How to choose a devotional

Anytime I am speaking on the topic of women’s ministry, I’m almost always asked the same question: “What daily devotional do you recommend?” I don’t have a problem with the question itself, but I do fear we are putting too much hope in supplementary reading rather than direct knowledge of Scripture. This is where I could get on my favorite soapbox topic of Bible literacy… but we’ll save that for another post.

Let me first say this: You should always start with prayer and your actual Bible. Don’t trust another person to tell you what the Bible says. Her mind is not yours. Your success with using a devotional guide is directly tied to your own knowledge of the Bible. In the words of Jen Wilkin, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know” (adapted from Romans 12:2).

However… a daily devotional book is not a bad thing. I am a busy mom and wife who does not have alone time until at least 8:30 pm. A quick devotional read in the morning and at lunch helps focus my mind and heart. I’m picky about devotional books because I’ve found (and purchased) a ton of crappy ones. Let me help you navigate those millions of choices with a few tips that have aided me over the years.

Here’s my five tips:

Start with Scripture.

We must approach devotional books as supplementary to our Bibles. If you open a daily devotional and find musings about feelings or opinions before you find a Scripture reference, I would advise you steer clear. Although many faith based books currently marketed to women look beautiful, they do not always include the density needed for a true understanding of the Bible.

Look for consistency.

Does the author hop around to a different, random passage each day? This often happens when writers are looking for a Bible reference to support their commentary, rather than writing a commentary in support of the Bible reference they have chosen. I suggest finding a devotional guide that walks you through a particular book or passage in a consistent manner.

Stick with your season.

Many devotionals are written with a particular audience in mind. This can be very helpful. The devotional I am using now (listed at the end of this article) is about praying for your kids. The author walks you through the entire Bible in 365 days and uses her commentary to point readers toward our own good Father. Remember: The Bible is about God, not you.

Presence of prayer.

If the devotional you are looking to purchase does not mention prayer or does not have daily prompts to lead you in prayer, I wouldn’t bother buying. Prayer is an essential part of Bible study. Many devotionals have specific prayers while others provide a general guide. Either way, always look for an importance placed on prayer.

Phone a friend.

Wondering if the book you’re looking at is worth it? Ask a friend you trust. Have her read it with you and think critically about the commentary. Discuss it weekly or however often you can; just don’t forsake the communal aspect of your learning. Get connected with a small group at your church and see what kind of things they are reading. Ask your pastor or ministry leader what supplemental reading they enjoy (trust me… we want you to ask).

What I’m currently reading: Praying through the Bible for your Kids by Nancy Guthrie.
Another favorite I’ve read: Savor by Shauna Niequest.
Other great places to start: New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp, In All Things by Melissa Kruger, Beautifully Distinct edited by Trillia Newbell, and the ESV Women’s Study Bible.

Sunday already came.

It’s Holy Week. This is the most formative week for Christians in the church calendar. We fast, pray, mourn and rejoice as we remember the incredible atoning sacrifice of Christ.

This year things look different because of a global pandemic. We’re not physically gathering as a church body and that hurts. Most of us are working from home or have lost jobs, and we’re distancing ourselves from all social contact. Some days are scary, some days are borderline normal, but most days just feel slow and different. Altogether, we’re longing to be delivered from this struggle.


Many have observed the timeliness of this longing coinciding with Holy Week. I appreciate that and do see some value there, but I want to be careful not to forget the purpose of remembrance. We are charged to “remember these things” so we don’t forget to give glory where glory is due. Jesus delivered us once and for all. That deliverance withstands all earthly turmoil.

We mustn’t only long deeply for the proverbial Sunday (Sunday is coming!) because we hope to be delivered. We anchor our deep longing in the solace of our Jesus and his sacrifice (Sunday already came!). Hallelujah.

Brief summary of Holy Week:

Below I paraphrase and tell the story in my own words. Please reference the gospels for a full biblical picture of this week. Reading my words may be helpful, but your personal interaction with the text is most important for understanding and clarity. You’ll find the gospel accounts here: Matthew 21-28, Mark 11-16, Luke 19:28-24, John 12-21.

  • Palm Sunday
    • Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the crowd shouts, Hosanna!
  • Holy Monday
    • And so it begins. Jesus cleanses the temple by confronting the moneychangers and flips their tables. He begins to teach and curses a fig tree.
  • Holy Tuesday
    • Jesus again enters the temple, and a crowd gathers to hear Him teach. The religious leaders see this as an opportunity to trap Jesus, so they question him to usurp His authority. They soon realize they need to stop asking questions. The fig tree decays.
  • Spy Wednesday
    • Mary anoints Jesus with expensive burial oil, which angers Judas. He plans his betrayal as the Sanhedrin plot behind closed doors.
  • Maundy Thursday
    • Jesus spends time teaching his disciples and praying. He appeals to the Father on behalf of his church, as our Priest. Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper. Judas departs. Jesus and the eleven go to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.
  • Good Friday
    • Jesus is betrayed, accused, beaten beyond recognition, mocked, and sent to die – death on a cross. He cries out to Eloi (God) while he drinks the cup before him. He is forsaken, for our sake. The darkness of sin is swallowed up in the goodness of God.
  • Holy Saturday
    • The tomb is sealed. Jesus Christ has died, and descended to the dead. Jesus was made like us in every way through death – except His body would not decay in the earth. It wouldn’t be there long.  
  • Easter Sunday
    • The women head to the tomb. A few disciples came later. They didn’t find Jesus, but they found a stone rolled away and an angelic messenger. “You’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth? He’s not here! He is risen!” (Mark 16:6, paraphrased). Our debt was paid in full and we share in Christ’s triumphant joy.

Already, but not yet

This time that we’re living in? It’s the already, but not yet.

Christ already made atonement for us. We were born inheriting Adam’s sin, but the second (better) Adam imparted us a new inheritance: eternal life in union with Him.
This is the already.

Although we are justified through Christ and live by the Spirit, we are still in bodies of flesh. The world around us is not yet made new. We struggle with sin and are hurt by things like divorce, death, illness, and pandemics. Yet we are promised a day when Christ returns to restore it all, in His time.
This is the not yet.

We are not mere nomads, drifting along and searching for rescue. We have it. We savor it. We rejoice and remember. In our reflection of this Holy Week, may we remember the debt we did not pay and the victory we did not deserve, yet were graciously given.

Thanks be to God.

When Change is Hard

Picture this.

You’ve been working hard on something for a while. You found your rhythm. It all makes sense. God’s faithfulness is proving true.

Then you feel a stirring of the Spirit. You really want to ignore it. You want to label it as something else, something less disheartening. But the Spirit comes to help and discern, not pacify and coddle. That’s a hard one to swallow.

I’ve been reading through the Bible this year and recently finished Deuteronomy. The final chapter brought me to tears. The Israelites spent a long forty years in the wilderness. God was faithful to them even through their outright rebellion. Moses was faithful too. He wasn’t perfect but followed without abandon. Deuteronomy 34 tells us “there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt…”

Joshua was the new leader appointed by God to secede Moses. But the people loved and trusted Moses, he had brought them through SO MUCH. They lived a whole life together but now it was time to move on. Who wants that? Nobody. We want status quo and comfort. But Moses couldn’t live forever and God would not let his people become complacent.

So, Moses died. The people could not move forward to the promised land if Moses was still alive. It was a somber but necessary transition. Joshua was ready to lead, but Moses had to give it up and the people had to move on. Seasons change, people die. The Lord and His covenant will always remain.

We also read that God himself buried Moses in the land of Moab, but no one knows the place of his burial. It is widely believed that God did this to keep the Israelites from building a shrine to worship Moses at his burial ground. Let that sink in: our Father knows our tendency to place our trust in things of the world, and although they may be good things, they are not to be worshiped. There’s a difference between proper mourning and prideful pouting.

“And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.” // Deut. 34:8

And there you have it. God encouraged the people to honor the loss and legacy of Moses. They had a really good run. But then we read it plainly: the days of weeping and mourning were ended.

The book of Joshua picks up next. I sense the people of Israel were still struggling with the loss of their great leader and trying reconcile their new reality. The very next thing that God speaks after the death of Moses is this, “Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.” 

God is telling Joshua to GO. Finally, go get the land with milk and honey. This place that was promised to your fathers, it’s yours now. Trust me, cross the Jordan, be strong and courageous. I’m telling you it’s time. That’s the beauty of change. Every story we read in the Bible proves that death doesn’t mean death. It will always lead to life. Old made new… rages to riches. We just have to trust and go. 

We have a duty to follow regardless of emotion. Change is hard. We mourn and remember, but we must move on. God has something for us and although we may not be able to see it through our tears we have to believe it’s there. He uses every bit of grief to solidify growth and bring about the promise.

Let’s listen and follow, let’s get up and go.


Becoming Esther

I have heard this call – this whisper – for a while.  It has been an ongoing monologue that breaks in to my mind when things get hard.  I walked through a time where I could not quite quantify its depths.  I did not understand why I felt such a Holy discomfort.  This week God has made clear what he is asking.  He has been telling, directing, anointing and leading behind the scenes for a while.  Just as He sovereignly does.

I am reminded of Esther and her coincidental call to speak up.  In an odd turn of events, Esther found herself as queen by winning the Old Testament version of The Bachelor.  Seriously, read Esther 1-3.  She eventually faced a decision that put her life in sincere danger.  Should she stand up to the king on behalf of her friends + family and jeopardize her life?  We read in Esther 4:11 that she was fearful.  But her people needed her.

Esther’s moment of fear was eradicated by the words of her uncle, Mordecai:

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.  And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

One thing I have learned throughout my life is that it is hard to be heard if you are not loud.  This hurt me for so long because I took loud at surface value and qualified it by volume.  If you aren’t loud, people won’t listen… and if people don’t listen, your thoughts are invalid.  Right?

I have been afraid to be vulnerable with my words.  Words are powerful for me.  I am not the loudest or most commanding voice when I enter a room but I still have something to say.  I use my words with caution because I understand the deep importance of rhetoric.  In so many ways the Lord has told me this is worth it.  This is time.

But as I sit down to write, I still find myself wavering… wondering if instead I should remain quiet.  Remain in my own selfish place of comfort that doesn’t appear as disruptive.


Last week I read a post by Jess Connolly and was shaken.  She spoke of vulnerability and discontent and standing up for those who are marginalized.  Her words are sobering:

“We are ambassadors. Sent not just to speak life and encouragement, but also to comfort and rescue and fight for redemption. The Spirit is gentle and patient, but also impatient. May we love all of Him – all of the Lord. I won’t blindly find comfort in the fact that my kids are ok when so many kids are NOT ok. I’ll thank God for His grace and let it spur me on to use my hands, my heart, my words, and my time to love my neighbors and my enemies: all of them.”

This weekend I was able to listen to some incredible teaching from the ladies at IF:Gathering.  Each speaker echoed a common motif:  Our time is now.  We are not to wait for others to step up.  Use your voice.  Tell your story.  We have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.  

We are the Esther generation.

This is a unique opportunity.  We are so connected, so digital.  I have Facebook friends in Jamaica and Ukraine and the great state of West by God.  Who would have ever imagined?  It took Paul months to travel to his people but with two clicks, we can talk to ours.  We can fly across the country in a matter of hours.  That’s not just a coincidence.  It’s a gift and needs to be stewarded for God’s glory.

I shared some intentional time with a group of women this weekend and one thing was clear:  We are not afraid of the hard work of discipleship.  We are not afraid to ask friends to coffee and look them in the eyes and tell them they are not alone.  We are ready to turn our stories of shame into stories of redemption.  God has placed us here – in our cities, in our homes, in our work place – for such a time as this.

The words of Ann Voskamp are ringing in my ears today.  She proclaims, “We are in a crisis of discipleship because we are in a crisis of worship.  Are we formed by the world or the word; the news or the good news; the culture or the cross?”

Sisters, I exhort you to let your voice be heard.  Use your words and your gifts with intention and leave your fears at the feet of Jesus.  Not only can you do this, you are called to do this.  Listen to the words of Mordecai as he reminds Esther her life is not her own.

Go on the mission trip.  Talk to the young mom at daycare.  Pay for that man’s groceries.  Start a Bible study.  Pray out loud (yes, out loud) over your friends.  There is no reason to be afraid of the world because you are not of the world.

Stand up.  Speak truth.  Feel the freedom of the cross and lead with grace.