Read an Excerpt
THE ONE YEAR women's friendship DEVOTIONAL
Daily Inspiration to Share with a Friend
By Cheri Fuller
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008
Cheri Fuller and Sandra P. Aldrich
All right reserved.
Chapter One Theme: Growing Your Faith
Faith That Pleases God
It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. Hebrews 11:6
From the Old Testament to the New, God encourages his people to walk by faith, pray in faith, and live lives of faith. What kind of faith is that? Faith that trusts the Lord in the dark as well as in the light, that believes his Word and follows it as the pathway of life. Faith that believes in the unseen reality of eternity and in God's existence so much that we seek him with all our hearts. Faith that trusts in the inspired Word of God more than in our feelings or the opinions of others. As today's verse from Hebrews expresses, God rewards faith, and it's impossible to please him without it.
God's Word gives us snapshots of the lives of biblical women who saw the invisible, believed the unbelievable, and received the impossible: Sarah, who because of her faith followed her husband and was able to become a mother in her old age. Esther, whom God brought into the palace of a king "for just such a time as this" to save the nation of Israel. Ruth, who though widowed at a young age, left her own country to live with Naomi, her mother-in-law, in a foreign land. Deborah, Rahab, Mary. They are all part of that huge cloud of witnesses who went before us.
Through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross we, too, have received a great inheritance of faith, not because of what we have done, but because of what he did for us. Since faith is a gift (see 2 Peter 1:1), what will we do with it? How can we grow in our faith and in our relationship with God? This week we will look at this vital part of the Christian life. -Cheri
Thank you, Father, for creating me to live in relationship with you, and for the cloud of witnesses of faithful women that surround me. Grant me grace to grow in faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible. -Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983), Holocaust survivor, author
The Faith of a Child
"You don't have enough faith," Jesus told them. "I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible." Matthew 17:20-21
The little half-European, half-Japanese girl looked out the window of the orphanage, distressed that the mountain blocked the view of her beloved Sea of Japan. Ill and bedridden, her greatest desire was to see the sea, but she couldn't walk and had no transportation to get over the mountain.
One day the minister read Matthew 17:20-21, and the little girl's faith was sparked. Believing God's Word, she asked the other girls to join her that night in praying that God would move the mountain so she could see the sea. The English missionary-houseparent heard the prayers and told her, "Don't get your hopes up, dear. This verse refers to God's removing spiritual obstacles, not real mountains."
But every evening the girl and her friends looked out the window and in faith asked, "Lord, please move the mountain and cast it into the sea!" The missionary left for a year of furlough, and when she returned, the little girls were huddled by the sick child's bed looking out the window with great joy. "Look! We can see the sea!" they called to her. Astounded, she went to the local authorities to ask what had happened. Due to erosion of the coast, bulldozers had gone up and down the mountain with great mounds of earth. They had actually moved the mountain and cast it into the sea. Before long, the little girl who loved the sea died, but the orphanage is still there, and because of her faith, generations of children have been able to look out the window at her beloved sea.
Jesus said this kind of faith-childlike faith-is necessary, or we will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Is your faith in God weak? Pray for the faith of a child that believes in a big God for whom nothing is impossible. -Cheri
Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Restore my faith in you and your words so that your awesome ability and power might be manifested in my life and the world.
Faith goes up the stairs that love has built and looks out of the window which hope has opened. -Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), British preacher
The Process of Pruning
Jesus replied, "[My Father] cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me." John 15:2-4
I walked down the rural road near the house we rented in Maine. Everything was frozen. Bare trees stood stark against the white, snow-covered fields. The April sky was gray-again-and my soul felt as drained and gray as the sky. Would winter ever end?
Just then I noticed a rosebush that had been severely pruned, its branches covered with ice. That forlorn rosebush reminded me of our family. We've been pruned, too, I thought. We've lost everything financially because of the crash in the building industry; we're two thousand miles from family and friends; we haven't found a church to be involved in, and I feel disconnected and useless.
Then, into the midst of my thoughts, God seemed to whisper, Like the rosebush, you will bloom again and be fruitful if you sink your roots deep into me. This rosebush wasn't cut back by accident. The gardener pruned it purposely so there would be abundant roses next summer. Trust me in this winter you're in.
God did bring us through that long winter, and as we saw him provide again and again, our trust in him deepened. We grew a hardy endurance as Holmes worked an all-night job and I substituted at the high school by day and wrote magazine articles at night. By the next spring, although we still faced many difficulties, we were back home in Oklahoma. Eventually, my husband had construction projects again, and God opened new doors for me in ministry. Slowly, imperceptibly at first, the blooms began to appear. As surely as God had promised, spring did come again.
For all of us who belong to Christ, pruning is a part of growing in him and a means to greater fruitfulness. May we trust him in the times of pruning as well as when we bloom. -Cheri
Father, I choose to trust you in the times of pruning, knowing that your Word says pruning is an essential part of the growth process if I am to bear more fruit for you.
Growth is demanding and may seem dangerous, for there is loss as well as gain in growth. -May Sarton (1912-1995), American poet and novelist
Growing in God's Word
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Dwight L. Moody said the Bible wasn't given for our information but for our transformation. In order for transformation to take place, the daily engraving of God's words on our hearts is imperative. And if we are to continue walking on the steep path through the narrow gate that leads to life, we need God's Word. There's nothing better for spiritual growth! A wood burner literally engraves or burns its mark down into the grain of the wood, leaving a permanent imprint. So should God's Word be imprinted in our hearts.
When we read and meditate on the Scriptures with teachable hearts, the Holy Spirit will engrave his truths into our lives so that those truths, too, leave a permanent imprint of God and his love for us. Today's verses from 2 Timothy tell us why we are not only to read the Bible from cover to cover but to ponder its words, study them, pray them, and believe them because the Scriptures are full of living power and are inspired by God. His Word teaches us what is true, prepares us in every way for what's ahead, and equips us for every good thing we're created to do during our time on earth.
The Bible is meant not only to instruct us but also to transform us into Christ's image. Although we veer at times from its counsel, the love and grace of the Father will lead us back to that Word which has been etched so deeply into our hearts. -Cheri
Thank you, Lord, for your inspired Word, given so that I could know what is true and be equipped for all you have planned for me to do. Engrave your truths on my heart and mind and imprint your love in my life so that I'll grow more and more like Christ.
The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God. -Rick Warren, pastor and author
The Psalms Prescription
I will exalt you, my God and King, and praise your name forever and ever. I will praise you every day; yes, I will praise you forever. Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! Psalm 145:1-3
"God says he inhabits the praises of his people," the minister told the woman. "If God lives and dwells in the praises of his people, you invite his presence and power into your life and circumstances today through praising him."
"How do you expect me to praise God? I'm barely surviving. My husband has disappeared without a trace. We don't know whether he's dead or has just abandoned us and left a pile of debts. I have four children and I'm seven months pregnant. I have no hope inside me. I'm not in a praise mode."
"If your circumstances have obscured your view of God, I want you to read the last seven psalms and let them be your prayer. Think of this as a prescription to take every day. Pray the verses aloud to God, because as you declare that this is the truth, no matter what the circumstances are or how you feel, it will encourage your faith."
That sounded like harsh instructions for a woman so brokenhearted. But the next morning she gritted her teeth and read the last seven psalms aloud to God, first in a monotone: "Praise the Lord, who is my rock.... He is my loving ally and my fortress, my tower of safety, my rescuer" (Psalm 144:1-2). By the time she got to Psalm 145, tears fl owed as she read, "The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.... The Lord is close to all who call on him.... He hears their cries for help and rescues them" (Psalm 145:14, 18-19).
As she read these psalms aloud to God each morning as her sacrifice of praise-whether she felt like praising or not-she began to experience God lifting her up and, against all reason, giving her hope. While she faced the overwhelming responsibilities of single parenting in the years that followed, God never failed to care for her and her children.
I, too, have found the Psalms Prescription a sure antidote for discouragement or depression. Praising God through his own words will help you to focus on who God is, and the power of praise will grow a faith strong enough to sustain you through any storm. -Cheri
Lord, as I praise you, come and dwell within my worship and my heart. Thank you for your words of praise penned by the psalmists in the difficulties and trials of their lives.
In praying God's Word back to him, the Bible becomes a vast book of praise. -Calvin Miller, poet, preacher, author, and teacher
Growing in Love
Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Ephesians 3:17-19
One of the great messages of the Bible is that love is of supreme importance to God. He wants us to grow in love toward him and others. Without love, Scripture tells us, we are bankrupt, and all our good works are worth nothing (see 1 Corinthians 13:3). But how can we love unless we've deeply experienced the love of Christ? This prayer from Ephesians 3 is not asking that we will simply have more head knowledge about God's love but that we would understand and comprehend it-that how very much he loves us would really sink in and go from head knowledge to heart knowledge. And most of all, that we would experience the love of Christ for ourselves and be rooted in it. Knowledge isn't enough. Great speeches or sermons won't suffice, nor will hearing what the Lord did in someone else's life. It takes God's power imparted to each of us through his Spirit to fathom the depth and length and width, the incomparable nature, of God's amazing love for us in Christ Jesus.
Just as Paul prayed earnestly for the Ephesian Christians, we need to ask that our roots would go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And as we continually pray this life-transforming prayer, we will drink deeply of love. When we receive and experience the love of Christ in our own hearts, his love will grow and will flow through us to others. -Cheri
Lord Jesus, I want to understand and experience your love in a deeper way than I ever have before. May your love be my anchor as your Spirit causes my roots to sink deeper in you. And may your love flow through me like a river to those around me.
We must daily come and drink at the fountain of divine love. Herein lies the purpose of all prayer. -Margaret Therkelsen, author and speaker
Growing in Service
[Jesus said,] "Whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:27-28
Flo Perkins was a woman who loved the Lord so much that every morning at 5:30, before feeding the family or going to work, she knelt at the east window of her home. She called that her "trysting place," an appointed meeting place for lovers, for Jesus was truly the Lover of her soul. As Flo launched her days from the trysting place, the little gray stucco house became a veritable lighthouse. She served the Lord through praise and prayer all day as she worked long, hard hours in the meat department and often cared for her grandchildren.
She finished only seventh grade before she had to go to work, but her study of the Bible bore good fruit. As she grew in Christ, she taught hundreds of people God's Word in Sunday school and Bible studies. Flo also ministered to generations of neighborhood kids during her fifty years in that home, feeding them wisdom along with cookies and Popsicles. With homemade quilts, sacks of groceries, and money, Flo gave needy people life-sustaining prayer, Bibles, and the greatest gift of all-Jesus. She wasn't in full-time ministry. She was an ordinary woman of small means with a family and a hard job at a local grocery store. But she served an extraordinary God and used all she had to serve others in his name.
Living a life of faith means being called to serve whether we are in college or our senior years, single or married, divorced or widowed, whatever color or background, whatever mistakes we've made. If you are a believer, God has given you talents and gifts, resources, and skills for the very purpose of serving him and others. I pray as you grow in service that the joy of the Lord will be your strength, just as it was my friend Flo's until she entered heaven and heard the Lover of her soul say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant!" -Cheri
Lord, what can I do today to serve you? What have you given me that I could use for the good of others? Thank you for the way you do amazing things through ordinary people.
God is always calling on us to do the impossible. It helps me to remember that anything Jesus did during his life here on earth is something we should be able to do, too. -Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007), American writer, poet, and essayist
Excerpted from THE ONE YEAR women's friendship DEVOTIONAL by Cheri Fuller
Copyright © 2008 by Cheri Fuller and Sandra P. Aldrich. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.