Tuesday, April 5, 2016

You Can’t Outgive God

“See if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Malachi 3:10

My (jcd’s) dad, an evangelist, was the original soft touch. I remember him once going off to speak in a tiny church and coming home ten days later. Eventually my mother asked about the offering. I can still see my father’s face as he smiled and looked at the floor. “You gave the money away again, didn’t you?” she asked. “Myrt,” he said, “the pastor there is going through a hard time. His kids are so needy. I felt I should give the entire fifty dollars to them.” My good mother looked at my father for a few moments and then smiled. “You know, if God told you to do it, it’s okay with me.” A few days later, we ran completely out of money, so my father gathered us for a time of prayer. He said, “Lord, you told us that if we would honor you in our good times, that you would take care of us when things are difficult. We need a little help at this time.” The next day we received an unexpected check for $1,200. That’s the way it happened— not once, but many times. No matter what you give, you’ll find you can never outgive God.

Just between us…

Are we trusting God with our giving? What blessings, material and nonmaterial, have we seen from our gifts? Do we know someone now who needs a helping hand? Should we share what we have with them? Do we really believe “God owns it all”?

Heavenly Father, You promised to pour out blessings on those who tithe in Your name. Help us to take You at Your word and to trust in Your provision as we give back to You and share our abundance with others. Amen. 

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

Daily Readings for April 5, 2016

Exodus 15:1-21
Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: "I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name. "Pharaoh's chariots and his army he cast into the sea; his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea. The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone. Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power-- your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy. In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries; you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble. At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up, the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, 'I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.' You blew with your wind, the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. "Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand, the earth swallowed them. "In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed; you guided them by your strength to your holy abode. The peoples heard, they trembled; pangs seized the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed; trembling seized the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away. Terror and dread fell upon them; by the might of your arm, they became still as a stone until your people, O LORD, passed by, until the people whom you acquired passed by. You brought them in and planted them on the mountain of your own possession, the place, O LORD, that you made your abode, the sanctuary, O LORD, that your hands have established. The LORD will reign forever and ever." When the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his chariot drivers went into the sea, the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them: "Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea."

1 Peter 1:13-25
Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. For "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever." That word is the good news that was announced to you.

John 14:18-31
"I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them." Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?" Jesus answered him, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. "I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I am coming to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.

Morning Psalms

Psalm 5
1   Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my meditation.
2   Hearken to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I make my prayer to you.
3   In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you.
4   For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, and evil cannot dwell with you.
5   Braggarts cannot stand in your sight; you hate all those who work wickedness.
6   You destroy those who speak lies; the bloodthirsty and deceitful, O LORD, you abhor.
7   But as for me, through the greatness of your mercy I will go into your house; I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.
8   Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness, because of those who lie in wait for me; make your way straight before me.
9   For there is no truth in their mouth; there is destruction in their heart;
10   Their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.
11   Declare them guilty, O God; let them fall, because of their schemes.
12   Because of their many transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.
13   But all who take refuge in you will be glad; they will sing out their joy for ever.
14   You will shelter them, so that those who love your Name may exult in you.
15   For you, O LORD, will bless the righteous; you will defend them with your favor as with a shield.

Psalm 6
1   LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger; do not punish me in your wrath.
2   Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak; heal me, LORD, for my bones are racked.
3   My spirit shakes with terror; how long, O LORD, how long?
4   Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me for your mercy's sake.
5   For in death no one remembers you; and who will give you thanks in the grave?
6   I grow weary because of my groaning; every night I drench my bed and flood my couch with tears.
7   My eyes are wasted with grief and worn away because of all my enemies.
8   Depart from me, all evildoers, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
9   The LORD has heard my supplication; the LORD accepts my prayer.
10   All my enemies shall be confounded and quake with fear; they shall turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

Evening Psalms

Psalm 10
1   Why do you stand so far off, O LORD, and hide yourself in time of trouble?
2   The wicked arrogantly persecute the poor, but they are trapped in the schemes they have devised.
3   The wicked boast of their heart's desire; the covetous curse and revile the LORD.
4   The wicked are so proud that they care not for God; their only thought is, "God does not matter."
5   Their ways are devious at all times; your judgments are far above out of their sight; they defy all their enemies.
6   They say in their heart, "I shall not be shaken; no harm shall happen to me ever."
7   Their mouth is full of cursing, deceit, and oppression; under their tongue are mischief and wrong.
8   They lurk in ambush in public squares and in secret places they murder the innocent; they spy out the helpless.
9   They lie in wait, like a lion in a covert; they lie in wait to seize upon the lowly; they seize the lowly and drag them away in their net.
10   The innocent are broken and humbled before them; the helpless fall before their power.
11   They say in their heart, "God has forgotten; he hides his face; he will never notice."
12   Rise up, O LORD; lift up your hand, O God; do not forget the afflicted.
13   Why should the wicked revile God? why should they say in their heart, "You do not care"?
14   Surely, you behold trouble and misery; you see it and take it into your own hand.
15   The helpless commit themselves to you, for you are the helper of orphans.
16   Break the power of the wicked and evil; search out their wickedness until you find none.
17   The LORD is King for ever and ever; the ungodly shall perish from his land.
18   The LORD will hear the desire of the humble; you will strengthen their heart and your ears shall hear;
19   To give justice to the orphan and oppressed, so that mere mortals may strike terror no more.

Psalm 11
1   In the LORD have I taken refuge; how then can you say to me, "Fly away like a bird to the hilltop;
2   For see how the wicked bend the bow and fit their arrows to the string, to shoot from ambush at the true of heart.
3   When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?"
4   The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD'S throne is in heaven.
5   His eyes behold the inhabited world; his piercing eye weighs our worth.
6   The LORD weighs the righteous as well as the wicked, but those who delight in violence he abhors.
7   Upon the wicked he shall rain coals of fire and burning sulphur; a scorching wind shall be their lot.
8   For the LORD is righteous; he delights in righteous deeds; and the just shall see his face.

Daily Meditation for April 5, 2016

From Forward Day by Day

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.

The “world’s peace” is so seductive. Sometimes what passes for the world’s peace is actually just anesthetizing, a temporary, instantly gratifying “peace.” It’s “vegging out” on the couch watching too much TV and the overindulging of food, alcohol, or drugs. When I’m not living as a citizen of the kingdom of God, living intentionally and consciously, I feel the pull toward this anesthetizing peace.

The peace Jesus offers grows with endurance as we trust more of life to God and are willing to walk in the ambivalence that life deals us again and again. It is a peace that waits for the emergence of clarity that only arises from living with paradox.

In the end, this peace is whole and enduring, about living in the kingdom of God in the very present moment. It is a peace that comes in waves, and one that I cycle back through after indulgences in the world’s peace. It is a peace that patiently honors my process of becoming a whole citizen of God’s kingdom.

His Princess Every Day - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Devotionals for Women - Inspirational author and speaker Sheri Rose Shepherd imagines what a letter written from God to you would look like.
Choose Your Battles

My princess,

Every day can be a fight for something or with someone if you so choose. I want you, My princess warrior, to choose your battles wisely, and fight for the things worth fighting for. There are so many things that stand against you in the battlefield, and there are so many worthy causes. But the enemy of your soul will entice you to fight the wrong battles in order to distract you from your main mission. Remember, My beloved, your fight is not against flesh and blood, but against evil forces in the spiritual realm. When you find yourself in the midst of a war, do not be afraid. Call on Me in prayer and allow Me to deliver you. In My timing, I will give you the victory and bring justice to the afflicted. So don’t waste your time fighting the wrong battles. And never forget that the spiritual war is fought—and won—on your knees.

Your Warrior King

For the Lord your God
is the one who goes with you
to fight for you against
your enemies to give you victory. - Deuteronomy 20:4 (NIV)

Each of you has been blessed
with one of God’s many wonderful gifts
to be used in the service of others.
So use your gift well. - 1 Peter 4:10

This devotional is written by Sheri Rose Shepherd. All content copyright Sheri Rose Shepherd 2015. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Visit HisPrincess.com for devotionals, books, videos, and more from Sheri Rose Shepherd.

Make It a Strong Close

by Sheri Rose Shepherd

It is always the last act of love, the last word spoken, the last move made that is the one remembered most.

Have you ever fought hard for something or someone you really believed in? You gave your all, your love, your time and your talent only to have it come to a bitter end where it seems you lost everything that mattered most to you including your faith? I have been there, and in these broken-hearted moments I could not find anyway or anything to restore what was lost or repair the damage done. But I discovered in the word of God that the ONE thing I can do is choose to lay down my feelings and bring a strong close to whatever is coming to an end. I can choose to react in a way that will bring glory to God. I know it is hard to push through painful places when you're hurting, but it is even harder to look back with regret and know you wasted the pain and became part of the problem.

If you are in a season of painful change and things seem to be coming to an end, allow me to share with you some Bible Life Coaching tips that will give you peace, perspective and help you persevere so you finish with a strong close...
  • Pray for a bigger picture than your own pain and it will help purpose you to Finish Strong!
  • Do what is right and Refuse to engage with whomever is attacking you or you become like them.
  • Focus on God's will and not your rights. Remember that our God is a just God and He will repay those who have come against His children.
  • Turn your hurt into Hope for the future and, rather than fix your mind on what you're losing, choose to trust God for new beginnings that will lead to His plans for you!
God's Letter to You
I believe if The Lord was going to write you a personal letter about battles this life brings it may read like this....

My Beloved Child,

Your life lived for me will become the legacy that lives on long after you are gone. Your fight will never be forgotten. You are a hero of the faith and your commitment to the call will carve character into the next generation. Every prayer you prayed will become a blessing passed down. Every tough choice you made to obey me will become a foundation of faith your family will stand on in their tough times.

Your courage will continue to bring comfort to many during their difficult times. Your Trust in me will remain in others who watched you walk in peace. I, your God, declare on this day that your children's children will be forever blessed because you lived your life for an audience of One... Me!

Your Lord and Savior who died for you

Treasure of Truth
Happy are those who delight in doing what He commands. Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed. They themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will never be forgotten. — Psalm 112:1-3

Girlfriends in God - April 05, 2016

Leaving an Imprint
Part Two
Gwen Smith
Today’s Truth

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead (James 2:26, ESV). 

Friend to Friend

In part one of this message we looked at our valuable purpose as image bearers of God to be an imprint of Christ to the world around us. We also examined the Biblical truth that validates this discussion. {Click here to read Part One.}

Today we will consider what is required of us to be an imprint, and we’ll discuss our call to “rep the house” as well by taking action.

What does that mean? Read on.

Ever since our kids were little, Brad and I have taught them that the Lord is the head of our home, and every Smith needs to rep the house well. The rules are simple:

Love God.
Love others.
Use your manners.
Use kind words.
Wear clean underwear.
Say please.
Say thank you.
Say you’re sorry.
Be a helper.
Get the door for people.
Work hard.
Go out of your way to make other people feel special.

And our kids know that Brad and I are always around to give them a “Good job, kid!” We expect them to rep the house. We reward them when they do and hold them accountable when they don’t.

The Bible tells us that all of humanity is made in the image of God. If we profess Christ, however, we are not only fashioned in His image, we are commissioned to be His representatives to the world. It says that the way we live makes a difference and should make an impact on His behalf.

To leave an imprint of Christ, we can’t just believe in Jesus, we also need to behave like Jesus. Live like Jesus. Love like Jesus. Serve like Jesus.

James challenged us this way…

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? … For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:14-20, 26 ESV)

I simply cannot be an imprint of Christ to the world if I don’t do things on His behalf to bless and serve others. You can’t either.

I leave His imprint when I get beyond myself by caring for the needs of others. I leave His imprint when I forgive quickly instead of holding that grudge. I leave His imprint when I serve my family without grumbling and without expecting anything in return.

As children of the holy, loving King of Kings, you and I need to recognize our value in the big picture of God’s kingdom—“the eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chron. 16:9 NLT). And we need to rep the house ... trusting that He will strengthen us to be the imprints that authenticate and validate the reality of His grace. 

Let’s Pray

Holy God, Help me to not just believe in You - but to behave like You. Teach me to better reflect You, Lord. Show me practical ways to “rep the house” so that those around me might wonder about the hope I have in You.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn

What is one practical way you can rep the house today? {Visit my blog to tell me your answer!} Will you do it? Pray that God will open your eyes to the opportunities He presents.

CLICK to TWEET: To leave an imprint of Christ, we can’t just believe in Jesus, we also need to behave like Jesus. @GwenSmithMusic 

More from the Girlfriends 

Portions of today’s devotion are an excerpt of I Want It ALL. This new book by Gwen Smith will help narrow the gap between average ordinary living and the not-so-ordinary promises of God found in His Word. We are meant to be women of impact who expect great things and move in the power and grace of Jesus. That’s the message of I Want It ALL. Order yours today from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBook.com or your favorite retailer.

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“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42

On hearing the news of the violent assassination of Christian government minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, Maaria from Pakistan wrote these words in her “Secret Believers” blog:

Another man laid to rest, not like men who die for a better tomorrow or men who die for the restoration of a nation, or men who die for a noble cause. I am writing of a line of men and women who have entered Christ’s rest because they chose to believe in Him above the laws of the land and the laws of Islam. They chose to stand up for Christ…

Mr. Bhatti’s name has been added to that list. Every time I try to sleep, images of his car, the blood, the bullet holes, the sound of what it must have been like, the stench of what must have filled the air come to me along with the voice of a woman hidden away in a prison. A woman whose persecution started this spate of hatred and anger—Aasia Bibi, my sister—in solitary confinement, afraid, alone and waiting for the day she is hung for a crime she did not commit.

For every bullet that was sprayed, whether it hit him and spilt his blood or not, I offer the Al Quaida, forgiveness. I cannot speak yet for my aching people. I will give them time to get there. But I know there are Maarias who forgive the Al Quaida for taking away a man who loved Jesus and loved the Church and loved Pakistan. For every bullet, I remember the nails on the cross and ask the Lord to “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” They have been brain washed. They are not born for this. God allows them into the world for great things. I ask that you forgive them too.

For every drop of blood spilt, forgive them. Jesus hung on the cross and his blood was spilt for us. For every drop of blood, I urge you my Christian family around the world, to remember the sips of wine from the cup that Jesus passed among his disciples in the upper room…Then remember those of us for whom the words of Christ are so real today, “Lord...take this cup from me.” I am sure there were nights when Mr. Bhatti spoke into the darkness to God and asked Him to deliver him from this. But God gave him the courage to carry on. He did not bend to the demand to give up and walk away.

RESPONSE: Today I will pray for courage to honor Jesus and forgive those who snuff out His light.

PRAYER: Lord, grant Your courage, peace and forgiving spirit to all who grieve injustices today.

Verse of the Day - April 05, 2016

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NIV) For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

 Read all of 2 Corinthians 5