How Do I Love My Enemy?

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”                                                    Matthew 5:44 NIV

How do two porcupines hug? Very Carefully.  How do we love our enemies? With divine empowerment.

What did Jesus mean when He told His disciples to love their enemies? What does it look like to love your adversary?

We associate love with objects that make us feel good. When I say I love chocolate chip cookies, sunsets at the beach, and the gal I just met, I mean I enjoy the taste of cookies, the beauty of sunsets, and my new acquaintance’s personality.

To love our enemy, we need a stronger love than that. We need a love that can’t be stopped by the erratic behavior of its recipient. We must become conduits of Christ’s love.

What Does Love for My Enemy Look Like?

When God tells us to love our enemies, He isn’t asking us to manufacture warm feelings. God’s love is practical. It does what’s right. It seeks the eternal best for all involved.

Two concrete ways to show love are to “pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44 NIV) and provide help when they experience trouble.

God told the Israelites to return their brother’s stray ox or donkey when they found it (Deuteronomy 22:1). If they found their enemy’s lost animal, they were to return it, too (Exodus 23:4). In other words, we do good for everyone.

What Loving My Enemy Is Not

Loving your enemies is not seeking a close relationship with them or tolerating evil. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. If you wouldn’t place your child or best friend in a situation, you should treat yourself with the same consideration. God calls us to be loving—and wise.

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15 NIV).

Unsafe people put kind people in awkward positions. It’s uncomfortable to live guarded. But we must practice caution with those who manipulate, deceive, and back-stab. We don’t do anyone a favor when we protect wrong doers.

A young woman once told me she felt guilty because she told her principal about a young man who bullied her. “I should have been able to shrug it off. He got into trouble, and it’s my fault.” This woman had warned the man many times to stop. Yet she accepted the blame he put on her when he reaped the consequences of his wrongs.

The instruction to love our enemies does not mean to tolerate sin or abuse. Permitting sin is not good for us or them (Ephesians 5:11). Love and boundaries go together. Real love hates wrong.

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good” (Romans 12:9 NLT).

Where Do I Find the Power to Love My Enemy?

God is love. His Spirit produces love through us when we submit to Him (Galatians 5:22). As we obey the Romans 12:14 command to bless those who persecute us, power shifts from our enemy to us. They don’t control us; God does.

When Christ rules our hearts, we love, based not on who they are, but on who we are in Christ. Nobody can rock that.

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How Do I Love My Enemy? – practical insight from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, is to be released February 2020. She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: How do you go about loving your enemy?

Progress, Not Perfection

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

He was a powerhouse of a student, filled with energy, brains, and confidence: all a little too much for his second-grade self to handle at times. One morning he stepped on my last nerve. And I lost my temper.

It was more than unprofessional. It had the potential to be damaging. I couldn’t let him leave for the day without trying to make amends. I found a moment to speak with him alone. “I’m so sorry,” I told him with tears in my eyes. “I was wrong for losing my temper. I was wrong to make you feel unloved. You are important to me, and so very important to God. Will you forgive me?”

He impulsively threw his arms around me, totally sympathetic to my struggle. “It’s alright, Mrs. Coleman,” he assured me. “I was being bad. You are supposed to straighten me out when that happens.”

It was the start of a beautiful friendship. Knowing his teacher readily admitted her failures opened the heart of that precocious little boy.

If you are like me, your standard on living before others may be nothing less than perfection. Not an especially realistic expectation. But don’t despair, because in reality, it’s not perfection, but the demonstration of our spiritual growth that actually touches hearts.

Paul’s first letter to Timothy emphasizes this. “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather show yourself an example of those who believe,” he told Timothy. “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:12, 16 NASB).

Paul wanted Timothy to be an example to the church at Ephesus. But Timothy would not inspire through perfection. Rather, people’s hearts would stir in seeing God at work in Timothy. Living transparently before them, willing to admit his failures and openly acknowledging his humble dependence on God, would encourage them the most.

Not the pretty picture we might assume an example should be, right? Transformation can be a messy business. But Timothy’s transparency through that process would best serve to inspire and instruct the body of Christ.

Years ago, I heard a Bible college president urging his young protégés to keep themselves one step above those in their future congregations. Don’t let them see your faults, he warned them. In order for you to be an effective leader, you need to be revered.

This idea couldn’t be less biblical! The apostles were very open about their weaknesses. Paul named himself the chief of sinners. Yet the Chief of Sinners led hundreds to the Lord and God is still using his writings in the lives of believers today. Peter’s impulsiveness and infamous denial are laid out for all to see in the gospels. But God used him to lead people into the truth and to build His Church. Our testimony is not in keeping up appearances. Our most effective witness is in the demonstration of our progress.

God reveals Himself through us as He moves us forward in our relationship with Him.

Being candid in the struggle gives those around us an opportunity to watch God’s transforming power in action. It gives them hope that they, too, can be used by God, even with their own imperfections.

Stop feeling pressure to be perfect. Embrace what you can learn and ultimately teach others in response to your failures. It’s the perfect opportunity to reveal a God who is alive and active in you.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB 

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Progress, Not Perfection – encouragement 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 revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: How has transparency led to inspiration for those around you?

What God Does with Our Dreams

by Sheri Schofield

Jesus told his disciples,Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone…” (Mark 16:15 NLT).  So from the moment I gave my heart to Jesus, I dreamed of becoming a missionary. I wanted to go to Latin America. Years later, my husband, Tim, and I went to Central America. But after only one year, our family had to return to the States because of Tim’s health.

My heart was broken. I cried out to God, “This is the death of our dreams!”

Tim found work in Montana, far from the Latin American children I wanted to reach for Jesus. I was devastated. After a year, though, I began to regroup. I asked God to give me the children of our city for Jesus. Sound impossible? Many God-given dreams are.

I took the ministry God made available: teaching the children in a relatively small church for the next twenty-plus years. It seemed as though my second dream, too, would never find fulfillment.

Then one day, early in my teaching work, I asked God to give me the ability to paint pictures of the children in my class on the classroom wall, with Jesus, by the Sea of Galilee. I had not painted for over sixteen years and had no significant experience with portrait work. But God granted my request. It blew me away!  I began painting people’s portraits when opportunities arose, practicing the art. It felt like a diamond necklace-kind of gift from God, one that I could simply enjoy, with no purpose other than pleasure.

Years later, I began writing. That’s when God gave me HIS assignment: I was to write the lessons on the plan of salvation that I had developed while teaching, and publish them in a book — and illustrate it, using people of all races so it could be used in Latin America, too! So I did. The book contained ninety-nine full page, full color illustrations with lots of people of all races.

When the first 2,000 copies of the book came off the press, I discovered that the printer had mistakenly printed the interior in black and white! I was stunned. But God said, “Sheri, this is not a mistake. You are to give these books to the pastors working on the Montana Native American reservations. They have no resources.” Tim agreed, so we did.

The next batch of books were fine, so I began selling them. Then the Lord said, “Sheri, it’s time to start giving these books away to the children of Helena. You’ve asked for a way to reach them for Jesus: I have now given you a way to do that!” So Tim and I began. There are currently about a thousand books floating around this city.

Now the Lord has finally opened the door for us to reach Latin America: He has brought thousands from Central America to our USA southern border, and they cannot cross it.

“Translate that book into Spanish now,” the Lord said. So we did. This week, we will place an order for 1,000 translated books. When they are printed, there are churches at the border ready to take them across to the immigrant families.

God has brought us full-circle to that first dream that we thought had died! By replacing our dreams with His, God has greatly expanded our reach and effectiveness. He has given us the desires of our heart.

What dreams do you have for God? Can you give those dreams to Him? Trust Him: He’s got a terrific plan!

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.    Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV

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What God Does with Our Dreams – insight 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!

Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.

Join the Conversation: What dreams has God given you?

 

 

Your Witness Lives On

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

I was blessed to have close relationships with my mother’s two unmarried sisters. Ours was a combination child/sister/friend experience. When my aunt Marge died, I delivered the eulogy at her funeral.

Marge had been in a care facility for several years, and as is often the case, had a number of roommates during her time there. The day Marge died, her roommate and the roommate’s daughter, Linda, cried with us.

When we gathered for Marge’s celebration of life service, Linda attended. Following the service, she came to me in tears, telling me how much the eulogy meant to her and how she wished she’d known Marge better. I assumed the account of my aunt’s faith, humor, and love for family and friends touched a nostalgic place in Linda’s heart. But several weeks later, she contacted Marge’s sister, Marilyn, and told her the eulogy caused her to experience a spiritual awakening.

“I haven’t been to church in years,” Linda said. “But hearing about Marge’s life has caused me to question my own approach to things, my attitudes, my actions, and my faith. I want to know more.” Marilyn sent her a devotional book and invited her to attend our church.

Weeks passed without response, but one day, Linda came to Marilyn’s house and talked for over an hour about what God had done in her life since Marge’s death. The changes in Linda’s life included reading the Bible daily and watching our church service on TV.

I’ve often heard the unattributed quotation, “Your life is the only Bible some people will ever read.” Linda knew Marge only as someone who shared her mother’s room at the care facility, until Marge died. God used the testimony of Marge’s life, presented in the form of a eulogy, to touch this woman’s heart and move her to embark on a faith journey.

God can use any means, even a funeral, to draw people to himself.

The story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection is still as powerful and life-changing today as it was to early converts to Christianity. Faithful disciples relayed the Good News then, and now it is up to us to share the gospel by various means.

Often we’re hesitant because society conditions us not to push our beliefs on others, and fear tells us we’re not equipped. So your living example of God at work in your life may be the only gospel some people ever hear. Paul reminds us not to hold back on sharing the gospel with others. “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Romans 1:16 NLT

Do people watch us to see how we speak, act, and react? Can our lives convey a message of Christ’s love? Can the testimony of our lives reach beyond the grave? I’m confident the answer to these questions is yes, and that’s why it is important to live in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Above all else, you must live in a way that brings honor to the good news about Christ.                                                                                                                                    Philippians 1:27 CEV

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Your Witness Lives On – insight and encouragement 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: What examples have you seen that have inspired you in your faith journey?

Love or Nothing

by Patti Richter

“Isn’t love the most important thing?”

My friend’s mother had just repeated the question for me a second time as I attempted to share my born-again faith.

“Of course,” I had to agree. We both knew the Apostle Paul’s admonition to love: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal . . .  and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-2, ESV).

I was a college student at that time, maturing but still growing, and my concept of love was yet unformed. But even as a new follower of Christ, God’s Spirit and His Word were already transforming my heart and mind.

I was much like a woman who marries a man with children and later realizes her commitment entails much more than one relationship. Loving God requires loving others, and I had a long way to go in this area.

When I shared my testimony of coming to Christ with long-time friends who also needed a Savior, they didn’t respond as I hoped. But instead of praying for them and keeping in touch, I gave up these friendships without considering Paul’s words from that lyrical chapter, “Love is patient and kind” (v. 4 ESV).

My superior attitude likewise threw cold water on the home front, where I tried to enlighten my parents by comparing their longstanding faith traditions to my fresh understanding of the gospel.

And when my younger brother interrupted me, I yelled at him.

Obviously, I needed to memorize those verses in 1 Corinthians 13 regarding love, which “is not arrogant or rude… does not insist on its own way… is not irritable or resentful” (vv. 4 – 6 ESV).

Though I valued the biblical way of love, I seemed to fail at every opportunity to practice it. My heart throbbed with love for God but harbored some stubborn deposits of selfishness.

When I look back at those early days as a believer, I can easily see how much I needed to grow. The challenge of loving as God loves had barely begun for me.

God had much in store for that young woman all those years ago. He would use her eventual marriage and then having children to continue her education. Through those challenges, she would learn to lean into Christ’s power, which would enable her to love in a way that would please and glorify him.

Yet, while God saw every dark spot in my heart, He would never give up on me because of his amazing love—so patient, so kind. Experiencing His awesome love must have inspired Paul’s clear descriptions, “Love bears all things… endures all things” (v. 7 ESV). God is our foremost example of offering truly selfless love.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him…. We love because he first loved us…. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:16, 19, 21 ESV

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Love or Nothing – insight from Patti Richter on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Patti Richter headshot 2017-1nAbout the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She writes and edits global mission stories for The Gospel Coalition and her faith essays appears at BlueRibbonNews.com.

Patti is the co-author of Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of SufferingIt is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: What have you learned about love since you came to know the Lord?

Why the Church Loves So Badly

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.                                                                                                                                               1 Peter 4:8 ESV

Once I did something badly until I achieved success.

In my forties, after several years of training, I earned my first-degree black belt. I was last in my class.

It never stopped surprising everyone, including me, that I’d managed this feat. I was driven, by my love for the martial artists in my Bible Study. Before karate, I’d only invested time in things at which I excelled. I was a good student, talented musician, promising writer. Clumsy with my feet, I never attempted athletic pursuits.

Initially, I thought God drafted me into karate so I could minister better to the women in my small group. But I came to see the value of pursuing a goal that seemed impossible, one where I trailed my classmates from day one to graduation.

Besides the honing of my humility, God showed me that He does, indeed, call His people to do some things badly.

He commands us out of our comfortable chairs and into pursuits that don’t present us in the best light, that remind us we have much to learn, require us to depend on others, and drive us to cry out to Him for strength and persistence when ours has been drained from us. There has never been a time when this was more needed in the church than now.

As the battle for souls intensifies, God is calling all hands, on deck. There are countless souls wandering the earth in darkness, blindly groping for the truth, wondering if they’ll ever find their way and feeling unloved by God, angry, hopeless, and alone. There are more people than your pastor can reach, or Billy Graham or KLove Radio. God never intended the furthering of His kingdom to be something accomplished solely by professionals, applauded by amateurs from their pews.

Building God’s kingdom is, in fact, a calling for oafs. It’s a task uniquely suited for the weak, meek, stumbling, fumbling, falling, appalling, imperfect, and unfinished: the inept lot of us that Christ called to Himself and adopted into His family.

God designed this work for us outlaws who have already pled guilty, received our sentence and our pardon, and now live free – with nothing to prove and nothing to lose, so we may, in return, boldly and sometimes badly love those who Jesus loves, in His name.

Ask hard questions. Have I slipped into that comfy space of only taking on what I know I can do in my own strength? Am I only loving people easy to love? Am I only communicating with people I understand or who understand me?

Do I function as if I believe God only ministers through me when I look strong, competent, intelligent, and secure? Am I passing on invitations from God to offer people a love that fumbles around searching for the open door because I don’t want people to think I’m inept or lacking?

God calls His imperfect church, to love others, falteringly, fallibly, but faithfully. Initially, we will love badly, but this can be overcome with persistence, practice, the Holy Spirit’s coaching, and reliance on God.

Why does the church love so badly? Because we’re attempting the impossible in a world where most love grows cold. Because we’re trying to love the way God loves. Because we have an enemy putting obstacles in our path at every turn.

The amazing thing isn’t how badly we love – it’s that many of us keep trying. And that He uses our faltering attempts at love to reach hearts for Him.

Let’s get out there today (and the day after) and love others badly, serve others poorly, and worship like oafs until, by God’s grace, we fumble our way into loving like Christ.

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Why the Church Loves So Badly – insight and encouragement from @LoriSRoeleld 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: When has God used your fumbling attempts to reach others for Him?

 

 

Come to Your Senses

by Lane P. Jordan @Lane_Jordan

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worth to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.” Luke 15:17-20 NIV

Has there been a time in your life when you were so ashamed by your actions that you felt completely worthless? Have you been embarrassed or humiliated to the point you didn’t know what you should do next?

The young man in Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son found himself in that very same position. With an air of entitlement, he had demanded that his father give him his inheritance now. When his father did, the son quickly squandered the money on friends and fast living in a foreign land. He ended up broke, homeless, and hungry, forced to take a job feeding pigs (an animal of abomination to the Jews).

Finally, in a climactic moment, the son “came to his senses.” He said, “How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger?” He got up and headed home.

The son truly humbled himself. He acknowledged what he had done to his father: his betrayal, his disrespect, and his total failure with his inheritance. He confessed his sin to heaven and to his father, fully accepting that his position in the family would now be as a hired servant. He didn’t care. All he wanted was to be reunited with his father.

Jesus showed through the father’s unconditional acceptance of his prodigal son, the great grace and mercy God offers to each one of us! God is waiting for us to come back to Him and then He will run to us. He will pour His love and His forgiveness over us. He will give us His robe of righteousness through His Son Jesus, He will give us a ring, and He will rejoice with us. We only need to approach Him in humility, acknowledging our desperation and inadequacy to go it alone.

What a God! What a Savior! To know that our God will forgive us our sins and keep us as sons and daughters forever!

Even though the father’s other son criticized and judged his father, the father wouldn’t budge from embracing this son whom he thought he had lost forever.

Are you lost right now? Or do you have a loved one who is lost? Then begin to pray. God is the persistent seeker. All God wants from us is to turn to Him. It doesn’t matter what we have done. God’s forgiveness has no bounds.

If you feel your sin is too great for God’s forgiveness, then look at some of the people of the Bible. Each one had serious sin in their lives: David committed adultery and murder, Jonah ran the other way from God’s will, Noah got drunk and shamed himself to his sons, and the woman at the well had lived with many men. Even the Apostle Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, had killed many of the early Christians before meeting Jesus on the Road to Damascus.

There is nothing that you have done that can keep you from the loving forgiveness of our God. Come to your senses and turn to Him.

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Come to Your Senses – encouragement from @Lane_Jordan on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lane Jordan - High ResolutionAbout the author: Lane P. Jordan is a best-selling author, international motivational and inspirational speaker, singer, artist, Bible teacher, and professional life coach. She lives in Frisco, Texas with her husband who partners with her in ministry and waits impatiently for daughters and granddaughter to visit!  Lane’s desire is to encourage, support, and motivate women of all ages to be better wives, mothers, and women of God by organizing their lives and time. You can find her at: http://www.LaneJordanMinistries.com and her blog at http://www.PathwaysToOrganization.com.

Lane’s book, 12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Woman, is an invaluable resource for every woman–from soccer moms to single grandmoms. It combines practical information on managing a fast-paced life with biblical wisdom and assurances that even when life seems overwhelming, the Lord is our keeper, our father, our husband, and our shepherd.

Join the conversation: What does God’s being a persistent seeker mean to you?

 

My Secret Love

by Janet Perez Eckles

We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:19 NIV

Some months back, two girlfriends and I relaxed in the balcony of a hotel room, chatting about groups popular in the 70’s. We swayed to the oldies, singing the lyrics with the same ease as the year we wore bell bottoms.

We confessed. Each of us back then looked for the true love. Each of us had a list of what we looked for in the husband of our dreams. Back then, all traits on the list seemed crucial. Now, the fact that Mr. Right needed to be built with muscles of a football player echoes with sad shallowness.

But whatever our secret list held, we all questioned. “Did we marry the man of our dreams? Are we sharing the house with the husband who displays true love?

How unrealistic. How immature of us to expect that the true love we sought would be inside the man who said, “I do” at the altar. If any of us were tricked into thinking the perfect man wore that tuxedo beside us, future disappointment was as sure as dirty dishes in the kitchen.

That delusion is the reason for happiness to fade away in the darkness of long nights. And married bliss is lost in the hamper of dirty clothes.

The only true love comes from the man who wore but a cloth and displayed muscles ripped by lashes on the way to Calvary. And when we make Jesus our only true love, our husbands can play the role they were meant to have–our mate, our companion and lifetime friend.

While swaying to the music of God’s divine, true love, expectations sing with joy. The exquisite blend of love and reassurance only Jesus brings echoes nearby. It’s the divine and true formula that brings peace to storms. Brings logic to life. And gives a colorful hue to married life.

And that life shines when we read what was tucked in the Valentine card God signed with His promise: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again…” (Jeremiah 31:4).

Father, when life is broken, desires echo with emptiness, and we wonder how to find true love, your reassuring commitment soothes the anxiety and your reminder brings a new song to my life. Thank you for the love no one else can give and for the promise no one else can keep. In Jesus’ name I thank you. Amen.

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My Secret Love – insight and encouragement from Janet Perez Eckles on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

janet perez ecklesAbout the author: Blindness tried to darken her life, but Janet Perez Eckles became an international speaker, best-selling author, personal success coach, radio host and best playmate to her grandchildren. Her books include Contagious Courage: a Thirty Day Journey to Overcoming Stress and Anxiety and Simply Salsa: Dancing without Fear at God’s Fiesta. You can learn more about Janet at www.janetperezeckles.com.

Janet’s book,  Hola, Happiness: Finding Joy by Dancing to the Melody of God’s Word is a brief Bible study to nudge you to the next level of triumph and joy. It is packed with deep reflections and answers from God’s Word. No matter what you face–disappointment, fear, heartache, shame, insecurity, sorrow–you will say “Hola” to happiness, peace, and the joy for which God created you.

Join the conversation: How has living in the love of God affected your relationships?

Caring for the Caregivers

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 NASB

Voices penetrated the heavy shroud of sleep. I checked my phone. Two o’clock in the morning. I could hear the anxiety in Mom and Dad’s conversation, but I couldn’t make out the words.

I threw back the covers and stumbled across the hall to their room. Dad lay on the floor beside the bed. I managed to get him sitting, but no matter how much I tried, I could not get him off the floor and back in the bed.

My husband Wayne was stirring in the other room, so I called for help. Together we got Dad up and settled back in bed. Thankfully, Dad only suffered a few bumps and bruises. But his fall was a dramatic reminder that I can’t care for my parents without help.

And neither can any of the millions of women in America caring for aging parents. They need community, help, and support.

No matter the exact situation, there is nothing easy about caring for aging parents. No matter how much we love them, the task often demands more than the caregiver has to give – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. God can and will supply everything caregivers lack, but He often chooses to work through other people to meet those needs.

If you aren’t a caregiver yourself, you probably know someone who is. You may have even wanted to help them, but you simply weren’t sure how. My personal experience has given me some insight on how ministry leaders and friends can offer practical help to those in our lives who care for family members at any level. Here are three things you can try:

  1. Ask – Every time a friend asks me about my mom and dad my spirits lift. The simple act of asking shows concern for my parents and love for me. I feel less alone in the journey. If someone you know or minister to cares for a parent, periodically ask how their parents are doing. And ask how you can pray for them and their parents specifically.
  2. Offer – So often we say, “Let me know if I can do anything!” And although we are sincere, the offer is too general. Instead, offer specific practical help. Before we moved my parents, my friend Kayleen offered to make the trip with me from Texas to Tennessee to unpack the boxes and get the house ready for them. Although this offer was huge, our help does not have to be this big to go a long way in providing comfort and relief to the caregiver. Just be specific and practical.
  3. Encourage – Caregiving is an emotional and spiritual journey. Caregivers need a shoulder to cry on, someone to pray with, and someone to laugh with. Bring her coffee and chocolate. Text her a link to a devotional that encouraged you. Send her flowers.

February 21, 2020 is National Caregivers Day! To celebrate, offer a helping hand to a caregiver you know. Although we can’t change her circumstances, we can ease her burden by extending practical care and loving concern for her.

TWEETABLE
Caring for the Caregivers – insight from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. She encourages women to get into God’s Word for themselves in order to build an unshakable faith that will stand firm through all the trials of life. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught the Bible in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She has a Masters in Religious Education and a certificate in Women’s Ministry from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 8 books and Bible studies, including “Lavish Grace” and “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents.” She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her “mostly retired” husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and three dogs – one of them on purpose. She provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy also connects with women at Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Are you a caregiver? Have you ever been a caregiver? Please share what would be encouraging for those who are currently in the trenches!

Every Little Thing

by Nan Corbitt Allen

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NASB

Neo-Impressionist French painter Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859-1891) developed a technique in art called pointillism. The pictures on the canvases he created look optically complete and most pleasing. His most famous example of pointillism is A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

This painting was not made with broad strokes of the artist’s brush, but with thousands of tiny dots. Each dot is a pure color ingeniously added to the canvas one at a time so that they blend into an image when viewed from a distance. This is a classic case of “art imitating life”—for life isn’t lived in grand broad strokes or big events. It is a collection of tiny specks—ordinary people, underwhelming places, and forgettable things. Each of these may seem individually irrelevant, but when examined under a spiritual microscope, these minutiae create a portrait that can only be realized when seen from a distance—from God’s point of view.

Since the beginning of 2020, I have heard many vow that this new decade will be the one in which they will see everything clearly—20/20—like visual acuity of clarity and sharpness. It is a noble pursuit. However, being able to see what this decade, this year, or even this day will bring is impossible. Our lives are mostly made up of one mundane (but sometimes unexpected) event after another.

Taking a lesson from Seurat, let’s realize that we’re seeing only those minute dots of day-to-day that don’t seem significant at all. In the here-and-now it’s hard to grasp the big picture. But the Master Artist, God Almighty, Alpha and Omega can see the whole thing. In Revelation John records the words of Christ, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13 NASB).

I like to think of God’s plan for me as constantly “unfolding” like the pages of a book or the petals of a flower.  That’s why the Scripture at the beginning of this devotion has become so important to me. The psalmist writes, “As your plan unfolds, even the simple can understand it” (Psalm 119:130 TLB ). I’m pretty simple, so I get it.

Several writers (Emerson and T. S. Eliot to name two) have been quoted as saying something like “Life is a journey, not a destination.”  Or “The journey, not the destination matters …”  Our journeys are made up of one heartbeat, one step at a time, so the tiny dots of every day create the grander, broader picture. And not one of those dots is insignificant.

If I may, I’ll take a slight liberty with Paul’s words on the subject:

And we know that God causes all [little] things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NASB

TWEETABLE
Every Little Thing – 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: Have you had an experience in which you suddenly understood how the dots fit together?