Getting Out of God’s Way

by Kathy Howard

Our great God never wastes anything. No struggle is fruitless. No pain futile. No challenge in vain. God can work in and through every situation He allows into our lives – even the worst of circumstances – to bring about our good and His glory.

My caregiving journey was still fairly new when I realized God wanted to use the experience to do something in me. If I would cooperate, my relationship with my father-in-law would be a tool in His hand to shape my character and refine my faith.

When Wayne’s dad first moved in with us, he was fairly independent. But as time passed, he needed us more and more. With Wayne commuting a long distance to work, much of the responsibility logically fell to me. But Pappaw’s growing dependence exposed the rough places in my character and areas of spiritual immaturity.

So many things bubbled to the surface – like selfishness, impatience, and shallowness. Every day seemed to reveal another layer of my sinful flesh. Irritation quickly rose up when a last-minute doctor’s appointment meant I had to cancel a lunch date. And instead of responding to his occasional harsh words with gentleness and grace, I sometimes uttered sharp words of frustration.

The demands and pressures of parenting my father-in-law did not cause these sinful attitudes and actions. The relationship merely jostled my heart, causing what was already there to spill out (Matthew 12:34).

In our human weakness, we ache for our struggles to end. We long for the hardness of life to ease. Yet God wants much more for us than an easy life in this world. He wants to make us like His Son (Romans 8:28-30). He wants our lives to bring Him glory and point others to Jesus.

God will use every possible means to rid our lives of sin and shape us into the likeness of Christ. One of His primary shaping tools is trials (1 Peter 1:6-7). In God’s skillful hands, life’s difficulties and challenges perform like a chisel on our hearts and souls, shaving off sinful rough spots, cutting notches, creating gentle curves, and forming smooth bevels.

Yet, sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. Rather than submitting myself to the Master Craftsman and trusting His refining process, I fight God’s purposeful work. I doubt God’s goodness and faithfulness. I complain that He isn’t working. That He doesn’t care. That surely, He doesn’t see our plight.

Do you ever feel the same way? Too often, God’s children walk through our days near-sighted. We only see the struggles, challenges, and trials at hand, forgetting that the eternal glory awaiting us far outshines these light and momentary troubles (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Be assured, God knows your every physical need and struggle. He sees your sleepless nights, your tired muscles, and your frayed emotions. He hears your groans, your sighs, and your prayers. He is keenly aware that you are often overworked, overstressed, and overlooked. He not only knows it all, He cares. He cares that you hurt and grieve for yourself and your parents.

This temporary struggle – no matter how difficult – cannot compare to God’s eternal purposes for you and your loved ones. Keep your eyes on the prize of God’s glorious salvation (1 Peter 1:9). Rest in the assurance that God will not waste a single tear. And embrace the joy of Christ. It’s yours today.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

 Kathy HowardAbout the author: Kathy Howard‘s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents releases TODAY!! Struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? This new devotional book explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions30DaysHope_AgingParentsCover 300RGB for reflection.

You can find a sample of 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents here.

 Join the conversation: Can you see God working in the midst of your trials? In what ways have you fought God’s refining process?

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Answering the Call

by Letitia Suk

I took another quick peek at the clock…  I should have left ten minutes ago…if traffic isn’t too bad I won’t be late to work.  As I gathered my bags for the day, the phone rang.  Can’t talk NOW.   Just won’t answer it.  Maybe it’s more work, though, I really could use that right now…I’ll just check the Caller ID.

Marjorie. One of the poor and needy. So needy. Last time she called she wanted me to go to the grocery store for her. She’s been laid up a long time with a round of ailments. Even when well, though, there was always something she needed.

God will surely understand if I don’t get it this time.  She’ll probably call back. It is more important to be a responsible employee and get to work on time. She’ll think of someone else to call.  I’ll call her back when I get home, or maybe tomorrow. WAIT. With that prompting of the Holy Spirit, my heart was seared. I answered the phone.

Sure enough, she was out of food and needed someone to go shopping. My mind raced through my meager options. Maybe sometime tomorrow between my prayer meeting and my lunch date? She would just have to wait until I could work this into my schedule.

Just then, an idea hit. The locally owned grocery store in the neighborhood, didn’t someone tell me they delivered phone orders?

I changed my tone, “Marjorie, I think Oakdale Market will deliver groceries…No, I don’t think you have to go in but you can call in an order…Do you want me to call and check for you?”

After a quick call to confirm and a call-back to Marjorie, she was ecstatic. Relieved. Strengthened. She thanked me profusely. Her daily bread was secure once again. Suddenly, I was a hero.

Four minutes. Four minutes from being obedient to being satisfied. Me, that is. God asked nothing of me other than to pick up that phone and listen for what to do next.

Why am I so afraid every time I say YES to God? Who told me to expect the worse-case scenario when doing God’s will?  Doesn’t Scripture say, “And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God? “(Micah 6:8 NIV)

I can do that. When did I start making it so complicated?

I moved into a new level of trust that afternoon. To trust to not be afraid to listen, to act, to watch my straw turn into gold. O Father, I hope I got it this time!

“When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:39-40 NASB

letitia sukAbout the author: Letitia Tish Suk invites women to create an intentional life centered in Jesus. She is a blogger and author of Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat and Rhythms of Renewal.  She is a speaker, personal retreat guide, and life coach in the Chicago area.

Join the conversation: When has God prodded you to serve Him by serving others?

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Keeping Hope to Keep the Call

by Pam Farrel           

I was weary—a tired to the bone, drop-dead fatigued, completely exhausted, “can’t take even one more step” kind of weary. It seemed we were caught in the perfect storm: the ship of our life being tossed about on a tumultuous sea of unending responsibilities.

The positive included constant travel for our ministry, which we loved, but it did take a physical and mental toll. We also had ongoing multiple book projects, which are wonderful blessings, but require much labor.

And in the midst of it all, we were dealing with aging parent care, which required Bill to drive through grueling Southern California traffic for months on end. We were both at the end of our proverbial ropes.

I knew that the Word has some prescriptions for handling weariness.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV )

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” Psalms 62:5 NIV

“. . .Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 NIV 

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Ex 33:14 NIV

“Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work…” Ex 23:12 NIV

I knew I needed rest, renewal, revival, rejuvenation—and recovery! So, when the Professional Women’s Fellowship hosted a one-day retreat at a lovely private estate, I went. And begged God to speak to me there and give me HOPE!

During the hour-long quiet time, I stretched out under the shade of a large tree near the pond. As I opened my journaling Bible, I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 23 as I lay down in “pasture” that was “beside still waters.” So, I continued to pray through the psalm: Lord,  refresh my soul….guide me along the right paths  for [Your] name’s sake.  

I flipped opened my Bible to other Psalms, as I nearly always gain refreshing hope there.  I landed on Psalm 55:22 (NIV): “ Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

I thought, “Wow Lord, this seems the perfect verse for me, but exactly what does it mean to “cast my cares” on You?  And what does it mean that you will “sustain” me —because I REALLY need some sustaining power!”

After praying out my weariness, I looked up and found the word translated as “burden” could also be translated “assignment” or “gift”. I thought, “A gift? Really?” I was beginning to see that I had been viewing the responsibilities God had given me as a burden rather than a blessing. Obviously, I needed a paradigm shift to a more heavenly viewpoint!

I also saw the promise that God would “sustain” me– He would nourish, strengthen, and support me — and make me sufficient to handle my assignment.  God was whispering hope to my soul, that whatever my ministry was depleting, God would pour back into me—and more!

In that moment, peace, relief, and a rejuvenating hope washed over me. To lock this insight into my mind, I sketched out two hands, representing God’s caring hands. In one palm was my “gift” of cares and in the other… myself.

Both you and your calling are held up by the Good Shepherd. We are in His sustaining, caring hands. God’s got us!

pam ferrelAbout the author: You too can find hope from God in the Psalms: Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Biblical Experience by Pam Farrel, Jean E. Jones, and Karla Dornacher, from Harvest House. Find out more at discoveringhopeinthepsalms.com.

Join the conversation: What burdens do you need to cast upon the Lord?

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Good, Better, Best

by Linda Rooks

“Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths.” Psalm 25:4 NKJV

Each time I prayed for Marsha, I remembered her last words to me when we spoke on the phone. “I just went to Moffitt and they’re letting me try an experimental treatment,” she said.

I felt encouraged. She sounded encouraged.

But, of course, that was Marsha’s nature—always positive. Even though doctors said her cancer was too advanced and there was nothing more they could do for her. Even though they gave her only a few months to live . . . .

In the midst of my busy schedule I thought often about calling and checking up on her. But as my to-do list grew longer and more urgent, time slipped away. I’d even been too busy to check my Facebook notifications. Wow!

A few weeks after my last conversation with her, I finally got around to checking in with Facebook. At the top of my news feed, I spied a post from Marsha’s daughter. I caught my breath and felt my heart constricting.

Marsha had died the day before.

In addition, Marsha herself had posted a week earlier, telling her friends about her deteriorating condition and encouraging us not to fear for her. “I have my hand on the doorknob of heaven,” she said. She had posted, and I had missed it.

I cried. I grieved. My heart was broken. Recognizing my failure to follow up on those nagging reminders to call Marsha, I was filled with regret.  But I could not change what happened.

Thankfully, I knew she was now safely home with our loving heavenly Father and free from pain, but the incident caused me to reevaluate my priorities.

What was more important? My projects? Or my relationships?

Sometimes, the good things we choose to do in life multiply to such an extent that what is good begins to crowd out what is better—or best. We fail to realize that for everything we choose to do, we simultaneously choose not to do something else. In our twenty-four-hour day, time is limited. We can’t do everything.

When we routinely concentrate on what seems urgent, things that don’t cry out with insistence or immediate deadlines are put to the side. For me, keeping up with friendships is often the first casualty. Family relationships can take a backseat too. We can be so busy trying to do our best at work, helping at church, or working on a project, we neglect to give our children the attention they need. Or we may be so engrossed in solving our children’s problems, we forget our husband has needs too. One day, however, those innocent oversights may transform into grief and regret.

Perhaps that’s why we need to start each day in prayer. One of my friends recently told me that before she gets out of bed each morning she asks God not to let her miss whatever He has for her that day. Now, as part of my morning prayers, her plea to God has become mine as well.

Staying sensitive to God’s leading at the beginning of each day, throughout the day, and before making commitments can help us shed the frustration of crowded schedules, depleted energy, and mediocre or even heart-rending outcomes. Most importantly, when we stay tuned into the promptings of our Living God, He can keep us on a clear path of His intended purposes.

“Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice.” Psalm 55:17 NKJV.

linda rooksLinda W. Rooks has a ministry of hope for those in broken marriages. Her book Broken Heart on Hold, Surviving Separation continues to bring strength and healing to those who need an encouraging friend in the midst of marital breakdown. Linda writes for both adults and children, and her stories and articles have appeared in numerous publications including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Focus on the Family and Today’s Christian Woman. She and her husband reside in Central Florida and thank God for the many reconciled marriages they witness through their ministry and the classes they lead.

Join the conversation: In this crazy-busy life, how do you set priorities?

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You Shall Receive Power

by Sheri Schofield

There was a sale at my favorite clothing store, so I headed toward town with the music of Travis Cottrell singing “Power In The Blood” on my radio. I am passionate about reaching the lost, and I long for that power to reach those in my town who do not know Jesus. Caught up in the song, the words of Christ came to mind: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32, NIV)

By the time I reached the store, my heart overflowed with the knowledge that Jesus’ blood shed at Calvary held a supernatural drawing power for those who so desperately needed him. I entered the store and looked around, the music still ringing in my spirit. Finding some items, on my way to the dressing room, I cheerfully told the clerks that my new book, The Prince And The Plan, had just been sent to the printers. As my friends, they knew something about this book on the plan of salvation I’d written for children.

When I was nearly finished in the dressing room, one of the clerks called back to me, “Is there an adult version of that book?” I hurriedly dressed and went out. The woman was full of questions. Those questions quickly became deeply personal. She asked, with tears in her eyes, “Is there a way for all a person’s sins in life to be swept away and someone can start over again with a clean slate?”

“Yes!” I told her how God put all the sins of all mankind for all time on Jesus that day at Calvary. How He punished Jesus instead of us for those sins. And if we believe in Jesus and accept his free gift of salvation, we are made holy in God’s eyes. We become new, clean, holy people!

My friend was crying openly by now right there in the middle of the sales floor. The other clerk, a Christian, was handling the customers so we could talk. The woman put her arms around me and sobbed as I led her in a prayer to receive Jesus as her own personal Savior. Over and over she said, “I am so glad you came in here today! Thank you for coming in here today!”

I walked out of the store knowing that I had just seen a demonstration of the power of Jesus blood drawing this precious woman to himself — and he had used me to do it! My friend is now attending church and Bible study. I spoke with her again yesterday. She said, “I had not planned on that happening when you came into the store that day! But you were so full of power!”

 I told her, “That power was not me! That was Jesus! He filled me with his own power,  and he sent me in here to talk to you, and to bring you to himself.”

The power of the blood of Jesus had taken away her inhibitions and overwhelmingly drew her into the grace of God. She had recognized that tremendous, supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in me.

I believe the Holy Spirit is preparing to pour that power out on Christ’s devoted disciples in this world, for Jesus’ return is very near. Let there be one last sweep of revival, Lord!

“He said to them . . . ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses . . . ‘ ” (Acts 1:8, 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: Have you experienced the supernatural power of God?

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Exchange Words: Out with the Old, In with the New

by Rhonda Rhea

Every time I’m reading something and find someone has misused words, I literally have a cow. (Literally? See what I did there?)

Of course, I know it’s hypocritical of me to have any kind of “beef” over someone else’s word blunders (and yes, I’ll try ease up on the cow quips—moo-ving on…) Personally, I’ve discovered the best way to proofread something is to click “send” first. Only then are you completely free to see the big, fat, glaring mistake.

With the last book manuscript I sent in, I included a note to my editor at the publishing house that read, “You’ll probably catch some errors in this thing. Mark my words.” Editorial humor. You know, they say a picture is worth a thousand words. I sometimes wonder if my editors ever wish I’d send more pictures.

At least I never sugarcoat my words. I might dunk them in coffee. But sugarcoat? Not really, no.

Then again, sweetness isn’t a bad thing when it comes to our words. We read in Proverbs 16:24 (CSB) that “Pleasant words are a honeycomb; sweet to the taste and health to the body.” Sweet, yet “Health to the body.” Apparently no calories!

There’s something delicious about words that build others up. Words of wisdom. Words of grace. Words that bless. Words of truth. Words that display and pass on the love of Christ. Becoming a true follower of Christ changes the way we choose our words. Because Jesus changes the heart from which each word flows. And Jesus Himself tells us in Matthew 12:34 that the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

Without God’s power transforming our words from the inside out, our words are exactly what you’d expect Jesus-less words to be:  death. Paul tells us just how sweet the words of the unredeemed aren’t. “Their throat is an open grave; they deceive with their tongues. Vipers’ venom is under their lips,” (Romans 3:13 CSB). Is there such a thing as anti-honey? Ick.

We’ve been redeemed from that snake-poison life. That means we get to embrace our calling to get rid of the nasty venom and let the Lord sweeten our speech and make our words count. Paul instructs us in Ephesians 4:29 (HCSB), “No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.”

Anytime we find bitterness, negativity, maliciousness, lying, or any kind of sour, foul words coming from our mouths, that’s our signal something is off in our hearts, and it’s time to give it anew—heart, mind, words, all of it—to Him. We need to exchange words. No, not argue. Trade. Replace the venom with the words of sweetness the Lord gives.

O Lord, fill us so completely with You—with Your grace, Your love, Your sweetness. May that sweet grace cover every word we speak, by Your strength, for Your glory and for the building up of Your Kingdom.

Words of grace. Even when people misuse the word “literally.” Yes, grace all day long. Until the cows come home. (I know, sorry, I thought I only had one more of those. I must’ve mis-cow-culated.)

“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings…for they are life to those who find them and health to all their body.”   Proverbs 4:20, 22 NASB

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 helps you control your words?

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From Caterpillar to Butterfly

by Julie Zine Coleman

During my semester as a student teacher, a kindergartner at my school carefully brought a monarch chrysalis to class. He had discovered it in one of the marshes dotting the Gloucester seacoast. His teacher put it into an aquarium, and over the next few days, the class excitedly observed the changes visible within the semi-opaque cocoon.  All eyes were on the chrysalis as the children waited for the special moment when a beautiful butterfly would emerge.

One Monday morning before school, as we all converged on the coffee pot, the kindergarten teacher shook her head in disgust. “It hatched over the weekend,” she sighed. “The kids are going to be so disappointed.”

While in this case a bit uncooperative, the life cycle of the monarch butterfly is a science lesson most elementary school teachers have taught at one time or another. The insect begins as an egg which hatches into a caterpillar. This little guy goes on an eating rampage, and after a few weeks, forms a cocoon around himself. The beautiful chrysalis hangs from a milkweed for several days while astounding changes occur within its walls. Finally, when the metamorphosis is complete, a beautiful monarch butterfly emerges.

Paul uses that same word, metamorphosis, to portray what God is doing in us. Paul describes the ongoing process in Romans 12:2. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. . .” (NASB)

What was dead has been brought to life: you are a new creation! To stay steeped in our old habits and ways of thinking doesn’t make sense in light of our new identity. So God, in His love and grace, continues our transformation, working to gradually conform us to the image of Jesus Christ.

Transformation sometimes requires complete destruction of what was in order to build something new. A house on our street, owned by a reclusive old lady, was showing serious signs of neglect and ruin when we first moved onto the block. A construction company bought the place in order to flip it. Some of the workers told us that raccoons had nested in the attic for years, chewing through electrical wiring and staining the interior upstairs walls with excrement. The smell was unbelievable.

In order to make the house habitable again, the builders had to completely gut it. The whole interior was stripped down to studs. Only then could it be rebuilt into a beautiful home, with new wiring, drywall, and flooring.

Our metamorphosis can involve major demolition as well. It can be a painful process! But only deconstruction can make room for what we will ultimately become. Where sin once dwelt will eventually be inhabited by godliness. Foolishness will be blasted away to make room for wisdom. A life made helpless by out-of-control desires will be transformed to allow the peaceful control of the Spirit.

The process may not always be pleasant, but the outcome outshines any temporary discomfort that may be necessary.

Each of the stages in a monarch butterfly’s life is a movement toward the final, mature phase. God has the same purpose in our transformation. He is interested in making us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4 NIV).

Out with the old. In with the new. It is a process that may at times be distressing. Yet the end results will be worth it all.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NASB

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 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.

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: Looking back over the past several years, what are changes you can see that the Lord has worked in you?

Are You Living in Guilt or Grace

by Edie Melson

I remember a time in my life when I was struggling. It came back to me in a rush after I’d met with a young woman I’d been mentoring. She was ready to give up, certain she’d never be good enough, no matter the fact that she’d accepted Jesus as Lord.

I shared with her a similar time in my life…

It had happened again. I’d sworn it wouldn’t happen, but it had. And I’d made the promise just last week. I’d cried out to God during my morning prayers, promising to do better, to be more careful. This wasn’t the first time I’d confessed this weakness. I’d wrestled with this temptation again and again.  

What kind of a person was I that I’d fall so easily back into the middle of temptation? My repeated lapses made me wonder if I was even a believer.

Those were dark days. But coming through them has given me confidence.

Not in myself…never in me. But in God.

No matter how many times I stumbled, He was always there to pick me up, always waiting to extend grace and give me another go. I was the one who struggled with shame and condemnation.

And that condemnation NEVER came from Him.

Oh don’t get me wrong. I know it hurt Him—still hurts Him—when I gave in to sin. But He didn’t return that hurt with punishment. He returned it with patience, grace, and love. During this painful process I discovered a life-changing truth that still sustains me.

It’s not possible to out-sin God’s mercy.

Do I still struggle? You better believe it. But I’m quicker to admit my failings, and less willing to listen to the false guilt that comes from my enemy.

Satan lashes my soul with guilt, but God extends infinite grace.

So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty. Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit that brings life made you free from the law that brings sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 NCV

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: Are you prone to self-condemnation? Find yourself living in guilt rather than grace? What ways have you found to battle those accusations?

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The Wrong Kind of Love

by Jennifer Slattery

It brings out the ugly in me. It makes me fight to be right, to demand that I elevate myself and seek accolades and admiration that feed my pride but often starve my soul. It causes me to avoid difficult conversations and engage in those I shouldn’t. But worst of all, it distorts Christ in me.

You might be surprised that love is actually the root of this nasty, unity-destroying behavior. But not the biblical kind of love.

Self-love.

1 Corinthians 8: 1 says, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” (NIV) Knowledge, when lacking love puffs us up, like a puffer fish with its cheeks swelled and spikes protruding—demanding we elevate ourselves at the expense of others. But love, agape love, the kind that flows from God, doesn’t focus on self at all.

About ten years ago, I began to ask some hard questions regarding my faith and the credibility of the Bible. I wanted to know—was Jonah really swallowed by a whale? Was there really a worldwide flood? Did Lot’s wife really turn into a pillar of salt?

Those questions led to an in-depth study I soon wanted to share with others. My motive to teach stemmed from my love for God and His Word. Each week, I’d meet with a group of women while volunteers taught our little ones arts and crafts. The discussions and interactions between the group members were beautiful.

But then “Sue” arrived. Right away she began to challenge my teaching. As I reacted to her confrontational behavior, it wasn’t long before I was more concerned with saving face than keeping the group’s focus on God. It became all about winning the argument. It wasn’t long before the pleasant, Christ-centered discussion among a handful of moms had turned into a tense battle over words.

Pride (self-love) pulled me in when I should’ve walked away. My lapse in judgment allowed the woman to dominate and divert the focus of the conversation. I had veered away from the selfless love that comes from Christ.

At other times I’ve erred in the opposite direction, like when I watched a young lady become enslaved in legalism and drift away from Christ while I remained silent.

I had numerous opportunities to speak to her, but did not, in fear that she would become angry and our relationship would crumble. Once again, I acted in self-protection. It was just another side to self-love. She’s since abandoned the faith entirely.

Truth and love are intertwined.

How do we know when we have crossed over into the dangerous motivation of self-love? We do a heart check, asking God to cleanse us from anything within that could get in the way of kindly speaking truth or responding to someone in anything less than the love of Christ. When we seek, He will be faithful to show us when bad motivations eclipse those that reflect agape love: the pure, self-less love of Christ.

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 5:1

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer and international speaker who addresses women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and other writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog. Jennifer has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Join the conversation: When has ugly self-love reared its ugly head in you?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Seeing the Invisible

by Crystal Bowman

Growing up in West Michigan, summer was always my favorite season of the year. I was never a fan of cold weather, and in Michigan we got plenty of that! I loved the warm sunny days when I could play outside with my neighborhood friends, run through sprinklers, and eat popsicles. I also spent many days at our family cottage, baiting hooks with worms to catch perch or bass for dinner. Summer was all about outdoor living and enjoying God’s creation.

My favorite activity was taking a drive to Lake Michigan to watch the sunset. The vast open sky above the sparking blue water was breathtaking. The swirling hues of orange and yellow, red and purple, were indescribable. As a young girl, I felt the presence of God when I gazed at the sky. I always believed in God, and I knew he was real. But there was something extra special about observing his artwork. I knew only God could paint something so majestic and glorious. Watching the glowing ball sink into the multicolored horizon made me feel closer to Him. In my young mind I wholeheartedly agreed with the Psalmist who wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1 NIV).

Nature is one of the ways God reveals himself to us. All of creation speaks of his glory. Day and night, the skies put on a show, letting the world know that our Creator lives. Day and night the sounds of nature create a soothing backdrop of melodies orchestrated by the divine conductor. In Romans 1:20 (NIV), the Apostle Paul explains: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Without excuse. A bold but true statement to all of humanity. We do not have to search for God. All we need to do is open our eyes and ears to experience his presence. We can see his beauty as brilliant sunbeams poke through an opening in a cumulus cloud, like a spotlight from heaven to earth. We can listen to the coo of a mourning dove singing praises to its Maker. We can feel gentle breezes waft across our cheeks as we go for a morning walk. And on a starry night, we can stand amazed at the One who calls each star by name.

God’s divine nature is clearly seen—and heard and felt. It surrounds us every day. No matter where we live, all of creation declares the glory of God. May we—who are without excuse—also give praise and glory to his holy name.

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
 and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11 NIV).

Crystal BowmanAbout the author: Crystal Bowman is an award winning, best-selling author of more than 100 books for children including Our Daily Bread for KidsM is for Manger, and Does God Take Naps? She is a speaker and mentor for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and teaches at writers’ conferences. She is a regular contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine and writes lyrics for children’s piano music. Crystal lives in both Florida and Michigan, and when she is not writing or playing with her grandkids, she loves to sneak outdoors to walk and talk with God.

Join the conversation: What around you speaks of God’s existence and presence?

Photo by Lili Kovac on Unsplash