Pursuit of Perfection

by Jennifer Smith Lane

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.                                                                       2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

As a recovering perfectionist, I asked myself, why do I get so caught up in being perfect? While I know full well that perfection is impossible, there is still something deep inside me fueling my desire to achieve it. I began to wonder where this notion came from.

Surely it is a godly pursuit, right? I recalled one of Jesus commands from the Sermon on the Mount, “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NIV) and reassured myself that while perfection was a tall order, I was on the right track in pursuing it.

However, further study of this verse brought new understanding.

First, I looked up the dictionary definition of perfect. Webster’s defined it as “free from any flaw, fault or defect in condition or quality and complete.” Then I looked up the Greek word for perfect, which literally means the condition something is in: its completeness or maturity. A cross reference to that verse is Leviticus 19:2, which commands Israel to “be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (NIV). I realized that the idea of perfect is more about holiness than  being flawless or acceptable.

This changes everything.

I had perfection as the goal, and I was failing miserably. But perfection isn’t the goal, God is. The pursuit is about holiness and growing in maturity in my walk with God, not about whether I did everything perfectly. You see, God doesn’t call us to pursue perfection, He calls us to pursue Him.

While pursuing perfection is one thing, striving for it is another. When we take the pursuit of perfection and place it on the throne of our heart rather than God, we stray off course and perfectionism becomes our ideology. Webster’s defines perfectionism as “a refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. A doctrine holding that religious, moral, social, or political perfection is attainable.” Obviously not Scriptural! If we adhere to the way the world defines perfection, pursing it becomes the object of our worship, not God.

Life isn’t perfect, and it never will be. It’s messy. It’s chaotic. It’s unpredictable. Living focused on an unattainable goal is not a recipe for success. Instead, it highlights our weaknesses, intensifies our failures, and leaves us unfulfilled. But Jesus said, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV). Did you catch that? Christ’s power works best in our imperfections.

Friend, what are you pursuing? Ask God to shine His light to expose your desire for perfection, so that you can correctly see your imperfection for what it is: an opportunity for Christ to shine through you. It will transform your pursuit of perfection into a pursuit of Him.

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Pursuit of Perfection – insight from Jennifer Smith Lane on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

jennifer smith laneAbout the author: Jennifer Smith Lane is the president and co-founder of the Michigan Eating Disorders Alliance, whose mission is to provide education programs to prevent eating disorders. In addition to her non-profit work, she leads an eating and body image ministry walking alongside women on their recovery journey and empowering them to find freedom in Christ. Jennifer, her husband, and three children live in Michigan.

Jennifer’s new book, Transformed: Eating and Body Image Renewal God’s Way, helps women identify the underlying spiritual issues that keep them stuck in eating and body image issues. It is an inductive Bible study that teaches tools to turn to God for rescue through the spiritual disciplines.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with the need for perfectionism?

Seasick from Traveling with Jesus

by Lori Stanley Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

“For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” Psalm 107: 25-28 ESV

For years, I encountered wave after relentless wave of trial. After a time, I cried out against the storms. Alone in the dark, I asked: “Is it something I’ve done?”

I repented over things I did, things I should have done, things I could have done better. Which decision had sent me spiraling into this Odyssean wormhole? Was there some prayer, an “open sesame” combination of phrases or liturgies that would release the blessing, open the door, move God’s hand to stop the crazy spinning helm, the everyday vertigo of being me?

But there are no Christian incantations, and God isn’t an idol to be flattered or a genie to be conjured. And anyway, what did I expect following a God who naps through storms?

My spirit flailed on the deck of the life and heaved over the side, sickened by the unending waves.

I watched as others seemed to have a measure of peace, security, victory, calm seas and fair winds. They seemed to be peacefully traveling on a cruise ship with buffets, entertainment, and day trips to the shore. While my peace allotment was ladled out in splattering scoops like sips of water rationed to galley slaves.

I developed an intense aversion to manna. I didn’t want grace for the day, bread enough for now, strength for the moment! I wanted a diversified grace portfolio that would allow me to retire on grace at any time of my choosing; an account full of provision so I could live off the interest; bona fide security that came from earning enough blessing that I was assured calm seas for miles.

I didn’t want to be along for the ride, I wanted to own the ship, direct its course and hire weathermen to dictate the weather. At least that’s what I screamed into the wind as I lay drenched on the storm-tossed deck.

And when God whispered to me to trust His goodness, love, His plan – the hope of that was sometimes like a stale cracker. Internal waves competed with the assault of the sea—waves of self-pity, bitterness, doubt, and fear, leaving me tempted to abandon ship and hope for dispassionate strangers willing to toss me over the rail and a large passing fish.

But then, the wind blew in the truth like an albatross, and as I watched it glide and land beside me on deck, I suddenly recognized the blessing of my storm training and the kindness of God. He never allowed me the illusion that I could bank grace. I stood for a moment on the deck, utilizing muscles that had developed by clinging on so hard and experienced a new confidence; not in the sun or the soundness of the ship or in a hopeful breeze, but confidence in Him, the One who is outside me, within me, and around me. The One who is able, because I never am, even when I feel like the captain of my soul.

He knew that a steady diet of manna is the prescription for self-righteousness, which is no righteousness at all. He knew that if He removed all other resources I would hunger and thirst after the real thing: only available through Him and only provided in each day, each moment, each breath, but promised for eternity.

Manna. It is a holy word. God provides. What is it? Grace. Wow.

The waves still crash over my bow, but the nausea has passed. I have my sea legs now and hope no longer feels like a weight I cannot bear. Now it is my anchor, Jesus.

Are you in the storm? He is with you. Hang on.

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Seasick from Traveling with Jesus – insight from @LoriSRoeleveld on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

lori Roeleveld Headshot 2015About the author: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

Join the conversation: Are you in a storm? What are you learning?

Nothing to Give

by Terri Clark @TerriClarkTCM

She was called Joyce, a young, fifteen-year-old girl who’d come to live with the Mubiru family. When she came, she had nothing but her brokenness. Her family had put her out on the street. Poverty and abuse was all she’d known until my friends took her in. I met Joyce on my first trip to Uganda, when I too stayed with the Mubiru family.

Early in the morning, I woke to children quietly scurrying around, sweeping and mopping floors, washing clothes in tubs in the back yard, preparing food and various other family tasks. Typical of Ugandan families, everyone in the house had assigned chores to do. At the time, there was no running water in the house, so when I got up, water was heated on the charcoal burners outside for me to bathe. Of course, without plumbing, I also had to make my morning trek to the pit latrine behind the house. It was in these treks that I met Joyce. She didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Lugandan, but we had no trouble understanding each other.

When I came out of the pit latrine, Joyce was standing at a respectful distance holding a plastic tub, a bar of blue Ugandan soap, a cup of clean water and a towel. Her assignment was to make sure, whenever I emerged from the pit latrine, I could wash my hands, and she took her assignment to heart. Motioning for me to hold my hands over the tub, Joyce gently poured clean water over my hands from her cup. She then gave me the soap to wash and poured water again to rinse, finally handing me the towel to dry my hands. When I finished, Joyce smiled sweetly and disappeared.

The first time Joyce poured water over my hands, I was touched by her humility. Naturally, I never announced when I needed the latrine. But over the next three weeks, Joyce somehow always knew. She never failed to be waiting for me with fresh water and soap when I came out. In fact, it became a game between us. I tried to be especially discreet in my exit, but Joyce was always watching. Her love and gratitude to God in rescuing her from a life of pain was reflected in her serving.

Have you ever looked at your life, your experiences, family circumstances, financial status, talents, gifts—or lack of gifts and thought, “I have nothing to give”? Maybe you’ve watched others around you and thought this person or that person has it all together and it’s easy to see why God would choose to use them—but me? I have nothing to give. How can I serve God?

Service isn’t about qualifications or talent. It’s not about skill or whether you have money. In fact, if someone has a heart to serve, that’s what qualifies them. The smallest gesture offered in love is a sweet sacrifice in God’s eyes. Joyce probably thought she had nothing to give, but her humble hand washing was right up there in value with the widow’s two coins. Both the widow and Joyce gave all they had—from a heart of gratitude. (Read the story of the widow’s coins in Mark 12: 41-44)

If you’ve been thinking you have nothing to give, remember Joyce. There are many ways of giving to God to express your love and gratitude for what He has done for you. Does your neighbor need a friend? Be that friend. Pour water over their hands with a smile. Rake some leaves, go to the grocery store, listen to their stories, feed their cat… I think you get the idea.

Jesus is our example: “For even the Son of Man [Jesus] came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 ESV)

Jesus Himself said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.” (Mark 9:41 NIV)

 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God…so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11 NASB

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Nothing to Give – insight from @TerriClarkTCM on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Terri ClarkAbout the author: Terri Clark works with women to prepare and equip them to receive God and the blessings He wants to produce in their lives. She began to answer God’s call on her life in 1994 and has since impacted women all over the world with His news of salvation, edification, and healing.

Her book, Fanning the Flame: Reigniting Your Faith in God, identifies and addresses the issues which most affect a believer’s spiritual flame: the busyness of life, Christian service, pride, and worldly temptations. Join her in this pilgrimage and reignite your spiritual lamp with a fresh, empowering faith–a faith that will stand through a time of testing.

Join the conversation: What are some acts of simple service that have touched your heart?

Will There Be Justice?

by Sheri Schofield

Knock! Knock! No, it’s not a joke. It’s that woodpecker putting holes in the side of our church! Every day it comes by and pecks a little bit more of the wood away. He’s pecked a sizable hole already.

We’ve tried chasing him off – there’s a pile of small stones on the ground outside for the men to use to chase him away when he pecks during the church service. But that pesky bird keeps coming back! He’s persistent.

It reminds me of a story Jesus told. There was once a woman who had been harmed. She went to the judge of her city and begged him to help her get justice. But the judge was a scoundrel himself and felt contemptuous toward everyone else. He didn’t want to help her. Day after day, the woman went to the judge. “Please give me justice!” she would beg. Day after day, the judge ignored her.

But the woman’s persistent plea, day after day, finally got to him. He thought, “I don’t respect God or man, but this woman is really getting under my skin. If I don’t give her justice, she’s going to wear me out. So, just to get rid of her, I’m going to give her justice.”

Jesus said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:6-8, NIV)

Have you ever been a victim of injustice? How important is true justice to God? The prophet Isaiah writes, “For I, the LORD, love justice. I hate robbery and wrongdoing.” (Isaiah 61:8, NLT)

This world is full of injustice, for the prince of darkness, the devil, rages against the day when Jesus will return and put an end to him and his works. Until that day comes, there will be injustice. Around the world, Christians are put in prison and killed daily because of their faith. Those who want to do right are often harassed and slandered here in our own country.

Are you one who has suffered because of your faith?

Our family faced a huge injustice years ago, and the debilitating results are with us to this day. At first, I was so angry that every time I heard the name of the group that hurt us, that name would light up in flaming red capitol letters in my brain. Those around us refused to believe what we had suffered, for it didn’t fit their ideas of what America was like. There was no validation, no comfort. No justice.

Then the Lord spoke to me out of Romans 12:19 (NIV) where Paul writes, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”

Because of those words, I was able to gradually relax, trust God, and have faith in him. He alone knows what true justice is. Now, years later, I have been able to let it go. Not because we received justice, but because God used our experience to help thousands of others receive it. Though God graciously showed us why we had to suffer, God’s people do not always get to see the reason. We must live by faith, not by sight, and know that when we leave room for God’s justice, it is enough.

Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:24 NIV

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Will There Be Justice? – encouragement from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Sheri’s new book, The Prince And The Plan, is a beautifully illustrated, interactive picture book, written for children ages 4-8, that helps parents lead their children into a lasting, saving relationship with Jesus. It explains abstract concepts through words and interactive, multi-sensory activities. Useful for children’s ministry as well.

Join the Conversation: Have you experienced an injustice? How did God reveal Himself as you went through that struggle?

Whatever State I Am In

by Crystal Bowman

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.  1 Timothy 6:6-8 NKJV

For the past fourteen years, our home in Florida provided an escape from bitter Michigan winters  where I spent most of my life. I have never been a fan of cold weather (like anything below 75!) so wearing flip-flops in February was a dream come true. I had the best of both worlds—warm, comfortable summers in Michigan and warm, comfortable winters in Florida.

It wasn’t just the weather that I enjoyed in each state. I also had a rich and meaningful life in both places. In Florida I had my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) ministry with more than fifty young, energetic moms to mentor and enjoy. I also had the Atlantic Ocean four miles down the road and often went for long walks along the shore. In Michigan I had my mother, siblings, high school friends, and my son’s family. I was happy and enjoying life to the fullest—until everything changed.

In July, my healthy husband became ill. Since the best doctors for his medical care are near our home in Michigan, we listed our home in Florida and sold it in two weeks. We are now living in Michigan indefinitely. And here I am—four months later—with snow on the ground in November wearing Uggs instead of flip-flops.

The Apostle Paul moved around a lot, preaching the Gospel wherever he went. He relied on God and others to provide for his needs and made tents with his friends Aquila and Pricilla to earn his keep. He was adaptable to his circumstances and didn’t get too comfortable in one place. Not only did he adapt well to change, he learned to be content in any and all circumstances. In Philippians 4:11 (NKJV) he wrote, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” Paul didn’t need sunny skies or warm temperatures to be content. He didn’t even need a roof over his head. His greater purpose was to tell people that Jesus died for their sins, and if they believed in Him, they would have eternal life. Sharing the Gospel and living for Jesus was more important to him than anything else.

I wish I could say I am adaptable like Paul was. I’m not. I’m more of a status-quo-type person. I get set in my ways and enjoy comfortable things—like warm weather, a full fridge, and a nice house. But through this new experience, God is stretching me and teaching me to be more adaptable and content no matter where I have landed. My priorities need to be more meaningful than merely where I live. I need to focus more on my blessings and less on the outside temperature. I have friends and family nearby, good doctors, a good furnace, and my cozy Uggs.

As I face a cold, bitter winter in Michigan, I am inspired by the Apostle Paul’s words. I can be content in whatever state I am in—even if that state is Michigan.

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Whatever State I Am In – encourage from Crystal Bowman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Crystal BowmanAbout the author: Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books including, Our Daily Bread for Kids. She and her husband have three married children and seven huggable grandchildren.

Ten percent of women struggle with infertility. Mothers In Waiting—Healing and Hope for Those with Empty Arms contains 30 hope-filled stories from contributors like Valorie Burton, Katie Norris, and Shay Shull, whose journeys through infertility and miscarriage to adoption and miracle births will buoy your faith. You don’t have to suffer alone.

Join the conversation: What is challenging your sense of contentment?

 

Yet in Thy Dark Streets Shineth

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I get it. Sometimes we have difficulty letting go of the season. I was thinking that this year we should try something different. We could try doing Christmas—and then when it’s over, we could wait until next year to do Christmas again. My good friends—who also happen to be my neighbors—kept their Christmas lights up, and even the tree up, until June last year. June! It was so cute. They still turned the lights on every night. When summer rolled around, we were trying to decide if it was a late Christmas celebration or an early one for the next year.

When they came over for Bible study one evening, I teased them, “Tonight you will be visited by the Ghost of CHRISTMAS IS OVER, PEOPLE!”

Then again, I’ve heard a lot of people judge when it’s time to take down the Christmas tree by how dry it is and/or whether or not it’s currently on fire. Counting my blessings. Since my neighbor’s tree is fake.

I do understand how tough it can be to get motivated to take the decorations down and put them all away. Decorating? So exciting. But taking them down is rather a bummer. Last year I tried, “Okay, Google: Take down my Christmas lights,” but…nothing. There really should be an app for that.

Still, you know what? My neighbors might just have it right. Their twinkling tree and all the shiny lights on their house lit up our neighborhood most of the year. Maybe I’m the one who needs to adjust my thinking about what’s seasonal and what’s not. The truth is, my neighbors don’t leave their Christmas decorations up because they’re lazy about taking them down. They leave them up because they love Christmas. They really, really love Christmas.

The pre-Christmas celebrations started long before there was a first Christmas. Seven-hundred years before Christ, Isaiah wrote, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness,” (Isaiah 9:2). Then in verse 6 he wrote, “For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (CSB)

This? Oh my, this is something to shine about. Jesus confirmed it when He said, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven,” (Matthew 5:14, 16 CSB).

Light up the neighborhood. Light up the world.

We sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” every year. It’s a song sung to the city where our Jesus was born and it includes the phrase:

“Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting Light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.”

The everlasting Light that shone in Bethlehem is still shining. Our Father doesn’t want us to pack away our thoughts of our Savior’s coming like so many Christmas decorations. We’re to shine Gospel-light-living through our streets and through our world.

So let’s do it. Let’s light it up in every season.

And if you’d specifically like to see it lit up come summer, head on over to my neighborhood. We’ll leave the lights on.

No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light.  Luke 11:33 NASB

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Yet in Thy Dark Streets Shineth – insight from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for the Messy to Meaningful series, with My Purse Runneth Over coming soon. Edie Melson and Rhonda have a new book as well, Unruffled—Thriving in Chaos.

Rhonda 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 are ways you can light up your neighborhood and world?

My  Off-Key Christmas Gift

by Linda Evans Shepherd @LindaShepherd

When I was four years old, I was picked to sing my first and only church solo.

I so loved it when the pretty ladies would sing in front of the church, and I was surprised that anyone thought a little girl like me should stand in the place of such wonderful singers.

My children’s choir director told me that I was to croon ‘I, Said the Donkey,’ a song about the lowly donkey who carried a very pregnant Mary to the Bethlehem stable, just in time for the birth of Jesus. I liked the story and was impressed that such a shaggy, ordinary beast could be chosen for such an important mission.  In my little heart, I secretly hoped that my song would also be important to God.

That Christmas Eve afternoon, I’d practiced the song with my mom. I sang it beautifully, with all the warbling perfection of the neighborhood opera singer who taught private music lessons every afternoon.  From my yard, I would sing the scales and mimic her students trilling, at least until my mom would warn, “Stop, she’ll hear you!”

But that Christmas Eve night, as I stood in front of the overflowing crowd filling our large downtown church, I felt surprised to see how many people were actually looking at me, a tiny, skinny girl with bobbed hair.

I took a breath, started the song, and completely forgetting to warble my voice, I launched into a speedy rendition of what I had practiced.

It was over in a flash, and though my mother feigned encouragement, her eyes told me I hadn’t done my best.  I felt bad.  I had wanted to do something nice for God, something He would like. But had the lisping words of a usually unnoticed girl singing such a pint-size, off-key song, make any kind of difference to God?

The Word says in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “My dear brothers and sisters, stay firmly planted—be unshakable—do many good works in the name of God, and know that all your labor is not for nothing when it is for God” (VOICE).

Our works, no matter how ordinary or off-key, mean something when they are done for God. He loves to see us, his children, honor and serve Him as we sing our songs, care for our loved ones, and love our neighbors.

Today, as you pass out your Christmas gifts to your loved ones, and maybe even open a few yourself, think of the ways you can gift God. too. Maybe through keeping the peace at the holiday table? Or sharing and act of kindness or an encouraging word? With every tiny act of service, do it in love and gift it to God, and that will make all the difference.

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My  Off-Key Christmas Gift – encouragement from @LindaShepherd on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

linda evans shepherd

Merry Christmas everyone, from the Arise Daily team and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association.

Love,

Linda Evans Shepherd, Arise Daily Publisher and CEO of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association

Renew a Right Spirit

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 ESV

All was in readiness. Outside, luminaries flickered on the curb. Inside, polished furniture gleamed, a fire crackled on the hearth, strains of Handel’s Messiah filled the house, candles glowed, and mouthwatering aromas wafted from the kitchen. The presents were wrapped, the Christmas china in place, the relatives on the way. Everything was perfect, except for one thing.

I was in a rotten mood. My sour attitude had been building all day like dark thunderclouds on the horizon and now threatened to storm all over the festivities. I was being a grump at the least, and at most, closely impersonating the Grinch.

Circumstances earlier in the day combined to fuel my mood, culminating with a last- minute request to purchase a gift for a family member to give. As I drove around in the cold pouring rain, dashing in and out of crowded stores without finding the requested item, I fumed. Why didn’t she ask me to do this weeks ago? I’m suffering because of her procrastination!

I arrived home hours later to find the children lounging all over recently straightened sofas, pillows strewn across the floor. Their chores remained undone. My husband had gone on some secret Christmas Eve gift-purchasing mission, failing to do the one job I requested of him before leaving. His foray was probably for my benefit, but by this point I didn’t care. As I barked orders to reluctant children, I knew I was being unnecessarily gruff. When my husband returned, all smiles and excitement, I greeted him with a sullen look and a cold shoulder.

Now, I attempted to plaster a polite hostess smile on my face as the relatives arrived. I looked nice and managed warm greetings, but inside, my spirit was anything but right. Following our tradition of having a birthday party for Jesus, we gathered around the piano and sang carols. I heard the words of each song in my heart as my husband played the piano, our beautiful daughter played the violin, and our handsome son sawed away at the cello. Precious grandmothers and great-aunts sang in beautiful harmony.

A lump formed in my throat and tears stung my eyes. What is the matter with me? I am so blessed, but I’ve chosen to allow a negative, ungrateful spirit to overwhelm me on Christmas Eve.

During the reading of the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke 2, I silently asked God to forgive me for my attitude. I thanked Him for home, family, traditions, and most of all, for the precious gift of his son, Jesus. As we circled around a fluffy white confection of a birthday cake and sang “Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus,” I whispered, “And renew a right spirit within me.”

King David wrote Psalm 51 after the prophet Nathan confronted him about his sin. Not only had David committed adultery, he had arranged for Bathsheba’s husband to be put forward in battle, knowing it would ensure his death. Until Nathan confronted him, David ignored his sin. David’s plea for God to cleanse him from his transgressions and create a clean heart within him demonstrates humility and repentance.

All too often we compartmentalize sin and allow it to hamper our relationship with God. Is there something festering within your heart that is stealing your joy today? Search your heart for any sin that you’ve been ignoring. Come clean with God and ask him to restore a right spirit within you. It could make this Christmas Eve especially bright.

TWEETABLE
Renew a Right Spirit – insight from @CandyArrington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy ArringtonAbout the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: Are you struggling to have a happy heart this Christmas season?

God With Us

by Nan Corbitt Allen

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23 NIV

One day, my 4-year-old granddaughter pulled me close and whispered, “Nana, I love God.” It truly warmed my heart to hear her say it. And then she added, “Both of ‘em.”

I was a little confused. “What do you mean by ‘both of ‘em’? There’s only one God.”

She answered, “You know, God and Jesus”.

Oh. Well. Yeah.

I quickly ran in my mind ways to explain the Holy Trinity to a 4-year-old but decided to go with, “Well, God and Jesus are kind of the same – only God stays in Heaven and Jesus came down to earth to be like us.” I was sure my answer was brilliant and that she got it – sort of. (Of course, there was the Holy Spirit part that I don’t really understand myself and wouldn’t even try to explain to a child.)

Her sweet comment started me to thinking about that later, however– about Jesus being God Incarnate – Emmanuel – God with Us. That reminded me of a story told by the late, great commentator Paul Harvey. It goes like this:

There was a farmer who discovered a flock of birds desperately trying to escape the winter cold by repeatedly flying into his glass storm door. The compassionate farmer really wanted to let the birds inside to get warm but having been around wild animals in his work, he knew that was not the best plan for these creatures. Not only were the birds cold, but frightened as well, and that fear could have harmed them even further.

The farmer had an idea.

He would go out and sprinkle crumbs from his front porch to the open barn where he kept a coal-burning stove to keep his farm animals warm. He was sure that the birds would follow the crumb path to a warm refuge. Alas, the farmer was broken-hearted when the birds wouldn’t accept his plan. The farmer thought, “If only I were a bird, just for a moment, I could lead them myself into the safety of the barn”.

And that’s what God did. Became one of us. To lead us to safety.

In my later conversation with Brileigh later, in which I revisited the phenomenon of God walking on earth, I broached the subject of Jesus being called lots of different names, too – before and after He came to earth. Jesus was just His given name – common among Jewish boys of that time.

“Like what names, Nana?”

“Well, like Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”, I answered quoting my favorite Old Testament prophet, Isaiah. I also added, “He was later called King of kings.”

Her: He was a King?

Me: Yeah. But not like other kings.

Her: I remember a bad king who tried to kill Jesus when He was a baby.

I presumed she was talking about the madman Herod who had declared himself King of Jews until the Wise Men showed up at his front door and ruined everything. I began hoping to shed some light on this biblical account, “Yes, there was a king like that and…”

But before I could go on, she added, “I fink his name was Harold.”

There it is.

TWEETABLE
God With Us – encouragement 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 great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. 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: Has God’s timing for you ever proved way better than your expected time frame?

Festival of Lights

by Fran Caffey Sandin

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.                                                            Matthew 5: 16 NASB

Decorating our Christmas tree is like taking a walk down memory lane, as ornaments are one of my favorite souvenirs to purchase when traveling. Lightweight and easy to pack, they usually include an object that reminds me of our visit. This year I was noticing in particular a small replica of a menorah that I bought in Old Jerusalem.

Jewish families also enjoy a winter holiday: the Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah (which means dedication). It may surprise you to learn that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah (John 10:22-23). Here’s the reason why.

During the time period between the Old and New Testaments (167-164 BC), a conquering king named Antiochus (who was Syrian-Greek) invaded the Jewish nation. He forbid the worship of the God of Israel, directing the Jews to worship him instead. To insure his law was obeyed, he defiled the only place where sacrifices could be made: the temple in Jerusalem. He did this by sacrificing a pig upon the holy altar.

The nation was outraged. God raised up a small band of heroes who became known as the Maccabees. They fiercely drove Antiochus and his troops out of the land. Hanukkah (or Festival of Lights) commemorates that victory, specifically when the Jews recaptured the temple and rededicated it to God’s service. During that event, a giant menorah, a candelabra with four candles on each side and one in the middle, was lit.

It was the first time in many years, as the Greeks had extinguished the menorah. Now there was no more than one day’s supply of oil to keep the candelabra burning. It would take eight days for the priests to consecrate more oil. Nevertheless, the Jews lit the lamp stand, and it continued to burn for eight full days! Obviously, this was a miracle that deserved to be remembered.

Thus the Festival of Lights was established. In modern Jewish homes, the miniature menorah candles are lit, one more each day, to represent the eight days that the miracle took place. The center candle is the shamash, a Hebrew word meaning servant, and this is used to light the other candles.

From Scripture, Christians know that Jesus is the Light of the World, God’s shamash.

The Jerusalem temple has been destroyed, but when we confess our sins and believe that Jesus Christ paid for our sins on the cross, and that He was resurrected from the dead, we become the temple of God, and the shamash (Jesus) shines in our hearts. Through God’s Holy Spirit, we have a never-ending supply of oil to keep our lamps brightly burning.

All of us have sinned, and we have no way to change our lives apart from the power of God. When Jesus came, He gave us eternal life and light. All we have to do is acknowledge our sins and inadequacy to make it right and believe in Him, accepting His gift of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Then we become a reflection of His light to others of His great love and peace. Hallelujah! What a shamash! What a Savior!

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that anyone who is living in darkness today would experience the true meaning of Christmas by allowing the light of Jesus into their hearts. Without Jesus there is no peace, no joy, no hope. When His light shines within, we are forever changed. May His grace abound in this Christmas season. May our lights shine for His glory. In His name, Amen.

TWEETABLE
Festival of Lights – insight from Fran Caffey Sandin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

fran sandlin
About the author
Fran Caffey Sandin is a retired nurse, wife, mother, and grandmother in Greenville, Texas. She enjoys baking, flower arranging, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Jim. Fran is a church organist, a core group leader for Community Bible Study, and author of See You Later, Jeffreyand Touching the Clouds: True Stories to Strengthen Your Faithand has co-authored othersJim and Fran are parents of two sons awaiting them in Heaven; a married daughter and son-in-law, and three fabulous grandchildren. Visit Fran at her website:  www.fransandin.com.

Join the conversation: What is the most effective way of demonstrating servanthood that you have witnessed?