Monday, June 13, 2016

Night Light for Couples - Healthy Hope

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for.” Hebrews 11:1

Hope based on the realistic expectation that something can or will change is a powerful, positive, driving force. It motivates us to do our best and helps us achieve what may seem impossible to others. But naive hope that’s grounded in wishful thinking can be deeply disappointing and even destructive. I (jcd) know a woman—I’ll call her Martha—who was hurt repeatedly by her father’s lack of interest in her. As long as Martha continued to hope he would change, she suffered a fresh wound whenever he missed an important family event or failed to consider her feelings. I urged Martha to realize that her father was emotionally blind—he was incapable of seeing her needs.

Once she began to accept his “handicap” as permanent, her pain lessened considerably. Your partner’s temperament or experiences may prevent him or her from fully comprehending your feelings and frustrations. My advice is that you change what can be altered, explain what can be understood, teach what can be learned, revise what can be improved, resolve what can be settled, and negotiate what is open to compromise.

Then determine to accept the rest. As you overlook these few “unresolvables” in your relationship, you’ll develop a perspective that brings realistic hope for an honest and satisfying marriage.

Just between us…
  • What kinds of changes do we hope to see in each other? Are our hopes realistic?
  • Would it help our relationship to accept our “unresolvables”?
  • What in our marriage gives you the greatest sense of hope?
Father, thank You that You are “the God of all hope.” Tonight we look to You for help in bringing honest, healing hope to our marriage. Show us what we can change, show us what we should accept, and bless us with hope. Amen.

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

Why I Don’t Want Gun Lovers Grieving Another Massacre Alongside Me

by John Pavlovitz, Pastor, North Raleigh Community Church

I am grieving again today.

Once more I am mourning the senseless execution of beautiful souls torn to shreds in the prime of their lives and in the middle of their innocent ordinary. I am again grieving more premature funerals and canceled weddings and discarded futures—and I want to be alone right now.

Gun lover, please don’t tell me you’re grieving along with me today too. I just don’t buy it. You’re welcome to mourn, but I don’t think I want your company right now.

If you’re still against greater gun control measures—I don’t want you to grieve alongside me today.
If you’re part of the zealous, gun-glorifying community—I don’t want you to grieve alongside me today.
If you’re a militant, unrepentant NRA apologist—I don’t want you to grieve alongside me today.
If your right to bear arms ultimately matters more to you than the human wreckage strewn about movie theaters and shopping malls and elementary schools and and nightclubs and hospitals—I don’t want you to grieve alongside me today.

Not again. Not now.

I may have accepted your condolences and prayers and claims of solidarity after the 23rd or the 76th or the 149th mass shooting of the year, but not now.

If I do, if I allow you to bow your head with me and speak a quick prayer before moving on to the exact same posture and practice and politics, then it feels like I am just consenting to more murder. It becomes an empty gesture. As a lover of life and person of faith I simply can’t do that in good conscience, and so I ask you to allow me to mourn in peace right now.

Words of sadness and offers of prayers alone are not significant enough now.

Any expression of grief that doesn’t come with an admission that guns, their easy availability, and (perhaps most importantly) a politically fueled Wild West culture that nurtures their worship are a central part of the problem here—rings hollow to me.

Any claim of mourning that doesn’t also demand some substantial change in how we promote, regulate, access, and talk about firearms is just crocodile tears and a slap in the face to families of the dead.

It all feels ultimately like selfishness to me.

If I have a pool in my open yard and kids keep drowning in it, yet I refuse to put up a fence, how much do I really value the loss of life?
And if I put up a fence and kids still keep getting in and dying and I don’t do more, how sincere is my grief?
And if, after what I believe to be my greatest human efforts to prevent it, my pool still fills with bodies, at some point shouldn’t my humanity kick in and determine that maybe, just maybe my desire to have a pool isn’t worth the carnage to the neighborhood?
When does my need to have a pool become the problem?
If I really give a damn about dead kids floating in my yard, maybe I leave the pools to the professionals.

I’m sorry, but the pool here is overflowing with blood and I’m tired of it.

I’m tired of a centuries-old amendment being propped up as relevant in any way to this time and place in history and to the purpose it was ratified in the first place.

I’m tired of a John Wayne, “cold dead hand”, OK Corral romanticism that makes guns, not some necessary evil but a sexy status symbol of true Americans.

I’m tired of partisan media sky-is-falling, fear-mongering that makes people believe their immanent danger requires an arsenal always at the ready; in their kitchens and in their cars and at their ankles.

I’m tired of a culture that sees repeated mass shootings as the acceptable collateral damage of some supposed personal freedom.

I fully realize if you have fully bought into the lie that says guns are absolutely necessary, entirely neutral, and constitutionally guaranteed—you really don’t care about any of this.

You already likely know the numbers and the statistics and the reality too, but you dismiss it all or rationalize why none of it is relevant. You’ve washed your hands of culpability in the continuing slaughter and exonerated guns and you don’t care to entertain conversation—which is your right.

I’m not going to demand that you conform to my convictions.

I’m not going to try and convince you of what seems so very obvious to me, but I’m also not going to allow you the courtesy of saying you mourn as I do and suffer alongside me, because that simply isn’t true.

You grieve gun violence while loving and celebrating your guns. I grieve gun violence while abhorring guns.

We have a different idea of grief, you and me.

I respect your position and reserve your right to mark this tremendous loss if you wish on your own, but I’d like some distance right now because your presence is simply salt in these wounds.

So today, after yet another gun tragedy—please let me mourn in peace.

NIV Devotions for Women - What About the Poor?

Amos 8:1–14

Ask your neighbor or coworker to list the “top ten” sins, and you will probably hear a version of the Ten Commandments. Murder, stealing, lying and adultery would probably head the list.

But when God revealed to Amos that he was about to bring judgment upon his people, he cited Israel’s treatment of the poor as cause for punishment. In startling imagery, God said Israel had “trampled” the needy and cheated the poor. The poor, the victims of Israel’s greed and exploitation, had no recourse but to appeal to God. And God listened.

In the New Testament, Jesus repeatedly takes up the often-overlooked cause of the poor. When Jesus preached in the synagogue in Luke 4:16–21, the prophecy he chose to read to reveal who he was came from Isaiah 61:1–2: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” When Jesus described final judgment in Matthew 25:31–46, he evaluated how well people cared for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the needy and the imprisoned. Jesus so identifies with the poor in this passage that he says that the good deeds done to the “least of these” were counted as being done to him!

How does the way you live reveal your concern for the poor? Are the poor an afterthought? A nuisance? A perplexing problem you’ve quit trying to solve? For many of us, Amos’s message challenges us to serve the poverty stricken in ways besides simply giving money. Volunteering in a food pantry or rescue mission may be the first step to helping poor people with their immediate needs. Working directly with people who are poor helps us to put names and faces on poverty. When we do that, we can no longer objectify and ignore the needy. But are there ways to take our compassion one step further? How can we speak up to make sure the poor aren’t exploited? How can we work to make sure our institutions don’t make the problem worse? How can we vote for policies and practices that are equitable?

It is God’s desire that we be willing to share what we have with those in need and help the poor whenever we can. When we do, our hearts beat in time with his.

  1. What are your assumptions about why someone might be poor?
  2. Have you ever been without what you needed to live? What did you do?
  3. Why do you think God identifies himself with the poor? What does that tell you about his character?
Amos 8:4–5 Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”—skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales.

Related Readings

Isaiah 61:1–3; Matthew 25:31–46; Luke 4:16–21

His Princess Every Day - I Will Lift the Veil

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

My Precious Bride,

I know sometimes you feel as if there is a veil over your eyes. There are many things you won't understand about this life, but one day I will lift that veil and you will see that I had a plan and a divine purpose for all you have walked through in this life. One day, I will touch your cheek and wipe away the very last tear you will ever cry. One day, you will see me face to face--and heaven and earth will no longer keep us apart. For now, my beloved, I leave you my Spirit that lives inside your soul. I command my angels to stand guard over you until the day of my return.

Your eternal Prince

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” - Matthew 28:20 (NIV)

Prayer to my Prince

Please hide me in your arms of mercy and speak to my spirit, Lord. I need to hear your still voice once again whisper, “I am here.” I need a glimpse of what is to come with all the decay of society I see all around me. Remind me to be still, and to let you wash my fears away as I read your written word. May I live a life driven by eternity, and deposit hope into the next generation to come.

Your Bride who longs to see your face

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. - 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)

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 - Rizpah

Her name means: "A Hot Stone" or "Coal"

Her character: Saul's concubine Rizpah was the mother of Armoni and Mephibosheth. Though a woman with few rights and little power, she displayed great courage and loyalty after the death of her sons.
Her sorrow: That her only sons were executed and their bodies dishonored because of their father's crime.
Her joy: That the bodies of her sons were finally given an honorable burial.
Key Scriptures: 2 Samuel 21:8-14

Her Story

One day a rabbi stood on a hill overlooking a certain city. The rabbi watched in horror as a band of Cossacks on horseback suddenly attacked the town, killing innocent men, women, and children. Some of the slaughtered were his own disciples. Looking up to heaven, the rabbi exclaimed: "Oh, if only I were God." An astonished student, standing nearby, asked, "But, Master, if you were God, what would you do differently?" The rabbi replied: "If I were God I would do nothing differently. If I were God, I would understand."

One day a woman named Rizpah was standing on a hill in Israel, watching the execution of seven men. Her grief was sharp, for among the dead were her own two sons. Executed for their father's crime, their bodies were left to rot on the hillside, despite a law requiring burial by sunset. Perhaps, like the rabbi, Rizpah wished she were God, even for a moment. Maybe then she would understand the "why" of what she had just witnessed.

It is not hard to imagine Rizpah's suffering. To watch as her body convulses in sorrow. To see her pound a fist against her breast to beat away the grief. When will she turn away from the gruesome spectacle? we wonder. But instead of fleeing the scene of her sorrow, she faces it, drawing close to bloodied bodies she once had cradled in her arms. Then she spreads sackcloth on a rock and sits down, refusing to move except to beat off birds of prey by day and jackals by night. Her vigil would last for several months—from mid-April to early October. Rizpah would not bury her grief as long as the bodies of her sons remained unburied.

Joshua had promised to live in peace with the Gibeonites, but Saul had murdered many of them during his reign, attempting to annihilate them. As a result of Saul's oath-breaking, Israel suffered a famine for three years running. In retribution, the Gibeonites had asked David for seven of Saul's male offspring. David surrendered Saul's two sons by Rizpah and five grandsons by Saul's daughter Merab. Blood was spilt for blood.

Scripture doesn't say whether Rizpah's sons shared their father's guilt. But like all mothers whose children have perished by violence—those in Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Iraq, Afghanistan, our own inner cities, and even our suburbs—Rizpah must have understood the terrible link between sin and death. One person's sin is a cancer that spreads. By refusing to hide her grief, by living out her anguish in public, Rizpah gave meaning to her sons' deaths, making the entire nation face the evil of what had happened.

Finally, the rains came. Finally, the king's heart was touched. Hearing of Rizpah's loyalty and courage, David ordered the remains of the executed to be buried. He even ordered Saul's and his son Jonathan's bones to be reclaimed and buried.

Scripture doesn't say that God ordered David to hand the men over to the Gibeonites in the first place, or even that the famine ended when they were executed. Instead, as Virginia Stem Owens points out in her book Daughters of Eve, the Bible indicates that God answered prayers on behalf of the land after the dead were given a decent burial. David's act in honor of the dead may have signaled an end to Israel's divisions. Finally, the land could be healed and the Israelites could reunite under David's leadership.

Rizpah made the people look at the cost of sin. Like many women in ancient cultures, she had few rights and little power. But her persistent courage gave meaning to her sons' deaths and helped a nation deal with the sin of its leader. Her story is tragic; her response, memorable. Perhaps because of her, other mothers in Israel were spared a similar grief, at least for a time.

Her Promise

Rizpah's consistency and tenacity is a lesson for all who are inclined to give up when the going gets tough. Out of love and a need to do what was right, she stuck out bad weather, cold, fatigue, and wild animals to protect her dead sons. Finally, someone in authority took notice and did something. Her faithfulness was rewarded, and she could rest. God promises the same to us. He asks us only to be faithful and to leave the rest up to him. Whatever the situation—harsh parents, unloving spouses, rebellious children, financial difficulties, sickness, or death—God knows and will uphold and provide in his time.

Girlfriends in God - Princess Problems

Today’s Truth

Do everything without grumbling or arguing. (Philippians 2:14)

Friend to Friend

My friend Ellen is a preschool teacher who regularly contends with entitled toddlers and privileged preschoolers who know how to major on some minors and throw down some serious tantrums. 

I want the red crayon, but Tommy has it!

I’m not eating this because it has white cheese. I only like yellow cheese.

I want to go first!

I’m allowed. You’re not my boss.

Miss Ellen calls these little escapades “princess problems,” and she does her best to lovingly redirect the heart of each young complainer toward the reality of his or her blessings and toward the virtue of patience, selflessness, kindness, sharing, etc..

Hardly a day goes by that the kingdom of her kiddie classroom isn’t inundated with princess problems. The outbursts are common. Most are simple issues to address, but occasionally they can become a minefield of messy mayhem that disrupts a special moment.

As I reflect on this, it occurs to me that even though I’m adult I’ve got my own fair share of princess problems. At times I throw myself in a tizzy and worry about things that don't need to be given a second thought. I make a big deal out of situations that do not have eternal consequences just because I might be temporarily inconvenienced or offended.

I can’t believe I have to go to the grocery store again. This is the third time this week!

It took them over an hour to change the oil in my car today. Over an hour!

The pastor’s sermon was way too long and the music was loud.

In the Old Testament, Daniel could’ve complained about his problems. But he didn’t. Not even as he faced impending death when he was thrown in a den of lions. Instead, he remained devoted to God and honored the Lord while humbly serving the king who brutally destroyed his hometown and took he, and his friends, captive to Babylon.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul endured extreme hardships during his missionary journeys. He was attacked by murderous mobs, beaten, betrayed, flogged, arrested, starved, shipwrecked three times, and bitten by a viper… all while serving God! Nice, right? Though he had every earthly reason to whine about the stuff he went through, Paul didn’t. To the contrary, he wrote a letter about joy and perseverance to encourage the believers in the church of Philippi from prison. He encouraged others instead of griping about the mess he’d been through, and in spite of the limitations he was constrained by.

Ah! Perspective.

Yes. I am a daughter of the Most High, King of kings. A noble princess in God’s kingdom with an endless and enchanting inheritance. I am not, however, entitled to grumble and complain about pithy and petty little annoyances. Not even about big things!


Princess problems don’t fly with God. There’s no loophole.

Paul wrote about this very thing in that letter he sent to the Philippians.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. (Philippians 2:14-16a)

Imagine what our loved ones and co-workers would think if you and I actually live these verses out. If we stop complaining. If we choose to be blameless and pure worshipers who trust God’s sovereignty in the inconvenient, uncomfortable, and even the worst of times.

What would it look like for you and I to hold firmly to the word of life … to sparkle instead of spew?

Let’s make a deal. You and me. The next time we get shipwrecked in our own imaginations and begin to drown in the petty dramas of our own making, let’s straighten our crooked tiaras and ask God to adjust our crooked attitudes. In doing so we’ll move forward in the strength, dignity, and joy of Jesus.

In His grace, Jesus quiets our princess problems and purifies us to shine like stars in the sky for the glory of God.

Let’s Pray

Holy Father, Please forgive me for the times I get flustered and freaked out over things that don't matter. Forgive me, also, when I fail to trust You with heavy and hard trials. I want to be a woman who lives with the strength, joy, and dignity of Jesus. Help me shine for You today, Lord.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn

Read Philippians 4:1-9. Take note of the peace available to believers who exercise faith and choose to think and behave as we are instructed to think and behave.

Pray about specific stresses in your heart that might be knocking your tiara off balance.

More from the Girlfriends

Ready for more strength, dignity, and joy in your life? Gwen Smith’s new book, I Want It ALL, gives you practical help that will connect your struggles to the solutions and strength of God found in the Bible. Order yours today from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite retailer.

Stay up with Gwen on her blog, and connect with her on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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Salt and Light - June 13, 2016

Standing Strong Through the Storm - PRAY FOR PERSECUTORS

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28

In Luke chapter six, Jesus defines persecution with four verbs: hatred, exclusion, insult and rejection (Luke 6:22). But later in the chapter Jesus gives much more emphasis on how you and I are to respond to persecution that comes our way.

One of the great lessons from the persecuted church is praying for those who persecute you. This is a parallel principle with loving your enemies. Multiple examples can be shared how God has honored this principle of prayer:

Noskie was a former Imam in the southern part of the Philippines. He was a devout Muslim and one who generated respect from that little community in which he lived. Coming home from a fishing expedition one day, he was shocked to discover that his two daughters had converted to Christianity. He was well aware of the shame that this would bring to the whole community.

In his anger, he mercilessly beat them hoping that they would renounce their new faith. But the daughters remained faithful. They loved their father and knew that nothing was impossible with God so they started praying for their father’s conversion.

Sometime later, while fishing, Noskie felt a sudden piercing pain in his stomach. As the pain intensified, his belly began to balloon. He writhed in unbearable pain. He prayed but nothing happened. In desperation he cried out to the God of his daughters, Jesus Christ, and was instantly healed.

Noskie emerged from the experience a new person. He submitted his heart and surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Today he faithfully serves the Lord as a lay pastor. His daughters help in the ministry. 

RESPONSE: I am committed to respond to persecution with non-violence as Jesus taught.

PRAYER: Lord, I realize today that when I pray for my enemy and love my enemy, he or she is no longer my enemy. Help me to always respond this way.

Verse of the Day - June 13, 2016

Luke 11:13 (NIV) If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Read all of Luke 11