Skip the Checklist

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

As a young bride, I determined to be an excellent cook. I collected and experimented with recipes from my mother, magazines, and potluck dinners. There were a few disasters early on: my husband still remembers with fondness a certain tuna casserole we had to choke down.

But over the years, I learned enough to eventually deviate from the recipe cards in my file and create my own. It’s always a little scary cooking without a recipe; I don’t stop worrying until that first sampling bite. I guess I will always be a rule follower at heart.

We, as humans, love our checklists. We yearn for a formula to follow. The internet, books, and magazines are filled with how-to articles listing step-by-step directions to get a job done.

A checklist may work for many things, but it’s not especially effective when it comes to spiritual life. We long for a blueprint that will guarantee our children will follow Christ, give us successful marriages, or make our ministry effective. Just tell me what to do, Lord. I want the A plus B plus C that will guarantee D.

The problem is that even if a formula is perfection itself, the ones attempting to carry it out are imperfect at best. Life is messy, and not much about humans is cut-and-dried. Formulas also tend to put God in a box, presuming that we obligate him should we do the right things. Finally, most lists are inevitably us-centered, which is always a bad place to start. In short, the checklist approach is frequently a recipe for failure.

Mind you, the Bible is not short of instructions. But I find it revealing that Jesus identified the most important command as “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30 NIV). Fellow rule lovers will note nothing specific enough there to accomplish and check off; it’s really a more of a general principle to guide every action.

When the children of Israel left Egypt behind, God led them to Mt. Sinai, where he issued 613 Laws to set them apart as his people. The famed 10 Commandments were just the tip of the iceberg! But God later qualified his expectations by zeroing in on the intent of their hearts. “Now Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you,” Moses reminded the people, “but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer” (Deuteronomy 10:12-16 NASB).

What God truly desired was an undivided devotion to him. Yet a checklist mentality persisted through many generations and eventually led to the nation’s downfall. God told Isaiah, “This people draw near with their words and honor me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from me, and their reverence for me consists of tradition learned by rote” (Isaiah 29:13 NASB). When it comes to God, following a formula or a checklist just doesn’t cut it. He wants our hearts.

Jesus worked to get this across in his Sermon on the Mount. With every example, he revealed the true intent of the Law, how it was always meant to be observed. The Law wasn’t some finite checklist. It was intended to reach deep and affect the very hearts of God’s people.

How can we cultivate that kind of heart today? When it comes to God, the old adage is true: to know him is to love him. The more we learn about God, his nature, his character, and his kind intentions toward us, the more we fall in love. This in turn stirs a desire to please Him, to respond in gratitude to what he has done. Every action is a mere overflow of what we know to be true about Him.

So put down the checklist and pick up your Bible. Get to know and love the God of the Universe. He gave everything for you. All he wants in return is for you to love him back.

The eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth, that he may strongly support those whose heart is completely his. 2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB

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Skip the Checklist – encouragement on #FollowingGod from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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About 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 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: Are you a checklist kind of person? How does that affect your relationship with God?

Did You Hear the Pin Drop?

by Stacy Sanchez

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6 NIV

So, does anyone else have a pin on Google Maps commemorating your stupidity? No? Just me? Google Maps allows its users to locate a place on a map then “drop a pin” icon on that area. Lucky Me! X marks the spot where my impulsivity is pinned for the whole world to see.

Literally. The pin is titled “Stacy’s Sinkhole.”  I’m so proud.

A few years ago, I was vacationing with my husband, son, and daughter-in-law on Ambergris Caye, Belize. The four of us were exploring a remote area of the island when I saw a conch shell off in the distance.

“Stop the cart!” Thinking there was a problem, my son slammed on the brake.

“There’s a conch shell. I want it.” And, off I ran to retrieve it.

My husband flew off the cart behind me because my poor guy knows from years of experience that he is about to have to save me from another bad idea. “Stop! You don’t need that one. There’s got to be others. You don’t know what is in the brush. Get back in the cart.”

“No. What if I don’t find another? I’ll regret not going after this one.”

The next step I took taught me the meaning of regret. My front foot landed in the middle of a wet, stinky, sinking mud hole while my back foot stayed far behind, as if I was an Olympic gymnast practicing the splits. I haven’t done the splits in forty years. Ouch! I was stuck. The more I moved, the more I sank. The more I sank, the more I was stuck in this very unladylike position.

And, what does my family do when there is a crisis? My sweet husband jumped into action to save my sorry backside, my daughter-in-law laughed hysterically and whipped out her phone to take Instagram-worthy pictures, and my son, being used to his mother’s antics, rolled his eyes and decided to drop a pin on the map to memorialize this most special occasion.

It took all three of them to get me out. I still want to find out who on ‘Team Sanchez’ suggested they tie my bum to a winch. I lost my shoes, ruined my clothes, and spent the rest of the day exploring barefoot, embarrassed, and covered in stinky mud. I wouldn’t have minded so much if the mud gave me a great facial. It just attracted flies.

But, I got that conch shell, darn it! It sits on my book shelf mocking me—I mean, as a reminder to think before acting. (Come to find out, just up the road about twenty feet stood a huge pile of conch shells. I could have grabbed one of those.)

“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace”(Romans 8:5,6 NIV). Next to this passage in my Bible is a picture of me covered in mud: Exhibit A.

In these verses, the Apostle Paul was teaching the church in Rome (and us) that as followers of Jesus, they were to become more like Him. Like us, even Jesus was called to not follow His fleshly desires. (Gasp! Jesus had fleshly desires? Yep.)

Jesus left glory and humbled Himself to the will of God. He said: I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me (John 6:38 NIV). John the Baptist said: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30 ESV). In Galatians, Paul reiterates the point by saying, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:29 ESV).

With Jesus as our example, we are called to humble ourselves and not follow our fleshly desires. We are to live in such a way that when the world looks at us, they see Him.

Following my desires left me stuck in an embarrassing quagmire needing a winch to get out.

Following His ways leads me to an abundant life of peace.

Heavenly Father, You want us to follow Your ways and not our fleshly desires. Help us, Lord to become more like You and less like us. It’s hard work to get the ‘me’ out of me. I can be so hard-headed and stubborn when I want something. But, Lord, our true heart’s desire should be that we are following You and Your ways so closely, that when the world looks at us, they will only see You.

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Did You Hear the Pin Drop? – encouragement from Stacy Sanchez on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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About the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Have you ever gotten yourself in trouble by not being able to say no to yourself?

This May Be the Strangest Question Jesus Ever Asked

by Kathy Collard Miller  @KathyCMiller

“Do you want to be healed?” John 5:6 ESV

Jesus may be asking the most intriguing question ever as he talks to a man waiting to be healed. Our initial reaction is, “Of course he does. Jesus, what are you thinking? Who wouldn’t?”

But the man responds, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going, another steps down before me” (John 5:7 ESV).

The crippled man doesn’t say, “Of course. Can you help?” He gives an explanation. Or is it an excuse?

After thirty-eight years of a debilitating disease, is he comfortable in his situation? What would it mean to be healthy again? Maybe he fears handling the responsibilities of normal life.

I wonder how often Jesus asks us a similar kind of question.

  • By allowing frustrating circumstances, he might be asking: “Do you want to give up your disability of discontent?”
  • When someone hurts us, is he asking, “Do you want to be emotionally healed by relinquishing your bitterness?”
  • If someone takes advantage of us, is he asking, “Will you give up your victim mentality?”

Do we have standard reasons—or are they excuses—for our discontent, anger, and powerlessness? The waters of healing are right before us. Why don’t we jump in?

Jesus is a wise counselor. He knows how to prod the handicapped man’s heart and our own. Our hearts are an open book to him and a mystery novel to us. But he desires to reveal the pages which are stuck together with the glue of sin or fear.

Jesus is prying two pages apart as he gives the man an assignment he can refuse. “Jesus says to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk.’ And at once the man is healed, and he takes up his bed and walk[s]” (5:8-9 ESV).

We are cheering as he is healed and obeys with no explanations or excuses. Interestingly, Jesus tells him to “take up your bed.” The man couldn’t leave it there as his safety blanket in case he felt bad again.

Many years ago, I didn’t know releasing my unrealistic expectations of my husband, Larry, would be Jesus’s way of asking me to burn my “bed” of bitterness. In our early marriage, Larry worked two jobs and had a flying hobby. He was rarely home and gave little help with our two children, a new-born and a toddler. I wrapped myself in my mat of resentment as a way to protect myself from the pain of his rejection.

My husband says now, “I wrapped myself in my mat of controlling pride thinking Kathy had the problem, not me. In my view Kathy never appreciated my efforts, so I gave up even trying.”

We both at different times and in different ways heard Jesus ask, “Do you want to be healed?” The process of restoration began when we each stopped giving explanations and instead acknowledged our own self-centered spiritual sickness.

We will soon celebrate our 50th anniversary and are more in love with each other and Jesus than ever before.

Although we each will sometimes try to pick up another mat, God persists saying, “Do you want to stay well?”

Adapted from God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature, copyright 2020, Kathy Collard Miller

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This May Be the Strangest Question Jesus Ever Asked – insight from @KathyCMiller on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Kathy Collard Miller loves to study God’s attributes. As a result, her latest two books are devotional books about God’s nature: God’s Intriguing Questions: 40 Old Testament Devotions Revealing God’s Nature and God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature.

These are co-authored with her husband, Larry, and make a wonderful couples’ devotional study. Kathy is also the author of 55 other books and has spoken in 9 foreign countries and over 35 US states. Check out her website: www.KathyCollardMiller.com and YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2SwiL03

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KathyCollardMillerAuthor

Join the conversation: Can you identify a time you were clueless to your motives and God prodded your heart to show you?

When Life Steals My Productivity: Chronic Illness

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Why is it, the times we most need energy, we tend to feel most fatigued? Or those days, when our increased, perhaps even “urgent” responsibilities necessitate efficiency, all becomes chaotic?

This year has challenged, and perhaps for some of you, obliterated, any sense of predictability and control. How do you respond to those periods? Do you try harder? Fill your mind and heart with guilt and condemnation regarding all you could’ve-should’ve done?

Or do you choose to rest in grace? We cannot simultaneously feed our self-defeating thoughts and live in Christ’s grace.

I’ve had to remind myself of this a lot lately. I’ve had to remind myself of who I am and who Christ is. I am a deeply loved, completely accepted, and irrevocably called child of God. And He is the one who loves me, who died to unite my soul with His, and who is, even now, on my hardest and most chaotic days, equipping and empowering me to all He’s assigned.

I find great comfort in knowing God’s plans for me are so much greater than me. This has been a rough couple of months, with a consistently spiked pain level that keeps me up late into the night and often wakes me once I’ve finally crashed. As a result, sleep deprivation continually steals my focus and productivity.

In the past, when a flare lasted days, or even weeks, I’ve managed to make up for lost time easily enough. Whereas once, these difficult moments used to lead to feelings of defeat and discouragement, now I hardly give them a passing thought. I simply view them as a temporary, unexpected challenge I know will soon pass.

But lately, as my body’s rebellion continues, now into month three, the fight I thought I’d won has resurfaced, inviting me to anchor myself, ever-deeper in God’s sovereign grace. A grace that says I don’t have to perform or achieve. That assures me that while God will indeed use me, He doesn’t in fact need me. He invites me to serve Him, not so that I can impress or please Him, but rather to experience Him more fully. So that I can learn to yield more fully to Him and His Spirit stirring within.

What’s more, He knew precisely what every flare would look like and how long it would last—and He’s already worked out all the details. He fashioned my days, knowing where I’d be, in this moment. I have everything I need in Christ to do all He asks. Scripture promises: “His divine power has given [me] everything [I] need for a godly life through [my] knowledge of Him who called [me] by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3 NIV).

God will give me the strength, power, and perseverance to do all that He asks.

Even if, for today, that means setting my to-do list aside for a much-needed nap.

While you might not suffer from chronic illness, I suspect your daily struggles can easily challenge your sense of peace. I imagine there have been times when you’ve wrestled with feelings of inadequacy, with a pressure to do or be more. If so, will you join me in leaning deeper into God’s grace, knowing, “[God’s] eyes saw [our] unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in [His] book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16, NIV).

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When Life Steals My Productivity: Chronic Illness – encouragement from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer Slattery

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites.

In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with feelings of inadequacy or pressure to do more?

Martha and a Pile of Avocados

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Psalm 107:28-29 NASB

As I pushed my cart through the produce section, the avocados caught my eye. I had only picked up a couple to inspect when it started. One, then two of the lovely green fruit began to roll from the top of the high pile. (Yes, an avocado is technically a fruit. I checked!)

By the time three of them had hit the floor, I knew I must take drastic action to prevent disaster. With arms open wide, I blocked the shifting pile with the top half of my body. With one arm and my torso keeping the avocados from falling, I repositioned key pieces with my free hand until the moving stopped.

Hoping the other shoppers hadn’t seen me laying on top of the avocados, I backed away carefully and casually moved on to the lettuce. But soon I heard a shriek and turned to look back. A surprised young woman stood next to what was left of the avocado pile with dozens of pesky green fruit rolling around her feet. Undoubtedly the person who stocked the avocados had gotten a little carried away. He or she had put way too many avocados on the pile. The fallout was inevitable!

Sometimes our lives are like that pile of avocados. We keep adding items to our lives and calendars until we have to stand on tip toe to put another thing on top: jobs, activities, sports, lessons, ministry work, friends, family, leisure.

We can’t possibly give enough attention to the really important things of life, because we are constantly chasing after the urgent things rolling off the pile. If we aren’t careful, the entire tower will shift and collapse leaving us standing in a gooey pile of guacamole.

Often, most of the “avocados” are good things. But trying to juggle too many avocados will derail the abundant life Christ wants to give us. Martha, the New Testament hostess, is a well-known example.

When Jesus visited Martha and Mary, Martha hurried around with meal prep and household chores while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His teaching. Martha was flustered and upset.

“But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it’” (Luke 10:41-42a, NLT).

Jesus’ loving rebuke was designed to help Martha escape the tyranny of the urgent and discover the life of peace, joy, and purpose He offers.

Is your pile so full of good things that you can’t enjoy the most important? If you’re missing out on the best Jesus wants to give you, take control. Ask God to show you want should stay and what needs to go. Let go of the less important and embrace the best.

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Martha and a Pile of Avocados – encouragement when life gets out of control from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About 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.

Kathy’s latest book, “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents” combines Scripture, biblical insight, personal experience, reflection questions, and prayer prompts to provide spiritual and practical encouragement to those caring for aging or ill parents.

Join the conversation: When is the last time you reevaluated your highest priorities in your life? Are you ruled by the tyranny of the urgent?

True Communion

by Dena Dyer @DenaJDyer

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” 1 Corinthians 10:16 NIV

Ten years ago, I took Communion with my almost-six-year-old son. It was his first experience with the bread and the cup after surrendering his young heart to Jesus. And it’s something I’ll never forget.

Jackson fidgeted as we waited to receive the elements. He cuddled up next to me and looked up at me with big, blue eyes. “Is it our turn yet?” he whispered.

“Almost,” I replied. When our turn came, Jackson and I followed our friends up the aisle. As we reached the pastor, Jackson looked at me to see what to do. I smiled at him and took the bread, then dipped it in the cup. Of course, Jackson did exactly what I did—a humbling reminder of the weight of my responsibility as a mom to two sons. As we made our way back to our pew, he took my hand and squeezed it. Happy tears filled my eyes.

In contrast, I remembered how Communion (or “The Lord’s Supper”) used to feel in the church I grew up in. We only took part in the tradition every few months. It seemed as flat and tasteless as the pasty-white wafers we chased with mini plastic shot glasses of grape juice.

However, about thirteen years ago, smack-dab in the middle of a crisis of faith, I went on a “Walk to Emmaus” retreat. When we took the elements, it was reverent. We didn’t rush through it, and it wasn’t an afterthought or something we did by rote. Rather, it was both an invitation and a response; one I finally understood. Obeying the Word, we came together to remember Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. And as we invited Him to join us, He invited us to share in His suffering…and His joy.

I had suffered a lot over several years prior to that retreat, and I was holding the losses I’d felt against the only One who could heal me. My faith was shaky, my marriage lonely, and my churchgoing spotty. But during the weekend, God reminded me that Jesus hadn’t suffered so I could be miserable. He had suffered so I could know the joy of overcoming. Each time I took the bread and the cup, the realization that Jesus died for even me overwhelmed me. I felt pure and clean, as if all the tears I cried over the weekend had washed not just my face, but also my insides.

I guess I’m a slow learner; after all, it took me about three decades of churchgoing to really understand Communion! Still, I’m glad I grew up the way I did. I don’t take it for granted now. It’s sacred to me—and that might not be the case if I had grown up differently.

As my sons have grown up, they’ve known their own share of suffering. But I’ve watched them also know the joy of the resurrected Christ, the hope of eternity with Him, and the truth of His mercy.

I pray they continue to serve Jesus, and I am grateful that we are not only family, but also brothers and sisters in Christ. As I Corinthians 10:16 states, the cup we drink is a cup of thanksgiving. There are many things I am thankful for—most of all, Jesus’ sacrificial death and His resurrection.

Before we entered the church that memorable morning a decade ago, I had reminded Jackson that we should pause for a moment before Communion to thank God for sending Jesus to die on the cross for us. “But Mom, we should do that every day,” Jackson said.

Communion, indeed.

This article first appeared on The Theology of Work website. Used by permission.

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True Communion – insight and encouragement from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Dena Dyer is the author or co-author of ten books for women and hundreds of articles in magazines, newspapers, and websites. She lives in Texas with Carey and their sons Jordan and Jackson. She loves bargain shopping, decorating, and traveling. Find Dena on Instagram and Facebook, or at her website.

Dena and Carey’s book, Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples (Barbour) will give your marriage encouragement and hope when you find that the once endearing, charming, and distinct qualities that once attracted you to your spouse are now a source of stress and conflict.

Join the conversation: What does Communion mean to you?

Have We Checked the Manual?

by Leigh Ann Thomas @LThomasWrites

Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep.

There it was again. Every minute or so, the faint sounds echoed throughout the house. What in the world? I checked the fire alarms, then attempted to narrow down the general location of the annoyance. My detective work led me to our refrigerator—delivered just that morning. Sure enough, when I opened its shiny new door, the grating beeps increased in volume.

Being a highly technical person, I began pushing buttons. If it looked remotely like a button, I pressed it. No luck. Beep-beep-beep…

It was time to escalate. I called the fine establishment where Mr. Fridge used to live and asked for help. I used my most calm, professional voice. “Ma’am, please tell me how to stop this infernal noise.”

The answer? (Wait for it…)

“Have you read the manual?”

In the interest of full transparency, I felt a special kinship with the apostle Paul in that moment, because I began having horribly wretched thoughts (see Romans 7:24-25 for further details). Thankfully, I took a deep breath and maintained composure.

“No ma’am. Um, I’ll do that right now.” I skimmed the manual, pressed a few more buttons, and the beeping ceased.

The experience got me to thinking. I’m incredibly thankful that when I approach the Lord in a state of distress, He doesn’t smack my hand and ask if I’ve read the manual. He could, you know. Can you imagine?

What now, child? You’re hurt or confused again? You don’t understand your present situation? Hmm. Have you cracked open that book I gave you? You know, the one with all the answers?

How many times do I have to tell you? My Holy Spirit speaks through prayer, circumstances, my people, and through the words in the manual. Seriously. Check it out.

Quite a humbling thought.

When the fridge was threatening my sanity, I wasted considerable time in my feeble attempts to fix the problem. I squandered additional minutes in phone Hades, waiting for an “expert” to help me. All while the manual lay two feet away.

Can you relate? In moments of angst, we will exhaust every silly avenue of worldly help and overlook the vast resources of Heaven a breath away. The most sacred of manuals couldn’t be clearer:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3 NIV).

God’s Word is our inexhaustible source of wisdom, peace, comfort, guidance, perspective, hope, joy, purpose, and so much more.

I am forever thankful for a Heavenly Father who is loving, patient, and kind. Who will gently move in me to seek His heart and His ways. And who will gather my trembling form under His wing and provide a steady, faithful refuge.

One beep-beep at a time.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4 NIV

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Have We Checked the Manual? – encouragement on #FollowingGod from Leigh Ann Thomas @LThomasWrites on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Leigh Ann Thomas is passionate about encouraging women to seek God’s best. She has penned four books and is a contributing author in 12 books and compilations. A writer and editor for the parenting site, InTheQuiver.com, Leigh Ann is also an AWSA Certified Writing Coach. She is married to her best friend, Roy, and they are thankful for the gifts of three daughters, two sons-in-law, three amazing grandsons and a grand princess. Connect on LeighAThomas.com, Facebook and Twitter.

Smack-Dab in the Midlife Zone—Inspiration for Women in the Middle, uses Scripture, prayer, and the power of story to show women in midlife how being smack-dab in the middle of God’s plans and purposes is the best place to be.

The Hidden Box

by Sheri Schofield

Question: What do you think the most important item in a country home is?

Answer: It’s a small box hidden away in a dark room where nobody can find it!

My husband and I have lived in a lovely house in the mountains of Montana for fifteen years. We thought we knew everything about it until . . . Oh, no! There was no water coming from any faucet in the entire house! We called a plumber. He asked about the little box, but none of us could find it. We didn’t even know it existed! It took an hour to find the box. Inside it, some tiny wires had blown out. Once they were fixed, presto! Water!

It reminded me of what Paul wrote about the church, the body of Christ. He said that the Holy Spirit bestows different kinds of gifts on the church, each gift meant for service to the entire body of Christ. Wisdom, teaching, preaching, serving others . . . But all these gifts are from the same Holy Spirit, who knows exactly what each church needs in order to function effectively in spreading the good news about Jesus.

We are a team! Someone may think, “Oh, I’m not important. I only mop floors. I wish I could do something more spectacular!” Another may say, “I don’t matter because I just welcome people. I wish I had a more interesting gift!” Others say, “All I do is teach children. Nobody ever notices me or says thank you. I don’t matter.”

We are living in a time when families are overwhelmed by the activities expected of them by their communities or children. By the time Sunday comes, all they want to do is to sit and listen. “Oh yes – and please, somebody take my children somewhere else so I can listen! I’ve given myself away all week and I need to be fed!”

Paul wrote: The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable . . . Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it, 1 Corinthians 12:21, 22, 27, NIV.

Yes YOU! What part did the Holy Spirit give you to perform within the church? Has your life become too busy to serve? Or do you think that because nobody can see your work that you are not needed?

Have over-commitment and feelings of inadequacy or inferiority consumed your life, robbing you of the energy to fulfill your role in the body of Christ? Has stress blown the wires in your little personal box? If it has, how can the living water from Jesus quench your thirst or minster to the lost through you?

You matter! When you aren’t able to function, the church gets bogged down. So if you are feeling overwhelmed or unneeded, tell Jesus about it. He will strengthen and refresh you through the Holy Spirit. Tell a trusted friend that you are stressed and ask him or her to pray for you. Let the Lord and your brothers and sisters in Jesus minister to you today so that tomorrow you may minister to others. And while you’re at it, take a look around. There may be others serving in hidden ways who need to hear those magic words, “Thank you!”

By using the gifts God has given us, we will bless others and be blessed ourselves. When we function like the body we were created to be, all our lives will bubble over with living water!

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV

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The Hidden Box – encouragement from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofield

About 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 gift has God given you to build up the body of Christ?

Not Abandoned as Orphans

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you. I won’t leave you like orphans, I will come back to you. John 14:16, 18 CEV

This year marked the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death. Although there have been times when the date slipped my mind until after it passed, this year I was keenly aware that I have been without her for a decade.

In recent months, I’ve been sifting through remaining boxes, reading letters, finding photographs, and examining rolls of plans drawn by my builder father. My son and his family lived in my childhood home following my mother’s death. Now, after ten years, the house is for sale, and I’m having to let this piece of my history go. Saying good-bye to the house I grew up in, a house my father built 70 years ago, is hard. In many ways, this transition stirs feelings I had right after Mama’s death and years before after Daddy died. Even with my husband, children, and grandchildren close by, I feel a little like an orphan.

Perhaps Jesus’ disciples and followers experienced similar feelings of abandonment as they huddled behind locked doors following His death. They feared what might happen next. Would they be arrested and executed, too? Although Jesus tried in the final days of his ministry to make them understand what would transpire, they were unprepared and stunned by his absence, left with feelings of grief and uncertainty.

All of us feel abandoned at times. When health issues, job losses, financial crises, and relationship problems overwhelm, it is human to wonder why God doesn’t immediately swoop in and fix everything. Why doesn’t he stop the pandemic and return our lives to normal? Why doesn’t he calm unrest? While we may never have answers to our questions, we have the assurance of the presence of the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Comforter.

Over two thousand years ago, God sent Jesus to dwell among us and rescue those who were lost, orphaned, and without hope. Jesus was God with skin on: a man who experienced temptation, persecution, pain, and grief, but also joy. He promised never to abandon us as orphans. His presence, via the Holy Spirit, and his promise to return, are our hope.

As I approach a new season of life, I see how the Lord sustained generations of my family through financial hardship, physical ailments, wars, periods of grief, and loss. We are not the first to experience challenges, fear, and uncertainty. Just as the Holy Spirit guided our parents and their parents, He will lead and protect us. He is a comforter, helper, and friend. Having been adopted into the family of God, none of us are orphans.

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. Galatians 4:4-5 NLT

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Not Abandoned as Orphans – encouragement from @CandyArrington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy Arrington

About 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: How does the Holy Spirit help you?

Three Boys and a Pizza

by Crystal Bowman

But the Helper will teach you everything. He will cause you to remember all the things I told you. This Helper is the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name.  John 14:26 ICB

Going for a walk several times a week is therapeutic for me. It gets me out of the house during these stay-at-home days and offers fresh air, healthy exercise, and a time to chat with my heavenly Father.

I always park my car in a small village shopping center near our home because it’s a safe place to park and walk. On a recent walk, I spoke though my mental prayer list bringing my needs, wants, thanksgiving, and praises to the Lord. But then I went deeper.

I asked God to help me be more in tune with promptings from the Holy Spirit. I have had many “God spoke to me” moments in the past and longed to experience them again. I know the Holy Spirit dwells in me, and that God speaks to me every day when I read the Bible, a devotional book, or listen to Christian music. But sometimes an unexpected opportunity comes along that can be a divine intervention, if I listen and pay attention.

As I was walking back to my car, I notice three boys on their bikes in front of the take-out pizza place. One of the boys was on his cell phone with his mother, and I overheard the conversation, “But we only need about two more dollars,” he said. Then he hung up and told his friends, “My mom said she can’t come to give us the money, so we just need to figure out something else.”

“Talk to them,” said a voice in my head. “You can help them.”

“Hey, Guys,” I said as they turned toward me with surprised looks. “Do you need a couple of dollars?” The boy with the cell phone looked at me and said, “Yeah. We want to get a pizza, but we are two dollars short.”

“Well, here’s the deal. I have five dollars on me, but I need to run into the grocery store to get some cheese. I’m sure I will have two dollars in change, so wait here and I’ll be right back.”

“You don’t have to do that,” the boy said.

“I know I don’t have to, but I want to, okay?”

The boys smiled as I put on my mask and went into the store. The cheese was $2.50, and so was my change. As I handed the money to the boys, they were overjoyed and generous with their verbal gratitude.  “Thank you so much! You are so nice! I can’t believe you would do that for us!”

“You are very welcome,” I replied. “God told me to help you out so be sure to thank Him when you get your pizza!”

“Okay, we will!” they said.

The God who spoke to people in the past, is the same God who speaks to us today. God told Noah to build an ark even though it had never rained. God told Abraham to leave his county and go to a place where God would show him. God told Moses to go to Egypt to rescue the Israelites from their lives of slavery. God told Joshua to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. And God told Mary she would be the mother of His Son.

Of course, there are many more examples from the Bible, but God’s messages are not limited to people who lived in ancient times. They didn’t end when the Bible was completed.  

I had heard God’s voice that day, and He allowed me to help out three boys who were hungry for pizza. I smiled all the way home. My heart was full of joy. And then I imagined the boys telling their parents how they were able to buy their pizza: “This lady just showed up out of nowhere. She gave us the money and said God told her to do it!”

Lord, help me to pay attention and listen for your voice so you can use me to be a blessing to others. Amen.

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Three Boys and a Pizza – encouragement about #FollowingGod from Crystal Bowman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About 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.

When a child’s grandparent or great-grandparent is afflicted with dementia, it’s difficult to explain the disease in a way that helps the child understand why the person they love is not the same. I Love You to the Stars–When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembersis a picture book inspired by a true story to help young children understand that even though Grandma is acting differently, she still loves them–to the stars!

Join the conversation: When is the last time the Lord nudged you? Tell us about it!