Persevering Amid Piles of Rubble or Puddles of Mush

by Patti Richter

The year 2020 arrived with more than a bang: a US embassy attack followed by ballistic missiles and the resulting loss of a passenger plane. Meanwhile, as Australia battled wildfires, several other countries experienced either earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. Closer to home, we watched a troubling impeachment trial and grieved the death of a beloved sports icon.

Most of those bad-news events involved countless people who suddenly found themselves in adverse or worse circumstances. Daily, many people must fight for their lives, evacuate, or deal with disaster.

Others face a more private heap of trouble, like a mountain of debt, a broken relationship, or an unhealthy addiction. Difficult challenges require perseverance or, as one longsuffering friend says, “pushing through a puddle of mush.”

As we scroll through social media, we see online prayer requests and calls for help. We can pray and offer support, or we may feel called to put aside our personal well-being to enter someone’s world of pain.

The Old Testament includes an account of such a mercy mission. Nehemiah, a royal cupbearer in Persia, grieved from afar over his people’s “great trouble and disgrace” on account of Jerusalem’s broken-down wall (Nehemiah 1:3 NIV). After fasting and praying, he received permission and support from Persia’s king to leave his palace position to go help those exiles who’d returned earlier to their devastated homeland.

Once in Jerusalem, Nehemiah found willing but weary workers; the ongoing threats of enemies who opposed the rebuilding of the city wall had taken their toll. Their resolve was further weakened by the negative words of their own people: “There is so much rubble” (4:10).

Nehemiah directed these workers in two ways. First, he stationed them at regular intervals behind the wall, “with their swords, spears, and bows” (4:13). He also encouraged them to fight for their families and their homes, with assurance: “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome” (4:14 NIV).

They finished the wall in fifty-two days. Nehemiah wrote says, “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid… because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:15-16 NIV).

Like Nehemiah, the Son of God left his royal abode for the sake of others. Jesus came to earth to confront the rubble of man’s sin, and He sacrificed his life to atone for it. Before accomplishing this, he struggled against the suffering that awaited him. On the night of his arrest, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and, “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44 NIV).

With these stories in mind, the writer of Hebrews offers all of us help in persevering when discouragement leaves us hopeless:

  • “Draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (10:22 NIV).
  • “Hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (10:23 NIV).
  • “Consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (10:24 NIV).
  • “Let us not give up meeting together” (10:25 NIV).
  • “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:3 NIV).
  • “Through Jesus… let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name” (13:15 NIV).

Our fears and our foes diminish in size when we remember that God is with us because of his Son, who took our greatest burden upon himself.

The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. John 6:29 NIV

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Persevering Amid Piles of Rubble or Puddles of Mush – encouragement 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 has been a source of discouragement to you lately?

 

Surprised by Suffering 

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

 

An old friend of mine recently suffered a medical problem which required extensive surgery. The whole ordeal caught her off-guard. “I never expected to have to go through anything like this,” she sheepishly confessed to me. “I assumed that the Lord would protect me from suffering.” Psalm 121 had been her mantra for many years: “He who watches over you will not slumber… the Lord will keep you from all harm…”(Psalm 121:3, 7 NIV).

 

My friend had it half-right. We can count on the presence and care of a God who misses no detail. Nothing can separate us from his love or the salvation we received through his grace. But to expect a life devoid of suffering would necessitate ignoring a large portion of Scripture.

 

Whether we like it or not, suffering is part of God’s plan for his people.

 

In the pivotal point of Mark’s gospel, Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was. Peter jumped in with a breakthrough revelation: “You are the Messiah.” Jesus quickly cautioned him not to tell anyone.

 

Jesus knew the disciples’ understanding of the nature of his messiahship was still inaccurate. The common Jewish messianic expectation was based on Old Testament Scriptures promising a conquering hero. He would come to liberate Israel from her oppressors, set up a kingdom, and reign from Jerusalem. The disciples were excited about this. So they anxiously awaited the day Jesus would come into his own.

 

Many prophecies do reveal him as a conquering hero and ruling king. Yet others portray him as a suffering servant, facing rejection by men and even by God. Isaiah wrote, “It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer… He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:10, 5 NIV).

 

Suffering would be part of the messianic plan. In fact, it was The Plan.

 

Peter then actually took the Lord aside and rebuked him. Jesus recognized Peter’s emotional reaction for what it was: personal disillusionment. The life of ease and power the disciples anticipated was quickly fading away as Jesus revealed what the future had in store.  

 

Peter needed to adjust his messianic expectations. “You do not have in mind the things of God,” Jesus told him, “but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23b NIV).

 

Jesus then took the disciples a step further. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” he told them. Suffering would be part of the plan for them as well.

 

We will experience suffering on many levels. Physical pain, disease, and the effects of old age will intrude into our lives. Grief will drive us to our knees as we struggle to survive great losses. All of us will experience hurts and offenses that are difficult to forgive. But as believers, those things are not without purpose; suffering is a perspective-changing crucible. The unimportant details that would have distracted us in our walk with Him become trivial. With everything stripped away, we find that God is all that matters.

 

Peter eventually understood the purifying opportunity suffering presents. In his later years, he wrote: “He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2 NIV). 

 

Someday, suffering will no longer exist for us. We will no longer need suffering in our lives, because we will finally be complete. But until that time, count on suffering to be a part of your life. Embrace it as best you can, for it is evidence of a loving God at work in you.

 

“He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”                                                                                                                                                              2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV

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Surprised by Suffering  – 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 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 suffering affected your priorities and understanding of God?

Dealing with Horrific Circumstances

by Robin Gilbert Luftig @robinluftig

“…you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.”                                                        Deuteronomy 4:29 NASB

I stood in horror as the doctor’s words sunk in: your son has a broken neck. Hours earlier he had attempted a backflip—as he had accomplished hundreds of times before—but this time he didn’t make it over. He landed on his head and neck. There in the hospital my son tried to reach for my hand, but all he could do was offer a palsy-like movement.

Finally settled in his hospital room, I watched as the medication slowly took over and guided him to sleep. He lay there, neck braced and tubes of medication and monitors surrounding him. I pulled up a chair, leaned my forehead against the side of his mattress and readied my heart to pray. I knew I had an open channel to the Creator of the Universe and could speak to him about anything. This prayer needed to reach past all the clouds and stars. It needed to grab God’s attention. Yet all I could say was, “Oh God … Oh God … Oh God … Oh God ….”

Have you ever had a moment that shook you emotionally to the point where you had no words to speak, only utterances? Sometimes that’s all we have to offer.

And sometimes that’s enough. Comfort can be found in terrible situations, but it takes determination on your part. Moses told the Israelites, “…you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29 NASB, emphasis added).

 So when all you have is Oh God … Oh God … Oh God, know the Holy Spirit is working on your behalf, interceding for you. After I prayed that day in the hospital room, 1 Peter came to mind.

“… though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even through refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:5-7 (NIV).

The Apostle Peter wrote these words to the first century Christians who were experiencing persecution. He knew they needed encouragement to look beyond their circumstances. Those sentiments continue through today. When those words came to my mind there in the hospital while I waited for the doctor’s prognosis, they brought peace to my heart. I knew no matter the outcome, God was still in control.

Dealing with the emotions surrounding trauma may take longer than you anticipated. Peace seldom relieves a dark situation with a one-and-done prayer. Continue reaching out and listening. That doesn’t mean to return to the Oh God … Oh God … Oh God-type of conversation with God, but it does mean to remember Who is with you, cares for you, and is always in control.

Oh, and my son? His neck healed and he’s an avid volleyball player in Chicago these days.

There are times when we cannot change circumstances, we can only experience them. But we don’t have to experience them alone. Allow God to bring peace in all your storms.

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Dealing with Horrific Circumstances – encouragement from @RobinLuftig on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

SONY DSCAbout the Author: Be grateful in everything—even the bumpy rides, is Robin Luftig’s mantra in either writing for
non-fiction readers or speaking to audiences on the healing after tragedy. She’s an award-nominated columnist for great magazines such as Leading Hearts, CBN.com, and many more. She is the author of two books, Learning to Bloom Again and the just released God’s Best During Your WorstImage result for robin luftig God's Best(Bold Vision Books) in March. Her first novel, Ladies of the Fire launches the end of 2020. Robin enjoys speaking all over the country and would love to be your next keynote presenter or workshop leader for your conference, retreat, or women’s event.

Join the Conversation: Have you been able to be at peace in a terrible time in your life? Please share!

Us Loves You

by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior.” Psalm 25:5a NIV

My family attended a Baptist church while I was growing up and no excuse was good enough to get out of going, barring coma or gushing blood. As a preteen, I was quite annoyed to be stuck in Sunday night “Training Union” class. I did not wish to be either trained or unified with the other unfortunates, like me, who were forced to be there.

So many more important things to do – bike paths to forge; Lost in Space to watch on TV, homework to ignore.

Instead, I was held captive week after week by Mr. and Mrs. Buford, a childless, elderly couple, neither of whom had completed eighth grade in order to help their families scratch a living on farms during the depression. They owned no television, nor microwave, and had never been on an airplane. Why, they had no idea what a video game was. Unfathomable.

Yet there they were, week after week, month after month, faithful as the springtime rain. I and my know-it-all cronies scoffed at their country bumpkin speech. So uncool.

“Us loves you.”

It was the phrase with which Mrs. Buford started every class. An occasional snicker would burst from one of us enlightened scholars, but the Buford’s never seemed to notice.

Soon they’d have us racing to look up Scriptures, learn the books of the Bible, and win candy for answering Bible story questions. Of course, we acted as if none of this was the least bit fun. Yawn.

“Us loves you.”

Mrs. Buford would close the hour with the same ridiculous phrase, a warm smile crinkling her careworn face. Somehow, I remember like it was yesterday.

Fast-forward thirty years.

My husband Chuck and I are surrounded by a group of 12- to-14-year-olds, all of whom wish they were elsewhere. We are trying to teach them scriptural principles and bring God’s Word to life.

They’re only interested in who got busted Saturday night.

Chuck asks a boy with a purple Mohawk whose father is in prison to read a specific passage of Scripture aloud in answer to his question about how we know the Bible is true. The boy reads haltingly, unsure of what some of the words mean.

We explain it in terms he can understand. He’s still unconvinced. Skeptical. Mistrusting. But for some reason, he keeps coming back. I notice that he listens, really listens, when one of the other boys asks, “Miz Coty, why do you meet with us every week, when all we do is eat your food, wreck your house, and give you one big headache?”

The answer travels through time and registers in my mind as if I’m hearing it for the first time.

“Us loves you.”

Faithfulness has a resonating voice, doesn’t it? In this world of casual abandonment, when we choose to faithfully serve God by using our gifts and abilities to help others in His name, His love shines through like a lantern piercing the darkness.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you” (Proverbs 3:3 NIV).

We may not preach globally, or teach from an elevated platform, or have more than a handful of Facebook friends, but if we show up day after day, week after week, faithfully glorifying our Savior in the ministry He has custom-designed for us, He’ll be there too.

Whether we’re riding herd on a passel of squirming preschoolers, sweeping up crumbs after a home Bible Study, or invisibly running the worship service sound system, Papa God promises to bless us and keep teaching us the eternal truth of His ways.

And that’s the way I want to go. How about you, my friend?

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Us Loves You – insight and encouragement from @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deboracotyAbout the author: Debora Coty lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband, Chuck, two grown children and four energetic grandbuddies. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Debora’s newest release, Too Blessed to be Stressed for Momsaddresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: Have you ever felt frustration that your ministry is too small? How has/is God using your efforts for His kingdom?

What Good Can Come from Bad News?

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

“The vet called. The tests on Max came back positive.” My husband’s words punched me in the stomach. Have you ever felt slugged by unwelcome news?

Max is our standard poodle. If I could use only one word to describe him, it would be magnificent. Max’s beautiful tail waves like a banner when he glides down the sidewalk. His coat is as thick as lamb’s fleece. When he was a puppy, we marveled the first time he watched a distant plane cross the sky. His sensitive spirit knows when to be gentle and when to play hard.

Max also impresses strangers. One man ran out of his house to get a closer look. Another pulled his truck over to ask about him. Perfect strangers want to have their pictures taken with him.

The vet had tested Max for Masticatory Muscle Myositis (MMM). I’d hoped Max’s issues were a side effect of Addison’s disease. The descriptions of MMM are too horrible to fathom.

Knowing Max’s challenging health issues, you might think we wish we’d chosen another puppy. Not at all.

As my daughter said, even if MMM takes Max, it has been worth it to have him. We wouldn’t trade a few years with Max and all of his problems for decades with another healthy dog. A day doesn’t pass without him making us laugh. He has taught us much about love, life, and faith.

Our son Brant expressed how Max’s challenges have refined his faith. “I had to ask myself if I’ve really trusted God with my eternity,” he said. “Because if I can trust Him with something that big, shouldn’t I be able to trust Him with Max?”

Brant was expressing the truth of 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NASB): “…you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Fire purifies gold so that it will gleam for a little while on earth. Trials purify faith so it will sparkle for eternity. Watching Brant’s faith shine has filled me with joy. We have great hope God will transform Magnificent Max into our Miracle Max. But, no matter how this turns out, Max has been worth it!

If we can say that about Max now, imagine how we will respond when we are finally able to see how God used our temporal pain to bring us eternal joy. Grieving a loss, a beloved family member, friend, or even a pet, is not wasted when it polishes our faith. With the Psalmist, we learn to say “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25, NIV).

God cares about our challenges and uses them to polish our faith. One day, we will see the result and gasp—it was worth it!

Max was only two when we learned his diagnosis. He is eight now and though he has experienced some setbacks, he continues to fill our lives with joy. He is indeed our Miracle Max.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT).

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What Good Can Come from Bad News? – encouragement 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: What trials have you experienced that ultimately grew your faith?

Got Milk. Need Meat?

by Lori Hynson 

For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.                                                  Hebrews 5:13-14  (NLT)

 Pediatrician visits with my kids always included measuring their progress on a growth chart. From birth, their height, weight, food intake, and motor skills were recorded to ensure good progress.

If so inclined, God could chart our spiritual progress in much the same way. When we accept Jesus, God delivers us once again as newborn spirits, feeding and nourishing us in His Word as we begin to grow and mature, first on milk, and later on meat as we grow in Him.

In my family of “sort of” believers, we only attended church for weddings, funerals and, inexplicably, to have our babies Christened.

When I was just out of high school, a teen pregnancy and shotgun wedding made me strive to prove I could still be a somebody. I ran myself ragged for years to prove my superior abilities, convinced this would win the approval I craved.

When 9/11 happened, I decided church might not be a bad idea. Besides, since I wanted to sing gospel, I could multitask! In super fashion I joined a church, accepted Jesus, and was baptized because I thought you were “supposed to.”

My chart may have announced my new birth at age 47, but my growth would be stunted for the next four years. I now had a pencil mark drawn on God’s doorframe, but nothing else about me or my lifestyle changed. The new me was born, but my old self-y self refused to move out. Forget feeding on milk. I survived on prenatal vitamins.

Four years later, when a storm blew into my life, I tried, as usual, to fix the situation on my own. When that failed, I prayed for God to approve my plans but got no response. When I finally found myself in the worst trouble I’d ever faced, God grabbed His spiritual forceps and delivered me. Helpless. Wailing. And flat on my face.

Now that He had my attention, God told me it was time for self-y me to get lost and to find Him instead. Trust in Him alone. I agreed, and God began to feed me His milk. But in order for me to grow higher and deeper, it was time to start solid food. Time to open wide!

I read, and He fed. He showed me the worldly lies in my life that had to go—like believing that I could rely on myself alone in life, or that I could control my circumstances. He countered the lies with His Truths. He carried away the me-things and filled me with desire for more Him-things.

At last I moved from milk to solid, life-giving meat. In the last decade, I’ve grown in spiritual height, weight, and depth, reaching ever more for the Jesus in me.

Hebrews 5:13-14 tells us that the solid food we find in God’s Word is the nourishment that supplies the depth to know right from wrong, according to His standards. Too bad the malnourished me didn’t recognize that I needed a whole lot more meat a whole lot sooner. The knowledge gained by mature me could have spared immature me a whole lot of pain.

Has your spiritual growth been stunted by sticking to the easy-to-swallow milk of God? Like me, maybe you haven’t noticed that you’ve stopped thriving on a diet of just milk. We might believe we’ve already reached our growth destination, or we’re simply stumped as to how to get there.

Got milk? Need meat.

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Got Milk. Need Meat? – insight from Lori Hynson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori HynsonAbout the author: Lori Hynson is a Recovering SuperGalaholic, author, speaker, Bible teacher, and singer. Her life ministry is to encourage women to recognize and be healed of their self-imposed SuperGal burdens, to find God’s abundant peace and contentment through His Word, and embrace the freedom they can experience daily in their new life in Christ.

Lori’s book, SuperGal vs. God, is the story of a woman who was convinced she could control everything life threw her way. Until she couldn’t fix the one thing that mattered most. A Bible study/book club guide on the truths in this story is also available.

Lori and her husband have five children, thirteen grandchildren, and enjoy living near Valley Forge, PA with their cats Wednesday and Natasha.

Join the conversation: How do you get real meat into you?

Out of Nowhere

by Christina Rose

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory  of the Lord has risen upon you.”                                                                                                                                            Isaiah 60:1 ESV

\Years ago, I made a checklist of plans for my life. I decided that I would marry a handsome prince, and that we would have four perfect children. We would live in a beautiful mansion by the sea and be very rich, among other things.

While life turned out much differently than what I had planned, I came to know that God had a better plan for me, and I had to trust Him. Years later, as I was thinking about my old checklist, I heard a still small voice whisper in my ear, “Did you check with me when you made that checklist?”  I had to laugh.

While I did get married and have a nice home and two wonderful daughters, they eventually grew up. It was time for a new chapter. This time, however, I did not construct a checklist, but instead spent hours talking to God on the mountain, in the chapel, in the pool, in the middle of the night, and first thing in the morning. In that process, I learned to hear His voice. I got visions of writing and speaking, but at the time, that was not happening. One day my fortune cookie read, “You have a charming way with words, and you should write a book.” I had to laugh again, but within a few months, my first book was written, and I continue to write more.

A few years ago, I was called to sell everything, quit my job, leave my home in California, and travel across the country. Not long ago, while walking along Sarasota Bay, it seemed that all of those tests had been leading me nowhere. I looked to the sky and asked God for some clues.

The day was so still, the water was like glass, but then suddenly out of nowhere, a huge flying fish shot out of the water like a rocket into the sky. Its scales shone like silver and gold in the sun for a moment, before it plunged back into the water. Then several more flying fish burst through the air, sparkling just as brightly, before they dove back into the water.

Flying fish out of nowhere? And then I considered that nowhere is somewhere to God. Those fish had once been tiny; it took a very long time of swimming in the cold, dark depths against strong currents to gain the strength to shoot into the sky, surprising everyone around them. God loves to make things happen out of nowhere. Jesus came out of nowhere to walk across the sea, the burning bush came out of nowhere to talk to Moses, and God created the world out of nowhere.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”  (Genesis 1:1-2  ESV). 

Those unexpected flying fish gave me hope. Many times, I have felt like them, swimming against the currents for a very long time and gaining strength in a hidden place. But while many of us may feel we are on a journey to nowhere, nowhere is somewhere to God. He has a plan. “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert”  (Isaiah 43:19  ESV).

So join me, my fellow flying fish, as we burst out of the depths of darkness (after swimming a long time) to sparkle with gold and silver in the sunlight, proclaiming God’s magnificent glory to all of  the earth!

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Out of Nowhere – encouragement from Christina Rose on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

christina roseAbout the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer and speaker certified by the John Maxwell Team of Leadership.  She is a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. A devoted mom of two daughters and great aunt to over 40 nieces and nephews, Christina loves spending time in nature and hosting gatherings for family and friends.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story. Her marriage in shambles, Christina finds herself in a desperate situation with no resources other than herself. After appealing to heaven, the Lord takes her on a journey of awakening and miraculous empowerment. That power that is available to us all, especially those who are in need of hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: How does knowing God has a plan for your future help you in the here and now?

Grateful for Little Things

by Crystal Bowman

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
Psalm 9:1 NIV

My late cousin Marion spent most of her life in adult foster care or nursing homes. We lived in the same town, but since she was much older than I was, I rarely went to see her. She was closer to the age of my parents, who lived 40 miles away but regularly visited her. The week before Easter, my parents would always bring her an Easter lily. One year, my mom and dad were both sick, so my mom asked me to bring Marion an Easter lily. I thought it was a lot to ask, but I honored my mother’s wishes with a not-so-great attitude.

Since those were the days before online ordering, I went to our local supermarket, bought the lily, and delivered it to her with my three young kids in tow. “We’ll only stay a few minutes,” I whispered as I knocked on the door. Marion was thrilled to see me. She knew every cousin by name (dozens of them!) and greeted me with a bright smile. “Hello, Crystal! It’s so good to see you. And who are these children?”

I introduced Marion to my two little boys and my baby girl. Spending time with her was so delightful that we ended up staying for more than an hour. What impressed me the most was the joy that flowed from her because she was grateful for “little” things. “I’m so thankful for my window!” she said.  “It allows me to enjoy God’s creation. I love watching the birds find their food and shapely clouds sweep across the sky.” She was also thankful for her radio, which allowed her to enjoy hearing Christian music, messages from pastors, and current events.

After that initial Easter lily delivery, my kids and I went to visit her regularly. I usually went with the intent of cheering her up, but I was the one who was always blessed. Through the years, we brought her pictures my kids had colored, cards they made, and home-made holiday decorations.

But one visit will stand out in my mind forever.

As we entered her room, she greeted us with her usual smile. When I asked how she was doing, she replied with child-like enthusiasm, “I have a new job! I get to fold the towels when they come out of the dryer. They smell so fresh and clean, and I fold each one the best I can. It makes me feel useful, and when I do my best, it brings glory to God.”

The Apostle Paul encouraged the early Christians in Colossae to set their minds on things above, and to live with a God-focus and a grateful heart. In Colossians 3:17 (NIV) he says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” This message is timeless and applies to us as well. In everything we do, we have an opportunity to do our best, to the glory of God, with thanksgiving.

I admit that I am not always thankful for daily chores, inconvenient requests, or business demands. Maintaining a positive focus and an attitude of thankfulness is a daily challenge. But every now and then, when I have a load of fresh towels to fold, I think of Marion and fold each one the best that I can to the glory of God.

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Grateful for Little Things – encouragement 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: Is there someone in your life that has lived out an important truth in front of you?

 

 

Living in Grace Will Guide Our Words

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions.                                                                                                                                        Proverbs 18:2 NIV

Over the years, my words have gotten me into a heap of trouble. I’ve initiated and meddled in arguments I shouldn’t have, fought to be right rather than understand, and wreaked destruction in the name of self-defense.

For years, though I longed to behave differently, my mouth failed to change.

Here’s why: I fought the symptom instead of the cause.

Whenever my words run amuck, my pride’s at fault. The solution, then, is surrender—making Jesus, obedience to Him (rather than man’s opinion) and the intimacy that follows—my treasure.

Let me explain.

Proverbs 18:1-4 (NIV) says, “An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels. Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes reproach. The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.”

When I speak foolishly, focused on defending myself or proving my point, I’m likely acting out of fear: fear of losing face or not getting what I want or hope for. But in my desire to elevate or defend myself, I miss crucial unspoken “heart talk.”

A while back, I engaged in a heated discussion that revealed considerable miscommunication—things heard that were never said, statements taken out of context, and others extrapolated in confusing ways. Focused on the miscommunication, I attempted to unpack each one.

I remained oblivious to the insecurities and wounds underlying it all, and thereby only exacerbating the problem. Had I focused on the person’s heart more than their words, I could’ve responded with wisdom and grace.

Reading through Proverbs 18, I thought of this interchange and prayerfully evaluated my heart.

I came up with this list of reminders and steps:

  1. I don’t need to defend myself. When someone criticizes me, if their complaints are valid, acknowledge them and prayerfully consider ways I might change. Because living in grace means I’m in need of it, too. I’m broken, prone to sin, and nowhere near who God would have me to be, yet even now I’m accepted and deeply loved. This disarms my pride, as I humbly recognize my need for Christ, which increases my courage to grow.
  2. God’s opinion and my obedience to Him is more important than man’s perception of me. When I base my identity in Christ and treasure intimacy with Him more than saving face, I don’t need to defend myself or prove my point.
  3. When I begin to feel defensive, I must uncover the fear beneath and remind myself of who I am in Christ. He’s my defender, protector, perfect guide, and the One who holds my future in His hands.
  4. Don’t own whatever’s not true. Simply disregard it, reminding myself of steps one through three.
  5. Finally, listen for the fears and insecurities behind my “opponent’s” words and address those before attempting to resolve anything external.

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Living in Grace Will Guide Our Words – encouragement from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Relational conflicts can be messy, confusing, and cloaked in emotion and false perceptions. Seeking grace-filled resolution means putting a guard rail on my tongue and taking time to go deep—to my and my opponent’s heart. It also involves surrendering my pride and emotions to Jesus so that He can love others through me. It’s just another way to live out grace in our lives.

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

Do you ever feel insignificant or unseen? As if what you do or even who you are isn’t quite good enough? If so, this seven week Bible study, Becoming His Princess, is for you. Based on the remarkable life of Sarah, you will find a grace that will prove sufficient for all your failures and insufficiencies.

Join the conversation: Let’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to guard your tongue? When considering times your words have gotten you into trouble, can you see similar “root causes” as I mentioned above? How often has fear and pride lied at the root of your conflicts? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

 

That Stinking Sin

by Dena Dyer @denajdyer

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.                                  Romans 3:23-24 NIV

“What is that horrible smell?” my husband asked me after climbing into the front seat of my car.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’ve looked under the seats but there’s nothing there. Maybe something spilled?”

A day later, the smell was even worse. Desperate to find the cause, we got our brightest flashlight and looked under the hood (thinking maybe a mouse had crawled up in the engine and died). We even searched the side pockets on the car’s doors to see if some bit of food had gotten trapped.

Finally, I looked in a box of clothes I had been planning to take to Goodwill, which had been behind my back seats for a couple of weeks. And I found a small grocery sack with—wait for it—a two-week old tube of ground turkey. It had expanded and looked ready to explode. Holding my nose, I put the gaseous tube, along with the donation box in a big garbage bag and deposited into our outdoor trash can.

The next morning, as I drove to work, God nudged me. That’s like sin, He pointed out. Even small sins can become a big problem over time. At first, our sin may seem like no big deal. But over time, it poisons more of the areas and relationships in our lives, until nothing remains unaffected.

I remember when bitterness over a friend who betrayed me turned sour, affecting my ability to trust in others and risk friendships. It stank up my words and thoughts, until my husband noticed and called me out. I had felt justified in my emotions and reaction, and so I had allowed myself to become blind to its insidious, creeping nature.

But here’s the good news: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9 NIV).

I did confess my bitterness and anger to the Lord. I rejoiced that Jesus paid for that sin, and that it would not stand between the Lord and I. But the Lord did more than forgive. Over time and with His help, I forgave the person who had hurt me, releasing her to God, and I felt the freedom to pray for her and (gasp!) even wish her well.

In the illustration above, the Holy Spirit is like the flashlight, helping us search out sin and convicting us of its presence so we can confess. God has already removed our sin by the blood of Jesus. We are clean and wear His righteousness. In His grace, he has set us free.

Today, ask God what sins–big or small–are “hiding” in your own life. Then confess the wrongdoing and thank God for His forgiveness and mercy.

This blog is excerpted from Dena’s book, Grace for the Race: Meditations for Busy Moms, which is available as an e-book from online retailers. 

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Only Cats Have Nine Lives – encouragement & insight from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Clic, to Tweet)

dena headshotAbout the author: Dena Dyer is an award-winning author, speaker, and non-profit leader. She loves encouraging hurting, harried women with humor and hope. You can find her on Instagram or Facebook, or at her website.

Dena’s book, Grace for the Race,  uses real-life stories, Scripture, and gentle humor to soothe the souls of frazzled females. By being honest and vulnerable about the ways God has shown Himself to her as she’s struggled with motherhood, Dena hopes to help moms realize that they’re not alone, and they’re not crazy!

Join the conversation: Have you nursed bitterness in your heart? How did God set you free?