Monday, July 25, 2016

Night Light for Couples - Roman Bridges

“The winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matthew 7:25

Yesterday we talked about being committed to your partner for better and for worse. Another way to look at this issue was once related by the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer. He described the bridges that were built in Europe by the Romans in the first and second centuries A.D. The bridges still stand today, despite the unreinforced brick and mortar with which they were made, because they are used for nothing but foot traffic. If an eighteen‐wheel semi were driven across those historic structures, they would crumble in a cloud of dust and debris.

Marriages that lack an iron‐willed determination to hang together are like those Roman bridges. They appear to be secure and may indeed remain upright for many years—until they are put under heavy pressure. Then the supports split and the structure crumbles.

Is your marriage constructed to withstand unusual stress as well as normal wear? Take the time to install a proper foundation—the Lord Jesus Christ. Then build your relationship on habits and attitudes that will sustain it under heavy pressure.

Just between us…
  • Has there ever been a time when our marriage seemed less than solid?
  • Do we know a couple whose marriage has stayed secure under stress?
  • What’s their secret? Do we see any cracks—even tiny ones—beginning to appear in our marriage? What can we do to repair them?
Father, we turn to the unshakable truths of Your Word and the unfailing promise of Your presence to hold our marriage together. Thank You that we can live and love securely—even under stress—because You are in this marriage with us. 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 25, 2016

Jeremiah 45:1-5
The word that the prophet Jeremiah spoke to Baruch son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah: Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: You said, "Woe is me! The LORD has added sorrow to my pain; I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest." Thus you shall say to him, "Thus says the LORD: I am going to break down what I have built, and pluck up what I have planted-- that is, the whole land. And you, do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for I am going to bring disaster upon all flesh, says the LORD; but I will give you your life as a prize of war in every place to which you may go."

Psalm 7:1-10
1   O LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me;
2   Lest like a lion they tear me in pieces and snatch me away with none to deliver me.
3   O LORD my God, if I have done these things: if there is any wickedness in my hands,
4   If I have repaid my friend with evil, or plundered him who without cause is my enemy;
5   Then let my enemy pursue and overtake me, trample my life into the ground, and lay my honor in the dust.
6   Stand up, O LORD, in your wrath; rise up against the fury of my enemies.
7   Awake, O my God, decree justice; let the assembly of the peoples gather round you.
8   Be seated on your lofty throne, O Most High; O LORD, judge the nations.
9   Give judgment for me according to my righteousness, O LORD, and according to my innocence, O Most High.
10   Let the malice of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; for you test the mind and heart, O righteous God.

Acts 11:27-12:3
At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.)

Matthew 20:20-28
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom." But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They said to him, "We are able." He said to them, "You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

The Forward Day by Day Meditation for July 25, 2016

From Forward Day By Day

Matthew 20:26b-28 Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” 

The paradox of living Christianity is that if we want to be important, we must subvert our desires and serve others. As many followers as he had, as many gifts as were coming his way, Jesus still rode into town on a donkey, an example of modesty and humility.

What kind of utopia might we live in if we were all trying to out-serve one another? We wouldn’t need to ask whether or not someone has more than we did because we would be about the business of finding someone who has less, so we could bless him or her out of our abundance. Imagine not being concerned about where we sit at God’s table, but making sure that all know they have a full share and a place at the table. The kingdom of God would surely be at hand.

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NIV Devotions for Women - Mine?

Malachi 3:6–10

Have you ever tried to take a toy from a toddler? If so, then you know it’s hardly worth the effort. Even though the child probably doesn’t know where the toy came from, the words my and mine repeatedly resound. It’s hers and no one else’s.

Mine. It’s one of the first words we learn as children. No one has to teach us to be possessive. Hoarding comes naturally. Maybe we fear that we won’t have what we need or that someone will take what we think rightfully belongs to us. Learning to share is so often the challenge.

God instituted the concept of tithing during Moses’ time. Not only was it the way God provided for the Levites, but it was also a spiritual discipline to teach his people to rely on him. By giving God the first tenth of their produce, they acknowledged that all they had was from his hand. In this passage, God lamented that the people were robbing him by withholding their tithe. He asked them to “test” his generosity. And wow! God can pass that test, opening the floodgates of heaven and pouring out so much blessing that there will not be enough room for it.

With a return like that, who wouldn’t want to give to God? But God doesn’t ask us to give out of his own need or for what we receive in return. He asks us to give as a reflection of how generous he has been to us. He has, indeed, poured out mercy, forgiveness, provision and everything else we need. Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38). The Old Testament tithe was a requirement, but the New Testament offering is a test of the heart. Giving is not a duty but a joyous out pouring of gratitude. And giving is God’s way of making us, his people, a conduit of his love to others.

We cannot receive God’s gifts with closed fists. No, receiving requires open hands. What God pours into our hands, we pour out. And in God’s kingdom, there is always more to spare.

  1. Are your hands open or are you tightfisted, like a child with a toy?
  2. Have you practiced the grace of generous giving? If so, what happened? How did giving affect you?
  3. Why would giving to God in order to receive from God not be a good motive? What’s wrong with this way of thinking?

Malachi 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Related Readings

Proverbs 3:9–10; Luke 21:1–4; 2 Corinthians 9:6–8

His Princess Every Day - Do Not Fear

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

Are you bound up in darkness and fear? Come to Me and tell Me what you’re afraid of. Is it the future? Your health? Your circumstances? Your finances? Your security? Don’t you know that I am Creator and King of all? I own all the resources in the universe. Nothing is beyond My knowledge or My power. Remember that I am your God and Salvation. I will never give you more than you can handle. Ask Me about anything with faith and obey what I tell you to do, and you will feel your fear vanish. I am the Lord your God, and I delight in caring for you, My child. So do not fear, My princess. I am always near.

Your King and your Fearless Leader

The LORD is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The LORD protects me from danger—
so why should I tremble? - Psalm 27:1

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.

Girlfriends in God - When God Turns Tragedy Into Triumph

Today’s Truth

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28, NIV).

Friend to Friend

I will never forget the day I learned how God really can turn tragedy into triumph. I was sitting at my desk, working on an assignment from the counselor I had been seeing. For months I had been wrestling with my past - slowly, methodically working through painful issues and buried memories that seemed to be feeding the clinical depression I was battling. As page after page filled with harsh realities, a memory slammed into my heart and mind.
  1. I grew up in a small Texas town where we lived in what some would call a “shack” on the edge of town. My mother worked three jobs to support three children, but her main job was as a nurse.
  2. I was frequently sick with colds and ear infections. We had little money, but we did have a family doctor who was a friend and colleague of my mother. In fact, they worked side-by-side each day at the one and only hospital in town. Knowing our financial circumstances, this doctor and his wife often asked my mom to baby-sit to earn extra money. They had five children, so I was often recruited to go along as a backup.
  3. Over the years, this doctor often took care of our medical needs, charging us nothing. He was our friend, a man I respected and trusted – until the day he molested me. The pain and betrayal were so great that I locked it all away in a dark corner of my soul, refusing to admit it had ever happened. I told no one.
  4. Fast-forward twenty years. I was happily married to Dan Southerland and had two wonderful children. I travelled, speaking for women’s events and loved being a pastor’s wife. Everything on the outside looked great, but inside, the past slowly ate away at my soul until my world collapsed, and I sank into a pit of clinical depression.
  5. I was paralyzed. The simple tasks seemed like impossible mountains to climb. Panic attacks became a daily event. I stepped out of ministry and began to uncover the wounds I had desperately tried to ignore most of my life.
  6. I kept insanely busy in a vain attempt to earn God’s favor and the approval of others. My worth seemed to rest on the foundation of doing, instead of being. I soon discovered that one of the main reasons I had fallen into that pit was because I refused to face and deal with the pain of my past.
  7. With the help of a loving husband, a Christian psychiatrist and a brilliant family doctor, I began to make slow but steady progress in climbing out of that dark, slimy pit.
  8. Then, I remembered.
  9. I remembered that day in the doctor’s office. I fell apart. I hated that man. I wanted him to pay for what he had done to me. I wanted him to hurt like he had hurt me. I also knew that somehow, I had to let my pain go and forgive him or I would be trapped for the rest of my life. God and I began to work through every painful, horrifying moment of that memory.
Anger unlike any I had ever known fueled violent thoughts of revenge and retaliation. I was furious with this man – and irate at God.

How could He have let this happen?

Where was the light in this dark place?

It was a long time before I saw the first glimmer of light. It was wrapped in chosen forgiveness.

I began to see that had I never been wounded so badly, I would never have been able to forgive so freely – and in doing so, discover a depth of healing and freedom only the greatest pain can produce. Today, I can honestly thank God for all He has accomplished in me through the sin of that man.

There are no accidents with God, nor is He surprised by anything or anyone in the life of His child. God uses even the most horrendous circumstances for our good.

Every circumstance comes to us for a purpose, bound by God’s love and plan and faithfully delivered with His permission. While we cannot go back and change our past, we can change the way we respond to our past and determine how much power it has in our lives today.

Only God can take the broken pieces of your life and make something beautiful out of each one. He is waiting for you to let go of your pain and trust Him.

And you really can trust Him.

No one loves you like He does.

You may not always understand or even like His process, but you can always trust His heart of love for you.

Let’s Pray

Father, I choose to believe You are faithful and will do what You promise to do in Your Word. I believe when I lay the pain and hurt of my past at Your feet, You not only can but also will transform it all into something beautiful. I choose to believe You will turn the broken places of my life into living illustrations of Your sufficiency and healing power. I trust You, Lord.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn

Isaiah 45:3 is one of my favorite life verses. Read it carefully:

Isaiah 45:3 (NLT) “And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”

What treasures have you discovered in the dark times of your life? What tragedy has God transformed into a triumph that has changed your life? Praise Him right now for doing so.

More from the Girlfriends

Storms are a reality of life. If you need help facing and dealing with the storms in your life, check out Mary’s E-Bible Study and Video Download, Strength for the Storm.

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Girlfriends in God
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Women of the Bible - Huldah

Her name means: "Weasel"

Her character: Trusted by the king with a matter of great importance, she was a prophetess whose word ignited a significant religious reform.
Her sorrow: That God's people refused to respond to him with loving obedience, ignoring repeated warnings about the consequences of their unfaithfulness.
Her joy: As a prophetess, she was privileged to be a messenger of God.
Key Scriptures: 2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chronicles 34:22-33

Her Story

She pressed the leather scroll against her breast, as though cradling a living being. The high priest, Hilkiah, and several other men of Jerusalem stood before her. King Josiah wanted to know—would the words of the Book of the Law, which Hilkiah had just discovered in the temple, come to pass?

Holding the scroll by its wooden handles, she unrolled it carefully and began reading:

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength…. Fear the Lord your God, serve him only, and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land" (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, 13-15).

"Cursed in the city and cursed in the country … sudden ruin because of what you have done … wasting disease … madness, blindness and confusion … an object of scorn and ridicule to all the nations … because you did not obey the Lord your God" (cf. Deuteronomy 28:15-68).

Though her voice was steady, Huldah's throat felt sore from the effort of speaking such words aloud, terrible threats that made her eyes well over, warnings that spawned vision upon vision from the past. In her mind, she watched as Judah's kings Ahaz and Manasseh sacrificed their sons to pagan deities. She saw the smoke of incense rising before pagan idols in the temple. She looked on as prophets were murdered, as diviners and sorcerers were honored, as kings bowed down to the stars and the people followed suit, prostituting themselves to false gods and spurning the advances of the Almighty. She saw the children of Israel marching in chains from the land of milk and honey. Her face flushed as a burning sensation rushed through her body and searing words spilled from her lips:

"This is what the Lord says: 'I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and provoked me to anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.' Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord: 'Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.' "

Huldah is one of only four women with an authentic prophetic ministry mentioned in the Old Testament (along with Miriam, Deborah, and Isaiah's wife). Though prophets like Jeremiah and Zephaniah were also active at the time, King Josiah consulted Huldah about the amazing discovery of the Book of the Law (material that probably forms the core of the book of Deuteronomy).

Beyond the brief scene imaginatively retold above, we know little of her story—only that God entrusted her with his word in a time of national crisis. A hundred years earlier, Judah had witnessed God's punishment of the northern kingdom. Faithless Israel had been led captive to Assyria, just as the prophets had warned. Huldah surely knew the sordid details. She could not have missed its frightening significance for Judah. She may also have endured part of Manasseh's fifty-five-year reign, the longest and worst of any king in Judah. Certainly, she would have been heartened by the recent reforms of King Josiah—his attempts to restore the temple though the people had all but forgotten God.

But her words of prophecy confirmed the king's fear. Judah was standing on a precipice. God was a jealous lover who blessed those who loved and obeyed him and cursed those who did not. Across the centuries, his slow anger was building to a fiery crescendo. Judah's infidelities had not gone unnoticed.

After Huldah's prophecy, Josiah led one of the greatest religious reforms in history, purging Judah and even parts of Israel of paganism. But the kings who followed him soon reversed course, leading the people astray once again. Thirty-five years after Huldah's prophecy, Judah was taken in chains to Babylon and all of its cities were destroyed.

The magnificent kingdom of David and Solomon had come to an end. But though every other nation captured by Assyria and Babylon ceased to exist, Israel still had a future. Chastened, it was never destroyed. Disciplined, it was never forsaken. All because God still loved his people.

The words of Isaiah, a prophet who preceded Huldah by a few decades, proclaimed a future day of restoration: "They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities…. Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance" (Isaiah 61:4, 7).

Judgment and mercy, law and grace, punishment and salvation—these are the tensions that characterize the story of God's love affair with his people. Huldah was a woman who understood the paradox and who was not afraid to proclaim the truth, even to a king. Her words must have cost her, but she spoke them anyway. She cherished God's word in a time of spiritual crisis.

Her Promise

The story of Huldah and her words to the king illustrate the contrast between God's judgment and his mercy. He judges those who deserve his punishment, but he quickly forgives those who repent. In fact, he is eager to forgive, waiting only for us to come to him in repentance.

Standing Strong Through the Storm - EMPATHY WITH THOSE NEEDING COMFORT

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Isaiah 40:1

In July, 2011 the world was stunned as peaceful Norway experienced a bombing in downtown Oslo and the shooting massacre at a youth camp outside the capital. When the dust settled, the shocking death toll stood at seventy-six. Letters and e-mails of comfort, support and prayers for the grieving families and nation poured into the Open Doors-Norway office. On July 25th our Norwegian Director sent out the following message:

On behalf of our people and nation, I want to thank all of you around the world who are praying for us and are sending words of comfort after the terrible acts that have shaken the nation.

A week ago my wife and I met the Ortiz family in Ariel, Israel. They experienced a bomb attack that almost killed their son Ami a few years ago. They gave us a cup with the Israeli and Norwegian flags on it, and an inscription from Isaiah 40:1, Comfort, yes comfort my people! The last days these words have become a message to our people, the Norwegian nation.

In Haifa we also met the parents of a Christian girl who was one of many victims after a suicide bomber killed dozens of Israeli school children on a bus some years ago. Every year they have a memorial day. They have buttons with the text: ‘Don’t forget – don´t forgive.’ But the Christian parents said, ‘We cannot wear that button. We do not want revenge or hatred to fill our hearts. We are called to forgive and love.’ But of course, they will always have the pain.

It is not possible to find words that express the pain and sadness we feel after such cruel deeds. But we can already see good and beautiful things coming up. People are focusing on how to comfort and help each other. People cry together, and king, queen and prime minister show their emotions before the whole nation. Politicians from different parties are talking to another in a different way, and people admire their good leadership in this difficult time. There are great discussions and wise speeches about the most important subjects. As a nation we have hard days, but also days of learning.

People come to church in a very humble way. It is a place for prayers, lamentations, hope, comfort and love in these days; a place to meet the Comforter and Saviour.

In Open Doors we frequently get information about terror against sisters and brothers from so many places in the world. Some times it feels ‘far away.’ But now we will hopefully understand more of the fear and threat every persecuted Christian faces in their lives.

Grace and peace! The staff of Open Doors-Norway

RESPONSE: Thank God that He comforts us so that we can use His comfort to comfort others.

PRAYER: Pray today for all brothers and sisters experiencing the fear and pain of terror and loss.

Verse of the Day - July 25, 2016

Psalm 119:60 (NIV) I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.

Read all of Psalm 119