You Are A Living Letter By: Sharon Jaynes

You Are A Living Letter Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody…written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3 NIV)

Friend to Friend

I received a letter the other day. Oh, it didn’t have a stamp in the right-hand corner or even a return address sticker. But I knew exactly where it came from and there was no doubt who had sent it. The letter was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt with brown shoulder length hair, and she was sent by God.

In the Bible, Paul described Christians as living letters known and read by everybody, not written with ink, but with the Sprit of God on human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3). God has sent many love letters my way…hand-delivered, special delivery, postage paid. Admittedly, some of the letters seem to have gotten marred in transit and I suspect a few of the words were not quite what the Author intended. But they were letters nonetheless.

God did not write His letters on fragile sheets of paper or on tablets of stone. He wrote His letters on human hearts for all the world to read. There are some letters that I’ve received and wanted to mark RETURN TO SENDER across the top. I didn’t want the letter and honestly, I wasn’t sure where it came from. It couldn’t possibly be from God. The words were harsh and I suspected they were counterfeit. Not really from God at all…even though the letter said they were.

Then there are other letters I have received that were so beautifully scripted that I take them out and read them over and over again. They are treasures that I hold dear. I read them often, clutch them to my heart, and even place a kiss upon the seal from time to time. These are my favorite letters. They come in all shapes and sizes, but the return address is always evident, even if it has faded through the years or rubbed off with wear. I love these letters. God has sent me so many throughout my lifetime.

Dear friend, here is a daunting thought. You are a letter. I am a letter. God has written His message on our hearts and mailed us out to the world. People read His letters in our actions. They read His letters in our words.

What will they read in your letter? Will they welcome the words like a soldier hungry for news from home, or view it a junk mail to be tossed in the trash? Will they dread the words like a bill that needs to be paid, or will they see it as God intended—a love letter wooing them to Christ.

What will your letter say today?

Let’s Pray

Dear Heavenly Father, I want to represent You well today. Help me to use my words as a well-trained ambassador. I pray that I will be a living love letter to those I come in contact with today and every day.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Now It’s Your Turn

What’s the best letter that you ever received?

Did you save it?

If so, why?

Since you are a living letter, how do you want your letter to read?

The One Thing We Can All Have in Common By: Tracie Miles

MAY 15, 2015

The One Thing We Can All Have in Common TRACIE MILES

“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)

As I read her email, my heart felt heavy. She had endured so much pain in her life, none of which she deserved or caused.

Then I read another email. And this person’s story was completely different, yet the pain and heartache of her life seemed unfair, too, and more than one person should have to endure. Then another email. Then another.

Countless emails sat in my inbox — each one saturated with intense emotion and vulnerable honesty. All sharing a different experience and a different level of hurt, shame or regret.

One had been physically abused. One was betrayed. One battled addiction. One divorced. One had been sexually abused. One struggled with fear and anxiety. One had chosen abortion. One had been unfaithful. One had a serious disability.

The list was long, and every one of these women had something in her past that once made her feel insignificant, void of value and unlovable to God. Yet, despite their different experiences, all these women had one amazing thing in common, which stood out loud and clear.

You see, each one had allowed God to transform her pain into purpose, and as a result, their lives now shine as a living testament to the power of a Holy God. Each one had watched God turn something difficult into something that would glorify Him.

Romans 8:1-2 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (NIV). This verse reminds us that no matter what has happened in our lives, or what we have or have not done, God loves and values us unconditionally.

Later in that same chapter, in today’s key verse, we read God not only loves us, but has a plan and a purpose for our lives — not despite our past, but because of it.

Paul experienced pain and suffering through various forms of persecution: imprisonment, beatings and rejection. He spoke from the wisdom of his own experiences and exemplified the transforming power of God’s ability to turn any mess into a message.

Paul encouraged believers to embrace God’s promise that He can use all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, not only for God’s good, but also our own.

Regardless of how difficult our pasts are, as children of God we have a commonality in Christ Jesus our Savior: God will use for good what the devil intended for evil. When we allow God to use our pain for a purpose that glorifies Him and ministers to others, we enjoy the blessing of spiritual healing and transformation like never before.

No matter how different our prior experiences, we can still have one precious thing in common. We can each choose to live as proof of the power of Jesus to change a life. All things truly can be used for the good of those called by Him.

Lord, I’ve always felt I couldn’t be fully loved or forgiven because of my past and that maybe You had no purpose for me. Help me embrace the promise of Romans 8:28 — of Your love and plans for my life. Help me discover the amazing purpose You’ve ordained just for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (NLT)

Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (NIV)

You Are HIS Daughter By: Sharon Jaynes

You Are His Daughter Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV).

Friend to Friend

I want to know God’s will for my life. Don’t you? However I have learned that identity comes before activity. In other words, I must have a proper perspective of who I am before I can grasp what God wants me to do. This was true of Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations”(Jeremiah 1:5). He didn’t choose Jeremiah after he proved himself worthy of the task, but before he was even born. That was true for Joshua (Joshua 1:6-9), Gideon (Judges 6:12), and Mary (Luke 1:28)—and that is true for you.

God didn’t throw up His hand when you were born and say, “Now what am I going to do with this one?” He had a plan and a purpose for you before you were born. Isn’t that exciting? David wrote this about God: “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16 NIV).

Just before Jesus began his earthly ministry, he travelled to the Jordan to be baptized by his cousin John. As soon as he came up out of the water, the heavens opened, the Spirit descended, and God spoke. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” Matthew 43:17 NIV).

Before Jesus performed the first miracle, preached the first sermon, or called the first disciple, God made sure that his identity was clear. He was accepted, approved, and completely loved. So many Christians are trying to earn an acceptance and approval that Jesus already earned for them. God’s acceptance of you is not based on your performance. That doesn’t mean that we stop trying to do our best to live a God-honoring life. But it does mean that we stop trying out for a position or role God’s already given you. As someone once said, “The audition has been canceled. You’ve already got the part.” You have nothing to prove because you have already been pre-approved.

Not only does God accept you just as you are; not only does He love you just as you are; but He also likes the person that you are. Yes! He likes you.

If this were not so, none of us would qualify. God’s love and acceptance of you is based solely on the finished work of Jesus Christ for you and His presence in you. It is based on your true born-again identity as His child.

This is My Son.

Whom I love.

With him I am well pleased.

Allow God to baptize you in this affirmation of your true identity.

You are His daughter.

Whom He loves.

With you He is well pleased.

Before God called you to do something, He called you to be somebody. And it is only when you know who you are, that you can clearly know what to do. The truth is: you are who God says you are.

Let’s Pray

Father, I am in awe that You have a plan and a purpose for my life. Help me to remember that I am who You say I am: Your daughter, who You love, with whom You are well pleased.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

Finding Joy in Unplanned Circumstances By: Melissa Kruger

MAY 5, 2015

Finding Joy in Unplanned Circumstances Melissa Kruger

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Early in the morning I approached his crib. Already dressed for my busy day, I greeted him with a smile.

As I took him in my arms, he responded by throwing up all over me. My recently blown-out hair hung limp and my better-than-usual-somewhat-clean-clothes absorbed the rest.

No. No. No. I thought to myself. I have important things to do today. I’m supposed to teach Bible study this morning. I’ve prepared all week just to be ready. Why did the stomach bug have to come today? All that work for nothing.

Discontent welled in my heart as a sigh escaped my lips.

Grumbling to myself, I called a friend asking her to lead the group in my place. Glancing at my notes as I emailed them to her, one of the verses I’d been preparing to teach grabbed my attention.

“Rejoice always … Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18a).

All means all. How many times have I told my children that very thing? When I ask them to put away all of their toys, I mean all of them (especially those small toy cars precariously situated on the stairs that I walk up and down all day).

When God asks me to “give thanks in all circumstances,” He means all, too. Even when it means my hopes for the day are rearranged from doing something for which I planned, prepared and prayed. Something that seemed like a good thing to do.

At that moment, two options lay before me. I could nurse my frustrations, reciting the difficulties and disappointment, or I could choose to give thanks. As I peeled off layers of my pungent clothing and my son’s, the temptation to complain seemed pretty appealing. Wouldn’t I rather just stew a little while and enjoy a nice warm cup of self-pity?

I’d gone this path plenty of times and knew the outcome of inward grumbling. The meditations of my heart eventually become the words of my mouth. Sharp tones, angry words and impatient sighs overflow when I hold fast to my plans rather than accept the Lord’s plan for my day.

Quietly the truth that had been marinating all week took the arduous journey from my head to my heart. While I prepared all week to teach others, in actuality God was teaching me. The stomach bug was my classroom and thanksgiving the lesson.

All God asks of us is to do whatever task He gives with a thankful, rejoicing heart. Isn’t this exactly what we’d like our children to do? We care about their attitude as much as their obedience. Just as I’m in the process of parenting my children, the Lord is in the process of parenting me. And by trusting Him, I can face the unwelcome moments of mothering with joy and peace.

My son’s illness was not an unnecessary inconvenience, getting in the way of more important things. The mundane task of cleaning up was just as valuable as teaching a group of women. Loving my son in the midst of his sickness was the most important ministry God had for me that day.

By God’s grace, I let go of my plan. I held my son tightly, rejoicing in the gift I’d received.

Another woman could lead Bible study that morning, but I was the only woman in the entire world who could enjoy being this little boy’s mommy. I savored the sweetness of his clean skin, the tenderness of his embrace.

In the midst of circumstances I wouldn’t have chosen, choosing to give thanks led to the experience of joy.

Lord, I can so easily hold onto my plans and purposes for my day. So often when I pray “Thy will be done,” I really just want my own will to be done. Help me loosen my grip on my plans and cling more tightly to You. Give me a thankful, rejoicing heart in all things. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.” (NIV)

Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (NIV)

Make Your First 5 Count By: Lysa Terkeurst

APRIL 30, 2015

Make Your First 5 Count LYSA TERKEURST

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you … then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1, 5 (NIV)

Have you ever felt something stirring in your spirit that wouldn’t go away?

I have one of those things on my heart right now. And it all started with my middle daughter Ashley.

Ashley is a driven and responsible girl. Last fall, she went off to college and while she’s always excelled academically, the same couldn’t be said for her spiritual life.

As her mom, my heart broke over her struggle in her relationship with the Lord. I just couldn’t understand it — she grew up going to church, learned Bible lessons and saw my husband Art and me read Scripture each day.

But no matter what we did or said, we just couldn’t make it connect for her.

If you’re in that place right now with your child or in your own walk with the Lord, I understand. I think for Ashley, the Bible felt complicated and disconnected from her everyday life issues.

As I cried out to the Lord on behalf of my daughter, the word that kept coming to mind was poverty. Poverty might seem like a strange word for this situation but when I saw the lack of spiritual nourishment in Ashley, the parallels from physical to spiritual lined up.

I chased down this thought a little more — what causes poverty? A lack of opportunity. So many people around the world simply don’t have the opportunity to access the nourishment they need to survive.

But this wasn’t the case with Ashley. Good gracious, we are like most Americans and have multiple copies of the Bible under our roof. So the poverty I sensed was not caused by a lack of opportunity.

So what was it? As I wrestled with this, God brought me to the book of Proverbs.

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding — indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5).

There is one word in this passage that’s repeated over and over: understand! Solomon says if we want fear of the Lord and knowledge of God, then we will crave understanding.

Meanwhile, at school, Ashley found herself in a Bible study being challenged by her leaders to just spend the first 5 minutes of her day in the Word.

After admitting she hadn’t been reading her Bible and hearing many of her friends talk about the benefits they were getting, she finally gave it a try. Each day, little by little, her interest in the Bible grew. Her life and attitude was being transformed.

I recently visited her at college and could hardly believe my eyes.

She’s a completely different girl.

At one point during our time together, I asked her, “What finally made following Jesus wholeheartedly click for you?” She said, “Mom, I’ve made friends who love Jesus. I saw a joy in them that I wanted. So, I started doing what they do even when I didn’t want to. At first I thought getting up to read the Bible was unrealistic. But as I kept doing it, the Lord started changing my thought patterns. And when I started thinking about life from the standpoint of Truth, I had so much more joy.”

I can hardly type these words without crying.

As Ashley began to share with me what was happening, I also had a light switch go on. Her spiritual poverty wasn’t caused by a lack of access but rather a lack of understanding.

In that moment, the burden on my mama heart turned to a vision for a hurting world. What if Proverbs 31 Ministries could help every mom recommend a tool to really facilitate their daughters getting into God’s Word for at least 5 minutes first thing every morning?

What if we could bring the Word of God to college students, moms, daughters, business owners and grandmothers across the globe in a way that made the first minutes of every day life-changing? So, the minute they pick up their phones in the morning, instead of getting distracted by other things, they can get invigorated with Truth.

We must exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world. Instead of immediately checking in with social media with the first moments of our day, we can truly make God first by giving Him our first thoughts.

With God’s vision and your help, Proverbs 31 Ministries is striving to eradicate Biblical poverty. And we want to start by developing a free mobile app called the “First 5″ to:

  • Bring life and Truth to the First 5 minutes of every day.
  • Provide a healthier alternative to hopping on social media in the first moments of our day.
  • Give us the opportunity to share hope with the people in our lives who struggle with putting God’s Word first.

We need people whose hearts are burdened like ours to bring the Word of God to women across the globe. We need you. Join us today.

Together, all hands in, we can take the burden and carry the vision to change lives with the Word of God.

Dear Lord, I want to get into Your Word and let Your Word get into me. Help me to understand and apply what I’m reading as I study the Bible so I can help others do the same. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and active.” (NIV)

How To Sleep Worry Free By: Amy Carroll

APRIL 29, 2015

How to Sleep Worry Free AMY CARROLL

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” Luke 18:16 (NIV)

A friend looked deep into my eyes and asked, “What do you miss about being a child?”

In the middle of playing a silly game of questions with a group, the room faded away and memories of my childhood popped into my mind like bubbles surfacing from deep waters.

Playing with my brother in our treehouse.

Fun Fridays with my favorite teacher at school.

Riding my banana-seat bike down the street with friends.

Most precious … moments snuggled between my parents while our family read together at night.

Although it sounds idyllic, it wasn’t perfect. Just like I’m an imperfect parent, my parents weren’t perfect either. But as a child I felt loved, encouraged and most importantly, safe and carefree. As I longed for the feeling of safety that blanketed my childhood, I looked at my friend and answered, “I miss having no worries.”

Being an adult is fraught with pits of peril — financial shortfalls, job instability, parenting challenges, marriage conflict and the general stress of being responsible for yourself and others. For me, childhood was free of all those things. But that day, as I faced my friend’s question, adulthood felt like a heavy weight.

The next day as I sat in the quiet of early morning, God whispered a single word into my heart … trust. He gently showed me the weight of adulthood I had shouldered. He nudged me to consider the hours I’d spent awake staring into the dark ruminating, with no resolution. He refreshed the sense of deep longing I’d felt the day before when I’d expressed my desire for childhood. The good old days of no worries.

And He called me back.

Trust is the mark of a child. Of course I had little girl concerns when I was young, but why didn’t I feel the weight of worry? It was because I trusted my parents. They took the weight of responsibility to shelter me — allowing me to feel safe and worry-free.

Although not all parents do this well, protecting our children from adult problems is still part of a parent’s job description.

The funny thing is my trust was partially based on illusion. As parents, my husband and I have tried to do exactly what my parents did for me. We don’t tell our kids about adult problems because we don’t want them to worry about things they can’t fix.

It’s not that we don’t have problems or that we’re completely in control. The truth is, we’re not in control. But there’s good news for those who are faking control while lying awake at night and for those who have never felt safe.

God is a Father who is entirely trustworthy because He is truly in control.

As God’s children, we have a heavenly Father who is worthy of trust. All our obsessive worry over our responsibilities and concerns doesn’t change a thing, so let’s resolve to try something different. Let’s give up our illusion of control and rest peacefully like children in Jesus’ unfailing care.

Now, instead of letting worry consume my nighttime thoughts, I’m learning to pray childlike prayers. I lay in the dark handing over my worries one by one to my faithful Father instead of grasping them in my powerless hands. I’m still in the process of training myself to trust, but I’m sleeping well at night while the One who never slumbers carries it all.

Lord, I’ve shouldered my cares as if I’m the one in control. Help me become like a child, handing all my stresses, worries and responsibilities to You, my faithful Father. I trust You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: I Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (NIV)

Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (MSG)

Learning to Trust Through Trials By: Gwen Smith

Learning to Trust Through Trials Gwen Smith

Today’s Truth

In all your ways acknowledge him {the LORD}, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:6)

Friend to Friend

Yesterday socked me with a one-two knockout punch.

First, I got news that a family friend died suddenly. She was a 45 year-old single mom who loved God. She lived paycheck to paycheck and worked tirelessly to scrape pennies together to help her two kids get a college education. They didn’t have much money, but were rich with love.

Now those two penniless college kids are orphans – shaken to the core and scrambling to find money to pay for a funeral because their loving momma had no life insurance.

Death punches hard.

Shockwaves of grief are running through the veins of all who know and love them.

It seems so wrong. So upside-down. Excruciating. Unfair. Crooked.

A second blow came with the news that another friend – also in his mid 40s – has been diagnosed with a brain function condition that is causing him to have speech and processing issues. He is a godly man, a loving husband, community leader and father of four school-aged children. His treatments begin immediately and his cognitive future is unclear.

Sickness punches hard.

Shockwaves of grief are running through the veins of all who know and love him.

It seems so wrong. So upside-down. Unfair. Crooked.

My soul is restless with questions.

If life in Christ is promised to be abundant and full (John 10:10), then why are there times when it seems so empty and broken? Why does pain sting so violently? Why do good people die young? Why do talented employees lose their jobs and struggle to find new ones? Why are there so many people addicted to porn, addicted to shopping, addicted to eating, drugs, pain pills, and alcohol? Why do honorable Christ-followers face such compelling hardships?

Why, Lord? It doesn’t make sense! I want it to make sense!

And I begin to hear His still small voice… Trust me. Don’t rely on your own understanding. Acknowledge me. I will make every path straight…

How, God? How can You make this right?I wonder, recognizing the mysterious beauty of His sovereignty, but perplexed and disillusioned by the collateral damage left in the wake of loss and hardship.

As I am still before Him, I remember.

I remember what I learned recently about the familiar verses in Proverbs 3. You know them, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (v. 5-6).

You see, the second part never made sense to me. I wondered,Why would “acknowledging” God motivate Him to make my paths straight? In the New Testament, even the demons acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God, so why would acknowledging Him make my paths straight?

I looked up the root word and I found a gold mine.

The Hebrew word for “acknowledge” used there is yāda, the primitive root of which means to know. It means “to understand, to grasp or ascertain; especially to be familiar or acquainted with…”

So, in all of your ways acknowledge him really means: in all of your ways yāda Him… in all of your ways KNOW Him – seek to understand Him – be familiar with Him – be acquainted with HIM… and He will make your paths straight. Which shows us that the key is way less about our challenges and way more about our God.

When we are intimately familiar with God – when we don’t just know about Him, but when we KNOW Him – the most crooked roads we travel are made straight. Not because life is easy. Hardship stings and life is complicated. Not because all that we experience is just. Much of life is unfair. But because when we know God, we know:

His strength that is accessible in our weakness

His comfort that meets us as we mourn

His mercy that withholds the punishment our depravity readily deserves

His peace that defies our unrest

His joy that kisses the cheeks of our sorrow

His courage that emboldens our weary hearts and casts away fears

His redemption that reworks our brokenness into beauty

Hislove that binds us to eternity and delights over us with singing

Even when the one-two punches come, I can trust God – not because I understand all the circumstances, or even like them – but because I know HIM. And because I know HIM, I can trust that He will provide all that I need to process pains, heal from wounds, and move forward in strength, grace, and peace.

Let’s Pray

Holy Father, You are faithful, compassionate, loving and kind. Thank You for making Yourself known to me through Your Word. Will you calm my restlessness with Your peace today and make straight my paths? Help me to know You more, Lord. Help me to trust You beyond my understanding.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

Read and personalize the invitation that Jesus gave to his followers in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” What would it look like if you did this with your heart burdens today?