The Satisfaction of the Cross
Rachel Olsen

"When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied." Isaiah 53:11a (NLT)

Approximately 600 years before Jesus was sentenced to the cross, the prophet Isaiah foretold of the event. Invite Isaiah's ancient words of prophecy to penetrate your soul today, and prepare your heart for Easter:

"See, my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted. Many were amazed when they saw him beaten and bloodied, so disfigured one would scarcely know he was a person. And he will again startle many nations. Kings will stand speechless in his presence. For they will see what they had not previously been told about; they will understand what they had not heard about.

Who has believed our message? To whom will the Lord reveal his saving power? My servant grew up in the Lord's presence like a tender green shoot, sprouting from a root in dry and sterile ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the guilt and sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. From prison and trial they led him away to his death. But who among the people realized that he was dying for their sins that he was suffering their punishment? He had done no wrong, and he never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man's grave.

But it was the Lord's good plan to crush him and fill him with grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord's plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of what he has experienced, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. I will give him the honors of one who is mighty and great, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among those who were sinners. He bore the sins of many and interceded for sinners." Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12 (NLT)

Approximately 2,000 years after Jesus died on the cross, the passion of our Christ is still the power and path of God to salvation. Jesus' suffering accomplished righteousness for us—and through it both He and we are satisfied.

Dear Lord, may I realize afresh today what Your death and resurrection mean for me. Forgiveness … Freedom … And the ability to walk with You through this fallen world into eternity. May I always find my satisfaction in You and Your willingness to offer Yourself to me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know The Christ?

Visit Rachel at her blog and join her in celebrating life in Jesus Christ.

God’s Purpose for Every Woman: A P31 Devotional Gen Editors: Lysa TerKeurst & Rachel Olsen, contributions by various members of the Proverbs 31 team.

My First Story of Easter by Tim Dowley

Application Steps:
Take satisfaction in the love and power of God today – it is given for, and directed at you!

What sins do I need to confess and release under the power of the cross?

Am I walking in the freedom Christ accomplished for me?

Power Verses:
Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (ESV)

2 Corinthians 5:17, "Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence." (GWT)

© 2010 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Here is the Way
Lynn Cowell

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)

Should we say yes? It is seems like such a great opportunity. Besides, we deserve it, don't we? I mean, we never do anything for ourselves …

Once again, my mind is swirling with the pros and cons of the decision my husband and I face. I hear the things my mind is telling me…or is that my heart? Whether it is my mind or my heart, the real question is should I listen to it? Can I trust it?

Like most of you, I have been at this place before. The places of crossroads where choices are clear, but direction is not. The columns of "good" and "bad" on the paper don't seem to give us the answer we need. That is how logical people make decisions, isn't it? But it isn't working; so which way do we go?

My friend was recently running before sun-up. She was alone as her partner had run on ahead. She came across a patch of sidewalk where there were no street lights. It was dark and hard to see where to go ahead, and she began to feel afraid. "Lord, You are going to have to help me." she prayed. Then a car approached from behind, casting light onto her path. The closer it got, the clearer she could see. She sensed the Lord wanted her to know that just as He was with her when she was running, so in life He is behind her, shining light on her path and protecting her back.

Our key verse in Isaiah causes me to reflect on the whole decision-making process when trying to discern the right path. "…Your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" But what about the voice we frequently hear, saying, "Follow your heart, it will never steer you wrong!" That voice is the voice from within, not the voice from behind.

Maybe some of you grew up memorizing verses like I did. Back then, so many of the verses didn't make sense to me. One in particular was Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (NIV). That seemed like a depressing verse! Yet now as an adult I am finally beginning to unpack the wisdom.

You see, we can't in fact follow our heart. Our heart can't be trusted. Our heart will lie to us and tell us things we want to hear instead of the truth we need to hear. It will convince us that what we want is the right way, even if that way is not God's way. I know; I've listened to it before.

When we find ourselves at the crossroads, the first place to turn is God's Word. So many of the questions we ask can be answered there if we are willing to hear the wisdom the Bible provides.

Open our ears, Lord, so we can hear Your voice behind us!

Dear Lord, I've grown so used to trusting my heart. In fact, it is all I've known to do most times. Please help me discern Your voice behind me and give me the discipline to read the wisdom You have already provided in Your Word. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

Visit Lynn’s blog

Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer

Check out our radio program, Listening to God, for more encouragement

Application Steps:
Are there decisions in your life you are in the process of making and haven't yet consulted the Lord? Take some time to talk with Him and use a concordance or BibleGateway to study and see what the Bible has to say about your dilemma.

Ask another person who is further along in their faith if they are aware of any verses that have to do with the decision you need to make.

Have you made some decisions in the past you regret? Try to identify the emotion or motivation behind that decision.

What types of questions could you ask yourself in the future to help you prevent making the wrong decision? Some might be: Does this pathway glorify God? Would I be comfortable sharing this decision with others such as my parents, my children or my spouse? Will this decision take me in the direction I want to go?

Power Verses:
1 Kings 22:5, "But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, 'First seek the counsel of the LORD.'" (NIV)

Psalm 119:24, "Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors." (NIV)

© 2010 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , ,

Backwards Bumper-Stickers
Karen Ehman

"But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.'" I Samuel 16:7 (ESV)

Yesterday, when I was finished running—okay, so it was more of a slow trot—anyway, as I was leaving the gym where I work out, I ran into an old friend. She is a woman who attended the church where my husband was on staff twenty years ago when we were first married. She was raising her kids when he was the youth pastor and she saw us begin our family with the birth of our daughter Mackenzie, who is soon to turn 19.

Naturally, the conversation turned to where her children are now—marriage, kids, careers, location, etc. She asked what the future held for our three kids. Where would they go to college? What career path would they choose? She has offspring who all ended up in high-paying, prestigious careers, including one who is a prominent surgeon.

That afternoon encounter made me think about what we say 'success' is, especially when it comes to our sons and daughters. Is it having kids who grow up to do a job that society deems important? How do we measure success in our kids when they are still young and in our homes? Is it by having ones who are outwardly obedient, saying 'yes ma'am' and 'no sir' and 'pleased to meet you' on cue?

The more seasoned I become as a mom, the more I find this to be true: obedience, while it manifests itself in outward actions, begins in the heart. While I want to teach my kids to behave—sometimes not an easy lesson to instill—more importantly, I want to teach them to have their hearts right with God.

I used to want kids who did no wrong. Now, I have a different goal. When they do do wrong—as all kids and adults sometimes do—I want them to correct it rather than hide it. To be sensitive to the times they hurt someone's feelings or disobey God and His wishes. Then to listen to the Spirit's prompting, admit their fault, and right the wrong. I want the very same thing for myself.

As today's verse asserts, so often we humans look at what we can see on the outside—beauty, talents, smarts and such. God sees straight to the heart—motives, intent and character. His measuring stick is far more accurate and important than ours. So many spend countless hours and dollars perfecting the former while completely ignoring the latter. God's Word to us is clear. Who we are inside is really who we are.

One year, our daughter proudly brought home a bumper sticker we could display on our aging mini-van. Having completed seven years of scripture memory at our church's children's program, her sticker read, "My child earned a Timothy Award in AWANA." She had worked diligently and were we ever proud of her!

However, her younger siblings did not have the same knack for memorization nor the academic leanings she had. They too plugged away at their verses and assignments in the same program but just couldn't quite finish all the requirements for earning that high award and its accompanying bumper sticker.

It made me think, should we only be proud of outward skills and academic outcomes? Perhaps we should be just as pleased with character qualities and whole-hearted attempts that, on the outside, seem to fall short. Maybe we should be just as thrilled to display the following bumper sticker prominently on our family vehicle:

"Proud parent of a kid who nearly flunked math, but whose heart is tender toward the Lord."

Dear Lord, help me strive to please You most with my inward self—my motives, intent and character— and to model for those in my life the importance of doing just that. I want who I am at the core to accurately reflect who You are to the world. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
For more on this topic and a chance to enter an “Inward Beauty” giveaway, visit Karen’s blog

A Life that Says Welcome by Karen Ehman

Do You Know Him?

Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child Character Chart by Renee Swope

You Are Special by Max Lucado

Application Steps:
Name two or three people whom you feel display truly beautiful character. What about their personality makes them stand out?

What inward, God-honoring qualities do you most wish you possessed?

Patience? Peace? Self-control? Kindness? Faith? Perseverance? Pick one. Then, search BibleGateway for verses about this quality to memorize.

Power Verses:
I Peter 3:3-4, "Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." (ESV)

© 2010 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Caution: Mind at Work
Luann Prater

"'Then neither do I condemn you,' Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave your life of sin.'" John 8:11 (NIV)

"Hey! I want a do-over!" she screamed. The sun was clearly blinding her as she struck the volleyball with her fist to serve. She didn't see the serve fly straight into the hands of the opposing team. It was interesting to watch the reaction of her teammates. Some agreed to offer her grace, others muttered, "Tough stuff! Too bad!" Middle school volleyball resembles a story that Jesus lived.

In the middle of an ordinary teaching day Jesus shared a revealing truth about our Savior. The Pharisees interrupted His lesson by dragging in front of the crowd a woman who had been caught in adultery.

This woman had obvious, visible sin in her life. She was caught red-handed. It was easy for the lawgivers to snatch this life and display it before the crowd. They had their motives for bursting onto the scene, but Jesus flipped their intentions upside down. When these puffed up leaders asked Jesus if this woman should be stoned, "Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger" (vs. 6b, NIV).

Did you catch His reaction to the confrontation? Silence. His mind was at work, but His mouth was not. We learn from scripture that Jesus asked His Father in heaven about every decision before moving forward. Why would this situation be any different?

We've probably all heard that pausing to count to ten before getting angry can diffuse an argument, but I want to park here a minute to see what Jesus did.

Jesus' agenda had just been altered by a bunch of self-righteous leaders. He was preparing to teach truth, and now He had the opportunity to live it. Instead of a quick response He hit the pause button while the Pharisees continued the barrage. Jesus was in no rush to respond.

As He bent down, I imagine Him offering up prayers. He saw that broken woman, He heard that accusing crowd, and yet His focus was on truth. The verse tells us He didn't just stand up, He straightened up. Jesus knew about body language before it was hip to study it. The power of this visual communication meant that He was about to say something that would pierce their hearts.

Many scholars have guessed Jesus was writing on the ground all of the sins of each of the accusers there. His words, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" (vs. 7, NIV), must have been the first glimpse of light this woman had seen in a long time. Finally, someone saw value in her beyond the bedroom.

Can you imagine the flood of emotions filling her at that moment? She witnessed hope in the middle of her circumstance. Jesus then straightened up to speak to her. He declared that He did not condemn her but she must leave her life of sin. She was given a do-over!

Have you ever wished for a do-over in life? I have. I've been that woman who had no hope. I'm a witness: Jesus is the master of second chances. Throughout the Bible He not only raised the physically dead, He resurrected the spiritually and emotionally dead as well.

Romans 3:10 tells us, "There is no one righteous, not even one" (NIV). Jesus wants you to see that you are not alone. If you look around and think that everyone else has it all together, this story is for you. No one is righteous, not even one! Everyone has their sins, some are just more visible than others. But Jesus knows your heart. He knows your struggles. He sees what plagues your life.

Where are you in this story? Are you the adulterous woman looking for hope? Are you the leader looking to condemn? Are you part of the crowd standing silently in the background? There was only One in this story without sin and He offered grace.

Jesus gave us the perfect example of how to live the truth. Quietly seek the Father's guidance. Think before we speak. Then straighten up and live redeemed.

He has come to give you a second chance; a do-over. Will you listen to His voice?

Dear Jesus, I need a do-over in my life! My sin may be hidden from others, but it is so obvious to You. I'm listening to Your Voice. Will You cleanse me and teach me to straighten up and live redeemed? In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know this Redeemer?

Visit with Luann at Encouragement Café!

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

A Perfect Mess: Why You Don't Have to Worry About Being Good Enough for God by Lisa Harper

Application Steps:
Kneel down in prayer and ask God to forgive every sin in your life. As you stand, straighten up to experience the symbolism of the new redeemed life you are about to live!

What sin is hiding in my heart?

Do I offer grace to others?

Am I willing to listen to His Voice and live redeemed?

Power Verses:
John 1:16 "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another." (NIV)

Psalm 71:23 "My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you- I, whom you have redeemed." (NIV)

© 2010 by Luann Prater. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , ,

Tough Relationships
Lysa TerKeurst

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time." 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)

Do you ever feel like relationships are hard to navigate sometimes? Are you in the midst of trying to figure out a situation that's complicated, messy and unpredictable?

Sometimes I try so hard to figure out just the right words to say and talk through a situation. While talking is good, sometimes the conversations start running in a circle and there aren't any productive words left to say. When this happens it can make a girl feel like giving up. But before I give up, I've learned to hush up.

Spending some time getting quiet can really be the best remedy for tangled situations. Taking a step back from all the emotion, frustration, and exhaustion to sit quietly with Jesus will do more to untangle a mess than anything else I've ever found.

Here are five beautiful things that can happen in the quiet:

1. In the quiet, we can feel safe enough to humble ourselves.

In the heat of a mess, the last thing I want to do is get humble. I want to get loud and prove my point. I've learned I have to step out of the battle and humbly ask God to speak truth to my heart for things to start to make sense. Never have I had a relationship issue where I didn't contribute at least something to the problem. Usually, I can only see this something in the quiet.

1 Peter 5:6, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand..." (NIV)

2. In the quiet, God will lift us up to a more rational place.

When we are in the heat of a tangled mess, crazy emotions drag us down into a pit of hopelessness. The only way out of the pit is to make the choice to stop digging deeper and turn to God for a solution.

1 Peter 5:6 continued, "...that he may lift you up in due time." (NIV)

3. In the quiet, anxiety gives way to progress.

We can pour our anxious hearts out to Jesus who loves us right where we are, how we are. And because His love comes without judgment, we can feel safe enough to humbly admit we need Jesus to work on us. Trying to fix another person will only add to my anxiety. Letting Jesus work on me is where real progress can happen.

1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (NIV)

4. In the quiet, we see our real enemy isn't the person with whom we're in conflict.

This person with whom we're in this tangled mess feels like the enemy. They might even look like the enemy. But the truth is, they aren't the real culprit here. Satan's influence on both me and the person offending me is the real culprit. I can't realize this in the heat of the moment. But in the quiet, I become alert and can gain a strategy for acting and reacting in a more self-controlled manner.

1 Peter 5:8-9a, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith..." (NIV)

5. In the quiet, I can rest assured God will use this conflict for good- no matter how it turns out.

If I make the effort to handle this conflict well, I can be freed from the pressure to make everything turn out rosy. Sometimes relationships grow stronger through conflict. But other times relationships end. Because I can't control the other person, I must keep focusing on the good God is working out in me through this and leave the outcome with Him.

1 Peter 5:10-11, "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen." (NIV)

In the end, this entire struggle can be used by God to make me stronger and more capable in my relationships. If I am humble enough to receive from Him in the quiet what He wants to teach me through this, I can rest assured with whatever the outcome is.

Dear Lord, help me to stop trying to figure this situation out and just sit in the quiet with You for a while. God humble me. Help me see Your perspective. Show me Your steps toward restoration. Or show me Your steps toward a healthy parting. Take my anxiety and replace it with Your peace, wisdom, and security. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa’s blog for a list of Bible verses that are a must read for times of conflict!

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst. If you enjoyed this devotion, you’ll love doing Lysa’s new book, Bible study and DVD teaching series. There’s a whole section on relationships where you’ll learn the cure for envy and other relationship killers.

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
How might applying the truths in this devotion help you today? Have you discovered anything else good that happens in the quiet? Let's talk about it on my blog today.

One of the most crucial parts of this is to realize my real enemy isn't this person with whom I am having this conflict. How does this help? Keeping this in mind, write out a prayer for this person. Sometimes praying for someone who I'm frustrated with softens my hearts and lets me see new possibilities for restoration.

Power Verses:
1 Peter 5:6, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand..." (NIV)

1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (NIV)

1 Peter 5:8-9a, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith..." (NIV)

© 2010 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tired of Waiting on God
Tracie Miles

"Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them." Genesis 25:26a (NIV)

Do you ever get tired of waiting on God to answer your prayers? Recently, I began to feel a sense of frustration with the wait, and also a little bit tired.

Tired of saying the same old prayer day after day, month after month, year after year. Tired of telling God about the same old problems that were still going on. Tired of hearing myself pray about the same old problems, leading me to wonder if God was as tired of hearing my prayer requests as I was of praying them.

So I bowed my head and admitted to God that I was simply tired of the wait.

In a heavy state of emotional tiredness, I turned to the crisp, white pages of my Bible. I was hoping God would illuminate a few verses that would jump out of the book and straight into my heart.

I began reading about when Isaac's wife Rebekah gave birth to twin sons. One particular sentence caught my eye and I went back to read it again and again. My heart leapt as I realized God was using this one little sentence to speak hope into my spirit. He used His spiritual highlighter just as I had wanted.

Genesis 25:26 tells us that Isaac was sixty years old when his twins were born; a simple Bible fact, yet profoundly meaningful to me on this specific day. You see, Isaac had been patient for the Lord to provide the perfect wife; he was forty years old when he married Rebekah. If you do the math you realize Isaac waited twenty years for Rebekah to bear him children! He could have chosen a concubine to bear him a son. But he was a man of great patience who waited on God. Eventually his patient faith was rewarded.

Isaac never gave up hope that his Lord could make the impossible, possible. He had learned that his Lord would provide. So he continued to pray the same desperate prayer for a son, day after day, month after month, year after year. In fact, we learn in Genesis 25:21 that "Isaac pleaded with the Lord" (NLT), meaning he earnestly and strongly prayed about his problem. He did not half-heartedly ask God for a son, he pleaded! He begged. He poured his heart out.

I can envision Isaac passionately pleading to God throughout those twenty years, with out-stretched arms and a tear-stained face pressed against the hot, dirty soil, begging God to answer his prayer.

Isaac was surely tired of the wait, but he never stopped praying or believing that his dreams could come true. And in God's perfect timing, they did.

If you are tired of the wait, you may be pleading to God just like Isaac. It may take twenty years for God to answer our prayers, or it may only take twenty minutes. But today, let us find comfort in remembering Isaac's patient faith and take hope in believing that God is not tired of hearing our prayers. Instead, He is simply waiting for the perfect time to answer.

Dear Lord, please help me have patience and faith while I wait to hear from You. Help me live in excited anticipation for the day when I will see how You answer my prayers. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Tracie’s blog for more encouragement about faith in the waiting

Reinventing Your Rainbow by Tracie Miles

What to Do in the W.A.I.T: Finding Contentment in God's Pauses and Plans (CD) by Wendy Pope

For more hope, read Scribbled on Dreams

Application Steps:
Consider prayers that have not been answered, but which you have not prayed about lately. Ask God to give you a renewed hope about those desires and faithfully wait on His timing.

Have I stopped praying about something because I've grown tired of waiting on God?

Power Verses:
Psalm 27:14, "Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." (NIV)

Isaiah 40:31, "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (KJV)

© 2010 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Approval Addiction
Shari Braendel

"Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:4 (NIV)

One day I got tired of hearing myself talk.

During a time when everything seemed to be going well, I found myself in a whirlwind where God revealed to me that my life was actually out of control. I knew I was walking the path He had laid out for me and it lined up with my passion for helping others. The problem was that I had become so good at it I didn't feel the need to call on God's help anymore.

What I did come to need, however, was others to tell me I was doing a good job. In fact, if someone didn't pat me on the back, I would tell them about my good deeds!

Everywhere I went people told me how skilled I was at doing this particular thing. I had become so adept at it that I figured there was no need to consult God anymore. I stopped praying much about it and would just "do." In the middle of my doing, however, I would make sure and ask others if I was doing it okay.

One day I was talking to someone and God allowed me to see myself, almost like I was listening as an outsider. I hated what I had become. Who was this person? Why was she talking so much? Who cared that she did this or that? Oh my goodness, what had become of me?!

I decided that day to stop talking about myself. I decided to quit depending on other people's thoughts about what I was doing, or how I was doing it. I decided that the only One I needed to impress was God. I knew that it wasn't going to happen without thought and planning. This desire for approval was not going to go away by itself.

First, I sat down and had a good cry. Then I consulted God and prayed. I made a decision to be quiet about myself for 30 days. Whenever I talked to someone, I would not mention "me" at all. I would not recount my accomplishments, my breakthroughs, or my shortcomings. Nothing. I decided to begin listening to others as if hearing them for the first time. If they asked about me, I would simply answer, "I'm doing great, thank you." That's it. No more information. I wanted to turn outward and begin to invest in other people's lives.

Well, 30 days turned into 60 days, and then into 90. I will tell you…I'm different now. My friends would probably agree, but I can honestly say I don't desire their approval anymore. It's funny how when we turn attention away from ourselves, we end up feeling more complete in the end. Because truly, the only thing that completes us is God.

Dear Lord, forgive me for seeking approval from anyone but You. Teach me to be silent so I can hear others and most importantly, hear You. Bring to my attention, in a way that only You can, times when I am becoming self-absorbed during conversations. Thank You for loving me enough to help me grow. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

30 Days to Taming Your Tongue and accompanying Workbook by Deborah Smith Pegues

6 Habits of Highly Effective Christians by Brian T. Anderson & Glynnis Whitwer

Visit Shari’s blog

Begin listening at home first! For more ideas check out Conversations Starters for the Dinner Table

Application Steps:
Spend some time in prayer and sit silently. What is God telling you?

If we practice sitting quietly and listening to our heavenly Father we are sure to become a better friend to those around us. Pray to become a great listener and decide to encourage others in what they are doing well instead of telling them about your good deeds or the good deeds of someone else you know.

When a friend tells me something that's happened to her, do I have to recount a situation that's happened to me or someone else I know? Why not let her tell her story and just listen?

Do I need to set aside some time to be silent and practice listening?

What would I observe if I stepped outside my conversations and looked in? Would I see an encourager or someone who talks a lot about herself or others?

Power Verses:
James 1:19, "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." (NIV)

1 Samuel 2:3, "Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed." (NIV)

Jeremiah 9:24, "'But let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares the LORD." (NIV)

© 2010 by Shari Braendel. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Great Faith
Micca Monda Campbell

"Then Jesus answered, 'Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.'" Matthew 15:28 (NIV)

I used to covet others' faith. I'd watch the spiritual "giants" in my church and community and wonder why they were given a greater faith than me. It didn't seem fair. Even worse were people with great faith who never seemed to have any type of adversity. Do you know the kind of people I'm describing?

One day, I decided to get to know a person with obvious great faith. I think it was one of the best things I've done to increase my own faith. The first thing I learned was people with great faith got it from their abundance of trials, not from their lack of trials. Trusting God in one trouble gave them courage to trust Him in another. Before they knew it, they had developed great faith in God. Great faith didn't happen overnight; it was a process.

Through the course of trusting God, we discover several things about great faith. First, it leads to great undertakings. Take the Gentile woman with a demon-possessed daughter found in Matthew 15 – pause to read her story if you can. She cried out for Jesus to heal her daughter, but she received no response.

This action on Christ's part can seem confusing. Therefore, it is important to know that this woman was not only a Gentile, but was of Canaanite descent. The Canaanites were an immoral people God had commanded Israel to completely destroy during their invasion of Canaan under the command of Joshua. Israel did not fully obey God's order and some Canaanites survived the invasion. This woman was their descendant. Nonetheless, this didn't stop her from appealing to Jesus for mercy and help.

Annoyed by her attempts, the disciples urged Jesus to send her away. She was a nuisance to them, but to Jesus the woman was an example of great faith. She was determined to do whatever was necessary to get what she needed.

Great faith also brings about great expectations. If you're like me, you often don't expect great results from your labors and prayers. This is because we lack faith. This was not true of the Gentile woman. She expected the Savior to heal her daughter.

That's not all. Great faith awakens great earnestness. This woman didn't play by the rules so to speak. She didn't care what others thought about her actions. Crying, she fell at the feet of Jesus and worshiped Him. I've seen this kind of earnestness in others with great faith as well. They pray with persistence until God moves.

Great faith conquers great difficulties. The woman kept on pursuing Jesus, begging even though He reminded her of her position as a Gentile, not a Jew. Christ responded to her request, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs" (vs.26). In other words, why should He give her, a Gentile, what He had come to give the Jews?

Her answer to that was to agree with Him, "Yes, Lord." And then throw herself on His mercy again by adding, "…even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table" (vs. 27). She understood that even one morsel of God's power was more than enough to heal her daughter. Pleased with her faith, Jesus commended her.

Finally, great faith achieves great victories. Jesus rewarded the woman's faith by healing her daughter. Our difficulties can be overcome by expressing great faith in Christ's mercy and love, which provide for our needs.

Great faith isn't given to some and not to others. It is a choice we make to trust and pursue God even when at first there appears to be no response.

Dear Lord, my circumstances call for great faith. Today, I'm ready to undertake whatever I need to do in this situation. I expect You to hear and respond to all my concerns. With earnestness, I promise to seek Your will in this area so that I may be more than a conquer. Victory is already mine because I trust in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

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

Birds in My Mustard Tree: How to Grow Your Faith by Susanne Scheppmann

Visit Micca’s blog

Application Steps:
Do not give up. Find a mentor with great faith and become their student.

Practice great faith by expecting God to hear and meet your needs.

Do you ask God to provide for a need and then try to take care of it yourself? If so, why?

Do you think following the example of the Gentile woman will increase your faith?

Power Verses:
Mark 9:23b, "Everything is possible for him who believes." (NIV)

Psalm 130:5, "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, in his word I put my hope." (NIV)

© 2010 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , , ,

More Worship, Less Whine
Marybeth Whalen

“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship.” Job 1:20 (NIV)

When good things happen to you do you respond with worship? How about when bad things happen? I know my first instinct isn’t to worship. It’s to whine. I whine about my doubts, my fears, my own misgivings. I whine about what I think might happen. I whine about how unfair life is. Worship, I must confess, is usually the last thing on my mind.

When I read today’s verse, I was taken aback at Job’s response to the news that all of his sons and daughters had died. Poor, longsuffering Job earned his place in history as a man who stayed true to God despite his circumstances. He was faithful and trusted God no matter what got thrown at him. He lived in expectation that, even though things looked grim, God had a better plan. So when he received terrible, heart wrenching news, his first response was what we see in today’s verse: worship.

I recently had a situation where I got a bit of good news, mixed with some bad. In that moment, I had two choices to make: praise God for the good or dwell on the bad. Guess what I chose? I went straight to the bad, lamenting the negative and worrying about things I couldn’t control.

The next day in my quiet time I read this verse. God got my attention, reminding me of how I had responded; how my attitude was certainly not pleasing to Him. I confessed to Him that I was wrong and asked Him to help me remember to worship in good times and bad, to find a reason to praise Him no matter what. The point of our worship isn’t to respond to our circumstances but to respond to His character, to seek His heart and not focus on ours.

My hope is that every day, in every circumstance, I will choose worship as my first response. I want to follow Job’s example, even when I don’t feel like it, even as worries and doubts threaten to take over. I want to build into my life the habit of worshiping a lot more and whining a lot less. Will you join me?

Dear Lord, please help me remember to worship as my first response instead of whine. Help me to seek Your heart instead of focusing on my own. I want to honor You in the bad times, as well as in the good. Help me to remember it is not my circumstances that matter, but Your character. And that is always worthy of praise! Most of all, thank You for Your patience with me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Visit Marybeth’s blog

Worship: Nearing the Heart of God by Brian T. Anderson & Glynnis Whitwer

The Reason We Speak, General Editor Marybeth Whalen

Redirect your focus when bad things happen with Seeing God in All Things

Application Steps:
The next time you receive good news or bad, determine to respond in worship. Ask a friend to hold you accountable.

If you have already formed the habit of worship as a first response, how did you build that habit into your life? Visit Marybeth’s blog today to share any ideas you might have on this.

Power Verses:
I Peter 5:6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (NIV)

Job 5:11, “The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.” (NIV)

© 2010 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Am I Messing Up My Kids?
Lysa TerKeurst

"’Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ’but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’” John 9:3 (NIV)

Okay, moms, let’s get gut honest today. Have you ever had these thoughts tug at the corners of your mind: What have I done wrong? Am I messing up my kids?

I've had two in depth conversations this week with friends and the same theme wove throughout both conversations. Our kids sometimes struggle and when they do, often our first thought is what have I done wrong as a mother? Maybe a lot of us moms have this worry that we are somehow messing up our kids.

Certainly good can come from a healthy assessment of how we're doing in our crucial role as moms. However, when the question comes in the form of a personal assault rather than a call to action over a specific area of improvement- it's not healthy.

It's paralyzing. It's draining. It's defeating.

It's evidence of a hole in the spiritual filter of our mind.

My friend, Holly, and I have been doing something since the beginning of the year that has become an absolute delight to my day. I've been determined to fill my mind with the truth. I figure the more truth I have crowded into that tiny little space I call my mind, the more untruths will get crowded out.

So, we've been taking a book of the Bible and going through it slowly- reading one chapter a day. Then we discuss what spoke to us the most.

The other day, before my conversation with one of my friends, I read John 9. One verse jumped out at me and seemed to swirl in my thoughts constantly. John 9:3, "’Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ’but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’" The way this verse kept bumping into my conscious thoughts let me know it was crucial that I think on it- pray through it- and let it seep into some deep places needing this truth.

Later when I was talking with a friend, there were little hints of that question- "What have I done wrong as a mother?"

What a delight it was to have that verse right on the top of my mind. Like a healing balm, I soothed my friend with the truth that what her son is going through right now has nothing to do with her mistakes or even his for that matter. God is helping her son work through some fears that will eventually be a mighty display of spiritual depth in his life.

Sweet sister, have you caught yourself asking lately, "What am I doing wrong as a mother?" Maybe, some adjustments do need to made.

Or maybe, this line of thinking should be redirected with a different question- "How might God work in this situation so that His work can be displayed in my child's life or in my life?" Either way, remember this truth- you are loved by God and so is your child.

Dear Lord, help me process my motherhood journey using the filter of Your truth and nothing else. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa’s blog to request prayer for your specific motherhood situation right now. Lysa will be praying over every request submitted on her blog today. Click here to get to Lysa’s blog and follow the prompts to leave a prayer request.

Am I Messing Up My Kids? by Lysa TerKeurst

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Find a godly friend who can help you process your struggles with your child without condemnation. Ask this friend to spend some time praying with you and for you. Then offer to do the same with her. You’ll know you’ve found the right friend to do this with when she’s not afraid to admit she has some of the same struggles as you.

If you’re having a hard time finding a friend who will be honest and vulnerable, ask God to bring this type of friend into your life. In the meantime, check out my blog. I think some of my motherhood stories will make you feel right at home. I’m in the trenches with you sister and I’d love to encourage you in your motherhood journey.

Is there something your child has struggled with lately that made you feel like you’ve done something wrong as his mother?

Prayerfully ask God if there is anything you can do better as a mom. Also, ask Him to help you see all that you’ve done right as a mom and how to accept that some of your child’s struggles have nothing to do with your actions at all.

Then, spend some time in prayer asking God how He is working in this situation.

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

2 Timothy 1:13-14, “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (NIV)

© 2010 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Prepared By God
Wendy Blight

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

In 1988 I entered Southern Methodist University School of Law. I invested three years of my life studying day and night so I could make law review, graduate in the top of my class, and land a job with a large Dallas firm. It all happened just the way I planned … making law review, graduating in the top 10 percent, and landing that big downtown job. It was a good thing too because my husband and I went into debt for that education. But no worries. I got the high paying job I wanted.

I spent the next year applying all that I had learned, working day and night, researching and writing legal briefs. My long hours paid off as I began arguing cases before local, state, and eventually federal court judges. I even had the honor and privilege of writing a brief that went before the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

But in the end, I hated it.

After investing thousands of dollars in my education and thousands of hours researching, writing, and arguing, I hated it. At age 28, I remember saying, "Lord, why do You have me here? I find no joy in what I do. What is it You want me to do? And, Lord, what about all this debt?"

I had no idea the wonderful way in which God would answer those questions. Twenty years later, those research skills taught me the methods that I now use to study and break apart God's Word. Arguing before judges prepared me for the speaking and teaching He has called me to. The writing skills prepared me for writing a book that tells an amazing story of God's hope and healing in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Now in my 40s, I realize that God created me not to be a lawyer, but to be a Bible teacher. He has called me to break apart His Word and teach it. There were steps along the way that I do not understand. There is a debt we still need to repay. But God has been faithful.

Friend, if you have landed here today wondering what in the world God wants to do with your life, I want you to know one thing. Not a single thing in your life will be wasted. God will use your past and your present to prepare you for your future. He has a beautiful plan … a call on your life. He is waiting to reveal it to you.

Jeremiah 1:5 says, "I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as My prophet to the nation" (NLT).

Psalm 139:16 says, "You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed" (NLT).

Sweet friend, God brought you here today. He wants to remind you of a precious Truth. Hear it and never forget it...before time began, before God spoke the world into being...He had you in His heart. God chose you to be His child. God has a perfect plan for your life. No one else has your plan, your family, your gifts, your talents, your heart, your education, your past, and your present … NO ONE.

He chose you to use you to do great things for His Kingdom ... things that only you can do.

He is preparing you…even now.

But to be used by God, you must TRUST Him with your past; BELIEVE Him for your future; BELIEVE He has a plan for you; SURRENDER your life to His Plan, and BELIEVE He will equip you to do what He has called you to do.

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

Visit Wendy’s blog, Living Truth, if you want prayer for this today.

For more encouragement, listen to Dealing with the Past

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

Application Steps:
Take time today to look at your design. Prayerfully ask God to reveal your gifts and talents (for example: hospitality, teaching, encouraging, leadership, prayer, administration). What did you discover?

If you have a moment today, please visit my blog and share what you discovered. What is it you see that He is calling you to do for His Kingdom? And if you don't know, please leave me a comment sharing your thoughts so I can pray for you. God wants to reveal His wonderful plan for your life!!!

Read Ephesians 2:10. Read it again. Soak it in. Memorize it. Pray it. Believe it

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

© 2010 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , ,

Soil vs. Dirt
Glynnis Whitwer

"But still others received the seed that fell on good soil. They are those who hear the message and understand it. They produce a crop 100, 60 or 30 times more than the farmer planted."Matthew 13:23 (NIRV)

Being raised in the Arizona desert, I have a different approach to planting than folks in other parts of the country. This was pointed out to me clearly when I was in the beautiful and lush state of Oregon a few years ago.

Some friends and I were discussing the Bible story about sowing seeds and reaping a harvest. I made a comment about planting seed in dirt. "Actually," one of the ladies replied kindly, "seed gets put in soil."

I smiled, and said, "Maybe here it does, but in my part of the country, we've got dirt."

We laughed about that, but it's true. In many parts of the desert, in order to plant, we need to break up the dirt and replace it in part or in total, with good, nutritious soil. This soil is created with lots of additives, or brought in from somewhere else, like Oregon. Without healthy soil, our fruits and vegetables are only a poor reflection of what they could be.

Sadly, our hearts can sometimes be compared to hard dirt, resistant to the truth God longs to plant in it. When a seed of truth is presented to a hardened heart, it is not easily received or embraced. There might be an initial acceptance, but no long term change or "fruit."

Jesus told a parable recorded in Matthew 13 about those who hear the truth, and what they do with it. In the story, some of the hearers did not benefit from the good seed because their "soil" wasn't ready for it. As I read that parable, and considered the hard desert dirt, I wondered if there is any way we can soften hard hearts.

I believe the Bible, and the natural world, give us ways to do just that. Like planting in dirt, the first step is to break it up. We can break up the hardness of our hearts by asking God to search us and reveal the hard places. The psalmist asked God to do this in Psalm 139:23-24, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me…" (ASV).

Then we can bring healthy "soil" in to those places. For example, if God reveals there is unforgiveness in your heart, mix in God's truth about forgiveness. You might memorize Luke 17:4, "If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him" (NIV).

Finally, keep your heart "watered" so it doesn't harden again. Jesus declared that He was living water, and that when we believe in Him, streams of water will flow from within (John 7:38). This water is the Holy Spirit, who lives in us when we believe and keeps our hearts receptive to God.

I believe God longs to bring many believers into a more mature and vibrant faith, but hardened hearts keep us from growing. Having a heart receptive to truth is an important part of living a life that's productive and used by God. We may have lots of dirt in the desert … and our hearts … but where God's living water is, there is always an orchard ready to grow.

Dear Lord, thank You for making a way for even the hardest heart to soften. Help me see the areas of my heart that are hard like dirt. Please replace those places with healthy soil so that Your truth can produce a harvest in my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

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

Visit Glynnis’s blog for more encouragement.

6 Habits of Highly Effective Christians by Brian T. Anderson & Glynnis Whitwer

Glynnis is the senior editor of our P31 Woman magazine. Start your subscription today!

Application Steps:
Read Matthew 13:1-23. Consider if you are like any of the examples given by Jesus.

Why do some people find it easier to accept the Bible as truth, while others struggle with it?

What are some reasons God's truth doesn't "stick" in our hearts?

What are some ways to increase your understanding of God's Word?

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

1 John 1:8, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." (NIV)

© 2010 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , ,

Conditional Love or Covenant Love?
Melanie Chitwood

"Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV)

When I was pregnant with our second son, Tyler, I was not at my best. Actually, I was a mess. We lived in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, at the time, a lovely but really hot place for a pregnant lady. I was hot all the time and cranked our air-conditioner down so low that condensation formed on the windows. I was huge and uncomfortable. Tyler ended up being a big baby—9 pounds, 15 ounces—but that doesn't justify the other 40 pounds I gained.

I was hungry all the time but easily nauseated, so cooking anything involving raw meat was not an option. I was also tired, so after teaching and getting little Zachary tucked in early, I was done for the day. When trying to go to sleep, I soon became very sensitive to any outside noises, so we nailed several blankets over our windows, attempting to muffle the noise.

I pity my husband, Scott, for having to live with me during that pregnancy. Amazingly, he loved me with kindness, patience, and longsuffering. Although we joke now that he earned many jewels in his heavenly crown during that pregnancy, I needed to be sure of his love during that time.

That's a kind of love that only a husband or wife can give. A love that sees the good, the bad, and the ugly and still says, I love you now, and I'll always love you. I am sure Scott thought then and has thought many times since that he married a crazy lady, but he has loved me unconditionally.
A Christian marriage reflects God's love, a covenant love. God's covenant love does not depend on anything we do or don't do. God's love just is. In the same way, a Christian couple demonstrates this covenant love as they remain committed to each other during hard times. Their commitment does not depend on pleasant circumstances.

In other words, their love is not conditional, as so many marriages in today's world are. A covenant love promises, "till death do us part," and perseveres in the hard times.

A covenant love, loves always.

Dear Lord, thank You for my spouse. We want a marriage that reflects Your kind of commitment, Lord, the kind that lasts forever. Remind us, especially in the hard times, that we made a promise to each other and to You to be committed for a lifetime. Holy Spirit, please work in me so I will be the first to forgive and the first to say I'm sorry. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Check out Melanie's blog: What Matters Most for a chance to win a free marriage conference call. Also, you’ll find more information about the "Building a Marriage that Will Last a Lifetime" conference call being taught by Melanie this week!

This devotion is adapted from What a Wife Needs from Her Husband by Melanie Chitwood – buy your copy today.

Find hope with Strengthen Your Marriage

The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick

Application Steps:
For many years I've had a prayer partner who prays specifically for my marriage, and I pray for hers. I can count on her to hold me accountable to God's principles in my marriage. Also, I trust her to keep my confidences. Is there someone in your life with whom you can partner in prayer for your marriage? Pray about it and then make that call.

If you are facing tough times in your marriage right now, I'd love to pray for you and your marriage, especially if you are facing tough times. Visit my blog today today to leave your prayer request.

Read today's key verse. Name a specific way you protect your marriage. Are you trustworthy and do you trust your spouse? Do you have hope? How can you persevere in your marriage?

Power Verses:
Matthew 19:6,"So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (NAS)

1 John 3:18, "Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions." (NLT)

© 2010 by Melanie Chitwood. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , , ,

With All My Heart
Zoe Elmore

"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.'" Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

"I'm giving this to you with all my heart, Daddy." Annie spoke those words as she handed her daddy the wrapped gift. Dan opened the gift to find a small cardboard box, the lid had been torn off, mailing label still attached and a rubber band had been secured to fashion a handle. Dan scooped up his daughter in his arms and thanked her for his birthday gift promising to carry his new lunch box to work the very next day. Dan was true to his word and proudly carried the new lunch box to work the very next day.

Now how many people would actually carry their lunch to the office in a tattered and torn cardboard box? Talk about showing your love with your life in a world where talk is cheap and we value appearances over promises! Dan's tender act of love toward his daughter touched my heart and brought this verse to mind.

1 John 4:16, "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him" (NIV).

While Dan's new lunch box fell apart within a day or two, Dan's love for his daughter is real, personal and lasting just like the love God has for us. God's love sees beyond our brokenness and sin and transforms our tattered and torn lives into something beautiful and precious.

Our heavenly Father's love is not based on appearance or gender, education or wealth; it's based on one thing: Love. It is God's very nature to love. It is the love of self-sacrifice. God proved His sacrificial love by sending His Son Jesus to die on a cross to pay the penalty for our sin. God draws us to Himself by forgiving us of our rebellion against Him, and by sending His Holy Spirit to dwell within us. God did this in spite of the fact that we did not deserve it. "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8, NIV).

God's love is personal. He knows each of us individually and loves us personally with all His heart. His love is a mighty love that has no beginning and no end. Why does God love us? It is because of who He is: "God is love."

If you're longing for the personal and individual love of a father and have never experienced the deep, rich, immeasurable love of God I encourage you to stop and follow these five simple steps.

1. Admit your sin and your need for a Savior. 2. Be willing to turn from sin (repent) 3. Believe that Jesus Christ died for you. 4. Through Prayer, receive Him as your personal Lord and Savior. 5. Surrender your will to His, and ask Him to help you trust and obey His ways.

Dear Lord, I believe You are the Son of God. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. Please forgive my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. I ask You into my life and heart to be my Lord and Savior. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Zoe’s blog for more encouragement.

When a Woman Meets Jesus: Finding the Love Every Woman Longs For by Dorothy Valcarcel

The Wonder of His Love: A Journey into the Heart of God by Nancy Stafford

Read more on Hearing God

Application Steps:
Begin to read your Bible everyday. This helps you grow in your faith.

Pray. Prayer is simply talking with God; you can talk to God any time.

Join a local church. Other believers will help encourage you.

Do you often feel like you're going it alone or are you looking for God's presence?

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

Psalm 36:7, "How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings." (NIV)

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

© 2010 by Zoe Elmore. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , , ,

What Does It Mean to 'Believe?'
Micca Monda Campbell

"If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved." Romans 10:9 (NIV)

I didn't take the time to discuss it with my parents or even tell them where I was going. Inside that large arena, I leaped from my seat and ran toward the stage. I was running to Jesus. My mother called my name and begged me to stop. As I looked back at her, a sea of people began to fill the gap between us. Normally, this would have frightened a small child, but I wasn't afraid at all. The pull towards the stage was much stronger than the fear of being separated from my mother. Luckily, a counselor reunited us and my mother was there to witness my introduction to Jesus.

I was seven years-old when I met Jesus for the first time. While attending a James Robison crusade with my family, I was captured by the words of the evangelist as he described Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. That divine night, my eyes were opened to God's message of hope. When Pastor Robison invited all who believed to come forward, I went.

That was an exciting day for me. However, as the years passed I noticed something disturbing. I wasn't experiencing the change I had hoped for. In fact, each time I heard a pastor say, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and experience freedom from sin and a life marked by peace, power, and joy," I became more confused. I do believe in Jesus. Why weren't those truths a reality in my life?

Like some today, I had misunderstood what it meant to believe.

To "believe" means much more than simply acknowledging Christ's death on a cross. Unfortunately, for many today that word has been reduced to just that - a mere mental acknowledgement. Like me, multitudes have said the sinner's prayer because they believe Jesus died on a cross. But without the call to confess sin and commit to a life of following Christ in obedience, no transformation takes place. That's the problem with knowledge alone. It requires no commitment and brings about no lasting change.

The Bible teaches that to believe means to acknowledge what Christ did on the cross and to be so changed by it that we want to obey His will and His Word. Therefore, to believe is to obey. A person who truly believes is compelled by God's love, and responds with a desire to obey Him. Their belief not only motivates them to obey but to trust God completely with their life.

When I finally understood this truth, I made a new and final commitment: "God, I so believe in Your Son who died for my sins that I surrender my will for Yours." Then, I began studying and applying God's Word to my life. That's when I noticed real change taking place. I noticed something else too. My problems didn't instantly go away, but I wasn't carrying them alone anymore. That's not all. No matter who mocked me or what trouble came my way, I decided to trust God. Doing so brought peace to my heart like never before.

A true believer is not only identified by what she confesses, but by the fruit of her obedience. The only way to identify genuine belief in your life and the lives of others is by a life that demonstrates it. When a person has experienced real change through a surrendered life, others will know it by their actions.

If you are like me, wondering why no change has occurred since you prayed to become a Christian, perhaps you need to move from acknowledging Christ to living a life of obedience to Him. I promise you … it's what you're looking for.

Dear Lord, for too long I have only acknowledged You as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. I long for real change. Today, I surrender my will to You. I commit to a life of obedience. Forgive me for my sins and fill me with your Spirit. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

This devotion was adapted from Micca’s book, An Untroubled Heart. Order your copy now!

Visit Micca’s blog

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

Application Steps:
Begin today with this commitment: "God, I so believe in Your Son who died for my sins that I surrender my will for Yours." Then follow through by reading the Bible and asking the Holy Spirit to help you life out it's truths by obeying what it says there.

How does your life reflect the fact that faith and action are inseparable?

Can you feel secure in your experience with God if it never leads to obedient action?

Power Verses:
James 2:24, "You see then that a person is justified by what he does, and not by faith alone." (NIV)

James 1:23-24, "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was." James 1:23-24 (NASB)

© 2010 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Thinking Higher
Rachel Olsen

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:2 (NIV)

After becoming a believer nearly two decades ago, I’ve never been more excited about heaven than now. Honestly, I never gave it much thought before.

Perhaps I was too busy trying to figure out how to live in Christ on earth. And perhaps I was bit scared off by the oft-repeated adage that you can become “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.”

I’d heard friends, loved ones and church leaders all warn of this. A focus on heaven can sabotage my walk with God? Really?

That’s not what I’m seeing in the Bible, nor is it what I’m experiencing.

Jesus told us to seek the kingdom of heaven first and foremost (Matthew 6:33). The Bible tells us that heaven is where God and Jesus are. And a taste for it is God-placed in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). E.M. Bounds writes, “The power of the Spirit binds us to heaven because Jesus is there. We are bound to love it, think about it, and desire it, for Jesus is its center and glory.”

So thinking about, longing for, and planning for this glorious point and place in eternity where we’ll be united with our Savior is a way to worship Christ. It is a means of seeing and savoring Him. And, it fills us with hope. Hope, the Bible reveals, is the seed-starter of faith.

Hope can shore us up in the face of much heartache and trouble on earth. It can make us eternal optimists. C.S. Lewis writes, “In the truest sense, Christian pilgrims have the best of both worlds. We have joy whenever this world reminds us of the next, and we take solace whenever it doesn’t.”

“Strongly, insistently, the Holy Spirit uses heaven and its untold, manifold good to move saints to action, awaken them from death, and to increase their zeal and love,” Bounds explains. Heaven, then, is a stimulant for us on earth – a stimulant towards action, love, and zeal for Christ. Not a distraction.

Besides, being too heavenly minded has never been my struggle. I am so much more prone to being so earthly minded that I’m of little heavenly good. I can become myopically focused on me: my wants, my needs, my troubles, my possessions, my plans. I grow obsessed with Rachel-like living. Or else, I become hyper-focused on the state of the world: the popular culture, the politics, the weather, the economy.

When the reality of eternity and heaven comes crashing through my heart and thoughts, it pulls my focus up. Way up. Much needed perspective is gained and I’m able to redirect my thoughts and actions towards Christ-like living. I begin living now, again, for this future place and goal.

I’m guessing the “too heavenly minded” saying originated to describe someone who - like the Pharisees - spent their lives becoming self-righteous through their spiritual actions. Or, perhaps someone who spent so much time in the pew that they neglected their family, friends, or serving their community. I suspect these people were hearers but not doers of the Word.

I’d also guess these people probably didn’t think much about heaven at all. Because to gain a true grasp of heaven is to have your eyes spiritually opened. It is to understand where this all is heading, and what you are truly made for.

It is to think and live higher.

Dear Lord, give me a vision and passion for heaven. May I live for that kingdom – for its King and by its rules. And help me to be of earthly good as I pass through this place, preparing for the next. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know the One who can usher you to heaven?

For more on this topic - heaven and living eternally-minded - visit Rachel’s blog

God’s Purpose for Every Woman: A Compilation of Favorite P31 Devotions by various Encouragement for Today authors; Gen Eds. Lysa TerKeurst & Rachel Olsen

A Woman Who Fears the Lord: T-shirt

Application Steps:
Are your ideas about heaven and the life to come fuzzy? Begin searching the Bible for passages about it.

Do you think about heaven much? Do you believe you can think about it too much?

How do you feel when you do ponder your life to come in heaven?

How do your views on heaven influence your days here on earth?

Power Verses:
Ecclesiastes 3:11a, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.” (NIV)

2 Peter 3:13, “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (NIV)

© 2010 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , ,

I Want to Leave a Legacy
Melanie Chitwood

"I will sing of the lovingkindness of the Lord forever; to all generations I will make known your faithfulness with my mouth." Psalm 89:1 (NAS)

What do your children think of when they think of you? Their answers would be very revealing, wouldn't they? One day in early elementary school, Zachary came home with a Mother's Day picture he'd created for me. In the middle was a lovely portrait of me, wearing a dress made in my favorite colors of pink and purple. Then around the picture his teacher had told him to write four different words to describe his mom. He wrote: reading, napping, chocolate chip cookies, and laughing. His words made me smile with their accuracy.

Every day we are leaving our fingerprints on our kids. What do we want our children to think of when they think of their parents? A mom who was gentle and firm in her discipline or a mom who flew off the handle easily? A mom who seemed permanently attached to her phone or a mom who was available for life's big and small moments? A mom who occasionally went to church or a mom whose love of God was a part of her everyday life?

A legacy can be defined as "something handed down." Every day through our words and actions we are developing a legacy to be carried in the character of our children. It's easy for the busyness of life to keep you from being purposeful in your parenting. Let's decide today to leave the legacy we really want. Let's make sure it's a legacy not born of busyness and urgency, but one born of purposefulness and prayer.

It always helps me to remember that God is a parent too. So who better to turn to for parenting advice? It also helps me to know that God loves my children even more than I do, and He will fill in the gaps for me and Scott as we seek Him first. No matter what kind of parent you've been, today you can decide to add to and improve the legacy you are leaving. These are the only days we have with our children. We don't get them back. Let's begin today to be the parents we really want to be.

Dear Lord, thank You so much for each of my children. I need Your help every day to be the parent You want me to be. Lord, I'm human and I know that as a parent, I've made mistakes and will in the future. Lord, redeem the past and strengthen me for the future. Lord, thank You that You will give me Your love, wisdom, strength, direction, and patience to be the best parent for my children. Help me to leave a legacy that brings You glory and one that will enable my children to know how much You love them. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
This devotion was adapted from What A Wife Needs From Her Husband by Melanie Chitwood

What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

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

Check out Melanie’s blog – What Matters Most for information about her upcoming marriage conference call, "Building a Marriage that Will Last a LIfetime." She'll be giving away a free conference call!

For more encouragement, read A Legend of Faith

Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child Character Chart and Message on CD, by Renee Swope

Application Steps:
Your children will learn to pray as they hear you pray. Pray with them on the way to school, throughout the day to thank God or to ask for His help, and tuck them in each night with your prayers. And don't stop praying with them when they're teens. Even though your teens may be pulling away from you, they still need to know you're covering them with prayer.

Choose a verse for the whole family to memorize each week. Display it in the kitchen or some other visible place.

Think about your everyday actions. Which of your actions point your children's hearts to the Lord?

Think about your attitude in frustrating or stressful situations. Are you modeling Christ's attitude in these situations?

What is one action step you can take this week to leave a legacy of faith for your children?

Power Verses:
Deuteronomy 6:5-9, "Love GOD, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that's in you, love him with all you've got! Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. (Message)

Proverbs 22:6, "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it." (NLT)

Psalm 79:13, "So we Your people, the sheep of Your pasture, will give thanks to You forever; to all generations we will tell of Your praise." (NAS)

© 2010 by Melanie Chitwood. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Jobless - Hopeful
Holly Good, Assistant to Lysa TerKeurst, She Speaks! Graduate

"… humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." James 1:21b (NIV)

My husband doesn't have a job. As the result of a merger he lost his job after having been with his organization for 21 years. In the world of banking we were quite used to mergers and the threat of losing his job throughout our entire marriage. But last summer the cyclical threat came to fruition. His job was eliminated and he came home.

Life has certainly taken an interesting twist. I now wake up before he does. I leave the house for work and he stays home. He has cooked most of our meals, has helped our daughter apply to colleges, taken on a more active role in our middle school son's schoolwork and sports, and fixed a water problem in our back yard. And just now as I write this, I received a text from him at the grocery store, 'Do you want cinnamon flavored dental floss or regular?' Yes, he now does a majority of the grocery shopping as well.

We have had our struggles too. The what-ifs rear their ugly head and make an unwanted appearance in our minds from time to time. In addition to fleeting thoughts of fear and doubt, we have had our share of unwanted financial burdens as well. Our air conditioner broke; we had two pipe leaks in our home, a gas leak, our garage door broke, dreaded car repairs, and unexpected vet bills.

But we wait. And we hope. And we wait and hope some more.

Just this morning I read the book of James and was completely encouraged by the message God reveals through James' words. I came away with renewed insight in two areas of my life: drawing near to God and humbling myself before Him.

As we wait and we hope, God is also waiting. Waiting for me to come near to Him for strength, hope and peace. True fulfillment in these three areas can only be realized and received from the Giver of life. The One who holds the world in the palm of His hand. The One who spoke us into existence. As I come near to Him, He will come near to me. Not always on my timetable or in the way I would predict or prescribe, but in His perfectly sculpted plan.

And humbling myself before Him is not robotically proclaiming, "I guess You are right God and I perhaps I am wrong." It means to come to a place where I can honestly admit that humbling myself before Him means that I recognize my worth comes from Him and Him alone. My very worth. Everything in and of me. I must submit and realize that I don't know the path without His guidance, power and favor.

It's so easy to run ahead and plan our attempts to work things for our good. Through the past seven months we have had to learn to wait, hope and trust beyond our comprehension. Beyond our plan. Beyond our wishes.

We've had to pause, wait and focus on the good that He is doing each day.

We've had to resist and flee the doubts and fears that creep in at a moments notice.

We've had to learn and relearn that as we humbly draw near to Him, we must trust, and leave the rest to Him.

And just in case you are curious, I asked for the cinnamon flavored dental floss.

Dear Lord, I admit that I need You today. Help me focus on what is true. Keep my mind from doubting Your plan. I know full well that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Change me and then use me Lord. Thank You for entrusting me with all that I have. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Please visit Lysa’s blog for more insight and a chance to win a year’s subscription to our P31 Woman Magazine for the best kind of monthly encouragement.

She Speaks! Conference

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Read the book of James. Prayerfully search the depths of your heart and ask God for wisdom as you read. He will teach you many things about faith, perseverance, compassion, service, speech, submission, concern for others and sharing.

In what areas did you find encouragement as you read James?

What have you learned about faith, trials and perseverance?

Power Verses:
James 4:8a, "Come near to God and he will come near to you." (NIV)

James 4:10, "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (NIV)

James 3:17, "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." (NIV)

© 2010 by Holly Good. All rights reserved.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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