Flourishing in the Desert

by Cindi McMenamin

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.”   Hosea 2:14 NIV

Do you ever have one of those weeks – or months – when it seems like God isn’t around? When it seems He’s gone on vacation while you’ve been hitting the rough times?

When my husband voluntarily stepped out of his pastoral job for an unpaid “one year sabbatical” (that was his term for it), I began to wonder if after eight months God had gone on a permanent coffee break.

God, he’s restless to get back into ministry.  Where are You? God, we can’t keep paying for our own health insurance. Aren’t You taking note of this? Lord, we need You to intervene…any time now!

Yet God wanted to take us to the edge of desperation – where we truly needed Him – and there He reminded us that He’s been right there with us, all along.  Through the years I’ve learned that God has a way of drawing us out into the desert of need in order to teach us about Him.

In the early years of my marriage, I learned that my husband couldn’t possibly meet all my emotional expectations and I had to look to God to be my “spiritual husband” (Isaiah 54:5).

At the beginning of my husband’s first ministry, we didn’t have much money, so I learned to depend on God as my Provider and take Him at His Word when He says He will supply all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).

While I was parenting a teenager, I had to look to God to be my Wisdom, my Source of Strength, and my Counselor.

And just recently – as I waited for God to move during a time in which my husband and I  seemed to be standing still  financially, emotionally, and in ministry – I had to look to God to be my Future, my Hope, and my Direction.

God knows that if I have everything I want, right when I want it, then I no longer need Him. Without need, I’m not truly desperate for Him.

In the Old Testament book of Hosea, God compared His people to a wife who had betrayed and deserted her husband. God told the prophet about His plans to draw them back to Him:

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of  [Trouble] a door of hope. There she will [sing] as in the days of her youth….“In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’….” (Hosea 2:14-16 NIV)

I wonder, sometimes, if God doesn’t take that same strategy with us today. Could He be allowing us to go through a desert (in our marriage, job, or personal life) so He can “speak tenderly” to us and show us a new side of Himself? Could He be allowing you to trek through the wasteland of financial hardships, so you will see Him as your Great Provider? Is He allowing you a journey through parched areas of loss so you will see Him as your Greatest Possession?

When we filter every circumstance of our lives through the grid of His unfailing love, we will see every test and trial, every desert and disappointment, as a loving gesture on His part to draw us closer to Him.

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 Women Walk Alone (more than 120,000 copies sold), and Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her books and ministry, and free resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 9.01.28 PMgenerator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Cindi’s  book, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: When has God drawn you closer to Him through a walk through the desert?

Sapphire Friends

by Sheri Schofield

She was quiet and shy. Her two sons, ages seven and eleven, sat in the pew, glued to their iPhones. I introduced myself and said, “I’m teaching a children’s church class for ages seven to ten. Would your younger son be interested?”

The son looked up briefly and shrugged. “I might come,” he said, and went right back to his game. He never came. Our youth pastor later explained that the boys probably avoided connecting with people because of constantly moving to get away from their abusive father. A few weeks later, I read in the newspaper that the father had violated a restraining order and had been arrested. The mother and her sons disappeared. They wanted to be safe.

Sometimes Christians have similar fears. Having been hurt or offended before, they keep to the fringes of the church, ready to run at the first hint of anything unpleasant.

We know that everyone has their failings, so there can be no perfect relationship. But is it really better to isolate oneself to keep peace of mind? Or is it worth developing strong, Christian friendships and risk possible hurt?

Here in Montana, we have locations where sapphires can be dug by hand. Many people visit these locations to hunt for the beautiful blue gems. They dig up a shovelful of dirt, sift it carefully, then toss it aside if they find no sapphires. Finding a jewel is always exciting! The finder takes the gem to be cut, has it set into jewelry, and treasures it.

At church, we need to make the effort to know and to be known. If we do not, we are not functioning as God designed us to function. He’s gifted us for the purpose of building up others. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7, NASB). We are urged not to forsake assembling together, but to encourage each other (Hebrews 10:25) and to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

We were designed for community. Without it, we could very well doom ourselves to emotional and spiritual poverty.

When we do find a sapphire-friend, we rejoice! Our lives are richer for the relationship. We get to mutually share our joys and sorrows and help each other to be strong in Jesus.

We have something worth sharing with others. Remember the man Jesus delivered from demons in Gerasenes? He wanted to follow Jesus! He wanted to get out of town! But Jesus told him to stay there to tell others what great things God had done for him (Mark 5:2-20). Let’s reach out and share our own unique stories of God-moments with each other. Together we will be built up in the love of Christ and find ways to tune our lives to His.  It’s worth the risk.

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another. . .”  Hebrews 10:24, 25 NIV

 sheri schofieldAbout the author: Children’s ministry veteran Sheri Schofield was unexpectedly called on to save her husband’s life, a battle that took her to the Pentagon, Congress, National Security and the President of the United States. At her website, www.SheriSchofield.com, she shares this journey in her book One Step Ahead of the Devil. Sheri’s new book, The Prince And The Plan, will be launched June 1. It is designed to help parents lead their children into a saving relationship with Jesus.

Join the conversation: What benefits have you enjoyed by participating in Church life or fellowship?

The Crowd of Witnesses

by Julie Zine Coleman

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”  Hebrews 12:1, 2

 A young talented athlete named Derek Redmond entered the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona with hope in his heart. Four years earlier, Derek was forced to withdraw from the previous Olympics when he sustained an Achilles tendon injury just ten minutes before the starting gun. Now, after five surgeries and grueling hard work, Derek was ready to race again. His father stood in the stands, heart thumping, watching his beloved son take his mark.

As the semi-final round runners took off, Derek pulled to the front of the pack. Things were looking good as he rounded the backstretch—until he suddenly felt a pop in his hamstring muscle. His leg collapsed underneath him, and he fell to the track. In agony, tears streaming down his face, Derek instantly understood that his dreams of an Olympic medal were over. Medical personnel rushed to put him on a stretcher, but Derek waved them away. He lifted himself to his feet. He was going to finish the race.

The other runners had long crossed the finish line. When the crowd began to realize Derek was back on his feet, hopping around the track, they rose in disbelief and slowly began to cheer. The cheer quickly turned into a deafening roar. Tears flowed as the crowd witnessed Derek’s pain and determination to finish the race. 65,000 fans were on their feet, screaming their encouragements to the young athlete hopping the final 175 meters to the finish line.

Derek’s father could stand it no longer. Bursting through the crowd and security personnel, he leaped over the railing and ran down the track toward his son. He put his arms around him and told Derek, “I’m here, son. We’ll finish this race together.” As they made their way toward the finish line, arm in arm, there was not a dry eye in the stands. Crying, clapping, cheering, the 65,000 witnesses urged the pair toward their goal. Derek crossed the finish line on his own, his father by his side, to the delight of the frenzied crowd.

We, too, are running a race. The writer of Hebrews tells us that a cloud of witnesses surrounds us. I like to think they are cheering us on. Why would they do so? The witnesses of Hebrews 11 ran their own race. They have already crossed the finish line. And when their lives on earth were over, they found it was worth it all.

Now they cheer us on to our own finish line. Keep going! Don’t give up! You won’t believe what is waiting for you on the other side.

With every step, the finish line and its rewards is that much closer for those who walk with the Lord. We move down the track one step, limp, or stumble at a time. And our Heavenly Father is by our side, supporting, enabling us, with love in His eyes.

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the author: Julie 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 Women, was 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.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 2.39.03 PMfrom today’s comments. To enter our contest for Julie’s book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Are you limping your way to the finish line? In light of the encouragement we have available to us, how can you finish well? What can you do to encourage others in the race?

 

But I Don’t Like Being Weak

by Debbie W. Wilson

Hobbling around, duck-taped together because of a swollen knee, reminded me how much I hate being weak. I was already dealing with low energy and other sensitivities. Now my limited strength had to cover physical therapy too.

God used my weaknesses to get my attention.

 We love our strengths. They open doors, garner accolades, and earn money. But no one has only strengths. Everyone has weak areas. The person who gets things accomplished may bruise people. The people person may be easily distracted from tasks. These weaknesses may frustrate and embarrass us. They sidetrack us, but they’re also gifts from God. They keep us humble and reliant on Him, which is His goal.

What about those weaknesses caused by emotional or physical injuries, not DNA? Are those also gifts? Joseph told his brothers that what they intended for evil, God intended for good (Genesis 50:20). God uses all of our weaknesses—including our injuries—to benefit us. Accepting our weaknesses heals and strengthens us.

The Apostle Paul dealt with weaknesses too. He said, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV

 What if our weaknesses are actually disguised links to God’s mighty power? Paul viewed them that way. Rather than viewing our challenges as a detriment, we can look at them as an opportunity. Who would choose human strength over Christ’s power?

Our weaknesses may limit us, but they strengthen what God can do through us.

Paul’s limitations included weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties. He saw them as reminders to let Christ take over.

My limitations never limit Christ’s work in me. Quite the opposite—they release His power through me.

I have to apply this principle by faith. My feelings don’t always agree. Join me in asking God to help us trust Him with our weaknesses.

Lord Jesus, please help me to be like Paul and stop focusing on my handicap and start appreciating the gift. Your grace is sufficient for my every need. May your power be made complete in me today.

“For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson speaks and writes to help others 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.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number Give yourself a breakgenerator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Debbie’s book, Give Yourself a Break: Discover the Secrets so God’s Rest,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Have you experienced the power of God through your weakness?

The Truth About Balance

by Edie Melson

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (ESV)

I didn’t have to experience the stress of our Marine Corps son’s deployment to know it was going to be struggle. But it did take that experience for me to understand that finding balance during didn’t always look and feel like I expected.

I thought balance was synonymous with moderation. To have balance meant I had to control how I lived my life. If I kept a tight rein on my environment, my diet and my exercise, I believed I’d be insulted from the extremes of life.

But that deployment taught me I was not in control.

It forced me to re-evaluate my entire concept of balance. I didn’t find that much-prized balance until I finally realized I was looking in all the wrong places.

Balance—I discovered—wasn’t an exterior thing, it was an interior thing.

Times of chaos will come, exploding into our lives with ferocity. When this happens, it doesn’t matter how carefully we’ve orchestrated our schedules, environment, or diet, life crumbles. We know this is true by experience, but we also see it in Jesus’ life.

As we delve into the New Testament, we see how Jesus experienced demanding crowds who pushed in, insisting on attention. We watch as he dealt with disappointment when His followers fell short. We even see times when He was faced with the unexpected (in a human sense) death of Lazarus.

But through all this, we also see a perfect example of a balanced life. And it had nothing to do with what was going on around Him, much less diet, exercise, or environment. It had everything to do with allowing God to direct His steps.

So whether you’re facing a loved one’s deployment or something else, I encourage you with the certainty that balance is possible. When we look first to God, we can always find the balance, and the peace that comes with it.

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 audiences across the country and around the world. Her latest book, While My Child is Away; Prayers for While Were Apart is available at local retailers and online. Connect with her further at www.EdieMelson.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Edie’s book, While My Child is Away,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Where do you struggle with balance in your life?

 

 

Trust and Obey, Then Get Out of the Way

by Twila Belk

God blesses those who obey him; happy the man who puts his trust in the Lord.
Proverbs 16:20 TLB

Sometimes God asks us to do crazy, scary things. While he hasn’t called me to build an ark or to lead a country, he’s challenged me over the years with some pretty intimidating requests.

I was on the faculty of a writers conference and had arrived at my hotel just in time to freshen up before the pre-event meet-and-greet with other faculty members and conferees. The heavily promoted keynote speaker that year was the fabulous Chonda Pierce, an especially popular stand-up comedian. I had big plans to become best friends with her.

As I ironed my clothes, the phone rang. I picked it up, said hello, and the pleasant voice on the other end began talking. “Hi, Twila. This is Barbara Wells. I’m the director of the conference. We haven’t met, and I don’t know much about you, but we need your help. Chonda had to cancel because of a family emergency. We’d like you to do the three keynotes.” She went on to tell me that the first one would be the next morning. “Oh, and by the way, we’ve invited the community to tomorrow night’s session.”

I listened to Barbara, but had a side conversation going with God at the same time. “You want me to do what, Lord? Are you kidding me? Do you know who Chonda Pierce is? Do you know that everyone coming to the conference is expecting her? You know it’s impossible to fill her shoes, don’t you?”

Then Barbara said, “I’m confident you can do it. I’ve been to your website.”

After a few seconds in stunned silence, I asked, “Can I pray about it?”

“How long?”

Very funny, Lord.

She continued, “When I asked God what we should do, I heard a voice in my spirit that said, ‘Twila Belk is here.’”

At that point she had me—I knew it was a God thing—so I told her I’d do it, but she had to promise prayer covering. Minutes after that conversation, I went to the meet-and-greet. I couldn’t tell anyone about the new development. They’d all find out the next morning when I was introduced as Chonda’s substitute.

Wow. Just wow.

What did I do? I called home and asked my husband to send an urgent request down our church’s prayer chain. I paced and prayed and prayed and paced. I rehearsed the many sermons I give to others, reminded myself of God’s bigness, and remembered his track record in my life.

Then I showed up the next morning with less than two hours sleep, stood on that stage, and delivered the first keynote. My mouth moved. God’s message came out. And nobody booed. In fact, the audience gave God a standing ovation at the end. I survived, and God assured me that he knew what he was doing. Now, five years later, I’ve been asked to return to the conference as the publicized keynoter.

It’s amazing what God can do when we trust and obey, then get out of the way.

Lord, as I think about the crazy things you ask me to do, I can’t help but smile because I’ve seen how you work. The things you ask usually aren’t normal or easy, and most of the time they’re scary. They challenge me to trust you. But that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it, Lord? You want to keep reinforcing who you are and how big you are. You want to keep reminding me that anything you call me to do will have your equipping, power, and presence involved. Thank you for teaching me that when I trust and obey, then get out of the way, you always show up and show off. May you receive all honor, glory, and praise.

(This devotion is an excerpt from The Power to Be, (c) 2018 Twila Belk. Used by permission of BroadStreet Publishing.)

twila belkAbout the Author: Also known as the Gotta Tell Somebody Gal, Twila Belk  loves braggin’ on God. Whether she’s writing, speaking, or teaching, she offers hope and encouragement for people to fix their eyes on him. Twila is the author of The Power to Be: Be Still, Be Grateful, Be Strong, Be Courageous and Raindrops from Heaven: Gentle Reminders of God’s Power, Presence, and Purpose as well as five other books. Mom to three grown children and Grandma to three precious little boys, Twila lives with her husband in Iowa, not far from the Mississippi River and the home of American Pickers, John Deere tractors, and Whitey’s ice cream.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner 51veIj1tu+L._SX344_BO1,204,203,200_from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Twila’s new devotional book,  The Power to Be, please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Has God ever given you a crazy, scary assignment? What was it? How did you respond? What did you learn about God at that time, and how does it encourage you to trust him more today?

 

 

This is Our Story and We’re Sticking to It

by Rhonda Rhea

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us,” 2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV.

“Ya know, we’ve had that same flooring in the guest bathroom for a long time anyway, right?”

My husband gets a look of fear and dread when I start a conversation like that. But that morning I had been picking up a couple of towels in the guest bath when—and this was concerning—the towels refused me. I could not pick them up! I tugged. They tugged back.

I put some real muscle into it and finally won the tug of war. That’s when I discovered someone had knocked over one of the girls’ jar of leg wax. The stuff may have looked like peanut butter, but oh my, it so wasn’t. It must’ve spilled onto the floor during some point of semi-liquidity, just hidden enough by the bathroom cabinet to get lost under those two towels. That consistency of semi-liquidity in leg wax lasts around .03 seconds. So by the time I found the mess a couple of days later, we were looking at a serious…um…“waxident.” The towels were ridiculously glued to the wax and the wax was even more ridiculously glued to the floor.

I warned my husband that whatever tool he used to get the wax up, he’d better be ready to kiss it goodbye. Because there’s some weird science involved in leg wax. Whatever it takes to give a gal smooth legs? It will also keep shields intact through a rocket’s atmospheric reentry. Does. Not. Come. Off. Of anything. Apparently, my warning wasn’t timely enough. I later found his putty knife in the trash.

There’s a life-giving message to which Jesus-followers are called to adhere—in the stickiest way. Paul said, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6, ESV). My personal goal? To be extra salty, extra sticky. Sounds a bit peanut-buttery. And while that’s delish, that’s not even close to what I’m after. My goal is to speak words of grace—so full of Jesus and so packed full of flavor that those words make outsiders thirsty for Him. The verse right before it instructs us to “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time” (Colossians 4:5, ESV).

So how can we walk in wisdom and make the best use of our time here? The verses just before give us a great rundown: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:2-4, ESV). Praying faithfully and thankfully, asking and watching for open doors to share His Gospel—making that Gospel clear. If we want to follow Paul’s example, that’s exactly how we ought to speak.

I love it that the Greek word for “ought” here is dei, which means “under compulsion.” This Gospel message is so vital—so very binding—that it should stick on our every word. Talk about waxing eloquent!

Oh, how I want to be quick to tell. May His Gospel be beautifully—even ridiculously—glued to my speech. The clear Gospel. The complete Gospel. The whole ball of wax.

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 children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Rhonda’s book, Fix HER Upper: Hope and Laughter Through a God-Renovated Life,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: What spiritual nourishment have you ingested lately?

A Different Kind of Rest

by Julie Zine Coleman

And [Jesus] said to them, “Come away with me to a secluded place and rest awhile.” Mark 6:33 NASB

It had been an exhilarating ride. Sent out as representatives of Jesus, the disciples had traveled in pairs from town to town, preaching repentance, healing the sick, and casting out demons. Now days later, they arrived back with stories to tell of amazing healings, exorcisms, and miraculous provision. It had been an experience like no other.

But as exciting as it had been, the men were now exhausted. The adrenaline rush had faded. The constant demand had left them drained. Jesus saw their weariness, and kindly offered a respite. “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile,” he said. They collectively breathed a sigh of relief and boarded a boat to take them away from the crowds.

But respite was apparently not to be had. Word had spread, and people spotted them on the water from land. A huge crowd awaited them where they came to shore. Rather than avoiding the crowd, Jesus went right into their midst and began to teach them. So much for rest, the disciples must have thought.

The hours slipped by until it had grown quite late. The crowds must be starving, the disciples wearily realized. They approached Jesus. It surely was time to send them into the nearby towns so they could purchase food.

Jesus’ response took them by surprise. “You give them something to eat!” he commanded them. They looked at each other in dismay. There was definitely not enough money in the till to feed a crowd like this! But Jesus had a different idea. “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” The disciples found they had five loaves and two fish. Hardly enough to feed a crowd of 5,000.

Jesus took the loaves and fish and thanked His Heavenly Father for His provision. He broke them into pieces and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. Much to their amazement, the food never ran out. Five thousand ate until they were satisfied, and there were even leftovers. Jesus sent the disciples to collect them. Each disciple returned with a basket full.

Jesus had promised the disciples rest. What they got was a long day working with an enormous crowd. So where was the rest Jesus promised?

The disciples may have been the hands and feet that delivered the food, but the power and provision were all from God. The miracle was a powerful lesson for their future ministry. Their power source would be God alone.

God’s power was amply displayed for each disciple as he filled his basket to the brim with the leftovers from the feast. The crowd ate until they were satisfied, and still there was more. The disciples learned another important lesson that day. As they served God in the years ahead, He would provide even more than they could use. Rest would be available to them every time they leaned into Him. An inexhaustible supply was theirs for the asking.

“Apart from me you can do nothing,” Jesus warned his disciples. (John 15: 5 NASB) Yes, we are willing, warm bodies. But the responsibility to accomplish the work is on God’s capable shoulders. Even in the middle of a taxing ministry, we can be at rest. He intends for us to do all things through Christ, who will strengthen us.

We can rest even when in the middle of the fray. His supernatural power and provision will be all we need.

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the author: Julie 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 Women, was 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.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 2.39.03 PMfrom today’s comments. To enter our contest for Julie’s book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: What character quality makes it possible for you to in rest God?

 

When Mere Words Become the Living Word

by Michelle Lazurek

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life” Mark 10:29-30 NIV

Growing up, my grandmother took me to church every Sunday and I enjoyed it. During my late teens, however, I began to have questions about my faith and started to want more out of my relationship with God.

God, in his sovereignty, began to place people in my life who were on fire for Him. At church, I met a woman who understood my doubts. Soon she invited me to her home for a weekly Bible study. She didn’t try to force me into believing the Word. Instead, she encouraged me to go home and study the Bible for myself.

Several weeks passed as I studied Scripture on my own. Just two weeks before my senior prom, I went forward to the altar at church and gave my life to the Lord. I didn’t tell anyone about this for several months.

When I finally did tell my parents, they were furious. Two days after my absence at Thanksgiving, they stormed into my workplace and asked me to step out into the busy plaza walkway. Once outside, my father told me I needed to pack my things up and leave immediately. When I got home, he opened the garage door to reveal a neat line of black trash bags filled with stuffed animals, clothes, and the rest of my belongings. He tossed them onto the truck, and we headed to my boyfriend’s house.

Without even a goodbye, my father threw the bags onto the driveway, got in his truck and drove away, leaving me on my knees sobbing with my life’s possessions lying around me. In the blink of an eye, I went from having everything I could ever need to poverty, clinging to God with a tentative hope that His Word was true.

One day, I stumbled upon the above passage in Mark. Suddenly I saw the Bible in a new light: it was not just an item on my daily to-do-list, but a living and active love letter to me from God. Its beautiful words were meaningful and transforming. I knew now that I needed to get serious about studying Scripture for myself. My once passive attitude about my spiritual life became active. I began to pray daily, study the Bible consistently, and spend time in silence listening for His voice and guidance.

Psalm 1 promises great benefits to a person who delights in and meditates on God’s Word. They will be “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever [they do, they] prosper.” (Psalm 1:3 NASB) The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself. Consequently, the biggest reward in studying the Scriptures is getting to know God on an intimate basis.

It is worth the effort to carve out the time (even if it is just a few minutes) to spend with Him.  The better we know Him, the better we will love Him in return.

michelle lazurekAbout the author: Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, national speaker, pastor’s wife and mother. A member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, she loves to help people encounter God and engage with the world around them. When not writing, you can find her enjoying a Starbucks latte and collecting vintage records. For more info, please visit her website at www.michellelazurek.com

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A Lighthouse of Hope and Joy

by Pam Farrel

The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. Psalm 19:8 NLT 

Lighthouses are special to our family. Our youngest son proposed to his wife at a lighthouse. We have our home on a live-aboard boat so lighthouses are a beacon of hope to us in the fog or squalling sea. God’s word is that same kind of lighthouse, a beacon of hope to guide us into a safe harbor in the storms of life.

During a media tour for my new book, my husband Bill wasn’t feeling well, so we went to the ER where a doctor informed him that he had high blood pressure. Since a history of early strokes ran in his family, this caught Bill’s attention. God soon made it clear that he should resign from his role as lead pastor. This decision was both emotionally and financially difficult. In this same season, our youngest son, Caleb, was hit in a football game and rushed to the hospital where he needed a blood transfusion to save his life. Eight days later, we received calls about my other two sons who had both also experienced serious injuries. Then I got a call that my younger brother was hospitalized after a heart attack and needed me to help with his kids.

My stress was welling up like a tidal wave.

When friends would ask, “How are you?” I didn’t know how to answer. So, I went to the Word and read Psalm 30:5 (ESV), “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” JOY! That’s what I needed. But how does one choose joy when it feels like your life is being tossed about in life’s storms?

I discovered four directions in which I needed to set my sights.

Look UP: I read Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV), “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” I decided to keep following the well-lit path to joy with other verses. I printed them, studied them, memorized them, and hung them around my home.  Verses like:

“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” Psalm 16:11 NLT

“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.” Psalm 30:11 NLT

Look BACK: I retraced God’s faithfulness in my life. I keep a JOY JOURNAL, a scrapbook of sorts that records my praise requests and praises as God answers. During this particularly tough season, I invited the women of our church to a scrapbook party where we each made a photobook with pictures of the people and prayer requests heavy on our heart. Using colorful pens, we wrote verses of peace, hope, love and joy around each photo—leaving space to record the answer when it came. Praying verses of joy can be a life preserver, something to cling to when you feel life is drowning you with sorrow.

Look OUT: We are not meant to go through tough times alone. I found it helpful to prayer walk with friends several times a week. As we walked we PRAYED scripture, PRAISED God for His faithful character, and left with more hope and joy!

Look AHEAD: On her 89th birthday, I asked a cheery mentor who had overcome illness and created a path of hope after the death of her spouse, “How do you hold on to joy?”

She replied, “I always plan something to look forward to.” For me, planning activities to redeem, restore or renew the hope and joy of others brings me joy. Keeping an “other-centered” life lifts my spirits!

Joy became my lighthouse of hope, an anchor in a storm that lasted three years. Since the day I found hope in the Psalms, I answer the “How are you?” with “Choosin’ joy!” That’s the power of the Word. Its joy will not only be your lighthouse, but a lighthouse to all in your world as God shines the light to others through your hope and praise.

pam ferrelAbout the author: Pam Farrel is an international speaker and author of 45 books, including her newest, an innovative Bible study co-authored with Jean E Jones and Karla Dornacher:  Discovering Hope in the Psalms.   Pam and Her husband Bill are Co-Directors of Love-Wise, a ministry to enrich, educate and encourage people’s most vital relationships. When not traveling for speaking, the Farrells enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, walking the beach and hosting guests on their floating home on the ocean.

Join the conversation: What brings you joy?