Monday, May 16, 2016

Wandering Sheep

“If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine… and go to look for the one that wandered off?” Matthew 18:12 

I f you are parents of small children, you know exactly how the shepherds mentioned in the Bible felt as they watched over their flocks. Even for a mother with “eyes in the back of her head,” keeping one active child from wandering off can seem as big a challenge as corralling a hundred sheep!

Jesus is called a shepherd, too, but His flock is all of humanity and He watches over us day and night. That’s why He called Himself the Good Shepherd. He came to earth to die so that not one soul would have to be lost. During His earthly ministry, He was always on the lookout for lost souls. He stayed up late to talk to Nicodemus (John 3:2). He wouldn’t let Zacchaeus hide unnoticed in a tree (Luke 19:5). And when the Pharisees were about to stone a despised adulteress, Jesus intervened with a message of forgiveness and direction—“Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).

Every day, we have divine appointments to lead others into God’s flock—not just our family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers, but also people we’ve never met before and may never see again. God’s wisdom and power are at our disposal. We just have to keep our eyes open.

Just between us…
  • Do you see Jesus as your Good Shepherd? Why or why not?
  • As a couple, are we watching for “lost sheep”?
  • How can we be more watchful for opportunities to reach unbelievers? Is there anyone “lost” with whom we can talk this week? 
Lord Jesus, show us how to demonstrate Your great love and compassion to those around us. We, too, want to be shepherds of lost souls. Amen. 

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

His Princess Every Day - Monday, May 16, 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 Help You Find Your Way
My Bride,

There will be times that you will feel I am far from you, that is not true, my love. Your feelings will deceive you but I never will. I am the truth that will forever help you find your way back to me. So whenever you feel lost, just look up and I will be the one to light your way when you are lost. When your world seems dark, I will be your compass and your comfort. I will carry you over the finish line of your faith when you’re too weary to run. You will never be lost as long as you keep your eyes on me. Even when you don’t have the strength to go on, I will become your strength.

Your Prince and Way 

You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! - Psalm 139:5-6 (NLT) 

Prayer to my Prince 

Thank my from the depth of my soul for continually proving how strong your passion is for me. Yes Lord, there are many days I feel lost and very far from you. I know in my heart you never move from me, but somehow, no matter how hard I try to stay close to you, I seem to fall away from your love and truth. I am so in awe that you continue to run after me no matter what I do or say. I am so grateful that you never, ever give up on me. 

Your Princess who is ready to be found 

O Lord, you have examined my heart
And know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. - Psalm 139:1-2 (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.

Wild Inspiration

Ezekiel 1:1–28 

Do you ever read Bible passages and just scratch your head in confusion? For most non-scholarly Bible readers, the book of Ezekiel is chock-full of kaleidoscopic visions that seem more like Star Wars than Scripture. After reading Ezekiel 1, can you imagine what fun Hollywood would have in creating their rendition of this scene? Even animatronics wizards might struggle to come up with a four-winged human being with four faces (that of a man, lion, ox and eagle)—on wheels, no less. God is, indeed, more creative than any human being’s imagination.

Why would God give this wild vision to Ezekiel?

The answer might have to do with inspiration. It seems that what enabled the prophet Ezekiel and his contemporaries to press on in their difficult ministries was a powerful, majestic vision of God. Ezekiel’s particular vision left an indelible impression: God was the absolute Sovereign over all of creation and history. The prophet would remember this one-of-a-kind experience and return to it all of his life.

Ezekiel could describe the cherubim in this vision with great detail. However, when he saw “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD,” he groped for words and ultimately could not respond. He could only fall facedown—awestruck by God’s holiness and glory.

Ezekiel, like most Biblical prophets, endured his share of shame and often appeared foolish to his contemporaries. He did not have a dream job . . . so he needed a vision. His visions of God sustained, encouraged, strengthened and directed him in an otherwise difficult and thankless task.

What is your vision of God? What keeps you staying with the job God has called you to do? Is your motivation based on who God has revealed himself to be? Whatever your task today, dare to ask the wild, holy, Sovereign God of Ezekiel to reveal his majesty to encourage and strengthen you.

  1. Do you ever feel uninspired and unrewarded in your ministry, task or job?
  2. Where do you usually look for motivation?
  3. How has God revealed himself to you in a way that has strengthened and encouraged you? 
 Ezekiel 1:28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Related Readings 

Isaiah 6:1–13; Ezekiel 3:22–23; 8:1–4; 10:3–5; Acts 9:1–9; 2 Corinthians 12:2–6

Girlfriends in God - May 16, 2016

The Cracked Life
Part 1

Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, NKJV). 

Friend to Friend

I must be getting older because I have six grandchildren. And they really do say the most hilarious things – sometimes. Other times, their words can absolutely nail me to the wall and put life in perspective in a split second.

A few weeks ago I was keeping our three-year-old grandson Hudson while our daughter took his older brother to the doctor. Hudson has strawberry-blonde hair, blue eyes, a killer smile … and he loves to snuggle. I know. It’s a deadly combination.

After Danna and Justus left, Hudson crawled up in my lap and just grinned at me. Then he began to gently rub my face with his little hand. My heart just melted. He was probably thinking what a beautiful grandmother he has … or how soft my skin is. I could not have been more wrong.

“Mimi, why are there cwacks (cracks) in your face?” Hudson sweetly asked. I died laughing and tried my best to explain why my face has lines. It was quite a conversation. Hudson wanted to know if the doctor could fix the lines or if I needed a Band-Aid or some medicine. I assured him that I really was working on getting rid of the cracks in my face.

We live in a world frantically trying to ward off the aging process. Women – yes, I am right there with you - try every anti-aging product they can find. Some women spend a lot of money on cosmetic procedures in an effort to eliminate wrinkles, age spots, skin tabs and anything else that might remotely suggest that they are indeed getting older. It is almost as if we really do believe wrinkles are terminal.

I’m not saying it is wrong to make every effort to look our best, but I am saying that staying young is more of an inside job than an outside one.

I am 65 - a fact that is just almost impossible for me to wrap my head around. I really didn’t think I would live this long. Seriously!

Every day of my life has been jam-packed full of both wonderful and horrible things – some of which I didn’t think I would survive. And yet, here I am, going strong and looking forward to the next chapter of life – convinced it is going to be a doozy!

Friends and family members often compare my daily life to a series of helicopters landing. You never quite know what is in those helicopters, but one thing is certain – the landing is going to be fierce and things will start flying. Sometimes I stand firm, almost daring that helicopter to land. Other days I duck for cover. And when the dust settles, I am absolutely amazed and praising God that I am still breathing.

If you are a young woman, let me encourage you to cherish every day and every moment with your friends and family because the older you get, the quicker the days fly by. Seek God’s plan with a holy desperation and embrace it with every breath. I look at our children who are married and having children of their own and wonder where all those years went. How did this happen? I think it is called life, and the part this side of heaven is very short.

If you are a middle-aged woman, celebrate the journey … so far. Take time to reflect and let the lessons God has taught you marinate in your soul. Let go of what you thought was so important - but turned out to be so insignificant. Joyfully pick up the things worth hanging on to and turn the page with a sense of anticipation.

If you are an older woman, take a deep breath and celebrate the fact that you are breathing. Breathing is good! As our five-year-old granddaughter once told my husband when he finished a puzzle, “Good job, Papi! You did it! I proud of you!” Her words of encouragement have become a family maxim.

I believe this: if you are alive, God has a purpose and a plan for your life. Give yourself a pat on the back for your stellar survival skills. Take a few moments to reflect on your life and don’t get hung up on what might have been. Yank the question marks into exclamation points and praise God for His stubborn love and unwavering faithfulness to you.

God cannot fill hands that are desperately clutching a bunch of “what ifs.” Celebrate what is, dare to dream of what can be … and walk on. Keep your gaze on Him and your glance on your circumstances. Find your purpose and do it!

And those cracks?

Battle scars, girlfriend.

Wear them proudly! You have earned them, and they look great on you! 

Let’s Pray

Father, please help me learn how to celebrate life. Teach me how to focus on You and the amazing plan You have for me. I want to live each day fully engaged with You, joyfully expecting You to use me in ways I never imagined. I come to You with open hands and an open heart, asking You to fill me up and use me, Lord.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn 
  • Right now – celebrate God’s unconditional love. Read Romans 8:38-39.
  • Right now – celebrate your spiritual bankruptcy and the fact that you need Jesus. Read Romans 3:23.
  • Right now – celebrate God’s payment for your sin. Read John 3:16.
  • Right now – celebrate and walk, by faith, in His unconditional love and forgiveness. Read Romans 5:5.
More from the Girlfriends

It is easy to see God in the miraculous events of life, but I believe God’s greatest work takes place in our everyday lives as He takes the ordinary and uses it to create the extraordinary and unexplainable! In the MP3 download, Celebrate Life, Dan joins Mary to explain how you can learn to experience the power and presence of God every single day!

Be sure to check out the FREE MP3s on Mary’s website and connect with Mary through email or on Facebook.

Seeking God? Click here to find out more about
how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Girlfriends in God
P.O. Box 1311
Huntersville, NC 28070

Women of the Bible - The Woman of Endor

Her character: Compassionate to Saul on the eve of his death, she exercised power by acting as a medium.
Her sorrow: To have delivered a hopeless message to Israel's king.
Key Scriptures: 1 Samuel 28:3-25 

Her Story

It was a night for frightening apparitions. Squinting through the open doorway, the woman stiffened, retreating a step. A face loomed before her, floating on its own like a full white moon in the outer darkness. Before she could close the door, she felt fingers gripping her wrist.

"Please," the voice insisted, "consult a spirit for me, and bring up for me the one I name."

The large man pushed through the door, followed by two more men. She could smell his fear as he swept past her and sat down on the couch.

"Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?" she replied.

"As surely as the Lord lives, you will not be punished for this," he swore.

"Whom shall I bring up for you?"

"Bring up Samuel," he said.

So the woman sat down and yielded herself, making her soul a bridge for the dead to walk across.

Suddenly she screamed, "Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!"

The king calmed her, saying, "Don't be afraid. What do you see?"

"An old man wearing a robe is coming up," she said.

Saul bowed down and prostrated himself, his face in the dirt.

Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?"

"I am in great distress," Saul replied. "The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has turned away from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do."

Samuel said, "Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has turned away from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done what he predicted through me. The Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines."

The woman shuddered, the message delivered. Little wonder the king had seemed so desolate. Fear had crushed the life out of his once-strong face, hollowing the eyes, etching deep lines across cheeks and forehead.

Taking pity, she spoke to him: "Look, your maidservant has obeyed you. I took my life in my hands and did what you told me to do. Now please listen to your servant and let me give you some food so you may eat and have the strength to go on your way."

Kindly, she served what may have been Saul's last meal. The next day he was dead. Wounded in battle, he fell on his own sword, determined to finish the job before his enemies could reach him. True to form, Saul, who had always tried to control his destiny, controlled even the manner of his death. But he could not control what happened next. Discovering his body, the Philistines celebrated by severing his head and hanging it in the temple of their god. Then they tacked his naked corpse to the walls of a nearby town as a trophy. Israel's first king had become a gruesome spectacle.

The woman of Endor is a strange character, steeped in the occult yet kind and motherly in her attitude toward the tormented king. For some reason, God allowed her to call up the prophet Samuel even though necromancy (conjuring spirits for the purpose of knowing or influencing future events) was strictly forbidden in Israel.

Perhaps she had become a medium because women in those days had so little power. Or perhaps it seemed an outlet for her helpful nature. But by yielding her soul to spirits, she was abusing herself in the deepest possible way, distorting her dignity as a person for the sake of obtaining power. How fitting that Saul, who had always tried to control the future, spent his last moments consulting her, breaking his own law in the process. Step-by-step, his insecurities had taken control of him, reducing his soul and disabling his ability to depend on God rather than on himself.

That night the woman of Endor had looked into the eyes of the most powerful man in Israel and had seen the terror there. Did the vision shake her? Did she recognize herself in him? Did her encounter with a true prophet cause her to forsake her trade as a medium? We have no idea what became of her. Sadly, her meeting with Saul marks one of the lowest moments in the life of Israel's first king, revealing his disintegration as a man whose future was destroyed by disobedience.

Saul's tragic ending reminds us that the antidote to fear is always trust. Only faith can cure our worst nightmares, and faith is a gift that is either fed by obedience or starved by disobedience. Forsaking our own desire to manipulate and control people and circumstances, we must trust God to use his power on our behalf.

Her Promise

In a backhanded sort of way, the woman of Endor reveals for us our need to trust God. As human beings, many of us are like Saul, afraid of the future, estranged from our loved ones and God, willing to go anywhere for help. But God is our only true source of help and comfort. He has promised to guide and direct us and plan our steps. He doesn't promise to reveal the future to us, but he does promise to go with us as we step into it.


For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools… Romans 1:21-22 

Satan has led many quasi-religious groups to unite around a mixture of religious teachings and then brand honest Christian believers as bigots for clinging to salvation in Christ alone. An outgrowth of the postmodern era in which we live is that many people no longer believe in absolute truth. A natural extension of this lack of absolutes is the widely held view that there is good in every religion and all roads lead to heaven. Individuals can then pick and choose the elements they wish from whatever faith and mix them all together. This is true syncretism. Chuck Colson refers to its impact on our faith as “salad-bar Christianity!”

Satan is delighted when people believe and expound on his lies. He does not want anyone to know the truth and come to a personal relationship with Jesus who is the truth, the way and the life (John14:6). Jesus is the only way.

One man reportedly traveled the world to find one name for God that would be universal and bring all people together. Instantly the word love came to his mind. He later wrote, “Give God the universal name of Love and we will create a golden cord to tie together the truths of all the religions of the world.” But love is not God’s name. It is His nature. And God expressed it most fully when He sent His Son to die for our sins (John 3:16). Only when we accept Christ’s sacrifice for us will we know the love of the one true God that can bind people together.

A few years ago, an inter-faith group of 10,000 people met at the Vatican in Rome. The group included the Pope, the Dalai Lama and Muslim Imam W. D. Mohammed. An outspoken Hindu woman was quoted as saying, “It was refreshing to note that the idea that all religions have universal truths, and are merely different paths to the same goal was accepted as a given from the outset by all delegates without a single dissenting voice.”

The same delegates also endorsed a general condemnation of “aggressive” proselytizing. This is the prevailing thinking of our day and age. Satan will do all he can to cause this thinking to even invade the church and individual Christian thinking and action.

The end result of syncretism in free societies will be anti-conversion laws and a prohibition of Christian witnessing. The euphemism for this law will probably be called “religious freedom.” 

RESPONSE: Today I will guard carefully against the deceptions of Satan leading to syncretism.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to fix my eyes on You and Your Word today so that I will not stumble.

Salt and Light - May 16, 2016

The Daily Readings for May 16, 2016

Ezekiel 33:1-11
The word of the LORD came to me: O Mortal, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one of their number as their sentinel; and if the sentinel sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people; then if any who hear the sound of the trumpet do not take warning, and the sword comes and takes them away, their blood shall be upon their own heads. They heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; their blood shall be upon themselves. But if they had taken warning, they would have saved their lives. But if the sentinel sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any of them, they are taken away in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at the sentinel's hand. So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, "O wicked ones, you shall surely die," and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life. Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: "Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?" Say to them, As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?

1 John 1:1-10
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-- this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us-- we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Matthew 9:27-34
As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to him, "Yes, Lord." Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith let it be done to you." And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, "See that no one knows of this." But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district. After they had gone away, a demoniac who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, "Never has anything like this been seen in Israel." But the Pharisees said, "By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons."

Morning Psalms

Psalm 106: Part I Confitemini Domino
1   Hallelujah! Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his mercy endures for ever.
2   Who can declare the mighty acts of the LORD or show forth all his praise?
3   Happy are those who act with justice and always do what is right!
4   Remember me, O LORD, with the favor you have for your people, and visit me with your saving help;
5   That I may see the prosperity of your elect and be glad with the gladness of your people, that I may glory with your inheritance.
6   We have sinned as our forebears did; we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.
7   In Egypt they did not consider your marvelous works, nor remember the abundance of your love; they defied the Most High at the Red Sea.
8   But he saved them for his Name's sake, to make his power known.
9   He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up, and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10   He saved them from the hand of those who hated them and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.
11   The waters covered their oppressors; not one of them was left.
12   Then they believed his words and sang him songs of praise.
13   But they soon forgot his deeds and did not wait for his counsel.
14   A craving seized them in the wilderness, and they put God to the test in the desert.
15   He gave them what they asked, but sent leanness into their soul.
16   They envied Moses in the camp, and Aaron, the holy one of the LORD.
17   The earth opened and swallowed Dathan and covered the company of Abiram.
18   Fire blazed up against their company, and flames devoured the wicked.

Evening Psalms

Psalm 106: Part II Et fecerunt vitulum
19   Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb and worshiped a molten image;
20   And so they exchanged their Glory for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.
21   They forgot God their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt,
22   Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham, and fearful things at the Red Sea.
23   So he would have destroyed them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath from consuming them.
24   They refused the pleasant land and would not believe his promise.
25   They grumbled in their tents and would not listen to the voice of the LORD.
26   So he lifted his hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness,
27   To cast out their seed among the nations, and to scatter them throughout the lands.
28   They joined themselves to Baal-Peor and ate sacrifices offered to the dead.
29   They provoked him to anger with their actions, and a plague broke out among them.
30   Then Phinehas stood up and interceded, and the plague came to an end.
31   This was reckoned to him as righteousness throughout all generations for ever.
32   Again they provoked his anger at the waters of Meribah, so that he punished Moses because of them;
33   For they so embittered his spirit that he spoke rash words with his lips.
34   They did not destroy the peoples as the LORD had commanded them.
35   They intermingled with the heathen and learned their pagan ways,
36   So that they worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them.
37   They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to evil spirits.
38   They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, which they offered to the idols of Canaan, and the land was defiled with blood.
39   Thus they were polluted by their actions and went whoring in their evil deeds.
40   Therefore the wrath of the LORD was kindled against his people and he abhorred his inheritance.
41   He gave them over to the hand of the heathen, and those who hated them ruled over them.
42   Their enemies oppressed them, and they were humbled under their hand.
43   Many a time did he deliver them, but they rebelled through their own devices, and were brought down in their iniquity.
44   Nevertheless, he saw their distress, when he heard their lamentation.
45   He remembered his covenant with them and relented in accordance with his great mercy.
46   He caused them to be pitied by those who held them captive.
47   Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy Name and glory in your praise.
48   Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting; and let all the people say, "Amen!" Halleluja.

Forward Day by Day Meditation for Monday, May 16, 2016

1 John 3:18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
If your daily actions were the only sermon people ever heard, would they know you were a Christian by your love?

Holy scripture has much to say about how we use our words, for good reason. Words in speech can inspire, guide, and educate; they can also get us in boatloads of trouble and cause pain in others. Words have great power.

Big talk didn’t work out well at the Tower of Babel, and we see how God transforms egocentric babble to God-centered speech of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

In Ephesians, we read how idle talk and gossip have no place in the body of Christ. And now, in the first of three Johanine letters, the author reminds us that our actions, not our words, reveal our love for God, others, and ourselves.

We may say we love each other as God loves us, but do our words match our actions?

 Join more than a half million readers worldwide who use Forward Day by Day as a resource for daily prayer and Bible study

Verse of the Day - May 16, 2016

Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV) The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Read all of Zephaniah 3