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Inspiring Women Every Day

One-year devotional by women for women

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Copyright © 2011 CWR The readings in this compilation were originally published 2005, 2008 by CWR as bimonthly Biblereading notes, Inspiring Women Every Day, as January/February, March/April, May/June, July/August, October, November/December 2005 and May 2008. First published in this format 2011 by CWR, Waverley Abbey House, Waverley Lane, Farnham, Surrey GU9 8EP, UK. Registered Charity No. 294387. Registered Limited Company No. 1990308. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission in writing of CWR. For a list of National Distributors visit CWR’s website: www.cwr.org.uk Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from the Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV), copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Other versions used: CEV: Contemporary English Version c 1995 by American Bible Society TLB: The Living Bible, © 1971, 1994, Tyndale House Publishers The Message: Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. Concept development, editing, design and production by CWR Cover image: Getty Images/amanaimagesRF Printed in Finland by WS Bookwell ISBN: 978-1-85345-620-6

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Contents Introduction

4

God’s long view

5

Rosemary Green

Daughters of the King Christine Orme

Journey through the Temple Anne Le Tissier

The Song of Songs Sandra Holt

Ruth – a place in God’s purposes Beverley Shepherd

God, my heavenly Father Chris Ledger

Galations – free at last Liz Hansford

Finding God’s perfect plan Alie Stibbe

Hebrews t,

y

on

Christine Platt

Caring for your own vineyard Marion Stroud

Psalms 119–134 Wendy Virgo

Grace, mercy and love Helena Wilkinson

33 59 87 113 141 169 197 225 253 281 309

,

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introduction Having spent long periods of time overseas with young children, separated from family and friends, I came to rely more on God’s Word than perhaps I ever had before. My thirst for teaching, fellowship and the Bible was acute and God, being God, certainly provided endless ways and opportunities for that thirst to be quenched. Through reading the living Word of God each day, my faith grew and my trust in God’s never-ending, unconditional love deepened: I was truly sustained by the Bread of Life. What a joy it is, therefore, for me now to be introducing readers all around the world to this special collection of readings and meditations, written by twelve wonderful women of God. I know that whatever your circumstances – whether surrounded by countless friends and family and gasping for a moment’s peace and quiet, or in a somewhat solitary situation longing for fellowship and assurance – these words will sustain you, strengthen you and deepen your knowledge of God’s love for you. One of those ‘key passages’ for me was Proverbs 3:1–8; do take a few moments to read it. I pray you will experience God making your paths straight as you learn to trust Him with your whole heart.

Lynette Brooks Director of Publishing 4

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God’s long view Rosemary Green

Rosemary Green is the wife of a supposedly retired Anglican clergyman, mother of four and grandmother of 14. She enjoys trying to bring the Bible to life in a culture that is largely biblically illiterate. She also loves seeing God at work in changing people’s lives, and used to do a lot of pastoral counselling. Her book God’s Catalyst was written to help pastors use the Bible and prayer sensitively and wisely. Nowadays she spends more time helping in her fairly small local church in whatever way she can.

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A

WEEK 1

weekend God’s long view

It s tw he to be sto sev the to be

For reflection: Colossians 3:1–17

D

o you make New Year’s resolutions? Or don’t you dare, afraid you will break them by January 3? I have a suggestion. Instead of saying, ‘This is what I plan to do,’ ask, ‘What do I want God to do in me?’ That puts a whole new light on the possibility of success! I love Philippians 2:12–13, where Paul wrote, ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose’. That does not mean that I have to work to earn my salvation, nor do I just sit back and wait for Him to do it all. No, I work out the fruit of my salvation by co-operating with God’s work in me. We can go one better. If it is God who works in me to will and to act in ways that please Him, my question becomes ‘Lord, what do You want to do in me?’ That has even more chance of fulfilment! If I let Him set the goal and give the power – well, that seems to be a recipe for success!

wh ten pe bo mo ma con

of the bir the he in a Jac an ha

Take time to reflect on Colossians 3:1–17, and the implications of the ‘new self’ in verse 10.

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A dysfunctional family

J

oseph, famous for his technicolour dreamcoat, is our topic this month. His family background is a sad one. Rivalry was the name of the game. It started with his parents. His father, Jacob, cheated his twin Esau out of their dying father’s special blessing, so he had to fee from his furious brother. Jacob travelled to his uncle Laban’s home where he fell in love with his beautiful cousin Rachel. (Does this sound like a fairy story? No, it’s true, 40 centuries ago!) He worked for seven years as his uncle’s shepherd to win his bride, but the cheater was cheated; Jacob found himself married to the plain older sister before he could marry the beautiful Rachel. Worse was to follow. Leah bore Jacob four sons, while Rachel was barren. This added to the rivalry and tension in the home. In desperation, Rachel offered her personal maid to sleep with Jacob, and two boys were born, which Rachel claimed as her own. (Surrogate motherhood is nothing new.) Leah copied, with her own maid. Two more boys, Leah’s ‘sons’. Then Leah herself conceived again, and two more boys and a girl arrived. Those eleven children grew up in an atmosphere of disharmony, with the seeds of discontent sown in the next generation. The best foundation for a child’s birth is the love between the parents, overfowing in the conception of a baby who is wanted for himself or herself, who is loved without strings, who can grow up in a climate of love and harmony. How different it was in Jacob’s family! Cheating, suspicion, jealousy, no peace and little love. How could Jacob’s offspring develop happily in such a climate?

WEEK 1 MON

Genesis 29:31–30:13 ‘When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister.’ (30:1)

For prayer and reflection Think of one family you know with broken relationships; pray for that family, and for emotional stability for the children. 7

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Week 1 Tues

The pain of infertility

Fa

R

ecently I was with a couple who had just celebrated their sixteenth wedding Genesis 30:17–24 anniversary. They had almost given up hope of having a child – but now Eric is over a year old! What ‘[Rachel] became pregnant and gave a joy he is to them! I think of other couples who have birth to a son and conceived against all apparent odds, after many years said, “God has of barrenness, but also of those who have endured taken away my years of fruitless IVF treatment or who have experienced disgrace.” ’ (v.23) the sadness of successive miscarriages. This may be your own grief, or it may be that of others you know. Many readers can sympathise with Rachel, Jacob’s favourite wife, as she watched her sister bearing one child after another, yet stayed infertile herself. The misery of her barrenness was exacerbated by her sister’s taunts, as well as by the public disgrace in a culture where a woman’s role in society was to bear children. Then at last – a son! But instead of undiluted joy over her child we sense that she was more concerned with herself than with her son. ‘God has taken away my For prayer and disgrace,’ she said. Joseph’s name even means, ‘May reflection he add’. Not content with one child, she immediately wanted more to satisfy her own needs. It is easy to load our personal ambitions onto our children for our own Lord, please give sakes. We all want them to do well, but we should not the comfort of pressurise them to follow in our successful footsteps, Your love and nor to compensate for our own failures. I did this with Your presence my own daughters. ‘Succeed where I succeeded’ in to any who playing the piano. ‘Make up for my disappointments as are struggling a Girl Guide by getting numerous badges.’ That attitude with the pain of may obstruct them from developing in the way that God infertility, and wisdom to all who wants for them. are parents. 8

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tim an tre no

sho the Ra yo am pra an an ha

the the tel

on at un Go (De pa (Le ou


e at

s

ed

er

d e ar

y

ad

s e od

Family favouritism

W

e have four children, all adults now. We love them all – but when they were young they were rarely all nice at the same time! Four children, each one different in character and temperament, each one needing slightly different treatment. How easily that can lead to the charge of ‘It’s not fair!’ How parents need heavenly wisdom! Israel (Jacob’s new God-given name) was certainly short of wisdom. He was blatant in his favouritism for the 17-year-old Joseph, older son of his favourite wife Rachel, who had died giving birth to Benjamin, the youngest (Gen. 35:18). The ‘richly ornamented robe’ was a mark of status and leisure. Who is going to do a dirty, practical job with long, wide sleeves that obstruct work and are easily soiled? It is not surprising that jealousy and hatred reared their ugly heads among Joseph’s half-brothers. Joseph felt their antagonism. So when he went with them to guard the sheep, he watched carefully – not just the sheep, but his brothers; not to learn the job, but to tell tales to his father. What an unhappy family! The warning is clear, not only for parents, but also for anyone who is a leader at work, in church or in leisure activities. The Bible is uncompromising about God’s attitude to favouritism. God Himself ‘shows no partiality and accepts no bribes’ (Deut. 10:17). He expects the same of us. ‘Do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great’ (Lev. 19:15) and to church leaders he says, ‘Do nothing out of favouritism’ (1 Tim. 5:21).

Week 1 Wed

Genesis 37:1–4 ‘… Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons … he made a richly ornamented robe for him.’ (v.3)

For prayer and reflection Lord, please help me to love even the people I don’t like, and to treat everyone fairly and with justice. 9

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Week 1 Thurs

Spiritual gifts misused

Li

D

reams can have many sources. They may be the expression of inner turmoil, of hidden Genesis 37:5–11 fears or unconscious hopes. Joseph’s dreams were not just the wishful thinking of a spoilt ‘Joseph had a dream, and when young man, but God-given (as with another Joseph he told it to his nearly 2,000 years later). The trouble was that Joseph brothers, they had neither the wisdom nor the humility to know how hated him all the to handle the situation. Instead of keeping it to himself, more.’ (v.5) encouraged that one day his brothers would no longer boss him around, he bragged to them about his dream. ‘My sheaf stood upright while your sheaves bowed down to mine.’ Of course they were infuriated. No one knew that the dream would be fulfilled 20 years later, in a very different situation. Joseph’s next dream had a different image but a similar meaning, and it included his parents. Would Joseph keep quiet this time? Not a bit of it! He boasted to his father as well as his brothers. ‘Stupid lad!’ is what I feel about him. Of course his father rebuked him, not seeing that Joseph’s behaviour was the fruit of his own folly. We all need wisdom to learn how to handle any spiritual gifts God may give us. For instance, I For prayer and sometimes have a ‘hunch’ about another person, and I reflection am not sure whether its source is my observation, my experience, divine insight, or a combination of them all. What do I do? Do I talk about my flash of insight? Do I act Lord, please on it? Do I chew it over quietly (like Jacob, who ‘kept the refrain me matter in mind’)? I must first ask God for wisdom for the from acting next step. The insight may be given to guide my prayers impulsively for that person, not to talk about it. Joseph blundered in or stupidly. arrogantly, without stopping to think. Help me to listen to You. 10

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ke (Ho no eru rob rid gre

we cub pla leo the ‘He in t wo an

the ba hit ag be tel (th con an


Little sins become big sins

be

h

f, r .

in

ed

of

l. act he e rs in

J

oseph’s half brothers were a selfish, callous group, united in their hatred of their father’s pet. At home, under their father’s eye, they kept quiet. Now, out in the country, no one could watch. (How does our own behaviour change when there are no observers?) The jealousy that ate away in their hearts erupted when they identified the distinctive colourful robe as Joseph approached. ‘Now’s our chance to get rid of him!’ We can see how revenge, murderous intent, greed and deceit all grew from that root of jealousy. It reminds me of a story our children loved when they were young. An African family found an orphan leopard cub and kept it as a pet. ‘Isn’t it sweet?’ they said. They played with it, had rides on its back as it grew. ‘Little leopards become big leopards, and big leopards kill,’ their father often warned them. They saw no danger. ‘He’s our friend!’ But one day the boy scratched himself in the jungle. The friendly animal went to lick his wounds. He tasted blood; the killer instinct took over, and the father was killed saving his child. Our ‘small’ sins can be like that. We try to ignore them, but isolated incidents easily become normal, and bad habits grow. I think with shame of the first time I hit my two-year-old son in anger. ‘I must never do that again,’ I thought. But, sadly, my anger and violence became chronic. Over 20 years the ‘private’ sins (‘Don’t tell Daddy’) became more public. I am deeply grateful (though I wasn’t at the time) for the friends who finally confronted me, and enabled me to repent of the anger and to allow God’s Spirit to destroy its roots.

Week 1 Fri

Genesis 37:12–28 ‘Come now, let’s kill him … and say that a ferocious animal devoured him.’ (vv.19–20)

For prayer and reflection Reflect on Jesus’ words: ‘There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’ (Mark 7:15, NRSV) 11

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