. I know my children faced temptations. As their mom, setting these house-rules helped remove a good portion of the fuel from temptation's fire. Plus, studies prove children make better choices when parents make clear their expectations and set boundaries.

Keeping this in mind, I accept that no matter how well I tried to parent, my children are inherently sinful. Jesus said, "There is no one good, no not one" (Mark 10:18). But my sons are precious in Jesus' sight and in mine too.

Just like that cute cocker spaniel, we face temptations to do what we've been taught not to. And we must learn to choose right from wrong. But if I can remove even one temptation that might cause me or my children to stumble, we're one step closer to victory!

Jesus, You asked the Father to "deliver us." Thank You for teaching me how to pray for my children. Help me guide them in paths of righteousness. Please give me wisdom and resolve to just remove the temptations that would distract my family from Your narrow path. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Related Resources:
For more discussion on removing temptation from children’s lives visit Van’s blog

From the Pound to the Palace by Van Walton

Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture by Mary E.DeMuth

Boundaries: When to Say Yes How to Say No by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Application Steps:

Too many rules turn a home into a prison ward! Ask God to reveal to you the deal breakers: those activities that will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

Am I a wise mother who understands the battle for my child's soul or have I refused to deal with the truth that my child is capable of falling into sin?

Am I proactive? Have I considered the paths my children might take and how I will respond to their misguided choices?

Power Verses:
James 1:14, "Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away." (NLT)

Hebrews 4:15, "For our high priest [Jesus] is able to understand our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he did not sin." (NCV)

© 2009 by Van Walton. All rights reserved.

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Bootleg Faith
Susanne Scheppmann

"Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith." 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT)

A skeleton hangs in my family's history closet. It's very quiet. No one brings the skeleton to our family gatherings. It seldom rattles, but when it does, we all look at each other appalled. How can our family have a history of bootlegging?

During the Prohibition of the 1920's when the government forbade the making or selling of any type of alcohol, my forefathers saw opportunity. My great-grandfather and grandpa contrived a small distillery in a basement and bootlegged alcohol. The original term, bootleg, comes from the attempt to conceal something, usually whiskey in a flask, inside a high-top boot. However, during the Prohibition, the term "bootleg" was used to refer to brewing a drink that was a copy of the real thing.

So, our "family wealth" expanded from the illegal activity of making "liquid gold" in the form of moonshine. Though it may have looked like the real stuff - whiskey - it smelled like oil and tasted like acid, according to those folks who remember the brew.

Sometimes our faith is bootlegged. We try to imitate the appearance of faith we see in others. We copy or fake their faith so we can feel or appear spiritual. Or, like my "family wealth," perhaps our faith is passed down to us. "Family faith" feels comfortable, like a well-worn leather boot. We may participate in rituals, celebrations, and prayers that we don't understand or even care about. Bootlegged faith is never authentic growing faith. It's fake.

I want my faith to be genuine and not a hand-me-down, don't you? Let's pledge today to grow our own faith by reading God's Word, praying and attending a Bible-based church. Let's show our communities an authentic faith that glorifies God.

Dear Lord, help me not to "bootleg" my faith from others, but to walk with You. Grow authentic faith within me. Thank you for the privilege of glorifying You through my faith. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Birds in My Mustard Tree by Susanne Scheppmann

Making It Real: Whose Faith is it Anyway? by T. Suzanne Eller

Visit Susanne’s blog

Application Steps:

Read Acts 2:41-42. List the spiritual disciplines of the early followers of Christ. Choose one to practice in your own life. Ask God to increase your personal faith as you seek a closer relationship with Him.

Do I try to falsely imitate someone else's faith?

How can I develop a strong faith of my own?

Power Verses:
Acts 2:41-42, "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (NASB)

Romans 10:17, "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." (NIV)

1 Peter 1:6-7, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (NIV)

Based from Birds in My Mustard Tree by Susanne Scheppmann

© 2009 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

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Time to Pray – part 2
Rachel Olsen

"But you, when you pray, enter into your room. And shutting your door, pray to your Father in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly." Matthew 6:6 (NLT)

I hope many of you felt the sense of release that I did upon reading Jesus' instructions in Matthew chapter six yesterday on how to pray. I was so relieved when I realized Jesus didn't require me to hold a weekly all-night prayer vigil.

I confess, while I really wanted you to get that point, I feared giving you the impression that all we ever need to do is throw up 3-sentence prayers here and there. There is another component to a truly vibrant prayer life.

A common problem I see and have experienced myself is we're so busy each day that we don't pause to pray - for ourselves or others. We don't plug into God, until a crisis happens. Even then, sometimes we're so used to dealing with things without praying that it can take awhile for us to remember to turn the problem over to God. So developing a pray-as-I-go-through-my-day mindset is important.

Equally as important as taking God along with me through my day and my to-do list, is to set aside and spend time with Him. To commune with Him. To read scripture. To pray, and to listen for His response. To be still in His presence and worship Him. This kind of thing can't be done on the run.

Plus, some issues we face in life, for whatever reason in the spiritual realm, cannot be solved with one or two quick prayers. We have to persist praying with faith. We may need to gather others to join us in praying, and to intercede on our behalf. It's always necessary too, to keep in mind that God may not answer in the way we expect.

EM Bounds writes, "We would not have anyone think that the value of prayer is to be measured by the clock." He also asserts, however, "The short prevailing prayer cannot be prayed by one who has not prevailed with God in a mightier struggle of long continuance." I believe what the good pastor is saying is that when we find God faithful in the issues of life that have required much prayer and faith, it provides a foundation of trust, experience and relationship on which our short daily prayers can rest.

When I look at the life of Jesus and His prayer practices, I see lots of brief prayers He prayed. I also see instances when He spent extended time praying and communing with God. For instance, in Mark 1:35 we find Jesus alone in a solitary place, very early in the morning, praying. And in Mark 6:46, after miraculously feeding 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus leaves His disciples and goes up on a mountainside to pray. Matthew adds to Mark's account that Jesus remained there alone until evening (Matthew 14:23).

So let's examine our prayer life for a moment. Could you benefit from learning to pray quickly during your day as needs arise? Is a set-apart time of leaning deeper into God with stillness and prayer what your soul is truly craving? Whichever it is, or both, decide to make it happen. We can start with a quick prayer for God to guide us in this.

Dear Lord, show me how to pray. Show me how to stay connected with You through prayer through out my day. And show me how to also steal away alone with You and be refreshed through prayer. Lead me, in Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

31 Days of Praise and 31 Days of Prayer by Ruth and Warren Myers

Intimacy with God: Your Daily Guide to Prayer

Join us in becoming a prayer partner

Visit Rachel’s blog for more about prayer

Application Steps:
Plan a time this week when you will steal away for some quiet prayer time with God. Maybe get up early one day, or head to a secluded park for lunch hour, or crawl in bed early one night with your Bible and pray.

Luke 11:1-12 teaches us to pray as Jesus did with confession, thanksgiving and glorifying God. This passage also shows us the importance of persistent prayer. Try modeling your prayers after this passage.

Corrie Ten Boom once asked, "Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?"

Power Verses:
Hebrews 4:16, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (NIV)

© 2009 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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Time to Pray
Rachel Olsen

"Keep on praying." 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)

GUILT. Many Christians I've talked to equate this word with their prayer life, and I can relate.

I used to feel guilty because people would ask me to pray, or I would volunteer to when I heard they were going through something difficult. With a heart of compassion, I'd reply, "Oh, I'll pray for you!" And I fully intended to. But then I'd forget ... get busy ... say that to five other people in the meantime ... and often never get around to doing it despite my good intentions. I'd put off praying in the moment, in favor of waiting until I had a big chunk of time to spend in prayer. Then life would happen and that chunk of time wouldn't materialize. By the time I carved some out, I couldn't remember all I'd intended to pray about.

One of the perceptions I had about prayer was that I needed to spend a lot of time in prayer in order to do it "right." I thought short prayers wouldn't have much power or impact. Then I noticed something that shifted my thinking. In Matthew chapter six, Jesus is teaching about prayer. He says, "When you pray, don't talk on and on as people do who don't know God. They think God likes to hear long prayers. Don't be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask" (Matthew 6:7-8, CEV). Wow, so I don't have to talk for hours, coming up with many ways to phrase my petitions? It was so freeing to see this coming from Jesus' lips.

That was followed by another ah-ha moment. In the next verse, Jesus said: "You should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, help us to honor your name. Come and set up your kingdom, so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven. Give us our food for today. Forgive us for doing wrong, as we forgive others. Keep us from being tempted and protect us from evil " (Matthew 6:9-13, CEV). This is often called "The Lord's Prayer."

Pause, look at the clock, and then say the Lord's Prayer aloud. Now check the clock again. How long did that take? This was Jesus' illustration of how to pray - so what does that tell us about feeling we need to pray l-o-n-g prayers to be effective? Hear me on this, I do believe there are needs that call for extended time in prayer (see Jesus' time in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:36-46 for instance). But many things can be prayed for in short prayers as we move through out our day.

Now, when a friend sends me an email with a troubled story, I rarely respond by saying, "I will pray for you." Instead, I pause and pray for her before hitting reply to say, "I have prayed for you." If someone calls me on the phone, or tells me in person about their prayer need, more often than not I'll offer to pray with them right then. If I encounter a reason to pray while reading the newspaper, or reading scripture, I do it in the moment. My aim is not to be lengthy and elaborate with these prayers, but rather to do it while my mind is on it.

If I feel the need to pray for someone repeatedly or over time, I follow through with my carefully considered plan because I've gotten more intentional about this prayer thing. But deciding several years ago to pray short, in the moment prayers was key for me. It is a very doable way of "praying continually" and it helped relieve a lot of feelings of failure, pressure and guilt. Most importantly, this ensures that people's needs are in fact being prayed for - which is the ultimate goal, right?

I'm convinced the Enemy often keeps us from praying by getting us to procrastinate until later, making us think we need more time or more words to do this thing "right." As I read the Bible, I see instructions to pray frequently, to pray with faith and persistence, and to pray over all our cares and concerns. But I do not see that we must talk for hours over each request for God to hear them. I hope that does for you what it did for me – replaces feelings of guilt with a renewed passion to pray.

Dear Lord, help me to pray frequently and persistently with faith, in accordance with Your will. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

For more about prayer, or to leave a prayer request, visit Rachel’s blog

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

Application Steps:
Purpose to pray in-the-moment-prayers today.

Is prayer a regular part of my day, or something I only "save up" for later?

Power Verses:
Psalm 66:20, "Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer and did not withdraw his unfailing love from me." (NLT)

© 2009 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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Be Mindful
Melanie Chitwood

"Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." Colossians 3:2 (NAS)

About a year ago, my husband and I, along with another couple, began moving forward with a dream of opening an indoor basketball/volleyball gym. We've prayed and taken steps on this path, and now our business has opened. In the midst of starting this new business, the economy began a downward slide that we never could have anticipated. So what was already a risky endeavor has become even riskier.

I watch the news, and it's easy to feel fearful and to think, Are we crazy to continue to pursue this new business?! People ask me if we're afraid, and just their questioning leads me down a road of thinking we should be more afraid than we are. Others express their skepticism, and then it's easy to wonder, Should we just bail out and cut our losses now?

When I take my eyes off my circumstances or stop focusing on what others say, my perspective changes. Then I can say to myself and others, We're walking in faith as we set our eyes on God. We're trusting Him each step of the way, and we're trusting Him with the outcome, whatever that may be."

As you read today's devotion, I'm sure you have some worries also. You worry about losing a job, paying bills, or medical problems. You may be worried about a wayward child, aging parents, or a crumbling marriage. It's so easy to let our circumstances determine our thoughts and feelings, isn't it? Today's verse tells us we have a choice about what we choose to think about. In other words, do we set our minds on our circumstances or on God?

It's also easy to listen to the lies of this culture, lies that say that faith is really impractical. Don't be deceived by this wrong thinking. In the midst of a whole lot of uncertainty, set your mind on the one certainty in life: God loves you and He is in control.

Dear Lord, thank You that in the midst of uncertain times, fearful times, and heart-aching times, You are the One I can be certain of. Thank You for being a Sure Thing, for now and always. Let my mind be filled with You, and then I will know Your peace which is supernatural. Lord, I pray that You will strengthen me in this trial, and during it, I ask that You will cause my heart and my mind to continue to turn to You. Lord, don't let this hard time cause me to be bitter or despairing. Instead, let me come out of it on the other side with a stronger trust in You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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

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

Financial Survival in Uncertain Times by Deborah Smith Pegues

Join us for more Everyday Life encouragement on topics such as marriage, finances, and relationships

Application Steps:
Are your thoughts fixed on the news of the media, or on God's Word? Consider limiting how much you watch or read the news. Don't be tempted to think that this is denying reality. It's not. It's setting your mind on things above.

You can direct your thoughts to God by reading Scripture, praying, or listening to praise music. Let these remind you of who God is and that He is in control.

Are you taking time to talk to God about all your fears, concerns, and worries?

Are you leaving your burdens with the Lord, or do you carry them around yourself trying to come up with a solution on your own?

Have you talked to a godly friend about your situation, or are you trying to hide your concerns from others so you appear strong?

Power Verses:
Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (NIV)

Isaiah 41:10, "'Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'" (NAS)

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

© 2009 by Melanie Chitwood. All rights reserved.

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