A Lesson in Partnership

by Svetlana Papazov @SvetlanaPapazov

Everywhere that we’ve lived, we’ve built two-story screened-in porches. I love working outside, soaking in the beauty of greenery as I write. It was while sitting in those porches that I wrote my master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation. Now I work on my sermons, books, and articles from my current screened-in porch.

There is something deeply inspiring working in nature. I don’t mind the noise of children playing nearby and their shouts of joy, or even hearing the teenagers revving up the engines of their cars. Sometimes, when I’m sitting on the porch, the netting of the screen completely disappears from my perception. It is as though there is nothing separating me from my surroundings. I feel like a bird, perched among the trees, loving the feeling of being in the open air.

One day, while working on my writings, I decided to crack open the screen door. Suddenly, a bird flew in, and for a few moments, she believed that she was still outside. But when she realized she was trapped, things took a bad turn. In her panic, she only succeeded smacking herself against the screen walls again and again. I held the door wide open, trying to guide the bird in the right direction, but she was too fearful to cooperate with me. It took some time, but at the end, I was finally able to shoo her through the opening.

That day, that little bird taught me a lesson in partnership. The door was open, but the bird kept ignoring my frantic attempts to point her to freedom. Instead, she exerted so much energy looking for an alternate route, she tired herself almost to death. Her perceived way to freedom was actually her entrapment.

I’m not sure what your 2018 has looked like. Maybe it has been your best year financially, relationally, physically, and spiritually. If that’s the case, I am celebrating with you.  Or maybe it has been the opposite. Maybe you had high expectations, but now feel disillusioned. Like my little bird, what you thought of as an opportunity in reality left you feeling caged and alone.

So many times in life, we try to chase assignments on our own. But we were not created to work in isolation. God has provided a faith community with which to join forces, partnering together to serve the God we love. Our abilities fit together like puzzle pieces. When they are woven together, they create something harmoniously beautiful. God wants to use all of our spiritual gifts jointly in the body of Christ to display his glory to a lost world.

Paul wrote, “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16 NASB).As we partner together, the one ingredient necessary is love. Serving the body of Christ is not a competition. Each one of us is called to do life-saving work.

When we know those around us are working toward our good, we can trust. And trust is key to being able to work together.

As we begin a new year, let us join our efforts with our church family and do things God’s way. I have decided that I want my 2019 to be successful, so I do not want to enter it alone. I’m determined to work toward greater unity in the body of believers that God has graciously given me, because I know that they will come alongside me with strength, help, anointing, and favor. I know that when we walk beside each other, we are able to bring God’s purposes from heaven to earth in order to make an eternal impact.

What about you? Will you choose to align with a faith family to set you up for success in 2019?

God has so composed the body…so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.  1 Corinthians 12:24-27 NASB

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svetlana papazovAbout the author: Dr. Svetlana Papazov is a senior pastor, speaking coach and entrepreneur who started five businesses and has written for great magazines such as Enrichment Journal, Leading Hearts, Vital Words and others.

What excites Svetlana most is to develop faith influencers in the marketplace. In 2016, she founded Real Life Church and Real Life Center for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Excellence. It is the first of its kind model of church and business incubator that connects people to God by merging faith and entrepreneurship.

Svetlana welcomes invitations for speaking, coaching and business consultancy. She lives near Richmond, VA with her supportive husband, two sharp kids, and an adorable Pomeranian. You can listen to Svetlana’s sermons at SvetlanaPapazov.com or connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

Join the conversation: How have other come alongside you to support what you are trying to do for the Lord?

The Case of the Deep-fried Guilt

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I went to the food court at the mall the other day. Pretty sure I was found guilty.

It’s weird because at the food court, you can eat an entire meal before you even find a table. Those people feed it to you one toothpick at a time. Three thousand deep-fried sample calories later, you still have to order dinner. “Order in the food court”—it’s probably some sort of mall law. I tried to object once but then I overruled myself.

Last time, just before the guilt of overeating was about to kick in, I was polishing off the last curly fry (the curly fries I SO should’ve said no to), and I think I might’ve heard my left ventricle squeaking closed. I wonder if the toothpick people could eventually be charged with ventricular manslaughter.

On the spiritual side, our non-physical heart does better when we say no to guilt. Sin is a killer and we need to always confess and get rid of it quickly. But we need to be just as quick to get rid of any residual guilt.

When we dredge up old sin that’s already been forgiven, we clog up our hearts in an entirely different way. Unwarranted guilt hinders our walk with the Lord. Our enemy doesn’t want us operating in the powerful place of forgiveness. He doesn’t want us to experience a sweet, unhindered connection with the Father. If he can obstruct that connection by convincing us that our sin is unforgivable, he can choke out our fruitfulness. We’ll end up so distracted by guilt that we can’t clearly focus on the purposes He’s called us to.

Sometimes we try to get rid of the guilt ourselves. People who attempt to take care of their own guilt feelings usually realize the futility of it at some point. They end up trying to numb it with some sort of chemical or another item from a long list of destructive habits. Or some try to cover over the guilt by doing enough good deeds. Less destructive, sure, but still ineffective and completely frustrating.

There’s one way to get rid of every kind of guilt. Jesus. He took it for us on the cross. The sinful deed you find yourself continually dredging up? Jesus died for it. Is there a sin that haunts you, one that hangs onto your psyche like grease on fries? Do you ever find yourself thinking that yours is the one sin that God couldn’t possibly forgive? Let me encourage you to recognize that the sacrifice of Christ was enough.

At any point you can’t fathom a grace that will cover your sin, overrule yourself, because you’re not understanding His grace as it really is. It’s bigger than we can ever sin.

I love it that Jesus never dispenses His grace by the toothpick. He gives it in heaping helpings. He doesn’t give it out according to our success. He doesn’t take it back when we mess up. He gives that grace, desiring to be close to us. Hebrews 10:22 says, “Let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, because we have been made free from a guilty conscience” (NCV).

Freedom from a guilty conscience—that’s the way to live. And that’s the truth. And nothing but the truth.

For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. Hebrews 10:14

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rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown, mostly-coffee-drinking children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: What makes you feel guilty?

The Lay-Away Coat

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

In the “old days,” back in 1966, there was something available at stores called “lay-away.” You could put a down payment on an item and pay over time. Of course, you didn’t receive the item until you paid in full.

If you are smiling a knowing grin, you are revealing your age, and it’s most likely as old as I am. But in those days when I worked part-time for very little pay and went to high school, I loved the lay-away plan.

One day as I shopped at our local department store, I fell in love with a red coat that was gorgeous and expensive. Only by paying my hard-earned five dollars each week did I have any hope of wearing such a fabulous coat.

Finally, the coat was mine, and I wore it for the first time to our high school’s championship water polo game. While there, I met Larry through a mutual friend. Eventually that meeting blossomed into marriage three years later. While we dated, God used Larry to draw me to Christ. Yes, missionary dating!

After we were married, Larry told me he was immediately attracted to the rich-looking red coat I wore when we met. He thought I was rich. Underneath, I wore the inexpensive clothes I’d bought at a discount store. But the red coat did the trick.

I love this story because it reminds me that every Christian is wearing a spiritual coat paid for by Jesus’ blood-red death on the cross. It’s called a “robe of righteousness.”

Isaiah 61:10 gives a sense of our joy thinking of this: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

And after we arrive in heaven, Revelation 7:9-10 tells us our robes will be white because of our purity: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

As I speak to women at speaking events about this righteous robe, I often ask them to close their eyes and envision their righteous robe and what it looks like and how they feel. Some envision different colors. Red, purple, and white are the most popular colors. They might describe different fabrics: silk or velvet or trimmed in fur. Some describe they feel peaceful, empowered or loved.

Can you sense your righteous robe wrapped around you? You received this robe as a free gift because of Jesus’s death and resurrection. You don’t even have to pay $5.00 a week on lay-away for it. It is immediately yours at your point of salvation.

…I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.  Philippians 3:8-10 NASB

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Kathy C MillerAbout the author: Kathy Collard Miller is the author of more than 50 books including At the Heart of Friendship: Daughters of the King Bible Study Series.A popular women’s speaker, she has spoken in over 30 US states and 8 foreign countries. She lives in SouthernAt the Heart of Friendship by [Miller, Kathy Collard] California and loves to encourage women to know their value in Christ. Visit her at www.KathyCollardMiller.com, www.facebook.com/KathyCollardMillerAuthor, or on Instagram: @kathycollardmiller.

Renovations vs Good Foundations

by Cynthia L. Simmons @CynthiaLSimons

We’ve learned (the hard way) that renovating a home often unearths hidden problems, creating stress and a need for extra cash. Let me explain. Our living room opens into a formal dining area, which made it a perfect spot for us to host a tea party every Tuesday evening for young people. If one table didn’t hold enough people, we could add more tables end to end all the way into our living room. But the opening between the two rooms wasn’t wide enough to allow people to pass through while others were seated. So, my husband and I decided to remove a portion of the wall on each side to give more room. Sounds easy, right? We hired a contractor and expected a quick fix.

However, we received a nasty surprise. Phil, the man in charge, measured several times, and then measured the garage which sat underneath the two rooms. He told us the wall we needed to alter was load bearing. When he examined the basement, he discovered the original building contractor had incorrectly placed the metal poles beneath the wall– a full foot off from where they belonged. As a result, the floor of the dining room and living room now sagged, all on their eventual way into the garage below.

Can you imagine? We often entertained fifteen to twenty people in that room! My husband and I envisioned our visitors grabbing the walls or curtains for dear life as the floor collapsed under them.

Phil had unearthed a serious flaw in the contractor’s work. But it was impossible to see without a careful examination. Doubtless, the floor installer made the floors level at installation and assumed they would remain that way.

This story reminds me of how sin can cause damage, even when it may not be blatantly obvious to others. We work hard at appearances and can fool people on what lies beneath the visible. But God, who sees straight into our hearts, does not miss a thing. In Galatians, Paul warns, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7 NIV). Even when no one has noticed, sin still has natural consequences.

Living with a hidden sin cannot end well. Sin acts like a cancer. It causes strife, anger, and jealousy. Its presence can eat away at the very foundation of relationships and beyond, destroying marriages, friendships, churches, and even nations.

Worst of all, hidden sin is something Satan can use to his advantage. As long as it festers beneath the surface, a sin can maintain its grip on us. Paul warns that we must avoid giving the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27). Satan loves a secret.

I’m sure the original contractor for our home never dreamed that fudging a little on the position of basement beams would become such a serious matter. However, time and wear caused increasing damage because the foundation had been compromised.

I’m thankful we found the problem with our floor so we could fix it. We purchased a heavy beam to go under the dining room floor, and in addition to that, Phil’s crew installed another vertical support pole.

In the spiritual realm, we must turn to God for repairs. He created life, and when he forgives, he restores. Don’t let that secret sin keep you in bondage. Jesus Christ can set you free. And you will be building on the firm foundation of truth and God’s grace.

The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. Psalm 145:18 NIV

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Am I renovating or building a strong biblical foundation? thoughts from @CynthiaLSimmons on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Cynthia-Simmons-5About the author: Former home school mother of five, Cynthia has a special spot in her heart for young moms and loves to encourage all women to pursue God. She hosts Heart of the Matter Radio, and writes inspirational fiction and non-fiction.  Find her at www.clsimmons.com.

Join the conversation: How have you found freedom from the sin that plagues you?

 

Why I Think I Have Been Reading the Wrong Scripture at Christmas

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

Christmas is over. The tree is down, ornaments stored, presents unwrapped, and the calendar that felt stretched tighter than my waistband breathes a sigh of relief.

Perhaps like me, you too are now analyzing our successes and failures and formulating a strategy for making Christmas 2019 even more spectacular.

But before we get to deep in the planning, I’d like to share with you the most valuable gift I received this year.

The gift was from God—as are all the best gifts. It was a revelation I’ve been starting my holidays by reading from the wrong place in Scripture.  Like me, maybe you took time to read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke this year. And like me, maybe you read it in a hurry because your to-do list was full of the things you believed were important and necessary.

But what if we had started the holidays by reading the story of Jesus visiting the house of Martha and Mary?

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” Luke 10:38-40

I’m not going to criticize Martha. I probably would have done the same. Let’s be honest, it’s exactly what I do. As the calendar moves into the Christmas season, where is my attention? The decorations, the gifts, the baking, the parties, the schedule, and so on.

“’Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.’” Luke 10:41

I can just imagine Jesus looking at me and my frantic list making and scheduling. He shakes His head and with a sad smile says, “Lori, Lori, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.”

Only one thing is needed. Don’t miss the word needed here. He doesn’t say that only one thing is good or important. Jesus and His disciples had to eat, and someone had to prepare the meal. There may be nothing wrong with our holiday hustle and bustle. There is certainly nothing wrong with celebrating the birth of Christ or expressing our love for others through the things we do at Christmas. But only one thing is needed. Only one thing is necessary.

And what is that one thing?

It is Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. Listening, worshiping, soaking in the presence of her Lord and Savior.

What would my Christmas look like if I focused on the one thing needed this year? What if I refused to be distracted away from sitting at the feet of my Lord and Savior?

What if I lived the entire year this way?

The New Year is here. Resolutions have been made, gym memberships purchased (not by me, but I’m sure someone out there has), and goals set. It invites us to a new beginning. An annual do-over of sorts. I have my pristine new day planner and dates on the calendar to meet with writing friends and set our goals for the coming year. I feel the abounding and buoyant hope of a successful year crowned at the end with a near perfect Christmas. After all, I’ve analyzed what went wrong with the last one and formulated a strategy to do better this time around.

But have I taken into consideration the one thing needed? Or am I trying to wedge that in to the left-over nooks and crannies of my days?

It is easy to let my planning become a distraction, pulling me away from the one thing needed. But this year I’m going to use my plan making and goal setting to form a hedge of protection around the only thing that is needed.

In fact, I think I’ll read the story of Martha and Mary, not just first next Christmas, but often throughout the year to make me mindful of choosing what is better.

Move over Mary. I’m coming to join you.

You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures. Psalm 16:11 CSB

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Why I Think I Have Been Reading the Wrong Scripture at Christmas – @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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

Join the conversation: Can you remember when a time of instability or change resulted in something beautiful?

Are You Ready for God’s Abundant Blessings?

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

“Mommy, I’m ready to go over to Irene’s!” I cried out. I had my pajamas and toothbrush! It was going to be my first overnighter at my best friend, Irene’s house, across the street. I could hardly contain my excitement. I felt like such a big girl to be able to spend the night at someone else’s house. A big step for a first-grader!

My mother accompanied me across the street and Irene and I had a great time that evening. When we woke up the next morning, we played with our dolls for awhile and then I packed up my stuff in my little duffel bag.

Irene’s mom offered breakfast but it just didn’t seem right to both spend the night and have breakfast. Did I deserve that much joy? I answered, “Thank you, Mrs. Luna, but I have to go home.”

Mrs. Luna frowned but walked me across the street.

My mother asked me about my time and I told her about the fun. Then asked, “I’m hungry. Can I have a bowl of cereal?”

“Kathy, didn’t Mrs. Luna give you breakfast?”

“I didn’t think I was supposed to spend the night and have breakfast too.”

“Yes, honey, it would have been fine to have both.”

At times I come to God with my thanks for all He’s done for me, but somehow feel that I don’t really deserve anything more. It’s overwhelming to think He loves me that much to give me both the “overnighter” and breakfast too. It’s then I remember Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Just as Mrs. Luna delighted in me but I didn’t know how much, God delights in you and wants you to know it.

What are you feeling awkward about receiving from God’s hand? Help? Blessings? Affirmations? Love?

He wants to give you everything you need. Just receive it.

For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation. Psalm 149:4 NASB

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We should never be timid about asking for God’s blessings – thoughts from @KathyCMiller on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy C MillerAbout the author: Kathy Collard Miller loves to speak and write about how God’s children can trust Him more. She has spoken in over 30 US states and 8 foreign countries. She has over 50 published books including At the Heart of Friendship: Daughters of the King Bible Study Series. Larry and Kathy live in At the Heart of Friendship by [Miller, Kathy Collard]Southern California and are the parents of two and grandparents of two. Visit her at http://www.KathyCollardMiller and www.facebook.com/KathyCollardMillerAuthor and @KathyCollardMiller (instagram)

Join the conversation: What is hardest for you to receive?

God Understands

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

Lord, You have searched me and known me. Psalm 139:1 CSB

I sat across the table from my friend at lunch as she tearfully recounted the ways I had disappointed her. I hadn’t called in quite awhile. I rarely took the time anymore to check in on her. We didn’t get together as often as we used to.

I had hurt her. And in hearing about it, it hurt me.

I was frustrated at the fact that, if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have known what to do differently in order to not hurt this friend.

“I give up,” I told God aloud as I drove home from lunch that day. “I don’t want one more conversation with a friend who is going to tell me how I’ve disappointed her. I don’t know what to do anymore to keep people happy.”

It was one of those days when one complaint felt like a million – when one woman’s unhappiness with me represented the whole world’s disappointment with me.

If she could just see my heart, I thought to myself. Then she would know I had never intended to make her feel that way.

I turned to Psalm 139, a song of comfort that often reminds me of the One who knows me unlike any other.

“You know when I sit down and when I stand up;
You understand my thoughts from far away.
You observe my travels and my rest;
You are aware of all my ways” (verses 2-3, CSB).

It was comforting to know that God could see my heart. He knows my intentions. And He knows every time I mean well but don’t express it, every time I mess up but didn’t intend to, every time I’m misunderstood and miserable. He knows. And He extends grace anyway.

I wrote out a card to that friend and mailed it that day. I reminded her that I loved her and apologized for failing to show it. And I made a conscious decision that day to extend a bit further and call more frequently when it came to that friend.

If you’re feeling alone today because you’ve been misunderstood, or because you feel you haven’t been the best friend you could be, take heart: There is One who knows all about you and loves you just the same.

Lord, may You be the One I run to when I am frustrated from disappointing another person. Thank You that as many times as I’ve disappointed You, You still call me friend.   

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Being misunderstood hurts, but God always understands – insight from @CindiMcMenamin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 16 books including Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs, God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart, and Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her books and resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, or for more information on her coaching services to help you write the book on your heart, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Join the conversation: When was the last time you felt misunderstood?

Tracks In The Snow

by Sheri Schofield

Snow fell around our mountain home this week. Deep and beautiful, it hid everything beneath it. All was fresh, untouched. It lay blank, ready for stories to be written across it.

Soon the deer and bunnies began making tracks across it. The deer tracks led to the creek below, where they munched on willows and other bare shrubs. The tracks said they had gone to eat breakfast.

The bunny tracks led below our deck, where the fluffy creatures hid out for a time, checking to see if any predators were around. Then they hopped across to our shed, crossed beneath it and headed uphill to the kinnikinnick berry patch. They, too, were hunting for breakfast.

Soon my own tracks appeared in the snow along with the snow shovel’s. I had to dig the car out. The snow was collecting stories!

The new year stretches before me like a field of pristine snow, untouched, untracked. What will I write on it? What will others write on it as their lives intersect with mine? I sense change coming. It is in the air. How will I face it? How will I adapt?

God has given me a word for the year: HARVEST. Jesus has said the fields are white for harvest around me. It will be hard work! I feel inadequate for the task! But he will be with me. He will equip me. He will bring a team of helpers to me, people equally dedicated to the harvest of souls for Christ.

What about the changes I see coming? He has given me a word for this too: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. I will be with you. I will strengthen you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”(1 Corinthians 12:9;  Isaiah 41:10, NIV)

God has said there will be great joy ahead! Some of it is already starting to flow toward me. I recently heard from a man who gave my children’s book on salvation to a 10-year-old boy. The boy’s mother said, “It is his favorite book! He has practically memorized it!”

My friend asked, “Do you know Jesus? Have you asked him to be your Savior?”

The mother said, “I have sinned too much for Jesus to save me.”

My friend told her, “God says, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18, KJV)

The mother broke down in tears and asked Jesus into her heart.

The joy of the harvest will carry me through any changes or difficulties that lie ahead. This is just the beginning of such stories! I will see more tracks like these across the snow of the New Year.

What tracks will you make across your unwritten pages? Will they be tracks that lead to the spiritual harvest of souls? For sure, if you belong to Jesus, his grace will carry you through everything that is to come and will give you strength to perform the task he has given you this coming year. We know he is able to keep us and help us, for millions of others have gone before us, walking in his grace and strength.  Rejoice! For our Savior is with us!

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What tracks will you make this coming year? Thoughts from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. . . .” Hebrews 12:1 & 2 NIV

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield, an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years, has just released her new book, The Prince And The Plan, to help parents lead their children into a saving knowledge of Jesus. Sheri was named Writer of the Year for 2018 at 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!

Join the Conversation: Looking back over the past year, what “tracks” do you see that evidence God having directed your steps?

Good Intentions

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

“There is no more powerful motivation for holiness than loving God in response to the revelation of his redeeming character and eternal promises.” Bryan Chapell, Christ Centered Preaching

How are you at keeping resolutions? I am the world’s worst. Mind you, I am full of good intentions. I will keep a cleaner and more organized home. I will lose weight. I will get serious about an exercise program. At the start, keeping a resolution is a breeze. Why did I live like I did before turning over this new leaf? Life is so much better this way! I will never go back. Sometimes I even try to convert others to my cause. How could they not follow in my steps? This way is infinitely better.

But it’s not long before I begin to wobble. This is too hard. I miss the convenience of doing things the old way. It wasn’t so bad before. And before long I have fallen back into my old ways once again.

Living for Jesus can fall along similar lines. We read or hear something that convicts us. So we resolve to act on that conviction. We will be more diligent about reading our Bible. Pray more. Get control of our tongue.

But soon the enthusiasm wanes. The high priorities of yesterday diminish in light of the new urgencies of today. And the resolution dies a quiet death.

Where can we find motivation that will last longer than our good intentions?

Guilt is usually my chief motivation, a powerful force in my life. I attempt to change something because I foolishly think that God will somehow love me more if I can get a handle on this thing in my life. This, of course, is a very faulty assumption. He knew every selfish act I would commit before I was even born. But He chose to love me anyway. My relationship with God is based on grace. So trying to earn love or acceptance from God really is flawed thinking.

In the end, anyway, guilt fails to produce a lasting result. As soon as I have worked long enough at change to ease my guilty conscience, the motivation is at an end. And I regress.

But what if, instead, I acted in response to the unconditional love and grace God has lavished on me? Donald Miller, in Blue Like Jazz, suggested that if an ordinarily lazy man were to fall in love, he could swim the English Channel for the sake of his beloved. Love is a huge motivator.

Our greatest incentive for change comes as a response to the grace and love the Father has already poured out on us. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…that those who live should no longer lives for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV). The greater our understanding of who God is and what He has done for us, the greater our motivation to love and serve him in return.

So rather than focus on my behavior and what I need to accomplish, I will choose to focus on the God that I serve. I will focus on His great love for me and on His perfect character. And my behaviors and attitudes, the ones which so desperately need to change, will suddenly be revealed for the dark, damaging habits they are, inappropriately existing in a life which has already been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.

The stronger my love for Him, the stronger my motivation. Less of me, more of Him.

“For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for he Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” Romans 14:7-8 NASB

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Finding motivation to fuel good intentions – @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. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. 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.

Join the conversation: What have you resolved to do in the coming year?

Better Than New Year Resolutions

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Maybe it’s always this way, or perhaps I’m just more alert this year, but everywhere I look, I see stress. Anxiety. Depression. Grieving. Hard stuff. And coming straight out of Christmas with a slew of unmet expectations, many people feel depleted and defeated.

There’s a lot of pressure over the holidays, isn’t there? Not just on Christmas day, but the entire month of December and bleeding into January. Actually, the pressure increases exponentially in the new year, when, after coming to terms with all our faults, all our failed efforts to do better or love more or spend less or whatever–we determine to try again. To make a plan this time, and maybe even to write that on a slip of paper, turning our goals into New Year’s resolutions.

Because then we’re sure to keep them, right? Ha!

Am I the only one that finds this cycle exhausting and self-defeating?

What if we did away with resolutions all together, and instead determined to walk just a little closer to Jesus each day. What if, instead of drawing a line in the sand promising that 2019 will be different, we focused on moving forward? Taking small but steady steps?

Because, honestly, that first step is the hardest. In fact, it’s hard enough, without adding a bunch of expectation to it.

But once we take that first step, every step after becomes easier.

So what’s the first step? For me, meditating on and praying Scripture, because I’m convinced, the more I think like Jesus, the more I act like Jesus. Perhaps you’ve heard it this way: Right thinking equals right actions.

Romans 12:2 reveals this when it says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing, and perfect will” (NIV).

Meditating on Scripture is more than reading a passage in the morning then going about one’s day. It means pausing to really take God’s Words in, praying that He’ll help us live it, and repeating these steps throughout the day.

Eventually, God’s Words will become a part of us–internalized, and He’ll use them to speak to us, to guide and correct us, and before we know it, our behaviors have changed and we’ve become a bit more like our Savior.

This year, this is my plan, and I’m not waiting until January first to begin. Starting today, I’m determined to lean in a bit closer to Christ, to carve out consistent time throughout the day to connect with Him, and to allow His Words to penetrate deeply, changing me from the inside out. I invite you to join me.

On the glorious splendor of Your majesty And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.                                                                                                                             Psalm 145:5 NASB

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Better Than New Year Resolutions – @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog found at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, (http://whollyloved.com) she and her team partner Healing Love by [Slattery, Jennifer]with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Join the conversation: Do you have any tips about meditating on Scripture that you can share with us?