Monday, April 11, 2016

Sticks and Stones

“The poison of vipers is on their lips.” Psalm 140:3 

The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” simply isn’t true. Anyone who has felt the stinging barb of criticism knows that words can deeply wound. Lewis Yablonsky, author of Fathers and Sons, observed the effect such negative comments had on his own father. At the dinner table, Lewis’s mother would say things like, “Look at your father! His shoulders are bent down; he’s a failure.

He doesn’t have the courage to get a better job or make more money. He’s a beaten man.” Yablonsky’s father never defended himself. He just kept staring at his plate.

Psychologist and author Abraham Maslow once said, “It takes nine affirming comments to make up for each critical comment we give to our children.” Adults aren’t immune to criticism and put‐downs either. Let’s focus on the positive traits our partner brings to our marriage. Why not list them? Then point them out—daily and lovingly—to our mate.

Just between us…
  • Is there a negative comment from your childhood that stays with you? How did it make you feel?
  • Do we need to be more affirming and less critical? How can we improve?
  • How did Jesus affirm others? (For examples, look at Matthew 16:17–19; 26:6–13; Luke 7:44–48; and John 1:47–48.)
  • In what areas of your life are you discouraged? How can I lift you up?
Dear Father, we’re deeply sorry for any harmful words we’ve aimed at each other lately. Please forgive us, and help us to forgive each other. We long to do better at using only words that build, heal, encourage, and affirm. Help us, we pray. Amen. 

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

George Augustus Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand, and of Lichfield

Today the church remembers George Augustus Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand, and of Lichfield, 1878.

The first Bishop of New Zealand was trained at Eton and Cambridge and had credentials, talent, and influence enough to have lived a most comfortable and successful life in England. Instead, he chose to go halfway around the world and live for nearly two decades under the most trying circumstances, forging the foundations of a new branch of the church in a troubled land. It is exhausting even to read of his journeys through the islands of Melanesia and New Zealand, using the unsophisticated and sometimes hazardous nineteenth-century modes of transport in an often hostile land.

Bishop Selwyn was a tireless evangelist, pastor, teacher, organizer, and administrator. Perhaps most importantly, he gained the respect, indeed the love, of the native Maoris to whom he first brought the light of the gospel. During a decade of cruel and tragic warfare between the English colonists and the Maoris, he was able to bring the ministrations of Christ to both sides. Finally, he was able to play a reconciling role in the establishment of peace.

He was elected Bishop of Lichfield, England, in 1868 and held that office for the last ten years of his life. He was a capable scholar and a man of many interests, exercising influence in both the church and state.

When we are led to serve you far from home, keep us in your care. Amen.

Read the Wikipedia article here.

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant George Augustus Selwyn, whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of New Zealand and Melanesia, and to lay a firm foundation for the growth of your Church in many nations. Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Daily Readings for April 11, 2016

Exodus 18:13-27
The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until evening. When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, "What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?" Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God." Moses' father-in-law said to him, "What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me. I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases before God; teach them the statutes and instructions and make known to them the way they are to go and the things they are to do. You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain; set such men over them as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Let them sit as judges for the people at all times; let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their home in peace." So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men from all Israel and appointed them as heads over the people, as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. And they judged the people at all times; hard cases they brought to Moses, but any minor case they decided themselves. Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went off to his own country.

1 Peter 5:1-14
Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it-- not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen. Through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, I have written this short letter to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. Your sister church in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Matthew 1:1-17, 3:1-6
An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations. In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'" Now John wore clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

Morning Psalms

Psalm 25
1   To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you; let me not be humiliated, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
2   Let none who look to you be put to shame; let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.
3   Show me your ways, O LORD, and teach me your paths.
4   Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long.
5   Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting.
6   Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; remember me according to your love and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.
7   Gracious and upright is the LORD; therefore he teaches sinners in his way.
8   He guides the humble in doing right and teaches his way to the lowly.
9   All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
10   For your Name's sake, O LORD, forgive my sin, for it is great.
11   Who are they who fear the LORD? he will teach them the way that they should choose.
12   They shall dwell in prosperity, and their offspring shall inherit the land.
13   The LORD is a friend to those who fear him and will show them his covenant.
14   My eyes are ever looking to the LORD, for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.
15   Turn to me and have pity on me, for I am left alone and in misery.
16   The sorrows of my heart have increased; bring me out of my troubles.
17   Look upon my adversity and misery and forgive me all my sin.
18   Look upon my enemies, for they are many, and they bear a violent hatred against me.
19   Protect my life and deliver me; let me not be put to shame, for I have trusted in you.
20   Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for my hope has been in you.
21   Deliver Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.

Evening Psalms

Psalm 9
1   I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all your marvelous works.
2   I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing to your Name, O Most High.
3   When my enemies are driven back, they will stumble and perish at your presence.
4   For you have maintained my right and my cause; you sit upon your throne judging right.
5   You have rebuked the ungodly and destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.
6   As for the enemy, they are finished, in perpetual ruin, their cities plowed under, the memory of them perished;
7   But the LORD is enthroned for ever; he has set up this throne for judgment.
8   It is he who rules the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with equity.
9   The LORD will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in time of trouble.
10   Those who know your Name will put their trust in you, for you never forsake those who seek you, O LORD.
11   Sing praise to the LORD who dwells in Zion; proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.
12   The Avenger of blood will remember them; he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.
13   Have pity on me, O LORD; see the misery I suffer from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gate of death;
14   So that I may tell of all your praises and rejoice in your salvation in the gates of the city of Zion.
15   The ungodly have fallen into the pit they dug, and in the snare they set is their own foot caught.
16   The LORD is known by his acts of justice; the wicked are trapped in the works of their own hands.
17   The wicked shall be given over to the grave, and also all the people that forget God.
18   For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever.
19   Rise up, O LORD, let not the ungodly have the upper hand; let them be judged before you.
20   Put fear upon them, O LORD; let the ungodly know they are but mortal.

Psalm 15
1   LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle? who may abide upon your holy hill?
2   Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right, who speaks the truth from his heart.
3   There is no guile upon his tongue; he does no evil to his friend; he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.
4   In his sight the wicked is rejected, but he honors those who fear the LORD.
5   He has sworn to do no wrong and does not take back his word.
6   He does not give his money in hope of gain, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
7   Whoever does these things shall never be overthrown.

Daily Meditation for April 11, 2016

From Forward Day by Day

Exodus 18:18 You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.

I am on a journey to learn this teaching from Exodus, and the pathway for me has been labyrinthine, not linear. An organizational system called the Collaborative Operating System has given me practical tools and a philosophy to help me learn to collaborate bit by bit. It has also set me in a community of people who have studied what it means to share heavy burdens and how to collaborate in groups.

When I use the tools I have been given, I become part of a healthy community realizing God’s kingdom in the world. When I am in a healthy place, I remember that the Spirit speaks, works, and acts through community. The multitudes of God’s blessings are available if we heed this warning in Exodus that on our own, we will only wear ourselves out. Through collaboration within and outside of the church, God’s kingdom is realized and the Spirit’s work is accomplished.

Remember the Good Ol’ Days?

Ecclesiastes 7:2–14
It’s easy to think the past was better than today. Most of us have selective memories. We only remember what we want to remember. We reminisce about our fun-loving college days but forget how we stayed up all night to study, subsisting on Ramen noodles and completely stressing out because no one had asked us to the upcoming party. We remember being single—enjoying the freedom to have ice cream for dinner—but forget how lonely we felt eating by ourselves. We recall our children as darling babies but don’t remember how frustrated we were when the “terrible twos” hit.

You could make the case that it’s good to forget the bad. However, when we look at the past through rose-colored glasses, we run the risk of being ungrateful for what we have right now. Rather than seeing today’s gifts, we yearn for yesterday’s fun and games, conveniently glossing over the past’s difficulties.

Our days, months and years are made up of both good times and bad. The tapestry of life’s events makes up the very essence of who we are. Think about today and the difficulties you are encountering: The laundry is piling up. The roof needs fixing. Your kids aren’t listening to you. Now consider some of the memories you’re making today: Your baby took his first steps. Your daughter graduated from kindergarten, high school or college. You got that big promotion. You finally started your own business.

Thank God for all your wonderful memories. Take the difficult things to God in prayer. Ask him what he wants you to learn from your present situation. God doesn’t waste any of our experiences. He can use the good ol’ days, as well as the not-so-great days, to benefit us, if we let him. The key is to remember things as they really were, to be content with things as they really are and to trust God to take care of the future.

  1. What difficulties are you facing right now? How might God use them for your good or the good of someone else?
  2. Name some of the women you know who have used their difficulties to help others. How have they glorified God?
  3. Name some difficulties you’ve faced in the past. What good came out of them?
Ecclesiastes 7:10, 14
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions . . . When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.

Related Readings

Exodus 16:1–8; Isaiah 40:28–31; 43:18–19

His Princess Every Day - Monday, April 11, 2016

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

I Will Give You Wings to Fly

My Beloved Bride,

I know your heart longs to dream. Don’t lose sight of your hope, my beloved; I placed that passion inside you to do something great while you are reigning here on earth. I want to be the one to lift you up in my appointed time. If you are willing to wait on me, I will take you to a place where dreams come true. Let me be the one who gives you your wings, my bride. I alone can lift you higher than you could ever fly on your own. You will see the world from a whole new point of view when you soar with me.

Your Prince 

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint. - Isaiah 40:31 (NLT) 

Prayer to my Prince 

My Prince,

You are the wind that takes me where I want to go. You are the sweet incense that makes my life so sweet. Yes Lord, I will wait on you to give me my wings. Please prepare me for my appointed time to soar. Please be my strength that I may run this race and never give up or grow weary while waiting. Thank you in advance for my wings.

Your bride who longs to fly with you

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty  power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely  more than we might ask or think. - Ephesians 3-20 

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

Women of the Bible - Naomi

Her name means: "My Joy" or "Pleasant" 

Her character: Suffering a threefold tragedy, Naomi refused to hide Her Sorrow or bitterness. Believing in God's sovereignty, she attributed her suffering to his will. But her fixation on circumstances, both past and present, led to hopelessness. A kind and loving mother-in-law, she inspired unusual love and loyalty in her daughters-in-law.
Her sorrow: To have lost a husband and two sons in a foreign land, far from family and friends.
Her joy: To have returned safely to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law Ruth, who would eventually rekindle her happiness and hope.
Key Scriptures: Ruth 1; 4:13-17 

Her Story

She stood like an old tree twisted against the sky. Though Naomi could see for miles from her vantage point high on the road that led from Moab to Judah, she could glimpse nothing at all of her future. She thought about robbers, rumored on the road ahead. What more, she wondered, could possibly be taken from her? Her thoughts strayed to the past.

Moses, she knew, had been buried somewhere in these mountains. But his people and hers had moved west into Canaan centuries earlier. Would she, too, be left behind, prevented from ever seeing her kinsfolk again? Was God so displeased with her?

Ten years ago, she and her husband, Elimelech, had lived happily in Bethlehem. But the city whose name meant "house of bread" suddenly had none, so they had migrated to the highlands of Moab to escape the famine. Then Elimelech had died and her sons had married Moabite women, whose race had descended from Abraham's nephew, Lot. Plenty of women lost their husbands. Like them, she would find a way to survive. But then she had suffered the worst grief a mother could—outliving her own children.

Now Ruth and Orpah, her daughters-in-law, were the only kin she had in Moab. Loving them tenderly, she felt their widowhood as a double grief. Together they had cried and comforted each other. The three women finally decided to leave Moab for Bethlehem. But once on the road, Naomi's misgivings outran her craving for companionship. It wasn't right for young women to forsake their families and friends for so uncertain a future. What chance would they, widows and strangers, have in Bethlehem, even now that the famine had run its course?

"Go back, each of you, to your mother's home," she told them. "May the Lord show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband."

But Orpah and Ruth insisted, "We will go back with you to your people."

"Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons—would you wait until they grew up?"
The three women embraced, tears streaking their cheeks. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clutched Naomi and whispered fiercely, "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me."

The old woman's stubbornness was no match for the younger woman's love. And so Naomi and Ruth continued on to Bethlehem. After so long an absence, Naomi's return created a great commotion in the town, and all the women welcomed her, saying, "Can this be Naomi?"

"Don't call me Naomi," she told them. "Call me Mara [meaning 'bitter'], because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me."

Naomi could not see past her suffering. Like many of us, she may have felt as though her tragedies were punishment for her sins. Yet had she known the blessings in store, she might not have felt so hopeless. Instead, she may have compared herself to the tree that Job so graciously describes:

At least there is hope for a tree:
If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail.
Its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump die in the soil,
yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth shoots like a plant. - Job 14:7-9 

Though she didn't know it, the scent of water was in the air. Naomi's life was beginning again, her story still unfolding.

Her Promise

God's faithfulness to restore to fullness an empty life is revealed more in this story of Naomi than in any other biblical account. The famine and hunger that drove Naomi and her husband and sons away from Bethlehem are finally replaced with full harvests and bread baked from grain gleaned in the fields. The anguish of losing her husband and sons is replaced with the loving care and concern of her daughter-in-law Ruth, who is "better to [Naomi] than seven sons" (Ruth 4:15). And Naomi's empty mother-arms are filled with the son of Boaz and Ruth. She is no absent grandmother; the Scriptures say Naomi took Obed and "laid him in her lap and cared for him" (Ruth 4:16). (We'll hear more about this grandson in the next chapter.)

Like Naomi, we may have trouble recognizing God's goodness and his faithfulness at times. But he is still with us no matter the circumstances.

Salt and Light - April 11, 2016

Girlfriends in God - April 11, 2016

You’ve Been Pre-Approved!
Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV). 

Friend to Friend

 I don’t know about you, but I get tired of junk mail from credit card companies that tell me I’ve been “pre-approved” for a line of credit. But here’s something I’ll never get tired of: God telling me that I’ve been pre-approved to be His child.

Just before Jesus began his earthly ministry, He traveled to the Jordan to be baptized by his cousin John. As soon as He came up out of the water, the heavens opened, the Spirit descended, and God spoke. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

Just think about that. Before Jesus even performed the first miracle, preached the first sermon, or called the first disciple, God made sure that His identity was clear. He was accepted, approved, and completely loved. And so are you.

So many Christians are trying to earn an acceptance and approval that Jesus has already earned for them. God’s acceptance of you is not based on your performance. That doesn’t mean that we stop trying to do our best to live a God-honoring life. But it does mean that we stop trying to earn acceptance we already have. You have nothing to prove because you have already been approved through the finished work of Jesus on the cross and His presence in you.

The devil will do anything and everything he can to keep you from believing that truth. Make no mistake about it, he knows that you are a chosen, holy, dearly loved child of God who has been created to fulfill a great purpose that God has planned for you. He knows it, and he hates it. His goal is to keep you from believing it. And if he can keep you from believing the truth about your new identity, then he has won.

True confidence comes when the words God speaks about you become more real to you than the lies you’ve believed all your life.

We will always have a choice to believe the God who made us (fearfully and wonderfully, I might add) or believe the deceiver who wants to hold us hostage in the “less than” mentality. Change always begins with a choice.

The voice you believe will determine your destiny, whether you remain in the land of in-between (saved from Egypt but never quite making it to your Promised Land) or venture toward the land of milk and honey—the exciting, adventurous life in Christ that is fraught with miracles, wonders, and life to the full. Identity always comes before activity. Before you can effectively do what God has called you to do, you must take hold of who God has called you to be.

We need to learn how to overpower the lies of the enemy with the promises of God, and we’re going to start right here, right now, by believing the truth about your new born-again identity.

Many of us are driven by a scarcity mentality and see ourselves through the lens of our pre-Christ, spiritually dead existence rather than our born-again, spiritually alive and empowered identity. We are held hostage to the idea that we will never be good enough, when Jesus clearly tells us that through Him, we already are.
So here’s what I want you to do today: allow God to baptize you in the affirmation of your true identity.

You are His daughter.
Whom He loves.
With you He is well pleased. 

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, I can never thank You enough for loving me. Help me to stop trying to earn what I already have. Help me to take hold of my new identity and walk in the confidence of a woman who is truly loved.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn

Read Ephesians 2:1-10 and note what Paul writes about your acceptance and salvation.

Now, this is deep, but I think you can handle it. Read Galatians 3:1-14. Why was Paul fussing at the Galatians? They knew they had been saved by faith, but then they began to what?

Have you ever found yourself turning your relationship with Jesus into a list of dos and don’ts, or a hectic schedule of church work? Why do you think we do that?

Today remember, you are pre-approved! If you know that in your knower, click over to my Facebook page and say, “Praise God! I’m pre-approved!” 

More from the Girlfriends

Today’s devotion was taken from my new book, Take Hold of the Faith you Long For: Let God, Move Forward, Live Bold. A mediocre, mundane faith is not your destiny! In Take Hold of the Faith You Long For, I reveal the most common reasons we get stuck in our Christian faith. I show you how to break free of all that holds you back, move forward with all that God promises, and live the adventurous faith of bold believing. It’s time to leave behind feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and inadequacy that hold you hostage and take hold of the mountain-moving faith God intends. Let’s uncover untapped sources of confidence and courage, and see how to move from simply knowing the truth to actually living it out boldly in a life marked by true freedom and expectancy. Click on the book cover to discover free bonuses when you order before May 1, 2016.

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Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall…hardship…? Romans 8:35b 

The question asked is a personal one. Not “what” can separate us but “who”? The inference is our enemy, Satan, who tries every tactic he can garner to make us think we can be separated from Christ’s love. Today we look at his tactic of “hardship.”

Sixteen-year-old Lakech had always known a stable home in her small Ethiopian village of Moche. Her childhood as one of eight children was not carefree. But it was uncomplicated. Her father, a godly man, worked hard to provide the needs of his large family. They did not have an abundance; but they survived. While Lakech was growing up, her father and mother came to Christ. They laboured hard and devoted themselves to bringing up their eight children in a God-fearing way. But two years ago, her father was framed by some enemies and charged with stealing trees.

The legal battle started with a hearing a few days later, dragging on for a year when the court found Lakech’s father guilty and sentenced him to a year’s imprisonment. He found himself sharing a cell with about fifty criminals, and his family was left in turmoil.

At home, mother was not coping well. Neighbors were mocking the children, claiming their father would be jailed for seven more years. “I started noticing that it was hard for my mother to put food on the table,” explained Lakech. “I could not watch my mother battle on her own. I wanted to finish school, but it was impossible for me to just carry on,” admitted the timid young teenager. “My mother needed help.”

Despite her age and innate shyness, Lakech left school and found a full-time job as a house servant some distance from her home town. For long periods of time, Lakech stayed away from home working, sending all her earnings home to her mother. Following her example, Lakech’s second oldest brother, also in his teens, quit school and took over the farming on their small land.

Then the local church began to help support the family, and Open Doors was alerted to the difficult struggle to just feed the family. The ministry was able to come alongside the entire family, helping supply their food, and then paying school fees so Lakech could return home and resume her studies with her brother.

Soon afterwards, to the family’s great joy, father was pardoned because of good behavior and released after serving nearly half of his sentence. He was overjoyed and declared, “I was saying to myself, by the time I finish serving the sentence, I will find my family scattered and needy. But it was different. They lacked nothing and everything was covered.

“I was also thinking no one will be with us,” Lakech’s mother shared. “But we now are in joy. I am happy to be relieved from my worries and above all to have my husband beside me. The Lord has blessed me with these two successes; both my daughter and husband have come home.” 

RESPONSE: I will live this day aware that hardships can never separate me from Christ’s love.

PRAYER: Lord we rejoice in Your goodness and in Your provision for every real need.

Verse of the Day - April 11, 2016

1 Peter 2:24 (NIV) “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

Read all of 1 Peter 2