8/31/2022 0 Comments
Labor of Love
1 Corinthians 13 is the famous love chapter in the Bible. In verse five we read that love is patient, kind, does not envy, or boast. But if we keep reading into verse six and seven, we notice more characteristics of love. In Charles Spurgeon’s sermon titled “Love’s Labours,” he notes that there are four labors of love: love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. In verse seven, we read that ‘Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.” These characteristics give us tangible ways to love the ones around us.
I remember the intense feeling of love when I held my baby for the first time. I also remember the pregnancy pains, non-stop nursing sessions, caring for my colicky infant, potty training, toddler tantrums, terrible twos, and all the work that goes into taking care of my children each day-the labors of love. After reading the passages in 1 Corinthians it made me stop and think. I labor all day long in taking care of my children’s needs, but do I labor well? Do I labor in love?
At first glance I would tally up my imperfections and say, “No.” I don’t feel like I labor in love most days. I lose my temper. I feel frustrated with the limitations of my little ones. And there are days that I feel like I’ve failed. Maybe I was too distracted by my phone to join in a game of cards, or maybe I yelled out of frustration. There are plenty of examples I can come up with when I didn’t respond to my family with love.
I will never be a perfect mother, but I do have a perfect Heavenly Father who will give me help when I ask. Maybe instead of focusing on all my shortcomings as a mother, I should be focusing on asking for more help from God. Praying and asking God to direct my thoughts and actions takes the burden off my shoulders. Because sometimes I don’t understand what’s going on with my children, but God does. And I can ask him for wisdom. I am so glad I am not alone, and neither are you.
Maybe you feel the same way. Perhaps you feel like you’ve let your children down today and made some mistakes. Let me encourage you that we can turn to God’s word and find the truth and encouragement our hearts desperately need. Instead of focusing on perfection, we can rely on the Lord to help us endure all the things we face each day. And in protecting our children’s hearts, trusting in God’s promises for our families, hoping for the best for our kids, and persevering in the hard mothering moments, we are truly loving well.
With God’s love in our hearts, and scripture as our guide, we can know how to love our families well. We are not alone in the daily demands of motherhood. Our Heavenly Father wants to help us labor in love and run the race of motherhood with endurance. And in the persevering we can allow God to shape our hearts and draw us nearer to himself.
So the next time you feel discouraged or tired in the daily labor of love, remind yourself that God wants perseverance over perfection. When you are overwhelmed in the labor and stretched to your limits, remember to ask God for his divine intervention and help. He is our ever present help in time of need and his love endures forever.
Memory Verse: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:6-7
8/30/2022 0 Comments
Remember God's Goodness
In Deuteronomy 8, Moses is commanding the Israelites to remember what God has done. Why? Remembrance leads to obedience. Remembering God’s past faithfulness would fuel their future obedience. Moses urged the people to remember their slavery in Egypt, how God delivered them, and why they must not elevate idols over the one true living God lest they perish (Deut. 8:18-20).
Moses lists a multitude of manifestations of God from miracles to manna. He warns them to keep their hearts humble so they don’t turn away from the Lord their God when life is good. Moses warns against complacency which can lead to worshiping idols over the one true living God. If they forget God’s faithfulness, they will be tempted to turn to other gods instead of obeying the Lord their God.
It’s wise for us to consider Moses’ warnings and commands to the people of Israel. Although we are not slaves in Egypt, we were slaves to sin before God freed us. Our modern day problems may be different, but our source is still the same: the one true living God. Yet our human hearts can be quick to place our hope in a job instead of God.
Even when life is downright hard, we can walk by faith in obedience to God when we remember who sustains us in this life, nothing else.
Remembrance leads to obedience. Not only is our faith strengthened, but our love for God grows deeper when we focus on how God weaves our story, provides for our families, and makes manna rain down in the desert seasons. In all our remembering, we also remember we didn’t earn the job, God gave it to us. We can allow the times of uncertainty to remind us we achieve nothing in our own strength, but only by God’s grace, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant he swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deut. 8:17-18 ESV).
If God gave you this job, He will give you another one. If God gave you a home, He will provide a new place to live. If God gave you a family, He will sustain you in raising up your children. If he brought you to it, He will bring you through it. He is your ultimate source. And He is always faithful.
How can you practice Moses’ command in your modern day life? Remember, write, and rejoice. Remember specific moments of God’s faithfulness, write them down, and then rejoice over them with prayers of thanksgiving and songs of praise.
Memory Verse: “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” Deuteronomy 32:4
8/28/2022 0 Comments
“This is the most important story I will ever tell you, kids,” I started.
I told them how God sent His only Son Jesus because he loved us so much. A very long time ago Jesus was born, lived on the earth for 33 years, and then died on the cross for our sins. Three days later he was raised from the dead and now lives in heaven.
In the same way I taught my kids over breakfast, the author of 1 John teaches and encourages the church. In the fifth chapter specifically, the writer makes very clear statements of what we know to be true of our faith. 1 John 5 says that God keeps His children safe and the evil one cannot harm them. We also are assured we know that the Son of God, Jesus, has given us understanding so we can know the truth of Jesus Christ.
So what does all of that mean for busy moms at breakfast time? Well, these truths in 1 John 5 give us assurance of Salvation and insight into our Christian walk. We can have confidence in who we are as Children of God. We know that the powers of darkness can not harm us, even though the world is under the influence of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God gives us understanding so we can know what (and Who) is truth.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important story in all of history. I could feel it’s life-changing power stir up within my heart as I explained the cross to my children that spring morning. And all throughout the scriptures we are encouraged as believers to remember the cross and take hold of the resurrection power of Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Yes, one day we will go to heaven and be with all the people in “the kingdom,” as my daughter says.
I told the Good News to my three sweet babies over pancakes that morning and could barely get through it without tears in my eyes. I was overcome with emotion of my own salvation, and joyful at the reunion of the saints in heaven one day. Yes, my children, WE have overcome the world because Jesus overcame the world.
But remember, Child of God, who you are and whose you are. Remember that we can live a life of faith rather than fear because the evil one cannot harm us. Keep clinging to Jesus, who is the way, truth, and life (Jn 14:6). And while we wait to go to heaven and see our Savior, let’s remind ourselves every day that because of Jesus we have overcome this world!
Memory Verse: ”Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John 5:5 NIV
Would my weary head ever hit the pillow?
My heart was so overwhelmed and my thoughts couldn’t keep quiet any longer. I surprised myself when I heard my tired confession. “I have nothing left to give you, Jesus!” I blurted out. That deep frustration bubbled up to the surface and forced its way out of my mouth.
In my moment of overwhelming defeat, I felt incredibly vulnerable. I didn’t realize how hard I had been trying to manage my day. I didn’t realize how helpless I felt on the inside. I didn’t realize how tired I was. It wasn’t the end of my day yet, but it felt like the end of something. Like the woman at the well in the city of Sychar, which translates to “end,” I had come to the end of myself.
The Samaritan woman went to the well at the hottest part of the day to avoid seeing other people. And yet Jesus went out of His way to meet her. Jews did not associate with Samaritans. But still the Messiah spoke straight to her heart. In a moment when she least expected grace and mercy, she received both in abundance.
In my own “woman at the well” moment, God spoke to my heart. He reminded me that I don’t have to muster up strength to meet with him. I simply offer my heart and he meets me in my mess. He knows my weaknesses and shortcomings. And just like Jesus visited the woman at the well at noontime, He visited me at lunchtime when I didn’t know how I was going to get through my day or put food on plates. When I had nothing left, Jesus reminded me that his strength is sufficient in my weakness. His love and forgiveness for the woman at the well shows me that his love and forgiveness for me not only redeems me, but gives me the strength to keep going.
Jesus’ invitation to drink from the living water extends to every tired mother in the noontime hour or any other hour of need. Have you ever felt stuck in a cycle of sin or shame? Maybe your burden was so heavy that you went out of your way to avoid others? When we receive the living water, the Holy Spirit, we can be filled to overflow for our people. But it all starts with Jesus. Nothing inside of me is strong enough to make it to 5’oclock. It is only from His living water, the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), that I can drink and not become thirsty.
Jesus knows us at our most vulnerable; He sees the secret parts and loves us more than we can fathom, just like the Samaritan woman. Not only does He see us, but He offers His Holy Spirit to fill us up. Do you need encouragement? Are you weary? Remind yourself of this powerful truth today. Jesus meets us right where we are! Yes, He meets us in our sin, shame, and self-defeat. He meets us at the end of ourselves, whether in the noontime or midnight hour, and offers the living water to sustain us.
The next time you feel like throwing your hands up in defeat, lift them just a little higher, look up to where your help comes from, and ask Jesus to give you a drink of living water.
Memory Verse: “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” John 4:13-14 NIV
After decades of wandering the wilderness with grumbling Israelites, I’m sure Moses was tired, angry, and just maybe losing hope of the promised land. I sympathize with Moses; I, too, have grumbling people in my life that ask for endless snacks and drinks all day! But I also relate to the Israelites. I bring my grumbling to God often. “Are we there yet, God?” I question. But I’m so thankful for his mercy towards me. And I am also thankful for His correction, even when it interrupts my pity party, for the Lord corrects those He loves (Proverbs 3:12).
Moses was close to entering the Promised Land after years of wandering in the wilderness. Yet we read his disobedience prohibits Him from the land of milk and honey. However, at the end of his life, he tells the Israelites to keep their hearts pure and stop being stubborn towards God.
Moses and the rock illustrates that I can’t give up and go my own way, even when it feels good at the moment. Obedience and surrender are required of me all the time, not just when I feel like it.
Yep, I have to surrender even when I feel stubborn! And, yes, some weeks it’s very hard to surrender my heart. But the Father helps us work out that frustration by providing His Holy Spirit to help.
A surrendered heart produces a sanctified life. Sanctification is the process of becoming set apart - to be refined and purified. And we can’t go deeper with God or mature as believers until we surrender our hearts to Him. We can rest assured that every time we choose to surrender our hearts and minds, we not only go deeper in our faith, but receive the fullness of joy from the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Do you find yourself being stubborn to the Lord’s loving correction in your life? Maybe you’re just plain tired and need some encouragement to surrender your heart to God. Here's the thing we must remember as believers: even in the midst of very valid anger, exhaustion, we must surrender our hearts. We don't want anger to lead to sin (Ephesians 4:26). The only way to keep our hearts open to God is to surrender over and over again, even when we are tired of wandering in the wilderness.
Moses' example shows us that we have to keep following God's commands, even when we are weary from the journey of life. Next time you are feeling a little stubborn about the process of sanctification, I invite you to open your heart to God the Father. Perhaps our prayer of surrender might sound something like this: "God, I am feeling very stubborn right now. I need your Holy Spirit to help me surrender. You are good, and your ways are always good. Amen!”
Memory Verse: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23 NIV
9/26/2021 0 Comments
The God Who Sees You
When I read the story of Hagar and Ishmael, I think of the times I wanted to hide from God because of my own sin and shame. In Genesis 16, we read about how Sarai was impatient with God’s timing and took matters into her own hands. Sarai hatched a plan to speed up the process of having a child by way of her Egyptian maid-servant, and Abram agreed. But when Hagar became pregnant, Sarai mistreated her. Hagar ran away from Sarai, stopping at a spring in the desert. Here is where we see God’s great compassion displayed for a woman who was mistreated, “in misery” (v. 11), and on the run.
After the angel of the Lord meets the woman by the spring, he tells her to go back to her mistress and submit to her. He then gives her a promise for the future of her descendants (v. 10). Hagar responds to the Lord by saying, “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (Gen. 16:13). And the spring or well in the desert was called Beer Lahai Roi, which means "the well of him that liveth and seeth me.”
In God’s great mercy towards Hagar, he stopped her at the well. If she would have kept on running away, she may have faced danger on the run, or remained stuck in a cycle of shame. But God saw her, stopped her, and spoke to her. God had a plan even in the middle of the mess and misery.
Maybe you can relate to my examples of condemnation at the kitchen sink. Perhaps you’ve even felt the sting of shame today. Let me encourage you that those accusations coming against us are not from God. Out of the blue accusations are from the adversary - the “accuser of our brothers” (Revelation 12:9-10). We must remember that condemnation is from the enemy; loving correction comes from God. And the more we read God’s word and learn about His compassion, the easier it is to identify these attacks and combat them.
Hagar’s encounter with the angel of the Lord gives us an example for how God deals with us. Firstly, He meets us in the wilderness- in the wandering of our own hearts. Yes, the “God who sees us” meets directly with us in the middle of our sin and shame. Secondly, he speaks to our situation, and through his Word, he offers hope and life. Lastly, he sees our hearts and calls us by name. He knows everything about us because he created us and knows our future. So, the next time the enemy tries to shame you, remember that your God knows you, speaks to you, and calls you by name. Your God forgives you and does not accuse you. Yes, Your God is the one who sees and loves you! Rest in his abounding love for you today.
Memory Verse: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever.” Psalm 103:8-9 NIV
8/22/2021 0 Comments
Dilemma of the Heart
More times than not, the inner conflict is over a relationship. It’s so easy to be misunderstood and misinterpreted in our relationships. After all, we each have a filter through which we give and receive.
The early church was not without tension and conflict either.
Paul wrote to young Timothy, encouraging him to not grow weary in his faith. He also wrote to give him clear instruction concerning matters of the church and Christian living. Paul warns Timothy about false teachings and doctrines that were common in the Ephesian church. The first portion of 1 Timothy is full of instructions, and truths for the believer.
Paul doesn’t mince words in the first chapter of 1 Timothy. He admonishes the believers under Timothy’s care, stating that they had missed the whole point. Instead of living their lives in genuine faith, from a pure heart and clear conscience, they’ve been spending their time caught up in meaningless discussions.
I can recognize times when I’ve missed the whole point too. I get tangled up in meaningless discussion. I overthink every angle. I play out imaginary scenarios that will likely never happen. My default approach is to be defensive. Unfortunately, I often don’t recognize my lack of love until it’s too late.
Paul’s words show me that I must have a clear awareness of my human predisposition. Like the Ephesians, I’m bent toward meaningless pursuits… like dissecting a discussion in my mind that will more than likely never happen.
As a believer, our goal should be to mature not only in faith, but also in our relationships, and be “filled with love that comes from a pure heart” (1 Timothy 1:5). We can use Paul’s checkpoints of godly love: a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith. It’s an ongoing battle, but let’s be encouraged that if we allow God to search our hearts and listen to the Holy Spirit for truth, then He will correct us.
Is there an area of your life where you are facing a dilemma of the heart? Do you feel inner conflict? Do you want to be filled with more love for others? Are you weary in the faith?
Humble yourself before God. Pray in earnest that He would search your heart. Allow Him to fill you with a divine love that breaks down barriers and infiltrates our human filters. When we allow God to search our whole being, He can give us a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith. Then we will see clearly and make our decisions out of a pure love.
6/13/2021 0 Comments
How’s Your Heart?
When I think about the fruit of the Spirit, I think about the sowing and reaping involved in gardening. The care we invested into preparing my rose and fruit tree garden serve as a spiritual lesson.
The Lord has been dealing with me on the condition of my heart “soil.” Is my heart prepared for sowing seeds that produce the fruit of the Spirit?
Recently I was having a really hard time with my middle child. It seemed like everything I tried with him failed. After many months of frustration, guilt, and exhaustion, I broke down. My husband and I began seeking the Lord and praying for insight into this situation.
The Master Gardener, Jesus, helped me get to the heart of the matter. I began meditating on Proverbs 4:23 and realized there were some roadblocks in my own heart that were preventing healing. God showed me parts of my heart AND my son’s heart that had been neglected. I was sowing seeds (trying to be patient, kind, loving), but the seeds fell on poor soil.
Isn’t it a relief to know that we can talk to the Master Gardener anytime we need to? If you feel stuck or stagnant in an area of life, ask the Master for insight into the situation because He has the answer.
When I allowed God to work on my heart and mend the soil, I began to feel a change from the inside out. Instead of “trying to be patient,” I felt peace. Rather than trying to give my son more attention to curb his outbursts, I felt more joy when we were together. And the Master replaced my feelings of resentment with pure love. Peace, love, and joy— real, lasting fruit of the Spirit began to grow.
What is the condition of your heart? Is it dry and resistant, or well-watered and ready to receive? Ask the Master Gardener to show you what He sees.
In the physical garden, the soil mixture and properties must be high quality to grow beautiful roses and produce much fruit. The same is true for our spiritual gardens-- we must cultivate the heart soil so the Holy Spirit can help us bear much fruit. Laying the right soil can be a humbling and hard process, but when you ask the Master Gardener to show you the way, He will always get to the heart of the matter.
4/4/2021 0 Comments
We Feed on What We Follow
Truth be told, I don’t know very much about the 924 accounts I’m following. But I do know that what or whom we choose to follow can lead us to truth, or the twisting of it. I say “twisting” because sometimes the lies are subtle, and if we don’t recognize lies for what they are, they become intertwined with the truth. That’s when all the “noise” can make us feel overwhelmed and confused.
As Christians, it is imperative that we correctly handle the word of truth. And I think that’s increasingly important in our current culture. We have become a culture obsessed with influence, personality, fame, likes, and follows. It’s natural to want to follow someone whom we admire. Our challenge is to follow the Gospel of Christ versus the gospel of a personality.
Our ultimate goal should be to become more like Christ— not someone else. In Malachi chapter 2, we read that “the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge.” If we are following messengers of the Lord to instruct us, we also need to be rightly dividing the knowledge they profess. Is it in line with God’s truth? Do they preach the gospel, or push their personality? 2 Timothy 2:15 requires me to periodically take stock of what I’m following, because after all, I feed on what I follow.
I enjoy following encouraging and beautiful accounts on Instagram, and social media can be a helpful resource when used with caution. But I also know how easy it is to “follow” without following through to vet the sources that influence us. Let’s challenge ourselves to hold the modern day Priests to the standard of God’s truth. Ask God to give you discernment when you read a post or comment about Him and His word.
Even in “happy places,” we need to be on the lookout for twisting of half-truths. Make it a point this week to pray about the feeds you follow, and ask God to fill your heart and mind with His truth.
When I was in middle school, my mom bought me a decorative ceramic cross with Jeremiah 29:11 written in the center. Throughout high school and even college, the scripture verse became a source of comfort in the face of many unknowns. “God knows the plans for my life, so I don’t have to worry,” I reassured myself whenever I had a hard day. That cross hung in my room until I moved out of my parents’ house. When I left home I made sure to pack the colorful keepsake as a reminder of God’s promise for my future.
Jeremiah 29 is a message to the Exiles about their future in Babylon and beyond. Jeremiah tells them to build houses, marry, have children, and seek peace and prosperity in Babylon until they are restored to their homeland in 70 years. They are not just given the promise of restoration— they are given instructions on how to live as exiled people in Babylon.
In Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Jeremiah 29, he explains, “Promises are given, not to supersede, but to quicken and encourage prayer: and when deliverance is coming we must by prayer go forth to meet it.” The promise for a hope and a future shouldn’t make us content, it should quicken us to seek God. The promise of Jeremiah 29:11 is a call to action rather than just a sentimental verse about our bright future. When we read beyond Jeremiah 29:11, we see another promise in verses twelve and thirteen: When we pray, He listens. When we look for Him wholeheartedly, we will find Him.
Here’s a prayer I’ve been praying in the troublesome days of our world. “Stir up my faith, God.”
We know the ultimate promise of God as believers is salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. The Bible says “all creation is groaning,” as we patiently await the second coming of our King. In our quest to follow God and know Him on a deeper level, it behooves us to read beyond the more familiar verses that have always brought us comfort and hope. Cling to the hope we find in Christ, but let that great hope also stir up our faith and prompt us to pray.
Recently I hung up that very same cross in my 4-year-old daughter’s room. When I hammered the nail to display the colorful keepsake, I couldn’t help but feel sentimental. The promise that gave me hope is now a display of hope for the next generation. When I read the passage that brought me hope for the future, now it beckons me to pray...
Stir up our faith, oh God! May your promises prompt us to seek your face.
12/6/2020 0 Comments
Who Will You Serve?
After reminding them of God’s provision and protection, Joshua charges them with this decision: “Choose today whom you will serve.”
This choice is the same God asks us to make. The truth is this isn’t a one-and-done decision— it’s a choice Christ-followers must make every single day.
I’ll admit there are times when I don’t feel very wholehearted about serving God. As a mom, many days I am just trying to make it to bedtime. I know that I can come back to a place of renewal with God anytime, but I’ve also learned that if too many half-hearted days go by I start to feel distant from God. When I am overwhelmed I tend to hide parts of myself from Him. Instead of giving my whole self, I only give a little. I pull away from prayer and reading my Bible.
Maybe, just maybe, you’re finding yourself in a similar place today. Have you, too, ever grown weary of following wholeheartedly?
In these times, how can we continue to serve the Lord and pursue a deeper relationship with Him?
Buried within Joshua 24 is some insight to this problem. The setting for God’s covenant renewal with His people is a city called Shechem, which translates to “shoulder” in the Hebrew language. What a beautiful picture I get when I think about leaning on the shoulders of the loving Father. He is the One who gives us victories and vineyards.
Remembering that He is the One who shoulders the weight fills me with strength to serve Him wholeheartedly. Remembering that He pursued me first fills me with passion to run after Him relentlessly.
Trying harder didn’t work for the Israelites— it won’t work for us either. The more we choose to open our whole hearts to His love, the more we will serve Him wholeheartedly. Today, find a quiet place and remind yourself of the victories and vineyards God has provided. Allow His love to nourish your soul, and respond by choosing Him, again.
Devotionals by Author
All Abby McDonald Angi Morrison Anne Say Audra Powers Breanna Faith Spearman Brenna Kurz Brittany Marlow Caroline Hultgren Courtney Filippin Dana Schaefer Danielle Biddy Debbie Burns Heather Kenny Jannetta Cox Jessica Parker Jess Ridgeway Joan Lavori Katelyn Wilson Katie Gibson Kelly Orlowski Kerri Barfield Keryn Stokes Kristen Williamson Laura Pendley Lindsay McNeely Lonette Baity Martha Rudolph Nancy Ehlinger Renee Robinson Saretta Wells Tara McGill Taylor Watkins Tierney Nashleanas Wendy Gerdes