Thursday, July 14, 2016

Night Light for Couples - Deny Yourself

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Television advertisers are experts at “rattling the cages” of viewers. They understand the philosophy of today’s audience: Look out for number one. That’s why we’re bombarded with slogans such as “Have it your way”; “You deserve a break today”; and “Because I’m worth it.” Their goal is to appeal to our self‐centered nature and manipulate us into buying a product. Frequently, they succeed.

The “I’m Third” approach to life is in direct contradiction to the message of these ads. And well it should be! Jesus tells us that our first obligation in following Him must be to deny ourselves—to let go of the steering wheel, so to speak, and let the Lord drive. Secondly, we are to love and care for others. Try implementing these priorities. They will lead to a better marriage in this life and eternal rewards in the next.

God first, others second, myself third. A simple phrase, but it contains far more wisdom for living life to the fullest than anything you’ll see or hear on a television ad.

Just between us…
  • Do we have an “I’m Third” kind of marriage?
  • Do we know a couple who model this philosophy?
  • How do you feel about putting my desires ahead of your own?
  • What, if anything, do we need to change to create an “I’m Third” marriage?
  • How can we specifically ask God to help us make this happen?
Dear Jesus, we hear Your invitation to follow You in a life of self-denial. Tonight we make You Lord of our marriage. Help us to live every day by Your example— in obedience to the Father and in loving service to each other. Amen.

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

Commentary: Is Christian Religious Freedom Under Attack?

by Universal Life Church Monastery

Courts are ruling that some religious values cause discrimination, causing many Christians to feel like their beliefs are under attack.

Religious freedom has been a hot topic over the past few years. It has generated a contentious debate around the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion, and, specifically, how far this right should extend. Since Christianity is the dominant religion in America, the majority of disputes involve Christian values. Although recent expansions of civil rights have been widely celebrated among marginalized groups and their supporters, many Christians argue that their basic religious freedoms are being infringed upon as a result. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the arena of private business. By evaluating several controversies involving religious businesses, we hope to shed some light on the debate. The central question is: where does legitimate religious belief end and discriminatory treatment begin?

Hobby Lobby

You may remember the Hobby Lobby case that went to the Supreme Court two years ago. The arts and crafts store, which has over 100 locations throughout the U.S., refused to provide certain kinds of birth control in their employee health-insurance plans. Namely, the plans excluded emergency contraception methods such as Plan B (also known as “the morning after pill”). It is a pill taken to prevent pregnancy in the hours after sexual intercourse has occurred. Many pro-life advocates argue this is equivalent to handing out an over-the-counter abortion device. In the end, the Court ruled 5-4 that privately owned religious companies such as Hobby Lobby did have the right to deny these forms of birth control in their health plans. Pro-life and religious freedom advocates celebrated a huge win. That was two years ago. Since then, the tide has definitively shifted.

Pharmacies Must Comply

Recently, a very similar case made the news. It involved a Washington state pharmacy chain owned by an
individual of strong Christian faith. They refused to stock emergency contraception in their stores, believing these forms of birth control to be morally wrong. However, a 2007 FDA requirement declared that pharmacies have to carry and sell all drugs approved by the FDA, which of course includes emergency contraception. The pharmacy challenged the rule, and the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. However, the Court declined to hear it, resulting in a de facto loss for the pharmacy – they will now be required to provide birth control in their stores. However, the court rulings have not been limited to women’s rights.

(Gay) Christian Mingle? is a dating site for those who identify as Christian. The site was created to help single Christian people looking for a likeminded partner. Since homosexuality is generally frowned upon in the Christian community, didn’t accommodate people seeking a same-sex relationship. During sign up, the site would ask users to select between just one of two options: a man looking for a woman, or a woman looking for a man. This did not go unnoticed. In 2013, they were challenged in court by two gay men who argued that the dating website discriminated against them. After an extended legal battle, the website finally conceding defeat and agreed to include an option for same-sex couples. But some people are still fighting.

Selective Bakers

Perhaps the most controversial disputes have involved Christian bakers and florists who refuse to provide their services for gay weddings. Texas resident Ben Valencia and his fiancé Luis encountered one such bakery when attempting to order a cake for their upcoming wedding. After realizing they were a gay couple, the bakery’s owner refused to sell them a cake, citing a belief that marriage should be between a man and woman. Asked what it was like to be turned away because of his sexual orientation, Valencia told the local papers that it “makes you feel dehumanized”. Valencia wasn’t angry, but explained that he was generally saddened by the experience.

Places like the bakery in Texas argue that as private businesses, they should have the right to choose who they serve. However, critics were quick to point out that the same argument had been used to deny services to black people prior to the Civil Rights Act. The courts tend to agree – whenever legal challenges are brought, the religious businesses end up losing. The courts explain their decisions by saying that just because you disagree with someone’s way of life, it doesn’t give you the right to deny them service, no matter how sincere your religious beliefs are.

Where is the Line?

When evaluated as a whole, it clear that opinions are shifting on the notion of religious freedom. For generations, religious beliefs enjoyed certain protections under the First Amendment. No longer, it seems. Increasingly, courts are declaring that if these beliefs are perceived as discriminatory in any way, they are unconstitutional. As a result, many Christians feel as if their fundamental belief system is under legal attack. What do you think? Where is the line between expressing religious beliefs and discriminating against others? Are Christians guilty of crossing that line, or are they being unfairly targeted?

The Daily Readings for July 14, 2016

Joshua 3:14-4:7
When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan. When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua: "Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, and command them, 'Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests' feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.'" Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe. Joshua said to them, "Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, 'What do those stones mean to you?' then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever."

Romans 12:1-8
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-- what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Matthew 26:1-16
When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, "You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified." Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, "Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people." Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, "Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor." But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her." Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I betray him to you?" They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

Morning Psalms

Psalm 37: Part I Noli aemulari
1 Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; do not be jealous of those who do wrong.
2 For they shall soon wither like the grass, and like the green grass fade away.
3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and feed on its riches.
4 Take delight in the LORD, and he shall give you your heart's desire.
5 Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him, and he will bring it to pass.
6 He will make your righteousness as clear as the light and your just dealing as the noonday.
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.
8 Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, the one who succeeds in evil schemes.
9 Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.
10 For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait upon the LORD shall possess the land.
11 In a little while the wicked shall be no more; you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.
12 But the lowly shall possess the land; they will delight in abundance of peace.
13 The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash at them with their teeth.
14 The Lord laughs at the wicked, because he sees that their day will come.
15 The wicked draw their sword and bend their bow to strike down the poor and needy, to slaughter those who are upright in their ways.
16 Their sword shall go through their own heart, and their bow shall be broken.
17 The little that the righteous has is better than great riches of the wicked.
18 For the power of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.

Evening Psalms

Psalm 37: Part II Novit Dominus
19 The LORD cares for the lives of the godly, and their inheritance shall last for ever.
20 They shall not be ashamed in bad times, and in days of famine they shall have enough.
21 As for the wicked, they shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD, like the glory of the meadows, shall vanish; they shall vanish like smoke.
22 The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous are generous in giving.
23 Those who are blessed by God shall possess the land, but those who are cursed by him shall be destroyed.
24 Our steps are directed by the LORD; he strengthens those in whose way he delights.
25 If they stumble, they shall not fall headlong, for the LORD holds them by the hand.
26 I have been young and now I am old, but never have I seen the righteous forsaken, or their children begging bread.
27 The righteous are always generous in their lending, and their children shall be a blessing.
28 Turn from evil, and do good, and dwell in the land for ever.
29 For the LORD loves justice; he does not forsake his faithful ones.
30 They shall be kept safe for ever, but the offspring of the wicked shall be destroyed.
31 The righteous shall possess the land and dwell in it for ever.
32 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and their tongue speaks what is right.
33 The law of their God is in their heart, and their footsteps shall not falter.
34 The wicked spy on the righteous and seek occasion to kill them.
35 The LORD will not abandon them to their hand, nor let them be found guilty when brought to trial.
36 Wait upon the LORD and keep his way; he will raise you up to possess the land, and when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.
37 I have seen the wicked in their arrogance, flourishing like a tree in full leaf.
38 I went by, and behold, they were not there; I searched for them, but they could not be found.
39 Mark those who are honest; observe the upright; for there is a future for the peaceable.
40 Transgressors shall be destroyed, one and all; the future of the wicked is cut off.
41 But the deliverance of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
42 The LORD will help them and rescue them; he will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them, because they seek refuge in him.

Jesus loves hippie churches

By Brett Younger

The parking lot has several versions of “Co-exist” and “God loves the whole world no exceptions” bumper stickers, a “Leslie Knope for President,” and, on the same Prius, an “I’m too poor to vote Republican.” The sign on the sanctuary door says, “Leave your cell phone at home.” More recycling bins than you knew there were types of recycling line the wall.

Sixty gentle people gather in another church’s building on Sunday afternoon. They could be dressed for a picnic — hiking sandals, Buddy Holly glasses, turquoise jewelry and wooden cross necklaces. The congregation includes men with gray ponytails, a few Mennonites, a Jewish guy, a philosophy professor, three potters and the carver who made the communion plates.

The chairs are in a circle. Banners cover the walls. Candles, at least one of which is amber vanilla, sit on the unused piano. Three guitars lean against the organ that has been pushed to the side. They had a canvas labyrinth for a while, but then they had to return it to the Episcopalians.

As worshippers enter, they are given prayer stones, which were regular stones an hour ago.

The chiming of the hour is on a dulcimer. The music is James Taylor, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Mumford and Sons before they went electric. Sometimes they sing a stanza in Spanish with bad accents. When the hymn is Softly and Tenderly they change “O Sinner” to “Beloved” — which does not quite work.

The prayers of the people take 20 minutes because someone has an epic poem to share. They pray not just for cousins with back trouble, but for those on death row, the hungry and victims of war. They pray for the city council meeting where the church’s political action committee will be arguing that homeless people should be allowed to have camp fires during the winter. The congregation takes the chaos of the world so seriously that the worship includes silence. When a child dies, words are insufficient.

Several women knit throughout the sermon, which is a call to live against the grain. Christians are to “tell the truth in a world that lies, give in a world that takes, make peace in a world that fights, care for the environment in a world that feels little concern for creation and carry a cross in a world that crucifies those who love.”

The children take the gluten-free body of Christ first. There is both non-alcoholic and real wine blood of Jesus.

They pass the peace with gusto. “The peace of Christ be with you” sounds like “I love seeing your face.”

When the primary worship traditions in the United States are named, the list usually consists of “Liturgical, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Contemporary.” Some of Jesus’ favorites are overlooked. If the Yellow Pages still exist, they still do not have a category for “Churches — Hippie,” but they should.

The Gospels make it clear that Jesus loves hippie churches. Jesus walks everywhere. He travels with a band of troubadours. He hikes in the mountains. He talks to God.

Jesus does not work in an office. He spends time with social outcasts. He has strong words about hypocrites. He criticizes the establishment.

Jesus loves birds and flowers. He says that peacemakers are the children of God. He would fit right in at a drum circle.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sounds like the preacher at a hippie church: “If you decide to live for God, you won’t need a steak on the table or care whether the collar on your shirt’s frayed. You won’t get caught up in trivialities like diamond rings. Blue jeans are plenty comfortable. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, singing their songs, care free in the love of God. They don’t worry about climbing the corporate ladder and yet God cares for them. No matter how many nips and tucks you get or how often you have your hair highlighted, you’re wasting every minute you spend in front of the mirror. Instead of walking through Saks Fifth Avenue and looking for what’s in fashion, walk through the fields and look at the scarlet poppies. They never primp, but have you ever seen colors so beautiful? Bradley Cooper looks like a Baptist minister when compared with wild flowers. If God gives attention to flowers — most of which are never even seen — don’t you think God will care for you?”

Jesus loves congregations filled with peaceful souls who are willing to walk out of step from the crowd. We need more hippie churches, because most of us are too at ease in the world. We are not nearly uncomfortable enough with the way things are.

From Baptist News Global
Brett Younger is senior minister of Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, N.Y.

His Princess Every Day - Driven by Eternity

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

My Princess Warrior,

I know many days you feel like a weary warrior, too tired to fight. I see you when you have exhausted your faith and lost your passion for My people. Today I want to paint an eternal picture for My beloved warrior. Every act of kindness you share will water someone’s thirsty soul. Every time you pray for someone, you are changing their destiny from darkness to light. You are more than a light in the darkness. Your faith will continue to be a raging fire that will burn in the hearts of many generations who follow your wonderful works on earth!

Your eternal King

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. - Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

A Prayer for the War

Princess Warrior! I pray that our Lord will take the blinders off your eyes and you will grasp how truly valuable you are in the eternal picture of life. I pray for a renewed passion for your purpose and I pray in Jesus name that the worries of this world will depart from your heart and Joy of heaven will reign in your heart all the rest of your days.

They share freely and give generously to those in need.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.
They will have influence and honor. - Psalm 112:9(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.

Standing Strong Through the Storm - THE MEEK

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

Meekness is not to be confused with weakness. In scripture, meekness means “power under control.” In this context, the contrite, praying person is blessed with the indwelling control of the Holy Spirit and the inheritance promised to the believer even in conflict.

History shows that it is the people who have learned this, people with their passions, instincts and impulses under disciplined control, who have been great. (see Numbers 12:3 and Proverbs 16:32) Thus:

Blessed are those whose every instinct, every impulse, and every passion is under the control of God’s Spirit! They will be right with God, self and others and enter the life which God alone can give.

Pray for this meekness when entering into dialogue with those of opposing positions. There will be times when patience and self-control will be sorely tested. There may also be times when the Spirit will suggest a change of direction in the dialogue or a strategic retreat that looks suspiciously like defeat. To be meek is to be able to willingly accept temporary defeat in order that there may later be victory in the Spirit.

A co-worker in China was struggling with the attitudes of a house church group who forbade hand-clapping during the singing of hymns. One leader complained bitterly. Every evening in the brothers’ sleeping quarters, he would complain further. The group would then debate endlessly on whether or not clapping hands during singing was permissible. It was like the black smoke pouring out from the weeds.

This continued until the afternoon of the last day, when God used His Word, and the Holy Spirit did an amazing work. This brother stood up and admitted his wrongdoing. He asked God to forgive his ignorance, stubbornness and defensiveness. With his confession, Christ’s love tore down an invisible wall. It was as if the Lord “broke down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.” The response of the workers as they prayed together was, “The glorious King has come.” Thank and praise the Lord. He was completely victorious.

RESPONSE: Today I will quit calling the shots and surrender complete control to God.

PRAYER: Lord, today I completely surrender to the control of Your Spirit in my life. Help me to be meek.

Girlfriends in God - Natural Prayer

Today’s Truth

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV)

Friend to Friend

Three ministers were talking about prayer and the most effective positions for prayer. As they were talking, a telephone repairman worked silently in the background.

One minister shared that he felt the key to powerful prayer was in the hands. “I always hold my hands together and point them upward as a sign of worship,” he explained.

The second minister suggested that real prayer should always be conducted on the knees.

The third minister shook his head and said, “I’m afraid you both have it wrong. The only position worth its salt is to pray while stretched out flat on your face."

As the three ministers solemnly contemplated the wisdom they had shared, the phone man put down his tools, approached the ministers and said, “I’ve been listening to all of you and just have to share something. I have found that the most powerful prayer I ever prayed was while I was dangling upside down by my heels from a power pole suspended forty feet above the ground."

We try to make prayer complicated, but it really isn’t. Prayer is simply a conversation with God. And like the telephone repairman, our helplessness is our most powerful prayer. God listens for the voice of our need.

Prayer isn't a religious exercise. It isn’t a holy vending machine and does not require us to jump through a certain number of hoops in order for God to hear and respond.

Prayer is the declaration of our total and utter dependence on God. When we pray, we are telling God that we are desperate for Him. We are saying, “yes” to whatever the minute, day or future holds … even before we know what that may be.

We don’t have to drop to our knees or close our eyes to pray. Prayer is the continual conversation between our heart and the heart of God … in every part of our day. Below are some simple ways to incorporate prayer into your daily routine.


Walk, run, stretch, or cycle while you pray. Use exercise with prayer as a way to reflect upon the gift of life itself.


If you have a long list of prayer requests, you might be too tired by the end of the list to devote much attention to your own spiritual health. Try to refocus your prayer time so that it is balanced between the needs of others and yourself. Doing so will build your own strength so you can help others.


Sometimes we are too busy praying to hear what God has to say. Don’t let prayer become one-sided. Set aside time each day to clear your mind of all distractions, sit in God's presence, and listen for God’s voice.

Team Up

Recruit a prayer partner. Whether in person, on the telephone, or online, the power of prayer can be multiplied when people come together.

Be a Child

What questions did you ask God when you were a child? They were probably very different from the ones you ask now. If your prayer life feels stuck now, approach it as a child - with wonder, simple questions, trust, and even humor.

Practice Driving Prayer

Turn your time behind the wheel into prayer time. Ask God to guide your steps. As He brings people to mind, pray for them.

Try Prayerful Single-Tasking

Multi-tasking is touted as a good thing, but a growing body of research shows that it actually erodes productivity. Instead of dividing your concentration among many tasks, prayerfully do one thing at a time. Offer your work as a prayerful gift to God.

Get Outside

Native Americans have a saying: "Never let a day go by without touching the earth with your foot." Take a five or ten minute break for a slow prayerful walk. Nature tunes us into God's presence.

Change Your Routine

If your prayer time is sandwiched between dinner and bedtime or homework and hobbies, rearrange your schedule so that prayer is the priority. The more important prayer is to us, and the more attention we give it, the stronger our relationship with God will grow.

Prayer should be our first response … not our last resort. It should be as natural as breathing. We should pray non-stop, especially for each other.

When you are in need, ask for prayer.

And when someone asks you to pray for them – pray.

Pray with them over the phone. Stop in the middle of the store or sidewalk and pray. Pray with your children on the way to school. Write a note of prayer. Ask your waiter or waitress how you can pray for them.

Make prayer a natural and ongoing part of your day and life.

Let’s Pray

Father, I confess that instead of praying, I try to work things out on my own. I turn to so many places when I should turn to You. Teach me to pray, Lord.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn

Read Psalm 32:8 (NLT) “The LORD says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” What comfort does this verse give you about God’s plan for your life as opposed to your plans or the plans of others? How does it help you pray?

More from the Girlfriends

If you need help learning how to pray, check out Dan Southerland’s book, Chair Time. It will change your prayer life in a powerful way.

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

Verse of the Day - July 14, 2016

John 15:10 (NIV) If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

Read all of John 15