Author Topic: Devotional  (Read 5124 times)

Pip

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Re: Devotional
« Reply #45 on: August 08, 2019, 01:30:31 AM »
The Gift of Giving Part 2
Apr 08, 2019 | Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

I will provide for their needs before they ask, and I will help them while they are still asking for help.   Isaiah 65:24, NCV

Friend to Friend

Despite a very shaky start, the weekend could not have gone any better! (If you have not read yesterday’s devotion, stop where you are. Go back and read it now!)  Dan and I finally made it to Greensburg for my speaking event and checked into our hotel only to discover that the air conditioning in our room did not work.

1.   Did. Not. Care.
I was so tired that I literally climbed into bed and pleaded with my sweet husband to just deal with it. He did. I vaguely remember the maintenance man kicking the air conditioning unit in our room, and the unit coming to life. Go God!  And God was all over the event from beginning to end. I totally forgot about my hurting back the minute I began to speak. Every time I gave an invitation, women flooded the aisles. I talked and prayed with woman after woman all seeking God and His power to redeem, heal, and restore. It was an amazing day!  I even managed to forget about the fact that this “free” event had gouged an unexpected hole in our finances. I shakily chose to trust God.  The next day I spoke for the church where my friend and her husband pastor. I noticed her look of concern when I hobbled in and assured her that I would be fine. I then turned to Dan and quietly pleaded, “Do you have a sermon in your pocket?”

He smiled and said, “You’ve got this, honey.”

I did not care for his faith in me at that moment. But when I got up to speak, God did indeed come through again. It was a precious service and a time of eternal business with God.  On the way home, Dan and I talked and laughed about the whole weekend from the minute we stepped up to the airport counter to the air going out in his truck and that funny little auto parts store. We then celebrated all that God had done in the lives of the people who came to hear His Word and were forever changed through His power.  “Oh, did you check your money pouch?” Dan asked.

I had honestly not even thought about it. I had only brought a minimum number of books and CDs to sell and really did not expect much.
And that was my problem my pitiful expectations my meager faith.  We serve a God who can do a whole lot when we expect Him to. When I counted the money, I could not believe it. We had just enough to cover all of our expenses for the whole weekend! We partied all the way home!  But there is more.  When we got home, pulled in our driveway, and opened the garage door, Dan said, “Uh, honey, I think you need to go in the garage.”

Now that was strange. Dan had just told me to stay put while he unloaded the truck and opened the door. Yes I had a frozen bag of peas that still had a little life left in it. But I got out of the truck and went in the garage and promptly started screaming!  There sat a 2004 silver Honda Pilot. The car was in mint condition. The dealership papers said it had new tires, a new transmission, and a new timing belt. The car was a lease and had been perfectly maintained. And it had a third row big enough for all of our grandchildren!  The note on the windshield said it was a gift from the men in Dan’s fireside group. Three months earlier, they had noticed the absence of my old car and asked Dan about it. That’s all.  And now the note read, “It is unacceptable for our pastor’s wife to not have a car. We want you to know how much we love you.”

And there were no names except for the one man who had to title the car. I had no idea who to thank.  Oh, but I did.  My Father had worked through the willing hearts of some precious men to meet a need in my life. So I named the car Gracie. And every time I get behind the wheel of Gracie, I am reminded that no matter how hard we try, we simply cannot out-give God.  I want to live my life with open hands, dusty feet, calloused knees, and rolled-up sleeves. I want to be a generous giver. I may not have much money, but I can give what I have. I can give my time and energy my love and concern a listening ear and a caring heart. I can give my life.

Pip

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Re: Devotional
« Reply #46 on: October 30, 2019, 01:49:09 AM »
https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2019/10/29/no-matter-what

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5 (NIV)

I remember the day Art and I settled in our hearts we would choose to trust God’s love for us and pursue a relationship with Him, no matter what.  We were in the hospital with our middle daughter who was 6 weeks old. She had seemed a perfectly healthy baby until an allergic reaction landed us in the intensive care unit. The doctors told us on the fourth day of our visit that Ashley needed emergency surgery, and they did not expect her to survive.  They gave us five minutes to tell our baby goodbye.  My heart was shattered.  I so desperately wanted to scoop her up and run out of the hospital. I wanted to somehow breathe my life into hers. I wanted to take her place. I could handle my own death so much easier than the death of my child. Art prayed over Ashley, we both said our goodbyes, and then, with tears streaming down our faces, we let her go.  When Art took me outside to the hospital parking lot, I collapsed into his arms. He gently cupped my face in his hands and reminded me Ashley was God’s child to give and His to take back.  “Lysa, God loves Ashley even more than we do,” he gently told me. “We must trust His plan.”

Art then asked me to do something, and it changed my whole perspective on my relationship with God. “We have to get it settled in our hearts that we will love and trust God no matter the outcome of Ashley’s surgery,” he said.

At first, I resented Art’s desire to trust God in this way. I feared it might give the impression it was alright for Him to take Ashley.  With all my being, I wanted to hold on to my child and refuse God. Yet, though I was heartbroken, I also felt God’s compassion. I felt Him drawing me close and pouring out His tender mercy. God knew firsthand the pain we were feeling because He’d felt it Himself. I knew I ultimately had no ability to control my child’s future.  With tears pouring from our eyes, Art and I released our sweet Ashley to the Lord and promised to love and trust Him no matter what.  It was as if the more I fell into God’s arms, the less the pain of the moment seared my heart. Feeling the power of God took away the fear of the unknown. I stopped thinking about the what-if scenarios and let my soul simply say, OK. God, in this minute I choose rest with You. I will not let my mind go to the minutes that are coming. I will simply be in this moment and face it with peace.  That day we settled our love for God not just for this situation, but for all time. Though we did not feel at all happy, a gentle covering of unexplainable calm settled over our hearts. Knowing that the One who loved Ashley.  The end of this chapter of Ashley’s life was miraculous, and we are so grateful. Though the doctors can’t explain how, she made a full recovery. Who can understand why God answers prayer the way He does?

I’ve lived the devastating other side of situations like this where my little sister didn't recover, and we stood at her grave, helpless and heartbroken.  But both situations have taught me that no matter God’s answer, our hearts can be settled to trust and love Him. I don't have to understand; I just have to trust. This kind of total surrender brings about a depth of peace and relationship with God you can’t get any other way. It all stems from living out today’s key verse, loving God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5b).

Nothing in life is certain. Circumstances roll in and out like the ocean’s tide. And the unknown can sometimes seem so frightening.  We can’t stop or control things that roll our way any more than we can stop the water’s edge.  But we can make the minute-by-minute choice to let our souls rest in God.

Dear Lord, I want to love You with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength like Your Word instructs. Teach me how to give up the control I try to maintain as I experience uncertainties and hard times. Help me trust You, no matter what comes my way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY

Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (NIV)

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Re: Devotional
« Reply #47 on: November 23, 2019, 01:03:54 AM »
https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2019/11/11/an-overwhelming-presence

An Overwhelming Presence
November 11, 2019

“And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’” Exodus 33:14 (CSB)

Overwhelmed. We all know this feeling. A few definitions include, “to bury or drown beneath a huge mass, defeat completely, give too much of a thing to (someone); inundate.”

This used to be my constant state of being. The weighted feeling of life, the persistent pressure. The inundation of it all, oftentimes pressing down so intensely it was difficult to breathe. Maybe you can relate?

As a child, life came at my family pretty fast and heavy. I quickly learned to sift through it, manage it and tuck it away. As I became an adult, being overwhelmed was a part of my everyday. I had learned how to cope through the feeling. I knew what to do and became my own coach when needed.  If my heart was overwhelmed, I suppressed the feeling because who has time to deal with a defeated heart?

If my mind was overwhelmed, I made myself busy. If I could just forget why I was overwhelmed, ignore it somehow, it would be fine. I ended up adding on to my overwhelmed mind and heart with more doing.  If I were physically overwhelmed with the doing, I would just tell myself it was a part of life to feel this way. I would excuse this feeling as part of my responsibility as someone who gets things done.  All of this was a sign of an overwhelmed soul in deep need of a loving God.  In the midst of one of my most challenging seasons, I learned His overwhelming presence was where my weary soul would find refuge and rest. With Emmanuel, God with us, I would encounter the peace and wisdom a tired soul required.  The most common Hebrew term for "presence" in the Bible is panim, which is also translated “to face," implying a close and personal encounter with the Lord. Closeness with the Father a face-to-face encounter with the King of kings that brought His overwhelming love to an underwhelmed people.   I used to believe His presence wasn’t an ever-present help. That rest wasn’t something promised in our day-to-day. This may be how you’ve felt as well that His presence isn’t tangible and therefore out of reach when life seems out-of-control. But His presence is real, and we experience it through our trusting that He is a good God, that He is God with us.  In the Old Testament, God told Moses His presence would be with Moses as he was sent into a mission that was hard but holy: “And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’” (Exodus 33:14).

Moses was to find his rest in God’s presence. This is where his overwhelmed soul met God’s overwhelming love and faithfulness. The same presence is given to us through Christ Jesus He gives us access to abundant life through trusting and resting in His love for us.  A desire to rely on our doing versus God’s faithfulness will diminish our experience of God’s presence. God, however, doesn’t want us to live led by the rush of life. Instead, He’s inviting us to trust in His overwhelming presence to guide us.  As we move through our day and invite Him into the spaces that need Him so desperately, let us remember that as we draw near to our God, we are inviting His presence to guide us with love.  This is abundant life: God with us, a mighty and overwhelming presence.

Heavenly Father, thank You that Your overwhelming presence of love not only follows us but is with us. Lord, we ask that in the times when life tries to overwhelm us, we would be reminded that You, Father, are the very thing that brings light and calm to the dark and heavy. Help us to remember that Your presence holds the power for us to keep going, and we will trust You in it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY

Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.” (CSB)

Psalm 16:11, “You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.” (CSB)

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Re: Devotional
« Reply #48 on: December 24, 2019, 04:06:56 AM »
https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2019/01/01/how-to-prioritize-prayer-in-your-crazy-busy-life

How to Prioritize Prayer in Your Crazy Busy Life
Amy Carroll
January 1, 2019

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2 (NIV)

Although I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, I’ve come to adore adopting a single word each year to guide me toward spiritual growth.  Last January as I sought God for my new word, I sensed Him leading me to the word “pray.” Terror is too mild a word to describe the way I felt about that particular directive.  Don’t get me wrong. I’ve made daily prayer a practice for decades, but I knew it was still a weak link in my spiritual life. Bible study is one of my great loves, and I adore getting out to serve. But during my prayer times, my mind wanders, my faith wavers and I never feel as if I cover all the needs. Guilt and a sense of falling short typically describe my prayer life.  Have you struggled with prayer too?

If you’re like me, maybe you know prayer is important, but it’s hard to wrap your mind around such a powerful, invisible force. It’s challenging to prioritize time for something so intangible with results that demand waiting.  As I surrendered and embraced “pray” with a trembling heart at the beginning of 2018, I pictured success as reading stacks of books from the 1700s. I imagined developing callouses on my knees from hours on them in the dark of early morning. But those images left me resistant instead of motivated. Truthfully, I couldn’t fathom fitting those assignments into my current schedule. Surely this was going to be the worst word-of-the-year ever.  I’m excited to report that’s not how God worked at all. Yes, He challenged me to grow in ways that required intention. He asked me to set more time aside for prayer, but He brought some beautiful, simple tools into my life that have allowed me to find peace and even joy in prayer. God directed me to:

    Instagram, where I found a pre-prayer journal routine that settles my thoughts and quiets my mind.
    A book that led me to pray one God-inspired verse for each of my sons every day.
    A calendar with daily out-of-the-box prompts that leads me to pray for areas I wouldn’t have thought to cover.
    A friend who encouraged me to set reminders throughout the day on my phone to pray for people I want to intercede for every week.
    A group in the First 5 app where I write out my prayers based on that day’s Scripture.
    A mentor who modeled on-the-spot prayer for those with a request: the best guarantee for follow-through instead of forgetting. Voila! Guilt free.

In a gentle yet persistent way, God brought Colossians 4:2 alive in my life in 2018: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

Now my one word “pray” is an invitation for ongoing conversation with God.  As a rule-follower and reforming perfectionist, I used to look for formulas and how-to’s. Now, instead of limiting myself to a set number of minutes of prayer in a prescribed routine, the simple tools above allow prayer to permeate my thoughts. They’ve created a watchfulness in me that lasts throughout the day. I’m constantly looking for opportunities to pray, which leads to true devotion to the practice and thankfulness as I watch God at work. There are so many moments that beg for prayer!  If you long for a talk with God that changes things, prayer is not as hard as you might think. Ask Him to send some simple tools your way, and let the dialogue begin.

Lord, I want to develop devotion to prayer because I long for a never-ending conversation with You. Please teach me to pray by showing me truths in Your Word and giving me the determination to use the tools You send my way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY

Psalm 17:6, “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.” (NIV)

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

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Re: Devotional
« Reply #49 on: December 25, 2019, 01:59:52 AM »
https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2019/01/02/when-god-talks-backwards

When God Talks Backwards
Alicia Bruxvoort
January 2, 2019

“But think about this: while we were wasting our lives in sin, God revealed His powerful love to us in a tangible display the Anointed One died for us.” Romans 5:8 (The Voice)

My kids knew what day it was when they woke to cereal in the bathroom sink, silverware in the toothpaste drawer and pajamas dangling from the coat hooks in the hallway.  I’m not sure when the crazy tradition began or exactly when it ended, but when my children were young, we created an in-house holiday that we affectionately termed Backwards Day.  On Backwards Day, we outlawed the conventional and celebrated the crazy. We infused the humdrum with goofy gala and flipped “normal” on its head. We dined under the table instead of on it. We ate dessert before dinner. And we jumped on the bed rather than napping beneath its covers.  The laughter came naturally, but our unconventional conversations did not. On Backwards Day, we practiced the art of reverse dialogue. No meant yes, and yes meant no. Slow meant fast, and wait meant go.  It took me a while to master it, but eventually, I learned to turn affirmatives into stop signs and negatives into green lights. I said sure to hard work and no way to delight.  Sadly, we haven’t celebrated Backwards Day at our house for years. But when I peruse my prayer journal, I realize that God doesn't need a special holiday to practice speaking backwards. God is already the master of reverse dialogue.  I can see it in my own life through the lens of hindsight. Maybe you can spot it in your life, too.  God often tucks an unexpected yes in the folds of a disappointing no.  When I was a young teacher, I applied for a position that would allow me to serve students and still meet the needs of my growing family. I interviewed and prayed, waited and hoped; but God responded with a disappointing no. Yet, tucked into that no was an unexpected yes to staying home with my children and pursuing my dream of becoming a writer.  When my marriage was flailing and my pride was swelling, I asked God to change my husband. I even gave Him suggestions and timelines. But the Lord didn’t follow my advice. Instead, wrapped into His no was a yes to humbling my heart and recognizing the amazing man God had created my husband to be.  I’ve had seasons when God said no to changing my circumstances, so He could say yes to renewing my mind, times when He whispered no to my demand for answers so He could say yes to increasing my faith.  Let’s admit it. The idea of God’s backwards talk may sound whimsical and fun, but it’s hard to embrace His no’s when we can’t yet see His yeses. It’s challenging to trust His motives when we are disappointed by His methods.  That’s why, when we feel discouraged by His ways, we must choose to shift our gaze. Instead of staring at our confusion, we must fix our eyes on the cross.  After all, the cross is like the ultimate Backwards Day!  The Apostle Paul says it like this: “But think about this: while we were wasting our lives in sin, God revealed His powerful love to us in a tangible display the Anointed One died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Through the cross, God said no to the punishment we deserve and yes to the love we could never earn. Jesus purchased our life through His death. He bought our peace with His torment. He restored our joy with His anguish.  God’s methods may be mysterious, but His mercy is unchanging. And when we anchor our hope to the resounding “yes” of the cross, we realize we don’t need to make sense of His processes to hold fast to His promises.  We simply need to trust the One who filters every yes and every no through His unfathomable love.

Dear Jesus, help me to trust Your mercy rather than getting discouraged by Your mystery. Open my eyes to see the unexpected yeses You’ve tucked within Your disappointing no’s. Thank You for saying YES to loving me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY

John 3:16, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (NLT)

Isaiah 55:8, “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the LORD. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.’” (NLT)

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Re: Devotional
« Reply #50 on: December 25, 2019, 02:11:56 AM »
https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2019/01/03/surviving-our-seasons-of-suffering

Surviving Our Seasons of Suffering
Lysa TerKeurst
January 3, 2019

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

Have you ever walked through difficult circumstances that felt unending?

The kind that requires you to be longsuffering?

Longsuffering isn’t a word I want to be part of my story. It means having or showing patience despite troubles. And I don’t particularly want troubles to begin with let alone for any extended period of time.  Thankfully, today’s passage of Scripture offers us encouragement for when we’re not sure we can endure our season of suffering for one more second.  In Jeremiah 29, the children of Israel get news from the prophet Jeremiah that they are going to be held in captivity by Babylon for 70 years. Think about how long 70 years is. If we had to go to prison today for 70 years, for most of us, that would mean we’d probably die in captivity. Seventy years feels impossibly long, incredibly unfair and horribly hard. It would seem like a lifetime hardship without a lifeline of hope.  But here’s what God told the people of Israel: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place” (Jeremiah 29:10).

This is the scene and the setting where we then get these familiar and glorious promises I love to cling to:  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you ....” (Jeremiah 29:11‒14).

God is assuring His people that His thoughts and intentions toward them are fixed and established. His plans are for their “welfare” (šālôm), not for hurt. His sure and steady promise is one of restoration.  But He also reminds them of what they must do as they await the fulfillment of His promise. They need to call on Him. They need to intentionally and wholeheartedly seek Him.  When we seek God, we see God. We don’t see His physical form, but we see Him at work and can start to see more of what He sees. Trust grows. If our hearts are willing to trust Him, He will entrust to us more of His perspective.  If we want to see Him in our circumstances and see His perspective, we must seek Him, His ways and His Word. That’s where we find His good plans and promises for hope and a future.  If we find ourselves in an incredibly disappointing place a place we don’t want to be it’s easy to start feeling that some of God’s good plans don’t apply to us. We can even lapse into the mentality that we somehow slipped through the cracks of God’s good plans.  But the truth is, God is closer than we often realize. He sees things we don’t see, and He knows things we don’t know. He has a perspective from where He is that allows Him to see all things the past, the present and the future from the day we are conceived to the day we breathe our last breath, and even beyond that into eternity. He declares He is our rescuer. He is the One who will sustain us. And He is more than able to bring His plans to pass. (Isaiah 46:3-11)  All of these things were true for the Israelites. And they’re true for us.  For the Israelites, the news that they would be in captivity for 70 years was absolute reality. But the truth that God had a good plan and a purpose not to harm them but to give them a future and a hope that promise was very much in process all the while they were in captivity.  This is how we, too, can trust God in the midst of our longsuffering journeys: by having a higher perspective in our present realities.  Let’s cry out to Him in the midst of our suffering. Let’s earnestly seek Him and ask Him to help us look at our circumstances through the lens of His love instead of a lens of disillusionment and disappointment. We are not forgotten or forsaken. And our longsuffering won’t seem nearly as long or nearly as painful when we know God’s perspective is to use every single second of our suffering for good.

Father God, thank You for reminding me I can trust You in the waiting. I know I can entrust every season of my life into Your hands. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY

Isaiah 46:4, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (NIV)

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Re: Devotional
« Reply #51 on: December 28, 2019, 11:15:53 PM »
https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2019/01/04/setting-a-pace-that-complements-god's-purposes

Setting a Pace That Complements God's Purposes
January 4, 2019
Katy McCown

“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus ....” Hebrews 12:1b-2a (NLT)

Yes! The word slipped out of my mouth before I had time to think through the commitment all the way.  As one year ended and dreams of what could be in the new year dangled in my thoughts, my sister called me with an idea. Let’s run a half-marathon, she suggested. She sounded optimistic and excited, so with hardly any consideration at all, I offered to accompany her on this daunting journey.  I’d never run a half-marathon, but I had run some shorter races in the past. Sure, those races were three miles instead of 13, but I had finished every one of them. And though it had been nearly a decade since the last time I ran a race, this seemed like just the thing to get me going again.  Oh, and did I mention I had just birthed my sixth child about three months before I said yes to this?

This story has all the makings of an underdog-turned-champion ending, but unfortunately, that’s not how it ended for me. After only a few weeks of training, I quit. It turns out you have to do a lot of running to train for a half-marathon. And it also turns out I don’t like running that much.  But even though I never ran the race, I did learn something in those few weeks of training.  During the first days of my training, I set out with one thing in mind: Finish the number of miles I’m required to run today. In order to do that, I set my pace slow. Some might say very slow. Okay, a fast walker probably could have passed me. But I knew my limits, and I knew in order to finish the number of miles on the training plan for that day, I had to take it slow.  But after a few days, my confidence grew, and I decided it was time to pick up the pace. I even timed myself. That’s what serious runners do, right?

For several days I tried this approach and every day the same thing happened. A few miles into each run, I would wear out and couldn’t force myself to keep going. The faster pace demanded energy and strength I didn’t have, and it kept me from completing what I set out to accomplish. I couldn’t finish.  In today’s key verse we read about a race set before us by God. We’re encouraged to run that race with endurance, but we’re also told how that is possible: “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2a).

The Greek word translated “keeping” is amphorae and means to turn your eyes away from other things and fix them on something. Our key verse gives us the place to fix our eyes: Jesus.  The first step to keeping our eyes on Jesus is to identify the things we need to turn our eyes away from.  As a new year dawns, it can be easy to become fixed on new hopes and expectations. Maybe this is the year we’ll become more organized or the year we will finally run that half-marathon. But ultimately, all of those things can become distractions if they draw our attention away from our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Whatever goal we set our sights on achieving, without Jesus as our focal point, we risk running in the wrong direction or at the wrong speed.  So, as we stand at the starting line of this new year, let’s remember this: When we set our pace correctly, we can go a lot farther than we think. But when we set our pace too fast, we wear out and can’t finish the race. With Jesus as our focal point, we can be sure He will set our pace correctly.  Jesus’ pace may not always agree with ours. He may slow us when we want to speed up. He may move us when we’d rather stay put. But Jesus will always perfect our faith and lead us to the finish line. (Hebrews 12:2b)

Dear Jesus, I want to run the race marked out for me in 2019 with my eyes fixed on You. Set my pace that it may complement, not compete with, Your purposes. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
     
TRUTH FOR TODAY

Proverbs 4:25, “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.” (ESV)

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Re: Devotional
« Reply #52 on: January 05, 2020, 02:58:21 AM »
https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2019/01/07/i-need-a-new-spiritual-wardrobe

I Need a New Spiritual Wardrobe
January 7, 2019
Suzie Eller

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3 (KJV)

I was flying out of town for a week of work. A few minutes before leaving for the airport, I glanced at my airline ticket and saw a code I didn’t recognize. I did a quick check, and to my dismay, discovered the code meant I couldn’t bring any type of luggage with me. I was limited to a small backpack that could fit under the seat.  What could I do?

Tucking what I could in a small backpack, I then started improvising. I put on two pairs of pants. One camisole. Two shirts. A sweater and a jacket. Two pairs of socks. My hope was to mix and match and wash each day’s outfit in the hotel sink.  An hour later when I climbed on the small plane, it felt suffocating. I expected TSA to pull me from my seat at any moment for being a rule-breaker. When I finally arrived at my destination, I couldn’t wait to get to the hotel room and throw off the burden of the extra clothes.  That was a one-time experience, but there are times I sometimes wear heavy spiritual garments like disillusionment, a critical spirit or an overwhelmed heart.  These “garments” don’t serve a purpose. They aren’t what I want to wear, especially for years at a time. Thankfully, I don’t have to keep them on because my heavenly Father offers something so much better.  In Isaiah 61, God notices the Israelites’ affliction. Through the prophet Isaiah, God promises that one day they would exchange mourning and sadness for something new.  “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3).

Mourning would be replaced with the oil of joy. Sadness would transform into a garment of praise.  When I was on the airplane struggling under the weight of so many clothes, I wished I had paid a higher price for a regular ticket. It would have been a sacrifice, but it would have also brought relief.  When we carry the weight of unresolved grief, pain, hurt or disillusionment, the price of freedom has already been paid for us. Though we may have worn these heavy garments for a season, we’re not required to wear them forever.  Our heavenly Father paved the way, through His Son, Jesus, to throw off those weights and receive an exquisite covering of forgiveness, healing, wholeness, and love. As we receive that gift, Jesus exchanges our hurts for joy.  Are you ready to exchange those unwanted garments for a garment of praise?

You are invited to walk freely into His presence, for He is your Source.

Dear Lord, we hold up these weighty garments that are ill-fitting and unwanted. Replace them with joy, with comfort and Your anointing. Thank You that You have paid the price so we might live un-constricted and free. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY

Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.” (NIV)

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Re: Devotional
« Reply #53 on: January 06, 2020, 10:20:11 PM »
https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2019/01/08/cut-free

Cut Free
January 8, 2019
Jen Wise

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV)

There’s a common struggle among women: the exhausting and unbearable task of removing sweaty gym clothes after a good workout.  Yes, I realize men sweat too — but it’s not the same; their clothes are so loose and stretchy. Ours are tight, contoured, made to hold it all in. That’s all fine and well until you’re exhausted, and the added layer of sweat adheres your top to your poor, fatigued body.  Recently at my gym, a few of us were lamenting this shared frustration when my friend Jill came around the corner, saying, “One time, I was so tired of trying to wrestle my sports bra off that I just grabbed the kitchen scissors and cut myself out.”

Jill is not a woman to be trifled with, friends.  I was still giggling about this as I walked home. I was also a bit in awe. It was a bold and admirable move. Though I would wrestle and sweat and contort and curse my sports bra, I would never, ever, consider chopping the thing off.  In fact, I do this with more than just my gym clothes.  I tend to engage in this on-again, off-again battle with cultural expectations. I hate feeling all this pressure, pressure to look a certain way, dress your children a certain way, act like this, decorate your house like that, travel here, work out there, DIY everything, get promoted, hire out help, eat this, never eat that, educate your children at home, at a public school, at a private school, at a Christian school, be Wonder Woman.  Some days, I resent trying to keep up with such a demanding lifestyle and appearance. The expectations are unending. I wrestle with them, fight them, and for a time, may temper them. But no matter how frustrating, I can’t seem to just cut them off. No matter how much I want to leave it all behind, I keep sweating through it. You’ve done this too, right?

What’s worse is that when we don’t measure up on any of these fronts, we feel ashamed, guilty, unworthy. When there’s a pile of unfolded laundry or our wardrobe is “lacking” or we’re passed up for a promotion, it can actually begin to shape how we view ourselves. And while we may blame culture for perpetuating unrealistic and unhealthy expectations, we can only blame ourselves for choosing to abide by them.  The question is: Why do we wrestle with these pressures when we could simply refuse them?

I wonder if there’s a part of us, deep down, that’s still searching for worth yet feeling plagued by the shame of our own imperfection. We can’t let go because we just aren’t sure we’ve found true love, true acceptance, true security. But, dear friends, we have.  Ephesians 2:4-5 tells us, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace you have been saved.”

Our worth is set high, off the charts, determined by Jesus’ great act of love, not some image of perfection we try to scrape together.  We can trust that we are wholly loved and fully valued, just as we are. We have nothing to prove. We can cling to what we know is true and believe it with our whole hearts, even deep down where fears and insecurities try to linger.  Sometimes, our greatest act of faith is ignoring the dust and the pile of unfolded laundry. Sometimes, our greatest act of faith is ignoring our chipped nail polish and two-day-old ponytail. Because it’s hard not to give in to the prevailing thought that our picturesque home and expert style determine our value.  We know who we are and to whom we belong. Our identity, value, and worth are not up for grabs. A messy kitchen doesn’t make me a bad person or make you a bad person, either. A bad hair day doesn’t diminish your status as a daughter of the King.  We don’t have to measure up to some arbitrary standard to earn love, acceptance or worth; we already have it. If you’ve been trying and trying, wrestling and sweating, why not just cut yourself free?

Dear God, thank You for Your unfailing love and unconditional acceptance. Help me to trust in it, to find rest in it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY

Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV)

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Re: Devotional
« Reply #54 on: January 06, 2020, 10:32:03 PM »
https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2019/01/09/how-to-live-poured-out-for-a-marriage-that-fills-you-up

How to Live Poured Out for a Marriage That Fills You Up
January 9, 2019
Jonathan Pitts

“... but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:7-8 (ESV)

“It wasn’t perfect, but it was intentional.”

Those are the words I spoke to my counselor after my wife, Wynter, suddenly passed away in my arms 15 years and one month after we made our marriage vows.  Her death was sudden. It was unexpected. And it was the last thing I was thinking about when I repeated back to the minister, “until death do us part.”

I knew that day would come, but I would never have imagined, nor would I have been able to comprehend, that it would arrive so soon. My daughters, ages 14, 11 and twin 9-year-olds, and I were left in a world of pain with a depth of loss that was unimaginable. They lost their wonderful mom. I lost my best friend. The only thing that carries us daily is the grace of God manifested in different ways and through His people.  “It wasn’t perfect, but it was intentional” were words I uttered for a very specific reason.

I was acknowledging the reality every married couple faces on a daily basis imperfection.  Wynter and I entered into our marriage with pretty glaring blemishes.  We were 23 years old when we married. We brought our past and all its layers of complication right into our first apartment. The more time we spent together and the more we weighed our marriage against God’s Word, the more we realized things would have to change.  And that’s what I meant by the second half of that phrase “we were intentional.” Our imperfections received season tickets into our new life together with free renewal every year, unless together we decided differently.  We weren’t naïve to think we could obtain perfection on our own, but we were both committed to pursuing what God had in mind when He created marriage in the first place. Oneness was our goal, and teamwork was our strategy.  I thank God now for the Holy Spirit’s strength to carry out those intentions, day by day, as His perfect grace covered our failures and honored our desires.  Intentionality looked different every day. Some days, it was me apologizing. Another day, it was Wynter telling me to go play a round of golf because she knew I needed the rest. Or I might tell her to go lie down while I cooked dinner or took the kids out to give her a few quiet hours. There were even days when she chose not to overreact to my grumpy and tired attitude, giving me grace to apologize before she brought it to my attention.  Among our most memorable moments were when we shared sushi on the couch for a TV binge session after the kids were in bed.  In every instance, it looked like deference. In every purposeful act, we chose to honor one another above ourselves, committing to lay down our own desires for our spouse’s needs. Often, it looked like giving up what we wanted for the good of each other. In our intentionality, we grew up together in Jesus and in friendship.  The day Wynter died will forever be stamped as a day of great paradox. Wynter passed from death to life around 7:45 p.m. that Tuesday evening, but in God’s great sovereignty, at 3:45 p.m. earlier that same day, I hit send on an e-mail to our publisher to approve the final, edited manuscript of the book that would document our marriage story. In it, we describe the only word that adequately explains the intentionality we sought in our marriage: emptied.  In Philippians 2:7, the Bible says Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant.” With perfect intentionality, in His love, Jesus gave up everything for you and me, even to death. His intentional emptying of Himself resulted in our perfect filling. Because He died, we now live. Because He emptied Himself, you and I can now be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Imperfectly but consistently, Wynter and I attempted to model our Savior. We daily chose to empty ourselves for each other. We gave up what we thought we were owed to give the best of what we had to offer. In that consistent intentionality, our me became we.  I’m reminded that only God gets to decide when our “book” will end. I’m not sure how long your book is, but I encourage you to make it a good one. Remember each day that the next is not promised and the one you have right now is the best one to experience the fullness of a poured-out marriage.

Heavenly Father, most days I’m more concerned about being filled than being emptied. Help me to see the great joy found in emptying myself for my spouse. I pray You would use my emptying to fill them up. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY

Hebrews 12:2, “... fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NIV)

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Re: Devotional
« Reply #55 on: January 06, 2020, 10:43:20 PM »
https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2019/01/10/before-i-say-yes-to-one-more-thing

Before I Say Yes to One More Thing
January 10, 2019
Lysa TerKeurst

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” Proverbs 14:8 (NIV)

I stood at the dirt mound watching ants. They were busy. I was not.  I was just a little girl stuck in the middle of a slow afternoon. Several of my friends had been invited to the community pool. Another friend was at camp for the week. Even my last resort, the pigtailed aggravation that lived in the apartment below, was busy. “She’s napping,” her mom had informed me.

I walked away thinking, She’s 6 years old. Only two years younger than me, and she still takes naps?

That's the awfullest thing a mom could do to her child. And this is the awfullest afternoon ever.  I sat on the swing of the playground behind our apartment complex. I scuffed the toes of my red sneakers, making lines in the dirt as I moved slowly back and forth. If a child could have died from boredom, I felt quite terminal at that moment.  Then I spotted the anthill.  I walked over and stood there. Just about the time I was thinking about how lucky all those ants were to have so many friends, I heard a scratchy little voice call out to me.  “I bet you won’t stick your foot through that anthill.”

Pigtail girl had woken up from her afternoon slumber. And for heaven’s sake, I would not, could not, be shamed by a girl who still took naps.  I knew in my mind I shouldn't kick the anthill. I knew in my heart I shouldn't kick the anthill. And I knew deep down in my soul I shouldn’t kick the anthill. Every part of me knew I should walk away from the anthill.  But some silly part of my mouth betrayed me.  “Yes, I will!” I declared as I kicked my foot into the middle of ant Hades.  It didn't take long to feel as if someone had lit 1,000 needles on fire and stabbed me mercilessly.  Since that day, I haven't kicked an anthill. At least not in the literal sense.  But I have gotten myself into situations where I invited trouble into my life that just didn't need to be there. Especially in the area of saying yes to something I absolutely should say no to.  I will know in my mind I should say no. I will know in my heart I should say no. I will know deep down in my soul I should say no.  But then my mouth will betray me, “Yes, of course, I will do that.”

And then?

The sting of the three D’s comes.  Dread.  As I write yet another thing on my schedule, I feel the weight of overload.  Disappointment.  In order to make this happen, I will disappoint someone.  Drama.  Dread and disappointment will ratchet my emotions to a tipping point. A tipping point that’s not healthy for me or those with whom I do life.  Here’s what I’m trying to preach to myself: Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should do it.  I kicked the anthill that day for three reasons … I thought it proved I was something. I thought it would impress nap girl. And I didn't think through the cost beforehand.  Proverbs 14:8a says, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways ...”

As a little girl on the playground, I was neither wise nor prudent. Thankfully I know now that God's wisdom is readily available.

I've learned if I pause before making an impulsive choice and ask God what to do, He will answer. In fact, He's given me some questions to ask myself that help me determine whether something is an assignment from Him or an anthill that will get me into trouble.

Before saying yes to one more thing on my schedule, I ask myself:

Am I trying to prove something?

Am I trying to impress someone?

Have I thought through the cost of saying yes?

It's not bad to say yes to opportunities. But we really should give thought to our ways and consider whether this is an assignment or an anthill.

Take the assignment if it's yours. But don’t kick the anthills.

Dear Lord, I’m asking for Your guidance as I discern assignments from anthills. Thank You for Your direction. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY

Isaiah 30:21, "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.'" (NIV)