Run Another Load
Gina Parcells, She Speaks Conference Graduate

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NASB)

Laundry … I’m running another load right now. It seems like once I have washed, dried, folded, and put away the clothes, I discover someone has slipped yet another dirty item into the hamper. The thing about laundry is, its just never-ending.

I’ve considered taking a sabbatical from the never-ending task, but I’m certain it would accumulate into a heap causing a pervasive stench in my house. Then, I’d hear grumbling from the masses about how they have nothing to wear and, of course, I would cave. My sabbatical would ultimately lead to my own panic as I surveyed the overflowing hampers.

So, no laundry sabbatical for me. Instead, I accept the need to wash clothes regularly. And I do it. It’s better for everyone that way.

You know, God has that constant laundering thing going on too, except He’s cleansing our hearts instead of our clothes. I’m sure He would rather we not dirty our hearts with sin, but He knows we do and He is always willing, day or night, to cleanse us.

The problem is sometimes I’m unwilling to put my stinky garments in His hamper to be washed. I have favorite sins, like favorite shirts, that I’m resistant to take off. Sometimes, I just wear my sin day in and day out, and the idea of confessing it and asking for grace doesn’t even cross my mind. It’s like He has a pile of clean clothes ready to go, but I walk right past them.

Fortunately for us, God never takes a cleaning sabbatical, and He doesn’t get overwhelmed when our sin hampers seem filled to capacity. In fact, you can dump ten loads of sin in front of Him and He’ll wash them all. He’s a pro with the delicate cycle. If we can mess it up, He can clean it up ... we just have to ask. As our key verse states, if we confess, He will faithfully forgive.

Dear Lord, I confess to You _________. Thank You for Your faithfulness to cleanse me now, and every single time I come to You. Please help me to recognize my sin and to remember to seek Your forgiveness daily. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Intended to Bear by Max Lucado

Daily Prayer Journal

Do You Know Him?

Application Steps:
Read Psalm 32 as if you wrote it to God.

Spend time asking the Lord to search your heart and reveal if there is any offensive way in your heart (Psalm 139:23-24). Use these times of listening and confession as a regular part of your prayer time each morning.

What keeps me from regularly confessing my sin?

What can I use as a trigger to remind me to spend time confessing my sin everyday?

Power Verses:

Psalm 51:2-4, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.” (NIV)

Psalm 51:10, 12, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (NIV)

Labels: , ,

Lysa TerKeurst

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin..” Hebrews 4:15 (NIV)

It’s been almost a month since many of us resolved to do some things differently this year. So, how is it going? I only had a couple of resolutions this year. But the one closest to my heart and most deserving of my attention is the prayer I scribbled out on New Year’s Day.

Unsettle me.

These are the two words rattling about in my brain today. I almost wish it was a more glamorous prayer. Surely more eloquent words could be found for what I'm feeling led to pursue during this new year. But these are the words - this is the prayer for my 2009.

The funny thing is I've spent my whole existence trying to find a place to settle down, people to settle down with, and a spirit about me worthy of all this settled down-ness. All of this is good. A contented heart, thankful for its blessings is a good way to settle.

But there are areas of my life that have also settled that mock my desires to be godly woman - compromises if you will. Attitudes that I've wrapped in the lie, "Well, that's just how I am. And if that's all the bad that's in me, I'm doing pretty good."

I dare you, dear soul of mine, to notice the stark evidence of a spirit that is tainted and a heart that must be placed under the microscope of God's Word. Yes, indeed, unsettle me Lord.

Unearth that remnant of unforgiveness.

Shake loose that justification for harshness.

Reveal that broken shard of pride.

Expose that tendency to distrust.

Unsettle me in the best kind of way. For when I allow Your touch to reach the deepest parts of me - dark and dingy and hidden away too long - suddenly, a fresh wind of life twists and twirls and dances through my soul.

I can delight in forgiveness and love more deeply.

I can discover my gentle responses and find softer ways for my words to land.

I can recognize the beauty of humility and crave the intimacy with God it unleashes.

I can rest assured though harsh winds blow, I will be held.

Goodbye to my remnants, my justifications, shards, and tendencies. This is not who I am, nor who I was created to be.

Goodbye shallow love, sharp words, self-focus, and suspicious fears. I am an unsettled woman who no longer wishes to take part in your distractions or destructions.

Welcome deeper love, softer words, unleashed intimacy, and the certainty I am held.

Welcome my unsettled heart.

Welcome 2009.

Dear Lord, make me a courageous woman who isn’t afraid to pray this prayer over and over this year. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa TerKeurst’s blog to read about prayers that move the heart of God.

Do You Know Jesus?

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Spend the next couple of weeks reading through the book of Hebrews in the Bible. Write on 3x5 cards every verse that speaks to you personally. I’ve included some of my favorites in the Power Verses below. Hebrews is such an amazing book full of truths about who Jesus is and how powerfully He can help us in our pursuit of becoming unsettled in the best kind of way.

What are some things in my life that could stand to be unsettled a bit?

Is there someone who I could extend some forgiveness to?

What part of my life do I have the hardest time trusting God?

How might I make progress this year in those areas of struggle?

Power Verses:
Hebrews 1:3, “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (NIV)

Hebrews 2:18, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (NIV)

Hebrews 5:13-14, “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (NIV)

© 2009 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

Labels: , ,

Finding God’s Treasures
Renee Swope

“Your word I have treasured in my heart…” Psalm 119:11a (NAS)

A few years ago, my husband planned a father-son camping trip with a group of friends that included a Friday night treasure hunt. The week before, I found my sons mysteriously searching our house for cardstock paper. The next morning I discovered a few soaking wet pieces hanging to dry in the shower. After further questioning, they told me they were making secret treasure maps.

Of course, the treasure hunt wouldn't be complete without the reward of what they’d find. Two days before departure, my husband took our boys on a preliminary treasure hunt to the Dollar Store to buy water guns and other trinkets for eleven little pirates. That Friday, my husband took half a day off work so they could get to the campsite early and bury the treasure box. I’m convinced they spent more time planning and anticipating the treasure hunt than they did the camping trip.

I loved seeing how excited my boys were, and I couldn’t help but wonder how I might tap into that excitement. As a mom, I’m always looking for ways to weave spiritual lessons into everyday life experiences. I want my kids to see the Bible, not as a book of rules to follow, but like a map that leads us on God’s great adventure.

I started praying about ways to get creative and connect my kid’s interest in treasure hunts to my desire for them to treasure God’s Word in their hearts, like King David describes in today’s key verse.

King David was a man who searched God’s Word for wisdom and treasured it in his heart like gold! He depended on God’s promises and was personally guided by God’s precepts. Although David had countless worldly riches, God’s Word was his greatest treasure, so much that he would meditate on it and write it deeply into the fibers of his thoughts.

I don’t know about you, but I want to have the passion David describes and the anticipation my kids displayed when planning that treasure hunt. I want to be so convinced that if I make plans and set aside time to read God’s Word, I will be rewarded with promises and insights I can depend on. Instead of reading my Bible because I should, I want to search through it each day like someone looking in a field for a treasure.

As a mom, I want to instill that same desire and confidence in my kids. I want them to see me anticipating all that God has for us, and then follow my lead as we begin each day in His Word on our own treasure hunt for Truth!

Lord, You are my greatest treasure! Your words are more precious than gold. I come to You with a renewed desire to search the scriptures for nuggets of truth, and apply Your wisdom in my daily life. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child Chart and CD: Wisdom and tools to help parents search for and store up treasures of Truth in their children’s hearts. By Renee Swope

Visit Renee’s Blog for practical ways to connect spiritual truths to your everyday life, for you and your kids. And sign up to win some great give-aways for moms.

A Walk to Remember: Living and Leaving a Legacy – 2 Session DVD taught by Renee Swope

The D6 Conference – helping parents and churches raise spiritual champions!

Application Steps:
· Buy or make a treasure box to hold index cards. If you have children, they’ll love decorating it.
· Write Bible verses and promises on index cards and put them inside.
· Choose a treasure of Truth to read, reflect on and hide in your heart daily or weekly.
· Carry your treasure with you. Write it on sticky notes and put them on mirrors, in lunch boxes, on the fridge, etc.
· At mealtimes, share how the treasure of truth applied to life that day.

Do I read God’s Word like I am looking for treasure, or do I skim over it to fulfill an obligation?

Do I believe there are rewards in seeking God, or do I fear He’ll just give me more rules to follow?

How does my mindset influence my children’s perspective of God’s Word?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 2:1-6, “My child, listen to Me and treasure My instructions. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight and understanding. Search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the LORD grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. “(NLT)

Psalm 19:9-11, “The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (NIV)

© 2009 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

Labels: , ,

A Silent Intruder
Susanne Scheppmann

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

The box was out of place. I held my breath in frightened suspense. I sensed someone or something had been in my home while I was away for the weekend. My eyes darted around the family room looking for signs of intrusion. Everything appeared to be in order. However, I spied a small box of dog biscuits in the middle of the kitchen floor. The biscuits were scattered and broken into small pieces. Only the box confirmed my suspicion -- everything else seemed to be in order.

My husband and I decided it must have been a mouse which found its way into the house through the garage and munched on the doggie treats. There was no trace of it now and our dogs were calm and indifferent. So, we cleaned up the crumbly mess and went about the evening.

Much later that night we snuggled on the couch watching the “Deadliest Catch.” (It’s a full-of-testosterone reality show – a man’s version of a soap opera.) We concentrated on the drama in the high seas when suddenly we were jolted by a screeching “Meoooooow!” We jerked our heads to see a giant black cat with an arched back perching on our kitchen counter. Its yellow-green eyes stared like illuminated orbs. With another cry, the intruder darted down the hallway and out the doggy door. So . . . that was the mysterious intruder. Evidently the feline had been lurking silently about in the house all afternoon with neither the dogs’ nor our awareness.

Like the black cat slipped into our home unannounced, sin can slink into our hearts. Sinful thoughts slip into our mind and we ignore them, believing them to be harmless. But sin is an intruder intent on damage. Sin-filled thoughts can burgeon into sinful behaviors. Our key verse today states, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” It is our responsibility to keep watch for the silent intruders in our thought life. We must analyze, for instance, what we watch and listen to each day.

Let’s block our hearts’ doors from sin, because once allowed in, it can do harm. It can also be hard to get rid of – just like that sneaky cat. Our feline friend continued to return night after night through our doggy door. Finally, we found the stray cat a home.

We need not, however, find sin a home. There is no room for sin in our life as Christians. Let’s block the entry and be vigilant against the silent intrusion of sin by guarding our eyes, ears and hearts in Christ Jesus.
Dear Lord, Help me guard my heart against evil. Make me aware of holes in my life where sin can sneak in and make itself comfortable. Holy Spirit, teach me to live a holy life devoted to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Confessions of an Adulterous Christian Woman: Lies that Got Me There, Truths that Brought Me Back by Lyndell Hetrick Holtz

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

Visit Susanne’s blog

Application Steps:
Mentally walk through your day’s activities. Ask yourself if there is an activity that could easily turn into sin. Example: Could chatting with a girlfriend spin out of control into gossip? Walk through your home. Is there anything in your home you would not invite the Lord Jesus to participate in with you? Example: Are there DVDs that promote ungodly behavior?

Do I care if my life is holy and honoring to the Lord Jesus?

How can I be more vigilant in guarding my heart this year?

When am I most vulnerable to sin sneaking into my life?

Power Verses:
2 Timothy 1:14, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you--guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (NIV)

John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (NIV)

© 2009 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Labels: , ,

Good Choice
Rachel Olsen

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you.” James 1:5a (NLT)

I have a tween-age daughter. She told me the other day she wants to begin babysitting for others. She is quite good with young kids, and a natural born leader, but I’m not certain she is ready for this. It’s a lot of responsibility to be totally in charge, even if only for a few hours.

Solomon was the son of King David. Born nearly a thousand years before Christ, Solomon was installed as king just before his father’s death. He was likely a tween or teenager at the time. Possibly as young as twelve, and now in charge of an entire nation – can you imagine? Makes babysitting for a few hours sound simple.

A while after Solomon’s ordination, God appeared to the young king in a dream and invited him to make any request. “God said, ‘What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!’” (1 Kings 3:5b NLT). Imagine your tween-aged or even teen-aged self from years ago. Now imagine God – in almost genie-like fashion, though God is most certainly not a genie – asking you to make a request. What would you ask for? My young self might have asked for a pony, new roller skates, a little sister, a car, or maybe a date with singer Shawn Cassidy.

However, none of this is what Solomon asked for. He replied:

“Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people; a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” (2 Kings 3:7-9, NLT)

Good choice! Feeling the weight of his responsibilities, Solomon asked God for the knowledge he would need to fulfill his purpose – to lead the people and judge fairly between them. Approving of Solomon’s request, God answered:

“Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies — I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for — riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.” (1 Kings 3:11-14, NLT)

Solomon was granted wisdom from God, and as he followed it, all God promised came true. In short order, Solomon’s wealth grew tremendously. In today’s market, he would be a multi-millionaire, or even a trillionarie. He owned property, livestock, and mines. He had 12,000 horsemen alone on his payroll, to drive his 4,000 chariots.

His reputation was renowned. Kings from all over the world came to listen and learn from Solomon. Indeed Solomon still holds the title of the wisest man that ever lived. (Jesus not included in a list of mere men.)

Solomon’s wisdom – flowing from the throne of God – brought the nation peace and prosperity like it had never known before. The forty years that Solomon sat as king were the best years in all of Israel’s Old Testament history. All because he asked God for the wisdom he would need to fulfill his purpose, and then he followed that wisdom.

My purpose on this earth isn’t to lead my nation like Solomon, but nonetheless I have a purpose. And I have people I‘ll lead. And responsibilities. And you do too! So, we need to make good choices. Let’s take our cue from the wisest man to ever live and ask God today for the knowledge we’ll need to fulfill our purposes well.

Dear Lord, today I eagerly ask You for wisdom for my life. Please give me knowledge, understanding, discernment, and the heart-set needed to follow it. May I rightly fulfill Your purposes for me today, and each day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

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

Perplexing Proverbs for Women by Susanne Scheppmann

Visit Rachel’s blog

Application Steps:
Choose any chapter of Proverbs (written by Solomon) and read it. Take notes on the wisdom for living recorded there.

Then choose a different chapter tomorrow and do likewise.

Do I seek the wisdom of God? Do I believe He will grant it to me?

Do I follow the God-given wisdom I have gained? How might my life look different if I answered that differently?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 2:2-3, “Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.” (NLT)

© 2009 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

Labels: , ,

When Your Worst Fears are Realized
Marybeth Whalen

“You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Do not fear.’” Lamentations 3:57 (NIV)

All my life, I had two very real fears: that I would have a child with a birth defect, and that my marriage would break up. Even before I was married, I worried about how I would handle these things if they happened. Perhaps that seems silly to some, but some of you might know exactly what I am talking about. Your fears are always lurking, taunting you with their possibility.

In Isaiah, God told Hezekiah of the impending exile of his descendants to Babylon, but assured him he would already be dead by the time this happened. In our humanness, we can identify with Hezekiah when he thought with relief, “At least there will be peace and security during my lifetime” (Isaiah 39:6-8, NLT). That was Hezekiah’s fear talking—fear that something terrible like that would happen in his lifetime. And what a loud voice fear can have. Sometimes it can even overpower the voice of God as He lovingly reassures us of His nearness.

As you can probably guess, my two worst fears were realized. My third child was born with a severe birth defect that kept him hospitalized for months, then with full-time nursing care when he was home. He was dependent on a trach and a g-tube just to live. I had entered a world I knew nothing about, the very world I had feared all my life. Later on, in the aftermath of our son’s birth, my marriage also fell apart. The years of struggle and financial stress took their toll and left my husband and I virtual strangers. We would have to fight to save our wrecked marriage. I was living my worst nightmare.

But I was living.

I learned in the midst of our struggles that our verse today is so true. God does draw near to us in the midst of our worst fears. Even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death—the death of a loved one, the death of our dreams, the death of a marriage—He is with us, just as He promised. Not only is He near us, He is working things out, growing our faith and our character as we wrestle with our fears and learn to accept His will. While we can’t understand why He allows our fears to materialize, we later realize that we have come to know Him in a whole new way through them. He is our reward for persevering.

I know that, for me, I have come to appreciate what I went through and, while I would never choose to go through it again, I also am grateful (yes, grateful) for what God birthed within me as I lived out my worst fears. I learned that in our struggles we will see Him. In our trials we will learn to trust Him. And in our fears we will come to a new level of faith.

Dear Lord, Help me to trust in You even as my fears are realized. Help me to hear Your voice telling me that You are with me, and that I don’t need to be afraid. Help me to feel your nearness. Most of all, Lord, help me to see Your purpose for me even as I am walking through trials. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Have you ever trusted Jesus with your fears?

Pre-order your copy of An Untroubled Heart: Finding Faith that is Stronger than My Fears (Release date March 1) by Micca Campbell

Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Intended to Bear by Max Lucado

Visit Marybeth’s blog for more encouragement.

Application Steps:
If you have had to face your greatest fears and learned something from them, venture over to Marybeth’s blog today, where she will have a place for you to share what you learned, how you were changed, and how you got to know God in a deeper way. You never know how your story will encourage someone else!

What are some of your greatest fears? Spend time today contemplating why these fears have taken root in your heart and telling God how you are feeling.

Power Verses:
Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV)

Isaiah 43:1b, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (NIV)

Genesis 15:1, “After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (NIV)

© 2009 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Critiquing Criticism
Glynnis Whitwer

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:11 (NIV)

When I was a junior in high school, I had a particularly hard teacher. On her first test, I got a C. I was a good student, and went into her classroom after school one day to learn how to do better on the next test. I’ll never forget her sarcastically-spoken words “You aren’t an A student are you?” Many years later I can think of lots of snappy comebacks, but as a relatively shy 16 year-old, I only remember mumbling something and leaving the room. Her critical comment left no doubt about her purpose – to put me in my place.

Criticism takes many forms, from “innocent” questions and comments, to direct insults. But the effect of criticism is the same; it can set a woman on the sidelines of life faster than anything. Out of the race…out of God’s service. This is especially true in churches, where many women avoid serving in order to avoid criticism.

As a semi-perfectionist and recovering people-pleaser, I’m particularly sensitive to criticism. In the past, I have reacted either defensively, or with tears to unkind comments. By looking at Jesus, however, I’m learning to deal with those who find fault with my decisions, either in ministry or in my personal life. I’ve learned a few questions that help me critique criticism when it comes my way:

What is the truth? Unfortunately, our response to criticism is muddled by a sinful nature. We aren’t always able to see the true motives behind our critics. If we have been deeply hurt in the past, we may see criticism as rejection, when it isn’t. So I start by asking if the person speaking has a history of truthfulness. If the answer is yes, then I look for the truth in the message. Sometimes, well-meaning people offer important feedback in an inappropriate way. If the person speaking unkind words has a history of unfounded negative attacks, or has manipulative motives, then I probably won’t place as much stock in her comments.

Is it just a matter of opinion? Sometimes people just disagree on the details. For instance, if you are planning an event in May and you decide to use orange napkins. Someone could say that orange is a poor choice for May and that it should only be used with autumn colors. This is just a matter of opinion and shouldn’t be taken personally.

Is this a sin issue? This may be harder to identify as we are often blinded to our own sin. The sin of pride is one that many women struggle with and easily overlook. While we may miss it in our own lives, you can be sure others won’t miss it. When someone criticizes you, humbly approach the Lord in prayer and ask Him to reveal any sin in your life. The Psalmist offered this approach in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (NIV).

Our lives are too short, and our callings too great, to be sidetracked by critics. When I have whined at God that I can’t take the negative opinions of others any more, He gently reminds me that His Son got lots of criticism. Looking at it that way, when I’m criticized for doing God’s will and work, it can be taken as a badge of honor and not a reason to quit.
Dear Lord, I long to do Your will, but sometimes my feelings get hurt by the unkind comments of others. Help me to discern the truth in those comments and to seek Your will above all else. Please reveal if there is anything in me that needs to change. Help me to keep my eyes focused on You when the negative words of others make me feel like quitting. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Sandpaper People by Mary Southerland

Self Talk, Soul Talk: What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Jennifer Rothschild

Visit Glynnis’ blog

Application Steps:
Consider the most critical person in your life. If you hold a grudge against that person, or have any unforgiveness in your heart, confess that to God so that you may be healed from bitterness.

What are some reasons people are critical of others?

What can I learn from criticism?

Responding to criticism with kindness is disarming. What are some kind responses you can use when someone criticizes you?

Power Verses:
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)

Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (NIV)

© 2009 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

Labels: , ,

Knowing Where to Start
Renee Swope

“You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great." Psalm 18:35 (NIV)

I was talking with friends who recently read my devotion about helping my son become a can-do-kid. One said she wanted to raise can-do-kids, but she didn’t know where to start. Another shared how she wished she enjoyed being a mom as much as I do.

The truth is, I haven’t always enjoyed being a mom. I didn’t start out as a can-do mom with can-do thoughts and can-do kids. In fact, my son’s “I-give-up attitude” that inspired my devotion earlier this month was probably inherited from me. I had stood on the sidelines of motherhood and declared, “I CAN’T” many times.

I would get so discouraged.
Once my kids became toddlers who would not listen to me and obey like little robots, I panicked. I looked at other moms who seemed to know what they were doing and wondered, “What is wrong with me?” Their children listened when they told them no. Why wouldn’t my child keep his hands to himself in the grocery store or the toy aisle? Why didn’t someone tell me this would be so hard?

I often felt like a failure.
I compared how I felt on the inside to how other moms looked like they had it all together on the outside. My feelings of inadequacy and thoughts of insecurity were held up in comparison to moms who dressed their children in matching outfits and adorned themselves with attitudes of grace and wisdom. I wondered how in the world they pulled it off with a smile? I could barely get a shower, get my kids dressed, or get us out the door before lunch!

I wanted to quit.
One day I came home from running errands with two tired, fussy toddlers. I put them down for a nap and searched for pink construction paper so I could write “I QUIT” on it. I was going to hand my “pink slip” to my husband when he came home from work that day. It was just too hard, and I was tired of feeling like I would never measure up as a mom.

And that's where I started.
I didn’t really start being a mom until the day I almost quit. Because that was the day I fell on my knees before God and choked out the words, “I can’t do this.” And in that place of surrender, it felt like God bent down on His knees before me and spoke to my heart: “You are right, Renee. In your own strength and through your own perspective, you cannot do this. But I am here with you. With my grace, my promises, my mercy, my presence, and my power – all things are possible. I will help you become a great mom.”

That day reminded me of Psalm 19:35, “You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great."

It was a new starting place for me. When I acknowledged that on my own I was a mess, God came to my rescue. He showed me that with His gentleness, grace, wisdom and guidance, I could become the mom He was calling me to be, the mom my kids needed me to be, and the mom I wanted to be!

Dear Lord, I need Your shield of victory to protect me from discouragement. I pray that You would extend Your right hand to sustain me; Your grace to strengthen me; and Your wisdom to lead me. Thank You for Jesus, who stooped down to make me great because of Your great love for me. Today, I find a new starting place with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Click here to find out what God did next to give Renee new direction and purpose to parent her children.

The Mom I Want to Be: Rising above your Past to give your Kids a Great Future by T.Suzanne Eller

Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child: Character Chart and Message on CD Positive and practical ways to connect spiritually with your kids. By Renee Swope

The D6 Conference – helping parents and churches raise spiritual champions!

Application Steps:
Write a letter, telling God how you feel. Be honest and open. Sharing your heart and thoughts with Him is the first step toward freedom and hope.

Ask Jesus for His perspective of you as a child of God, so that you can start becoming a Godly mom. We’ve got to receive His love before we can give it.

Visit Renee’s Blog to find out how she did these things, and for a list of practical ways to shape your children’s hearts, not just their habits.

As you read today’s devotion, what struggles can you relate to? Have you ever wanted to quit? Start over today by acknowledging that you can’t do it on your own but with God’s help, nothing is impossible.

Power Verses:
Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God." (NIV)

Matthew 19:26, “Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" (NIV)

Psalm 113:5-7, “Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap;” (NIV)

© 2009 Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , ,

Let Go of Legalism and Embrace Grace
Wendy Pope

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14 (NIV)

New Year's resolutions: we all make them and most of us fail or give up on them, usually by the end of February. I believe the reason we fail or give up on these resolutions is because we don't give ourselves any grace to slip. We set goals with a pass/fail mentality. We become so focused on the goal "I am going to _____," determined not to fail, that the obsession sets up the failure. We become so legalistically determined to meet the goal we forget about giving ourselves grace as we strive towards it.

So I say this year let's let go of the old tradition of pass/fail legalistic-minded resolutions, and embrace grace in setting God-driven, Spirit-inspired goals for 2009.

How do we that? First, we need to seek God in setting the goals. Many times we set goals that are not intended for us. We are made in the image of God and the goals we set should be made with the purpose of becoming like Him. Ask God what you can do in 2009 to become more like Him. Perhaps it is spending more time in His Word, or praying for others. Maybe, like me, you forget your body is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and you don't treat it as the temple that it is. Perhaps God wants you to be more evangelism or mission minded in 2009.

Second, go to God's Word for support for your goal. Websites like and are excellent resources for researching scriptures on specific topics. Record the scriptures along with your corresponding goal in a spiral index card notebook. This notebook will be your quick scripture support when you need it, and it is small enough for your purse.

Third, enlist accountability. This doesn't necessarily mean announce your goals to your entire Sunday School class or put them on the class prayer list, unless God tells you to. These goals have been prayed over and inspired by God. Ask God to lead you to those who will pray for you, as well as hold you accountable to your goal. Keep in mind that God might lead you to someone other than your best girlfriends. Allow Him to surprise you and work in new ways in your life.

Fourth, embrace grace. Give yourself a break if you slip back a bit. Keep your eyes on the big picture, the end goal of becoming more like Christ. Remember God inspired your goals. When He calls you to do something, He supplies all you need to accomplish it, even grace. Showing yourself grace does not mean you are giving yourself permission to continue to slip. It means that if you slip, you admit it, step up the prayer, and keep pressing forward.

Lastly, set a monthly or quarterly check point with your accountability partner(s) and allow for the Holy Spirit to work in tweaking the goal. Setting long-term goals is difficult for me. If I tell myself that I only have to make it until next month, I am more likely not to slip.

Sounds so easy doesn't it? Probably not. Obtainable? Most definitely. Ready, get set, pray. Start praying today. He has amazing things waiting ahead in 2009.

Dear Lord, Thank you for the hope of a New Year. Will You help me to set the goals that You would have me set? I want to become more like You in 2009. I know this is Your plan for me. Thank You in advance for supplying all my needs to meet the goals You will lead me to accomplish. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Living Free: Experiencing Life as it was Meant to Be message on CD by Wendy Pope

One Year Chronological Bible

Visit Wendy’s blog to find out what goals God has inspired her to set.

Application Steps:
Write down or print out the steps listed in today's devotion. Commit to following the steps. In a journal record the amazing things God does in and through you in 2009.

Is setting goals hard for me? Why or why not?

What are my thoughts about 2009?

Power Verses:
Ephesians 3:20, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us." (NIV)

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

© 2009 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , ,

A President and a King
Susanne Scheppmann

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV)

I tucked away the last of the Christmas decorations. My house appeared tidy again after the Christmas disarray. I began to dust the furniture and shelves when I came to the Nativity set. I had purposely left it out as a reminder to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus all year long.

I reflected on the recent holidays and sweet joy filled my heart. My thoughts leapt forward, “What is the next celebration coming up?” I realized it is the inauguration of our 44th President.
I gazed at the Nativity scene. Several times during December I heard the familiar verse from Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Then I recalled the next verse that speaks of Jesus’ role in government—an eternal government. “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7, NIV). What joy! What peace to know that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords – that is a cause to celebrate no matter what country we live in.

This month, the United States is inaugurating a new President. It’s a time to observe and utilize our religious freedoms. Let’s start by praying for our newly elected President and all government officials. Let’s honor God’s command found in our key verse, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” As followers of Christ who is the Prince of Peace, let’s honor, respect and pray for our President.

As I look at the baby in my nativity manger, I remember that He is not only the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Wonderful Counselor who guides Presidents, leaders, and you and I as well. Let’s lift them up in prayer.
Dear Lord, I pray for our national leaders. Allow their hearts to be open to Your wisdom and guidance. Remind me to pray for them fervently and frequently. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

i am not but i know I AM by Louie Giglio

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

Visit Susanne’s blog

Application Steps:
Make a note on your calendar, weekly or monthly, to pray for our leaders in government. Pray for them specifically by name. Pray for wise decisions as they work with a myriad of problems including terrorism and the economy.

Do I complain about our government or pray for it?

In what issues should I pray for our government?

Power Verses:
Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (NIV)

Daniel 2:19-21, “During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: ’Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.’” (NIV)

Revelation 19:11,16, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True . . . On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (NIV)

© 2009 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , ,

Quirks And All
Marybeth Whalen

“We love because he first loved us.” I John 4:19 (NIV)

We have lived in our house for just a few months, and the quirks are starting to show. One of the burners on the stove doesn’t work on the low setting. A piece of tile on the counter top is not glued in all the way. Several of the outlets in the bonus room were wired wrong, which means sometimes the electricity in that room works, and sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes, if someone turns the water on in the upstairs bathroom, there is a high-pitched squealing noise in the pipes of the downstairs bathroom. This has even happened in the middle of the night, jolting me out of a deep sleep.

Before we moved, I was so ready to get out of our old house. I wanted to get into our new one so we could get away from the old house’s quirks. The faucet in the kitchen sink that didn’t work quite right. The place in the floor where the linoleum had buckled by the back door. The neighbors that were loud. When we first moved into this house, I thought I had escaped all of those annoying traits. And I had. I just hadn’t counted on all the new ones that would pop up in the new house! I had counted on perfection on the other side of the fence, forgetting for a moment that we live in an imperfect world—a place where quirks abound.

The thing about quirks is that they usually aren’t evident on the surface. You usually have to spend quite a bit of time, digging deeply to unearth the quirkiness of a person, place or thing. I didn’t see it in my brief walk-throughs of our house before we signed on the dotted line. It took living here for several weeks before they became evident.

The same is true with people. You usually have to spend day in and day out together before they let their guard down enough to show you their quirks; before they trust you enough to let you see who they really are. The trick is to keep on loving them after you get that glimpse, seeing their faults and failures, their insecurities and idiosyncrasies. Am I sticking a sign in the yard of my new house because I see some problems? Not at all. I realize that my house is bound to have quirks—some I can work through and some I will just have to live with.

The other night I went to the movies with an old friend who knows me, quirks and all. She and I have had moments of struggle as we have learned to accept each other’s quirks. Through the years, we have learned to laugh about most of them and talk about the ones that we just don’t get. As we sat together in the movies, I thought about how freeing it is to know and be known. To truly love someone is to embrace who they are, quirks and all. As we dig deeper and see what lies beneath the surface, we can choose to walk away or we can choose to stay, no matter what. While this might be hard at times, it is what God requires of us. Why? Because it is the kind of love He has showed each of us. As our verse for today says, we love because He first loved us. If He loves us, quirks and all, then He must want us to do the same, extending love in the same way we have received it.

Dear Lord, Thank You for loving me and all my quirks. Please help me to love others in the same way—extending grace and compassion like You do and seeing past their quirks. Help me to appreciate the people You have put in my life and to not look elsewhere for happiness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Personality Plus by Florence Littauer

Visit Marybeth’s blog

Application Steps:
If you are struggling with someone in your life, take time today to intentionally lift up that person throughout the day in prayer. Pray blessings over them and ask God to help you see their positive qualities and not just their quirks.

Are your loved ones’ quirks bugging you? Are you letting your irritation affect your relationships? How can you refocus on their good qualities and spend less time focusing on their quirks?

Power Verses:
James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (NIV)

Psalm 19:12, “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.” (NIV)

Psalm 90:8, “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.” (NIV)

© 2009 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , ,

Just Desperate Enough
Glynnis Whitwer

“She came up behind him and touched his cloak and immediately the bleeding stopped.” Luke 8:44 (NIV)

Having three little boys in five years just about did me in. There was no such thing as a routine, as much as I tried to implement one. Just when I thought I had one behavior issue figured out, another one popped up. Parenting books were somewhat helpful, but they didn’t address how to manage three kids, with three unique personalities, at once. What worked for one didn’t work for another. I was drowning and desperate.

My husband and I signed up for a parenting class at church, and received a glimpse of hope. We wanted more than one class, but there was no one to head up a parenting ministry. Our pastoral team was overwhelmed with existing responsibilities. Even though their hearts wanted to offer more, their time was limited. So when one of the pastors asked us to help out with the parenting ministry, we were desperate enough to say “yes.”

As we stepped into a leadership role, we discovered most people declined to help, saying they didn’t feel qualified. “Neither do we,” we replied. But we were ready to try anything to get support, even revealing to everyone that we weren’t perfect parents. For the few years we led the parenting ministry we had to step far out of our comfort zone and risk much in order to get help. But it worked. As we shared our problems with other parents, we received wise counsel and practical suggestions that made a big difference.

Thousands of years ago there was another woman who was just desperate enough to get help. She had been bleeding for 12 years and no one could help her. But when Jesus came to her neighborhood, she was ready to try anything. I imagine she was embarrassed, and weakened because of her bleeding. She must have gathered every ounce of energy and courage to get to Jesus.

The Bible tells us there were crowds following Jesus that day. Yet somehow, this determined woman navigated her way through the rush of humanity to touch the cloak of Jesus, and the Bible tells us she was healed immediately. In spite of the people pressing around Jesus, He knew someone had touched Him. As He stopped, the people stumbled into each other, turning their heads to determine what happened. In a gentle voice, Jesus asked, “Who touched me?”

After everyone denied they had touched Jesus, the woman came trembling before Him. She told Jesus and the assembled crowd why she had touched Jesus and how He had healed her. Jesus then said to the women, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

Desperation causes people to do different things. Some people make wrong choices, believing their backs are against a wall. Some people go into hiding, hoping a problem will go away. Yet others are desperate enough to do something risky and full of humility to get help. Sometimes God uses other people to help us, and sometime He is the only One who has the answers.

In the difficult times we face, many of us have problems that push us to the point of desperation. It is my prayer that instead of desperation defeating you, it motivates you to seek help. Whether God Himself provides your deliverance, or He uses someone else, trust He already has a plan to help.
Dear Heavenly Father, Only You know the desperation I feel right now. Only You see the troubles that weigh me down. I confess that I don’t have the strength or wisdom to find an answer. However, I trust that You are already planning my deliverance. I trust in Your perfect timing. Please show me what to do next, and direct me to the source of help. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Glynnis’s blog

When You are Running on Empty by Cindi McMenamin

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

Feeling desperate as a mom? Click here for more encouragement, and be sure to sign up for some great mom give-aways, too.

Application Steps:
Identify one problem in your life that seems overwhelming. Commit to telling one person about that problem this week, and asking for prayer.

What happens when we share our weaknesses with other people?

What keeps you from getting help sometimes?

Read James 5:16 below. Why is there healing power in confessing our sins to another person?

Power Verses:
Psalm 142:6, “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.” (NIV)

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

© 2009 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Dramatic Sunrise
Van Walton

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete…” James 1:2-4 (NLT)

Have you ever risen early in the morning with one purpose – to watch the sun rise? I especially like to take time for sunrises, so I purposefully chose to rise early each day during my vacation.

One morning I found myself sitting on the dock facing east, looking for the sun to rise up over the lake.

Another morning I sat on the long veranda of a century-old hotel gazing at the Ohio River, waiting for the golden glow that would announce the sun’s arrival.

Days later, toward the end of my trip, I wrapped myself in a heavy blanket and curled up in the glider on the front porch of the cabin where I had spent the night. Peering over the Utah landscape, once again I searched the horizon.

Soon a bright orange blaze appeared, forcing me to close my eyes because of its brilliance. In a few seconds, with wide-opened eyes, I continued my search for the morning’s drama, only to see a half globe sitting on top of the mountains. I kept watching, not wanting to miss the spectacular sight. Then, in another blink of an eye, the sun lifted itself from the peaks, and hung there in the sky - a perfect golden circle.

That was it. It went so quick. The sun had come up, creeping into the day, and now it simply dangled – a yellow ball in the air, surrounded by blue, looking like a child’s simple drawing.

For a few minutes I pondered my disenchantment with this particular sunrise. Is there such a thing as an incomplete, imperfect sunrise? At that moment I believed there was. I had just experienced it. And, I remembered others like it, somewhat lackluster.

Why had the sunrise not impressed me this day? Where was all the drama I had expected? Then I realized there is no drama in a sunrise without clouds.

Clouds - they’ve been given a bum rap, but all along, these predictors of bad weather, these symbols of negativity, sadness, blues, and gloom really serve to expand light, reflect color, cast dazzling rays, and paint incredible scenes in the sky.

A sunrise without clouds is like a life without trials and hardships. I do all I can to avoid challenges and difficulties, but the fact is the so called “clouds” in my life can cast me in a certain aura of God’s splendor. A life free of complications and struggles can resemble a bland sunrise … little contrast, seemingly dull artistry, and little context in which I can reflect the Son.

Truth is, the people I respect and admire most are those whose lives have been filled with “clouds” but they walk through any weather with God. These people walk in splendor, surrounded with a certain attractive and hard-to-capture beauty. They are people I seek out on a regular basis. I pursue them because I want to bask in their glow and confidence. They leave me in awe.

One thing is sure. I’m never disappointed when I find myself in the company of those who have learned to rise up in the midst of clouds. They don’t seek to avoid cloudy days; rather they stand up to walk in dignity, accepting the brilliant contrasts and magical rays God can create despite and through their adversity.

It is in their presence I realize, a life free of clouds holds no attraction. Now I see cloudy days in a positive light. May I never shun them again, for I realize clouds build character, add color, and separate the bland from the brilliant.

Dear Lord, I praise You for the lessons You teach me through nature. Forgive me for choosing to retreat from the clouds You allow to come my way. I know You can use the clouds of adversity in my life to cause me to be more relational and compassionate. I pray the beauty of brokenness will attract others to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Van Walton’s blog

Trials of Today Treasures for Tomorrow by Janet Eckles

For more encouragement when days are dark listen to Today’s Radio Show

Application Steps:
Think through or list of some of the “clouds” in your life. How can you reflect the Son in those circumstances?

Who do I know whose life has been surrounded by clouds, yet who has emerged beautiful?

When was the last time I encouraged someone, explaining what a witness their “cloudy” lives have been to me?

Power Verses:
1 Peter 1:6-8, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (NASB)

© 2009 by Van Walton. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Amy Carroll

“Moses returned to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me?’” Exodus 5:22 (NIV)

Tears stung my eyes and my heart ached as I climbed into my car. My emotions swung wildly from assurance that I had said the right things, to doubt in the stance that I had taken. Was I wrong to share with the group that I feel scripturally responsible to teach my sons from II Corinthians 6 to marry a Christ-follower and be “equally yoked” in marriage? I longed to go back to the offended woman and tell her of my great compassion for my fellow sisters who are married to unbelieving husbands. Instead, I pulled out my cell phone to call a friend for some consolation and advice. It was then that the lesson I had learned from the Bible earlier that day pushed its way to the front of my anxious mind.

I’d read in Exodus that morning about Moses in the midst of a very discouraging situation. After years of mistakes, lessons in the desert and insecurity in his speaking skills, he had finally done exactly what the Lord said. He had gone to Pharaoh and said, "Let my people go." Surely now all the pieces would fall into place. He was at the right time and place, and he had obeyed what the Lord had told him. Moses was about to learn a lesson that many of us are facing: The blessings that follow doing God’s will are not always the ones we expect.

He may have expected Pharaoh to get a thoughtful look and say, "Of course you can go, Moses. I know that God is leading you, and we just need to do what He says." That's not what happened, though. Not only did Pharaoh mock God, he doled out even harsher treatment to the Israelites by forcing them to continue to make bricks without the provision of straw. The people were outraged, and they turned on Moses. How discouraging! Things weren't going at all the way Moses had imagined. Now that he was on track with God and walking in obedience, life was supposed to get easier. Right?

All the lessons Moses had learned in the desert shepherding for 40 years served him well now. We see that despite his disappointment, he turned to God in prayer. It was a distressed prayer, but it was real and heart-felt. When he faced an indignant Pharaoh and his angry people, Moses returned to God and poured out his heart. Exodus 5:22-23 tells us, “Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.’” (NIV)

When Moses returned to the Lord with the pain that he was feeling, the disappointment in his circumstances, and the confusion about his calling, God met him there. God didn’t respond to Moses with anger or rebuke. He answered with a glimpse into future freedom and a rousing message for His people straight from the very heart of God. Moses’ struggles didn’t end there, but God had given him the encouragement that he needed to forge on toward the calling.

In the car, I set my cell phone down, closed my eyes and bowed my head. I poured out my confusion and disappointment to God, and He met me there. My emotions settled, my mind found rest and God's peace poured over me. He is good! Doing God’s will is rarely easy, and the blessings of growth may come wrapped in pain. However, we will find Him to be faithful and His Word sufficient when we return to Him.

Dear Lord, Doing Your will and following You is its own reward. Even though the way may get bumpy as we obey, You are always with us. You are faithful to reassure us and encourage us when we come from the places that our own thoughts take us and return to You. Thank you! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Birds in My Mustard Tree by Susanne Scheppmann

Developing the Character to Match My Calling message on CD, taught by Lysa TerKeurst

Visit Amy’s blog for more encouragement today.

Application Steps:
Are you disappointed in your circumstances despite the fact that you know that you are in God’s will? Return to Him in prayer today.

Ask Him to show you verses of encouragement from His Word. Ask Him to strengthen you to complete the task.

Where do I turn when I’m plagued with fear, doubt, disappointment or anger?

What reminders could I put around me to return to God in prayer during these times?

Power Verses:
John 16:33, “’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.’”(NIV)

I Peter 4:12-13, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” (NLT)

© 2009 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

Labels: , ,

Her Children Arise and Call Her Busy
Sandy Cooper, She Speaks Conference Graduate

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” I Thessalonians 4:11&12 (NIV)

“Mom, will you please tell me a story?“ my eight-year-old daughter asked me recently. It had been one of those insanely packed days, full of errands, chores and activities… and it wasn’t over yet. My mind strained to keep everything in order for the remaining events we had planned for the evening. I was coordinating our homeless outreach followed by plans to attend my husband’s softball game. Kids had to be fed, pottied, properly clothed, and in the right places at the right times. I had to remember to bring supplies, snacks, drinks and driving directions to our various destinations. There was no brain reserve left for creative stories.

“I’m sorry, honey. I can’t tell you a story right now. I just have too much on my mind.”

“That’s okay,” she said. “I’ll tell you a story. Once upon a time,” she began, “there was a very busy mom.”

Uh oh. This ought to be interesting…

“She woke up every day and she was tired. She made a big pot of coffee and went into her room to pray. She prayed and prayed and prayed…but nothing happened. She did the laundry and went to Target and to the grocery store where she spent lots of money. She made dinner and cleaned the house. She went to help the homeless children. At the end of the day, she was still tired so she went to bed. The end.”

Wow. I’m like a twisted version of the Proverbs 31 woman, only much less effective.

I managed to fake a smile and kiss my precious daughter on the head as I blinked back tears. Is that really how she sees me? As a tired woman with a futile prayer life? Overwhelmed and overscheduled? I had always taken pride in the fact that I wasn’t busy. Years ago I learned to say “no” to activities that ate into our family time. I value simplicity and solitude. I had even taught Bible studies about it! Yet, somehow in the midst of my un-busy life, I managed to get very busy. And now the children were taking notice. This was something I promised myself would never happen.

That night I couldn’t sleep (a very rare thing for me...being as “tired” as I am and all). So at 1:00 am I got up and began journaling. For two hours, I poured out my anxious thoughts to God as I sifted through my schedule to identify where and when things had gone wrong. I listed every activity in which I am currently involved, as well as every household responsibility that was taking up my time. The process was very revealing. I discovered that it wasn’t one nasty “culprit” I could quickly cast out of my life, but a series of little culprits to address:

o Mismanaged time—like checking and responding to e-mails over ten times a day.
o Commitments which were longer than anticipated—like the freelance job that was supposed
to be completed two months ago.
o Time management systems I previously put in place, but failed to maintain—like my mail
filing system and my “write-everything-on-a-master-list” system.
o Piles of clutter in my home—which often left me feeling exasperated because they
represented areas of my life that were out of control.

That night God helped me identify a few key areas I could immediately cut in order to be less busy. He helped me draw up and prioritize a master list of projects to tackle, as well as new chores to delegate to my children. But mostly that night, He reminded me - for what seems like the millionth time - that my children would only be little for a season. And in comparison to the pages of other tasks and responsibilities I had just written in my journal, my commitment to be a Godly wife and mother stood far above them all.

And then He reminded me that He doesn’t view me as some kind of “ministry production machine.” Nor does He value me because of what I can accomplish in a day. He cherishes me because I am His daughter. When I remember this, I’m much less inclined to add many things to my plate. Instead, I rest in the peace of knowing who I am in Christ and what He has purposed for me to do and be.

Dear Lord, I offer my schedule today to You. Help me remove from my schedule things not in Your perfect will for me. Help me add anything to my schedule that I may have overlooked but is important to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Out of the Mouth of Babes by Wendy Pope

Becoming the Mom I Always Wanted to Be, by Renee Swope

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

Application Steps:
Prayerfully look over your week’s schedule. Decide what can you do to simplify your life.

If time, money or “reputation” were not an issue, what kinds of things would you want to do?

Power Verses:
Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (NIV)

Labels: , , ,

Of Enoch and Long Walks
Karen Ehman

“Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” Genesis 5:24 (NIV)

Do you have a favorite Bible character? One who inspires you, challenges you or one whose story you simply love? Perhaps it is Moses and his vast leadership skills. How about Esther, the compelling queen who, being both gorgeous and smart, used her quick thinking to help God save an entire nation? Maybe Joseph is your pick as you contemplate how someone so mistreated could continually take the high road; the road that lead him not only to political power but also to family forgiveness. All of these are marvelous choices, but none are my pick. I like Enoch.

Since first hearing of Enoch as a young teen, that guy has fascinated me. Not a lot is written about him in the pages of scripture, but what is there sure piques my interest. He “walked with God and then he was no more because God took him away.” Hmmm. My young mind pondered that strange description.

As I grew as a believer, I learned a bit more about this biblical mystery man. In Hebrews 11:5-6 we catch more of the story. “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (NIV)

Ah ha! Enoch was whisked away, spared the pain of death and transported immediately to God’s side all because of one simple thing. He pleased God. I say simple. But I don’t say easy. It is a simple thing to please God. You just do what He says in His word. Straightforward enough, right? However, my years as a follower of Christ have taught me that simple is not always easy. Choices present themselves. The world screams. Our flesh gets in the way. We want revenge or our own glory. We lack faith and instead try to control our own destinies. We mess up the “pleasin’ God” part with our very own hands.

Enoch “walked with God.” Oh, don’t we long for that to be said of us? I’ll admit I don’t always walk with God. I take a stand for God; believe the right things and make it known. I may walk after God. And sadly, sometimes I run ahead of God; make my own plans and then say, “Oh yeah. By the way God, do ya mind blessin’ these plans? I made them in Your name. I may have forgotten to consult You in the midst of them, but they are for You all right!” What a shame and a sham!

No two ways about it, walking with God means that we daily give up our right to navigate our own lives. We place our faith in Him, admitting He knows what is best for us and realizing He might not always reveal the hows and the whys until the very last second. Remember, God is seldom early, but never late. Only day-by-day faith-walking pleases God.

Oh, dear one, do you long to be one who pleases God this way? One who makes Him smile as He sees you daily place complete trust in Him and His infinite wisdom? Maybe then we just might be like my Bible hero Enoch; the one who walked so closely by our Creator’s side that one day, during one of those long walks, God looked at him and said, “You know, we’ve been walking together for so long now that we are actually closer to my house than yours. Why don’t you just come on home with me right now?” Glory!!!
Dear Lord, I am ready to learn to walk with You in faith; not ahead of You or behind You, but right by Your side. Show me how, step by step. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources
Do You Know Him?

For more thoughts on walking with God, visit Karen’s blog

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

Birds in My Mustard Tree by Susanne Scheppmann

Application Steps
Do I run ahead of God or do I walk with Him? What actions (or inactions) would have to go in order for me to walk daily with God?

What keeps me from placing total faith in God and His will for my life? Fear? Distrust? A longing to be in control?

For more inspiration, do an Internet search to read of some heroes of the faith who learned to live by daily walking with God. Try George Mueller, Dwight L. Moody, Amy Carmichael or Jim Cymbala.

Power Verses
Psalm 84:11, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” (NIV)

II Corinthians 5:7 “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (ESV)

© 2008 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

Labels: , ,

Brain Blips, Mishaps, and Feelings of Failure

Lysa TerKeurst

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew: 7:24-27 (NIV)

Do you know what amazes me about those verses above? Both the person doing right and the person doing wrong experienced hard times. In both cases the rains came, the streams rose, and the wind blew and beat against the house.

Just because we’re Christians living out God’s principles for life, does not mean we won’t face difficult circumstances. The difference being a Christian makes is how the difficulties affect us. If we are hearing and heeding God through our prayer time and reading His Word, then we will be able to stand strong in the storms of life. Our faith will not be shaken and our identity will not be rattled.

I once heard my pastor lament to my husband that sometimes he only feels as good as his last sermon. I can so closely identify with his comment because as a friend, wife, and mother, sometimes I only feel as good as my last interaction with someone close to me. A friend tells me I hurt her feelings and suddenly I feel like a bad friend. I forget to take the cookies I signed up to bring to the church nursery and suddenly I feel unreliable and disorganized. My husband asks me where his passport is, and when I can’t find the file, suddenly I feel like a wife that can’t be trusted.

The passport thing is still very fresh on my mind because it just happened recently. My normal reaction would have been to get frustrated, short tempered, and beat myself up while tearing the house apart looking for the missing passports.

But God’s Spirit spoke to my heart and said, “Let me invade your natural flesh reaction. Call your husband and pray about the passports instead of getting frustrated.”

So, Art and I prayed. I went from defining myself as a failure of a wife to being a praying woman who can face a hardship in a godly way. The frustration was diffused and we determined to look at this from God’s perspective. If we find the passports, we’ll praise God! If we don’t find them, we’ll see this as God’s protection not to go on a planned trip later this month and we’ll still praise God.

When hard times come and beat against our stability, we must be determined to hear God’s words and put them into practice. Then nothing can topple our peace, security, or true identity.

Dear Lord, Thank You that my identity does not have to be determined by the circumstances of my life. Help me to hear Your Words, put them into practice and stand firm on Your truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa’s blog today to register for an exciting giveaway!

Looking for a good devotional to start this year? You can purchase the book this devotion was excerpted from: God’s Purpose for Every Woman: A P31 Devotional Gen Eds. Lysa TerKeurst & Rachel Olsen

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Write down something you’ve been mentally beating yourself up over lately. Find three verses that deal with this issue and commit to praying these Scriptures into your situation. Stand firm on God’s solid truth that you are a godly woman who will face this circumstance in a godly way.

Do you ever struggle with feelings of failure? Ask God to help you see your value apart from your performance.

Power Verses:
Psalm 37:3, “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” (NIV)

Psalm 32:10, “Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.” (NIV)

© 2009 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , ,

You’re a Can Do Kid!
Renee Swope

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

“I can’t!” My four-year-old shouted as tears streamed down his cheeks. Joshua, his older brother, was trying to teach him how to use the Etch A Sketch,® but Andrew gave up before he even touched the little white knobs.

“I can’t” had become Andrew’s favorite phrase.

“I can’ t,” he cried when I encouraged him to put his face in the water at the pool that afternoon.

“I can’t,” he muttered, when I asked him to tell me the first letter in the word apple.

As I watched him sit in defeat, I thought to myself, “I can’t take it anymore!”

Life with a child who is afraid to try new things can be very difficult. Frustration had been creeping into my heart all day because I didn’t know how to help Andrew overcome his fears. So I stopped what I was doing and asked God to show me how to help my little boy.

I thought back on our week and remembered how Andrew had given up most easily when trying things his big brother could do well. Then I remembered an article I’d read about helping children become “can-do kids.” I felt like God reminded me of that because He specializes in helping His children become can-do kids, and that’s what He wanted me to do for mine. I remembered Gideon, a man God called a “mighty warrior” even while he was acting like a wimp. I thought about when Jesus called Peter a rock, although he acted more like shifting sand. But over time, both of these men became who God called them to be. And my son could, too!

I bent down and looked into Andrew’s tear-filled eyes and announced, “Andrew, from this moment foward you are my ‘CAN DO KID’. There are so many things you can do. The Bible says you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.”

It was time for dinner so I told Andrew we were going to set the table together. I handed him the forks and showed him where each one went. I gave him one plate and cup at a time and watched him complete each setting. Once he finished, Andrew looked at me and proudly said, “Mommy, I can do it!” And from that day forward he called himself the “can-do” kid!

Our kids need us to believe in them and show it through our words and actions. I was so grateful God gave me such a powerful lesson and promise from His Word to pass on to my child in the midst of a challenging parenting moment. It changed Andrew’s perspective and mine, too.

God wants you to know that you are His can-do kid! You can do whatever He’s calling you to do today, because He believes in you and He’s with you! He wants to pass that truth on through you, and use you to help your child know that they’re a CAN-DO kid, who can do all things through Him who gives us strength!

Dear Lord, help me see beyond who my child is to who he can become in Christ. Show me if there are areas in his life where he is comparing himself to others. Help me notice and nurture his personal strengths and remind him that he can do all things through Christ. I pray you would open the eyes of my heart to learn Your truths in my everyday life and pass them onto my children. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child: Character Chart and Message on CD by Renee Swope. Positive and practical ways to connect spiritually with your kids.

Visit Renee’s Blog for practical ways to raise “can-do” kids! Also, sign up to win some great give-aways for moms this month!

The D6 Conference – helping parents and churches raise spiritual champions!

Application Steps:
-Think of your child (or someone you know) who needs you to believe in them.
-Show them your confidence by trusting them with an assignment or special task.
-Give them encouragement through a letter, phone call, card or email.

Read Judges 6:11-16, and notice how God used words of encouragement to help Gideon. When your child gets fearful, instead of being critical, look for ways to be creative. Click here for a list of promises God gave to Gideon that you can offer to your children.

Power Verses:
Isaiah 43:1b, "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.” (NKJV)

Judges 6:12, “When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." (NIV)

© 2009, Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

Labels: , ,

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