The Real, Genuine Original

by Cheri Cowell

Have you ever bought something from one of those television ads that promote their product as a “genuine original?” Often they offer a certificate of authenticity to substantiate their claim, but even with that, how can you tell you’re getting a genuine original? There’s a whole industry created to peddle fake “genuine originals” the police call knock-offs. These fakes cost the consumer millions in fraudulent sales, and an untold amount of public trust.

James, Jesus’ brother, was concerned about the same thing around 49A.D. when he wrote to the first century Jewish Christians. There were a lot of people claiming to be genuine Christians with godly wisdom. How were they to tell the fake from the genuine thing? How can you and I tell?

James explains to us how to spot a fake. First, he says that true wisdom from God is accompanied by a degree of humility. No humility? Probably fake. Furthermore, wisdom comes from a depth of character within the wise person, so we can spot a fake if there is inconsistency with character. Next, bitterness and envy are not bedfellows with the wise. Any sign of these, it is time to run. Finally, he says foolishness leads to disorder of spirit, while true wisdom leads to peace. Said another way, God’s wisdom is identified by its purity of spirit—it is peace and mercy, and it is considerate and submissive toward others. If you see selfishness, this is the opposite of the wise.

Of course, no person is always wise, but if you are seeking to determine if the wisdom shared by someone is coming from God, it is wise to look at the whole person. Wisdom is not skin deep, it is heart deep.

When it comes to some high-profile Christians, it seems everyone is a marketer these days. Their pitches are slick, but the wise Christian learns how to discern the fake from the genuine thing–not so we can point fingers–but so we can be wise in whom we follow. The good news is, God’s wisdom is so easily identifiable once you know what to look for.

Ask God to help you spot the difference between true wisdom and the knock-offs by looking for those who are pure of spirit, peace-filled, mercy-giving, considerate, and submissive. Praise God for His genuine wisdom in guiding you today

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:13-18 NIV).

cheri cowellAbout the author: Cheri Cowell is the author of 365 Devotions for Peace and Living the Story. Learn more about Cheri at http://www.CheriCowell.com

Join the conversation: How do you tend to spot “fake”?

 

 

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On Languages—And Languishes

by Rhonda Rhea

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.”                                                                                                                                   Psalm 119:130 ESV

I’ve been taking a look at some interesting dead languages recently. You know, like Latin, Ancient Egyptian, Sanskrit, Comic Sans, and Cursive.

Ah, cursive. I was actually fluent in that one at one time. My kids still ask me why we ever had it. Anytime they ask, I get a little defensive and act all hoity-toity and superior, but I only do it to distract them from the fact that I don’t actually have a real answer.

It’s fascinating to me that while some languages languish, new ones burgeon. For instance, I’m still trying to learn to speak “Laundry.” According to the hieroglyphs they now use, I’m pretty sure I have to wash at least a couple of new shirts inside the royal crown of Denmark and dry them in some sort of crop circle. What’s especially weird is that I don’t even remember leaving this planet to buy these shirts.

Language barriers can be challenging. Especially when you run into them out of the blue. I encountered a real one not long ago. I ordered a blender, and the entire instruction booklet was in Korean. I finally figured out how to make a smoothie, but probably only because I was already studying to learn the language of Laundry. I guess glyphs are glyphs. My smoothie does taste a little like liquid Tide, but maybe that’s just me.

When it comes to spiritual things, however, I never want to be unaware of barriers. You don’t have to look far to find that the foolish philosophies of this world are sneaky. They know how to speak your language, as it were. You can find them creeping into your patterns of thinking before you notice, maybe even hindering your capacity to receive real truth. Sometimes we do notice them creeping in but decide to just let them soak there for a bit anyway. We may catch ourselves listening to the world’s foolish thoughts so often and for so long that they start to sound right to us.

That’s one more reason we need to stay committed to making God’s Word part of our everyday life—our deepest heart-language. His Word makes its way through barriers of foolishness, exposing it as the folly it is. We’re told in Proverbs 15:14 that “a discerning mind seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.” (HCSB) Feeding on foolishness? That’ll taste worse than laundry soap every time.

A steady diet of “laundry detergent” will leave a bad taste in your mouth. Constantly feeding our minds and hearts on all kinds of media that is contrary to God’s Word will put up a barrier between us and the truth, giving us a skewed view of right and wrong. That’s when unreasonable fear, hoity-toity pride, silly doubt—and a long list of other negatives—color our decisions and steal our joy and fruitfulness. All those who deny the truth and malign the wisdom of God and His Word? They’re just not speaking our language.

Barriers crumble against the Word of God. The Bible teaches the language of wise, pure living. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your Word. I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:9, 11  HCSB).

There’s a life-changing message there, in any language.

Incidentally, while translating the blender directions, I may also have accidentally deciphered the location of an ancient secret treasure. It’s that or their customer service info. Whichever.

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.

Join the conversation: What of the world’s foolishness may have crept into your way of thinking?

Photo by Gonard Fluit on Unsplash

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Prayer in a Time-Warp

by Linda Evans Shepherd

A couple of years ago, I stepped out of my busy life to jet across the country. I was on my way to see my mom as she recovered in a nursing home from a fall. When I walked up to the nursing home’s double doors, a security guard buzzed me into a time zone not quite identifiable as ‘standard’ time.

When I arrived in Mom’s room, her eyes lit up.  “Linda!” I leaned in for a hug, noticing the simplicity surrounding us, a necessity because of the home’s problem with theft.

Just outside our room a resident shouted at the top of her lungs, “Yi, yi, yi, yi, yi, yi, yi!” While another resident, a former entertainer wailed unidentifiable show tunes as she beat time on the wall to music only she could hear.

“How do you like it here?” I asked.

“It’s okay.”

Every morning when I returned, I felt the jar of the time warp.  One morning, as I sat with my mom at breakfast, an elderly man rolled up to a nearby table where he beat his fists in time to his chant, “I want scrambled eggs!” He only stopped when this requested plate appeared before him.  Then he mumbled a flurry of four-lettered words as he shoveled the eggs into his mouth.

The little ladies at my table all shook their heads.  One of the women leaned in to explain, “I don’t live here.  I’m waiting for the bus to Memphis.”

“I see,” I  said.

She pushed her wheelchair closer to the table. “Don’t get in my way when it comes, I’ll run you down.” Oh my goodness.  I had entered a heartbreaking wrinkle in time.

That night, as I walked toward the double doors, I listened to the cry that seemed to drift from every room, “Help me! Please! Help me!”I peeked into the rooms as I passed.  All the criers were safe, though desperate to find deliverance from their nightly confusions.

Could God’s peace be in a place like this?

I found it the next morning when my mother and I were seated at our breakfast table. That’s when I announced, “Time to say grace.”I bowed my head and prayed, “Dear Lord, please bless our food and bless all the dear residents here.  Please also help their caregivers.  Thank you Lord for all your blessings.”

When I lifted my eyes I was startled to see all conversations had ceased.  All heads had bowed.  Even harried workers had stopped in their tracks to honor God. “Amen!” the little lady from Memphis said.  Aides and nurses smiled.  Gray heads nodded as peace walked into the room.

And then I knew.  I may have entered a time warp, but God was with us. It only took the power of a simple prayer to usher in his presence.

If a simple prayer can bring peace to a wrinkle in time, think what prayer could do to bring peace to your complications.

God promises us: 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

Linda ShepherdAbout the author: Linda Evans Shepherd is the author of 33 books including When You Don’t Know What to Pray and Winning Your Daily Spiritual Battles.  She is the CEO of Right to the Heart Ministries, and the founder of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association.  She’s the publisher of Leading Hearts Magazine and Arise Daily.

Linda has been married over thirty years and has two grown kids.  She loves to travel and bring the word to groups and events across North America.  You can read more about Linda at Arise Speakers.

Join the conversation: What in your life needs God’s peace? How has prayer brought peace for you in the past?

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Zur – God My Rock

by Sheryl Giesbrecht

Therefore thus says the Lord God“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.”   Isaiah 28:16 NASB

I live in California where earthquakes are common talk. We wonder when ‘the big one’ will hit.  Earthquake preparedness is a part of life here: schools participate in earthquake drills, companies host earthquake preparedness seminars, and individuals prepare earthquake survival kits.

But when a 3.5 quake rattled our peaceful community, I was caught off guard. It happened early in the morning, I was in my bedroom making my bed and suddenly the floor underneath my feet shifted down, like an elevator’s sudden descent. I felt the downward motion and toppled sideways as my stomach did a flip. Around me, vases and books tumbled off shelves; pictures loosed from hooks jumped off the wall. In an attempt to find stability, I slid down the side of my bed skirt, my rear end willingly hitting the floor. With both hands I grabbed the nap of the shag carpet and held on for dear life until the shaking stopped.

Maybe you’ve never been in an earthquake, but we’ve all been in uncomfortable and unstable situations more often than we’d like. I call these ‘life-quakes.’ Feeling unsure of a relationship, job, or finances are just a few instances of ‘life-quakes’ that rattle our trust in God’s stability. We wonder why, if God really loves us, He let the shaking start or why He doesn’t make it stop. Circumstances have rocked our comfortable little world, turning it topsy-turvy or even dismantled.

They hit when we least expect them. Since those times of instability are a part of life,  we know they are inevitable. Let’s make a choice now to practice a little ‘life-quake preparedness.’ Let’s prepare for ‘the big one’ and the small ones, too!

God’s Hebrew name, Zur, means God our Rock. He wants us to hold onto His promises and stand firm in the power of His stable presence. Literal rocks are commonplace all around us. But a rock can also be used as a metaphor for someone or something that is strong or reliable. Unshakable.

We must decide now that we will remember our Rock when our ground starts to shake. That we will react by thanking Him even before He sends the solution to end the problem. And know we can expect Him to be Zur – God Our Rock, who will help us find firm footing on which to stand.

Some might wonder at the longevity of a particular quake. We want the shaking to stop NOW! But even as we wait, we can trust in who God is. Consider Psalm 18:2 (NIV), “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Here’s one more promise, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2 (NIV)

Reciting these promises out loud keeps us firmly planted on Zur; God our Rock. Only He can truly stabilize us because alone is unshakable.

(Excerpts from Sheryl Giesbrecht’s book Experiencing God Through His Names)

sheryl giesbrechtAbout the author: Exchanging hurt for hope is Sheryl Giesbrecht’s focus—a message she shares with audiences as a radio and television personality, author and speaker. She served as Focus on the Family’s columnist for Pastor’s Wives for four years. Hundreds of her columns, magazine, and devotional articles have appeared in Focus on The Family Magazine, Just Between Us, Discipleship Journal, CCM, Walk Thru the Bible’s – InDeed and Tapestry, Live-Living and Charisma publications. She is the author of four books including, Experiencing God Through His Names (Bold Vision, February 2017) and It’ll Be Okay: Finding God When Doubt Hides the Truth (Redemption Press, March 2018). You can find more about Sheryl at www.fromashestobeauty.com,

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash

Congratulations to our first week winner: Allyson King!!

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Set Free

by Tammy Kennington

I didn’t know her, but the vulnerable thoughts she’d written pierced my heart: “I realized where I was stuck. I was stuck in jealousy–wanting the childhood she had. Wanting. Wishing. But, not having.”

She spoke of jealousy, but I heard something different in her words. Grief. Yearning. Broken-hearted longing. If I had to guess? This woman, like so many, grew up in dysfunction.

She may have been raised in a home with an empty pantry and only harsh, angry words to nourish a girl’s hungry soul. Hers may have been the home other children politely refused to visit because they’d heard the shouting and cursing seeping from the walls in the dark of the night. Or, she might have been the child shivering beneath the covers because the heating bill had been neglected in favor of another bottle of her stepfather’s favorite whiskey.

If that is part of your story? I. Am. Sorry. Something is terribly broken in a world where children grow up with hungry stomachs and hungrier hearts.

You can do something different, dear one.

And if we are honest, we all might admit the truth… even the best families are dysfunctional in one way or another. While not everyone experienced a childhood without a father or cleaned up after an addicted parent, we all know this one thing.

Our. Parents. Were. Not. Perfect.

And, of course, neither are we.

So how can dysfunctional, messed-up people break the chains of familial bondage? Is it even possible to rid ourselves of unwanted habits that have hitched a ride from one generation to the next?

Yes, but not our own power. Instead, we can turn to the one who is All-Powerful.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners…” (Isaiah 61:1 NIV)

But to begin moving in that direction? We need to recognize the hurts and habits that have moved into our marriages and families uninvited. Call them out. Denounce their destructiveness and invite the Holy Spirit into the walls of our homes and hearts.

Unabated sarcasm? Angry outbursts? Shutting down? Shutting out? Whatever the sin. Name it, friend, and He will begin to unfasten the chains.

Invite His correction. Accept His instruction. Trust His direction.

There isn’t a stronghold that can stand when we invite the Helper into our sin-created, self-mandated cage. The walls of resistance are shaken, doors burst open and we step into the light of freedom the moment we acknowledge our weakness.

There may be times we wander back into the dark den that once held us captive, but we don’t belong there. Remember, the day we trusted Jesus we were set free from bondage. The door stands open. Let’s trust Him enough to step across the threshold.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.   Galatians 5:1 NASB

Tammy KenningtonAbout the author: Tammy Kennington is a writer, speaker, education workshop presenter, and child abuse awareness advocate. Familiar with the impact of trauma, mental illness, and parenting in the hard places, Tammy hopes to lead women toward a deeper understanding of themselves and their relationship with the God who loves them.

The author of five children’s nonfiction books, Tammy has also written articles and devotions for Thriving Family, The Upper Room, MOPS and several other publications. When she isn’t writing, Tammy is likely discovering unmatched socks and candy wrappers tucked beneath the cushions of the couch or drinking a cup of Calming Chamomile tea as her children configure a boxing ring in the front yard with traffic cones and twine.

Join the conversation: From what strongholds has God released you?

Congratulations to our first week winner: Allyson King!!

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Kinda Kind

by Kaley Rhea

We try to teach our children to be kind—to share and to say gentle words and to play nice, right? But between you and me, fellow grownups, we can be some real sass-mouths to each other.

As a culture, we’re inclined to celebrate the zingers: the quick come-backs, the smart insults, the comic teasing. Something in us loves to shout, “Ohhhh! Apply cool water to that burn!” after a particularly glorious comeback. After all, it really is all in fun.

The problem is that cheeky comebacks can too easily become a habit. We look to “score points” in our verbal exchanges with hardly a conscious thought— and attempting to honestly encourage someone feels like trying to do calligraphy wrong-handed.

But Ephesians 4:32 does tell us, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted…” (NASB) As a parent, what could be sweeter than seeing your kiddos show kindness to each other? Growing up as the middle child of five, I was always rewarded by the looks on my parents’ faces when I made any effort to be kind to my sibs. When we were tenderhearted to each other, our parents glowed. It changed the entire atmosphere of our home.

Have you thought how you can bless your Heavenly Father lately? Be kind. Be tenderhearted. While there may be awkwardness or an odd feeling of vulnerability in replacing glibness with kindness, it is an opportunity to show sweetness toward Jesus Himself (Colossians 3:17).

I think sometimes a kind person can leave the impression of saccharine-sweetness or even weakness. But let’s be clear: kindness doesn’t lie or flatter or overlook sin. In fact, sometimes confrontation is the kindest thing to do. Psalm 141:5 (ESV) says, “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” Replacing truth with feel-good-isms is no kind of kindness at all. It’s more like apathy, in fact. But kindness does require approaching someone in love with the understanding that I am not superior. That their struggle could just as easily be mine. Kindness dismisses the desire to put someone in their place and instead asks the Lord to use me however He wants in that moment, that I might encourage them to victory in Christ.

There is something a bit sinister in habitual teasing, in that it tends to keep things on a superficial level. It’s difficult to share personal struggles or meaningful victories with someone whose tendency is to laugh things off or call things out. So even if sharp but funny insults are the popular thing, they’re not generally the thing for which people are thirsting. We may celebrate the wit of the jokesters, but we’re drawn to the hearts of the kind.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that kindness is a lesson reserved for children. It’s massively important. It’s a command. And it’s impossible to do well without the help of our tirelessly kind and merciful Father. Kindness is evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in us. If you find yourself defaulting to clever put-downs or brush-offs, ask Him to change your mind. Ask Him to enable you to bless Him by blessing others with your words and actions today.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

Adapted from Messy to Meaningful.

Kaley Rhea

About the author: Kaley Rhea is a St. Louis-area author and one half of the mother/daughter writing team behind 2017 Christian romantic comedy Turtles in the Road (along with the hilarious Rhonda Rhea). She also makes up one third of the writing team for the just-released non-fiction book Messy to Meaningful: Lessons From the Junk Drawer (co-written with Rhonda Rhea and the fabulous Monica Schmelter). She’s unclear on how fractions work, but if Rhonda Rhea is the common denominator, Kaley is pretty sure that makes her like five-sixths of Monica Schmelter. Or something like that.

Join the conversation: Has someone’s kindness ever made a difference in your life?

Photo by Kiana Bosman on Unsplash

Congratulations to our first week winner: Allyson King!!

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One Thing I Want

by Cindi McMenamin

I recently went to God with my shopping list.

I asked for His provision over a financial matter. I asked for His healing over my daughter’s medical condition. I asked for His peace over a situation that was causing me to become restless. I asked for His wisdom in an issue that my husband and I weren’t in agreement upon.

My list was long, and I was exhausted after recounting it all to God.

Then my devotional reading that morning took me to Psalm 27 in which the Psalmist said:

“I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire:
to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple” (verse 4 CSB).

There were lots of things I was asking of God that morning. But the Psalmist asked for only one thing: to dwell in God’s presence and gaze upon His beauty.

I realized, then, that if seeking God had been my one request – my only request – I would not have needed anything else I’d been praying for:

  • If His presence was what I sought first, I would’ve had the confidence that He is my Provider, both financially and otherwise.
  • If His character was all that I sought, I would’ve had the peace of mind that He is the Great Physician for whatever my daughter’s medical condition.
  • And if His glory was my chief desire, I would’ve had the perspective that He is the Healer of hurts and the Redeemer of all things, when it came to my disappointed, restless heart and the matter that was robbing me of peace.

Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

The rest of my prayer that morning became:

Simplify my heart, Lord, to have just one request: to know You and dwell with You          intimately.

Can you simplify your long list of requests to include just one — to know Him and dwell with Him intimately? When He becomes all that you and I want, we will have all that we’ve ever needed.

Lord, trim my list. Bring me into focus with the one thing that truly matters – my relationship with You. Help me to be satisfied with You alone and to realize that when I have you, I have everything I could possibly need.   

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), God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart, 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.

Join the conversation: How has your prayer life impacted your relationship with God?

Photo by Vil Son on Unsplash

Congratulations to our first week winner: Allyson King!!

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Mouth on Mute

by Sarah Forgrave

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” Proverbs 15:1-2 (NIV)

As I type these words, I’ve been without a voice for five days. Seasonal allergies stormed in with a vengeance last week and reduced my words to a raspy croak. After my voice first disappeared, I powered through as if I could speak normally. It was simply too hard to press the mute button with a summer full of activities with my family.

But now five days later, I’m paying for my mistake. My voice remains a raspy croak, and I’ve had to take desperate measures in hopes of regaining it again. Lots of water consumption and absolute silence are my new norm. A notepad and purple pen accompany me wherever I go so I can communicate with my family.

I started off this morning with a note to my kids, explaining why I wouldn’t be talking today. As the day progressed, comments floated into my mind, but I had to pause and assess each one. Is this worth taking the time to write? And do I want it documented on a piece of paper that could be retrieved from the trash sometime in the future?

As I asked myself these questions, they made me think deeper. Why should my approach be any different now than when I can speak normally? My mouth may be on mute, but why wouldn’t I always assess my words before speaking them, even after my voice returns?

The habit of talking before thinking is easy to develop, but it can also be changed.

Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your conversation always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (ESV). In Proverbs 16:24 we’re reminded, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (NIV).

As I’ve journeyed this day with a mouth on mute, I’ve noticed an unexpected reaction in my son and daughter. When I communicate to them by jotting a note or silently motioning, they tend to respond in kind. Even though they have full command of their voices, they mirror the tone I set by answering with a whisper or a hand motion of their own.

By muting my words, I’ve avoided an unknown number of possible escalations and flared tempers. The Bible emphasizes this point in Proverbs 21:23. “Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble” (NLT).

Oh, that I could develop this habit, even after my voice returns to full volume. When frustration mounts, I want to bridle my reaction before I allow it to release. When meaningless or hurtful words spew to the tip of my tongue, I want to rein them in with the Holy Spirit’s help.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this muted day, it’s that our words do matter. Whether they’re spoken aloud or written on a notepad, they have the power to leave a permanent ink stain or to paint a life-giving mosaic.

May we be women who weigh our words carefully, who listen before we speak, and who make every word count for the kingdom.

Sarah Forgrave_headshot 1 (1)About the Author: Sarah Forgrave is the author of Prayers for Hope and Healing, a prayer devotional that connects readers to God in the midst of health struggles. Familiar with the broken messes of life, she loves encouraging others toward a deeper walk of faith. When she’s not writing or speaking, she stays busy keeping up with her entrepreneurial husband and two active children. Visit Sarah’s website for more faith encouragement, or connect with her on Pinterest and Instagram.

Join the conversation: What effective ways have you found to tame your tongue?

Congratulations to our first week winner: Allyson King!!

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I’m Drowning Here!

by Pam Farrel

Ever feel like you are drowning in bad news?  Are the tough times are coming at you one right after another like a torrential down pour?  Is all the negativity and stress making you feel like you can’t even get a breath? Me too.

While I was writing my new book, life felt like I had been caught under the great Niagara Falls, being forced down under the torrent…breathless…helpless. The stressors of that season felt much like when, many years before, I found myself caught in a rip tide while swimming in the Pacific Ocean. My options at that point were terrifying: one was to catch a wave that would carry me to shore, but the shore was a cliff with jagged rock and thrashing waves. The other option was to allow the rip tide to carry me far out to sea. Death by rocks or death by sharks?

But then I remembered a third life-saving possibility: to swim parallel to the shore far enough down the beach to where the riptide ended and the sandy beach began. So as the riptide continued to carry me away from shore, I prayed and began to calmly swim along the shoreline. Eventually, the rip tide’s grip broke. I swam in and walked out to safety, exhausted, relieved, and overjoyed.

One psalm writer was in the press of one hardship after another. He wrote: “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me” Psalm 42:7 NIV.

This verse captures how many of us might feel when life gets difficult. Some Bible scholars say “deep calls to deep” is a reference to powerful torrential flood waters—that God’s hand of mercy is holding back. “The roar of your waterfalls” references the power of water to keep us down and under the surface—at times feeling like the negative circumstance will drown us. The waves and breakers sweeping over him again pictures being caught in crushing, crashing, unceasing waves. These powerful images are each a vivid portrayal of what it is like to be caught in a flood of challenges.

So, what can we do when the stresses of the unwelcome, unwanted, unexpected, and unbelievably hard circumstances are gushing down like a waterfall? Verse 11 gives the psalmist’s source of hope in the flood: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (NIV).

We can go beyond surviving and actually thrive while living in this broken world. God, our lifeguard, tosses us a life-saving ring of hope and help. When we put our hope in Him, we find a firm rock on which to stand. We can trust in His goodness, and we can trust Him to be faithful. And as we wait for Him to move us through a challenging time, we should express our trust by praising Him. Because as we pray and sing His praises out loud, we remind ourselves of His character, enabling us to trust Him even more firmly than we did before. And we remind ourselves that He is working all things together for our ultimate good. (Rom. 8:28)

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1 NIV

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

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 stresses in your life have made you feel as if you were drowning? How did God rescue you?

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Congratulations to our first week winner: Allyson King!!

Under the Influence

by Julie Zine Coleman

He was a scary drunk. Normally a fun-loving, gentle man, when alcohol was in his system, he transformed into a frightening spectacle. The teens in the house hid the knives when they knew their uncle was out at the bar. Then they would lie in their beds, dreading the moment he would come roaring home. His fits of rage and abusive tirades would inevitably have them and their widowed mother cowering before him. Yet always the next morning, he would return to his old self: loving, kind, and ready for a good laugh. It was like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Life with an alcoholic is a rollercoaster ride. When a person you love submits themselves to the influence of a substance, it often involves a personality change. It is like they become someone else.

“Do not get drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,” Paul wrote the Ephesians (5:18 NIV). Paul was contrasting two very different influences that can considerably alter a person. The first influence was wine.

This was a familiar metaphor for Paul’s readers. In Roman culture, abuse of alcohol peaked around the mid-first century, just about when Paul penned his letter. Drunkenness was common at festivals and other celebrations. This abusive drinking was modeled at the top: all four emperors who reigned from A.D. 37 to A.D. 69 were known for it.

But the point of this passage is not excessive drinking, however. Paul is merely using drunkenness as a contrast to being filled with the Holy Spirit, the second potentially altering influence.

The Holy Spirit indwells every believer. His presence in our lives and physical bodies began at the moment of our salvation: “After listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise…” (Ephesians 1:13 NASB) God placed the Spirit in us as a permanent seal and guarantee that someday our redemption will be complete.

So why would Paul urge Christians to be filled with the Spirit if He is already present within every believer?

The idea behind the original Greek word (translated be filled) is completion. We bring the Spirit’s presence to completion when we allow Him to dominate every thought and action.

Paul wrote to the Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [and] self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB). These are traits that naturally occur when we place ourselves under the Spirit’s influence. He alone produces that fruit in us.

Our job is simply to be yielded to Him.

When our minds and hearts are in sync with God’s leading, the fruit will inevitably come. And we cannot produce that fruit in any other way than remaining in Him.

I am the Vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

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.

Join the conversation: What helps you to live under the Spirit’s influence?

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Congratulations to our first week winner: Allyson King!!