Not one more step!

by Michele McCarthy

However you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. Romans 8:9 NASB

A cloud of smoke came out from under the closed doors of the sanctuary. It rose all the way to the ceiling, filling the complete back of the room. Floor to ceiling, the smoke drifted forward toward the church altar, filling the church from the back doors forward. Then the smoke suddenly stopped about sixty feet short of the pulpit. It never made it to the altar.

This was a vision the Lord gave me of the Holy Spirit. It left me with unanswered questions. Why did He stop before reaching the altar? Was He stopped by the church because He was not welcome there?

It also made me wonder if I am personally guilty of stopping the Holy Spirit. Did He have full reign over my heart? Have I failed to yield to Him in any way? Have I told Him in uncertain terms: “Not one more step!”

Scripture tells me I can quench (lack of power) and grieve (lack of character) the Holy Spirit. I never want the vision the Lord gave me that day to be a picture of my relationship with Him. I pray that I will always be open to a new thing God may be showing me.

Isaiah wrote, “Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?” (43:19 NASB) May I never close myself off to His leading. Just because it may be something I have never before experienced, it doesn’t mean it can’t be God prompting me.

Our faithful God relentlessly pursues us. He comes after us in very creative ways. He not only pursues us for redemption, He seeks to put His desires in our heart as we walk with Him. He is at the door knocking and He wants us to open that door to close, personal fellowship with Him. He wants to fill us with His love and power.

I can be assured that His offering is always good. I will gladly be His student forever. I want to step out in obedience, even when it pushes me way out of my comfort zone. It’s in those difficult moments I especially want to open my arms ready to receive all my Father has for me. Come Holy Spirit, come!

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Am I allowing God to fully work in my life? Thoughts from Michele McCarthy on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Michele McCarthyAbout the author: A wife to her devoted husband and a mom of two fine young men, two fabulous daughters-in-law and five beautiful grandchildren, Michele McCarthy has served her family faithfully for years. She is now enjoying attending Lifestyle Christianity University and exploring long hidden talents of writing and watercolor. She has written a children’s book, Daddy and Me, that is currently at the publisher. She loves reading, scrapbooking, deep conversations and talking about Jesus.

Join the conversation: How has the Holy Spirit inspired you lately?

The Answer to Our Deepest Longings

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

Do you know what it’s like to experience an inconsolable longing?

I did.

As a young wife and mom, I copied Psalm 73:25 onto a note card and put it on my refrigerator to remind me of the only longing of mine that can ever truly be met: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (ESV).

That was more than 20 years ago. I was – and continue to be – comforted by the truth that I have an Advocate in Heaven. And He is mine.

Who do I have but You, God? It is more than a question or even a statement. It is a motto. And I often have to remind myself to live by that motto.

Through the unmet expectations of friends, the struggles in marriage, and the disappointments of life, I’ve come to learn that we all have an inconsolable longing – a longing to be truly and deeply known. And through the years, I have learned to be at peace knowing that longing will never be met this side of heaven. I will never be fully known by my husband, my child, my closest friend, as I really am. But I am known to God. My inconsolable longing on this earth increases my yearning for Heaven – for true oneness and intimacy.

Only You, Lord, are perfect. Only You are incapable of disappointing me. Only You can satisfy. And only You can know me intimately.

As long as I am hoping for lasting fulfillment through intimacy with a person here on this earth, I will be disappointed. All are mere mortals. All have sinned. And all will let me down at one time or another. But You, Lord, will always satisfy.

When I focus on my inconsolable longings it can make me sad. But when I focus on the fact that my Savior knows me completely, I realize the reason for my existence and often the reason for my loneliness:  He wants to be the one to whom I cling.

To whom do you go when nothing else and no one else will satisfy? Where do you take those longings that remain unmet? There is One in Heaven waiting to fill the inconsolable longing in your heart as well. May you, too, be able to say as the Psalmist did in the very next verse: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26 ESV).

Lord, thank You that my inconsolable longing is truly consolable in You. I bring my deepest longings to You and lay them at Your feet. I trust that since You are the Only One who really knows my heart, You will meet me in the place where I most need to be met.

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Our inconsolable longing is truly consolable in God – thoughts from @CindiMcMenamin ‏on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 16 books including When God Pursues a Woman’s Heart, God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart, and Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her books and resources toScreen Shot 2017-12-24 at 9.01.28 PM strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, or for more information on her coaching services to help you write the book on your heart, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Join the conversation: What are the longings in your heart that never seem to be met?

Whose Label Do You Accept?

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

 You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own. God paid a great price for you. So use your body to honor God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (CEV)

We’ve all got them in our lives—people who label us.

Sometimes the labels are good.

“You’re so smart.”

“You’re so beautiful.”

“You’re so organized…

“talented”

“spiritual…

“blessed.”

These are the labels we like to hear—whether they’re true or not. They have a seductive quality, inviting us to congratulate ourselves on what we’ve accomplished.

Sometimes the labels are bad.

“You’re so selfish.”

“You’ll never amount to anything.”

“You’re such a liar…

“a betrayer…

“untalented…

“lazy.”

Unlike the positive ones, these labels can devastate us. The echoes of these take residence in our souls, providing a haunting refrain as we try to follow God’s path.

We can’t get away from a world that seeks to define us, hanging labels on us for everyone to see. And although we know we shouldn’t, if we’re not careful, we can begin to view ourselves through the filters of others.

When goods are manufactured, there are only two sources that have the legal right to label the products: the one who manufactured the goods, and the one who purchased them.

The manufacturer uses labels to provide information about how the goods are made and what they’re made from.

The one who buys the goods determines the price and value.

When we apply this knowledge to us as believers we come across some amazing spiritual insight. This idea of who has the authority to apply labels holds just as true for us as believers.

Only two persons have the authority and the right to label us: the One who created us, and the One who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

God is the one who created us. He has given us gifts, personality, and a unique set of circumstances that makes up who we are.

Christ is the one who bought us. He determined our worth and then He Himself paid the price.

They have gone a step further and applied other labels—labels we should never discard or ignore.

“You are precious.”

“You are loved.”

“You are Mine.”

Today I challenge you to join me as I banish the false labels (and those who assigned them) and focus on the only Ones who have the right to define me.

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Who am I allowing to hang labels on me? @EdieMelson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Edie-MelsonAbout the author:  Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, whether she’s addressing parents, military families, readers of fiction, or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker, she’s encouraged and challenged Edie Melson soul careaudiences across the country and around the world. Her latest book, Soul Care When You’re Weary, is available at local retailers and online. Connect with her further at www.EdieMelson.comand on Facebook and Twitter.

Join the conversation: Which of God’s labels mean the most to you?

I Really Blew It

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…   Romans 1:16a NASB

I missed a big opportunity. God handed it to me on a silver platter. Well, to be more accurate, it drove up in a silver pickup truck and stopped right beside me. But I let it get away without a fight. I really blew it.

It happened one beautiful Saturday afternoon. I had just stepped out of a Lifeway store and was headed to my car. Just as I reached the first car in the parking lot I heard, “Ma’am? Excuse me ma’am!”

“Ma’am?” Oh, does he mean me?

I turned to see a young man sitting in a pickup truck, now directly between the store and me. His window was down and he was looking directly at me. And there wasn’t anyone else close by.

Yep. He meant me.

The young “cowboy” wore a sleeveless t-shirt and tattoos covered both arms. He needed directions. “Is there a bookstore around here somewhere?”

I thought about looking around for a hidden camera. I mean, really? He was sitting in front of a bookstore. Surely this was a joke.

“Seriously?” I asked. “Lifeway is right there,” I pointed as I declared the obvious. But I could tell the cowboy had no idea what Lifeway was by the look on his face.

“Uh, it’s a Christian bookstore,” I stammered. Half statement, half question. Still no recognition.

“I’m looking for self-help books,” he added hopefully.

Okay. God threw the door of opportunity wide open, but I slammed it shut.

I stumbled around and told him I didn’t know the area – which I didn’t. That I had a friend waiting in the car – which I did. Then I suggested he try Sam’s, which was close behind us.

By the time I got to the car, I was kicking myself over the lost opportunity. As I began to tell my friend about the encounter, all sorts of better responses began to pop into my head.

There’s a Book in there – I would be pointing at Lifeway – that will give you help that lasts for eternity.

I have a Friend that can help you with anything and everything – of course, that would be Jesus.

Or if nothing else comes to mind, I could always simply ask:

Do you know Jesus?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve quoted or taught or written about Peter’s encouragement to always be ready to share Jesus.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15, NIV)

This guy needed hope. He was actively looking for it. He even asked me where to find it. I know the One who is our ultimate, eternal Hope.

I blew it. But, I’m praying today that God will give me another opportunity. Maybe I’ll head to Lifeway.

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I really blew it, but God is a God of second chances- @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the author: This post is adapted from Kathy Howard’s Bible study. Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing. Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: Do you regularly pray that God will give you opportunities to give the reason for the hope you have?

We Press On

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you might win.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 NASB

Recently my husband Steve and I had the pleasure of a short vacation. We toured northern New England from the coast of Maine to the foothills of southwest New Hampshire. It was a wonderful adventure. A highlight of the trip was our train ride up Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeast United States.

The trip brought back memories of another time I ventured toward the summit of Mount Washington. That time I went up the old fashioned way– on foot. Several camp friends and I hiked the mountain on a Columbus Day weekend, up Tuckerman’s Ravine. We left Massachusetts before sunrise and began the climb as the sun peeked over the horizon. We would spend all day on the mountain.

I was a lot thinner then, and in much better shape at the ripe old age of 20, but to this day I can still remember the agony of the climb. We hadn’t gone far when my muscles started screaming for oxygen. My knees, feet, and legs were in pain the entire trip up. To make matters worse, I was the only wimp in the group. It seemed I was holding them all back from sprinting up the mountain!

Gasping for breath, struggling to keep up, I was quite sure I would never make it to the top. As we neared the summit, we began to pass signs warning that to continue upward in bad weather conditions would mean death. Of course, my sprightly friends viewed these as a photo opportunity rather than a harbinger of doom. I was just glad to sit down for a few minutes as we snapped the pictures.

When we reached a point within sight of the summit (which from where I stood presented an even more challenging section of the climb), it began to snow. In light of this and the time of day (which was probably later than anyone expected at our onset, thanks to their slowest companion) the group decided to abort the rest of the climb and head back down. I almost wept with relief. We still had hours of walking ahead of us, but it was all downhill.  At the end of the long day, as dusk descended, I gratefully sank into the car’s backseat and made a promise to myself that my climbing days were over.

So when Steve suggested that next time we skip the railroad ride and climb the trail, I reminded him of what I had learned back in 1977. “That mountain almost killed me then,” I told him. “It would surely kill me now.”

Paul knew what it was to press on in the midst of agony. He wrote the Philippians: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14 NASB). He wrote this while awaiting a trial in chains.

Paul is providing us with a crucial focus in our quest to press on. We are not to look around at the circumstances which surround us, nor backward at past laurels. Our gaze should never move downward to our own two feet, which would surely remind us of our human frailty and limitations. So where are we to look? Heavenward, toward the Savior who will supply the strength and power to continue. Heavenward, toward the end goal: the reward that will come from our efforts of living life for Him.

The original word translated here as press on is translated in similar verses as pursue. The word is actually more commonly translated as persecute in other contexts. Interestingly, Paul uses this very same verb in remembrance of his former unrelenting persecution of the saints: “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.” (Galatians 1:13 NASB) Either nuance of meaning denotes an intense pursuit resulting from a strong conviction. All of Paul’s pursuits—destructive or constructive—were characterized by this kind of passion.

This is how we must press on toward the prize. But a mountain climb doesn’t happen in a sprint. Sometimes the path is more level than other times. And very often the path is downright steep. How then do we climb? One step at a time. Eyes on the end goal. With determination that comes from what we so passionately believe.

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We press on—remembering that a climb requires perseverance instead of a sprint @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Join the conversation: How passionate have you been in “the climb” lately? What is your motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other? How can keeping your focus on Jesus help sustain you when the going gets rough?

Awash in Grace & the Forethought of God

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

You can tell a lot about people by the way they do their laundry. I have friends who have certain days they designate as “laundry days.” I confess, I’m probably much more impressed by that than any grown woman should be. My laundry days? They usually happen on whatever days I realize I have to make a choice:  I have to wash a load, or I have to be one of those people who goes to Wal-Mart in pajama pants.

I’m further impressed by my friends who go the extra mile, laundry-wise. They…are you ready for this?…pretreat. They do it like it’s this normal thing that people do. But do you know what pretreating is? It’s doing laundry before you actually do the laundry. There’s something remarkably intentional and impressively diligent about that.

I have other friends who go beyond even that and carry one of those pen-things so they can pretreat even before a stain makes it to the laundry room. They’re essentially doing laundry before they’re even home. It borders on laundry lunacy.

It probably won’t shock you to know that when I’m having dinner out and hot fudge drips down my sweater, I’m not thinking about laundry. You know what I’m thinking? Fudge. And if I scrape the fudge off my sweater, it’s not a pretreatment. It’s a fudge salvage.

Some people do laundry with great forethought. I do laundry with great afterthought.

Of course, there’s regular forethought. And then there’s the forethought of God. His is a whole different basket of laundry. We’re told in Titus 3:4-5 that “when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us,” (ESV). How vital it is to stay intentional and deliberate about remembering His planning of our salvation. That passage continues, “not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (vv. 5-6, ESV).

No kind of laundering would ever make us clean enough apart from that “washing of regeneration,” the saving work of Jesus Christ. We can’t do enough deeds, attend enough services—we can’t pray enough, or pay enough—to earn what is freely given by His mercy.

I know what you’re probably thinking. This is an oversimplified, everybody-already-knows-it, fact of the faith. Yet how many times do we overcomplicate the Gospel? It’s just:  Jesus. His amazing, pre-thought grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, ESV).

Even those of us who’ve been around the Christian block a few times need to be reminded to trust His grace. It’s easy to get off-track, concentrating on all the “good” we might be doing, forgetting the One we’re doing it for. Embracing our own lack of ability to do anything of lasting value is at the same time embracing His ability to do more than we could ever imagine. And that’s something we need to embrace anew every day.

Incidentally, there are also things I’ve embraced about my lack of laundry finesse. A spot on a sweater? It doesn’t really mean a laundry fail to me. It means a new sweater.

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.  2 Timothy 1:9 NIV

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Awash in grace and the forethought of God – @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown, mostly-coffee-drinking children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: How had God’s grace made a difference in your life?

Today’s Preparation for Tomorrow’s Call

by Kim Laliberte

I love the story of Gideon. He is so me, so all of us. When the Angel of the Lord appeared at the threshing floor where Gideon was hiding from the Midianites, he said, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.”

But Gideon confronted the heavenly visitor: “Where are all the miracles? Why is this happening?” and then (also typically me) rather than wait for an answer, he drew his own conclusion: “The Lord has abandoned us…” (6:12-13 NASB)

The angel did not answer Gideon’s confrontational questions, but said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel.”

If anything is ‘typical God’, this would be it. Rather than answer our questions, He in essence says, “I am with you! That is all you need.”

Even when the Spirit came upon Gideon for a purpose, he still doubted. He could not be assured even with God’s very hand upon him. Yep, I’m there too. He was not expressing unbelief in God, but an imperfect faith that needed to be strengthened.

A few years ago, my husband built a large garden and placed a fence around it to keep the unwelcome critters out. Water, fertilizer, and the new garden dirt we ordered from a local company were all in place. I happily planted one hundred twenty- five delectable and diverse vegetable plants. Then I went out of town on business.

When I returned a few days later, I excitedly ran out to the garden. To my horror, everything was either dead or dying. So I called the soil company to find out what happened, but no one would speak with me. Each day that passed without a return phone call, I became more anxious.

I am not, however, without resources, earthly or heavenly. As a lawyer, I began to consider various strategies to get the situation corrected. During this time, I was also studying Gideon and wondered how his story could apply to my frustrating situation. I realized that, like Gideon, my imperfect faith needed a boost.

So I began to pursue the weapons that God gives to bring down strongholds. Every morning I prayed and praised Him, because gratitude strengthens faith in His goodness. I prayed for peace, and that He would take away the nasty attitude I held about the matter. I prayed for the owner and his business; I asked God’s blessing over him whether he responded or not. I surrendered my solution and began expecting His.

For me, the visible garden disaster only underscored the invisible war going on around us which can keep us from the tasks God puts before us. As I stayed focused on God’s solution, He, as I should have expected all along, was faithful.  The owner showed up a few weeks later, saw the problem, owned it as his mistake, and fixed it.

Like Gideon on the threshing floor, my journey was not about a dirt disaster, but about God at work in me. God called Gideon to tear down the nation’s idols, to separate the people from one kingdom and point them to another. Ironically, the angel found Gideon separating wheat from chaff in a wine press. It was a great metaphor for what God would call him to do on behalf of the nation.

What ordinary tasks or trials do we face could be God’s preparation for tomorrow’s calling? Consider that what He gives you today just might be a clue for what God will lead us to do, a preparation for the next part of the journey.

“Go in the strength you have and save Israel…Have I not sent you?” Judges 6:14 NIV

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Today’s trials could be preparation for tomorrow’s call – thoughts from Kim Laliberte on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

kim laliberteAbout the author: Kim Laliberte is an award-winning author whose newest book is being released in December 2018. Stepping Out, A Journey of the Soul is how God unleashed in Kim’s life more joy, freedom and a deeper walk with Jesus. She is a retired lawyer and law professor now writing and speakingfor God’s glory. She can be reached at her blog, www.kimlaliberteministries.com or by contacting her at proflaliberte@earthlink.net.

Join the conversation: Can you think back to how God prepared you for what He has now called you to do?

Am I A Spitting Image?

by Alice H. Murray @dawgatty

The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. John 12:45 (NIV)

One of the faculty members at a writer’s retreat I was attending caught my attention. She seemed very familiar. I had never met her before yet she reminded me of someone. But whom? Finally the answer popped up in my mind. This woman was the spitting image of the talented and famous actress Angela Lansbury. Later that day I encountered this faculty member at dinner. I proudly informed her that I thought she looked just like Angela Lansbury. Her response? She laughed, shook her head, and replied, “Everyone tells me that!”

It is not unusual for a person to remind you of someone else either by his looks, his mannerisms, or his actions. But of whom do YOU remind others? Christians are Christ’s living representatives here on earth. In that capacity, do we bring Jesus to mind to those around us?

Jesus directed His followers to go out into the world to spread the good news. While telling others about Jesus is important, we must remember that our words are not our only witness; our actions often speak louder than our words do. In fact, more people are likely to witness our actions than those to whom we may have a chance to witness in words.

The good news of the gospel is most effectively conveyed when non-believers can see the essence of Christ our behavior. As John states in 1 John 2:6, “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (NASB). We reveal Him in our daily actions and attitudes.

What do non-believers see in us? Do they see Jesus when we are impatient and snap at co-workers or family members? When we turn a blind eye to those in need? When we act in self-centered ways, rather than with compassion? If non-Christians are not familiar with Jesus based on the time they have spent with us, then we have failed in our mission as His image bearers.

Those in the world today cannot see Christ in the flesh; but they can see Christ in us. So we are called to evoke His image with our words, attitudes, and actions. Jesus was loving, so we need to be loving. Jesus cared about people marginalized by society, so we must be concerned about them. Jesus had a servant heart, so we must live with a servant attitude.

As Christians, our goal is to be the spitting image of our Savior. How wonderful it would be to be told that we remind someone of Jesus, and we could reply, “Everybody tells me that!”

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“Those in the world today cannot see Christ in the flesh; but they can see Christ in us.” Alice H Murray @dogatty on @Arisedailydevo (Click to Tweet)

alice murray.JPGAbout the author: Alice H. Murray is a Florida adoption attorney by profession and a writer by passion. Alice writes a weekly blog at www.aliceinwonderingland.wordpress.com, is a staff writer for www.adoption.com, and has had three pieces published in the compilation work Short And Sweet book series (available on www.amazon.com). In her “spare” time, Alice teaches ESL on a volunteer basis as a church outreach ministry.

Join the conversation: How have you seen Jesus in others?

A Skeptic and a Prayer Warrior

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

A hit and run accident in a Paris taxi confirmed the prayer warrior and revealed the skeptic. Sadly, I was the skeptic.

My friend Lisa and I had just spent two-weeks in Moldova on a mission trip. On our way home, we had the fun blessing of spending two days and three nights in Paris to do some sightseeing.

After landing at Charles deGaulle Airport and picking up our bags at the carousel, we bought our museum passes and bus tickets at the tourism desk. The nice lady there warned us to make sure we used only official Paris taxis and pointed us toward the taxi stand.

Our taxi driver – who did speak a little English – loaded our bags and we got settled into the back seat for the ride into the city. About 20 minutes later, as we cruised down the four-lane highway, we felt a jolt and heard that ugly metal on metal sound. Lisa began to pray fully trusting God would protect and provide.

With rush-hour traffic continuing to pour past us, we stopped and our driver rolled his window down to talk to the offending driver. They decided to get the cars off to the shoulder and talk again. We limped across four lanes of traffic only to discover the other driver had simply gone on his merry way.

Our driver got out to access the damage. Back right quarter panel – smashed. Right rear tire – busted. He returned to the driver’s seat and announced he had to get off the highway and change the tire. He would call us another taxi. I immediately began to worry about whether or not this little drama could be an elaborate ruse to rob two naïve American tourists.

We thumped off the closest exit and pulled over to the side. The driver opened the trunk and deposited our luggage on the sidewalk. Seriously less than a minute later, we spotted another taxi coming at us down the street and Lisa waves it over. “How convenient,” I think skeptically, wondering if this was all a setup. “Wow, God sure answered our prayers quickly,” Lisa declared.

We show the new driver the address of our hotel and he loads our luggage. With every turn on an unknown Paris street I’m praying “Lord, protect us.” Lisa is praying, “Lord thank you for providing this second taxi.”

Later Lisa and I compared notes on the event. She told me what she had been thinking and I told her what I had been thinking. I felt a bit spiritually weak for not trusting in God’s provision.

My immediate reaction had been worry and fear. Lisa’s immediate response had been prayer. When Lisa turned to prayer, she gave her worry to God and anticipated His power, protection, and provision. So Lisa experienced God’s peace that can’t be naturally explained. When I prayed, I clung to my anxiety and robbed myself of the peace God offered.

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.                                                                                                                                                   Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

Kathy HowardAbout the author: This post is adapted from Kathy Howard’s Bible study. Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing. Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: Are you a prayer warrior or a prayer skeptic? We would love to hear about a time when God proved Himself faithful to you.

 

Why Suffering for Christ is a Privilege

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

“It’s a pri-vi-lege. It really is,” my daughter drawls when our male standard poodle swishes his derrière in front of her to be scratched. Those who’ve met Max know she’s right. It is an honor to be picked to pet his long back.

Did you know the Bible calls suffering for Christ a privilege?

When I joined Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) out of college one questionnaire asked if I was familiar with spiritual warfare. I wasn’t. But I am now.

Every time I write a book or prepare to speak at a conference or retreat I experience battles on many fronts. I find myself wondering if it’s worth it. I’ve joked that if I have to live my message I think I’ll write and speak on gardens in Europe.

That’s why this verse in Philippians stopped me.

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29 NIV).

“Granted—to suffer”? “Granted” makes suffering sound like a gift. Certainly, salvation is a gift, but suffering?

The New Living Translation says it like this:

“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.”

While I’ve never suffered like those in the persecuted church, the Bible says that just wanting to please God brings battles. “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV). So, I find it helpful to reframe how I look at the hardships that inevitably touch the lives of those who want to live godly.

Suffering for Christ is a privilege because

  • Our suffering for Christ can’t compare with what He suffered for us. “And he humbled himself even further, going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 NLB). Christ’s anguish sliced much deeper than the physical agony of crucifixion. Jesus became sin. He took the hell we deserved, so we could share His heaven.
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  • Suffering for Christ—without grumbling—purifies us to shine for Him. “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV).
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  • Suffering for Christ allows me to experience Him more deeply. “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10 NASB, emphasis added). On four occasions I’ve had the privilege of worshiping with members of the persecuted church. Let me just say it was deeply moving. These brothers and sisters knew they could die for their faith at any time. Their worship was deep, rich, and real.
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  • Suffering for Christ now allows me to share His glory later. “But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later” (Romans 8:17-18 NLT).

Is it worth it to follow Christ when serving Him brings suffering? Yes, suffering for Christ is always a privilege. But there’s even a better reason to persevere through suffering: He’s worth it.

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.  1 Peter 2:21 NLT

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Is it worth it to follow Christ when serving Him brings suffering? Thoughts from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonBio: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog. debbieWwilson.com

Join the conversation: Have you experienced suffering for Christ?