Sunday

Trust the Baker. Follow the Instructions


I should have listened to my friend Karen. “Sprinkle the nuts in the bottom of the pan, then arrange 15 frozen bread balls on top.” 

I was listening, really I was, but when I stood in the kitchen looking into the Bundt pan, fifteen just didn’t look right. They barely covered the bottom.

I think she said 15. But maybe I didn’t hear her right. Or maybe her pan is smaller than mine.

I looked again at those meager globs. That doesn’t look like much at all, and we have seven people to feed. It wouldn’t hurt to throw in a few more. 

So I did. Ten more to be exact. 

Then I poured the butter over the top, covered the pan in plastic wrap, and went to bed. As instructed. All night long I dreamed of gooey sticky buns. 

The next morning I awoke to a disturbing text message from my daughter. 

There’s been an explosion. 

At first I thought she was referring to one of the grandchildren. The one who still wears diapers. But then I remembered the sticky buns. 


A second message vibrated my phone. It was a picture of my sticky buns. Mushrooming from the Bundt pan like a size 18 lady wearing a size 12 pants. 

It won’t fit in the oven, she texted. What do I do? 

I’m ashamed to admit there have been quite a few times in my life when I’ve been convinced I know more than the expert. I don’t follow the doctor’s recommendation. I disregard directions on the back of a bottle. I ignore the maintenance light on the dash. 

Sometimes I even think I know more than God. Imagine that. 

I react angrily despite his warning that “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” 

I stay up past midnight working despite his reminder, “It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep“ (Psa. 127:2). 

I worry despite his call to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6-7). 

I ignore God’s instructions and go my own way, dismissing the instructions and principles he’s given me for holy, healthy, productive living. And then I’m surprised when things don’t turn out right. 

Anger injures my relationships and damages my testimony. Lack of sleep reveals my lack of trust and endangers my health. Anxiety steals the joy from my days and the sleep from my nights. 

Like my friend Karen knows the intricacies of her recipe, God knows every detail of my life. And the world in which I live. And the future I hope to inherit. He provides principles to live by, hope to cling to, and a future to dream of. 

Why, oh why would I ever think I know better than he? 

After lowering the oven rack, I gingerly placed the pan of bread dough in the oven, watching it warily through the glass door. The heat stopped the dough from rising any farther, and before long it was cooked. I flopped it onto a (rather large) plate and sighed. My pan of sticky buns bore little resemblance to the picture-perfect masterpieces my friend Karen makes. 

The extra dough stuck out everywhere, the inside hadn’t cooked thoroughly, and instead of being drenched in buttery caramel, much of the bread was crispy and dry. It was edible, but very different from the yummy dessert I’d hoped to enjoy. 

When I disregard God’s instructions for living, the same thing happens. Bits and pieces of our lives stick out everywhere, rebelliously refusing to stay in the margins. Some parts are under done, immature and stunted. I don’t achieve the full potential God intends for my life. 

Whether we’re talking about sticky buns or our Christian life, we have the greatest chance of success when we trust the Baker and follow the instructions. 

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones” (Proverbs 3:7-8). 

Now it’s your turn. When have you failed to follow instructions (either man’s or God’s) and regretted it? What did you learn from your experience? Share your story in the comment box below. If you’re reading via email, click HERE to visit Hungry for God online and share your thoughts.



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Wednesday

What's Inside is Gonna Come Out -- 5 Steps to Conquer Sin


A few years ago I was the unhappy middle man in a collision between an SUV and a Porta-Potty truck. It wasn’t funny at the time, especially because the accident preempted my plans for a Chick Fil A lunch and sent me to the doctor instead. Thankfully the only real victim was my 2005 Toyota Corolla.

When my husband, David, replaced our crumpled car, I was delighted. The same model as our dearly departed, this Corolla was only two years old and in great condition.

Except for one thing. The upholstery was disgusting.

I’m amazed that neither of us noticed the problem. I guess, when we rode in the driver or passenger’s seats, our eyes were either on the road or on the instrument panel. But when I climbed into the back seat to allow David and a friend to ride up front, I saw stuff I hadn’t noticed before.

It looked like someone had shaken up a Coke and popped the tab. Spots were everywhere. Then I saw oily spots on the front headrests, seat backs, and arm rests. And nasty brown stains on the upholstery.

 “Ewwwww!” I said, “the inside of this car is gross.” My husband sprang into action. He grabbed a can of cleaner and the carpet shampooer and went to work. An hour and a half later, the interior of the car looked three shades lighter.

“My hero!” I proclaimed, and hugged him hard. After the seats dried, I checked them over. Much better.

Until the next afternoon, when I spilled a bottle of water in the passenger seat. “No worries,” my husband said. “It’s only water, It’ll dry just fine."

But it didn’t.

The water had left a giant stain. “How can clean water leave a brown stain?” I asked my husband in dismay.

“There still must be gunk under the upholstery. On the surface, it looks clean, but when water soaks in, what’s hidden inside comes to the top.”

Apparently people and upholstery have a lot in common. 

I’m a classic example. On the surface I look clean. Pastor’s wife, Christian speaker, inspirational writer, Sunday School teacher. But then something happens.


Like the spill on my car’s front seat, what’s under the surface rises to the top, and it isn’t pretty. I display gunk like impatience, selfishness, and unkind words. It stains my heart and my relationships.

The only treatment is to clean deep down, under the surface. God’s Word provides a solution:

1. Invite God to search our hearts every day. Pray Psalm 139:24-25: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me.” When we allow God to examine our hearts and reveal anything that displeases him, we begin to change.

2. Agree with God instead of making excuses. For years I dismissed my sin of impatience by hiding it under the label of productivity. But putting projects before people never honors God. When the Lord convicted my heart of this sin, I owned up and asked him to transform me. Often. The Bible calls this repentance, which simply means agreeing with God about our sin (Isaiah 30:15).

3. Recognize Satan’s tricks. Once the Lord brings a sin to light, it’s important we don’t allow Satan to beat us over the head with it. We’re often tempted to give in to guilt and condemnation, but neither come from God. They’re tricks from Satan, who lies to us to keep us defeated. If he can paralyze us with guilt or render us powerless with condemnation, we’ll wallow in our sin instead of conquering it.

4. Make a biblical plan. God’s Word tells us to confess (agree with God about our sin), repent (express our desire to change), and forsake (turn our backs on our sin) (1 John 1:9). Unfortunately, this isn’t usually one and done. We have to repeat the process every time we slip back into our destructive behavior.

Memorizing specific Bible verses related to our sin will give the Holy Spirit extra cleansing power. Eventually we’ll grow so sick of our sin that we'll hate it. This allows us to turn away and replace our negative behavior with positive choices.

5. Rely on God’s power, not our own. Within ourselves, we’re powerless to change. But if we’ve trusted Christ as our Savior, we have the power of Christ living inside us—the same power that raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11). This is some serious muscle. Moment by moment, day by day, we can rest in his strength to do what’s right.

Father, within myself I’m powerless to conquer this sin. Help me claim the power that raised Christ Jesus and say no to ungodliness. Enable me to recognize potential to sin before it traps me. Empower me to close my mouth, avert my eyes, or walk away. Help me replace my sinful choices with wholesome ones so I can bring glory to your name. When I fall back into my old ways, help me confess, repent, and forsake. No matter how many times it takes. In the mighty name of Jesus I ask, Amen. 

When our attempts to clean (really clean) our car’s upholstery failed, we called on an expert. He gave us a solution that penetrated the layers of gunk hiding in our seats. We saturated the seats, gave it time to work, and scrubbed away the dirt it brought to the surface. I haven’t spilled any water yet, but I’m confident if I do, nothing yucky will appear.

Unfortunately, battling sin is a little harder than battling dirty upholstery. With God empowering us, however, we can be victorious. When we submit to the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, use the sanitizer of God’s Word, and apply the muscle of Christ living inside us, we can be as clean on the inside as we are on the outside.



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Sunday

Are you going to live a long time?

“Gigi,” my five-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Lauren, asked as I tucked her into bed, “are you going to live a long time?” 

“I certainly hope so,” I said. 

 “Unless you get like Mr. Arnold next door who, you know. . .” She hesitated before saying the word, “. . . died?” 


Her question hung in the air, and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure how to answer it. She had apparently realized that people don’t live forever—on this earth, anyway. Two desires struggled within me. I wanted to be honest, because she needs to be able to trust me. But I also wanted to protect her from the fear of losing someone she loves. 

“Sometimes, people do get sick and die,” I admitted. “But usually not until they’re very old. Mr. Arnold was more than 80.” 

She nodded slowly, unconvinced. 

 “Every morning I pray and ask God to keep all our family healthy and strong," I said. "You can do that too. We can trust God to know what’s best.” 

“Sometimes I get scared,” she said. 

“I do, too. Did you know there’s a verse in the Bible that tells us what to do when we get scared? Psalm 56:3: ‘When I am afraid, I will trust in you.’ It reminds me that God is wise, and kind, and we can trust him.” 

Comforted, she snuggled down under the sheet and closed her eyes. I kissed her forehead and whispered goodnight. 

“Gigi,” she whispered sleepily as I crept out the door, “how old are you?” 

Sometimes I feel a lot like Lauren. When I peer into an unknown future, fear clutches at my heart and sends my thoughts down dark and scary paths. I wonder what my death will look like. 

Will it come swiftly in an accident or slowly by disease? Will I live out a full life or step into heaven sooner? Will I lose my mind to Alzheimer’s or my body to aging? 

Only God knows. 


In his sovereignty, there are no premature deaths. All the days of our lives were written in his book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). And although only God knows the number of our days, he calls us to capture each one of them and use them for good. 

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” the psalmist prayed in Psalm 90:12. It’s not healthy to live each day in fear that it’s our last, but we also shouldn’t fritter our lives away as carelessly as a lottery winner spends money after a jackpot. However many days there are, one thing is certain—each one is precious. We must savor and spend them wisely. 

Whether we’re as old as Mr. Arnold or as young as Lauren, may we glorify God with each day he gives us.



Are you hungry for God, but starving for time? 
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Wednesday

Celebrating Biblical Hospitality

This week my husband and I have been the grateful recipients of hospitality. Truth be told, we’d much rather be the ones extending hospitality. In our self-sufficient society, it’s much more comfortable to be the gracious givers than humble receivers. 

But every now and then, we all need help. Such was the case this week when we vacated our house to extend hospitality to a special family who needed our home more than we did. In advance of their arrival, we tossed around a few ideas about where to stay. The back porch was unairconditioned. The tent leaks. Extended Stay America was pricey. So was Airbnb. 

Then a friend offered to let us stay in the room over their garage. “It has its own bathroom,” she said, “and it’s right off the kitchen. You are more than welcome. We’d love to have you.” 

So we accepted. Gratefully. 


For almost a week they shared their kitchen, their hot water, their laundry room, and, glory be, their air conditioning. We exchanged greetings as we headed out to work in the mornings and shared meals in the evenings where we recapped our days. 

Best of all, we got to know each other better, prayed together, and laughed. Although we’ve been friends for decades, our time in their home knitted our hearts together and gave us greater insight into how to love and support each other. 

Instead of being stressful and difficult, our time away from our home was restful and relaxing. Our host and hostess sweetly demonstrated what 1 Peter 4:9-10 instructs: 

“Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:9-10). 

If you have the opportunity to extend hospitality, whether it’s inviting a church visitor home for dinner after the service, having neighbors over for burgers and games, or allowing a college student to live in your spare bedroom between semesters, I encourage you to do it. 


God will use your kindness and generosity in ways you can never imagine. In the marvelous, mysterious economy of God, everything you’ve given in Jesus’ name will find its way back to you, shaken, pressed down, and running over, either in this life or in the life to come. 

“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25). 


Now it’s your turn. When have you extended hospitality in Jesus’ name and been refreshed by doing so? Share your experience in a comment below. If you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online and share. 






And if you'd like to read more about how practicing hospitality can advance God's kingdom, I invite you to check out Brandon Clements' book, The Simplest Way to Change the Word -- Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life.




Are you hungry for God, but starving for time? 
I’d love to send you a 5-minute e-mail devotion twice a week to start your day off with the Lord. 

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Monday

When Jesus Flew First Class


I’ve often envied first class travelers. 


Gate attendants invite them to board before all the other passengers. Employees greet them by name and always smile. They enjoy perks and privileges like extra-large, comfy seats; their own restroom; and luxury food and beverages. 

By the time ordinary passengers like me trudge our way through their special seating area to economy class, first class passengers have already kicked back and are enjoying a snack. 

On a recent flight from Charlotte to Pittsburgh, I noticed a flight attendant pull a mesh Do-Not-Enter curtain to separate first class from the rest of the plane. Although I could see through the curtain into the cabin, the message was clear—you aren’t allowed in. This area is off limits. 

In some ways, heaven is like first class.

Because of my sin (everything I've done, said, or thought that goes against God’s Word, or the good things that I’ve failed to do), I’m not allowed in. No amount of fast talking or good behavior can earn me a coveted boarding pass that would allow me into that hallowed place. 

One day, however, a man named Jesus saw me through the veil. He wanted me to sit where he sat, with him. 

He rose from his extra-large, comfy seat next to his Father. Stepping out of first class into economy, he walked the length of the plane to the back—the very back—near the restroom where the air was smelly and the turbulence was great.

Laying a gentle hand on my shoulder, he called my name. He reached into his garment and pulled out his boarding pass—the one that said first class. Then he exchanged mine for his, leading me to the front, where he had torn the dividing curtain in half and made a way for me to enter.
 “I can’t pay you for this,” I said. 

“You don’t have to. It’s a gift.” 

And what a gift it was, the privilege of sitting there with Jesus, in the presence of God the Father. Positionally I’m already there— seated with God in heavenly places. 

"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 5:6).

One day I’ll be physically there, too.

In the meantime, I want to tell everyone I encounter about the Man who left first class to come and fetch me. 

What about you? Have you ever flown first class? If not, I’d be glad to introduce you to someone who’d love to exchange his boarding pass for yours. All you have to do is say yes. 

CLICK HERE for more information on how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. 



Are you hungry for God, but starving for time? 
I’d love to send you a 5-minute e-mail devotion twice a week to start your day off with the Lord. 

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Because busy women need to connect with God in the craziness of everyday life.