Thursday, May 12, 2016

Unrestrained Generosity

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us…!” 1 John 3:1 

It’s no coincidence that we started this week’s look at generosity with a story about a little boy. Children are often our best teachers.

Years ago during the week of my birthday, our family decided to go for a leisurely stroll through our local shopping center. Ryan, who was eight at the time, opened his piggybank and took out five dollars he had been saving for something special. As we walked along, window shopping and enjoying being together, Ryan announced that he wanted to have some time alone to go to the toy store and pet shop. We set a time and place where we would meet, and off he went. In about thirty minutes, he came walking up with a grin that stretched from ear to ear.

Ryan said, “Here, Mom, this is for your birthday. But you can open it right now!” By the look on his face, it was obvious that he felt strongly about my opening the gift right there in the middle of the mall. So we found a nearby bench. He announced his present had cost a lot of money. (He had spent the entire five dollars on it.)

As shoppers filed by, he watched excitedly while I carefully unwrapped the package. Gazing down at its contents, I was suddenly filled with emotion. His present wasn’t anything he could have found in a toy or pet store. It wasn’t even something you’d expect to receive from an eight‐year‐old boy. There in my lap was a lovely desk set. The ostrich‐feathered white pen looked like an old‐fashioned quill that Ben Franklin might have used to sign the Declaration of Independence. The stand was padded in matching white, with a spray of pink flowers delicately painted around the edges.

My eyes brimmed with tears as I hugged and thanked my son for such an extravagant gift. It has been many years since that day, and I still treasure that pen as a reminder of Ryan’s spontaneous gift of love.

Most of us are too inclined to keep our purses or wallets shut tight against the opportunities for giving that are all around. Or when we give, we give what’s convenient or interesting to us, not to the recipient.

In our marriages, we have so many chances to practice childlike, unrestrained generosity—with no ulterior motive, necessity, or expectation in mind. The more we give and receive that kind of love, the more we will experience the love of God in our homes. I think the apostle John had something like “unrestrained generosity” in mind when he wrote, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).

- Shirley M Dobson

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

His Princess Every Day - Thursday, May 12, 2016

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

Rest for the Warrior
My Princess Warrior,

I am never too tired to carry you when you’re too weak to walk. This is one of the privileges of being My Princess. Take my gift of a Sabbath and rest, my beloved. Allow your body and  mind to refuel while you rest. I can lift that heaviness in your heary so you will be more effective. Let Me be your refuge when you’re weary from life. I am the One who wants to bear all burdens. Now rest in me to receive My perfect peace, which will refresh and renew your strength. Now let go, and find rest for your weary soul.

Your God of perfect peace 

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” - Matthew 11:28 (NLT) 

A Prayer for the Weary 

I pray in Jesus name that you will be refreshed by His love, and learn to lay your burdens at His feet. I pray that you will stand on His promises and find rest in knowing your God will take care of you. I pray you will allow Him to comfort and restore you from the inside out. May you have the peace of knowing that the Creator of everything loves you. May you be strengthened in Him so that you will be ready to fight any battle you may face.

And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. - Genesis 2:3 (NLT)

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.

The Daily Readings for May 12, 2016

Zechariah 4:1-14
The angel who talked with me came again, and wakened me, as one is wakened from sleep. He said to me, "What do you see?" And I said, "I see a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it; there are seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And by it there are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left." I said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these, my lord?" Then the angel who talked with me answered me, "Do you not know what these are?" I said, "No, my lord." He said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts. What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring out the top stone amid shouts of 'Grace, grace to it!'" Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel. "These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth." Then I said to him, "What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?" And a second time I said to him, "What are these two branches of the olive trees, which pour out the oil through the two golden pipes?" He said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" I said, "No, my lord." Then he said, "These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth."

Ephesians 4:17-32
Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Matthew 9:1-8
And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town. And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." Then some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming." But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"-- he then said to the paralytic-- "Stand up, take your bed and go to your home." And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.

Morning Psalms

Psalm 105: Part I
1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name; make known his deeds among the peoples.
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him, and speak of all his marvelous works.
3 Glory in his holy Name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
4 Search for the LORD and his strength; continually seek his face.
5 Remember the marvels he has done, his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,
6 O offspring of Abraham his servant, O children of Jacob his chosen.
7 He is the LORD our God; his judgments prevail in all the world.
8 He has always been mindful of his covenant, the promise he made for a thousand generations:
9 The covenant he made with Abraham, the oath that he swore to Issac,
10 Which he established as a statute for Jacob, an everlasting covenant for Israel,
11 Saying, "To you will I give the land of Canaan to be your allotted inheritance."
12 When they were few in number, of little account, and sojourners in the land,
13 Wandering from nation to nation and from one kingdom to another,
14 He let no one oppress them and rebuked kings for their sake,
15 Saying, "Do not touch my anointed and do my prophets no harm."
16 Then he called for a famine in the land and destroyed the supply of bread.
17 He sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet in fetters; his neck they put in an iron collar.
19 Until his prediction came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.
20 The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free.
21 He set him as a master over his household, as a ruler over all his possessions,
22 To instruct his princes according to his will and to teach his elders wisdom.

Evening Psalms

Psalm 105: Part II
23 Israel came into Egypt, and Jacob became a sojourner in the land of Ham.
24 The LORD made his people exceedingly fruitful; he made them stronger than their enemies;
25 Whose heart he turned, so that they hated his people, and dealt unjustly with his servants.
26 He sent Moses his servant, and Aaron whom he had chosen.
27 They worked his signs among them, and portents in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness, and it grew dark; but the Egyptians rebelled against his words.
29 He turned their waters into blood and caused their fish to die.
30 Their land was overrun by frogs, in the very chambers of their kings.
31 He spoke, and there came swarms of insects and gnats within all their borders.
32 He gave them hailstones instead of rain, and flames of fire throughout their land.
33 He blasted their vines and their fig trees and shattered every tree in their country.
34 He spoke, and the locust came, and young locusts without number,
35 Which ate up all the green plants in their land and devoured the fruit of their soil.
36 He struck down the firstborn of their land, the firstfruits of all their strength.
37 He led out his people with silver and gold; in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.
38 Egypt was glad of their going, because they were afraid of them.
39 He spread out a cloud for a covering and a fire to give light in the night season.
40 They asked, and quails appeared, and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.
41 He opened the rock, and water flowed, so the river ran in the dry places.
42 For God remembered his holy word and Abraham his servant.
43 So he led forth his people with gladness, his chosen with shouts of joy.
44 He gave his people the lands of the nations, and they took the fruit of others' toil,
45 That they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Hallelujah!

The Daily Meditation for May 12, 2016

From Forward Day by Day

Zechariah 4:5 Then the angel who talked with me answered me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.”

I was on retreat with several clergy and in the midst of serving in a very challenging ministry situation. Life felt overwhelming. We went to a scenic area to pray Evening Prayer as the sun set. We each laid hands on one another in healing and hope. To commemorate this holy moment, one priest found some stones and shared them with us.

I carried that small stone with me as I entered the search process for a new church, knowing the prayers, love, and support of friends went with me. When I’m overwhelmed or tired from all that is life, I hold this stone as I pray and feel the healing and hope it symbolizes.

Ours is a faith of symbols. They represent ideas and beliefs that our words are woefully inadequate to express. Some can be obvious, like the cross. Some, like my stone, hold meaning only for an individual.

What symbols in your life remind you of hope and love?

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Girlfriends in God - May 12, 2016

It’s Not What You Know But Who You Know
Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness,” (2 Pet. 1:3 NIV). 

Friend to Friend

Aren’t you excited to know that God has deposited rich blessings and a lavish inheritance into your account? Tell me, what reason do we have to feel inadequate? In light of what we have in Christ, I can’t think of a thing. But how do we access these magnificent promises? Peter says: “Through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Pet. 1:3).

The Greeks had several words for the word knowledge. The one used here is epignosis. This is a strengthened form of the word and implies a larger, more thorough, and intimate knowledge. It is not simply knowing something intellectually, but understanding and believing what you know in a personal way.

When Steve and I traveled to Ephesus, a local tour guide took us through the landmarks, ruins, and history of the early church. She knew the facts about Christianity and more about the dates, locations, and nuances of Paul’s visits than we did. When we stopped for lunch, I asked her if it would be okay with her if we asked God to bless our food. She bowed her head with us as we prayed. When she opened her eyes, she said, “Thank you. I’ve never experienced that before.”

This Turkish woman knew about Christianity, but she had no epignosis of Jesus. She knew all about the historical aspects of the religion, but she did not know the One who came to set her free.

Even demons know who Jesus is—and they shudder (James 2:19). The devil knows exactly who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He will do in the final days. But the devil does not know Him experientially as Savior and Lord. Paul says that through knowing Jesus intimately, personally, and experientially, we have everything we need—precious and magnificent promises.

Like a tiny baby born to be King, most of us have no idea what those great and mighty promises entail, what our rich inheritance contains, or what our spiritual birthright bestows. As we open the pages of God’s Word, He begins to reveal the truth of who you are and what you have as a child of God. And remember, this is not a promise of what you will have one day, but what you have the moment you believe.

These promises are called precious and valuable. I love how the NASB translation refers to them as “magnificent promises.” The word magnificent means “splendid, lavish, beautiful; as to arouse admiration and wonder.” And oh how God’s magnificent, splendid, lavish, and beautiful promises arouse admiration and wonder of who He is and what He does. Oh my goodness, why in the world would I feel inadequate! Thick-headedness and unbelief are my only excuses.

And how does He give us everything we need for life and godliness, how does He dole out the precious promises? He gives freely. Pours out lavishly. It costs you nothing. It cost Jesus everything. 

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, thank You for your lavish blessings and Your magnificent promises. No matter what comes my way today, help me to remember that You have given me everything I need for a life of godliness.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn

Look up the following verses and note what you learn about God’s promises: Genesis 28:15; Number 23:19;Joshua 21:45; Psalm 145:13

What do you need to do to move that knowledge from your head, to your heart, to your feet or actions? 

More from the Girlfriends

Today’s devotion was taken from my new book, Take Hold of the Faith you Long For: Let Go, Move Forward, Live Bold. A mediocre, mundane faith is not what you were made for! In Take Hold of the Faith You Long For, I reveal the most common reasons we get stuck in our Christian faith, living less than what we had hoped. 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. It’s time to TAKE HOLD of all that Jesus has already taken hold of for you and placed in you! Click on the book cover to download a sample chapter and view a quick video. And if you’re looking for a new study for your women’s group or individual study, Take Hold includes a Bible Study guide in the back. Also, you’ll find out about some free gifts with each purchase.

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He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents… Malachi 4:6a 

ManFu’s parents are key leaders in a house church network—his father serves as a regional pastor in one of the largest cities in China, and his mother is a Bible teacher. They travel constantly, preaching and teaching at a different congregation almost every weekend. Their little pre-school daughter goes along, but it’s not a stable environment for ManFu, their teenage son, to keep up with his studies. So they enrolled him in a boarding school in his father’s home village, so he could spend weekends with his grandfather.

They pledged to telephone him every Saturday night, but for itinerant pastors in China, Saturday nights are busy, demanding times. ManFu’s parents would sometimes get so caught up with ministry that they missed their weekly call to their son—sometimes three in a row. And even then, they often cut off what he was telling them with a hurried barrage of questions which felt critical and unloving to their son. Although their questions were rooted in concern for his welfare, to ManFu each conversation felt like an interrogation, and he began to wish they would stop calling. His parents became frantic as to how they could effectively reach out to him.

Brother Samuel, an Open Doors trainer, suggested they begin by writing a letter to their son, pouring out their hopes and love and prayers for him. “Share about the struggles you have and how much you long for him to be by your side. Help him to see all that is in your heart. Kneel before the Lord and pray before you begin this letter. Don’t mention the past. Whenever your son thinks of you, he will take the letter out and read it and know his parents are praying for him.”

Accepting their mentor’s assignment, they went home to write to their first-born, hundreds of miles away. Unknown to the parents, their letter never arrived. But by the time they found out, they told Samuel, it didn’t matter anymore. Their phone conversations had been transformed week after week, as the parents focused on sharing their love and prayers for ManFu. Although the letter itself was lost, its contents had been written in their hearts—and ManFu felt their love.

When ManFu’s summer school vacation approached, Samuel advised the anxious parents to set aside special family times to do things together. “It doesn’t matter where you go – to the park or for walks – but you must take a family photograph,” he advised. “Then take one photograph and write on the back of it for your son to take back to school with him. Whenever he looks at it, he will be reminded of his parents and that you love him.”

When Samuel shared this testimony with pastors in other regions, many admitted that they also had strained relationships with their children. Confused how to resolve the guilt they were experiencing, they had simply given up—until they heard how God worked in ManFu’s family.

“It’s amazing to see parents being set free and healed from their feelings of guilt, to see them turn to God and experience His love,” Samuel said. “And this in turn blessed their children.” 

RESPONSE: Today I will work on communications with family members to assure them of my love.

PRAYER: Pray for mentors like Samuel who strengthen pastors and their families in China’s unregistered church through balanced, holistic ministry.

Verse of the Day - May 12, 2016

Proverbs 31:10, 27-28 (NIV) [ Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character ] A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

Read all of Proverbs 31