Entering into God's Will
Rachel Olsen

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Many times in my life I've felt desperate to know God's will for me. That's common; a lot of us want to know what the will of God is for us. Usually it's a question we ask while agonizing over a decision we're facing – Should I go to this college, or that one? Should I accept or decline this offer? Should I move or stay put?

At times I've even felt paralyzed wondering what God wanted me to do. There aren't any verses in the Bible that answer those specific questions. Scripture is clear about God's will when facing a temptation to sin, but not so much in the "neutral" decisions in life – like choosing between two equally good schools or jobs.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes, "When you go to the Scripture for insight on the will of God, you don't find a lot about things to do, places to go, or people to meet. That's because God's will is not so much a place, a job, or a specific mate, as it is a heart and a lifestyle." She is correct. And I've found some verses nestled in 1 Thessalonians that plainly reveal what those heart and lifestyle choices look like -it's our key verse for today.

It's easy to read a passage like this one – glossing through it quickly with a general feeling of positive agreement – and not really digest the truth of what it says. So let's break it down.

Three things are commanded by Paul here: joy, prayer and thanksgiving. Of these, joy seems the hardest to produce. But praying and giving thanks are specific actions we can do right now to position ourselves inside of God's will.

Praying our way through our day keeps us continually in touch with God. When our heart and mind is in synch with God's, we're more open to His leading. The Holy Spirit has access to our thoughts to correct, encourage and guide us. So prayer is necessary for the woman wanting to operate in God's will. It doesn't take hour-long prayer sessions four times a day. Rather, keep God at the forefront of your mind and keep talking to Him as your day unfolds. This practice alone will increase your joy!

Hum, why is it important that we also give thanks in all circumstances? Surely, God doesn't need to hear "thank you" to feel appreciated or validated. Giving thanks helps us notice what we have to be joyful about. It also forces us to recognize our God: His goodness. His faithfulness. His provision. His sacrifice. Giving thanks for our gifts includes the Giver in our thoughts. And it affords us a right view of Him - one that acknowledges He delights in caring for us, guiding us, and providing for us. That calms our oh-Lord-what-am-I-supposed-to-do worries. We need a right view of God in order to walk in His will.

So praying throughout our day and giving thanks in each situation goes a long way in developing a heart capable of joy in all circumstances. But I must point out that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. That means it is something produced by the Spirit of God in us. We can't totally produce or sustain it on our own apart from Him. So when we pray, we should pray for joy. And thank Him for supplying it.

The Bible states that it is God's will for you to pray, give Him thanks, and cultivate joy. So no matter which college you go to, no matter which offer you accept, and whether you live here or there, be joyful, pray daily, and give thanks regularly. Could it be that if we focus on these things, the path will unfold before us? Or that He will work all out for good, no matter which choice we make?

That means the pressure of making the exact right decision, or else missing God's will entirely, is off. And that's one thing we can give God thanks for today!

Dear Lord, thank You for your faithfulness and for the loving kindness You've shown me year after year. Please develop in me a heart of joy. I choose to trust You with my life, and to rejoice amidst my circumstances today. Guide me in my decisions today, to Your glory. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

To read more about this verse, and perhaps share a praise or blessing, stop by Rachel’s blog today.

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

You are My Hiding Place, Lord: Finding Peace in God's Presence by Emilie Barnes

Application Steps:
Stop now and talk with God. Praise Him. Give Him thanks. Write out a list of your blessings. Lay any confusion, requests or decisions you are facing at His feet. Then ask Him for joy and peace in Jesus' Name.

Move forward into your day with the supernatural joy and peace of God, and a commitment to pray and praise Him again later in the day.

How often am I in God's will in terms of being joyful, praying and giving thanks?

Have I asked God for a joyful heart lately?

Power Verses:
Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

© 2010 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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Becoming the Hands and Feet
Tracie Miles

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." Philippians 2:3 (NIV)

We sat in an empty waiting room for hours, anxiously waiting for an update on my sister's surgery. When the doctor finally entered the room, the news was not good. He explained how it was worse than expected - not exactly comforting news - and proceeded to explain the lengthy recovery needed. He wanted to prepare us for the long road ahead.

You could have heard a pin drop as we all sat there with eyes filled with tears and hearts filled with worry. But the silence came to an abrupt halt as another family entered the room with a lot of hustle and bustle.

I immersed myself in my own feelings and tried to tune them out until I heard the Name of Jesus filling the room.

In that moment, when fear and anxiety hovered, just the mention of Jesus' Name was music to my ears. I lifted my head to see a beautiful white-haired woman, with sparkling eyes and an engaging smile. She sat in a wheelchair, telling her family how she was praying that the Lord would heal her precious husband. Despite her grim situation, her face was glowing with joy.

I quickly averted my eyes, but within seconds she was staring at me and hollered, "Hey honey! How are you?" I managed a pitiful smile, said "Fine, thank you," and intended to keep to myself. She, however, had other plans.

Before I knew it, she had rolled her wheelchair across the room and stopped right at my feet. She talked about her family, why her husband was in surgery, and what a wonderful godly man he was. She asked about our situation and began encouraging me with God's promises.

Although at first I wished she would stop talking, I soon found myself wanting to write down her every word as she poured out her sweetness all over me.

Then she said something I will never forget. "Honey, I hope God blesses your sister. If He can only save one person today, I hope it is her. My husband is 85 years-old and has lived a long and fruitful life."

I was literally stunned by her selflessness. I was shocked that she would even consider the thought of putting a total stranger's life ahead of the life of her dear husband. I didn't know how to respond to such a sacrificial, heartfelt, godly expression of love. Then she took my hands into hers and prayed for my sister out loud. Afterwards, I prayed for her husband, and she disappeared as quickly as she had appeared.

I walked out of that waiting room having seen a glimpse of Jesus in the face of a frail, elderly woman, a woman who was willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

This sweet lady had countless reasons to be depressed, discouraged, and hopeless. Instead she chose to be expressive, encouraging and hopeful. Most importantly, she spread those gifts to everyone around her. She replaced her worry with concern for others. She filled her heart with joy instead of sadness. She put aside her own anxiety to ease the anxiety of a total stranger. She loved on me when she needed to be loved on herself.

She willingly chose to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and I can only hope to be just like this sweet lady one day. I hope

…to become such a strong woman of faith that I can have joy and contentment even during the storms of life.

…to become such a strong woman of faith that I would sacrifice my own needs and desires for those of a stranger.

…to become a woman that leaves other people feeling as if they have seen Jesus through the light that shone through me.

Dear Lord, give me a longing to be Your hands and feet to someone in need today. Open doors for me to spread Your joy and hope. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Tracie’s blog

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

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

Inspire a man in your life to be the hands and feet of Jesus with Hero: Unleashing God's Power in a Man's Heart by Derwin Gray

For more encouragement, read our free resource God’s Messengers

Application Steps:
Ask God to give you a heart consumed with meeting the needs of others.

Would I be willing to make a personal sacrifice for a total stranger?

Do I embrace opportunities that Jesus puts in my path to be His hands and feet?

Power Verses:
Matthew 5:14, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden." (NIV)

Mark 12:31, "The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (NIV)

© 2010 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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Parking My Mind on Truth
Lysa TerKeurst

"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32 (NIV)

Whatever we are facing in this moment we can choose to grab on to the truth. Let everything else go. Let go of the anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and frustration. Park our mind with what is true. "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).

What truth can do for us is really amazing.

A few weekends ago I was wrapping up at a conference where I'd been speaking. My friend Beth and I were talking about where the team would be meeting for dinner that night. Suddenly, a very frantic arena staff member came over and told us there was an emergency and we were needed right away.

A lady attending the conference had just been told her two grandchildren had been killed in a fire that day.

We rushed over to find a lady surrounded by her friends. She was sobbing to the point she could hardly breathe. She'd just been with her grandbabies ages 8 and 4. They'd spent spring break with her last week. She'd held them, rocked them, stroked their hair, and kissed them all over their faces. How could they be gone?

It was too much for her brain to process.

The EMT stepped aside so we could hold her hands and pray over her. At first I stumbled my way through requests for Jesus to pour His most tender mercies into this situation. I prayed for comfort and the reassurance that these children were being held by Jesus in this moment.

It was so hard. My mommy heart ached so deeply for this woman. My eyes welled up with tears refusing to stay contained.

As Beth took her turn to pray I noticed something miraculous. Every time we said, "Jesus" her body calmed, her crying slowed, her breathing stopped sounding so panicked.

So, when it was my turn to pray again I just said His name over and over and over. This sweet grandmother joined me, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus."

As we said "Jesus" over and over, truth flooded my mind.

I remembered what I'd written in last week's devotion about fearing death... Death is only a temporary separation. We will be reunited again.

I remembered this truth from 2 Samuel 12... When David's infant child died, David confidently said, "I will go to him, but he will not return to me" (v. 23b). David knew he would see his child again- not just a nameless, faceless soul without an identity, but his very child. He would know him, hold him, kiss him, and the separation death caused would be over.

The only thing that seemed to calm my devastated sister was the name of Jesus and His truth.

What a powerful reminder to us all.

Hold on to His Word, sweet sister. Speak His truth and the name of Jesus out loud in the midst of whatever you are facing today. Our souls were formed to recognize and respond to the calm assurance of Jesus and truth.

Never has this been clearer to me.

Please pray for my friend and her family.

And remember in the midst of whatever you face today...

We can choose to grab on to the truth. Let everything else go. Park our mind with what is true. "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free," (John 8:32).

Dear Lord, I lift up my friend and her family today. I also lift up my mind, and ask You to help me remember to speak Your Name and Your truth in any situation I'm in that seems overwhelming- little things and big things. Truly my soul was formed to recognize and respond to the calm assurance of truth. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa’s blog for a list of powerful verses every woman should memorize

Lysa is speaking in over 40 cities this year and she’d love to meet you! To check for a city near you, click here

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst. This book is the resource you have been looking for to learn to read the Bible and really apply it to your everyday life.

Also, consider doing this study in a group setting by ordering Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl DVD set and leader’s guide– Contains 6 sessions lasting 15-20 minutes each on one DVD for only $24.99! Perfect for your Bible study group or as a neighborhood Book Club.

Application Steps:
When you face a hard situation today, determine to speak the name of Jesus and ask Jesus to help calm you and reassure you. Use the verses from my blog today to start filling your mind with essential truths. Click here to get those verses.

What situation are you facing today where you need some fresh insights and truth?

Why is truth so powerful?

Why is just the utterance of Jesus' Name so powerful?

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

John 6:47, "'I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.'" (NIV)

© 2010 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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Homeless, Not Abandoned
Luann Prater

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." Isaiah 61:1 (NIV)

I got a text saying my sister was on the news in our home state. I raced to my computer to pull up the local station. As director of a home that houses young, troubled women, she was pleading that the homeless be counted in the 2010 Census.

It seemed like not too many years ago my sister and I could have ended up in that home. Our lives could have taken a "Mary turn." I met Mary at a fundraising banquet for the Rescue Mission. She sat next to me and we immediately connected. Two years earlier she had stepped into the wrong car. A man took what he wanted from her, then left her for dead on the side of the road.

She'd already known a hard life. As a child she'd rebelled against her parents and run away. For 21 years she had lived on the streets. But then she went with a fellow homeless girl to the Rescue Mission. When they entered, she witnessed something that touched her deeply. The Mission folks embraced her friend and told her how much they had missed her and been praying for her safety. In 21 years no one had ever done that for Mary.

There was something different in this place. Mary physically healed there while Jesus ministered to her soul through the love of His servants. She discovered what it meant to be a child of the King and gave her heart to Him. She learned how to make wise choices, obey Mission rules, and become faithful to herself and to Jesus.

Mary now has two jobs, lives in her own apartment and serves at her church nearly every time the doors are open. She glows with God's brilliant grace and looks like she just stepped out of a fashion magazine. Her smile lights up the room.

She said her momma never stopped praying for her. She now praises God for the years of heartache and hardships because they put her in touch with the Savior.

My parents, too, were on their knees for my sister and me many times. Maybe that person you see on the street has parents with calluses on their knees.

Watching my once wayward sister stand up for the homeless on TV that day made my heart smile. Our parents would be smiling too, for she displays the Lord's splendor in the Rescue Mission.

Are you His witness? Go display His splendor today because I see His brilliant grace shining on you!

Dear Lord, forgive me for walking right by the hurting without even noticing. Open my eyes to see the world through Your eyes. May I point a broken heart to the Great Healer. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know the Great Healer?

Visit with Luann on her blog and Encouragement Café

Sponsor a child; change a generation - Compassion International

Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most by Dr. Wess Stafford

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself by Mary Lance Sisk

Application Steps:
Volunteer at a Rescue Mission in your area.

Pray about releasing a child in poverty through Compassion International.

What am I really doing to reach out to the brokenhearted?

How can I make a difference in my corner of the world?

Who around me needs God's love to flow through me and onto them?

Power Verses:
Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (NIV)

Mark 12:31 "The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (NIV)

© 2010 by Luann Prater. All rights reserved.

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When Worship Makes No Sense
T. Suzanne Eller

"Christian brothers, I ask you from my heart to give your bodies to God because of His loving-kindness to us. Let your bodies be a living and holy gift given to God. He is pleased with this kind of gift. This is the true worship that you should give Him." Romans 12:1 (NLB)

The book of Romans stumps me. It doesn't make sense. Honestly.

It was written during the hardest part of Paul's life, a time when he was in jail and he had done nothing wrong. He wrote when the church people who once applauded him now plotted to kill him or waited in the streets, tearing their cloaks in rage because they couldn't stone him.
It puzzles me because it is filled with sayings like "nothing can separate me from God's love," and "my brothers, consider it all joy when you encounter trials." It is a book of hope, of joy, and of life. Yet Paul wrote it from such a place of darkness.

Paul was a real person, not a superhero. What did he discover during those hard times that prompted such rich writings? I think the treasure is found in today's key verse, Romans 12:1. He was a worshipper. I know he sang songs because Scripture shows him singing at the top of his lungs when he was in jail. I don't think, however, that Paul is limiting this to a hymn. It became a way of life. In spite of the dark places, he looked toward the Light, and there he found joy.

Ten years ago a drunk driver slammed into my son. I stood in the church several days after the wreck. I had a bag packed in my car, prepared to go back to my son as soon as service was over. I was weary. I felt helpless. I had come to church only because my husband made me.

"Babe, you have to have a break," he said, promising to stay by Ryan's side.

My son was in pain and had months ahead to heal. The drunk driver had passed away, leaving behind only an underinsured policy that left us with piles of hospital bills and debt.

I grieved for my son. I grieved for the drunk driver's family. I grieved for the loss of normalcy. I grieved--period.

All I knew to do was to raise my hands and lift my face. Tears washed down my cheeks. I wasn't praising God because of my darkness, but because He was the only Light I knew to reach for. "God, I don't know what the future holds. I don't know how we are going to make it. But I know You."

It was both a physical act - raising my hands – and an act of the heart. I climbed into my Abba Father's arms and wept out of gratefulness. I danced on the inside though there were no dancing shoes in sight.

I thought Romans confuses you, Suz.

That's what I love about it best. In the natural it makes no sense, but supernaturally I totally get it. Darkness holds no power when I hold on to the Light. How can I help but worship Him when I discover that immense truth?

Dear Father, I pray for my sister who feels discouraged, overwhelmed, or lost. I worship You, for You are our Light in the darkness. You see her and rejoice in her faith, even faith as small as a mustard seed but large enough when placed in Your hands.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

The Woman I Am Becoming by T. Suzanne Eller

Making It Real: Whose Faith Is It Anyway by T. Suzanne Eller

Six Habits of Highly Effective Christians by Brian T. Anderson and Glynnis Whitwer and Brain Anderson

Visit Suzie’s blog where she shares how to pray when you have no words.

Application Steps:
It's not wrong to acknowledge the darkness. It's there. It's tangible.

It's also not wrong to open the door, to flip the light switch to on, to open the shades and let the light come in.

Paul paints it as a physical act. It's overriding feelings to step into truth.

It is a gift to God, but ultimately it is a gift to you, also, as the Light blankets the darkness.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. ~ Reverend Martin Luther King

Power Verses:
Romans 8:35, "Who can keep us away from the love of Christ? Can trouble or problems? Can suffering wrong from others or no food? Can it be because of no clothes or because of danger or war?" (NLB)

Romans 8:37-39, "But we have power over all these things through Jesus Who loves us so much. For I know that nothing can keep us from the love of God. Death cannot! Life cannot! Angels cannot! Leaders cannot! Any other power cannot! Hard things now or in the future cannot! The world above or the world below cannot! Any other living thing cannot keep us away from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord." (NLB)

© 2010 by T. Suzanne Eller. All rights reserved.

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God Isn't Distant in Disaster
Micca Monda Campbell

"Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 (NLT)

The city of Nashville, Tennessee, was declared a national disaster after floodwaters rose last week. Meteorologists are calling the disaster the 500-year flood, which caught thousands by surprise. At least 90% of those hit by the flood are without flood insurance making this blow painful on all accounts.

My family was spared. While we experienced some local flooding, not a drop of water entered our home. Others were not as fortunate. As the Cumberland River filled, it spilled into places with no discretion. The famous Opryland Hotel, the historical Grand Ole Opry House and Schermerhorn Symphony Center, home of the Nashville Symphony, were among countless buildings damaged by the flood. Many citizens lost their homes, their cars, and their lives. When tragedy strikes, it causes some to question God's loyalty to care for us.

In the Bible, God promises His care and protection. Why then does God seem distant when disaster strikes? Is He snoozing on the couch? Is He on a coffee break? Worse yet, perhaps God isn't the promise keeper we think He is. Or maybe we're not looking at the whole picture.

Yes, God promises to care for us. At the same time, He never promised we wouldn't face adversity. Christ warned, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NIV). You and I experience Christ's peace when we realize that peace isn't the absence of pressure. It's the presence of God in the midst of our chaos.

As the pressure of stress and worry weigh on us, it's easy to forget or ignore God's peace. Often times it's us who distance ourselves from God—not the other way around. But when you and I quiet ourselves and acknowledge God's presence, peace washes over our anxieties. The truth is God is always near in times of trouble and He cares deeply about our pain.

You and I do not have a God who doesn't understand our pain and emotions. He knows. According to dictionary.com the Hebrew word for "to know" is "yadaa." In Greek, it is "yada" which means "a deep emotional experience; a bonding between two people when one truly feels the emotions of the other." That's our God, friends! He may be working for a higher purpose that we can't understand right now, but He is NOT detached from our pain. Let this truth calm your fears and soothe your heart. God knows; He's been there and He's there still.

Often the trials we mourn are really gateways to the good things we long for, like a deeper relationship with God, greater patience, and a compassion for others. I see this natural disaster as a way for Nashville churches to reach our communities. Whatever God's plan is, we can rest assured it's a good one. While we wade through the process, we have His promised presence, provision, and understanding. Elisabeth Elliot states it this way, "It is God with whom we travel, and while He is the end of our journey, He is also at every stopping place."

Dear Lord, You are with me when I'm strong and when I'm weak. You never leave my side. Today and everyday help me to trust Your promises, experience Your presence, and feel Your love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

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

Visit Micca’s blog

When Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a Difference by Carolyn Custis James

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan

Application Steps:
Sometimes God feels far away because we distance ourselves from Him, not the other way around. Draw near to God today. Tell Him your problems, fears, and concerns. Soon, you'll find yourself experiencing His presence and peace.

Why is it hard to trust God in times of trouble?

Does knowing God cares help calm your fears? If not, why?

Power Verses:
Isaiah 43:2, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." (NIV)

Deuteronomy 33:27, "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." (NIV)

© 2010 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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Dying for Some Entertainment
Amy Carroll

"You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own." Leviticus 20:26 (NIV)

"How can we allow ourselves to be entertained by the things that Jesus died for?" This questions bounded around and around in my head and heart as I watched TV, chose movies, and tuned my radio dial. I heard it at a retreat earlier this year, and it has stuck with me like a burr in my sock after a walk in the woods. It came to my thoughts so often as I soaked in the entertainment of my culture, and it brought conviction on a regular basis.

There was one night in particular that the quote broke powerfully into my life. My son had received a whole season's recording of one of our favorite television comedies. After watching several episodes, I found myself squirming in my chair. Our family has begun reading the Bible through in a year, and we had just completed Leviticus. Time after time as God finished a section of the Law, He would declare, "You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own" (Lev. 20:26). As a family, we had read this phrase over and over.

The Old Testament law makes it clear that the wages of sin are truly death. Until reading these passages myself, I had operated under the false assumption that the Israelites only made a few sacrifices a year. The fact is that 1,231 animals were sacrificed each year in order for the Israelites to fulfill the law. In God's grace, He allowed animals to be sacrificed instead of insisting on the death of the humans that had committed the sin. Can you imagine, though, being a priest in the temple and watching death and blood spilled every single day? Hebrews 9:22 explains it this way, "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (NIV). I believe God's people must have had a very sobering view of the cost of sin and the price of forgiveness.

How lightly I often treat sin today! Jesus, the Lamb of God, paid the ultimate price in giving His life. He allowed His own blood to be shed so that He could be the Sacrifice of all sacrifices. He was the final and complete sacrifice. Jesus' death set us free from sin and death and paved our way to a life of holiness.

As I contemplated the sitcom I was watching in light of such a sacrifice, I realized that there was a choice to be made. I could continue to laugh at things that the Bible clearly calls sin and turn my back on the gift that I had been given, or I could choose holiness. It made my heart ache that I had chosen entertainment over Jesus for even a minute, so I hit the "stop" button. I turned to my boys and softly said, "How can we allow ourselves to be entertained by the things that Jesus died for?" I gently explained to them how God had been convicting my heart and asked them to choose holiness with me.

I'm sure this will be an ongoing struggle as God calls me to evaluate my entertainment, but I'm choosing to win one small victory at a time.

Dear Lord, we are inundated everyday with choices to be made about our entertainment. I desire to honor Your sacrifice. Help me to choose wisely. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper

Visit Amy Carroll’s blog

Intimacy With God Prayer Journal by Tara Furman

Application Steps:
Evaluate your own entertainment by scriptural standards.

Do I ever feel conviction as I watch TV, take in a movie, or listen to music?

Will I accept that "nudge" as a message from the Holy Spirit to make a choice that honors God?

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

© 2010 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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Planning Funerals that Won't Happen Today
Lysa TerKeurst

"And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?" Matthew 6:27 (NIV)

A couple of years ago my teenage son came to me and asked if he could take his brother and sisters to go get ice cream. How fun! How thoughtful! "Sure," I said, "Let me grab my keys and we'll go."

"No, Mom ... we sort of want to go just us kids," he quickly replied.

"Oh," and that's about all I could get my mouth to say as my brain started racing and reeling. In my mind's eye pictures started flashing of a terrible accident, a phone call from the police, planning a funeral, and then thinking back to this moment when I could have said no.

And it was that strange sense that everything depended on me and my decisions that made me want to say no. Absolutely not. You will stay home today. You will all stay home forever. I have to keep you safe.

Why do we moms do that? Most of us live with this gnawing, aching, terrifying fear that something will happen to one of our children. We carry the pressure that ultimately everything rises and falls on whether or not we can control things. And mentally, too often we plan funerals that won't happen today.

We do it because we know the realities of living in a broken world where car accidents do happen. Tragedy strikes old and young alike. We have no guarantees for tomorrow. And that's really hard on a mama's heart.

I stood at the front window of my house chewing my nails and watching as the entire contents of my mama heart piled into one car.

And I realized I had a choice.

I could run myself ragged creating a false sense of control that can't really protect them. Or, I could ask God to help me make wise decisions and choose to park my mind on the truth.

The truth is:
God has assigned each of my kids a certain number of days.

My choices can add to the quality of their life, but not the quantity. They could be at home tucked underneath my wings and if it's their day to go be with Jesus, they will go.

"When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (Psalm 139:15-16)

Jesus conquered death so we don't have to be afraid of it any longer.

Of course, the death of anyone I love would make me incredibly sad, heart-broken and dazed with grief. But I don't have to be held captive by the fear of death.

"Since the children have flesh and blood, he (Jesus) too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Death is only a temporary separation. We will be reunited again.

In 2 Samuel 12, when David's infant child died, he confidently said, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (v. 23). David knew he would see his child again--not just a faceless soul without an identity, but this child for whom he was longing. He would know him, hold him, kiss him, and the separation death caused would be over.

I know these are heavy things to process on a Thursday morning. And I certainly don't claim that these truths will help you never ever fear again. But I do hope these truths will settle your heart into a better place.

And the next time my kids go get ice cream together, instead of chewing my nails I'll only pick at them while awaiting their return. See progress? It's good.

Dear Lord, the fear of something happening to one of my children is so raw. And I guess the thing that makes it so hard is I know we live in a broken world and awful things happen to kids. But if I focus on this fear, it will consume me. Instead help me focus on You so I'll only be consumed with Your truth, Your love, Your insights, and Your power. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Click here to visit Lysa TerKeurst’s blog for a list of three practical things we can do when we start to feel consumed with fear.

Lysa is speaking in over 40 cities this year and she’d love to meet you! To check for a city near you, click here.

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst. This book is the perfect 6 week summer book for personal devotions or group Bible Study!

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl DVD set – Contains 6 sessions lasting 15-20 minutes each on one DVD for only $24.99. Perfect for your Bible study group or neighborhood Book Club.

Application Steps:
The next time you find yourself worrying and getting consumed with fear, see it as a trigger to pray and ask God specifically to use His truth to comfort you.

Think of what commonly triggers your heart to go to those fearful places and pray for Jesus to help you work through these. Ask for Him to show you verses in scripture that will speak truth into your situation.

How did this devotion comfort you today?

What is one nugget of truth you can commit to memory and use the next time fear grips your heart?

Power Verses:
Psalm 139:15-16, "When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (NIV)

Hebrews 2:14-15, "Since the children have flesh and blood, he (Jesus) too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death- that is, the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." (NIV)

© 2010 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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Climb Up in His Lap
Lynn Cowell

"..Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure, in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders." Deuteronomy 33:12 (NIV)

I thought I lost it!

I thought I lost one of the only things on this planet that is important to me: a delicate necklace that my husband gave me for our twentieth wedding anniversary. I looked on my necktie-turned-necklace rack. Not there. I unpacked my makeshift jewelry bag from my last trip. Not there. Was it stolen from our hotel room? I pulled out all my earrings. Not there. My heart was trying so hard to panic, but I knew I didn't want to go there. Still, I could never replace this necklace. I prayed. Even though it is an earthly possession, I knew Jesus would care about me.
I had the thought...go back and check again. There, hidden behind a bulky set of baubles, I caught a twinkle. My small jewel.

Some days, I feel like I have lost things much greater to me than my pendant. I miss my father who went to be home with Jesus. I miss dear friendships from my old town that just aren't the same on FaceBook. I miss times when life was simpler - little children laughing and playing. I miss my old body and energy level!

Do you have days when you mourn the loss of something important to you? A marriage that is no longer? A friend who moved away? A child gone astray? A parent who passed?

The writer of Psalm 73 certainly felt loss. Starting in verse 2 he says, "But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold." He goes on speaking of the struggle he feels as he looks at those around him who seemed to have it all together. Then in verse 23 his heart comes back around to the truth about God: "Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

The writer says, "I almost lost it! But then I remembered who I am; like a child with his father, you take my hand. I remembered who You are. You are all that I need." He laid aside his pain as God's strength came in with comfort and strength. Fear and frustration became faith.

Sometimes, pain or uncomfortable circumstances try to block us from seeing our treasured thing. It is hard to see God at work. We may think that we won't experience love again or that a relationship we treasured can never be restored. That is when we need our faith to help us to keep believing that God is in our situation and He will help us to find His treasures again.

Maybe you have experienced a loss, or maybe like my delicate necklace behind the hefty beads, you just can't see the good because of the bigger-than-life things that surround you. Breathe deep and take a moment to pray. Deuteronomy 33:12 says we are to rest between his shoulders. You know what is right between his shoulders? His heart! That is a place of peace, warmth and love. He wants to pull you into His lap so you can find the rest and peace you need for today.

Dear Lord, sometimes my sense of loss is a dull ache, other days it threatens to engulf me and I feel like I can hardly breathe. Today, Lord, I choose to climb in Your lap and lean against Your heart and find comfort in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Through a Season of Grief: Devotions for Your Journey from Mourning to Joy by Bill Dunn and Kathy Leonard

Treat yourself or a friend to a year’s worth of the P31 Woman magazine

Visit Lynn’s blog

Application Steps:
Write out Deuteronomy 33:12 and carry it with you today. When you feel sadness trying to overtake you, pull out the verse and read it. Then shut your eyes and picture yourself crawling up into your Father God's lap. I like to even picture Him stroking my hair, whispering His words of love to me.

Is the loss that you feel a real loss or is it a perceived loss?

In your grieving, is there a joy that you are missing? If you are grieving the loss of your child as they prepare to leave home, are you missing the joys of those still at home? If you miss a loved one who has gone on to heaven, have you spent time thinking of the great reunion that you will one day have?

Power Verses:
Psalm 27:13, "I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." (NKJV)

© 2010 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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Controlling a Complaining Spirit
Glynnis Whitwer

"Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp." Numbers 11:11 (NIV)

As we were getting ready to leave for vacation, one of my children asked for a new video game to play on the drive. Knowing all of our available funds were ear-marked for the trip, I told my child "no" and explained in a compassionate and clear reason why I would not be spending money on a video game prior to a vacation. I explained how much fun we would have and how much this fun would cost. Which, as I was sure he understood, did not leave money for buying video games.

At what I thought was a perfectly logical explanation, that same child, who should have been agreeing with me and trying to find ways to help make this wonderful vacation happen, actually got annoyed. With me. He said, with a very frustrated voice, that he never got anything he wanted. Accompanied with a heavy dramatic sigh, crossed arms and pout.

The tone of his voice, his negative words, and his dramatic body language, raised my eyebrows (I would have only raised one if I could). My back straightened and one hand rose to my hip. "Really?" I said in a low and deceptively calm voice. "You never get anything you want? On the day before we are leaving for an amazing trip that your father and I have worked hard to give you, you can actually say that you have nothing you want?"

Can I just tell you that an ungrateful spirit really is really hard for me to deal with? Especially when I know what is in store.

Sometimes I wonder if that must be how God feels when I grumble about what I don't get. Like when I went through infertility for three years before getting pregnant … three times … then adopting. In hindsight, God was really giving me three more years of wearing a size ten and a brain that could finish a complete thought. At that time, all I saw was emptiness.

The truth is, my child was just demonstrating a human reaction to being told "no" or "not now" by someone who knows what the future holds. Sometimes God withholds a "yes" knowing we need to be prepared to receive His goodness in His time. Other times, when we've been told "no" due to our own bad choices or those of others, God withholds a "yes" to teach us something. Or it's a permanent "no" to protect us. Whichever way, God is always working things together for the good of those who love Him.

I don't think my son ever fully understood why I said "no" to the video game. But over time, as he grew and matured, he learned to trust me more, and believe that I really loved him in spite of saying "no." Even as adults, we have trouble understanding God's ways. Sometimes we may never understand. When that happens, I choose to do a few things that help me mature as a believer. Maybe they will help you too:

1) I choose to not complain to others about God.
2) I am honest with God about how I feel, but I don't accuse Him of evil or being out to hurt me. 3) I choose to trust Him. When the doubts start to surface, I choose again to trust Him again.
4) I sing His praises. It reminds me of God's true character, which is always good.

Hearing "no" is never easy. However, as children of a loving Heavenly Father, we can learn over time to trust that He really does have something planned that we are going to love more than what we want right now. When we trust God is working behind the scenes for us, we can control a complaining spirit that threatens to steal our joy. And restore our faith in God's goodness.

Dear Lord, I know I'm often like a child when I get told "no." Help me to understand in my head and in my heart, that You truly love me, and that You are planning something good. Forgive me when I doubt You and voice those doubts in a complaining way. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
If you are a mom who needs help dealing with common issues your child faces, you’ll enjoy When Your Child is Hurting by Glynnis Whitwer

30 Days to Taming Your Tongue by Deborah Smith Pegues

Visit Glynnis’ blog

Application Steps:
Read Numbers 11. Write God's response to the complaining of the Israelites.

What does complaining to others reveal about your character at that moment?

What are some things you can do to stop the complaining cycle and start being more positive?

Power Verses:
Psalm 142:2, "I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble." (NIV)

Philippians 2:14-15, "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe." (NIV)

© 2010 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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Catch the Little Foxes
Melanie Chitwood

"Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32 (NAS)

Holly has a hard time parking in the garage. It sits at a tricky angle, and she has run into the garage wall quite a few times. In fact, her van has plenty of scrapes and dents to prove it. Her husband Dan could choose many ways to respond—he could be angry every time, or he could berate her, but that's not his reaction. He has repeatedly chosen to forgive Holly. Their situation is an example of one of the "little foxes" mentioned in Song of Solomon 2:15: "Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming!" (NLT). Theirs is a situation that could have become divisive, but because of Dan's gracious response, this "little fox" did not ruin their "vineyard of love."

Do any "little foxes" come to mind when you think about your own marriage? Maybe your spouse was abrupt when speaking to you, didn't give you the attention you wanted, wasn't responsive to intimacy, forgot your anniversary, or got home late without calling recently. Everyday married life presents countless occasions to choose to be offended or to choose to forgive, as today's key verses instructs us.

Without forgiveness, we'll find ourselves becoming irritated, hard-hearted, bitter, and disconnected from our spouse. A friend taught me one way to make sure this doesn't happen: The moment I feel offended, I can choose to forgive. If my spouse says something that makes me mad or hurt, I need to begin praying at that very moment to forgive. Doing this allows God to begin softening our hearts immediately.

In addition to dealing with the little foxes of small offenses, we will sometimes need to forgive our spouses for big offenses. We might be betrayed by unfaithfulness, our trust might be rattled by secrets our spouses keep, or our feelings might be stomped on by spouses who do the same hurtful things over and over again. If one quality makes a Christian marriage stand out from the rest, it's our choice to forgive our spouse. We might feel as if we're ignoring the offense or giving our stamp of approval by choosing to forgive. Our pride and fear might rise up: What if the offense happens again and again? Will I be taken for a fool? What will others think?

Choosing to forgive is an act of obedience to God's commands. Forgiveness entails choosing, often over and over again, not to dwell on the offense because that would allow a root of bitterness to grow in our hearts. But let's be clear: If you're dealing with a sin issue in marriage, choose to forgive but still spend the needed time talking about the situation, praying separately and together, and seeking godly counsel.

Forgiveness is a one of the most essential attitudes for bringing unity and oneness to marriage, and it flows from our relationship with Christ.

Dear Lord, cover our marriage with a spirit of forgiveness. I confess that sometimes I want to hold a grudge, to retaliate, or to be right, rather than forgive. Lord, I don't want the enemy to get a foothold in our marriage, so through the power of the Holy Spirit, I slam the door on Satan by choosing to forgive my spouse. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Need Forgiveness from God?

For more about forgiveness, visit Lysa TerKeurst's blog, where Holly Good, Lysa's assistant, will be blogging today.

Adapted from What a Wife Needs from Her Husband by Melanie Chitwood

Visit Melanie’s blog What Matters Most

What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

Application Steps:
Dwell on Christ's forgiveness of your offenses.

Say, "I forgive you" today.

Say, "I'm sorry" today.

Choose not to dwell on your spouse's hurtful words or actions.

Don't hold a grudge or seek revenge.

Choose your friends wisely.

Take care around others who bad-mouth their spouses.

The moment you feel offended, begin to pray that the Holy Spirit will work through you to forgive your spouse.

What "little foxes" come to mind concerning your marriage?

Have you chosen to be offended and hurt? Or gracious and forgiving?

Have you been avoiding talking to your spouse about a big offense? Can you choose to today to take the first step in talking about this situation, praying about it, and perhaps seeing a godly counselor?

Power Verses:
Colossians 3:12-13, "Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." (NLT)

© 2010 by Melanie Chitwood. All rights reserved.

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Only One Thing
Zoe Elmore

"You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42 (NIV)

I had a college professor who told our health class to be sure we had eight hours of sleep, eight hours of work, and eight hours of leisure. It was her opinion that this formula would bring about a balanced life.

I can see you rolling your eyes and thinking, "Really?"

While I don't agree with my professor's formula I do agree that our lives must have balance and in order to achieve that balance we must return to putting our relationship with the Lord first.
Remember the story where Jesus told Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus that she needed to rethink her priorities? Martha was upset with Mary because she dropped what she was doing to sit at the feet of Jesus. Martha, however, continued with her hostess responsibilities until she had enough.

"But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!'" (Luke 10:40, NIV).

But Jesus told Martha that it was Mary who had put her relationship with the Lord first in her life. "'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her'" (Luke 10:41-42,NIV).

Martha was one smart lady and she learned her lesson well. After this encounter, when Jesus arrived to call Lazarus from the grave, it was Mary who stayed in the house and Martha who went out to greet Him.

I love that it was Martha to whom Jesus said: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26, NIV).

Her reply confirms just how much Martha's priorities had changed: "'Yes, Lord,' she told him, 'I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world'" (John 11:27,NIV).

Setting priorities in today's fast-paced life can be challenging for sure. We try to squeeze as much as we can into the twenty four hours in each day. Yet when we've had enough and can't take any more, that's when we find ourselves crying out to the Lord for help. If you're anything like me you will hear His sweet words whispering to your heart, "Only one thing is needed."

The simple truth is when we put God first in our lives; everything else will fall into place. Our responsibilities will continue and the demands of life will go on but God will be there to help us bring order out of chaos. "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:6,NIV).

Dear Lord, I confess that my life is pulled in too many directions. When I am anxious about doing things I have trouble hearing Your Word. Help me to treasure the "one thing" that I need and trust You to put the rest in order. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Zoe’s blog for more encouragement

All I Need is Jesus & a Good Pair of Jeans by Susanna Foth Aughtmon

Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper

Find a bit more balance with our free resource, Good Thing or God Thing?

Application Steps:
Prioritize all the commitments and responsibilities you have.

Ask God to reorganize your list and follow His leading.

What is your number one priority today?

Power Verses:
Matthew 6:24, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (NIV)

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

© 2010 by Zoe Elmore. All rights reserved.

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Luann Prater

"Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope." Psalm 119:49 (NIV)

I recall the moments of despair. I couldn't see my way out. Three small children were depending on me and that thought was overwhelming. I would cry in the middle of my mobile home floor, feeling desperately lonely. I wondered if I would have food to feed them or a way to keep them warm.

Child support was $142 a month, but I rarely received it. I worked a full time job, took in laundry, and worked as a waitress during holidays. When all three kids would get sick at the same time, my life felt like a nightmare. The thought of driving off a cliff entered my mind more than once, but I couldn't bear to think what that would do to my kids for the rest of their lives.
I wanted someone (I would have settled for ANYONE at times) to just even pretend to care about me. Would rescue ever come?

Then one day I made the decision to look for the good. My baby went to the potty (hey, that was a big deal). My oldest waved from the school bus. My son poured on a heart-melting smile. Choosing to laugh more than cry and finding the fun in each day was often like seeking buried treasure. But most days the good was there; it just wasn't as noticeable as the bad. Focusing on those moments felt like breath in my lungs.

My theme song was Carole King's "Beautiful" that says, "You've got to get up every morning with a smile on your face." Gray had dominated my days for far too long, the sun needed to shine in my life again.

I remember purposely watching other moms who had happy kids to see what they were doing right. And those who seemed to have peace, even in the middle of their meltdowns particularly intrigued me. What did they have that my 'pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps' mentality wasn't fulfilling?

Jesus. They simply had found the Prince of Peace who sends the Counselor into your heart when you accept Him. Watching those examples made me hunger for that relationship in my own life.
Now, as I look back, I see the string of choices, the dots that all connected. They all brought me to this very day. This day when I am sitting at my breakfast table, peering at the stars glistening in the sky, writing this note to you, my friend. The note says, "You can do this. We can't possibly see the road ahead or try to understand where it is going, but I guarantee you the Creator of the universe is connecting your dots."

Dear Lord, I need your help to make it through today. I need to notice the good. Don't let me forget You've brought me through every struggle I've ever faced. Remind me to share that good news with others who need to hear it. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Jesus?

Visit with Luann on her blog and Encouragement Café
Am I Messing Up My Kids?...and other Questions Every Mom Asks by Lysa TerKeurst

The Busy Mom's Guide to Bible Study: A 15 Minute Daily Plan by Lisa Whelchel

Finding a Mentor, Being a Mentor by Donna Otto

What memories allow me to see God's divine hand in my life?

How do I share that hope with others?

Who may be watching me, hoping to find lasting Hope?

Power Verses:
Deuteronomy 31:8, "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (NIV)

Genesis 21:16a-17, 19, "And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob. God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, 'What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water." (NIV)

© 2010 by Luann Prater. All rights reserved.

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Instead of Shame
Susanne Scheppmann

"Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs." Isaiah 61:7 (NIV)

I turned and walked away from God in anger and disappointment. I tossed away the calling of ministry on my life. The Lord had hurt my feelings, so I left my faith to find a fresh path.

This happened during my twenties. With two toddlers climbing up my legs during the day and crying intermittently during the night, I was physically exhausted. Emotional turmoil began to disintegrate my marriage. My immature faith lacked the stamina to hold to God tightly. So, for seven years I wandered through sin, divorce, and miserable meanderings of my own making. It was a time of spiritual drought—the years of shame.

Although I walked away from God, He did not walk away from me. The Lord allowed me to experience life in the wilderness of doubt, but He was right there watching over me and waiting for me to return to the call of ministry placed on my life at age eighteen.

Eventually, I allowed myself to feel His presence in my life. Little by little, the Lord Jesus wooed me back to Himself. I remember the exact time and place that I felt Him whisper to my spirit, "Let's start over and do it right this time." I wept with relief and joy. I began to study the Bible and allowed it to change my damaged spiritual heart. This time it wasn't going to be head knowledge, but heart knowledge.

My faith was back on track, but I did not think my calling to ministry could ever be restored. Hadn't I traveled too far off the godly path? Surely, God didn't want me anymore in service to His Kingdom. Surely, He had more qualified daughters that could minister to others without the shame of a sullied past such as mine.

However, that is not how God thinks at all. The Bible says, "For God's gifts and his call are irrevocable (Romans 11:29, NIV). The Lord desires for us to move beyond the shame of past mistakes and into His calling for our lives. He will restore us to useful service in the Kingdom. It takes time and it is a process, but the Almighty God still has a plan for each of our lives. He intends to replace disgrace with rejoicing, so that we may show our world that we are living miracles.

Do I hear an "Amen"?

Dear Lord, thank You for having mercy on me. Display Your will for my life. Enable me to fulfill the gifts and call in my life, so that others will understand Your grace and mighty power. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Embraced by the Father: Finding Grace in the Names of God by Susanne Scheppmann

Thin Places: A Memoir by Mary E. DeMuth

Intimacy with God: Establishing a Vibrant Quiet Time and Prayer Time by Tara Furman

Visit with Susanne on her blog

Read My Daddy, a free resource from our P31 Woman magazine

Application Steps:
Consider the years of your life you feel might have been wasted. Reread and memorize Isaiah 61:7, today's key verse. Cast away your shame and look for your double portion of inheritance. Rejoice in God's mercy and grace.

Do I feel I have lost my chance to use my spiritual gifts?

How can I begin to use my spiritual gifts to display God's mercy in my life?

Power Verses:
Joel 2:26, "You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed." (NIV)

Psalm 36:5, "Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies." (NIV)

Romans 11:29-30, "For God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience." (NIV)

© 2010 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

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Marybeth Whalen

'"How many loaves do you have?' he asked. 'Go and see.' When they found out, they said, 'Five—and two fish.'" Mark 6:38 (NIV)

I glanced at the clock on the bottom of my computer. It was 6:47 pm and the email had been sent hours earlier. I kicked myself for not checking my email that afternoon and regretted not being able to respond to my friend's plea for prayer as she prepared to share her testimony in a small group at her church. I scanned through her email again and saw that the time she was supposed to begin was at 6:30. Feeling a little foolish, I typed a quick email:

"Dear Karen," I wrote, "It is 6:47 and I am praying your testimony will be effective in the hearts of those who listen." I had no idea why I included the time, it just felt like the right thing to do. I guess because I wanted her to know I did what I could as soon as I could. The next morning, I woke up to this email:

"NO WAY!!!!!!!!!! I was told to arrive at 6:30 and we'd start once the ladies got their kids settled. The leader had me start.....AT 6:47!!!!"

There are too many times that I have been in a situation like that and done nothing because I couldn't do it "right." I beat myself up with thoughts like: A better friend would have prayed as soon as the email came out. A more organized person would have checked her email earlier. How often do we feel like we fall short of what we could be doing as Christians? We wish we could give more, pray harder, speak up more, offer more time. And in the end, because we can't do as much as we want, we throw up our hands and do nothing. Because we can't do it all, we don't do anything at all.

As I read my friend's response, I was glad I did something, taking the little I had to offer and giving it anyway. I was too late by my timing, but not by God's. I had missed the opportunity to pray for my friend before but God miraculously had me open the email at the moment she was beginning and pray then.

In Mark 6:35-44, Jesus performs the miracle of feeding the 5000 men. The disciples told Him that they didn't have enough to feed the crowd. They were ready to give up. I love the question that He asks them in our verse today: "Well, what do you have? Go and see." When they turned over what they did have to Him, He was able to multiply it beyond what they could have imagined.

So many times I come to Him and say the same: "I just have this little tiny bit…of money, of time, of resources, of energy."

And He says, "Bring what you have to me. That's all I ask. Let me take care of it from here."

So I ask what little you might have to give? You might not be able to give $1000. But you could give $10. You might not be able to pledge hours and hours to serve at church. But you can serve once a month for one hour. You might not feel comfortable speaking to crowds. But you're great at sharing what God's doing in your life one-on-one. You might not be able to lead a prayer ministry. But you can pray for a friend who needs it, even if it seems like you're too late.

Let God take your little and make it much. Let Him take your 6:47 and make it right on time.

Dear Lord, show me how I can respond when I feel like I don't have enough. Help me to offer my little in Your name and watch You respond in multiples. Open my eyes to the times I need to offer what I can and let that be enough, trusting You with the rest. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Marybeth’s blog for more daily encouragement.

The Reason We Speak General Editor Marybeth Whalen

For the Write Reason General Editor Marybeth Whalen

Come Along: The Journey into a More Intimate Faith by Jane Rubietta

For an extra lift, listen to
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Application Steps:
Jesus is asking you: What do you have? Go and see. Spend time today seeing what you have.

What are the things that keep you from saying yes? Fear? Inadequacy? Insecurity? How can doing something little help you overcome these things?

Power Verses:
2 Kings 4:43, "'How can I set this before a hundred men?' his servant asked. But Elisha answered, 'Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: 'They will eat and have some left over.'" (NIV)

2 Kings 4:44, "Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord." (NIV)

© 2010 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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Reshaping My Family Tree
T. Suzanne Eller

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." John 15:4 (NIV)

The manager at Atwoods just might think I'm a stalker. I'm the one in the Red Durango driving slowly by the garden section every time I'm in town. I've already selected two hardy trees on the Atwood lot, and I can tell you exactly where I'm going to plant them when it's time.

Spring. Just breathing that word makes me happy. Flowers. Birds singing. Digging happily in the dirt. Yesterday I knelt to admire the dark shoots on my Knock Out rose bushes, and the green buds on my perennials.

But there is a tree that used to cause me pain. The branches of my family tree bent under the weight of addiction, of physical and verbal abuse, of parenting patterns that didn't work but that were handed down from generation to generation like bad apples.

When I became a mom, I determined that my family tree had to grow in another direction. I had nothing to cling to in the natural. My parenting knowledge was based on a broken childhood filled with chaos.

That's when faith was grafted in.

I prayed as I walked my colicky baby girl. I asked for strength when I was mentally exhausted from piles of laundry, from nursing, and from encouraging and disciplining three little ones. I closed myself in my bedroom, getting alone with God when I had a fight with my teen, admitting that, "Sometimes I don't have a clue, God." Faith didn't make me a perfect parent, but it did give me hope that I could be the mom I wanted to be.

Motherhood was often challenging, but it was also an immense blessing.

Today I'm still a mom, though my role has changed. I have two sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law I love like crazy. And now little Elle is on the way. My first grandchild will be born in July, and Gramma can't wait to hold her in my arms.

Even as I write this, I fight tears because I can clearly see how Jesus answered a young mom's prayers.

Maybe, like mine, your family tree is crooked and gnarled with disease. You don't have to do it alone. Grafting in faith is simply inviting Jesus into the process. Faith plants seeds of hope. It prunes away parenting patterns and legacies that caused injury and harm to you, so that you can give your children something greater.

And greatest of all, new branches sprout, taking you and your family in a new direction entirely.

Dear Jesus, I invite You into my family tree. Where there is brokenness, may You be the Healer. Where there is disease, may You prune so that new life can begin. Come alongside me as a mom. Let me see the beauty of these children You have placed in my heart and in my life. Thank you for walking with me every day.

Related Resources:
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 for a chance to win an autographed copy of her books

Building the Christian Family You Never Had: A Practical Guide for Pioneer Parents by Mary E. DeMuth

Read on for more encouragement with Raising a Godly Generation

Application Steps:
Growing tips for your child:
• Water: Encourage with sincere praise.
• Shape: Love the child always while addressing the behavior with calm, consistency, and reasonable consequences.
• Prune: Be honest about unhealthy parenting patterns that affected you as a child that continue on in your home. Replace unhealthy patterns with those that produce stability.
• Harvest: Look beyond the now (feelings) to the end result. Your child is a work in progress. Consistency will produce fruit.

"If our kids see us humbly committing each new day to Jesus, they'll learn that He truly loves and cares about every detail of our lives. That's humility." Susie Larson, author of Growing Grateful Kids.

Power Verses:
2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (NIV)

Matthew 7:7-8, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (NIV)

© 2010 T. Suzanne Eller. All rights reserved.

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The Dailyness
Ariel Allison Lawhon, She Reads Co-Director

"Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway." Proverbs 8:34 (NIV)

Life wouldn't be so hard if it wasn't so daily. As I sit here surrounded by laundry and dishes piled high in the sink, I see more than ever how life wears us down one day at a time.

Crumbs litter the floor and dirty smudges cover the windows. And I have yet to discover where that smell is coming from. For this mother of four, a simple trip to the grocery store requires an act of God and Congress – attempted only when we are down to powdered milk and Ramen noodles. Not thirty minutes ago a little one-year-old boy clung to my legs, belting out that scream - you know the one, bats can hear it. And I felt my coping skills slipping away. Not because he was crying but because he cries every day.

The daily-ness.

The job of motherhood feels so vast, and frightening, and unending. I am called to raise these children in the fear and admonition of the Lord and yet there are days that I can't seem to get out of my pajamas much less lead them in a time of prayer. I think anyone could endure the temper tantrums of a small child or the rebellion of a teenager or the constant needs of another if they lasted just one day. But the truth is that these things are the stuff of daily life. And when I am honest with myself, they grind down the rough edges of this woman. Because parenting can not be all about me when diapers must be changed, noses wiped and beds made.

In those moments I force myself to take a deep breath and thank God for this season of life. These children. The privilege of wiping noses and bottoms and countertops. A privilege many women would love to have, but don't. I remind myself that the days are long but the years are short. And one day I will look in the rear-view mirror and see empty seats. The cup that is overflowing right now will slowly drain. The stretch marks will fade. And I will find that a new set of daily struggles has overtaken me. When that day comes I will find the strength to face them as well because God gives the grace, daily.

The daily-ness.

As C.S. Lewis once said, "The thing is to rely on God… Meanwhile, the trouble is that relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing has yet been done."

Your daily-ness is probably different than mine, but it is nonetheless God-ordained. It is exactly what we need to live dependent on His grace instead of our own strength. The One who knows us best, who knit us together in our mother's womb, has allotted these days that are equal parts trial and triumph. And He knows that we will see Him most clearly from a place of dependence.

So today I embrace the normal things. The daily things. Another round of laundry. The ring in my toilet. The dust on my dresser so thick a child could write his name. But even more than that I want to celebrate the important things. A child slowly learning to read. A husband that finds his comfort in my arms. A baby who learns to walk and talk. Because all these are the things of life: some mundane and some holy. And all of them must be received daily.

Dear Lord, sometimes daily life is just hard. And we're tired. And overwhelmed. But You promised to be our strength and our hope and our comfort. So today we look to You for what we need. Would You meet us in this, our daily-ness, and help us receive Your grace? In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Click here to visit the She Reads blog where we’ve got a special Mother’s Day book giveaway including Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers, So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore, and Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes!

P31 Resources for all stages of the daily-ness of kids:
Rattled: Surviving Your Baby's First Year without Losing Your Cool by Trish Berg

Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose by Rebecca Ingram Powell

Parenting Your Teen and Loving It: Being the Mom Your Kids Need by Susie Davis
Blue Like Play Dough: The Shape of Motherhood in the Grip of God by Tricia Goyer

Application Steps:
Pray that God will help you embrace your daily-ness, whether it be young children, a physical ailment, or financial difficulties.

Make an effort to honor God with an attitude of trust during this season of life.

How can trusting God with my daily struggles point others to Him?

How would my life be different if I started each day thanking God for this season and the struggles it contains?

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

Luke 9:23, "Then He said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'" (NIV)

Titus 3:14, "Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessitates and not live unproductive lives." (NIV)

© 2010 by Ariel Allison Lawhon. All rights reserved.

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Sweating in Church
Lysa TerKeurst

"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like the pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Matthew 6:7-8 (NIV)

Recently, I was studying what causes people to feel spiritually frustrated. The two top reasons? Bible study and prayer.

I get it.

I can clearly remember sitting in church sweating because everyone else knew instantly how to get to every passage in the Bible the preacher man referenced. But not me. I was more interested in counting the preacher man's spit droplets than any of the fiery words he was spewing out.

Others seemed all wrapped up and excited in what this preacher man had to say. They'd shout loud, "Un-hunh's" and "Amens!" What was I missing?

And then there was my prayer life. Or the lack there-of. It's not that I didn't want to pray but the whole concept of talking to God felt weird. I tried to copy the prayers of those who seemed like they knew they were doing more than talking to the air.

But then my quirky self would sneak in and leave me feeling foolish for what I'd just said to the God of the Universe. "Dear Lord, take this food to the nourishment of my body. (Good so far.) And if you could change the molecular structure of these cheesy fries to be like carrot sticks that sure would be bomb-diggity." (Hunh?)

Like the saying goes, "We've come a long way baby." Except that I'm pretty sure you could still trip me up in finding certain passages in the Bible. And I'm pretty sure you might still hear me say bomb-diggity in my prayers. But according to what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:7, I think He's okay with that.

"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like the pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

For me, sincerity and simplicity are two keys to unlocking spiritual frustration with both my Bible study and my prayers. Why do we make it all so complicated? In Colossians 4:2 we are instructed to, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful" (NIV). I am challenged by these words today. Do I get up from reading my Bible and praying and start intentionally watching for God? Do I sense His activity and remember to be thankful? Watchful and thankful are great words to ponder when I start trying to overcomplicate my time with Jesus.

I think a few honest moments spent with God reading His Word, sharing our heart, and listening for His instruction are quite perfect. I might even say they are bomb-diggity.

Dear Lord, I want to connect with You through my prayers and my Bible reading. Help me to be watchful and sense Your activity in my life. Help me to connect the verses I read and the prayers I pray to circumstances You bring my way each day. Thank You for loving me even when I'm sweating in church. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Click here to visit Lysa’s blog where she is featuring a list of verses that will help transform your prayer life!

Lysa is speaking in over 40 cities this year and she’d love to meet you! To check for a city near you, click here.

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst. This book is the resource you have been looking for to learn to read the Bible and really apply it to your everyday life. It would make a perfect gift for Mother’s Day!

Also, consider doing this study in a group setting by ordering Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl DVD set – Contains 6 sessions lasting 15-20 minutes each on one DVD for only $24.99! Perfect for your Bible study group or as a neighborhood Book Club, and it includes a free leader’s guide.

Application Steps:
Read Colossians 1 and see what words stir your heart today. Write them on a 3x5 index card. As you go through your day be watchful and look to see why God drew your attention to these words. Then thank Him for His presence and His provision.

Do you find it interesting that Jesus told us not to babble in our prayers? Have you ever felt spiritually frustrated in your Bible reading and prayer life? How might simplicity and sincerity help with this?

Power Verses:
Colossians 4:2, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." (NIV)

Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (NIV)

© 2010 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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