Author Topic: Devotions  (Read 43779 times)

Pip

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #60 on: October 28, 2023, 02:15:36 PM »
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Nothing Else Satisfies
January 18, 2023
by Wendy Speake

“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” Jeremiah 31:25 (ESV)

When I was a young child, my mother dolled me up in homemade dresses and black patent-leather shoes and took me to church. Sometimes she’d let me skip my Sunday-school class and skip all the way into the main sanctuary with her.  Sliding down the sleek wooden pew, I’d settle in at her side. Familiar faces were all around me in our pew.  To my left was always the old man with bushy eyebrows who smelled of Aqua Velva and butterscotch candies. Not only did he always sit in the same place and smell of the same aftershave, but each time Communion was served, he’d pass the elements my way and say the very same words.  Taking a small piece of bread in his wrinkled hand, he’d lean down close and whisper with butterscotch breath, “Christ’s body was broken for you; take this in remembrance of Him.”

He would then place the bread in my hand and pass the silver tray to my mom, with a grandfatherly nod.  Similarly, when the grape juice was passed down our pew, he’d give me a miniature plastic cup and tell me what to do: “Christ’s blood was poured out for you; take this in remembrance of Him.”

Today, I still remember. I remember that memory, but most of all, I remember that God satisfied the payment for my sins.  Satisfied. What a beautiful word. God fulfilled every debt I owed. Paid in full. All my need for saving was fully satisfied the moment I believed that the gospel was true. However, if I’m honest, I don’t always remember to live satisfied. In recent years, I’ve found myself running to other things to fill my hungry heart. Bypassing my Bible, I've feasted on empty fillers that only reinforced the emptiness.  I know I’m not alone.  We are a generation of Jesus-hungry women who tend to misplace our spiritual hunger. We take our appetites to the wrong stuff all fluff false fillers that never fulfill.  In the mornings we reach over our Bibles and pick up our phones. We scroll through social media, then make ourselves a cup of coffee. When emotions well up midafternoon, we take our angst to the wrong wells broken wells that don’t satisfy. We go from sugar high to sugar high instead of turning to the Most High. With a phone in one hand and a fork in the other, we consume all day long, but we never have the time to ingest the Truth in our Bibles.  Then, when we find ourselves utterly weary and heavy laden (on the backside of another caffeine crash), we hop on over to Amazon Prime, or we hop in our car and drive to Target, only to miss the bull’s-eye again.  None of those things has ever satisfied. We were made for more. We were made for God. And our Bibles are where we will find Him. It is time for us to open up God’s Word and feast! The One who satisfied our outstanding debt all those years ago does an outstanding job of satisfying us still.  There is a feast that satisfies. Christ, who satisfied our eternal debt, is more than able to satisfy every hunger we have today.  The feast is already on the table. Don’t rush past it today. Pull up a chair, open your Bible, and dig in.

Pip

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #61 on: October 31, 2023, 05:46:39 PM »
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Broken Crayons Still Color
January 25, 2023
by Toni Collier

“‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’” John 8:11b-c (NIV)

One evening after dinner, I walked into the living room to a pretty wild scene.  All over the floor in mini piles were crayons that looked like they’d gotten into a fight. My preschool-age daughter, Dylan, had peeled off their paper wrappers and broken each and every last crayon.  When I asked why she’d ruined all the crayons, she just looked at me and said, “Mommy, color.”

Later, as I was on my knees scraping up the crayons, I broke down exhausted, alone and in tears. This wasn’t about crayons; it was about a life that had come crashing down into broken pieces of despair broken like the crayons scattered on our carpet.  I’d been let go from a church that had promised me a promotion and raise a few months earlier. Countless nights had been spent shuffling through divorce papers because I couldn’t afford a lawyer. Looking at my finances and the bills I would now be carrying as a single mom, I didn’t see a way out of this valley of complete darkness.  Thinking back on Dylan’s comment “Mommy, color” I realized she was saying, “Yeah, I broke the crayons, Mom, but they still work!”

Here I was in a valley, thinking that my brokenness discounted me. And yet there are stories all throughout the Bible showing broken people, including broken women, whom God rescues and welcomes.  There’s a hard but beautiful story in the Bible that shows a picture of Jesus’ desire to choose those of us who struggle to see our value. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who was caught in adultery to the temple courts where Jesus was. Could you imagine being caught in the very act of some of your biggest mistakes, arrested on the spot, and dragged to a public setting to be killed?

“When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  4At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’  ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin’” (John 8:7-11, NIV).

You see what just happened?

He flipped the script.  Not only did Jesus create accountability for the public shaming, but He also chose to show love to a woman who, to her community, was blemished and worthy of death. Her brokenness didn’t discount her access to, and love from, the Savior of the universe.  When you decide to bring your hurts into the light, hope and healing can be yours. Through this act of choosing the woman in John 8, Jesus is showing us today that He chooses you and me as well. Jesus is choosing you right now. The question is: Will you be brave enough to fight for your greatest hope by fighting through your greatest hurt?

We all have things that have deeply hurt us, things we need to heal from. We need restoration and true freedom. Our childhood wounds can be transformed into adult scars that are healed and sealed.  You can absolutely look at all your past mistakes, your past pain, the parts of your story that you just want to forget, and declare that they don’t get to have the final say in your life. That’s exactly what Jesus did when He died for you declaring that those things don’t get the final say, but God does. And, friend, He’s not done with you yet. Broken crayons still color!

Pip

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #62 on: November 04, 2023, 06:07:22 PM »
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Is Everything OK in Your Heart?
January 30, 2023
by Andy Stanley

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

We spend a good deal of time teaching our children to monitor their behavior. But what about guarding their hearts?

The Old Testament book of Proverbs is filled with extraordinary wisdom. That so much good advice is packed into this ancient document is all the more reason the following statement should cause us to sit up straight and pay attention:  “Above all else, guard your heart …” (Proverbs 4:23).

Not our wallets?

Our purses?

Our daughters?

Why our hearts? And why “above all else”?

“… for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Think about that. Everything we do on the outside originates on the inside. If that’s true, then, by all means, we should pay attention to what’s going on inside. Jesus agreed. He said this:  “For out of the heart come evil thoughts murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19, NIV).

According to Jesus, these sins originate in our hearts. They come from within. That being the case, we would do well to guard our hearts. The problem is: No one taught us how to do that.  One evening as I was putting Andrew, my son, to bed, I decided to take the direct route. Andrew was probably 6 years old at the time. We had already prayed and were chatting about the events of the day. Right before I got up to leave, I put my hand on his chest and said, “Andrew, is everything OK in your heart?”

Andrew smiled and said, “Yes, sir, Daddy.”

That became a bedtime routine I eventually did with all three of our children. I decided the first step to guarding their hearts was to help them get in the habit of paying attention to what was going on in there. Over time I added several other questions. Eventually, the list looked like this:

    Is everything OK in your heart?
    Did anybody hurt your feelings today?
    Are you mad at anybody?
    Are you worried about anything?
    Did anybody break a promise to you today?
    Is there anything you want to tell me, but you’re not sure how?

One night I was working through my list with my daughter Allie, and for some reason, I added, “Is there anybody whose failure you would secretly celebrate?”

She was so young at the time that I wasn’t sure she would understand the question. Her response shocked me.  She immediately blurted out a name. Fortunately, it wasn’t one of her brothers. But it was one of her brother’s friends.  I said, “Allie, do you know what that question means?”

She said, “Yes, sir, Daddy. It means if they didn’t do good at something, I would be happy about it.”

Turns out she had something lodged in her heart that needed unlodging. So every once in a while, I would toss that question into the mix.  This was our routine for years. These questions became so ingrained that one night, as I was putting Allie to bed, she lay down, closed her eyes and said, “Daddy, everything is OK in my heart. Nobody hurt my feelings. I’m not mad at anybody. I’m not worried. And nobody broke a promise. Good night.”

The questions we most often ask our children communicate what’s most important to us and what we’re convinced should be most important to them.  For our entire lives, we’ve been encouraged to monitor our behavior. But if Jesus is correct, guarding our hearts may be more important than monitoring our behavior. His Word is filled with guidance related to behavior, but at the same time, He instructs us to get in the habit of paying attention to what’s swirling around on the inside because what’s on the inside doesn’t stay there. Our hearts direct our behavior.  And the author of that statement from Proverbs isn’t wrong. The condition of our children’s hearts is “above all things” (Proverbs 4:23) because their emotional health determines their relational health and, ultimately, their behavior and their lives.

Pip

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #63 on: November 08, 2023, 05:28:05 PM »
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God’s Pursuit of Us
February 1, 2023
by Kia Stephens

“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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17 (NIV)

“God is an ageless romancer” were the words of the beloved Bible teacher at an all-female retreat.

Her words took me by surprise and appealed to my heart. I have always been a hopeless romantic a sucker for rom-coms, Christmas movies on Lifetime, and happily-ever-after endings.  Having grown up in church, I often heard God described as Father, Friend, Way-Maker and Wonderful Counselor, to name a few. These names were easy to accept as true, but “romancer” was a bit difficult to embrace.  I'd reserved the word “romance” for men on white horses who slayed villains and rescued damsels in distress. Romancers were Prince Charmings in tuxedos, with roses in one hand and chocolates in the other. When I imagined a romancer, I didn’t imagine God.  But over the course of the weekend retreat, God began to enlarge my understanding of romance. This word isn’t limited to novels and date nights. This word encompasses God’s tremendous love and His relentless pursuit of humanity. I saw it throughout Scripture.

God pursued Adam and Eve after they sinned in the garden of Eden. (Genesis 3)
God pursued Hagar when she ran away from her problems. (Genesis 16)
God pursued Elijah when he ran from Ahab and Jezebel. (1 Kings 18-19)
God pursued Paul on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9)

And God pursues us.  Motivated by unexplainable love, God pursues humanity. No matter our state in life married, single, dating, living for God or running from Him God seeks to win the affection of our hearts by relentlessly and faithfully pursuing us.  We see a clear depiction of this pursuit in our key verses, John 3:16-17: “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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

The love John refers to in this scripture is agape love, which is sacrificial and considered the highest form of love that exists. This love was costly for God, but He pursued us through the radical act of sacrificing His Son. God’s love is unmatched and far greater than any box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers.  And even more astounding is that God demonstrated His lavish and sacrificial love while we were sinners. He pursued us while we weren’t thinking about Him. His actions on our behalf overshadow the man on the white horse. Once and for all, God valiantly saved humankind from the spiritual villain Satan when we were in distress.  But God’s pursuit of us did not end with Christ's sacrificial death and resurrection. For all our days, He will continue to pursue us with His unexplainable love.  If you long to be romanced and pursued, may this be an encouragement: You are the object of God’s affection. He has relentlessly pursued and will continue to pursue you.

Pip

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #64 on: November 12, 2023, 05:26:16 PM »
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Is My Speech Sweetened With Grace?
February 3, 2023
by Beth Knight

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24 (ESV)

The words came tumbling out of my mouth like boulders in a rock slide barreling down a sharp cliff. One by one, they rolled off my tongue toward their unsuspecting victim: my dear husband.  In front of my kitchen sink, I stood tall upon my list of grievances: the leftover coffee cups forming a community on our bathroom counter, the clothes piled on the floor beside the laundry basket, and the dishwasher he forgot to start yet again.  On and on I droned when suddenly a sound interrupted my self-righteous rant:  Drip.  Drip.  Drip.  The kitchen faucet that had remained silent during my tirade gently spoke up to remind me that “a quarrelsome wife is like [a] constant dripping” (Proverbs 19:13, NIV).

My lips merged into a guilty grin as I thought, Holy Spirit, why do You have to call me out like that?!

Proverbs 16:24 says, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

Personally, the sweetest words I’ve ever heard are found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus tasted the bitter wrath of God on my behalf so my soul could taste the sweetness of His grace. And because I’ve been saved by grace, I’m called to live and speak with grace.  But why do I so easily fall short of this calling and speak words dripping with sarcasm, anger or an unquenchable desire to be right?

Well, like most of my troubles, it begins inside my heart. Luke 6:45 warns, “out of the abundance of the heart [the] mouth speaks” (ESV).

So the ungracious thoughts I’ve secretly stored inside will eventually make their way toward my mouth, spilling over onto unsuspecting family and friends or the neighbor I’m called to love.  That day in the kitchen was no exception. My ungracious words flowed directly from the thoughts and grumblings that had been stirring inside my heart over the previous days and weeks. I’d been exhausted, overwhelmed and anxious. And instead of focusing on all the wonderful things my husband does for our family, I’d been focusing on minor irritations I could’ve easily overlooked.  Friend, does your heart ache just like mine when you wish you’d been more careful with your words?

No one wants to be the wife, mom, family member or friend who is quarrelsome or uncharitable toward others in thought or speech.  We desire to make our homes sanctuaries of safety from the harshness of this world. Yet we are fallible and prone to weariness, making us vulnerable to taking out our frustrations on the ones we love most.  Speech sweetened with grace will only overflow from a heart overwhelmed by God’s grace. Therefore, our only hope is to approach God’s throne of grace daily with confidence, (Hebrews 4:16) trusting Him to flood our hearts with the mercy and grace we desperately need.  Faces lift, shoulders soften and hearts heal when gracious words are spoken. Today, may we let God’s grace wash over our souls so our speech will be healing and sweet, drenching others with the love of Christ we have first received.

Pip

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #65 on: November 15, 2023, 12:46:53 PM »
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Letting Go of Lonely
February 8, 2023
by Denise Pass

“O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.” Psalm 38:9 (ESV)

Reaching for the tub of ice cream in the freezer, I settled for a movie night to soothe my lonely soul. But extra calories and escaping into someone else’s story could not satisfy the ache in my heart.  Loneliness was still waiting for me the next morning. Comfort food was not what my soul needed. I needed God to be my comfort.  Loneliness relentlessly followed me wherever I went because it was in my mind. Loneliness surrounded me even in a crowded room and made me feel like everyone knew I was alone.  Then I saw her. Another lonely woman like me: Hagar. Running away from her lonely, harsh circumstances, she found herself alone in the desert yet seen by God. “You are the God who sees me …” she said (Genesis 16:13, NIV).

Then God sent her right back to the lonely place she came from. (Genesis 16:9)  What?! (Insert tire screech.)

That kind of deliverance does not make sense to me. I feel God’s rescue should have removed her from the lonely place she escaped and should have surrounded her with people who loved her. But there in that holy, lonely place, Hagar let go of loneliness and held on to God.  God’s deliverance is often through life’s pain rather than around it.  What can we learn from this?

Loneliness is not a place. It is a state of mind. God wants to meet us in our loneliness just like He met Hagar.  God’s deliverance wasn’t just that He saw her; it was that Hagar was no longer alone. God’s presence gave her strength to return to a hard place. She could live loved, knowing God was enough.  Similarly, King David knew God saw him in his suffering too. His friends had abandoned him, but God hadn’t. David wrote our key verse, which says:  “O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you” (Psalm 38:9).

David did not give in to his loneliness. He fought through it by crying out to God and found himself comforted.  So how does being seen and known by God help us?

We are never alone.  We are significant.  We are accepted unconditionally.  We are loved by God.  Living loved isn’t a matter of location or situation it is a matter of the mind that impacts our souls.  Now, rather than feeling lonely, I feel cherished. Lonely moments are now embraced places of solitude where I run and hide away with God. I have learned that nothing can comfort me like being still in His presence.  And I’ve also learned that loneliness is not dependent upon a relationship status. We can be lonely when we are single or married, divorced or widowed. Loneliness is not a respecter of persons.  But, friend, the good news is that our loneliness is seen by God. So we are never truly alone. Let’s live loved because we are.

Pip

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #66 on: November 21, 2023, 02:40:13 PM »
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Come … Bare Your Soul
February 15, 2023
by Rachel Marie Kang

“But the LORD God called to the man, 'Where are you?'” Genesis 3:9 (NIV)

I have a welcome mat by my home’s front door that reads: Bare your soles.  As in, bare your (feet) soles, but also bare that actual soul of yours. Smooth out that wrinkle on your forehead, calm your beating heart, and come to stillness, to presence.  The mat at my door is like a welcome sign that beckons visitors to walk and enter through, all barefoot and barely breathing, all desperate for a couch to catch their tired bodies.  I cannot help but think of how the same is true of a blank page, a blank canvas or an empty stage they are all invitations that bid:  Come.  Bare your soul.  On the blank canvas, page or stage, you are welcome to create. You are welcome to bare your heart, the very words buried within. You can create in confidence, all while withholding criticism, as you work through the wandering and the wondering of your soul.  Thinking back to the garden of Eden, to our beginning, it’s so vital to know that God’s call for humans to bravely bare their hearts was not meant to instill condemnation leading to hopelessness. Rather, it was to inspire confession leading to hope.  In Genesis 3:9-13, after they had sinned, God called to Adam and Eve, asking, “Where are you? … Who told you that you were naked? … What is this you have done?” (NIV).

With these questions, these invitations to tell truth, God presented His presence. God established Himself as an eternal audience of one, ever listening and leaning in to the laments of our living, loving and losing.  God is still that safe place indeed, He is the safest. And He welcomes our stories, our honest words and artful songs and poems and posts and paint-filled pieces.  Could it be that black ink on blank pages might help make sense of all that doesn’t make sense in the world?

Could it be that baking cakes and stretching limbs long toward lofty skies might help release peace into every unseen piece of our lives?

We write and sing and dance that we might experience the exhale of God again, the sigh and sound of His voice that reminds us of His plan to fill our lives with light. Yes, by way of art, we can stand bare before a God who does not badger or beat the truth out of us. He is a gentle, whispering God standing with, not against, His people through it all. He moves us to breathe a brave release to confess and gradually push back our darkest memories and moments.  God calls for you and also comes to you, telling you it is OK to bare all of who you are even the parts that need forgiveness and healing and through Him, you can become new in spite of it.

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #67 on: November 28, 2023, 04:48:33 PM »
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How God Shows Us the Path We Can’t See
February 24, 2023
by Abby McDonald

“He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them water as abundant as the seas; he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers.” Psalm 78:15-16 (NIV)

I was lost again, driving in circles in our new town for the hundredth time. My phone’s GPS was just as confused as I was. When I consulted it for directions, my location didn’t even appear on the map.  After trying to reroute, I called my husband to ask for help. He had worked in the area for several months before we purchased a home there and was familiar with parts of town I hadn’t explored.  Later that week, he encouraged me to learn several routes to get to the same place. That way, I would know multiple ways to get home, even when I was detoured or my GPS failed. But for years, I didn’t follow his advice. I knew one route to my destination, and if I couldn't take that route, I was completely disoriented.  Sometimes this same type of thinking overtakes my spiritual life. I have a specific need or request in mind, and I map out the steps to fulfill the need. But because life and God do not adhere to my well-laid-out plans, I often encounter a detour.  My obsession with getting from point A to point B keeps me from seeing there are multiple ways God can provide what I need. We serve a God who creates roads unknown to any GPS, but my limited vision keeps my eyes locked on my way.  In Psalm 78, Asaph recounts countless miracles God performed after delivering Israel from Egypt. He used the most unlikely circumstances to show His power and created a way in one impossible situation after another:  “He split the rocks in the wilderness and gave them water as abundant as the seas; he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers” (Psalm 78:15-16).

But even though the Israelites repeatedly witnessed God’s miraculous power, they wandered in the desert for 40 years. Like me, they roamed in circles. And when they finally got to the promised land, they sent spies to scout it and were fearful of entering because of the army they would face. (Numbers 13-14) Instead of remembering their God who makes a way, they only saw the opposition.

How do we remember we serve a God of limitless possibilities?

When we only see one solution to our problem, how do we shift our focus toward the God of infinite vision?

Honest confession. When we tell Him how we’re feeling and what our hang-ups are, He often answers in ways we can’t comprehend.  Following the outline of many of the psalms, my prayers go something like this:

    An honest admission to God about what I’m feeling.
    A call for God to open my eyes to the truth.
    A recognition of God’s unfailing love.
    A decision to praise God despite the roadblock I’m facing.

Here’s the miracle: When I practice this in my daily life, God opens my eyes and shows me the path I can’t see on my own. My admission of my lack shows me new possibilities in Him.  God won’t leave us stuck when we come to Him with an honest plea for guidance. He longs to be our Guide. And when we come to Him, He just might show us a path we’ve never seen before, overflowing with hope and opportunity.

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #68 on: December 02, 2023, 05:22:48 PM »
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Having Anxiety or Depression Doesn’t Mean Your Faith Is Flawed
March 3, 2023
by Bonnie Gray

“.... I have loved you with an everlasting love ....” Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

Out of the blue, as a new mom, I started having panic attacks, debilitating insomnia and anxiety and I didn’t know why.  On top of that, I found it hard to confess I was struggling emotionally because people might question my faith. They might accuse me of not trusting God enough or just tell me worry was a sin. If I told them I was feeling numb, lonely, anxious or depressed, they might say I just wasn’t praying enough, reading the Bible enough or applying Scripture correctly.  But mental health issues happen to everyday people even to believers who have strong faith and godly community. I know because it happened to me.  Unfortunately, some Christians did make me feel ashamed about my emotional struggles. But as I discovered God’s view on healing, I realized my hardship wasn't caused by flawed faith. It was others’ views toward mental health and faith that were incorrect.  Still, I didn’t want anyone to think I was broken, so I kept quiet and prayed it would go away.  But God wanted to heal me, not shame me.  My PTSD therapist told me a soldier doesn’t experience trauma when he’s fighting on the battlefield but when he’s finally home safe to face what was too difficult to process at the time. It’s a function of the human nervous system, designed by God to protect us when hurt, fear or loss is too overwhelming.  I’d never experienced physical abuse. But what my therapist said next changed everything: “Did you know emotional abuse has the same impact as physical abuse? Emotional wounds need healing too.”

Feeling emotionally broken is not a sign that your faith is weak. In fact, seeking healing for your heart may be the most powerful act of faith God is calling you to today.  To encourage you, here are three myths and truths that I discovered as I researched Scripture during my own healing journey:

    Myth: Jesus commanded us not to worry, so if you worry, you are failing God and disappointing Him.

    Truth: Jesus tells us not to worry because He cares about us. He’s lovingly concerned about how worry affects our well-being.

In Matthew 6:25, Jesus encourages us not to worry because God promises to provide for us just as He does for the birds and flowers. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect or worry-free, and He understands why we worry. He tells us not to worry because, out of His unconditional love, He doesn’t want us to live a life ruled by worry or fear. He comforts us in all our troubles. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) The more we learn to run into His arms, the less worry owns us.

    Myth: If you don’t have peace or joy, you must not be trusting God enough.

    Truth: Emotional honesty is part of faith, as is the intimate act of trusting God with your real self instead of hiding how you feel or trying to do more.

Jesus whispers, “Don’t hide.”

He invites us to come and rest, (Matthew 11:28) whether we’re weary, anxious, angry or stressed. Jesus tells us to come as we are imperfectly His.

    Myth: If you read God’s Word more, pray more, praise more and give thanks more, you’ll have peace surpassing all understanding.

    Truth: Faith is not emotional amnesia. Faith in God gives us the courage to face the brokenness of life and seek healing for the losses we’ve suffered.

Jesus Himself obeyed, prayed, praised and gave thanks perfectly. Yet He suffered emotional anguish, overwhelmed by impending physical and emotional abuse, abandonment and betrayal: He said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34, NIV).

You matter to God, and how you feel matters to God. In Jeremiah 31:3, He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

Especially when you’ve been hurt, He wants to take care of you with His powerful, healing presence.  Moving by faith with Jesus toward wellness is unique to each woman. For some, healing with Jesus means being more honest when we pray and receiving God’s comfort instead of hiding our emotions. Healing may involve asking Jesus to give you courage to draw healthy boundaries in toxic relationships so you can flourish instead of living in constant stress and fear.  Healing with Jesus also includes breaking the code of silence. When we share with faith-filled women for support, encouragement and prayer, our hearts heal. And if you, like me, have suffered emotional trauma or loss, God can give you strength and wisdom to investigate and heal your wounds with the help of a Christian therapist or counselor.  God’s Word will give you strength to heal, with His hand holding yours. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18, NIV)

Let God love you. You are beloved.

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #69 on: December 06, 2023, 12:11:22 PM »
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Willing and Waiting
March 10, 2023
by Carrie Zeilstra, COMPEL Training Member

“Yet I am confident I will see the LORD’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.” Psalm 27:13-14 (NLT)

My favorite photo of me with my son is far from the best picture of the two of us. It’s not Instagram-worthy or even very flattering.  But whenever I see this particular picture, I remember the moment it was taken childlike giggles tumbling out of me, tears of joy caught in my eyelashes, and my heart feeling light in that moment. To me, this is a picture of God’s goodness.  Nearly two years before my husband snapped that picture, we had experienced the loss of our infant daughter.  Grief overwhelmed me. My family would never be complete on this side of heaven, so I couldn’t imagine happiness on this earthly soil. In an effort to make sense of it all, I formed a belief that God’s goodness must be reserved for heaven. That life on this earth was meant to be survived like a prison sentence.  In the months following the loss of my daughter, God drew me to the psalms in Scripture. I craved the real and raw writings of poets like David, who lamented to the Lord yet also chose to worship Him. I felt my soul connect with David. But then I got to these verses:  “Yet I am confident I will see the LORD’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD” (Psalm 27:13-14).

How could he make such a claim? Was this true just for him? Was this promise of seeing the Lord’s goodness on this side of heaven meant for me too?

With a doubt-filled spirit, I wrote out these two verses and asked God to prove Himself. Show me Your goodness, Lord, I prayed. Each day, I read the verses out loud. There were days my voice held a hint of sarcasm.  But little by little, the goodness of the Lord started to show up. In my son’s giggles. In the arms of my husband. In the beauty of creation. In moments of authentic conversation over coffee.  I started to realize the Lord’s goodness had been surrounding me all along. Perhaps David wasn’t claiming a change in his circumstances. He was willing his heart to see what was already there. And he was waiting for God to display His goodness again. Willing and waiting.  These verses started to chip away at the negativity of my soul. I started to be willing to see the Lord’s goodness and even anticipate it.  God’s goodness does exist on earth because God is good. Despite my circumstances, my hurts and my fickle feelings.  Whenever I walk through a difficult season, my pessimistic mind often anticipates the worst. But the Holy Spirit uses David’s words, and my favorite photo, to remind me that even in hard times, this side of eternity is filled with God’s goodness.  I need only to be willing and waiting to see it.

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #70 on: December 09, 2023, 04:33:48 PM »
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When It’s Not Your Day
March 13, 2023
by Karen Wingate

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

After rounding the first corner of a fitted sheet over my mattress, I moved to the second corner but discovered I had started with the short end. Rotating the sheet, I tried again. But as I smoothed the second corner, the first popped off. Ugh!  I jerked at the sheet in frustration, muttering, “Not my day.”

Wait a minute. Where did that come from?

Had I not written to my Facebook friends about the joy of the morning just hours before?

"It’s a beautiful morning. Sun shining, cool breeze, birds singing, warm mug of coffee.  Happy moment!”

Yet suddenly, my mouth spouted words that categorized the entire day as bad because of one obstinate bedsheet.  In the scheme of things, a fitted sheet is a blip on life’s radar. And no matter what struggles enter my day, I don't need to default to a “bad day” mentality. God is still on the throne, He is good, He loves me, and His blessings embrace every aspect of my life.  Still I catch myself thinking those irrelevant, negative phrases more often than I care to admit:  You always do that.  They’ll never change.  I’m not good enough.  I can never do anything right.  I know they’re not true. And I could wave my thoughts aside, justifying them in the emotion of the moment, but the problem is, if you and I say or think those negative ideas often enough, they become like tiny seeds that germinate and take root in the well-watered corners of our memories. Soon, the same thought comes more frequently with greater intensity, and we accept as truth what is actually a lie our enemy would have us believe.  I like the how-to advice Paul gave the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Why should we destroy and imprison arguments and statements that go against what God says?

Because if we don’t, they are free to run wild. They’ll take up residence in our brains. Eventually we'll say them, and those who hear us will be infected too. Those casual, untrue statements are as unwholesome as any foul language and do nothing to build up our faith or benefit those who overhear us. (Ephesians 4:29)

We can’t prevent those thoughts from sounding in our brains, but we can refuse to mull over them. Think about the imagery Paul used: “take captive every thought.”

Like putting up a blockade to divert unwanted traffic, we have the choice to confine our negative thoughts and false words. We refuse to let the thoughts continue; in fact, we walk away from their influence.  Another of Paul’s letters encourages us to keep our minds focused on what is true, just, lovely and admirable. (Philippians 4:8) As you read that, you might think, But my thoughts are true! Just not always positive.  If that’s you, consider this: Looking at the positive or lovely reveals just as much truth as looking at the negative side of things so why not balance our talk with positive words?

I considered this as I took a breath and unclenched the sheet in my fists. It was my day. More importantly, it was God’s day because He made it. Nothing had to separate me from thoughts about the great love God has for me not even a fitted bedsheet.  You don’t have to let unruly negative talk infect your day either. Fight back with the words God has spoken about who He is and who you are through Him.

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #71 on: December 21, 2023, 10:52:41 AM »
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Where Ministry Begins
March 24, 2023
by Meredith Houston Carr

“As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’” Mark 5:18-19 (NIV)

“Mom! I know what I want to be when I grow up!” My daughter’s eyes sparkled as she continued, “A famous YouTube star!”

I blinked a few times and tried to cover my surprise at her answer. “OK. Famous for what, exactly?”

“Who knows?! But I’ll have a million subscribers and then I can tell them all about Jesus!”

She skipped off, and I chuckled, relieved that Jesus factored into her YouTube plans.  Smiling, I thought of my own childhood desire for visibility. (Star Search, anyone?) I’d sit glued to the TV during awards shows, amazed and inspired when someone with a large platform spoke of their love for Jesus and I imagined one day doing the same thing.  But that day, as I returned to the mountain of laundry before me, the persistent whisper of discouragement hit my heart. I couldn’t help but think of how far my quiet and simple life was from those youthful aspirations. Is my humble everyday life making any difference, God?

I wonder if you can relate to this doubt, especially considering our culture’s daily messaging: Be someone! Make something out of your life! Let them hear your voice! Bigger is better! We can begin to believe the lie that the one is somehow less important than the 1 million.  Maybe you long to share your testimony of healing and hope in your community or social media circles. But when you take stock of those circles, they can seem so small. As a result, you may feel insignificant and wonder: How can I possibly make a significant impact in my home, community or workplace?

If you’ve ever struggled with feeling small, you’re not alone! In Mark 5, we read the incredible story of Jesus healing a man possessed by a legion (i.e., a lot!) of demons. After this miraculous healing, the town begged Jesus to leave  but the man He’d healed had a different request:  “As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you’” (Mark 5:18-19).

Had I been in this man’s shoes, I imagine I’d have made much the same request: “Take me with You, Jesus! Let’s leave this town and travel on to bigger and better things!”

Of course, Scripture doesn’t tell us Jesus’ thoughts or why He said no, but we do see Jesus express concern and care for this man’s most immediate ministry: his family and friends.  The man wasn’t told to share his testimony with the entire region or drum up a following of thousands. Instead, Jesus recognized the value of the souls right there in his town.  Happily, this man responded in obedience and “began to tell how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed” (Mark 5:20, NIV).

While we don’t know if their amazement turned to faith, it’s not hard to imagine there are souls in heaven because of this man's willingness to testify.  Dear one, if you’re feeling small, let the truth of these scriptures remind you that your life and testimony matter! Your ministry begins right where you are: with those under your roof, down the street, in the cubicle next to you, or in the church pew beside you.  You don’t need a million subscribers or a megaphone to influence others with the love and truth of Jesus. Indeed, those God has placed in your circle matter deeply to Him and He’s given you the incredible, humbling job of sharing your testimony with them!  Today, let’s step out boldly and proclaim His mercy and healing in our lives.

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #72 on: December 22, 2023, 04:53:43 PM »
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Promise-Filled Words for a Weary Heart
March 28, 2023
by Lysa TerKeurst
Dean Malenko

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Romans 8:26a (NIV)

Can I encourage you with something today, friend?

Even if you don’t see it, you are healing. You are growing. God is shaping you into who He created you to be.  I know it can be tempting to doubt it, but today is another step forward into a future that God is paving for you. A future that may look different than you thought but a future He has deemed good.  You see, the longer I live, the less I see healing as a destination and the more I see it as a daily choice. In case your heart is feeling a little weary today, I hope you’ll feel a little more encouraged that you’re not alone and that your beautiful, unique story is still unfolding. The circumstances of today are part of your story, but they are not the whole story.  I understand that sometimes all this pain can feel so very pointless. I know what it’s like to:

Start to wonder if these hard situations will be never-ending …
Feel that the hurt will last forever …
Question if you’ll survive this time of suffering and come out on the other side …
Process even more devastating news that makes your mind race, your throat tighten, and your eyes swell with tears …
Try to pray in moments when God feels incredibly distant …

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had to face one hardship after another. At many points I’ve wondered how I would make it through. Even now, I’m still very much in process. Yes, I’ve done the hard work with my counselor and processed all the things with my closest friends. I’ve been healing. I’ve gained perspective and understanding for how to move forward. I’ve made progress. But none of that changes the deep heartbreak I went through.  The reality is: Sometimes it still stings. And when that pain bubbles back to the surface, I wonder why God doesn’t just take it all away. Wasn’t it enough that I had to suffer through the trauma?

Why do I now have to suffer with random memories that pop into my brain and cause me to face the loss over and over again?

It’s hard to feel confident in the goodness of God when parts of our story don’t at all feel good. But, friend, whether we’re trying to make sense of relational fallout, processing fresh grief, or just desperate for a few moments of encouragement, there’s something so very important God wants you and me to know: He is near to us in our heartbreak, and He cares about our despair. Past, present and future, God is still here.  Right this very minute, in the middle of our own difficult circumstances, we get to choose to cling to truth more than ever before. We can allow hope to be infused into even the most impossible-looking circumstances. And when we do, we let the devil know he has messed with the wrong girl this time. We can command our weary hearts to remember God is in charge and we are not, and that’s a freeing place to be.  As you wrestle with it all, the progress made, the steps forward still to be endured — the painful, time-consuming, beautifully refining process of healing I want us to read a few verses in Romans 8 that are so comforting:  “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:26-28, NIV).

Every time I read these words, I’m reminded I can simply surrender to Jesus and trust Him with every part of the journey I’m on. The more I surrender to trusting the Lord rather than trying to make my own way through this, the less I will suffer. And that brings great peace to my healing heart.

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #73 on: January 01, 2024, 12:46:59 PM »
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Breathe In God’s Love and Breathe Out Your Worries
April 3, 2023
by Bonnie Gray

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

I grew up in an 800-square-foot duplex in the middle of a busy intersection in California’s Silicon Valley. The oldest child in a divorced family, I was the responsible one who didn’t want to cause any trouble. Because I was busy making sure everyone else was doing OK, it was easier to ignore my heart and put my needs aside.  I felt invisible because I had no one to share my worries and burdens with.  Do you, too, often pay attention to the needs of others but neglect your own well-being? Like you’re the one responsible to pick up the pieces and shoulder the worries of people around you?

If so, you’re like me and most women! Studies show women suffer from burnout more than men. Being overly responsible wearies us with worries.  But for me, in fifth grade, God used an experience to let me know that He cared about me and that my worries weren’t invisible to Him: I went on my first hike, at science camp in the mountains! Stepping off the bus, I looked up at the redwood trees and felt peaceful. Even the air smelled different. I could breathe.  Our camp counselors said the big event was the night hike. We gathered at the trailhead after sunset, excited. But everyone fell stone silent once we learned we would be sent hiking solo in the dark. The counselors sent each of us to hike alone on the trail, staggered five minutes apart, because they wanted us to experience the quiet beauty of a moonlit hike and see beautiful stars twinkle far from the city’s light-pollution glare.  We were told to walk quietly, but if we got scared, all we needed to do was call out. Camp counselors stationed at points along the trail would help us.  That night was breathtakingly beautiful. The foliage felt like a soft carpet under my feet. I wasn’t afraid. The stars glimmered above.  The deeper I journeyed on the trail, something beautiful and unexpected happened: I began to see in the dark! And I realized that when I knew someone was there to help me, I no longer felt overwhelmed or alone.  I’m reminded of what the psalmist David whispered to God:  “… If I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139:8, NIV).

“ … Your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:10, NIV).

“Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” (Psalm 139:12, NIV).

That experience of walking in the dark helped me learn that when we’re not able to see what’s ahead of us and we feel scared, God’s love can light the way. God’s love is like a light in the darkness that helps us feel comforted, calmed, and no longer overwhelmed by our worries.  Nothing in life no stress, confusion or overwhelming troubles — can keep God’s goodness from us. God can see us in the dark, and His voice is our light. God’s voice of love whispers, Lean into Me. Let Me love you. Rest in Me. As we listen to God, our spiritual eyes adjust, and we begin to see the beauty of the journey we’re on.  Does the path in front of you look dark and overwhelming? God’s love and His Word can light the way ahead. The God who loves you not only knows the way but intimately knows your way.  One practical way to light up the darkness is to breathe in God’s love and breathe out our worries to Him using this soul care tip: Intentionally write down God’s promises from Scripture. His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light on our path. (Psalm 119:105) Then use Scripture to pray a “breath prayer,” a simple way to pray using the natural rhythm of your breathing and God's Word. Breath prayers will oxygenate your soul with God’s peace and restore calm.  Hand over your problems to Jesus as you pray this breath prayer from 1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Inhale: I cast all my anxiety on You.
Exhale: Because You care for me.

With each breath you take, name each worry to give it to God in prayer.

Pip

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Re: Devotions
« Reply #74 on: January 03, 2024, 11:13:20 AM »
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Helping Our Kids Know Jesus for Themselves
April 4, 2023
by Erica Renaud, COMPEL Training Member

“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray.” Matthew 19:13a (ESV)

My mother is a master at interior decorating. She got her “degree” from Better Homes and Gardens. Every corner, counter and shelf in her house looks beautiful.  My children love visiting Grandma’s house at the beginning of a new season. They bust through the front door and run through all the rooms to see how she redecorated.  When my husband and I bought our first home, I was so excited to decorate it. I couldn’t wait to make it our own and have it reflect our style and likes.  But it didn’t take long to realize I knew nothing about design. I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong, but as I looked at the rooms throughout my house, they not only lacked beauty, but also I didn’t even enjoy them.  The problem was that I only did what I saw my mother do purchase items and put them in my home. I never actually learned the elements of good design or how to make a space look lovely. It wasn’t until months later that my mother explained the “why” and “how” behind her design decisions and a bit of her process in getting there.  When it comes to design, I’m OK if my children don't inherit their grandmother’s genius. But when it comes to prayer and faith, I don’t just want to pass on what it “looks” like.  Without intentionality or explanation, my children will only learn to imitate my actions. But just as my buying and placing items on a shelf didn’t mean I understood design, my children knowing how to bow their heads doesn’t mean they know how to engage God in prayer.  Though I feel like I fail more than I succeed, my husband and I have made it our mission to come alongside our children in prayer so that they might know how to seek God for themselves.  For instance, after recently hearing of a natural disaster, we sat the kids down to share about it and watch a short news segment describing the event. Then we decided to pray. But before we did, we talked about the importance of prayer and how God hears us. We reminded them of the time Elijah prayed for it to stop raining, and the rain stopped. (James 5:17)  And prayer is not just something we do as parents; we invite the children to take the lead. Sometimes they are the only ones who pray out loud.  I’ve discovered that children can have incredibly meaningful times of prayer on their own too. After chatting with my older daughter about a problem she was having, I was at a loss for how to help her. “Well, you should pray about that,” I told her.

My suggestion was genuine, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I was also buying time to think of how else I might help. Her response surprised me: “Oh, I have been!”

She went on to say she had been praying about it in her journal.  Wow! She didn’t need me to tell her to pray. She knew she could seek God all on her own that she could meet with Him about this problem, share her burden, and trust Him to handle it.  Friend, let’s not just imitate prayer so our kids become outwardly good at it. Let’s take them along for the ride so they experience the ins and outs of prayer. We can invite them into prayer in good times and really hard seasons. We can walk them through the theology of prayer and the value of prayer, teaching them how to pray.  Matthew 19:13a says, “Then children were brought to [Jesus] that he might lay his hands on them and pray.”

Just like the parents, grandparents and caretakers in Matthew, let’s bring our children straight to Jesus so they can experience talking with Him themselves!