Storing Up Treasure

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ” Matthew 6:21, NIV

I’ve been a collecting addict for as long as I can remember. At age five, it was Raggedy Ann dolls. Then it was cat figurines. By the time I was 10, I was collecting just about anything I came across: polished rocks, stamps, marbles, postcards, even bubble-gum wrapper comics!

But once I became an adult, I limited my collection to Cinderella. Dolls, ornaments, figurines, and snow globes take up every bit of space in two seven-foot-high curio cabinets in my bedroom. They remind me that I married a prince, and that my dreams and wishes have come true. And because most of them have been gifts, they also remind me of people who love me.

But I remember the day they also started interfering with my heart.

It was the middle of the night when I awoke from an earthquake jolt. I jumped out of bed and ran to one of the curio cabinets. With feet apart and both hands out in front of me, I prepared to brace my body against the 150-pound cabinet to keep it from falling over should the shaking increase. As the house stilled, I remembered my then six-year-old daughter, who was sleeping soundly under a shelf that could have toppled onto her! And I thought of my husband, who was still dreaming beneath a large picture frame that now hung crooked. And there I was protecting Cinderella! My concern for my collection had outweighed my concern for my own family. My “treasure” had gotten out of hand.

Jesus said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV).

I’ve realized through the years that it is freeing to not have to worry that an earthquake or fire or robbery would destroy my treasures. So, I’ve tried to focus my collection on what is more eternal: Scripture verses I’ve memorized through the years, people with whom I’ve shared the gospel, young women whom I’ve discipled, children I’ve loved and cared for, widows I’ve “adopted” as grandmas, and smiles from others that I’ve had the opportunity to encourage.

It’s never too late to start collecting the few things that really matter in this life and the life to come.

Lord, help me to want more of You and nothing else. Please give me Your heart to love people more than possessions so I will live wisely and invest in what is eternal.

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Storing Up Treasure – insight from @CindyMcMenamin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 16 books including When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold), When God Sees Your Tears, and When Women Long for Rest, upon which this devotional is based. For more on her books and ministry, or for free resources to strengthen your marriage, parenting, or walk with God, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

What readers are saying about When Women Long for Rest: “When Women Long for Rest Cindi McMenamin Long for Rest book cover (1)beckoned to me like an overstuffed chair. It is well written, and every woman will relate to at least one example listed. The exercises are simple, yet highly effective.”

Join the conversation: What are the most precious things you have collected?

Give Your Life Away?

by Ashley Lauren McClain

“Give your life away.” I remember when I heard my Pastor say this in a sermon. He said it as a statement, but in my mind, it immediately became a question. Give my life away?

What about MY dreams, and MY purpose and MY calling? What about ME? How does giving my life away get me any closer to the goals and ambition I have for my life?

Can I just say I wish I had taken his words as truth all those years ago?

I believe the chasing, striving, disappointments, and my many failures could have gone so differently. If only I had taken his words to heart the first time I heard them.

My problem? My focus was on me. I loved the Lord, but I was more wrapped up in my dreams and plans than in Him. Give it all away? Who would I be if not the girl with the big dreams? Who would I be if I laid them down to serve God by sharing the gospel and His love with others?

Answer: I would be the girl fully walking in the calling that the Lord has on her life.

Maybe you find yourself today caught up in the chasing and striving in life: nothing you do is good enough or fulfilling enough. If you do, I get it. I lived there a long time. But I made a decision to not stay in that place anymore. I am hoping maybe you will join me.

Am I telling you to give up on your dreams and things you are passionate about? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that the focus has to come off of ourselves and placed on Him.

What good would my dream be if it didn’t bring any glory to Him? If it failed to bring anyone who is lost and hopeless to Him? I would be living a life, that in reality, I don’t want to live. I have to believe that it is probably one that you wouldn’t want to live either.

In Matthew we read the Lord’s “Great Commission”: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 CSB).

I love how The Message translation explains verse 20:

“Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 MSG).

Day after day. If we are truly followers of Christ, sharing His love and His work in our lives with others, it will never get old. This is where life is best lived.

That is where the fulfillment I have longed for is found. It is found in taking the lessons we have learned and using them to benefit others. It is found in being vulnerable with our failures and transparent with our lives. It is found in pointing people who have no hope to the One who is the Giver of Hope.

It is found when my focus shifts from me and my to Him and them.

Will you join me today in giving up our own goals? And instead focus on God’s agenda: reaching out to the world around us? We can live a life filled with amazing, life-changing dreams. But we have to first be willing to lay down our empty ones, get our eyes off of ourselves, and lock them on Him.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other…”  Matthew 6:24 NASB

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Give Your Life Away? insight on #FollowingGod from Ashley Lauren McClain on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Ashley McClainAbout the author: Ashley McClain is a girl with big dreams, a blog, & a heart to encourage women in their journey through this gift of life we have been given by the greatest Gift Giver there is! She loves to read, write, drink coffee, and spend time with the hubby & puppies! Connect with Ashley on her website ashleymcclain.org. She would love to hear about your journey too!

Join the conversation: Have you had a dream fulfilled? How did that effect you? Was it worth it?

 

 

Facing My Fears by Learning to Look Up

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.                                                                                                                                   2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV   

Acrophobia, the fear of heights. And the curse of a woman whose husband and offspring seemingly fearless.

They do, however, get a mutual enjoyment out of tormenting me by dangling themselves from high places. Of course, it’s not the height that scares me, so much as the possibility of falling from the height. The landing is the real issue.

But I have found that it is good to challenge myself by facing some of our fears. When we do, we often experience something we would have otherwise missed, and we allow God to grow our faith.

That’s why a couple of years ago I found myself on the entirely too wobbly and far too high platform for a zip line at a women’s retreat. I didn’t want to do this, and I was sure God would still love me even if I backed out. But ever since I had registered for the event, knowing it was a completely optional activity, I had the unmistakable feeling this was something I was supposed to do. I felt God was extending an invitation to experience something new. I waited until the last minute praying the feeling would pass. But God seemed to keep whispering in my ear, “Do you trust me?”

I harnessed up, climbed the unstable steps, sat, and yes… scooted myself inch by inch to the edge. I knew my legs completely freeze up when my fear kicks in, so there was no way I’d be stepping off the platform like all the fearless people were doing.

It wasn’t a pretty launch, but I managed to lean forward enough to let gravity do what I couldn’t. I won’t lie, the instant I left the platform was nothing short of sheer terror. But in the next moment, I was flying and free. And I was aware that as long as I kept looking up to God, the distance between me and the ground would no longer concern me. For a few moments, I was swept away in a moment of surrender to the Lord. Yes, Lord I trust you.

God had not given me the fear of heights, but He would use it to teach me.

Recently I had another opportunity to do something that scared me—a helicopter tour of the island of Kauai. I had never flown in a helicopter before, and I’m not a fan of flying (the acrophobia thing again). But I knew my husband wanted to, and that he wouldn’t if I didn’t. So being the Proverbs 31 wife that I am, here I went again.

And it was spectacular. I saw parts of the island I never would have seen, had I not done this. Beautiful, breathtaking scenes that could only have been created by the hands and creativity of the Master Creator. Things that could only be seen from a sky view.

We can’t avoid every disease, accident, job loss, or loss of a loved one. We will face things that scare us, whether we want to or not. I believe God gives us opportunities like ziplining and helicopter rides to teach us to trust Him. Taking a risk is an opportunity to build our faith muscles. By trusting God in facing some of these fears, we learn to trust Him in those we don’t choose.

Facing the things that frighten us, we step off the edge and let go, and God brings us to places of victory we wouldn’t have otherwise known.

TWEETABLE
Facing My Fears by Learning to Look Up – insight from @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: What fears have you faced head-on?

Withstanding a Midnight Invasion

by Linda Evans Shepherd @LindaShepherd

It’s late at night, I’m tucked into a backyard cabana, a cute one room house in the back yard of a Hollywood home.  I’m working on homework for a writing class as the clock ticks past midnight, when suddenly something, or someone lands on my roof.  THUD!  More bodies follow.  THUNK, THUD, SCRAMBLE! Is it an invasion from the tent city at the bottom of the hill?

Then the chattering starts.  What is that?

Thought then occurs to me: could it be raccoons? I’m in front of my computer, so I quickly go to YouTube and type, “What does a raccoon sound like?”

A video pops up of a man with a broom; he’s swatting a milk cartoon with a hidden raccoon inside.  The creature peeks out and hisses!  Oh my! Raccoons hiss? The man swats the carton again and the raccoon darts out, then turns around and growls. Raccoons growl? The raccoon starts to walk away, then pivots with angry roar.  Wait…raccoons roar?

The roaring raccoon rushes toward the man…and attacks. Yes, it attacked!  I’m guessing Mrs. Raccoon was trying to protect her babies still inside the carton.  Oh my!

I decide to watch another video to find out what other noises raccoons make besides hissing and growling.  I need to know, because the chattering crowd on my roof is growing.

Sure enough, I find a video of a raccoon chattering just like the ones on my roof.  I turn the sound up to be sure.  Yes, those are raccoons above me.

That’s when I realize:  the raccoons have stopped chattering to scramble down the wall to stand outside my door. It seems they’d heard my YouTube raccoon, and they want to come to my raccoon party.

Now I’m thinking about the attack raccoon. Oh dear. Could the raccoons get in? The answer is yes. My windows are open and I can only close them if I go outside. And I’m not going outside, believe me.

I go back to YouTube. Well, if I attracted raccoons with the chattering raccoon video, what might repel them?  First I try a whining cougar.  It seems to only pique their interest. Hmmm.  What about a laughing hyena? Nope, they like that one, too.

Hey, what about dogs?  Raccoons in this neighborhood would know about yipping dogs.  I hit play.

As the sound of yipping dogs fill the air, the raccoons stop chattering. I turn up the volume and can hear the raccoons racing away. Yay!  The barking dogs worked!

Then it hits me. When we are suddenly surrounded by trouble, there is a sound that we can make that will push the enemy away, too. It’s the sound of prayer. It’s the sound of calling upon the name of Jesus, the name above all names. The name of Jesus is a name that no one, no thing, no creature, no demon from hell, can stand against.

Counterfeits are worthless. Only Jesus can set us free, save us, put us into a relationship with God, and push back any gathering darkness. It is the only effective weapon when we are under attack.

The good news: Jesus has given us permission to call upon his name, and when we do, the enemy will flee.  Philippians 2:10-11 says,

“…At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (NKJV)

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Withstanding a Midnight Invasion – thoughts on the power of #prayer from @LindaShepherd (Click to Tweet)

Linda ShepherdAbout the author: Linda Evans Shepherd is the author of 34 books including Praying God’s Promises and The God You Need to Know.  She is the CEO of Right to the Heart Ministries and the founder of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association.  She’s also the publisher of Leading Hearts Magazine and Arise Daily.

Linda Evans Shepherd has just released her book, When You Need to Move a Mountain: Keys to Praying with Power. There’s prayer–and then there’s intercessory prayer. What’s the difference? And when we feel called to intercessory prayer, how do we do it? What response should we expect from God? If you’re someone that feels a deep need to pray for others, to bring your burdens and troubles to God, and see God’s clear answers to your prayers, this book is for you.

Join the conversation: Have you ever had to call upon the name of Jesus? Did God come through for you?

 

 

 

Hear and Obey the Right Voice

by Nan Corbitt Allen

But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” Mark 4: 35-42 NKJV

Have you ever been to a wrestling match? I don’t mean “rasslin’” like they do on Saturday night in some down-home venues. I’m talking about a legitimate competitive sport recognized by the high school and collegiate associations—and the Olympics. I’m told that there are several styles: Greco-Roman and Free Style among them. I don’t really know the difference between the styles but I do know this: it is the MOST intense and nerve-wracking sport I’ve ever witnessed!

Both of our sons have been on high school wrestling teams at some point. Wanting to show our love and support, we attended most of their matches. And it was agonizing.

As a spectator/supporter, a parent must sit semi-quietly and watch her son’s body get twisted into positions she never thought possible. And the noise! Fans and competitors yelling at the tops of their lungs to “shoot the half” or whatever. And there were cheerleaders, too. Did you know that some schools have cheering squads for wrestling teams? Ours did. They not only scream and chant but also pound the gym floor in support.

Worse than school matches were tournaments where several schools participated. Three or four matches occurred simultaneously in a gymnasium. Imagine the noise, the smell, the chaos. I was totally spent after one of those.

At one tournament, however, I tried to detach from the chaos as best I could so to preserve some energy and sanity. It was hard but for brief stints I was able to focus on one thing. One of these times I chose to watch our team’s coach. I’d never really watched him before mostly because he was a gentle, unassuming man by nature and he didn’t often draw attention to himself. But what I saw him do that day made a lasting impression on me.

Coach Gentry was often down on his hands and knees almost at eye level with our boys —watching, evaluating and admonishing, but not loudly at all. Just in a normal tone. I wondered: how could those guys hear their coach’s voice above all the rest? And then it hit me.

This coach had worked with some of his team members for many years and so the guys recognized his voice. He had also led his team to many state championships and it was obvious he knew the sport. The boys trusted him.

Jesus taught a similar lesson about Himself using the analogy of sheep and shepherds:

“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10: 3-5, NIV)

Recognition and trust are important when filtering out His voice from the rest. Get to know His voice by deepening your understanding of Him.

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Hear and Obey the Right Voice – thoughts from Nan Corbitt Allen on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Nan Corbitt AllenAbout the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 40 years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

Nan and Dennis live in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the seemingly insignificant routine experiences can have great impact on a life. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: When is the last time you heard His voice?

The Kingdom of Me and the Joy of Christ

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Often, it’s the good things, what I often think of as the  “God things,” that most keep me from Him. It’s sad how easily my heart is swayed. One would think I’d learned by now, that I’ve become adept at putting effective guardrails in place and being extra diligent to guard my heart. But so often, busyness, pride, or selfishness seeps in, and my service that began with such pure intentions becomes ugly and self-elevating.

I’m all too proficient at building my kingdom, when my efforts should be centered on the things of God.

The more I surrender to Him, the more I yield to His Spirit within and align my heart with His plans and purposes, the more joy and freedom I feel. The more I slip, bit by bit, from this, the more miserable I become.

At every moment, I’m worshiping someone—God or myself.

The god of self is a vicious, defeating, deceiving contender, one I’ve found quite difficult to kill. She rises up when I least expect her to, whispering lies in my ear, making promises—to give me joy and fulfillment—which she has no power to fulfill.

As C. S. Lewis put it, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Every promise made by my Savior is certain and true, and here’s what He tells me: joy, peace, and deep, soul-enriching fulfillment is found only in Him. He is my prize, and He alone can fill me to overflowing, in abundance, with the very life I crave.

This is the promise He’s made to all mankind. This invitation to love and live loved, made by our Creator Himself, resonates so deeply, upon hearing it, our souls leap for joy. Until we encounter something flashier or louder or momentarily more alluring. And we begin amassing our wealth, our toys, our successes, and our homes, until the voice of God, the call of God, fades.

Unfortunately, building the kingdom of “me” comes much too easily.

This was certainly true for the ancient Israelites, returning home after captivity. Their journey had been long and arduous. Their sorrow deep, when they arrived in their beloved city to find the Temple of God—the place where He Himself communed with His people—reduced to a pile of rubble.

And yet, they began to rebuild, for a time, until opposition hit. Then, they started building the kingdom of me. “‘My house lies in ruins,” says the Lord of Heavens Armies, ‘while all of you are busy building your own houses.’”

Please note: God was speaking about so much more than a building, as glorious as this man-made structure once was. His Temple housed His presence.

God was inviting His people into relationship. To leave all their false gods behind, once and for all, and to connect deeply and intimately, with Him. Upon their return to the homeland, they had responded enthusiastically for a while, craving the very thing God promised.

But then they stopped and shifted their focus.

I get it. I’ve been there. And unfortunately, I’ll likely land there again. But when I do, God offers me the same invitation He did His people, so long ago. “Return to Me,” He says, “and I will return to you” (Zechariah 1:3 NIV). He is only a prayer away, and He offers much more than the kingdom of Me ever will. He gives Himself without measure, inviting us to meet with Him, to be held by Him. To be loved deeply and completely, and in this, to be filled with joy and peace.

“I will fill this place,” God says, speaking of His Temple (Haggai 2:7 NLT), which, thanks to the blood of Jesus, is us. He alone can fill our deepest, darkest, most hidden places with Himself.

And in that moment, when the power and glory of our Creator fills us completely, we’re reminded yet again, He is our prize, and He is enough.

More than enough.

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The Kingdom of Me and the Joy of Christ – insight from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryJennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Restoring Her Faith and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.

Drawing Near, a 90-day devotional by Wholly Loved Ministries: Each day, God beckons us to Himself, calling us to rest in His love and grace. As we do, He heals our hurts, overpowers our fears with love, and restores us to the women He created us to be. This 90-day devotional, written by women who are learning themselves to live anchored in God’s grace, will help you deepen your faith and grow your relationship with Christ.

Join the conversation: What lures you into serving the Kingdom of Me?

It All Starts in the Mind

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

You’d never know it to look at me, but I am an expert at dieting. I’m on a first name basis with the ladies at Weight Watchers. Sugar-free Jell-O jumps off the shelf into my grocery cart as I walk by. I can recite the points value of most foods on demand. My overweight status is not a reflection of dieting ignorance, believe me.

So far I am down 17 pounds since April. For some reason, I am sticking with it this time around. I think it has a lot to do with discovering that dieting is really a two-step process. The first step is to gain the proper mindset. Vegetables are our friends. Exercise is a good thing. Hunger means fat is burning. Once the brain is in gear, now the dieter is ready to begin taking actual measures to lose weight. Exercising portion control, reducing fats and carbs, and planning ahead are all actions that will move the dieter toward her goal.

What started in the mind must become a lifestyle.

This two-step process rings true for our spiritual lives as well. Jesus demonstrated this for us. Philippians 2:5-6 (NASB) shows us how Christ’s mindset played a key role in His coming: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped…” Before descending to earth, Jesus completely gave up His privilege, rank, and honor. All that He had and deserved He set aside for the sake of His mission: redeeming those He loved.

Step One: Get the right mindset. As we follow Christ’s example, we, too, must give up our claim to rights and privileges. Like Jesus, the desire for things like proper recognition and standing, all those things that make us special in man’s eyes, must be voluntarily set aside. As Americans, this is almost foreign to us! We prize our rights highly. When they are ignored, we feel victimized. Yet when we follow Christ, the right mindset—complete humility with no thought to ourselves—is crucial.

Paul did not stop there. For Jesus, thought led to action. “[He] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). Christ’s actions were a reflection of His attitude. He did not come as a king or a member of any privileged class. When the magi came from the east to find the king, they went straight to the palace. Where else would a king be born? Certainly not in some dirty stable.

But Christ left privilege and rank completely behind. He was born to common folks from a town of no consequence. He lived out His ministry with “no place to lay His head.” Paul calls Him a bond-servant (Philippians 2:10), the lowest of ranks. When it happened, the climax of Christ’s ministry was what you would least expect from the King of Kings. It was not when He rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. It was when He hung on a cross several days later, like a common criminal, bearing the crushing load of the world’s sin. Crucifixion was considered a shameful death, and an embarrassment to family and all who knew Him.

Christ’s every action was governed by His complete submission and obedience to the Father. In our imitation of Him, our actions must flow out of that same attitude. What will following Christ’s example look like in our lives? How will an attitude of surrender be fleshed out as we live?

It will be seen in the small, every day decisions we make to put others ahead of ourselves. We will serve, not to get acknowledgement, but simply in response to what God has done for us. Our own agenda will be put aside in the interests of God’s purposes. We will voluntarily submit our will to His.

It all starts with a mind-set of submission and humility. Challenging, to be sure. We are much more prone to look out for number one. But it can be done. Jesus showed the way with His perfect example of obedience to the Father’s will. He is not asking anything of us that He has not already done Himself.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 NASB

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It All Starts in the Mind – insight from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. 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.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a close look at the conversations Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What other facets of Jesus’ example mean the most to you?

My Comforter Saw it Coming

by Meredith Kendall

I knew God was up to something when my husband and I both felt it was time to sell our home in order to be ready for our next assignment. But God’s literal handwriting on a wall on March 10, 2018 while driving. I had to hit my brakes so that I would not rear end an 18-wheeler who just happened to be going slow as I turned the corner. “Ready 2 Move” was the slogan on its back doors. One of the three cities printed underneath the slogan was Cape Coral, Florida.

It was more than mere coincidence. We had been earnestly praying for God to give us an answer as to whether we were to move over 12 hours away from our children and grandchildren to Cape Coral to plant a church.

Since moving, things haven’t gone as I planned, so to say I have been at odds with God is an understatement. During one of my episodes, I told Him that if I was going be depressed and lonely, the least He could’ve done was leave me where I had grandchildren and thirty-four years of roots.

Then at the beginning of May, our thirty-six-year-old son-in-law was diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He went to the doctor thinking he had pneumonia and walked out after hearing “we need to find out what this iPhone sized mass behind your heart and lungs is.”  And his wife, our daughter, is finally pregnant with number three after almost four-years of month after month disappointment.

I started in again with God. “Why am I here? Why did you send me 823 miles away? Why would you keep me away from them? Why?”

When I started to yell, God didn’t apologetically say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t see this coming.” No. He ushered me into His lap, put His loving arms around me and said, “My child, you will see, I promise. I have a plan for this as well.”

I found myself often repeating Romans 8:28, a verse for which I actually have a love-hate relationship. It says that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” And just like God, He didn’t leave me there. He also gave me 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4, a promise that the comfort we receive from Him in our suffering will be something we can someday offer to other fellow-sufferers.

I know that I will come away from this hardship better for it. I will be equipped to offer new wisdom and truth that comes from experiencing adversity. I will know Jesus better than ever before, because my suffering will give me insight into His heart. I will learn to trust God on a deeper level by the necessity of placing my broken heart into His hands.

I choose to trust God through this present affliction. He will be my Comforter and my teacher. He will carry me through the pain. And in the end, it will be worth it all.

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Philippians 3:8-10 NASB

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My Comforter Saw it Coming – insight on following God from Meredith Sage Kendall on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

meredith kendallAbout the author: Meredith Sage Kendall, is a change agent, driven by her God-given passion to equip struggling families to achieve their unique God-given potential. As a nationally recognized sales leader, Meredith learned how to build bridges and make connections with the heart of what people need. God called her to co-found Advancing the Gospel which serves those who are often forgotten. Today she uses her giftings to help people understand the root causes of their struggles and find freedom through Christ. Visit her online atwww.meredithsagekendall.com.

Things Are Not Always What They Appear

by Evelyn Johnson-Taylor @drevetaylor

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”                                                                                                                                   1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV

The weeks leading up to my “Stepping into Sixty” celebration brought great joy to my heart. As a younger woman, sixty seemed so far away and appeared very old to me. However, the closer I came to that milestone, I came to think differently.

In our Christian life, we face many challenges. There are mountains that appear insurmountable. But the reality is, when viewed from a distance, we can get a very different perspective. Could it be that the obstacles appear larger than they really are?

Many of the adversities we encounter take our eyes off the prize and miss the potential victories that are in front of us. If the enemy can entice us to concentrate on the problem, we set ourselves up for defeat. But when we stand firm in the promises of God, we can rest in Him and know that our labor is not in vain.

As I look back over my life and see the many battles I’ve lost simply by walking in fear, it saddens my heart. Too often I focused on the magnitude of the situation and neglected to focus on the God who controls every situation. This is not what God wants for us. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV).

Fear is worrying about something that has not yet happened and in some cases will never happen. Up close, a challenge can seem frightening, but backing away from it will help us see that God has already given us what we need to overcome that moment.

As my birthday drew near, instead of looking at it as “I’m getting old,” I started focusing on the advantages of being sixty. My thoughts were, “How can I make this next chapter better? How can I move forward in this new season of my life? What new opportunities await me? How can I use my sixty years of experience to pour into someone else’s life?” I began to thank God for allowing me to see another birthday.

It would be the first one I would celebrate without my husband. The reality of knowing that he didn’t live to see his sixtieth birthday made me appreciate God’s blessing that He has allowed me to come this far. Not everyone is blessed to reach this age. Even with such great loss, there were still so many things for which to be thankful. I had the memories of having the love and support of an incredible man for twenty-eight years. God blessed us with two magnificent daughters. I’m grateful for extended family, kind neighbors, and my sisters and brothers in Christ. I know that I am a blessed woman.

Life presents an assortment of changes and challenges, but as we focus on the big picture, the good things in our lives, the challenges seem smaller. Change your perspective on your insurmountable mountain and find the opportunity. Keep your eyes on the prize: “…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 NASB).

Simply because we still have life, we still have hope. Focus more on the one who holds the future and less about the future itself.

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Things Are Not Always What They Appear – insight from  @Drevetaylor on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

evelyn johnson-taylorAbout the author: Evelyn Johnson-Taylor is a professor of theology, author, speaker, and coach. She shares her life experiences through mentoring and encouraging others to move forward in whatever God has called them to do.  Evelyn believes that nothing is wasted with God and that everything He allows us to walk through in life is to be used to help someone else. You can connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, and Facebook.

Evelyn shares her experience of caring for her husband for a decade in See Me Hear Me Know Me: From The Heart of a Caregiver, a book that she and her husband wrote together. God has given her a passion to enlighten caregivers on the importance of self-care and has graced her to share a message of hope and encouragement.

Join the conversation: What seemingly insurmountable mountain has God allowed you to overcome?

A Father’s Good Gifts

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13 ESV

When I was a girl, I took my parents’ provision for granted. I always had enough food to eat and nice, new clothes to wear. They provided me with a reliable used car when I began my last year of high school. They paid my college tuition and room and board. And although I did have to work for spending money and extras, in hindsight, I know Mom and Dad used that to teach me a valuable life lesson.

I didn’t know – and honestly may not have cared at the time – that Mom and Dad went without things they wanted in order to give to me. They even went above and beyond my basic needs to give me things I simply wanted. For instance, my mother didn’t buy clothes she needed so I could have a fancy prom dress. And my parents sacrificed years of vacations so I could get an education. It wasn’t until later – until I had children of my own – that I began to understand what my parents had done for me.

When Wayne and I started a family, we naturally began to make the same kinds of sacrifices my parents – and Wayne’s parents – had made. Date nights and dinners out dwindled. We set aside much of our own desires, and even some needs, in order to provide and bless our own children. We did it because we love our children. And it gave us joy to give to them. And now we get to see our own children love our grandchildren and sacrifice to provide for them.

Not all earthly parents properly care for their children. Far too many are neglected and abused. But most parents do treat their children with kindness and love. Most desire to abundantly provide for them. If that’s how we treat our children, even with all our sin and imperfections, how much more will our perfect heavenly Father respond to our petitions with kindness? How much more does He long to give us good gifts?

Jesus taught His disciples, and us, to pray to God as “Father” (Luke 11:1-4). If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have access to God because you are His child. On the basis of this relationship, you can boldly bring Him your every need. Every longing of your heart. Every hurt and grief and pain.

Yes, God knows our needs before we ask, but prayer is an expression of relationship. Through prayer we acknowledge our trust in the God who not only can provide for our needs, He also wants to provide abundantly.

God is a good, good Father and the giver of good, good gifts. Let us pray expectantly, trusting in God’s good provision.

TWEETABLE
A Father’s Good Gifts – insight from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest.

This post was adapted from Kathy’s book God is My Refuge: Twelve Weeks of Devotions and Scripture Memory for Troubled Times. It provides the direction women need to discover, understand, and tap into the ”ever-present help” that only God can give.

Join the conversation: How has our Heavenly Father provided for your needs in the past?