Monday, July 11, 2016

Night Light for Couples - I Deserve It!

“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.” Galatians 5:17

That sinful nature we talked about yesterday often rears its head in the form of the thought I deserve more. It leads us to demand the best deal, the lion’s share, the most credit, and the finest of everything. From earliest childhood, as we have seen, our impulse is to focus on ourselves and to disregard the needs of others.

And, yes, this “I‐deserve‐it” attitude can permeate marriages. Resentment can build over who works the hardest, who spends more than his or her share of the money, and who is not doing enough to serve the other. Anger then erupts over insignificant irritants that bubble up from the cauldron of emotions. Many fights in marriage begin with the belief that we’re being cheated in the relationship.

Beware of this trap. The minute we begin thinking that we are entitled to more, we’ve started down the slippery road to selfishness. It can devastate a relationship.

John Ferrier didn’t deserve to die in an Ohio neighborhood—but when crisis came, he chose to sacrifice for others. Jesus didn’t deserve to be nailed to a wooden cross—but out of love for the Father and for us, He allowed Himself to be crucified. This kind of sacrificial love seeks to serve, not “deserve”—and that changes everything!

Just between us…
  • What do you feel we truly deserve in this life?
  • Do you sometimes feel that you’re not getting what you deserve in our marriage?
  • Is selfishness a problem for us?
Dear Lord, we need Your Spirit at work in us to overcome our self-centered impulses. By Your grace, empower us to serve instead of to “deserve.” Amen.

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

NIV Devotions for Women

Zephaniah 3:14–20

The twentieth century was the bloodiest century in history. Amid millions of lives lost to warfare and violent conflict, international homelessness reached its zenith. Ethnic and religious groups on the fringes of society, hated and destroyed by neighbors, did not merely live without four walls and a roof—they literally had no home. Home embodies a state of well-being to which many will never return.

Some of the displaced peoples even bear the marks of their nomadic past in their names. With a name that can be translated “wanderer,” the Csángó trace their ancestry back to the nomadic Asians of the Carpathian Mountains. Straddling the modern Romanian-Moldavian border, the Csángó; people have never known what it feels like to be “home.”

Many of us can relate to the wandering of the Csángó; people. While we may have the physical comforts of a house, we still experience an indefinable, heartsick longing for home. Even women who appear to lead the ideal life—a seemingly perfect family, a good job, honor and respect within the community—can suffer silently from feelings of alienation. It’s possible to feel displaced instead of secure in the arms of those we love. At the end of the day, lying in bed, one can be safely home and still feel profoundly lost.

In truth, we are all outsiders and wanderers according to God. Imagine what it would mean for a Csángó; woman, always the alien, to hear God’s promise through Zephaniah: “I will bring you home.” Now imagine the hopeful imagery of the joyous homecoming awaiting all of us. We may never experience what it’s like to find our home in an earthly sense. But then again, maybe that’s just as God intended. That homesick feeling reminds us that we’re not yet really home.

Whenever your heart swells with longings for security and rest, remember God’s promise to one day bring you safely home to his house, where he has prepared a room for you (see John 14:1–4).

  1. Zephaniah describes home in terms of gathering the scattered. In what areas of your life do you feel scattered instead of grounded?
  2. Why do you think women are vulnerable to feeling emotionally homeless?
  3. How does the future promise of home affect your life today?
Zephaniah 3:19–20 “At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you. I will rescue the lame; I will gather the exiles. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they have suffered shame. At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,” says the LORD.

Related Readings

Psalm 61:1–5; Micah 4:6–8; Hebrews 11:8–9; Revelation 7:9–17

Salt and Light - July 11, 2016

His Princess Every Day - You Will Know Everlasting Joy

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

My beloved,

I know how much your heart breaks for the sorrows you sometimes see. Please know that when your heart breaks, so does mine. It won't always be this way, my beloved bride--one day I will touch your cheek and wipe away the very last tear you will ever cry again. But for now, I want you to pray for those in need of a touch from me. Hold on to hope--I will be there soon!

Your Prince and everlasting Joy

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things will be gone forever. - Revelation 21:4

Prayer to my Prince

My Lord,

My heart does break from what I see--and sometimes I feel helpless. I long to see people free from suffering and pain. Renew eternal hope in my heart, my Lord. Give me your unspeakable joy in the midst of the hardships of this life. Give me the passion I need to bring others your gift of everlasting hope and new life. Keep my eyes fixed on the joys to come, Amen!

Your princess bride who needs you

The ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. - Isaiah 51:11 (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 - The Shunammite Woman

Her character: Generous and hospitable, she was a wealthy and capable woman who showed great kindness to one of God's prophets.
Her sorrow: To lose the son that had been promised her.
Her joy: To experience just how deep God's faithfulness goes.
Key Scriptures: 2 Kings 4:8-37; 8:1-6

Her Story

Just a few miles north of Jezreel, where Jezebel's story had drawn to its grim conclusion, lived a wealthy Israelite woman whose sharp eye kept track of travelers from Nazareth to Jerusalem. One of the more colorful characters who frequented the road outside her house was Elisha, the prophet who succeeded Elijah.

One day the Shunammite woman invited Elisha to linger for a meal. Afterward, she said to her husband, "Let's make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us."

Moved by her kindness, Elisha inquired, through his servant, Gehazi, whether he could use his influence with Israel's king on her behalf. But the woman wasn't looking for favors at court, so Elisha pressed his servant, saying, "What, then, can be done for her?"

Gehazi merely pointed out the obvious: the woman and her aging husband were childless, without an heir to carry on the family name. So Elisha summoned the woman and made an incredible promise: "About this time next year you will hold a son in your arms."

"No, my lord," she objected. "Don't mislead your servant, O man of God!"

Yet, a year later, just as Elisha had foretold, the woman held a squalling infant in her arms, laughing as she told others the story of God's surprising gift. Unlike so many of her female forebears—Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Tamar, Hannah—the Shunammite woman seemed content without children. Elisha's promise, however, was an arrow homing straight to its target, fulfilling the unspoken desire of her heart.

One morning, a few years later, a servant entered the house with the little boy in his arms, explaining that the child had complained of a headache while visiting his father in the fields. Perhaps he had lingered too long in the sun.

The boy's face was flushed, his forehead hot as his mother caressed it, hushing him with soothing sounds and songs. But despite murmured words of reassurance, she felt her own fear spreading. The tighter she held him, the more his spirit seemed to retreat. His breathing was labored, his eyes listless. At about noon he died.

Without a word, she carried his small body to the prophet's room, laying it tenderly on Elisha's bed. Closing the door, she summoned a servant and left immediately for Mount Carmel, where she hoped to find Elisha.

Spotting her in the distance, the prophet wondered aloud what could prompt her to make the twenty-five-mile journey north. "Run to meet her," he urged Gehazi, "and ask, 'Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?' "

But the woman merely brushed Gehazi aside with polite words and rushed straight to Elisha, exclaiming: "Did I ask you for a son, my lord? Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?"

Immediately the prophet instructed Gehazi: "Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand, and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy's face."

The woman, however, wasn't about to settle for a stand-in. So the prophet hurried to Shunem just behind Gehazi, who had gone on ahead to carry out his master's orders. When Elisha arrived, he found the boy lying quiet and cold on his couch. Elisha closed the door behind him. Praying, he stretched his body across the boy's so that hands, mouth, and eyes touched. As he lay there, he could feel the chilled body warming beneath him. He got up and paced the room for a while. At last he stretched himself across the lifeless body again and prayed. The boy's chest lifted. Then he sneezed! Then sneezed again.

The Shunammite woman may, in fact, have heard the story of how Elijah had raised the son of the widow of Zarephath in similar circumstances. If so, that miracle would certainly have fueled her hope, giving her the courage to seek her own miracle rather than collapse under so great a weight of grief. Now, as she saw for herself the irrefutable sign of God's loving-kindness, she fell at Elisha's feet and bowed to the ground. God had been true to his word, fulfilling his promise to her and then preserving it in the face of impossible circumstances.

Her Promise

The Shunammite woman knew there was hope even in the most devastating of circumstances. She had been promised a son when she was barren, and now she tenaciously held on to that promise even though her little son lay dead on Elisha's couch. "It's all right," she said to her husband, knowing full well that their boy was gone. The God who had given her the promise wasn't gone. She knew he wouldn't forsake her.

"It's all right." Can you express that sentiment even when your world is crashing in on you? Perhaps not. Remember, however, that even in the most agonizing of circumstances, even when you feel abandoned, even when tragedy strikes—God is there. Trust his word and gain assurance from the Shunammite woman who, in the midst of appalling circumstances, could say, "It's all right."

Standing Strong Through the Storm - THE BEATITUDES

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. Matthew 5:1-2

For the next nine days we’ll look at Jesus’ greatest training program—the Beatitudes. It is important to remember that each of the eight Beatitudes has a two-fold nature: a “knowing” and a “doing” response. We must not only know them, we must also respond to what we learn from them.

Eight times in the Beatitudes it says, “Blessed are….” To understand the Beatitudes, we need to know the meaning of those words. Blessed are refers to Jesus’ evaluation of the kind of person He names in each Beatitude. Jesus was referring to His esteem for that kind of person. His meaning is, “I esteem highly any person who….” He was urging us to have that kind of attitude. His deeper meaning is, “All you who hear Me, choose to become like these kinds of people.”

One noted author calls the Beatitudes, “God’s radical reconstruction of the heart!” We must never consider that Jesus was promising happy conditions, as though He meant, “The one who is poor in spirit will feel good and always be joyful.”

The first four Beatitudes focus internally—that is, they speak to the heart of the one who wants to obey God. They can be viewed as four stepping stones to becoming an obedient servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are: humility, mourning, meekness and hunger for righteousness.

The second four Beatitudes focus on the external behavior of the servant who follows Jesus. They are: mercy, purity, peacemaking and persecution.

This teaching has particular relevance for Christians who live under Islam. Restricted, deprived, regarded as second class citizens, laughed at, despised, often living in fear, many times persecuted, the words of encouragement are precious and give fresh hope of another place and time when things will be put right.

While in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, there are greater freedoms and life is not so difficult, there are restrictions nonetheless. In others like Pakistan, Christians have suffered unjustly and are denied many basic rights. In Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Sudan, Nigeria and Morocco, the story is similar though the extent of suffering may vary. To all, Jesus gives this important message. We will look at each of the eight Beatitudes individually.

RESPONSE: I will study Jesus’ Beatitudes so that I live the way Jesus lived.

PRAYER: Pray for Christians in Islamic countries that they will receive great encouragement as they seek to know and live the Beatitudes in their regions of restriction.

Girlfriends in God - Mission Impossible

Today’s Truth

For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son … and having chosen them, He called them to come to Him. And having called them, He gave them right standing with Himself (Romans 8:29-30).

Friend to Friend

Most people recognize the familiar line from every Mission Impossible movie, “Your mission … should you choose to accept it … "

God asks us the same question. We have a God-given mission. We are called by God to be a blessing in the world where we live, work, and play. But we choose to accept or reject that mission every single day.

Sometimes the call of God seems to make no sense … almost ridiculous. Gideon felt that way when God called him.

Gideon was a farmer, a family man just trying to earn a living and put food on the table. He felt inadequate to carry out God’s plan for his life.

But God saw what Gideon could be … not just what he was.

The fact that the angel called Gideon a “mighty warrior” is just plain funny. Gideon didn’t look like a mighty warrior, and he certainly didn’t act like one. Wheat was usually threshed in an open area by oxen pulling threshing sleds over the stalks. But Gideon did his work in a winepress, hidden from the view of the Midianites.

I don’t blame Gideon. I would have hidden, too. The Midianites were terrorists - a large and powerful army of nomadic invaders. God wanted Gideon to defeat them and set the Israelites free. Seriously?

Gideon had never carried a weapon in his life, and God was asking him to defeat an army of 30,000 trained troops. I can imagine the look on Gideon’s face and the sheer panic in his heart when God told him the plan. Gideon’s response was so human and so like our own when God calls us to do something that seems impossible and makes no human sense at all. 

Are you talking to me?
You must have me confused with somebody else.
You want me to do what? Save who? Now that’s funny!
I am weak.
I come from the wrong side of the Manasseh tracks.
People like me don’t save nations and defeat armies.

I don’t think Gideon was being humble. I think he was terrified and convinced he was totally unqualified for the job God was asking him to do.

I know that feeling. I tend to use my weaknesses as excuses for disobedience instead of accepting them as opportunities for God to demonstrate His power in my life. God’s power shines best through obvious weakness.

Just like God was with the flawed Gideon, He is with us.

God’s commitment to Gideon reaffirmed His presence with Gideon and the ease with which Gideon would defeat the Midianites. The literal translation is “as if they were but one man.” I love it! Here was Gideon, probably the last man anyone would choose to face the Midianites, and God is telling him the victory will be so easy it will seem like he is facing one man instead of an army of fierce invaders.

Gideon still sputtered every excuse imaginable - reminding God how weak he was and questioning the validity of God’s choice. But God insisted Gideon was the man for the job.

Gideon called for help and 10,000 farmers came. God told Gideon he had too many fighters and helped him weed out all but 300 men. God then told Gideon to have his men carry a torch in one hand and a clay pot in the other. Now those are strange instructions! But God knew that a large army facing a small army would party the night before battle because they had nothing to fear.

God told Gideon to surround the camp and throw the clay pots on the floor. The crash startled the Midianites. When they saw the torches, the Midianites were confused because they knew a torch led each battalion. In fact, they were so confused that they began fighting themselves and were easily defeated by Gideon’s army.

God is completely aware of who we are and what we can and cannot do. When God calls us, He not only equips us, but He also empowers us to obey that calling. The Lord told Gideon to “go in the strength you have.” God was asking Gideon to step out in faith. Gideon’s meager strength would not be enough for the task ahead, but God was with Gideon … and that was more than enough.

The reality is that our strength is never enough for any task. That’s what faith is all about. Faith is a willingness to step out in mid-air, no safety net in sight – trusting God to be there – at the point of our greatest need.

No mission is impossible with God.

Let’s Pray

Father, I am just like Gideon. I want to trust You, but my faith is weak. I don’t understand how You can love someone like me … and to think that You have a special plan for my life is hard to believe. Help my unbelief, Lord.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn

Read and memorize Hebrews 11:1(NIV) “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Are you ready to step out in faith and trust God?

More from the Girlfriends

If you need help learning how to trust God, get Mary’s new book, 10-Day Trust Adventure, to learn the steps you can take to accept and live out God’s mission for your life.

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Verse of the Day - July 11, 2016

Jeremiah 32:17 (NIV) “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.

Read all of Jeremiah 32