Monday, July 18, 2016

Night Light for Couples - To Hear Your Voice

“Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.“ 1 Thessalonians 5:17–18

Were you ever separated for an extended time from someone you loved deeply? If so, those days apart probably seemed almost unbearable. They may have also led to special moments to be savored—such as that catch‐your‐breath instant when you recognized the handwriting on the letter in your mailbox, realized who sent that last e‐mail message, or heard that familiar voice over the telephone.

Jesus’ love for us is something like that. He longs for fellowship with us. And when we kneel before Him and spend even a few minutes in prayer, we bring joy to Him. The apostle Paul said Jesus wants to hear your voice “continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But, when we let ourselves get caught up in the busyness of life and put off time for prayer, we become less sensitive to His voice and His leading in our lives.

Relationships, whether human or divine, must be cultivated and maintained if they are to be vibrant and meaningful. Let’s make sure we spend time every day with our loving Master.

Just between us…
  • How do you feel when we’re apart for several days?
  • How can we make sure that no matter how busy we are, we keep talking to each other?
  • Do you think we spend enough time with Jesus in prayer?
  • How is it possible to pray “continually” amidst the busyness of our lives? Can we learn to be mindful of Him throughout the day?
Dear Lord, we seek a thriving prayer conversation with You. We need it—to know You better, to hear You more clearly, and to love each other more deeply. Teach us to pray. Amen.

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

The Daily Readings for July 18, 2016

Joshua 7:1-13
But the Israelites broke faith in regard to the devoted things: Achan son of Carmi son of Zabdi son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things; and the anger of the LORD burned against the Israelites. Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, "Go up and spy out the land." And the men went up and spied out Ai. Then they returned to Joshua and said to him, "Not all the people need go up; about two or three thousand men should go up and attack Ai. Since they are so few, do not make the whole people toil up there." So about three thousand of the people went up there; and they fled before the men of Ai. The men of Ai killed about thirty-six of them, chasing them from outside the gate as far as Shebarim and killing them on the slope. The hearts of the people melted and turned to water. Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the ground on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. Joshua said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Why have you brought this people across the Jordan at all, to hand us over to the Amorites so as to destroy us? Would that we had been content to settle beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has turned their backs to their enemies! The Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will you do for your great name?" The LORD said to Joshua, "Stand up! Why have you fallen upon your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I imposed on them. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have acted deceitfully, and they have put them among their own belongings. Therefore the Israelites are unable to stand before their enemies; they turn their backs to their enemies, because they have become a thing devoted for destruction themselves. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. Proceed to sanctify the people, and say, 'Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, "There are devoted things among you, O Israel; you will be unable to stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you."

Romans 13:8-14
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet" and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Matthew 26:36-46
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, "I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me." And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want." Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, "So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Again he went away for the second time and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done." Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand."

Morning Psalms

Psalm 41 Beatus qui intelligit
1 Happy are they who consider the poor and needy! the LORD will deliver them in the time of trouble.
2 The LORD preserves them and keeps them alive, so that they may be happy in the land; he does not hand them over to the will of their enemies.
3 The LORD sustains them on their sickbed and ministers to them in their illness.
4 I said, "LORD, be merciful to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you."
5 My enemies are saying wicked things about me: "When will he die, and his name perish?"
6 Even if they come to see me, they speak empty words; their heart collects false rumors; they go outside and spread them.
7 All my enemies whisper together about me and devise evil against me.
8 A deadly thing, they say, has fastened on him; he has taken to his bed and will never get up again.
9 Even my best friend, whom I trusted, who broke bread with me, has lifted up his heel and turned against me.
10 But you, O LORD, be merciful to me and raise me up, and I shall repay them.
11 By this I know you are pleased with me, that my enemy does not triumph over me.
12 In my integrity you hold me fast, and shall set me before your face for ever.
13 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, from age to age. Amen. Amen.

Psalm 52 Quid gloriaris?
1 You tyrant, why do you boast of wickedness against the godly all day long?
2 You plot ruin; your tongue is like a sharpened razor, O worker of deception.
3 You love evil more than good and lying more than speaking the truth.
4 You love all words that hurt, O you deceitful tongue.
5 Oh, that God would demolish you utterly, topple you, and snatch you from your dwelling, and root you out of the land of the living!
6 The righteous shall see and tremble, and they shall laugh at him, saying,
7 This is the one who did not take God for a refuge, but trusted in great wealth and relied upon wickedness.
8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.
9 I will give you thanks for what you have done and declare the goodness of your Name in the presence of the godly.

Evening Psalms

Psalm 44 Deus, auribus
1 We have heard with our ears, O God, our forefathers have told us, the deeds you did in their days, in the days of old.
2 How with your hand you drove the peoples out and planted our forefathers in the land; how you destroyed nations and made your people flourish.
3 For they did not take the land by their sword, nor did their arm win the victory for them; but your right hand, your arm, and the light of your countenance, because you favored them.
4 You are my King and my God; you command victories for Jacob.
5 Through you we pushed back our adversaries; through your Name we trampled on those who rose up against us.
6 For I do not rely on my bow, and my sword does not give me the victory.
7 Surely, you gave us victory over our adversaries and put those who hate us to shame.
8 Every day we gloried in God, and we will praise your Name for ever.
9 Nevertheless, you have rejected and humbled us and do not go forth with our armies.
10 You have made us fall back before our adversary, and our enemies have plundered us.
11 You have made us like sheep to be eaten and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You are selling your people for a trifle and are making no profit on the sale of them.
13 You have made us the scorn of our neighbors, a mockery and derision to those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughing-stock among the peoples.
15 My humiliation is daily before me, and shame has covered my face;
16 Because of the taunts of the mockers and blasphemers, because of the enemy and avenger.
17 All this has come upon us; yet we have not forgotten you, nor have we betrayed your covenant.
18 Our heart never turned back, nor did our footsteps stray from your path;
19 Though you thrust us down into a place of misery, and covered us over with deep darkness.
20 If we have forgotten the Name of our God, or stretched out our hands to some strange god,
21 Will not God find it out? for he knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Indeed, for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
23 Awake, O Lord! why are you sleeping? Arise! do not reject us for ever.
24 Why have you hidden your face and forgotten our affliction and oppression?
25 We sink down into the dust; our body cleaves to the ground.
26 Rise up, and help us, and save us, for the sake of your steadfast love.

NIV Devotions for Women - Blessed Are the Desperate

Zechariah 1:1–21

I’m a colorful sinner, and I’ve fallen woefully short of God’s glory. I’m desperate for divine help. We all are.

C.S. Lewis paints a vivid description of how we humans seem to desecrate every good thing God does for us. In his book Letters to Malcolm, Lewis writes, “We poison the wine as He decants it into us; murder a melody He would play with us as the instrument. We caricature the self-portrait He would paint. Hence all sin, whatever else it is, is a sacrilege.”

Maybe you expect rejection from a perfect God because of your less-than-perfect past. Or maybe you’re spiritually crippled by a sin that seems unforgivable. But the good news of the gospel is that our heavenly Father loves us with an everlasting love.

We need to acknowledge the fact that we’re crippled—that there is nothing righteous in us, that we are desperate for his mercy. And when the Spirit prompts us to recognize our need for salvation, God provides a Savior through the sacrifice of his only son, Jesus, who rescues us from barren places and gives us a seat next to him at the Lord’s banquet table.

Because of God’s mercy, our stained hearts have been bleached by the blood of the Lamb. The God who spoke the universe into existence, who breathed life into Adam, who stretched out the heavens and the necks of giraffes, has looked down, taken our hand in his, and said, “Yep, she’s mine.” Even though we’re crippled, we have been royally adopted by the King of kings and Lord of lords. We are listed as his next of kin. Our names are written on his hands and in his book of life. His love for us is based on his character, not our performance. And it is greater than we could ever hope for or imagine.

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

Blessed are the desperate.

—Lisa Harper

  1. Describe a time when you felt desperate for God’s mercy. How did God rescue you from the barren place?
  2. When did you know that you belonged to God? How does knowing that your name is written on his hand and in his book of life comfort you?
  3. In today’s passage, the Lord spoke of those who would not listen to him. Do you know people like that? Spend time praying that they will begin to hear God’s voice and turn or return to his Son.
Zechariah 1:4, 6 
“Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the LORD . . . But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your ancestors?”

Related Readings

Isaiah 55:6–13; Malachi 3:6–7; 1 Peter 2:22–24

Women of the Bible - Athaliah and Jehosheba


Her name means: "The Lord Is Great"

Her character: Granddaughter of Omri, one of Israel's most idolatrous and evil kings, she was the daughter of Ahab and most likely of Jezebel as well. She was the only woman to rule over Judah. While Ahab and Jezebel spread Baal worship in the northern kingdom of Israel, Athaliah was busy promoting it a few years later in the southern kingdom of Judah. Controlled by her need for power, she murdered her own family members to secure it.
Her sorrow: That her attempt to destroy the royal line of Judah failed.
Her joy: That her ruthlessness paid off, at least for a time, making her the ruler of Judah.
Key Scriptures: 2 Kings 11; 2 Chronicles 22; 23:11-21


Her name means: "The Lord Is Great"

Her character: A princess and the wife of the high priest, she was a courageous woman whose actions preserved the line of Judah, from which the Messiah would come.
Her sorrow: To have endured Athaliah's reign in Judah and to have suffered the loss of many of her nephews at the queen's hand.
Her joy: To have preserved the life of her brother's youngest son, Joash, so that he could become the rightful king of Judah.
Key Scriptures: 2 Kings 11:2; 2 Chronicles 22:11

Their Story

Wicked queens are the stuff of fairy tales. Remember the snow queen in the tales of Hans Christian Andersen, or the evil queen in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? Athaliah was at least as bad as her fairy-tale counterparts, a queen who chilled the hearts of God's people by murdering her own grandsons and promoting Baal worship in the southern kingdom of Judah, just as her parents, Ahab and Jezebel, had promoted it in the north.

Athaliah married the king of Judah, thereby cementing an alliance between the northern and southern kingdoms. But after a few years he died and was succeeded by Athaliah's son, Ahaziah. In just a few months, Jehu, Jezebel's nemesis, slaughtered the new king.

After Queen Athaliah's husband and son were killed, she must have felt vulnerable and isolated, doubly so since her father Ahab's line had also been destroyed in Israel. Her paranoia and lust for power formed a toxic mixture, moving her to murder her own son's children to secure Judah's throne for herself. Indeed she may even have gloated that she, Baal's emissary, had snuffed out Judah's royal heirs, making it impossible for God to fulfill his promise of a future Messiah from David's line in the tribe of Judah.

For a few years, from about 841-835 bc, Athaliah reigned in Judah, promoting Baal worship and leading the people further and further from God. But right under her nose a conspiracy was brewing. Unknown to her, one of her grandsons still lived. Her own stepdaughter, Jehosheba, had hidden the infant, Joash, before the queen could murder him along with Ahaziah's other sons. Married to the high priest, Jehosheba risked her life by tucking the royal heir away in the temple for six years. Then, when the boy turned seven, her husband arranged a coup, crowning young Joash king.

As soon as Athaliah caught wind of the plot, she rushed to the temple, tearing her robes and screaming, "Treason! Treason!" But like her mother, Jezebel, before her, no one paid the slightest attention. Instead, Queen Athaliah was promptly seized and executed just outside the temple. As soon as the queen was dispatched, the people of Judah celebrated by destroying the temple of Baal along with its chief priest.

While the comparisons between Athaliah and Jezebel are all too obvious, their story reminds us of another that took place seven hundred years before. Egypt's Pharaoh, determined to destroy God's people, had ordered every male baby drowned in the Nile River. Like Pharaoh, hoodwinked by one of his own children (his daughter saved Moses and raised him as her own), Athaliah was fooled by her stepdaughter, Jehosheba. Once again a woman's courage and compassion helped to subvert evil and keep the promise alive.

Their Promise

God always wins. That's a pretty simplistic way of saying it, but it's true nonetheless. Even when people like Athaliah try to stomp out an entire family and put an end to God's plan for redemption, when people like the priests of Baal lead others to worship idols instead of the true God, God will always triumph in the end. The negative forces of our culture make us wonder where we're headed as a people. Many of our leaders show little integrity or morality, and dishonesty is overlooked in the workplace. Kindness is often the exception rather than the rule. But don't despair. This is not a battle God plans to lose. In the end, he will prevail!

His Princess Every Day - Dine With Me

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 am knocking at the door of your heart and hoping you will dine with me. If you will open the door I will come in. I prepared a feast for you, my beloved. Will you accept my invitation? I long to feed your hungry soul until you are completely satisfied. Let your prince come in and nourish your spirit, your mind and your body. I am the only one who truly can.

Your Prince and satisfaction

Look, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and I come in and we will share a meal together as friends. - Revelation 3:20

Prayer to my Prince

My Lord,

My Prince, I accept your invitation to dine. Come and feed my hungry soul. Please never stop knocking at the door of my heart, because I desperately need to sit with you each day. I am so honored that you would give me the privilege of dining with you. There is nothing like your presence here with me. My cup overflows with your joy when you satisfy my thirst!

Your Princess who is opening the door 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. - Psalm 23:5 (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.

Standing Strong Through the Storm - THE PEACEMAKERS

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9

With the possession of a meek spirit, we are equipped to step into the midst of conflict and be ambassadors “waging peace” that passes all understanding. The richness of the New Testament word “peace” describes a condition of perfect and complete positive well-being. It also describes right relationships—intimate fellowship and goodwill between human beings. Peace comes not from avoiding issues but from facing them, making peace even when the way is through trouble.

Blessed are those peacemakers who produce right relationships in every sphere of life, for they are doing a God-like work.

Such actions may involve laying down one’s life, like Jesus did, in order to reconcile men with God and break down barriers among men (Galatians 3:26-29). Are we willing to pay the price so that others might find peace with God? Are we willing to insist that all should hear the Gospel and believe? In some conflict areas of the world, Christians call this “waging peace.” 

Our brothers and sisters in Israel and the West Bank—where “peace” is sought but very evasive—remind us that Jesus’ high moral teaching is that we should not resist evil with evil (Matthew 5:39). Jesus is calling His followers not to respond in kind to the acts of injustice and dehumanization directed against them, but rather to respond with transforming initiatives. This unique perspective that He teaches contrasts with the “fight or flight” responses so deeply conditioned in human beings.

Dr. Salim Munayer is a wonderful example of such a peacemaker. The organization he founded takes groups of Christian Palestinians and Israelis on trips to the desert where they must work together in a situation that breaks down barriers and promotes trust relationships. Brother Andrew comments that this ministry doesn’t “just talk about the problem between Palestinians and Jews. It brings the two sides together and provides the means for them to reconcile.” 

“Waging peace” involves: promoting love not hate; fostering unity among brethren; being a witness of a higher kingdom; and following the non-violence example of Jesus.

RESPONSE: Today I will be proactive and “wage peace” in my sphere of influence.

PRAYER: Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. May I counter hatred with love and injury with forgiveness today.

Girlfriends in God - I’ll Have What She’s Having

Today’s Truth

But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations… (1 Samuel 8:19-20a)

Friend to Friend

It was spring break and we were home. Facebook posts from friends were showcasing sandy beaches, yummy meals, and fancy-schmancy hotel lobbies and pools. I was doing laundry, finishing up my taxes {Yay!} and wrestling with the cravings stirred by what others had and were doing.

As I turned to the Word of God I was reminded that none of this is new. I was also reminded and convicted that looking at and longing for what other people have, are, and do is NOT God’s best for me.

In the Bible, the Lord used a strand of strugglers just like you and me. I’m so glad about that. Aren’t you?

The book of 1 Samuel introduces us to a woman named Hannah who was deeply troubled, and ridden with aches of longing. Her life was complicated, but she knew where to turn in her turmoil. She poured out her soul to God and He heard her cries (1 Samuel 1:10, 19). In time, Hannah gave birth to a son named Samuel and she gave him over to the Lord for His service.

Samuel was raised in the house of God, where he grew in stature and in favor with both God and man (1 Samuel 2:26). As a young man, the Lord spoke to Him and through Him. As years went by, the incredible power of God was seen and dispensed through Samuel who served the Lord as a prophet, priest, judge and leader of Israel, yet somehow his own children rejected God.

Now, I’m not sure why, but when Samuel grew old, he appointed his wayward sons as the next leaders of Israel (1 Samuel 8:1). The elders took note that Samuel’s two sons were not walking with the Lord and they were understandably disturbed. So they plotted and they planned… and reasoned as best they could… but they didn’t pray. They looked to their left and to their right.

Everybody else had a king, they observed. We should have one, too!

Israel – the nation chosen by God to be set apart, to be His nation, to follow His commands – wanted a king. An earthly leader instead of an invisible King of kings.

They wanted what everybody else had.

They went to Samuel, and pleaded with him. “But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 8:6)

Samuel went to God with the issue. The people of Israel did not look to God, but instead to one another. Then they refused to listen to the counsel of Samuel. They wanted what they wanted and they wanted it now.

God gave them a warning through Samuel that their desires were not His. Then, convinced that they knew what was best for them, the Israelites moved in the direction of their logical longings. Not toward the counsel of the Lord or the leadership they truly desired.

“But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations…” (1 Samuel 8:19-20a, emphasis mine)

Man, that’s familiar behavior! I know it well. We can all be like that on any given day, can’t we?

C’mon! Let’s be honest here. You and I do this all the time.

We look at other people’s jobs, other people’s houses, other people’s Facebook boastings, other people’s talents, other people’s marriages, other people’s clothing, other people’s accomplishments, other people’s children, other people’s bank accounts, and even other people’s prayer journals and think, “I want what she’s got!”

We think, “If I can only get/do/have/achieve that, I will be happy.”

When all the while, what we really need is more of Jesus. Our biggest need is a deep, soul-level relationship with God. Where we seek Him, know Him, trust Him, savor Him, walk in His ways, and serve in His name.

Friends, we need to stop looking to our left and to our right, and instead look up {to Jesus}, bow down {in humility, repentance, and surrender}, move forward {in healing, forgiveness, sanctification, and hope} and grow {in grace, love, holiness, service, vision, wisdom, and contentment}.

We need to stop the conversations that begin and end with, “I’ll have what she’s having!” And instead, pour out our souls to God in honest prayer, seeking true prosperity: His heart – His plans – His will. Then we will be equipped by His Spirit to trust that where He leads and what He allows is not only sufficient but best.

Let’s Pray

Lord, You are the Author and Perfecter of my faith, and I’m so glad. Please forgive me for thinking that _________________ is going to bring me happiness and remove any desires within me that do not align with Your will for me in Christ Jesus. I want what You want for me… and I thank you that Your Spirit enables me to experience all the love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, gentleness, kindness and goodness I ever need. Fill me fresh with Your presence and vision today, Lord.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn

Read Psalm 27. Journal any verses that move your heart. Pray through anything that the Lord brings to your mind about this topic and ask the Lord to bind His heart and longings to yours.

CLICK HERE to listen to the song I co-wrote called, “Center of Surrender.” Allow the lyric to lead you to a deeper place of worship today.

More from the Girlfriends

Gwen Smith is a speaker, worship leader, songwriter, and author of the new book, I Want I ALL, who wants to help you think big thoughts about God – and inspire you toward His grace and truth. Her website is filled with videos, posts, songs and resources that will be a deep well of encouragement to you. Click here to visit her site. (Get a FREE downloadable “I Want It All” COLORING and JOURNAL e-book when you sign up to receive her blog!)

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Verse of the Day - July 18, 2016

Psalm 119:7 (NIV) I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.

Read all of Psalm 119