Honest Prayer
Rachel Olsen

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

Have you ever shaken your fist at God over His answer to your prayers, or lack of answers?

Have you grown angry with Him over the injustices in your life?

If so, you’ll be able to relate to the prophet Habakkuk, living roughly 600 years before Christ. His book of the Bible begins with this complaint: “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save me. Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?” (Hab.1:2-3, NIV). God answered Habakkuk by telling him to be patient and to watch, that He will do amazing things and usher in justice, but only in His timing.

Passionate, honest, gut-level, even angry prayers have been recorded through out the Bible. Habakkuk wasn’t the only one to complain. Moses, Gideon, and Elijah all questioned God. Job even cursed the day God made him and said, “I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me, but tell me what charges you have against me. Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands...?’” (Job 10:1-3, NIV).

In his anguish, Job accused God of afflicting people for no reason (Job 9:17), overwhelming them with misery (Job 9:18), not caring about injustice (Job 9:22, 24), and laughing at the pain of the innocent (Job 9:22). Of course these accusations are not accurate, but it is true that is how we often feel in times of severe suffering or testing. God knows our deepest thoughts and feelings, so it’s futile to think we can hide them from Him. Better to come clean with how we really feel, get it off our chest in prayer, and hopefully clear the way to hear and receive God’s reply or comfort.
I’ve complained to God in the past for allowing my loved ones to die or fall deep into sin, for allowing valuable things to be stolen from me, for allowing my reputation to be unfairly tarnished, for allowing physical suffering in my body, or for not allowing what I felt I deserved. I have found the best thing I can do is honestly take these feelings to God where they can be traded for His perspective and His comforting assurance. Though God may not always change my circumstances the way I want Him to, He can and does change my perspective on those circumstances and enables me to endure them.

God listens when we complain about injustice. He hates seeing the unrighteous prosper, particularly when it’s at the hands of the innocent, as much as we do. He understands when we feel shortchanged or opposed. Read through the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and you’ll be reminded of just how much Jesus can relate to undeserved opposition.

I urge you to be honest before God in prayer today. While maintaining a degree of holy respect for Him and thanksgiving for His saving grace, pour out the good, the bad and the ugly of your feelings. As Habakkuk, Job and others discovered, God can handle your intense emotions and questions. Though He rarely explains Himself fully to us – perhaps because we can’t fully understand this side of eternity – He does flood us with His power, love and peace when we come humbly and honestly before Him and pour out our heart.

Dear Lord, it’s hard for me to understand Your ways. It’s hard for me to overlook offenses. It’s hard for me to deal graciously with the difficult situations or people in my life, and sometimes I grow angry with You for allowing them into my life. But I don’t want to be a bitter or miserable person. Help me to see through Your eyes, and to endure all that You allow into my life, with Your grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

God Calling by A.J. Russell

Your Scars are Beautiful to God by Sharon Jaynes

Application Steps:
Read through one of the books of the New Testament that records Jesus’ life, noticing all the times and ways that He was opposed, or let down by those around Him. Consider the suffering that He was allowed to endure on this earth, and what results it ultimately produced.

Are you angry with God over what He’s allowed to happen to you, or a loved one?

Have you taken those feelings to Him honestly in prayer and asked for His perspective and comfort?

Are you willing to settle for the comfort of God in your situation, or are you only interested in having God change your situation to suit you?

Are you allowing this difficult situation to deepen and strengthen your character, and your relationship with Christ?

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

2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV)

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Cultivating a Grateful Heart
Glynnis Whitwer

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 (NIV)

Have you ever wondered why God wants us to ask for things in prayer? I mean, after all, He knows everything! He knows my first thought in the morning and my last one at night. He knows my frustration when I’m late and stuck in traffic, and the words I’m biting my tongue not to say. When I think I “need” a brownie, He knows I really need a carrot. And I don’t have to tell God I need help keeping calm while trying to get five kids out the door each school morning. So, since He already knows what I’m thinking and what I need, why do I need to ask Him for help?

One reason I believe God wants us to ask for help is that when we ask and God answers, we appreciate His work in our lives in greater measure. If God provided everything we need before we asked, we could easily believe we are entitled to things. And, if we never saw how sweetly God cares for our needs, we might take His goodness for granted. I’ve learned this lesson a few times, but the one that stands out involved grapefruit.

When I was a child, my mother fixed our family breakfast before my dad left to teach for the day, and before my sister and I went to school. Since my dad enjoyed his routine, breakfast usually consisted of bacon, eggs and toast. On a cold day, Mom occasionally substituted hot cereal for the toast. And during the citrus season, we might have found halves of juicy pink grapefruit on the table.

I’ll never forget the first time I prepared my own grapefruit. I had moved away from home and was attempting to establish some of my own routines, so I had brought home a pink grapefruit. I cut it in half, grabbed a spoon and prepared to scoop out the individual segments like we had done at home. I planted my spoon at the grapefruit’s thick outer rind only to have the fruit not budge. I tried to saw it out with my spoon, but it was stuck fast. I thought I had purchased a defective fruit. My mother’s grapefruit sections slipped effortlessly onto our spoons!

So I did what every wise daughter does: I called my mother for advice. Imagine my surprise when she told me that before we got to the breakfast table, she had already separated the grapefruit sections with a small, serrated knife. For years I thought grapefruit came like that and was shocked to learn it wasn’t so! It was my mother who did all the work without being asked.

I never appreciated my mother’s work because I never knew she did it! Now I know how lovingly she cared for our needs by performing this time-consuming task. Now I am even more thankful for this small act of sacrifice on her part, which is just one of the many ways she cared for our family.

This is the same with God. If He removed all obstacles and challenges from our lives before we knew about them, we could easily become complacent. We wouldn’t see our need for Him and would think we could manage on our own. Each time we ask for God’s help and see Him answer, we appreciate Him even more. By having us ask, God is teaching us to cultivate a grateful heart, and a grateful heart is a good thing! Even sweeter than a pre-sliced grapefruit.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for allowing me to come to You in prayer and share my daily needs and those deep in my heart. I thank You for caring about me and for acting on my behalf when I pray. Help me to be more aware of Your presence every moment of the day, and to see Your hand in every area of my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
The Character of God: Understanding His Heart for Us by Brian T. Anderson and Glynnis Whitwer

Living Life on Purpose by Lysa TerKeurst

Do you know Him?

Application Steps:
Identify one way God has cared for your needs today. Thank Him in prayer.

Read Matthew 7:7-11. What is Jesus telling us about God’s character and abilities in this passage?

Since God already knows what we need, what are some other reasons He wants His children to ask for help?

What are some reasons God doesn’t answer every one of our prayers exactly as we pray them?

Power Verses:
II Corinthians 4:17-18, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV)

Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (NIV)

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)

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A Rock that Is Higher
Van Walton

“From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2 (NASB)

Do you ever allow others’ dispositions to dictate your mood? I do. I believe most women allow themselves to become preoccupied when they perceive that a member of their household seems overly… well just not “with it” for some reason. If my son is struggling with his grades, I struggle. Listening to his brother describe his life’s challenges, I take on the burden. When my husband is under stress, I stress out.

I recall my dad’s long illness. Life literally came to a halt for me. How could I go about my daily routine when Daddy was suffering so? I simply could not function knowing his condition. Initially the details of his failing health overwhelmed me. Slowly sadness consumed me. Eventually my preoccupation with Daddy’s deterioration paralyzed me. I lost my ability to function.

I know God commands us to bear each others’ burdens. The problem with me is that I don’t stop at “bear.” I carry my concerns to extremes. I feel like a traitor if I ignore difficult issues being faced by the ones I love. I feel I need to be in mourning, wearing black, dragging myself and everyone around me into my grieving experience.

Misery loves company, right? However, God’s Word commands us to rejoice in all things! Where’s the balance?

Recently I caught my husband being overly pensive. It concerned me. That Sunday morning he remained extraordinarily quiet. I tried to justify his silence - He has been coughing. Maybe he’s getting sick. Yet he assured me all was well. On the way to church I sensed tenseness in the air between us. I wondered, Is it something I have done? I thought, Maybe he isn’t telling me because it is way more serious than I can handle. Quickly I sent up a prayer. But I have to admit that when we parked the car, I parked my thoughts on worry. In church he leaned forward and placed his head in his hands. My upward climb toward a meaningful worship experience came to a halt.

With a momentous note the piano brought the congregation to life, while the worship director motioned for us to all stand. In one accord the congregation collectively pierced the room with a song of praise. I looked up to my husband, seeking assurance that all was well. Before my eyes found his face, God interrupted my contemplations by reminding me of a childhood experience.

The children in my neighborhood would hike up into the surrounding hills. We’d spend the week discussing last Saturday’s hike. While making plans to explore mountain tops and peaks, we challenged ourselves to higher goals and longer hikes. Each Saturday morning we pointed out a spot far in the distance and made that our destination. Inevitably, when we arrived at our spot, we agreed to move higher. There was always a place ahead, higher still.

God reminded me that Sunday morning as I looked up at my tall husband for strength, assurance, and comfort, that I had not focused on a high enough place. My husband is powerful, confident, and secure, but I place too many expectations on him! When he exhibits signs of instability, I lose my footing! I know this is not my heavenly Father’s plan.

With sounds of worship all around, God grabbed my attention. I heard Him say, “Don’t stop here. There is a place that is higher…” With a deep sense of comfort, I joined the congregation with songs of praise for the One who is higher than I. He is God, the Almighty who sits on His throne. He is the one who has compassion on my worldly circumstances, understands my moody moments, and is able to take control of my confusions. He is my goal, the direction I need to take, and the face I need to seek.

Dear Lord, I am guilty of allowing the things of earth, my family, preoccupations, challenges, and struggles to get in the way of my climb to the ultimate high. You are the place I want to go. Keep me moving until I reach You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

From the Pound to the Palace by Van Walton

A Woman's Secret to a Balanced Life by Lysa TerKeurst and Sharon Jaynes

Application Steps:
If you do not own a hymnal, consider getting one. The words to the old songs are as rich as their music. Find in your hymnal “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” and sing it.

Do I have an unhealthy dependence that takes my focus off God? Create a list of your dependencies.

What steps can I take to keep myself focused on Jesus?

Power Verses:
Psalm 3:4, “I was crying to the LORD with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain.” (NASB)

Hebrews 12:1-2 a, “…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus…” (NLT)

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Old Misery
Zoë Elmore

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:28-29 (NIV)

Being the only female in our household, (even our pets are male), I think I’ve seen just about every program the military channel offers, and believe it or not, I actually enjoy watching some of them. My husband and sons find it hilarious that “the princess of our home” is also a huge sports fan and a part-time student of the military. Hey, I say if you can’t change them (and you can’t), then join them!

Last week as I threw myself an elaborate pity party over the constant barrage of struggles this life brings, the Lord reminded me of one program in particular on the men who desire to become Navy SEALS. The physical and mental stresses these men are required to undergo was beyond my comprehension.

The first five weeks of the training prepares them for the sixth week, better known as "Hell Week." During this week, trainees participate in five and one half days of continuous training, with a maximum of four hours of sleep. "Sugar cookie drills," a combination of surf torture and whistle drills leave the trainees with sand over every inch of their bodies in preparation for the four-mile run up and down the beach (don’t tell those expensive day spas that charge a fortune for a full body polish that rolling in the sand and surf does the same thing).

One training exercise really caught my attention “Old Misery.” Exhausted, wet, and hungry teams of men hoist “Old Misery” (a 400 hundred pound log) onto their aching shoulders and then carry it up and down the beach. When one man would stumble or fall, his teammates immediately helped him up, carried his portion of “Old Misery” until he was steady on his feet, and encouraged him to finish the task. Each man knew the value of teamwork and how the load increased exponentially when one man stumbles. I was astonished at their ability to persevere as each task was more difficult than the last. I kept asking the question “Is all of this really necessary?” My husband and sons looked at me as if to say, “Hello, these men must remain focused on their mission no matter the cost!” Those who quit during Hell Week - and often, more than half do - are the ones Navy SEALs believe would quit on their real-world missions.

What a clear picture of God allowing struggles in my life as a way to keep my attention focused on my mission to be conformed to the likeness of His son. Pain and struggles can be tools to reveal areas of weakness in my life. God also uses them to shape and prune me. This “sanctification process” begins when we first ask Christ to enter our lives and ends when we meet Him face to face.

Another purpose for stressful circumstances is to reveal my true convictions as my faith and commitment are tested. It’s easy for me to say, “Praise God, isn’t He good,” when things are peaceful. But when struggles enter my life, what I really believe about God becomes evident in my thoughts, words, and actions.

Just as the trainees in the program had teammates to rely on, the Lord has provided me with my own teammates. The Holy Spirit is my team captain and is there to comfort, encourage, lead, guide, and direct me through the difficult and stressful times. I also have fellow teammates, men and women who have experienced stressful situations in their own lives and they have encouragement to share.

As you encounter your own “Old Misery” situations, remember you are not alone. The Lord has provided His Holy Spirit to help you carry the load and He will place people in your life that will help you and encourage you to finish the task of becoming more Christ-like. That way, you and I can live the command of Ephesians 4:1, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.”

Dear Lord, help me rely on Your Holy Spirit to comfort and direct me as I encounter “Old Misery” situations. Place godly teammates in my pathway and keep my focus on the goal of Christ-likeness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

The 7 Hardest Things God Asks a Woman To Do by Kathie Reimer and Lisa Whittle

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Ask the Lord to send you a renewed sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life. Seek out godly teammates to come alongside you for encouragement and accountability. Finally, allow your experience with pain and struggles to support others who can be encouraged from your personal experience.

Have you allowed difficult situations to sidetrack your focus of demonstrating Christ-likeness?

How strong is your commitment to model Christ?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.” (NIV)

James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV)

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Can I lick the Spoon?
Wendy Pope

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last." Matthew 20:16 (NIV)

I find it easy to send clothes, money, food, and other necessities to those in need, but struggle with the serious sickness of a selfish spirit. The very idea of being last is not something I have wanted to embrace much less put to practice. After all don't I deserve some simple pleasures in life? I work hard at my job. I take good care of my family. They are always fed, and most the time the meal is fairly nutritious. Everyone sleeps in bed with sheets that are clean and wake up to clean clothes to wear each day. So why shouldn’t I have a few simple pleasures in life that I can call my own, like licking the chocolate syrup off the spoon. Let me explain.

With two children in the house I often have the opportunity to come last. A tradition in my life since I was young girl is making chocolate milk with Hershey'sÔ syrup. The highlight of the experience is licking the chocolate off the spoon when the milk is mixed. This is a pleasure that I had managed to keep to myself until about six months ago. My six-year-old observed me enjoying the delightfully sweet treat after mixing his milk one day. Since my secret pleasure has been revealed, I rarely get to enjoy the treat.

One particular day when I had been the hands and feet of Jesus to many people, served faithfully in every area of my responsibilities, I wanted a treat. No, I knew I deserved a treat! Then it happened—my son asked to lick the spoon. I wish I could say that with the love of Jesus, I handed him the spoon, but I stood there in a mental argument with the Lord reminding Him of all the great things I had done that day. In a silent pause, I was reminded that I was here to serve not to be served, so I handed the spoon to my son.

Laying down what you think you deserve is difficult. Putting others needs and wants in front of your own does not come naturally. It requires a minute-by-minute reliance on the Holy Spirit to enable you to live beyond yourself.

No matter what season of life you are currently in, someone will inevitably ask to lick the chocolate off your spoon, the very pleasure you believe you deserve. Let me encourage you to live beyond yourself in that moment and hand them the spoon. The blessing you give will come back to you ten-fold. Do you know how I can make that statement? I can because I have lived this truth. After I gave my son the spoon, I remembered that I could dip the spoon right in the can to get as much syrup as I wanted and I did.

Lord, I understand that by nature I have a selfish spirit. It is my desire to live outside of that nature and to live in Your nature, a nature of gentleness and kindness. Help me to do this today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Listen to Today’s Radio Show

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

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

Application Steps:
In your journal, draw a table with four columns. Head the first column with your name. Then write the names of those you have been selfish to within the last week. Title the second column: act of selfishness. Then write down the act of selfishness you showed to each person. Title column three: one act of kindness. Then write one act of kindness you can do for this person. Title the four column date. Record the date to show the act of kindness.

Reflection Points:
Do I enjoy giving?

Who am I most selfish toward and why?

Do I have any unforgiveness or bitterness in my heart that causes me to be more selfish to some individuals than others?

Power Verses:
Psalm 86:11, "Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." (NIV)

2 Corinthians 9:7, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (NIV)

Galatians 5:22, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness." (NIV)

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Just Say Baaaa!
Marybeth Whalen

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6 (NIV)

I spent some time this morning just confessing before God that I am a sheep. And I don’t mean that in an “I’m not fat, I’m fluffy” kind of way. I mean in a dirty, smelly, dumb animal kind of way. Let me explain.

As I was praying, I noticed myself once again asking God for some affirmation and encouragement on a specific issue. Now, I have asked for this before - many times, in fact. And God is faithful to answer each and every time. And so, there I was again, asking Him to supply something I know He knows we have already covered. Why can’t I accept this covering once and for all? Why can’t I rest on His promises and accept Him at His word, once and for all? As I listened to myself asking my Heavenly Father for the same thing all over again, I wondered, “Why doesn’t He get tired of me already and tell me to go bother someone else?” And I realized, because I am a sheep. And He expects me to act like a sheep.

As I thought about this, I realized how many other dumb sheep things I do daily. I lose my way. I ask questions for which I already know the answers. My attitude stinks. I ram my head against the same brick wall, hoping for different results. I wander off from Him and then pout because I feel like He’s not there for me. I am a sheep. Yet, He is the Shepherd. Ezekiel 34:11-12a says, “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep” (NIV). How I need the comfort, nurture and protection of the Shepherd.

After I spent time just confessing how sheep-like I am, I spent time praising Him for His infinite patience with us, His flock. I praised Him for knowing how dirty, smelly and dumb we are and loving us anyway. I praised Him that He knows how very little we have to offer and accepts it as our gift to Him. A shepherd doesn’t expect his sheep to be wolves or eagles or anything other than sheep. Knowing that comforted me in the strangest sort of way. I love knowing that He leaves the 99 to get the one lost, hopeless sheep. (Matthew 18:12-13 NIV). He doesn’t pick the sheep up and yell at it for acting like a sheep. Instead He patiently, lovingly carries it back to the flock and resumes His watch.

I love knowing that when I bring my little insecurities to Him, revealing my weaknesses and confusion, He doesn’t say, “How can you be so stupid?” He says, “I expected nothing less from a sheep” and loves me anyway.

I hope that, like me, this will comfort you today. I hope that when you feel lost, hopeless, and smelly or just plain dumb for making the same mistakes or going to God with the same requests, you will just reflect on being a sheep. Spend time thanking Him for loving you anyway and being your Shepherd every day.

Dear Lord, thank You for being my Shepherd, and for loving me even when I act like a sheep. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

i am not but i know I AM by Louie Giglio

For the Write Reason, Marybeth Whalen, General Editor

Application Steps:
Do a word study in your Bible concordance on the words “Sheep” and “Shepherd.” How does reading these verses comfort you? Write your own psalm to God praising Him for His willingness to love us even though we are sheep.

What sheep-like things have you done lately? Have you been beating yourself up for behaving like a sheep? Do you realize that God expects you to mess up, and loves you even when you do? Thank Him for this, and ask Him to help you be a better sheep today.

Power Verses:
Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” (NIV)

Psalm 28:9, “Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.” (NIV)

John 10:14-15, “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (NIV)

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Susanne Scheppmann

“Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway." Proverbs 8:33-34 (NIV)

Woof! I thought I heard one small bark. Not sure, I turned the shower off for a moment. No, I couldn’t hear my little dog yapping. Jasmine is a twelve-pound black and white Shih Tzu and a yapper. If anyone knocks on the door, she goes crazy barking like a hundred pound Rottweiller. I turned the water back on, stuck my head under the spray, and reached for the shampoo bottle.

However, a voice inside my wet head nudged me. You heard her bark. Something is up. A realtor could be showing the house! Our home had been on the market for almost a year. About once or twice a week, various realtors would bring a potential buyer to walk through the house. However, it was stipulated that they must call first. The “woof” replayed through my thoughts. Maybe Jasmine doesn’t bark at people coming in anymore. Quickly, I turned the water off again.
I jumped out on to the cold tile floor. To my horror, I heard voices. My bedroom door was wide open. I raced toward the door dripping water along the way. However, it was too late. The realtor along with a husband and wife previewed me along with my bedroom. They saw crisp floral drapes and soft beige carpet, and then they spied cellulite and flab jiggling toward them, reaching out for the blue tattered robe hanging behind the door. I almost slid into their arms as I crossed the wet tile. With wide-eyed shock, they scurried from the house without a word.

I collapsed on a rug with laughter and tears. Jasmine came by to lick me dry. She looked at me as if to say, “Hey, I warned you, but you didn’t listen!”

Eventually my heart stopped pounding and my red face returned to its normal color. After the initial mortification, I began to wonder how often I do not listen when the Holy Spirit speaks to me. How many times have I shrugged it off as just my imagination? Jesus said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26 NIV). I need to learn to listen to His instruction and be wise, not to ignore Him as I did with Jasmine’s first “woof.”

The next time I feel a nudge from God, I will remember my “woof” incident. I plan on listening and moving a lot more quickly than I did. I do not want to repeat the lesson I learned today.

Oh, I never heard back from the potential buyers. I guess they didn’t care for the preview.

Dear Lord, how often have I not listened to Your voice when You warned me of something in my life? Today, I ask that You help me to listen to Your instruction and to be wise. Thank you for giving me the Holy Spirit to teach me. Let me become a quick learner. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Perplexing Proverbs by Susanne Scheppmann

Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer

Application Steps:
Read Proverbs 8. Write down the advantages given for learning to listen and applying God’s wisdom in your life.

Do I sometimes intentionally ignore God’s voice?

How could listening to the Holy Spirit help guide me each day?

What does the term wisdom mean to me?

Power Verses:
John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (NIV)

Proverbs 23:23, “Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding.” (NIV)

Ephesians 1:17, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (NIV)

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Just a Reminder
Melissa Taylor

“I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.” Psalm 16:8 (NLT)

A few months ago, I went to a weight loss center. Once again, I was ready to lose weight. The first thing my encouraging counselor asked me to do was to write a letter to myself. “Why?” I asked. She replied, “I want you to remember how you feel right now and why getting healthy is a priority in your life. Over time, you may forget. If you do, I’m going to mail it to you to serve as just a reminder.”

I have found that I often need reminders. I’m a visual person, so visual cues are quite useful to me. I have scripture cards on the inside of my cabinets to bring God’s Word to mind during the day. There is a picture of my niece in my car to remind me to pray for my sister’s family. My laundry room is covered with post it notes containing God’s Word reminding me to be thankful for the laundry I am doing and the blessings who wear those clothes. In our kitchen we have a calendar containing the family’s schedule and my life could not function without the reminders I keep in my daily planner. We need reminders to keep us on track, but we also need to be reminded of how special God is.

A few years ago I went to the store in search of a card for my husband. It wasn’t our anniversary or his birthday; I just wanted to get him a card reminding him of how special he was to me. An unexpected thing happened that day. The first card I picked up read:

In this stressful world,
Yours is the presence that quiets me,
The voice that calms me,
The touch that comforts me…
…the love that helps me remember what is most important in each day.

You’re everything to me.

As I closed this card, my eyes filled with tears. The words were beautiful, only they weren’t meant for my husband. They were meant for my Lord. I did not buy my sweet husband a card that day, and I think he would understand. I bought a card for God instead, to serve as just a reminder.

The words on this card remind me Who I can turn to, Who can comfort me, and Who should be my everything. And that person is not my husband. As great as Jeff is, he can never meet those needs in my life. No one person can - only God can. I need that reminder every day. Not only did I purchase this card, but I wrote a note to God on it and signed my name to it.

Be encouraged today that God wants to be your everything. He desires to be number one in your life. If you are like me, you may forget that at times. I carry that card around with me for that very reason, to serve as just a reminder.

Dear Lord, In this stressful world, Yours is the Presence that quiets me, the Voice that calms me, the Touch that comforts me, and the Love that helps me remember what is most important in each day. You’re Everything to me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

The Character of God: Understanding His Heart for Us by Brian T. Anderson and Glynnis Whitwer

Do you know Him?

Application Steps:
Go to the store in search of a card for your Everything, God. Write a note to Him and sign your name to it. Carry this card in your purse or Bible to serve as just a reminder.

Do you remember daily Who your Everything is?

Are you putting your hope in anyone else but God?

Power Verses:
Psalm 18:1-3, “I love you Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the strength of my salvation, and my stronghold. I will call on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, for he saves me from my enemies.” (NLT)

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The Great M & M Race
Karen Ehman

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

“On your mark. Get set. Go!!” my husband shouted as our three kids began the great M & M race. The rules were simple. Each child had a bowl in a separate corner of the family room. In the middle of the floor sat a huge bowl of M & M candies. The kids were instructed to use a tablespoon to transport the candies, one spoonful at a time, back to their individual bowls. If any dropped on the floor, they couldn’t pick them up. And the most important rule was this: When the timer rang, they had to stop at exactly the place where they were. If they were anywhere other than sitting in their corner holding their bowl, they forfeited all of the M & M’s they had gathered. And no, we wouldn’t tell them how many minutes the timer would be set for.

Four-year old Spencer, the family clown, giggled as he dashed back and forth, candies flying off of his spoon and landing on the ground. But he kept going, thinking that surely he would get the most by hurrying and scurrying. Methodical Mitchell surmised that if he intentionally went slowly and carefully, he could balance more candies on the spoon, not drop any and as a result, fill his bowl to the brim. But he sort of forgot about the timer. Big sister Mackenzie quickly clued into the “catch” of the game. She too was careful while transporting her M & M’s back to her bowl. But after a few trips, she sat down, placed her bowl in her lap and waited.

Moments later the timer went off. Spencer dove for his bowl, but it was too late. Mitchell, who was just meticulously scooping up another spoonful, got a horrified look on his face as he realized what had happened. All of his tedious effort had come to nothing. He too was left without a single M & M. In the corner of the room sat their sister who, due to her careful attention and clever game plan, was now the proud owner of many colorful candies. She also was also awarded all of the M & M’s that were sitting in her brother’s bowls. One boy began to complain, the other to cry. We had them calm down and sit down as we finished the family time Bible lesson. There was a point to this shenanigan.

My husband turned to Luke 12 and read the story of the rich fool. (Luke 12:13-21) This man had a fertile, prosperous farm that earned him quite a deal of money. But instead of using his wealth to bless others, he tore down all of his barns and built even bigger ones to stash his stuff in. However, he didn’t realize what was about to happen. That very night life’s timer would go off and he would die. All of his earthly trinkets would be of no value to him. In fact, they would be left for others. We related this story to our little family exercise that day.

You know, children aren’t the only ones who struggle with greed. How about us? Do we seek excessive earthly treasures for ourselves rather than give that money to ministries striving to feed the poor or to reach people with the good news of Christ? Are we prone to hoarder? Clothes, shoes, grown-up toys, out-on-the-town outings, or money spent on luxuries for ourselves? I’m not talking about a new car. It can be as simple as fancy coffees, which I love. One day it was pointed out to me that my favorite sweet and creamy hot drink- tall, skinny, decaf mocha with a shot of coconut and light on the whip, please- even when ordered two or three times a week, adds up to $30-40 dollars a month, I had to do some soul searching. Could I maybe limit myself to once every two weeks or so and instead spend the money somewhere else? The result? We now sponsor a child in Indonesia. For around $30 a month, we pay for little Rina’s food, clothing, medical care and school. What a better investment of our money! (And just think how many calories I am saving to boot!)

How about you? Need to make any adjustments in your spending? While there is merit in saving for a rainy day, we should also be sharing that which God has given us. Which is exactly what our daughter did that day with her M & M’s and her two baby brothers !

Dear Lord, Show me where I can spend less on myself and more on others. All I have belongs to you. May I use it for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Sponsor a child in need through Compassion International

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

Application Steps:
Keep track this week of the money you spend on yourself for items that aren’t really necessities. How else could you spend that money in a way that would help out someone less fortunate than you?

With the children in your life, come up with two or three worthy causes. Decorate a few clean mayonnaise jars to house funds for these places. Encourage all to place their spare change and earned dollars in the jars. When you have collected enough, convert it to a check and either mail it along with a letter or even hand deliver it with the kids in tow.

What score would you give yourself on the greedy scale if a 1 is an Ebenezer Scrooge and a 10 is a Mother Teresa? Be honest. What can you do to improve your score?

List any areas that are strongholds for you in the struggle with greed. Pray about what action God would have you take in order to curb these cravings for more.

Power Verses:
Proverbs 28:25, “A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper. (NIV)

Ephesians 5:5-6, “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” (NIV)

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He Knows My Name
Melissa Taylor

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” John 10:3b (NIV)

My son Hayden loves football. Sometimes I think it’s his reason for living. He reads, plays, and studies the game. His moods are often affected by how a game turns out, and he looks up to many of the athletes who have played the game well. One such athlete is Derwin Gray. Derwin and his family attended our church for years. He played for the Indianapolis Colts and the Carolina Panthers. He is also a great man of God who has devoted his life to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. Hayden has great memories of passing the football with Derwin in the hallways of our church. He also had the pleasure of accompanying him in leading the Miami Dolphins’ chapel service before a game. How it brought joy to my heart to hear Hayden talk about meeting professional football players, especially those who loved God. This man, though he probably doesn’t know it, has had a profound impact on my son’s life. Derwin Gray invested in my son.

Hayden collects football cards. Each time I go to Wal-Mart, I pick up a pack, hoping we will get a few new ones and maybe even the prestigious “Peyton Manning” card. Well, it finally happened! After buying many, many packs of cards, Peyton was finally ours! Hayden placed him on the page of honor, the front page of his book. There was still one space left and I asked Hayden who he was saving it for. Derwin Gray, he replied.

A few days later, Hayden’s best friend, Hunter came over with his football cards. Hunter had three Derwin Gray cards, so Hayden asked him for one. Being the smart business man he is, Hunter said, “Sure, if I can have your Peyton Manning card.” Hayden gladly handed it over and was thrilled to receive his hero’s card. I, on the other hand, thought, Do you know how much money I spent to find that thing? What are you thinking?

Later I asked Hayden why he traded that card we worked so hard to get. Hayden’s answer blew me away. “Mom,” he explained, “Derwin knows me. He knows my name.” It meant a lot to Hayden that someone he looked up to knew his name. Peyton Manning was special, but he did not know his name.

Do you know there is someone incredible who knows your name? He is the Almighty God, Creator of this Universe and Creator of you. He not only knows your name, but the Bible tells us He knows every hair on your head. He also knows every detail of your life. He loves you and wants to spend time with you. God wants to be a part of your life. You don’t even have to make a trade for Him. He’s yours just for the asking. Oddly enough, a Derwin Gray football card could’ve been Hayden’s just for the asking too.

This story got back to Derwin. On the day of Hayden’s First Communion, Derwin came to church with something greater than a football card. It was an 8x10 picture of him when he played for the Panthers. He signed it with a personal message and Bible verse for Hayden. He also handed Hayden five of his football cards to give to friends. Even when Hayden is mad at the outcome of a Panthers game and removes all of the Panther stuff from his room in protest, the Derwin Gray picture remains, because, “Mom, he knows my name.”

Dear Lord, Wow! You know my name! I praise You for Your unfailing and unconditional love in my life. I am grateful that I do not have to do anything to earn Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Who Holds the Key to Your Heart? by Lysa TerKeurst

Building the Christian Family You Never Had by Mary E. DeMuth

Application Steps:
Take the time to read Jesus’ very own words in John 10:1-16. Celebrate the fact that Jesus knows your name.

Now that you know that Jesus knows your name, who do you say that He is?

Do you recognize God’s voice when He is speaking to you?

Power Verses:
Matthew, 10:30, “And even the very hairs on your head are numbered.” (NIV)

Luke 9:20, “’But what about you?’ Jesus asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’” (NIV)

Psalm 16:3, “The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!” (NLT)

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My Friend the Atheist
Lysa TerKeurst

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:17 (NIV)

I have a dear friend who is a wonderful person and terrific mom. We enjoy watching our kids do sports together and when there is time, we work out together. We respect each other and care about one another, but we come from two totally different vantage points. I am a passionate, sold out Christian. She is a staunch atheist.

Without much discussion on the subject, we basically agree to disagree. But there is something going on behind the scenes that is so very exciting… she is seeing Jesus in me.

Just a few days ago, we were discussing ‘true beauty’ while sweating and straining through sit ups. She told me her counselor had recently asked her to describe a person who exemplified true feminine beauty and she’d quickly answered, “Deborah Norville.” But after a little more thought, she gave the counselor my name.

I laughed and told her that the only picture that should come to her head when she thought of me was a sweaty woman in workout cloths, a scraggly pony tail hairdo, and no makeup. How could that qualify as beautiful? Her answer stirred my heart, “Lysa, it is what you have on the inside that is so beautiful.”

I was amazed not because I took the compliment for myself, but rather for my sweet Jesus. I am convinced she sees the reality of Jesus shining through my many cracks and is drawn to Him in me. Even an atheist has God’s fingerprints all over their soul. Her inner most being was created by God’s hand and something inside her must recognize Him ever so slightly. So, that is where I start witnessing to her. No lengthy debates. No theological discussions. No hell fire and brimstone. I simply live and love and make the reality of Jesus known through my interactions with her and others.

She will not care to meet my Jesus until she meets the reality of Jesus lived out through my life. What a challenge for all of us! There are many people who are turned off by Christians because they hear us say one thing but live out another. I so desperately want to live Jesus out loud. I want to tell the whole world about Him, using words if only necessary. Then I am convinced I will have the privilege to one day sit down over a cup of coffee and have my friend the atheist say, “I want what you have. You make me think God could possibly be real. Will you teach me?” And what a day that will be!

Dear Lord, thank You for the privilege to know You. Thank you for changing my bitterness into joy, my horrible past into a hope-filled future, and my broken dreams into fulfilled promises. Help me to live everyday reflecting the reality of You in me. I want to lead many people to the glorious hope that can only be found in You. May it be so, every day of my life, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Beautiful in God's Eyes, The Treasure of the Proverbs 31 Woman by Elizabeth George

Listen to Today’s Radio Show

Application Steps:
Write down the names of a couple of people in your sphere of influence that need to meet the reality of Jesus. Make a point to pray for these people. Then look for ways to be Jesus to them. List three things you could do over this next month for each of them.

Think back over the last year of your life. In what area has God chiseled away some of those rough edges that have made it difficult for others to see Jesus in you? Jesus spoke harshly to the Pharisees of His time, calling them “hypocrites” because they appeared to be righteous on the outside, but had hearts of stone on the inside. As you experience the reality of God in your own life, the power of Jesus will continue to chisel away the stone to make you effective as you interact with those around you.

Power Verses:
Matthew 23:27, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”

Romans 13:14a, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with every-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

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Open for Service
Tracie Miles

“Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26b-28 (NIV)

My son had been quietly keeping himself occupied as I completed some work when I suddenly heard him leaping down the stairs calling my name. He showed me his drawings, with lots of pictures, and at the top of the page were the words “Open for Service.” As he explained his brilliant little idea of making himself available to do things for other people, he began asking me what he could do for me. I gave him a few service opportunities, such as picking up toys, and giving me a special hug and kiss. He even asked his sisters if they had anything he could do for them, which was a little shocking! When I asked him why he was doing this, his face lit up as he proudly proclaimed, “I just like serving people and it makes them happy!”

I was so proud of my little man for having a servant’s heart, and began to consider if my own heart could stand up to that test. There are days when I think I deserve a pat on the back for all of the nice things I have done. I took a meal to someone; I kept a neighbor’s child when they had some errands to run; I cleaned up the house before my husband came home; I worked on planning a women’s event for church; I cooked a great meal for my family. Then there are other days when I am resentful that no one helped me clean the house, cook the meals, and plan church functions, and I am certain that no one appreciates all the hard work I have done. Neither of those attitudes is indicative of a servant’s heart. And did you notice often I used the word “I”?!

In Matthew 20:28, Jesus explains that He came to earth to serve, not to be served. He is the ultimate role model of someone who always put others before himself, and never expected, nor desired, any recognition for it. In 1 Peter 4:10, Peter instructs us to use whatever gifts we have been given to serve others, and he ends that statement by saying we should serve by “faithfully administering God’s grace in various forms” (NIV). In Romans 12:7, Paul explains that whatever gifts (or various forms of service capabilities) we have been given by God, it is our responsibility as a child of God to use those gifts to serve Him.

Even when we are serving wholeheartedly, sometimes our pride, or our desire to be recognized for serving, spoils everything. 1 Timothy 3:13 states: “Those who have served well gain an excellent standing, and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.” The rewards we will reap for serving God with a whole and loving heart, and not desiring earthly rewards or recognition, will far outweigh any kudos we could receive from man. Although it will take a lot of work, my personal goal is that one day I can have an invisible sign on my heart that only God can see, and the words written on it would say, “Open for service.” I pray that nowhere on the sign will God see the word “I” and that my acts of service will be focused on the needs of others and done only for the One Holy Savior whom I am serving.

Dear Lord, help me to have the desire to serve You with my full heart, and to push aside feelings of selfishness and pride. Give me the wisdom to recognize the gifts You have given me, and open my eyes to opportunities to use those gifts to serve and glorify Your kingdom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Welcome to Community: Experiencing Life the Way God Intended by Brian T. Anderson and Glynnis Whitwer

P31 Woman Magazine

Application Steps:
When you hear the whisper of the enemy attempting to poison your mind with self-focused feelings, try to remember the verse from 1 Timothy 3:13.

Am I harboring feelings of resentment for areas of service that I am doing in my church or home?

Do I need to confess these feelings to God and ask Him to refresh my heart, so I remember that by serving others, I am also serving Jesus?

Am I trying to serve in so many different areas, that I am unable to give my full heart to the specific areas that God has gifted me for?

Power Verses:
Galatians 5:13, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (NIV)

Ephesians 6:7, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.” (NIV)

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Missing the Fireflies for the Trees
Marybeth Whalen

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

We have decided to sell our house. The sign sits in the yard like a beacon proclaiming the “out of control” state of my life. I can’t control who comes to see my house and when. I can’t control whether they will make an offer, or when. I can’t control whether there will be a house we love available when we do get a contract. Most of all, with six children and two adults living in our house, I can’t control the fact that it just will never be in picture perfect condition. So I pray. A lot. I pray that God would send a buyer who sees the house for exactly what it is—a real home. And I pray that He would help me not to get so worked up about it all.

Last night, my husband and I stood outside in the falling light of evening, discussing our house situation—our most popular topic of conversation lately. While we talked, our five-year-old son ran about in the grass, weaving through the tree trunks without a care in the world. I noticed him out of the corner of my eye as we talked, but didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to what he was doing. I had more important things to do than to frolic about without a care in the world.

Then I noticed him suddenly dart over to capture something in his hands. A firefly. The sad part is, prior to that moment I hadn’t even noticed that there were fireflies out. Fireflies have always symbolized the start of summer to me. I celebrate the sight of them as I realize that a season of cookouts and beach vacations, longer days and less routine are upon us. As I took in the scene, I noticed their little flickers of light were all around me—flickers that had been there the whole time. My son had certainly noticed them. In his little boy world, there was nothing more important than chasing fireflies. Not for sale signs or mortgage rates. He had noticed the little things, and I had overlooked them because I was too focused on the big things.

I thought about how God’s activity is like that. He is at work all around us, all the time. Little flickers of surprise and encouragement, joy and affirmation are all around us if we will only look up from life’s demands to notice they are there. We have to learn to live that way—with the heart and eyes of a child—to truly see Him. I want to spend my summer catching fireflies and delighting in the marvel of God’s creations. I want to live my life intentionally seeking out the little ways that God shows me He loves me, He knows me, He created me and He is indeed actively involved in my life. I know my faith would grow more if I stopped worrying and started chasing after Him the way my son was chasing those fireflies. I don’t want to miss the surprises He has planned for me every day. I want to see Him more and worry less. Every time I see a firefly this summer, I plan to thank Him for the lesson He taught me through a little boy on an early summer evening.

Dear Lord, please help me grow my faith by shrinking my vision. Help me to see You in the little things and let some of the big things go. Please help me to live life aware of Your activity. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Join us for more Everyday Life encouragement

Birds in My Mustard Tree by Susanne Scheppmann

Application Steps:
List some of the little things in your life that bring you great joy—think about the way that each season brings its own little celebrations. Have you remembered to celebrate God’s creation lately?

What is a “big thing” in your life right now? Can you take a day to let it go and refocus on what God is doing instead?

Power Verses:
Acts 15:9, “He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.” (NIV)

Psalm 24: 3-4, “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.” (NIV)

Psalm 73:1, “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” (NIV)

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Fear or Faith – Part Two

Melanie Chitwood

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” Jeremiah 29:11 (NAS)

I shared in yesterday’s devotion how God challenged me to walk in faith rather than in fear with the words from Deuteronomy 2:3 and 7: “You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north...For the Lord your God has blessed you in all that you have done; He has known your wonderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing” (NAS).

I knew that it was time to leave behind the lies of fear and to choose to believe that with God I could do whatever He asked me to do. So right then I prayed, promising God that whatever He asked me to do, I would say yes.

A few days passed and, of course, God provided an opportunity for me to say yes to Him. Lysa TerKeurst, the President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, called and asked me to give a testimony at the P31 She Speaks conference about the influence on my life of Proverbs 31 Ministries. As she filled me in with the details, she explained that I would give this talk in front of one of the general sessions; in other words before about 250 women.

My first thought was No way! I’m going to She Speaks for the writer’s track, not the speaker’s track! However, I knew this was a defining moment for me. I had a choice: was I going to choose fear or faith? I remembered my promise to God, and without giving myself a chance to change my mind, I blurted out, I’ll do it!

A few weeks later as I shared with the audience at She Speaks what an impact the Proverbs 31 ministry had on me, I just wept, for I saw how God had orchestrated all the events in my life to bring me to this point, a point where I would say yes to whatever else He asked me to do.

I went home from the conference, began speaking to local groups and continued writing. One of the articles I wrote was about marriage, and it was published in the P31 Woman magazine. And then an amazing thing happened. Something only God could have done.

Harvest House publishers read my article, contacted me, and asked me to submit a book proposal. Much to my amazement and thankfulness, it was accepted, and my first book What a Husband Needs from His Wife was published. God knew that I had a dream of publishing a book, for it was a dream He put in my heart. When God made this dream come true, I knew He was saying to me, “This is what I created you to do!” As I refused to listen to the lies of fear, I was able to join God in the plans He had for me.

And I never want to go back to being a woman who lives in fear. I want to continue saying yes to God. What about you? Are you ready to say yes to God? The adventure God wants to take us on can be enjoyed only when we’re willing to leave behind the familiarity of the wilderness to join Him in the adventure in the unknown of the Promised Land. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have defeat or failure or missteps. It just means that we press on one step at a time, knowing that God is with us. Psalm 37:24 promises, “When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand” (NAS).

God has a purpose and a plan for each of our lives. He invites us to follow Him, for He knows who we truly are. Following Him is about living out His plan for our lives, instead of letting lies define us or determine the direction of our lives. When we step out in faith to be who God created us to be, we bring Him the greatest glory.

Dear Lord, Thank you that You created me to be Your child. Thank you that You love me and want to hold my hand every step of the way, as I live my life for You. Use all of me to bring You glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:

Do you know Him?

What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

For the Write Reason, Marybeth Whalen, General Editor

Application Steps:
Today, take one specific step toward reaching your dream.

Read one of the resources listed in today’s devotion or yesterday’s.

Sign up for the Proverbs 31 She Speaks Conference

Do you have a dream that you’ve been afraid to pursue?

What talents and experiences can you use to God’s glory?

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

Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” (NLT)

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

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Fear or Faith– Part One
Melanie Chitwood

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

When we read about God telling Moses to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt, we might expect a man of such great faith to respond, I’m on it, God! I know that as long as You are with me, we can do this!

That was not, however, Moses’ response. Moses’ first response is found in Exodus 3:11: “But Moses protested to God, ‘Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?’” (NAS). Then Moses continues to argue with God about his assignment, trying to convince God that in no way is he qualified.

I’m so glad that God included in Scripture a record of Moses missteps, for his response is one I can relate to. You see, just like Moses, I have often responded with fear instead of faith.

About four years ago, God began to awake in me a desire to write more seriously. At the same time, I also sensed that God wanted me to do something else that seemed crazy for me - I sensed that God wanted me to start speaking to women about Him. I had been an English major, so writing has always been something I love. However, speaking was way out of my comfort zone. In fact, the thought of being a speaker completely terrified me.

Meanwhile, I had signed up to go the Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference on the writers’ track. This conference for writers, speakers, and women’s ministry leaders was one I was really looking forward to, for I knew I’d receive inspiration and skills to help me in the calling God was stirring in me. I was going with a friend, who had signed up for the speakers’ track, and as I observed her nervousness about speaking, I was secretly relieved that I wasn’t going to have to speak at the conference!

A couple of weeks before the conference I was reading my Bible when the Holy Spirit caused some words to leap off the page and into my heart. I read Deuteronomy 2, verses 3 and 7: “You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north . . . For the Lord your God has blessed you in all that you have done; He has known your wonderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing” (NAS).

First, the words “you have circled this mountain long enough,” stood out. God said this to the Israelites after they had been wandering way too long in the wilderness. God was saying to them that it was finally time for them to go to the Promised Land. And I sensed God saying the same thing to me. I had been circling the mountain of fears and insecurities for way too long. God had an assignment for me, and I had a choice to make.

Secondly, the words “forty years” leaped off the page, as I was forty-years-old as I was reading these verses. I was comforted knowing that God had provided all I’d needed up to this point in my life and would continue to be with me as I stepped out in faith instead of fear.

God was calling me to some new things. Maybe God is doing the same thing in your life. Maybe you’ve tried to ignore what He wants you to do. Maybe you’ve offered up excuses and rationalizations. Maybe like me, you’ve chosen fear instead of faith. Maybe it’s time to stop circling the mountain.

Dear Lord, I want to be a woman who joins You in faith, not a woman who misses out because of fear. Show me where I’ve sinned by walking by sight instead of by faith. Make me bold and brave in You and for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst

For the Write Reason, Marybeth Whalen, General Editor

Application Steps:
Ask God to show you which mountains He wants you to stop circling. The mountain of fear? Perfectionism? People pleasing? Unforgiveness? Doubt? Discontent? Addiction?

Copy one of the verses from today’s devotion and carry it with you wherever you go. Fill your mind with God’s truth by repeating the verse over and over.

Sign up for the Proverbs 31 She Speaks Conference

Do you think that you’ve missed out on God’s plans for you because you’ve been fearful?

Is there any of bondage you’re in that’s causing you to miss out on God’s plan for you?

Is there an area of your life where you’re afraid to trust God?

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

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (NAS)

Psalm 112: 7a, “His heart is steadfast trusting in the Lord.” (NAS)

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Judge Not!
Glynnis Whitwer

“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:2 (NIV)

Teaching our 15-year-old son to drive has been a learning experience – for him and me! In typical God-fashion, the lessons haven’t always been about driving. Only God could take an average street corner and turn it into a life-lesson seared into my soul. Here’s what happened on a not-so-average afternoon.

After taking short trips on side roads, I decided my son Josh was ready for the “big time.” So we headed to Costco after school on a main thoroughfare. Since I don’t normally drive at that time of the day, I was unprepared for the amount of traffic. Josh was doing well until the light turned red just as he was pulling up to make a right turn. Since traffic was heavy, he was already going slowly, but instead of stopping, I could tell Josh intended to keep going.

“Stop, Josh,” I said quietly as the car kept rolling.

“Stop, Josh” I said a little louder. The car kept rolling, although it did slow. In a split-second, I could tell Josh was going to turn right on a red and I could see oncoming traffic starting to move. Why wasn’t Josh stopping? I started to panic.

“Josh STOP!!” I yelled, and he slammed on the brakes.

“Mom, you’re freaking me out,” Josh gasped.

“Josh, you’re freaking ME out!” I answered as we both sat there in shock. Josh explained that he thought I meant for him to slow down when I said “stop.” I didn’t have time to sort out his thought process on that one, because just then the light turned green and Josh turned right … legally and safely.

I told Josh I was sorry for yelling at him, he said he was sorry he didn’t listen to me and we were back on good ground. At least I thought so until seconds later a young guy who had been behind us at the light, pulled up on our left and motioned for us to roll down the window. Thinking there was something wrong with a tire, we did and he said, “Hey, if you are going to act like that, take your sticker off your car.” Then he sped off. Josh was shaken and I was just plain mad. I knew he was talking about our church window decal and I alternated between anger at his judgmental attitude and shame that someone might think badly about God because of a driving incident. But anger was the predominate emotion. I couldn’t stand that someone would judge me or my son without knowing anything about us.

I stewed over that the whole day, until God started speaking to my spirit about a judgmental attitude I’d had earlier that week. Something had happened at church that I let bother me. It wasn’t a sin issue, merely an oversight on someone’s part. But it concerned me. In fact, I had worked it up in my mind their lack of attention was wrong and I was going to tell someone about it. For days, I thought about how to say it and to whom. Then this happened.

I’m confident God allowed me to experience the bitter side of judgment so that I would see how hurtful it is. My judgmental attitude at church was clouding my love and compassion for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are serving God in wonderful ways and impacting many lives. I was convicted of my attitude, asked God’s forgiveness, and thanked Him for teaching me a lesson before I spoke any potentially hurtful words.

Jesus spoke these words to His followers, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2 NIV). I definitely experienced being judged, and it wasn’t pleasant. Nor was my judgment on others pleasant.

As I’ve thought about and prayed over this issue more, I’ve come to realize that I can still share my thoughts with those in charge at church (or anywhere else), so long as my heart and my attitude don’t contain a hint of judgment. But then again, I might not. I’ll definitely do an attitude check before letting any thought take root, or any potentially judgmental word come out of my mouth.

Dear Lord, I praise You for Your perfect, loving nature. I desperately long to be more like You and to see others with Your eyes of love and compassion. Help me to submit my thoughts to You. Please forgive my judgmental thoughts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
6 Habits of Highly Effective Christians by Brian T. Anderson and Glynnis Whitwer

30 Days to Taming Your Tongue by Deborah Smith Pegues

Do you know Him?

Application Steps:
Identify a time when you were wrongly judged by someone else.

How can you tell if your thoughts are judgmental or helpful?

What are some ways to guard our hearts and minds from being judgmental?

Read Matthew 7:3-5 below. How does taking the “plank” out of our eyes help us see clearly?

Power Verses:
Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.” (NIV)

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But Will It Make Me Happy?
Marybeth Whalen

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.” Ecclesiastes 7:14 (NIV)

When my son, Brad, was about three years old, he went through a phase of playing on my emotions when he wanted something. If I told him “no,” he would reply, “But mommy, that will make me happy.” Then he would give me his most drop-dead gorgeous smile and bat his eyes at me for effect. Boy, did he know how to work me over! Some of the requests were for things like a lollipop before dinner or staying up several hours past bedtime. And while I knew those things might make him happy for a moment, they definitely weren’t the best choice for him. As his mom, I knew that sticking to my “no” was the wise choice—no matter how many manipulation tactics he tried!

And yet, how many times do I act just like this before God? I kneel before Him and present Him with a laundry list of things I think would make my life better. In reality, I don’t have any better idea about what is best for me than my child does. My view of happiness is very temporary and circumstance based. While I think I know what will make me happy, I am learning that, in truth, I have absolutely no idea. And this is where trusting God and submitting to His will is always the better choice.

How many times in your life have you wanted something so badly—yet when you got whatever it was, you realized, “Nope, this didn’t do it for me either.” That house you wanted to move into so badly, that person you wanted to date, that achievement you thought would bring success, that child you longed to have—they all brought you momentary happiness, but they didn’t fulfill you as you had hoped, or bring you the significance you longed for. I am learning slowly that whenever I find myself begging God for something, with some whining thrown in for good measure, I have to step back and ask myself the question: But will it make me happy? I know that whatever “it” is, it doesn’t have the power to bring me lasting happiness—that deep indwelling joy that only God can bring. I may have a flash of happiness, only to lose it mere moments later. I am learning slowly to push aside these momentary longings and seek God instead. To tell Him, “Here’s what I think I want, but I trust You to do what’s best for me.”

I have learned that a book with my name on the cover, an outfit hanging in my closet that looks great on me, an accolade for my child, a trip to the spa, or an address in the right neighborhood will not make me happy, as much as I think it might. I can’t look for happiness in the things of this earth, or I will certainly live in a state of disappointment. Instead, I can spend my time seeking God, and allowing Him to bring along unexpected blessings—little bouquets of happiness along the way. That doesn’t mean I don’t still look longingly at a new digital music player or a sleek new laptop and think fleetingly, “Oooooh, now that would make me happy.” But I am learning to pull back and refocus my perspective when I have those thoughts. Will it make me happy? Maybe for a moment. But in the long run, only God can bring me the joy I seek. I am learning that truth, minute by minute, day by day.

Dear Lord, Please help my perspective to be Your perspective. Help my focus to stay where it needs to be—fixed intently on You and not on the things of this world I think will make me happy. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
i am not but i know I AM by Louie Giglio

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

For the Write Reason, Marybeth Whalen, General Editor

Join us for more Everyday Life encouragement

Application Steps:
Write down in your journal anything God has brought to mind that you are looking to bring you happiness. How can you take your eyes off these things and refocus on God and His Son, Jesus Christ? Write down personal action steps you need to take and begin taking these steps today.

Are you being honest with yourself about what truly makes you happy? Are you looking to the wrong things to make you happy? What part of this devotion is speaking to you today?

Power Verses:
Ecclesiastes 5:19, “Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift from God.” (NIV)

Isaiah 33:6, “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” (NIV)

Proverbs 10:2, “Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death.” (NIV)

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