Friday, February 29, 2008

Watching Over Me

by Missy Milbourn

This Week's Verse: Psalm 139:1-3, "O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways." (NIV)

I love to read devotions. They encourage me. They often teach me, and they help my mind to focus during my quiet time. However, the reason that I love them the most is that God often speaks to me through them. I’m amazed at how often that happens, when the devotion matches up with the current circumstances in my life. This week, I saw that same thing happen in the life of our six year old.

Tuesday night at bedtime, Josh started asking a lot of questions about God. The last question he asked before he settled in for a good night’s rest was this, “What is God doing right now? Is He sleeping?”

I don’t remember the exact answer I gave Him, but it was something to the effect of, “God doesn’t sleep, He watches over you while you sleep.”

He then asked, “Can He see me in my underwear?”

“Yep”, I replied with a chuckle, “He can see you in your underwear.”

“Can He see everyone?” Josh asked.

“Yep, He can see everyone.” We talked a little bit more about God and Jesus, and about how Jesus comes to live in your heart, and then we all went to bed.

The next morning, I woke up at 5:30 for my quiet time. I nestled into my quiet time chair, and not long after, here came Josh. It was WAY too early for him to be awake, so I made him lie down on the couch to go back to sleep, all the while thinking to myself “great, there goes that quiet time.”

How wrong I was. Evidently, God wanted Josh included in my quiet time. As soon as Joshua’s head hit the pillow on the couch, he started back in with the questions. “Mom, how can God see me, and at the same time see someone in another part of the world?” I explained how God is all knowing, and that He is “God” that He created us, that He created the whole world. Then I read to Him from Genesis chapter one, “In the beginning…” As I read, Josh kept interacting with questions and comments. I got to about day four of the creation process, and he raised his head up from the pillow and said, “Mom, I might go back to sleep now.”

“Okay Josh,” I said. And he did.

We have a book of devotions that was written for young children, and nearly every night I’ll read Josh his devotion. So Wednesday night, we opened the book to the proper day of the month, and the title of the devotion was “Hide and Seek”. Here’s what it said…

Parker is playing hide-and-seek with his friends. Do you think he can find Zoe and Jack? Have you ever played hide and seek? When you hide behind a tree or a big bush, your friends can’t see you, especially if it’s dark! But God can always sees you no matter where you are. Whether it’s late at night or the middle of the day. God knows exactly where you are. You can never hide from God. He will always love you and take care of you.

Josh and I both marveled at God’s timing with that devotion. How God took special care of answering Joshua’s question in a way that he could understand.

God wants to answer your questions too. He knows the things that your inquiring mind wants to know. He knows what you’re struggling with. And I believe that whether it’s a big struggle, or a little struggle, God wants to meet you there to help guide you through it. Will you meet with Him? Joshua’s devotion took three minutes to read, but God spoke volumes through it. I encourage you to allow God the opportunity to answer your questions.

Father, so many times we wonder and wander through our questions mulling over what the answer might be and all the while I imagine you waiting patiently on us in hopes that we’ll bring it to you. You are a God who watches over us, who created us, who knows us better than we know ourselves. Help us to remember that it’s not all about us. It’s not just that we need to spend time with you to gain knowledge, but that it’s about You wanting to be a part of our everyday lives. You are such a loving God. Help us to continually walk with you and talk with you. In Jesus Name…Amen.

Invest in a daily devotional book, or subscribe to one on-line by going to
Normally, a devotion is accompanied by a verse or two from the Bible. I encourage you to not just read the verse, but to read the chapter that it came from. God almost always provides me with insight as I read His Word.

Power Verses:
Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you, and tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know.” (NIV)
Psalm, 139:1,2, “Even in darkness I cannot hide from you.” (NLT)
Matthew 19:14, “Let the children come to me, don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those that are like these children." (NLT)
Isaiah 40:11, “He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (NIV)

Joshua’s devotional book is called Devotions for Preschoolers written by Crystal Bowman.

Friday, February 22, 2008

What's Your Game Plan?

By Marsha Loftis

This Week’s Verse: Matthew 18:2-5, "I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom. What's more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it's the same as receiving me." (MSG)

When was the last time you came to God as a little child? To me, this verse not only pertains to coming to God with innocence and purity of heart, but also with fun and laughter. Remember when we were little and played games with parents or friends? We can take those lessons about how to "win" and strategize and apply them to our lives as adults.

Sometimes, I feel like I'm still playing the classics. Do you ever feel like you're playing “Battleship” with the devil? (Stay with me here.) Sometimes YOU get a hit! Sometimes he gets one. Sometimes he misses, and sometimes you are completely sunk!

If at times you feel like the devil is dragging you down and shooting fire bombs at you on a daily basis, then you are probably on the right course with God! Rejoice! That ole snake knows that you and God are getting closer and smoother waters are just ahead!

What about “Hide N Seek”? Everyone remembers that one! Well, it also has a place in our current life. If we are to “hide the Word away in our hearts” and “seek God first in all things,” but the people closest to us can't see Jesus, then maybe we should be doin' a little less “Hide N Seek” and a little more “Show N Tell”. Jesus shouldn't be that hard to locate. If we tell people more often about all the wonderful things Jesus does in our lives and show people Jesus' hands and His feet then everyone will see more clearly the Body of Christ.

Are ya still with me?

"Connect Four" is one of my favorites. My daughter and I still play that one today. It has special meaning to me in these times. Do you remember how to play? The goal is to fill the empty spaces. Not randomly, but in a special order. The goal is to line up four pieces in a row. If we use this principle as a rule for aligning The Father, Son, Spirit, and ourselves in special order then there will be no gaps. So many people in our lives are trying desperately to fill in the empty spaces with whatever is convenient. Our children, neighbors, co-workers, and even parents are so busy trying to fill their "empty spaces" in the bottom of a bottle, the backseat of a car, a designer label, or even an end zone.

If we can strive to Show and Tell everyone about Jesus, rise above the battle for our minds and hearts, and be an example of all four of our Special Pieces in alignment with God's Word, then there will be no empty spaces. I realize that the pieces may shift a little, but hopefully just enough for God's light to shine through.

I hope that no one thinks I'm being flip about this game of LIFE. I just want everyone to get a CLUE so that no one ends up SORRY!

Father, I pray that everyone we come in contact with sees Jesus in our lives. Even when we mess up the order and try to put our piece first I pray that as Christ followers we handle our mistakes in a Godly way. In our daily battle, I pray that we always remember to call upon you first to fill in the spaces.

Application/Power Verses:
Don't be so hard on yourself. If you feel like you need a time out, take a seat and just B.R.E.A.T.H.E...
B--Believe God has a plan for your life. “’For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”(Jer. 29:11, NIV)
R--Rest in the Lord. "Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 8:28, NIV)
E--Encourage those around you. "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up..." (1 Thess. 5:11, NIV)A--Acknowledge that God is in control. "Do not be afraid or discouraged...For the battle is not yours, but God's" (2 Chron. 20:15, NIV)
T--Think good thoughts. "I'd say you'll do best by filling your mind and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious--the best, not the worst..." (Phil. 4:8, MSG)
H--Hand it over to God. "Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you." (Ps. 55:22, NIV)
E--Enjoy this time in your life. "The thief comes only to destroy. I come that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)." (John 10:10, AMP)

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Lord IS My Shepherd

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: Psalm 23, A psalm of David, as detailed below. (NIV)

Our “assignment” for church this month has been to read through the Psalms. If ever mere words reflected the inner-most depths of the human soul, the poetic verses of the psalms do, don’t they? The entire gamut of human emotion is represented and cries to the Father are permeated with everything from frustrated questions to joyous praise, tormented anguish to awestruck wonderment, and contrite confession to holy obsession.

One of the most familiar psalms is the 23rd. It’s a psalm of lordship recognition and reliance, a psalm of comfort and peace, and a psalm of joy. Let’s take a walk through this psalm together and allow its promises to be written on our hearts.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

Okay, I seriously doubt that sheep worry about much. They don’t fuss about their relationships, the weather, their wardrobe, or keeping up with the flock over the hill. What they DO do (and I’m sure there is plenty of that!) is follow their shepherd. He takes care of their every need and they know his voice.

Doesn’t He so fully meet our every need? Even the ones we don’t think we need met? Or the ones we’re not even aware of? He may grow us through “scarce” or “lean” times, but our Jehovah Jireh is our provider allowing us to have what we need when we need it and shaping us to want what we have.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

This idyllic passage conveys nothing if not peace. Our shepherd has led us from the rocky crags or barren wasteland to a babbling brook awash with the fragrance of green shoots of grass that are dancing in the sunshine.

Do you ever find that sometimes He has to make us lie down in green pastures? This new spin on that word was brought to my awareness a few years ago when I was recovering from walking pneumonia. My good buddy, Karen, shed new light on this passage when she told me I was being made to lie down, or forced to slow down. From that point on, I embraced the tranquility that recovery time offered. That’s where our society is…technology allowing us to multi-task ourselves into ADD, activities across the board, or jobs that spur us to such a break-neck pace that sometimes our Father just has to make us rest. Thank You, Father!

3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Sheep can rest peacefully to restore themselves when their shepherd is guarding them. Then when it is time to get up and move to greener pastures, their paths are already marked out due to the shepherd’s careful planning.

Likewise, through rest and abiding with Him, we are restored. By and through and FOR His glory, we’re able to lead righteous, holy lives that are pleasing to Him, and truly satisfying to us. We’re not aimlessly searching because we’re restored to whole.

4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

Remember now, if we’re sheep, we may get sidetracked by a really tasty looking tuft of clover just down the hill. Or maybe we stumble on a hidden rock (it’s probably hard to see our feet around all our fleece and fluff!) and actually roll into the valley. Or maybe a crafty wolf got a muzzle full of prime leg of lamb as he chased us to the valley floor.

We will have low points. We will wrestle with obstacles, loss, and overwhelming issues, but because our God is with us, we can accept these situations as seasons of growth and discipline if we humbly listen for His voice. Jesus said His sheep know His voice (John 10:4, 27) and He’ll call you by name (John 10:3).

Just as the shepherd’s rod and staff help guide the lost sheep back to the flock, so do our seasons of discipline. There’s hope and comfort in knowing that God’s shaping us for something better and we will emerge from the valley alongside His staff to see the mountaintop again.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Isn’t it awesome that our God loves justice? It seems that we’ve transitioned here from being a lost and found sheep to an honored guest. (Remember the prodigal story?) Enjoying a feast as the enemy looks on sounds pretty great, but before we gloat, let’s consider—why would God do this? He definitely wants to extend grace (praise Him!) and bless us, but I think there’s more to it than that. In our anointing and overflow of abundance, enemies will begin to want what we’ve got. That's when we're called to share the source. Our cup doesn’t overflow for overflowing’s sake…we have to pour it into someone else’s cup to avoid a mess!

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Our lives will be infused from the goodness, mercy, and love that He dispenses when we dwell with Him. Yes, we will be with the Lord forever in eternity, but until then, may His “Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” through the way we live for Him.

Father, thank you for being our Good Shepherd! As with all of Your precious, God-breathed words, write this psalm on our hearts. Help us to wrap our minds around your vast, merciful promises and trust like sheep do. Help us follow as sheep do. As we become more familiar with Your paths of righteousness and enjoy your blessing, help us pour that overflow onto others, dwelling in Your presence even in their presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Has God’s rod and staff ever “comforted” you? Identify a time in your life when you were in a season of discipline, but then you emerged stronger in some way. Sister, if you’ve experienced this, you know the joy in “living Psalm 23”. You are blessed.

Note that verses 1-3 are talking about and describing God, whereas the remaining verses are addressed to God personally. Have you ever gotten so excited sharing a “God story” with someone that you broke out into praise? Again, if so, you are blessed. If not, pull a Sister aside and share your overflow!

Power Verses:
I Peter 2: 25, “Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls. (NLT)
1 Samuel 16:13, “Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life…” (MSG)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Hand It Over

By Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse: Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. (Eph. 3:20, NLT)

I had an email conversation recently with a friend in which we talked about how hard it is to “let go of the control" in so many areas of life. As I thought about that, I was taken back several years to a time when God offered me a glimpse of how I might appear to Him when I struggle to be in control.

My then two-year-old son wanted an apple. He escorted me to the fridge so I could open it, then his chubby fingers grasped the fruit of choice. Since apple skins rank pretty high on the toddler choking hazard list, I needed to do some peeling before allowing him to sink in his pearly-whites.

“Skylar, I need to make the apple safe for you. Give it to me just for a second.”

“No!” (Two year olds have no concept of time.)

“But I'll give it right back...It's dangerous this way.”

“No, MY apple!” (They also have no concept of danger, unless it's “Bring it on!”)

“Sweetie," I said through gritted teeth, "I have to peel it or you might choke.”

Continuing to whine just to make sure I knew he was giving it up in protest, he finally turned over the prize. He skeptically watched my every move as I peeled, but when I handed it back to him, he was pleased with the result and shuffled happily away. Then God hit me with an amazing revelation...

That is what He deals with from us all the time!

Right? I mean, when major calamities, or even just “little” day-to-day setbacks hit, we are inclined to try to manage them ourselves. But by doing so, we’re settling for so much less than what God intends. Had my son not given up the apple he might have choked. But when he did relinquish the very thing he wanted most, he got it back even better. And there-in lies the lesson: whenever we surrender parts of our lives (which may be spiritual choking hazards) to His Lordship, we can fully expect a much better result because of the sacrifice.

What “apples” are you preserving in your basket? Are there some hidden away in the bottom drawer of the fridge just for you and you alone? Like me, you might think, I can't bring that apple out into the light--it's far too shameful! Or I better keep this talent hidden or someone may expect me to use it; it's not that great anyway.

Oh, sometimes those apples are hard to give up—no doubt about it! They're tempting in their promise of juicy, soothing familiarity. It’s just easier to hoard rather than give up control. But for every one we give back to Him (after all, they do originate from Him), we get back “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20—NIV).

As Skylar went back to his game and I went back to unloading the dishwasher, I realized that in our own hands, our lives are an existence, sometimes okay and bearable, but nothing remarkable—maybe like a wormy and spotted apple. But in God's hands, Sisters, our lives have tremendous and eternal purpose, for His glory—like the fruit of Proverbs 25:11, which are “apples of gold in settings of silver” (NIV).

Father God, through Your power alone are we able to fully relinquish the areas of our lives that we foolishly cling to that hinder us from bearing luscious, ripe fruit for Your kingdom. Grant us wisdom to discern them and obedience to hand them over to You for blessed transformation. In Jesus' Precious Name, Amen.

Application Steps:
Identify the “apples” in your life that you grip tightly. They may include anything from difficult circumstances or character flaws to positive qualities that you haven’t yet submitted to God.

Pray for God's help in submitting all things to him. Claim His promise that He WANTS them all and has a plan for your greater good because of them (Jer. 29:11).

Visualize yourself lifting up each “apple” and offering it as a pleasing sacrifice to your Father. Believe in the depths of your heart that He wants to take those bruised and spotted aspects of your life and transform them into something wonderful and praiseworthy.

Rejoice in His delight at your obedience! Anticipate the blessings you've just unleashed!

Power Verses:
Matthew 12:33: “A tree is identified by its fruit. Make a tree good and its fruit will be good. Make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad.” (NLV).
1 Peter 5:6-7: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (NIV)
Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (NIV)
Mark 8:34: “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.'” (NIV)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Sweet, Sweet Pain

by Marsha Loftis

This Weeks’ Verse: Micah 7:19, "You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." (NIV)

1. gross injustice or wickedness.
2. a violation of right or duty; wicked act; sin.

I dreamt of a woman walking along a beach. I couldn't see her face but I knew her. I knew how she felt, why she was there, and everything about her.

She was searching for a lost love. A love named Pain. They were inseparable. No one could tell where she stopped and Pain began. They did everything together. They ate together, slept together, even went to work together.

None of her friends liked Pain. Everyone told her she deserved better. She deserved to live her life without Pain. Most of the time she wouldn't listen. She couldn't imagine her life without Pain. What would she do? Where would she go? Who would she hang around with? Still her friends persisted, hoping that something would get through.

As the days went by she realized that something was missing in her life. A void that Pain could no longer fill. She tried to separate herself from Pain. She really did! But Pain was relentless. He followed her everywhere. He followed her to work, when she went out with her friends. He even followed her into new relationships! None of them lasted, of course. Not with Pain right there, hounding, stalking, never leaving her alone.

One day, she met someone who said he was The One who could take care of her Pain. Replace him. Make it so Pain would never hurt her again. "How?" she asked. "What would you do?"

"I would take your Pain and throw him into the sea for all the hurt and injustice he has caused you," He told her. "All you have to do is ask and believe that I can make it so."

In an instant, she felt better! Lighter! Her Pain was gone. Relieved. But then she got scared. Pain had been such a huge part of her life. How could she go on? She began to doubt what The One had told her.

She had to find Pain! She went to the beach, looking and calling out for him. But she heard no response. Into the water she dove, down, down deep into the mud and muck searching for her Sweet, Sweet Pain. At last, she felt something! She struggled with all her might to bring her Pain to the surface...

Even though I never see her face, I KNOW HER...It's me. And it's you. It's every woman who's ever prayed "Father God, please take this pain away." And then dives into the murky water, time and time again struggling to revive the very thing that should forever remain forgotten at the bottom of the sea.

There are so many types of pain. For each one God has the answer. In order to move past the pain, you must move into frightening territory. A place called FORGIVENESS. You may have to start by forgiving yourself. Maybe you caused some of the pain you're in by making wrong choices. Maybe you need to forgive others. Were you teased for being wonderfully different? Were you looked over for a promotion? Had your heart broken into? Some of you beautiful souls are dealing with the pain of mental, physical, and/or sexual abuse.

Beloved, please don't use the very breath God gave you to resuscitate the Pain you asked Him to take away. Leave it at the bottom of the sea.

Heavenly Father, I pray that you begin to heal those of us walking along the shore, ready to head for the deep one more time. I pray you'll constantly remind us of who you are...Wonderful, Counselor, Forgiver and our extra strength Pain Reliever! So that we may be constantly reminded of who WE are in You...Forgiven, Beloved, Chosen, Child of God. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Practice forgiving yourself. In order to be successful at anything, it takes practice. (Don't expect to get it right the first time, either.) Pray earnestly about each type of pain you are dealing with. Look up verses concerning each hurt and speak them out loud. There's power in The Word!

Power Verses:
Matthew 6:14-15, "In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part."(MSG)

Philippians 4:6-7, "Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and prayers shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns."(MSG)

Galations 2:20, "My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."(NLT)

Romans 12:19, "Dearly Beloved, avenge not yourselves, but give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay saith the Lord." (KJV)