Gazing Upon the Lord’s Face

by Doris Hoover

My daughter has two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels who love her with their whole being. When Emily puts them outside, they sit at the back door staring through the glass at her. Their big, soulful brown eyes track her every move until she opens the door for them. When they’re inside, the dogs follow Emily from room to room. They lie at her feet and stare into her face while she works at her desk. And when she sits on the sofa, they scramble to her side, heads on her lap, delighting in her touch as she strokes their heads.

Dogs and humans have a unique emotional connection. Scientists attribute it to eye contact. Experiments have shown a link between increased oxytocin in both man and dog after they look into each other’s eyes. The act of gazing at one another bonds them emotionally.

Dog owners are familiar with that look, when their pets seem to stare clear into their hearts. The dogs’ eyes radiate unconditional love and the owners’ hearts melt with the power of that gaze.

The Savior’s gaze has the power to melt our hearts. When we look into His face, we see unconditional love radiating toward us. In Psalm 27, David expresses the emotional bond he feels with God. “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4 NIV).

David had an intimate relationship with the Lord because he desired to be close to Him. He regularly spent time in God’s presence, praising His goodness, pouring out his heart to Him, and trusting Him with his whole being.

We, too, can develop an intimate relationship with the Lord by spending time with Him and staring into His glorious face.

Even though we can’t see the physical face of God, we can still gaze upon Him. His essence, His character, and His heart are revealed to us through Scripture. Each time we read the Bible, we glimpse the Lord’s majesty.

We also learn from Scripture that God is always near us everywhere we go. “‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:24 NIV). God may be spirit, but He provides a way for us to adore Him. We can both see and be near the Lord.

My daughter’s dogs adore her. Whenever she leaves the house, they sit by the window anticipating her return. At the crunch of her car tires, they wiggle with unrestrained excitement. The one they love has returned!

I wonder if God created dogs to show us what unbridled devotion looks like. Do we have an intense longing to be near the Savior? Does our spirit flutter with excitement at the thought of Him?

Just as the bond between people and dogs develops as a result of eye contact, eye contact with the Lord will bond us to Him. Every time we read our Bibles, we gaze upon our glorious Master. Through prayer, we move in close and lay our heads on the Lord’s lap while He strokes our hair. Then, if we look up into His face, we’ll see something amazing—the Lord is gazing back at us with that look, the one that peers clear into the depths of our souls with unconditional love.

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Psalm 27:8 NIV

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Gazing Upon the Lord’s Face – Doris Hoover on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

doris HooverAbout the author: Doris Hoover lives in Florida, but she also spends time along the coast of Maine. Her passion is discovering God’s messages in nature and sharing them with others. You can visit Doris at captivatedbythecreator.com. 

Quiet Moments in The Villages, A Treasure Hunt Devotional invites you to step outside to discover the treasures God places around you. Doris Hoover leads you to beautiful places in her home town. Her poetic descriptions and beautiful photography draw you into the moments that will stir your heart.

Join the conversation: What do you do to seek the Lord’s face?

God’s Footprints

by Cheri Cowell @CheriCowell

Reminiscing about childhood can be a lot of fun. One weekend my sister and I stayed up late talking about events from our childhood as only sisters can do.  We laughed at some of the stupid things we did, and we spoke with sadness as we remembered the death of our pets. Mostly we remembered being fairly good kids—not perfect, but good.

The thing that amazes us the most is how closely our lives are now mirroring each other. She is a Christian counselor, working with those affected by trauma to find hope and healing. I am a Christian author and speaker helping people to find hope and healing through God’s Word.

During our weekend together we were able to trace and celebrate God’s footprints throughout our lives, guiding us to where we are today. And the good news is, He has left footprints in your life, too. They can be such an encouragement when we just take the time to look.

The psalmist Asaph, when in need of comfort, meditated on God’s faithful presence in his past. He opened Psalm 77 feeling very disturbed. His spirit was faint, so troubled he could not speak. What was the remedy for such discouragement? “I will remember my song in the night; I will meditate with my heart, and my spirit ponders” (v. 6 NASB).

Asaph remembered the frightening spectacle of a great storm: the howling winds whipping the waters into a frenzy. The skies opened and a deluge poured down as lightning flashed and thunder crashed. The mighty God of the storm was overwhelming in His power and strength. “The earth trembled and quaked. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen” (v. 18-19 NIV, emphasis mine).

Yet, that same powerful God led His people through the deep waters of the Red Sea in the Exodus like a gentle shepherd. Sometimes He is hard to comprehend, frightening to behold. At other times His intimate presence is a quiet balm to our troubled soul.

As my sister and I reminisced, we could see how He was constantly present in our lives. Not that we didn’t experience terrible sorrow and pain. We did. But as we looked back, we could His footprints, even in the midst of the storms. Even when we could not see Him at the time.

So many times in our childhood, God had shown mercy to us. He’d be a faithful presence leading through the troubled waters. As we shared those moments, we were encouraged.

Remembering God’s faithfulness is one way for us to cling to Him. We remind ourselves that though we may not easily see His footprints in our lives right now, He is indeed at work and guiding us forward.

In your prayer time today, praise God for His mighty work in your life, and thank Him for His faithfulness even though you may not presently be able to discern His footprints. Then find a family member or friend with whom to share those insights. It just may be the thing they need to remind them of God’s faithfulness. Finally, meditate on God’s past mercies in your own life so that you will become better at seeing His footprints in your present, carefully directing your steps.

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:11-12 NIV

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Tracking God’s Footprints in Your Life – @CheriCowell on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Cheri CowellAbout the author: Cheri Cowell is a contributor to When God Calls the Heart to Love. To learn more about Cheri visit www.CheriCowell.com.

Inspired by best-selling author Janette Oke and the Hallmark Channel original TV series When Calls the Heart, Brian Bird and Michelle Cox explore the love-filled moments from the fictional early 1900s town of Hope Valley. Stories of romantic love, as well as love between families, neighbors, and friends, will touch your heart and encourage your soul to recognize the potential of love in your life.

 

The Lent Buzz

by Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner @SGiesbrecht

Okay folks, it’s lent, not lint. Most of us have noticed the lent buzz’ has begun, currently all over social media. First, let’s define what lent is. Biblegateway.com offers this definition:

“Lent is the span of time in the church calendar that starts with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday…[It] is generally observed as a time for Christians to reflect, repent, and pray as a way of preparing their hearts for Easter.” (from Andy Rau, Senior Manager of Content, Biblegateway.org.)

Lent is about love: our Savior’s sacrificial love for us. Jesus literally became sin for us, so that we might have fellowship with the Heavenly Father. (2 Corinthians 5:21) That gift of love covers a multitude of sin. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 NASB).

There is only one solution for the problem of our sin separating us from God…some have tried to earn their way to heaven by working harder or being religious…but Hebrews 9:22 says “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (NASB).  Jesus Christ is our only hope… he died to pay the penalty for our sin and provided a way for us to have a relationship with God.

I am preparing for Easter through an observance of lent. Some may be working their way through devotional readings. Others are considering how we can love God in a deeper way by denying themselves– some abstain from coffee, chocolate or fried foods in an effort to draw near to God.

Recently I heard of a woman, who instead of “giving up,” chose to “give away” something each day before Easter Sunday. It got me to thinking about how the love of God compels us to give away to those who will never be able to give back to us. That’s just how God gave his son Jesus to us. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NIV).

I started in my clothes closet, vowing to purge and donate one item a day that I haven’t worn in a year. (If you haven’t worn it in a year, you probably won’t wear it again.)  Since beginning, on some days, I’ve unloaded up to ten items. It’s gratifying to think of the many who will be blessed by receiving my unused clothes.

The process has been so freeing. I’ve been a victim of my fear of letting go. During this season, instead of caving in to fear, I have chosen to show love during lent. I’ve learned something important through the process: you have to let go to take hold of something new.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14 NIV

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The Lent Buzz – thoughts on the Easter season from @SGiesbrecht on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheryl giesbrechtAbout the author: Exchanging hurt for hope is Sheryl Giesbrecht’s focus—a message she shares with audiences as a radio and television personality, author and speaker. She served as Focus on the Family’s columnist for Pastor’s Wives for four years. Hundreds of her columns, magazine, It'll Be Okay: Finding God When Doubt Hides the Truth by [Giesbrecht Turner, Sheryl]and devotional articles have appeared in Focus on The Family Magazine and many others.

Sheryl is the author of It’ll Be Okay: Finding God When Doubt Hides the Truth (Redemption Press, March 2018). When we don’t get answers or see God’s guiding hand, it’s hard to keep moving forward in faith. Does God see me? Does he hear me? Does he care? Many Christians confuse doubt with unbelief and are afraid to admit those fears, but God is not threatened by our questions, and doubt does not negate our faith. Find a deeper understanding of the role doubt plays in your spiritual growth–and how learning to doubt your doubts enables faith to prevail.

Join the conversation: How will you choose to show love to Jesus during lent? How can we fall more deeply in love with our Savior?

Following God’s “Eye”

by Katy Kauffman @KatyKauffman28

God has said, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye” (Psalm 32:8 NKJV). How does that guidance work?

I loved playing point guard on defense. In the years I played basketball, my job was to stop the forward momentum of the other team’s leader. I could anticipate which direction she would pass the ball by which way her face pointed—where her eyes were looking.

It’s the same with God. Although we can’t physically see Him, we can anticipate which way His face is pointed by what His Word says.

“For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12 NKJV

God loves righteousness—the right way of thinking, feeling, and acting. Jesus is our best example of what righteous living looks like. He faced every temptation and won (Hebrews 4:15). He faithfully carried out the Father’s will (Philippians 2:6-8). We can look to His example and teaching to know how God wants us to live, and how He wants us to walk in this life—what paths and pitfalls to avoid, and the paths He wants us to take.

To have God’s guidance in specific situations, we have to stay close to Him. We won’t know which way our Father is looking if we are off doing our own thing. Too many times when I have found a new project to tackle, I want to rush into it without asking God for guidance. When we draw near to God, He draws near to us (James 4:8), and as we purify our minds and hearts, we will be able to receive His direction better. We will know what He has for our lives and our ministries.

To follow God’s eye, we have to know what He loves and what He hates. He hates pride, lies, and taking innocent life (Proverbs 6:16-17). He hates disobedience, unforgiveness, and brutality (2 Timothy 3:2-3). He loves mercy, kindness, and humility (Colossians 3:12). He cherishes love, light, and wisdom (Ephesians 5:2, 8, 15).

Where is God’s eye pointing you this week? Remember that He cares about what you’re going through and how you are serving Him. He has a plan for victory, strengthening, and effectiveness. Let’s celebrate that our great God who is perfect in wisdom, love, and power is willing to direct us. Then let’s follow Him. I’m ready. Are you?

The eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness. Psalm 33:18 NASB

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Following God’s “Eye” – insight from @KatyKauffman28 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

headshot_katykauffmanAbout the author: Katy Kauffman is a Bible study author, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. Her writing tends to focus on winning life’s spiritual battles, and she loves connecting with writers and creating compilations such as Breaking the Chains: Strategies for Overcoming Spiritual Bondage. Katy makes her home in a cozy suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

Her latest book, Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character explores the questions: How does God make our character more like Christ’s? What is His part, and what is ours? This Bible study compilation is a construction guide to building godly character and overcoming the hidden problems that sabotage us. It explores how God works in our lives and gives us wisdom to handle real-life issues.  

Join the conversation: Have you ever felt the relief or peace that comes with being certain of God’s will? How did you receive His direction and guidance?

How to Experience God’s Kindness—When Life Stinks

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

“If you think this is building my faith, you’re wrong,” I told God.

My husband and I had faithfully served a community of believers for over a decade when the leader’s controlling spirit began to express itself in unethical and dishonest behavior.  When he wouldn’t respond to reason, I prayed God would resolve the situation or allow us to slip away quietly.

We tried to leave without drawing attention to ourselves, but the leader created a brouhaha worse than anything I could have imagined. When I heard the lies he was spreading about us, hurt and anger choked me.

Why had God ignored my prayers? Why had He forsaken us?

What Do I Believe?

Do you trust God’s kindness?

Do you believe He is good to you? Today? In that situation you desperately need Him and He seems to have failed?

The Bible proclaims God’s kindness. It also tells stories of believers, like Naomi, who allowed circumstances to blind them to His tenderness.

Naomi believed God was kind—to other people. She told her daughters-in-law, “May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me” (Ruth 1:8 NIV).

But Naomi thought God’s kindness had run out—for her. Weren’t the graves of her husband and two sons proof?

“Call me Mara [bitter], because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (Ruth 1:20-21 NIV).

Has disappointment ever distorted your perception of God? In such times, we reason that we wouldn’t allow our loved ones to suffer if we had God’s power. Since God permitted our pain, we conclude He must be angry or not care about us.

Now I Believe

When Ruth came home from gleaning barley and reported how Boaz had been kind to her, Naomi’s perspective shifted. She exclaimed, “He [God] has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead” (Ruth 2:20 NIV).

By the end of the book of Ruth, Naomi’s circumstances and perspective have flipped. She’s caring for Ruth’s infant son who will carry on the name of Naomi’s husband and sons. The town’s women gently remind Naomi that she had not returned home empty after all. God and Ruth came with her (Ruth 4:15).

Like Naomi, I can’t see God’s kindness when I dictate how it must look. Joseph, on the other hand, trusted God’s kindness while he was in prison.

“The Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden” (Gen. 39:21 NIV).

If Joseph had focused on his chains and his brothers’ betrayal, he would have overlooked God’s kindness and blamed God for not preventing the injustice. He would have demanded his immediate release. But Joseph recognized God’s compassion even before he saw God’s good purpose in his suffering.

The Lord poured out good will to both Naomi and Joseph in their losses. Naomi’s grief may have temporarily blinded her to God’s care, but it didn’t stop God’s goodness.

God used our painful experience to teach me that His nature doesn’t change with my circumstances. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).

If you feel distant and distrustful of God:

  • Ask Him to open your eyes to the evidences of His kindness.
  • Thank Him for it now, by faith.
  • Look for His goodness every day.

Just as God used Naomi and Joseph’s losses to bring about greater good, He is at work in our stories for our good, too.

Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.” Psalm 23:6 TLB

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How to Experience God’s Kindness—When Life Stinks – @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, she speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Debbie’s book, Little Women, Big God will introduce you to the surprising women in Jesus’s family tree. As they journey through impossible circumstances, each discovers that quality of life is not determined by the size of our problems but by the size of our God.

Join the conversation: Have you ever struggled with trusting in God’s kindness? Are you now able to see Him at work for your good?

I Know That Voice

by Nan Corbitt Allen

I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. Psalm 40:1-2 NASB

 A shepherd intern’s job is to take a large flock of sheep up into the mountains for better water and grazing during the hot, dry summer months. The intern learns that during this mountain journey, lambs are still quite small and often will get separated from their mothers. The young shepherd also learns that each lamb has a unique bleat that helps its mother to identify her own. I think that is kind of a sweet thought.

But I remember that same thing happened to me and my own little lambs over the years.

The morning after our second son was born, the nurse woke me up and said my baby was crying for me. I was a little groggy but as soon as she held out the crying child to lay him next to me, I knew this wasn’t mine. I hadn’t heard my baby cry but just a few times, yet already I knew that this was not my child’s voice. I.D. bracelets confirmed by suspicions.

A few years ago, my husband and I had the Super Bowl on in the background while we both worked on our laptops. We would occasionally glance up at the game or at a cool commercial but mostly we were focused on our work.

Then, in the 4th quarter my ears pricked up. I heard a familiar voice. Yep. It was the voice of my firstborn, who was in New York writing music for ads, HUMMING on a TV commercial for Heinz Ketchup. I had known about the ad and had even seen some early versions of it when we were in New York visiting for Thanksgiving. However, I hadn’t heard the final version and was certainly not expecting it to make the Super Bowl. But from the first note – the voice of my son just humming in the opening segment – was enough for me to know that he was mine.

Sometimes it feels like God had turned a deaf ear to me. He isn’t listening. Or if He is, He sure isn’t granting my requests. It is like He is ignoring me.

But in John 10, Jesus identified Himself as the Good Shepherd. He assured His disciples: “He who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep…the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know me…” (John 10: 2-3, 14 NASB).

I know He is listening and recognizes my voice. I’m just as sure of it as I am that I’d recognize my own child’s voice anywhere – crying or humming.

We often claim Jeremiah 29:11, NIV (“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”) as though God is speaking to us personally. And I believe that He is through this Scripture.

But what about the following verse? Verse 12 says, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

Psalm 55:17 (NIV) verifies this concept: “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.”

From my lips to God’s ears!

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I Know That Voice: God Knows Me – insight from Nan Corbitt Allen on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Nan Corbitt AllenAbout the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections, most of these works in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 40 years. A three-time Dove Award winner for her musicals written with Dennis, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed across the U.S. and around the world. Throughout their writing careers together, Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

Nan lives with her husband Dennis in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University. Her literary works include two Christian novels and three nonfiction books. The Allens have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the seemingly insignificant routine experiences can have great impact on a life. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s. Bible passages given throughout the book make this a book for all readers.

Join the conversation: He knows our voice, but how well do we know His? How can you tell when it is the Lord speaking to you?

 

Enlarge Your Tent

by Peggy Cunningham @Inca_Writer

Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your cords. Isaiah 54:2 NIV

Are you comfortable with change? I cringe at the very word, but change is a continual reality for me each year I serve Him. I should know by now that when God says, “Enlarge the place of your tent,” He is giving me a new opportunity in Kingdom-building.

My experience with (literal) tents is limited to one camping trip many years ago. A member of our Sunday School class had an enormous army tent and offered it to the group. We always had a great time together. But regardless of the sweet fellowship we enjoyed, this fateful trip would prove there was not one drop of missionary blood running through in my veins––zilch.

After our group spent hours assembling the humongous beast, we placed our cots in family sections, then gathered around the bonfire for hot dogs and marshmallows. We ended the evening with a time of prayer and praise. Toasty and sleepy, we bedded down for the night.

The night sounds of crickets and a nearby hoot owl quickly lulled me to sleep. Then a shrill scream pierced the night.  Everyone sat up straight, suddenly wide awake. I’m embarrassed to tell you: the screaming was mine. “There’s a snake over there in the corner,” I gasped.

The campers leaped from their beds and flashlights beamed everywhere in the tent. The snake could not be found. One man finally asked, “How could you have seen a snake in the dark, anyway?” I didn’t. I had been dreaming–of snakes! (In my defense, it was so very real!)

A few years later God called us to the mission field. To my dismay, my snake dream was nothing compared to the real snakes I would encounter in Bolivia, like a coral snake in my kitchen that I almost stepped on in my bare feet! God stretched our tent all the way to Bolivia and over the years continued to enlarge our ministry many times over.

Now today, He is stretching me again, this time through Worthy Words Press, printing books in Spanish for underprivileged kids. And once again I am being pulled out of my comfort zone. So why not stay where I am? I have more than enough avenues of outreach.

But then I remind myself: what if I had never ventured from the first tent experience to what God had planned for us? Oh, the blessings I would have missed with the opportunities He has given me!

Do you find yourself resisting a new stretch? Most of us like to stay in the comfort zone. But outside it waits extraordinary things we never dreamed we could do with Him by our side. When we stretch our tents, we learn to depend on Him and relax in what He plans to do through us, knowing He will get the glory.

I know God will use Worthy Words Press to draw many children to Himself. Enlarging my tent may be a bit scary, but it is so exciting to watch Him at work through that process. Let’s not ever hold back. Go ahead, lengthen and strengthen those cords. And watch God get the glory.

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Enlarge Your Tent: Learning to Embrace Change – Peggy Cunningham, @Inca_Writer, on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Peggy CunninghamAbout the author: Peggy Cunningham and her husband, Chuck have been missionaries in Bolivia, South America, since 1981. Peggy is also an author. Her heart for children led the way to write the picture book series Really Rare Rabbits: Books 1-3. If you’re looking for children’s books for Easter, these adorable rabbits tell the story of Jesus to children in a unique and entertaining way. Books are available on Amazon. Find out more about Peggy at her website: www.PeggyCunningham.com

Peggy’s picture book series, Really Rare Rabbits: Books 1-3.* Guarding the Inca Treasure Fires (The Really Rare Rabbits Series Book 1) by [Cunningham, Peggy]tell the story of Jesus to children in a unique and entertaining way. Chi Chi and his sister Fi Fi are young rabbits who live on a mountain in Bolivia, where their ancestors once protected a treasure of gold. One day they hear of a new Light on the mountain that never burns out. They decide to venture down the mountain to peer in the missionaries’ windows. That is when their dangerous adventure begins.

Join the conversation: When has God called you to enlarge the place of your tent? Share your story!

Blazing A Trail

by Sheri Schofield

Sometimes, finding God’s will for our lives can be confusing, because sometimes God asks us to do the unusual. What we perceive is  a well-mapped path may not be where God is taking us. Maybe He wants us to blaze a trail for Him where others have not yet traveled.

That was what happened to me. A few years ago, I had gone with our missions team into Mexico. We were in drug cartel territory helping small churches in the Sierra Madres, the beautiful mountains of north-central Mexico. During that trip, one of the Mexican women who worked in children’s ministries told our pastoral team, “We have no curriculum. Please help us!”

Though it took me some time to understand what God wanted of me, I recently returned back to Mexico, bringing a book I had written and illustrated on the plan of salvation with them in mind. It was not yet published in Spanish, but I had supplementary materials in Spanish, in notebook form, and had brought along the illustrations. I also planned to teach a children’s ministry seminar on multi-sensory methods, showing the assembled pastors’ wives how to effectively communicate Bible lessons to children.

I had written this book particularly for the church in Mexico. Many of the people from those towns were featured in my illustrations. It was an exciting time! They were thrilled to see familiar faces in the illustrations — some of their own children, some of their leaders. This book was theirs!

After the first class, we all went outside for a break. Suddenly, a big boom followed by the noise of heavy machine gun fire filled the air. A battle was being fought about four blocks away. This town was situated right on the line between La Linea Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel, and it was ground zero for warfare.

We went back inside, where thick, adobe walls offered protection. When the machine gun fire drew near and the battle raced up and down the main street only a block away, we paused to let the noise pass, then returned to our lessons.

We later learned that La Linea Cartel had ambushed a state trooper vehicle with a grenade launcher and machine guns. State troopers swarmed the town and were in control by the time we left. Their pickups had machine guns mounted in the back, manned by police wearing black hoods and body armor. They were rolling out to battle the cartel. That day, five cartel members died.

Throughout the turmoil, I was totally at peace, for I knew God had brought me to that place. I trusted that whatever happened, I belonged to God, in life or in death, and I was not afraid.

I am not young. I know the dangers of this ministry. But there is something freeing about being in the center of God’s will, following His plan for my life, going where He leads me. My friends and I are blazing a trail for Him in Mexico’s cartel country, where evil dominates. I have found God’s will, and I am not afraid.

King David, a man of war, knew the security of being in the center of God’s will. In Psalm 23:3,4 he wrote, “He (God) renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me . . .” (NLT)

When I follow God’s will, my safety lies not in time, but rather, in eternity with God. I am content with that.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NIV

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Blazing A Trail: finding peace and courage when God calls – Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield, is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years,  Sheri was named Writer of the Year 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!

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

Join the Conversation: Where is God taking you?

Don’t Be Fooled

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.                                                                                                                                  Psalm 31:3 NASB

In early 1970, comedian Flip Wilson became a household word when his sketch “The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress” aired on the Ed Sullivan Show. Wilson played a minister’s wife who is trying to justify recently buying another new dress. She was walking downtown, minding her own business, she explains. The devil started whispering things in her ear. She saw the dress in the window, resisted, but then he shoved her in the door. He made her try it on. Then he held a gun to her head until she signed the check.

The minister asks his wife: how come when the devil is at work, she is the one who always benefits, and he is the only one who pays a price?

“I asked him that,” the wife assures him. “He said you owe him. He told me that if it wasn’t for him, you wouldn’t have a job.”

In reality, we really are largely guided by our thoughts. But who guides what we think?

Of course, it could be ourselves. Our beliefs and ideas do provide a framework for our actions. What we desire can be a strong influence on choices we make—either for good or bad.

Then, there is the Holy Spirit. In the evening of His impending arrest, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit following His departure. He described Him as the “Spirit of Truth.” The world would not see Him or know Him. But Jesus’ followers would. The Holy Spirit would come and live within each of them. He would teach them all things and guide them into all truth. His presence would be a driving force; and when yielded to Him, believers would be inspired to speak and act (John 14).

Paul assures us that every believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling within them as a guarantee of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). Many of our thoughts are directly from Him.

But there is a third influence on us. That person is Satan. He tries to function like the Holy Spirit by suggesting thoughts and attempting to guide. But his guidance is not based in the truth. He whispers lies into our ears, twisting truth just enough to throw us off the path and into the dark. Exactly where he wants us to head.

How can we tell which of these three is the originator of a thought that occurs to us?

I struggled with this when I was trying to decide if I should leave a rewarding ministry (teaching elementary school) to pursue writing and speaking full time. The idea of going to seminary nagged at my thoughts frequently. But I worried: where did all this passion come from? How could I know for sure it was God who had planted the desire in my heart?

I shared my struggle with my friend Beth. “Why would you think it was anyone but God who wants you to do this?” she asked.

I confessed it was because I wanted it so badly. It was so exciting and new and would fulfill a dream that had been mine for a very long time. But it would require abandoning an ongoing ministry that God had provided. Would He really direct me away from that now?

Then Beth asked a question that would settle the matter for me. “Will God be glorified if you do this?”

Of course He would. I wanted to teach His Word and teach it well. I wanted people to understand His love and grace and mercy. All I wanted was to bring glory to His name.

“Then do it,” she commanded. I knew she was right. I resigned from twenty years of teaching and enrolled in seminary. And have never looked back.

We have a lot of thoughts. We have strong desires. But before we act on them, we need to compare that idea with the truth of God’s Word. It is consistent with its wisdom? Would it enable us to reflect the character of Jesus? Would it bring glory to His name?

Don’t be fooled. God would not direct us to do anything in opposition to His Word. As Jesus told His accusers, a house divided against itself will not stand (Mark 3:25). Scrutinize your thoughts and desires against His truth. And you won’t be led astray.

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Don’t Be Fooled – insight 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 conversations Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Have you struggled with knowing from where a thought or idea has come?

 

 

Discovering that God Answers Prayer

by Doreen Hanna @DoreenHanna

My husband, Chad and I moved from the beach cities of California to Beaufort, South Carolina in the early years of our marriage.  It was a season of adjustment for us: Southern culture, a new home, new babies, and a new church. In the midst of all that, my husband chose to start a new business with a friend.

Their first year was quite successful. However, both men, young and lacking in wisdom, made some unfortunate choices and soon found themselves in serious business debt. One morning, Chad went to his partner’s house to pick him up only to discover he had completely vacated his home, taken his family, and left town. He also took all their tools and cleaned out the joint business account.  We were left with no money.  Chad came home to tell me what had transpired, and my heart filled with fear.

I admired my husband’s humility as he quickly began looking for work. Within three weeks he had a secured a job doing carpentry for the local school district.  He would receive his first paycheck in three weeks.  This was a long time to wait, since we had already been in financial straits for some time. Our food pantry was just about empty. The phone had been disconnected.  The water company had notified us that our water would be turned off soon. It was a very frightening few weeks.

One morning, in pondering on our desperate situation, I knew we needed a miracle. I hadn’t been living for the Lord, but I got down on my knees and said, “Lord if you will provide the $1,995 that we need to pay to get all our bills to date, I will live for you the rest of my life.”   I got up and called our debtors telling them with God’s help we’d pay them up to date by the end of the month. I never told anyone, even my husband, my deal with God.

The end of the month was two days away, and there was no sign of an answer.  On the 29th, my friend Emilie came by to check on us, since the phone had been cut off. She wanted to take me home to her house to call my mom, since she might be worried about me. When we arrived, I called my mom. Then I walked into their living room, where Emilie and her husband were standing together.  They said, “Doreen, we felt the Lord leading us to give you and Chad this. It isn’t a loan; it is a gift.”

I didn’t open it up in that moment. I just accepted it gratefully. Of course, when I got home, I tore it open immediately.  I could hardly believe my eyes. It was a check for $2,000!  I ran back to that spot by the couch where I had prayed and wept tears of humility and joy.

I had just discovered for the first time in my life that God truly did answer prayer.

I have been living for him since.  Not perfectly, but knowing that He does answer, always according to His plan and will for my life; sometimes sooner, sometimes later. Sometimes it has been a protective “No.” But whatever the answer, it has always been given through His grace.

Are you new in your walk with God?  Or maybe you have never stepped out to ask Him for a need? Don’t hesitate. He is trustworthy. His word says:

“Call on me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things you do not know.”  Jeremiah 33:3 NIV

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Discovering that God Answers Prayer – insight from @DoreenHanna on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

doreen hannaAbout the author: Doreen Hanna is the Founder & President of Treasured Celebrations, the non-profit umbrella for Modern Day Princess ministries. She has been a Bible Study teacher for more than 35 years. She was married for 43 years to her husband Chad. Their two daughters, Brandy Corea, and Kamy Hanna assisted in writing the MDP curriculum. She has four grandchildren: two by birth, two by adoption. Additional information about Doreen can be found at: www.doreenhanna.com or www.moderndayprincess.net. She is also on Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Do you have a story about an answer to prayer? Please share!