Is God Still Good?

by Ashley Lauren McClain

The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:9 NASB

Our front yard has always been one of my favorite things about our house. It’s beautiful. Our house sits back off of the road, there is a weeping willow tree, a white fence with horses and a barn, and a perfect place to watch the sunrise every morning. I remember sitting on that front porch before we bought our house and looking out at that front yard, dreaming about the wonderful life we would live there.

This morning as I sat on our couch looking out the window, I could see the “coming soon” sign recently erected out front. That sign represents so much excitement about the future and our new home, but it also represents those dreams that are now gone.

I always pictured children playing in that yard or sitting on that ugly living room carpet. I thought I would someday show them pictures of Mommy & Daddy’s first house where they lived part of their happy childhood.

But sitting here today I now there is no possible way for that ever to happen. Those children never came. Why God? I prayed for that. Why didn’t you do it?

I wish I could tell you that my faith is so strong, I don’t ever question Him. That I know He is sovereign, and His plans are the best plans for my life. I DO know that to be true. But I still sometimes ask Him questions… and you know what? He is not mad or even disappointed in me for doing so, not one bit.

Even in my questioning, I know He still loves me. Even in my disappointment, I know He is still good.

Maybe today you are not moving on and leaving behind unfulfilled dreams. Maybe your struggle involves a recent diagnosis, an unexpected death, the loss of a job; maybe it is hurt recent or from your past, or plans you had that never came to fruition.

But you know what? He is still good.

That can be hard to believe in the midst of some of our greatest challenges. But it is true. I know that His Word tells me that He will NEVER leave me or forsake me, and I believe it. I know His Word tells me that He has GOOD plans for my future, and I believe it.

When the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, they faced some of the biggest challenges possible. The land was filled with strongly fortified cities, fierce warriors, and impressive kingdoms. Not much had changed since their parents had balked in fear and refused to go in forty years earlier. But God had once again promised to go before them. He would give them the victory and eventually the land. And as they prepared for what lay ahead, He reassured them once more: “The Lord will deliver them up before you…Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:5-6 NASB). God had their good in mind. And unlike their parents, they chose to believe in His goodness.

It was the right choice.

He is the same God today. I am sorry for the pain, the hopelessness, the frustration, or loneliness you may feel today. I am sorry for whatever dream you may have had to lay to rest. I get it. I am laying down one of mine with you today.

But here is what we can know: God is good all the time. No matter what you may have to face today, know that you are facing it with the strong & trustworthy presence of Jesus Christ living in you.

The plans that the Lord has for my life and yours are greater than any dreams we have for ourselves. Does that mean they will look exactly like we thought or wanted them to be? No. But we can trust in His goodness. Because He is good. Always.

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Is God Still Good? – thoughts on #GodsLove from Ashley Lauren McClain on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Ashley McClainAbout the author: Ashley McClain is a girl with big dreams and a blog to encourage women in their journey through this life we have been given by the greatest Gift Giver there is! She loves to read, write, drink coffee, and spend time with the hubby & puppies! Connect with Ashley on her website ashleymcclain.org. She would love to hear about your journey too!

Join the conversation: What dreams have you had to lay down? What did God give you instead?

 

Completely Known

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord.  Psalm 139:4 CSB

I’ve heard some women say their husbands can look at them and know exactly what they’re thinking.

I envy them. To have a mind-reader husband would be quite nice.

But for most of us, no one knows what we’re thinking and feeling, until we try to express it in words, which often don’t come out quite right.

I remember the day I really understood that the Lord can enter the private area of my mind and heart – the part no one else can see – and knows exactly what I’m thinking and feeling. What a relief to be assured that I was truly known by the One who designed me and wants to be in relationship with me.

David, the psalmist, prayed, “Lord, You have searched me and known me.  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” (Psalm 139:1-3). David goes on to say that even before he speaks, the Lord knows what he is going to say. That is intimate knowledge – so intimate that David admits it is too wonderful for him to understand.

As a child, I always expected my mom to know what I was thinking, to know when to come in my room and comfort me when I was upset. And when she didn’t, I became angry. I can tend to do the same thing to my husband today. So many times, I want him to talk with me, so I leave clues that are, in my opinion, obvious. But my husband often has other things on his mind and doesn’t pick up on my “hints.” That tends to annoy me and make me feel I’m not important enough for him to study and try to figure out.

God doesn’t need the hints, though. He already knows the condition of my heart and mind. And because He knows my thoughts, He understands me in a way no one else ever could. Better than a mother. Better than a husband. Better than a best friend. He knows me, literally, more than I even know myself. And with all that intimate knowledge, He still loves me and accepts me. Now that’s unconditional, unfathomable love.

Lord, thank You that I am completely known and, in addition to knowing all about me, You loving me more intimately than anyone else ever could. Help me to keep You first in my heart today.

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Completely Known – thoughts on #GodsLove 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 17 books including her best-selling titles When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold) and When God Sees Your Tears. For more on her books and resources to improve your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, or for a free consultation to see if she can help you cindi mcmenamin God's Whispers to a Woman's Heartwrite your book, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Do you long to hear God’s whispers on your heart? “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Do you want to know His thoughts of you, His plans for you, His comfort and His presence? Then Cindi’s book, God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart is for you!

Join the conversation: How does knowing you are completely known (and  unconditionally loved) make a difference in your life?

Grandma’s Girdle

by Christina Rose

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.Ephesians 6:13-17 NIV

My grandma grew up in rural Pennsylvania near Amish country. She was raised by a strict Methodist family who were farmers and tobacco merchants.  Grandma had big dreams to travel the world while her parents had hoped she would marry a local boy and stay on the farm.

Grandma won.  She got her nursing degree and landed a job at the US Army Hospital in Panama. On a vacation to Costa Rica, she met my grandfather whom she married, but after having two kids, he fell ill and died.  Grandma and my mother and her brother returned to the United States.  She became the Captain of Nurses at Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, DC.

Years later, I was about to leave for college in upstate New York, which typically experienced very cold winters. Grandma wanted to buy me a winter coat. We went from store to store, and I finally settled on a beautiful wool tan coat.

“Follow me,” she said. We went to a corner of the store, and she asked me to hold up the coat in front of her so no one would see her.  I peeked around the coat to see her red-faced, snorting and struggling with her underclothes. “Grandma, what are you doing?” I asked.

She responded, “Just hold up that coat until I get my money out of my girdle.”

Being widowed at a young age and the sole provider, Grandma understood the necessity of protecting her valuables and loved ones.  She knew she had to be extra vigilant as she was the only one guarding her family and their possessions.

Peter warned that we need to have that kind of spiritual diligence as well. There is an enemy who would like nothing better than to rob us of our trust in and joy of the Lord. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV).

Grandma wore more than a physical girdle. Every day she wore the spiritual gear that kept her ready when those attacks occurred. She donned the girdle of truth, which Satan despises and does everything in his power to distort. Her unfailing source of truth was the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Her spiritual bonnet was a helmet of salvation, which deterred any doubtful thoughts about her security with God. There was no need to earn His love. She was confident in the Lord.

 Grandma’s life-lessons were like the warm winter coat she had bought for me many years earlier; her consistent example made me feel safe, protected, and loved. Her confidence and strength came from God alone.

“In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.” Proverbs 14:26 NIV

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Grandma’s Girdle – thoughts on the armor of God 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: Who in your life is an example to you? What have they taught you?

Even There — Surrendering Fears From the Far Side of the Sea

by Judy Dunagan @judydunagan

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  Psalm 139:9–10 NIV

I remember holding my newborn baby daughter for the first time and being overcome with joy, awe, wonder . . . and paralyzing fear. I silently prayed something like, “God, thank You for this beautiful new life. Thank You that Christie Anna arrived safely and is healthy and strong. Please don’t ever let anything happen to her, because if you ever take her, I will die.”

It was one of those white-knuckled, fist in the air prayers, where I thought I had just made a deal: I’d be willing to go through anything myself, and He was to keep anything bad from happening to my baby.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I kept those fierce expectations locked in my heart for five years, until our family was living in China. Kelly was just three when we landed in Beijing, and her big sister Christie was five. Upon our January arrival, all four of us were immediately hit with upper respiratory illnesses, due to the bitter cold and the horrible pollution. It was especially hard on Kelly, so tiny for her age.

I was often gripped with fear about Kelly’s health. Toward the end of our first year in Beijing, she became extremely sick with a high fever and a sore throat that was not going away. The doctor at the international clinic refused to give her antibiotics, because the rapid test for strep was negative.

After two long days, my mama bear instincts kicked in, and I called my pediatrician back in the States. He got on the phone and said, “This is a first, a call from a mom in China!” Though he couldn’t diagnose her from thousands of miles away, he did encourage me to get her on antibiotics just in case it was strep, which can be deadly if untreated.

The clinic wouldn’t be open for five hours, and there were no 24-hour urgent care clinics. The closest hospital was hours away, and Kelly was finally sleeping peacefully. I knew I had to wait out the night.

I look back at those terrifying, middle-of-the-night hours in Beijing as a turning point in my life. Fear escalated to the point where I understood what it must be like to have a breakdown. I knew I had to get a grip on myself in order to mother my child.

Finally…and I mean finally…I cried out to God. I asked Him to rescue me from the dark fears that were pulling me under. I imagined I had Kelly in my arms (though she was sleeping in her room down the hall), and I lifted her to Him. I told Him that I knew He loved Kelly even more than I did, and that she was His. Truly HIS. I promised to trust Him, love Him, and follow Him…no matter what He chose for my baby girl’s life.

I meant it. Soon the beyond-our-understanding-peace promised in Philippians 4 began to cover me, and finally, I fell back to sleep. But when 8:00 a.m. arrived, you’d better believe this mama bear was at the clinic, demanding antibiotics.

Kelly is now 28-years-old and just had her first baby in April. His name is William, which means Resolute Protector, and he is glorious!

Soon after my surrender to God while in China, He led me to some verses that I have clung to as a reminder when anxiety tries to grip me, because yes, I still wrestle with worry for the safety of my loved ones:

“We do not want you to be uninformed . . . about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many” (2 Corinthians 1:8–11 NIV).

I know that God could have chosen a different story for our Kelly that night, and I am forever grateful that her health was restored. But I know many fellow-moms with a different story. Their beloved children are now in heaven. Sometimes He saves us from our fears, but other times, He carries and covers us in the midst of our fears being realized.

God’s “delivery” can look very different from one life to another. But our trust is in God alone. He holds us in His right hand and will never let go. No matter what.

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Even There — Surrendering Fears From the Far Side of the Sea @Judydunagan on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

SONY DSCAbout the author: Judy Dunagan served as a women’s ministry leader for twenty years before joining Moody Publishers as the Acquisitions Editor for women’s books and discipleship resources. A wonder-seeker who chases knowledge of God and His Word, Judy is passionate about discipling women and making God’s Word come alive. She has led women’s Bible studies in her home, local church, and abroad in Austria, Brazil and China. She helped launch the new women’s Bible study line at Moody (MoodyPublishersWomen.com).

Judy serves on the board of Deeper Walk International, which was founded by her father. She often teaches on the power of prayer and our protection in Christ. Judy and her husband Rick live in the Colorado mountains and are the overjoyed grandparents of three new grandbabies. Visit Judy’s blog at judydunagan.com where she writes about leaving a legacy for future generations.

Join the conversation: What about you? We’d love to hear how you’ve learned to surrender your fears to God, or how He helped you get through your own dark night of the soul.

 

Singing to Sarah

by Debora M. Coty @deboracoty

Encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

I recently attended a reunion at the small church in which Spouse and I raised our kids. It felt like a passage back into time. Very little had changed in the twenty-five years we’d been away – and whadayaknow? There was the same off-brand spinet piano that taught me to share my Jesus-joy songs in front of an audience without wetting my pants.

Well, most of the time, anyway.

It was all I could do not to rush up front and hug that sweet old piano. I remembered Sunday after Sunday, quivering like a leaf in a hurricane, standing before the same long-suffering group of believers, sharing the myriad of songs that Papa God popped like praise popcorn in my head.

Some were good, some not so good, but all were from my heart. They were my best attempt to intimately worship my Creator through the creative outlets He provided me.

I learned so much there: I learned how to perform in front of a crowd (which I now know was training in becoming the professional public speaker I am today). I learned not to attempt to liberate your wedgie while on a platform. I learned how to worship Papa God with the gifts and abilities He’d given me.

And I learned to watch Sarah.

Sarah was a dear, soft-spoken woman a decade my elder. Sarah was an encourager. And she took on a ministry of encouraging me in a very special way.

When I mustered every shred of courage to share one of my newly written songs with that small congregation, Sarah’s was the face I sought. I could count on Sarah’s smile beaming at me, her head nodding, her shoulders swaying to the beat of the music. She was right there alongside me – my biggest (and sometimes only) supporter. At least that was my perception, gazing out at all the stern, serious faces of the frozen chosen staring back at me.

When I feared I would faint, I sang to Sarah.

When I couldn’t remember the words to the song I had written, I made up words for Sarah.

When I made epic blunders and felt judged and choked with tears and thought I’d never make it to the end of the song, I sang to Sarah.

My experience on that platform taught me to always react when someone is putting themselves on the line, sharing something meaningful from their heart.

“Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’” (Hebrews 3:13 NASB). Encouragement via engagement is such a small thing. It doesn’t hurt to smile; it only helps. Them. You. It costs us nothing to give but may mean the world to the person receiving it. It might even change their life.

It did mine.

To this day, I make it a point to emulate Sarah’s smile whenever someone is sharing from their heart – whether it be preaching, singing, sharing their testimony, or juggling pot-bellied pigs. If they are trying to honor Papa God by it, I’m right there alongside them, and I make sure they know it by my body language.

I wouldn’t have had the guts to pursue a public speaking career (and occasional singing too!) if it hadn’t been for those broad smiles of encouragement from Sarah. Little bits of sincere encouragement at the right time can help someone more than any sermon, Bible Study, or well-meaning self-help book.

Everyone can have a ministry of countenance encouragement. Even you. It’s such a small thing but truly an ENORMOUS impact. Won’t you join me as a smile minister?

“The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped” (Proverbs 11:25 MSG).

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Singing to Sarah – thoughts on #FollowingGod from @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Debora M. Coty is an inspirational speaker, columnist, and award-winning author of over 40 books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series, with over one million books sold in three languages around the world. Debora lives, loves, and laughs in central Florida where she tries to encourage via engagement every single day. Join Deb and her fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com

deboracotyDebora’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: How can you offer someone encouragement via engagement today?

Stop Talking to Me

by Donna Nabors @DonnaNabors1

“Stop talking to me.” This is a sentence I hear from my husband at least once a week.

Let me explain. We have a great marriage, full of humor. My husband’s quick wit tends to characterize our interactions. Invariably, he will say something that leaves a wide-open spot for a witty comeback. So I give one right back to him, and then he often says, “Stop talking to me.”

An example of our banter would go something like this: I complain, “My tendinitis is acting up, and my feet hurt tonight.” Without missing a beat, my husband quips, “It’s because of the sin in your life.”

My automatic response, “He sleeps next to me every night.”

After a brief pause, he retorts, “Don’t talk to me.”

Same thing with other platitudes, like: “God is teaching you patience.”

My response: “That’s why He gave me you.”

Then, “Stop talking to me.”

Thankfully God never says, “Stop talking to me” even in jest. But I think sometimes He does shake His head at us, and maybe even sees the humor, if not sadness, in our responses to life.

The Israelites were an unfaithful bunch. God delivered them from Egypt. He parted the Red Sea, He provided water and food. He met their every need. Yet when they spied out the land He had promised them, they focused on the negative. They confirmed a land flowing with milk and honey; yet in their eyes, the possible blessings were outweighed by the size of the people and cities indwelling the land. Instead of trusting God, they doubted in His ability to handle the giants.

“We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However… (Numbers 13:27-28 ESV).

So, they were left to wander in the desert for 40 years. They tested God’s patience over and over. But Moses stood in the gap and petitioned God on their behalf. He listened to God’s voice.

Thousands of years later, not much has changed. The Israelites might have earned a bad rap for not trusting God, but they have nothing on me.

I don’t even face real giants. I live in a nice home, drive a good car, and never worry where my next meal is coming from. I have a great job, my own room at home to write, and a husband supportive of my writing. However, I complain I don’t have time to write because of my day job. I complain because my writing room is upstairs, and I’m too tired to climb those stairs after work.

While both are sometimes true, the reality is God has abundantly provided for my writing needs. Like the Israelites, I let my complaints outweigh my blessings. My complaints and excuses are another way of saying to God, “Stop talking to me,” when what I need more than anything is to hear His voice.

It’s tantamount to telling God I don’t trust Him.

Thankfully He forgives and restores me when my trust falters. I am so thankful for His faithfulness, even when I am not faithful to Him. I am thankful for Jesus Christ, who paid the price for my sin. And for the Holy Spirit, Who stands in the gap, petitioning for me. He reminds me of my blessings and calls me to listen.

Lord, please don’t stop talking to me. I need you.

“Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10 NASB

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Stop Talking to Me – thoughts on #GodsLove from @DonnaNabors1 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Donna Nabors HeadshotAbout the author: Donna Nabors is a wife, mom, grandma, and follower of Christ focused on filling her spiritual jewelry box. Through disappointments in life, she shares that the treasures from God’s Word are where we find the strength to stand. Donna lives in Texas, and her hobbies include antique shopping and organizing. She often jokes that her life is in an Excel spreadsheet. You can find more about Donna at donnanabors.com.

Donna’s book: Pearls: 5 Essentials for a Richer Prayer Life, outlines five elements that can lead to a richer prayer life. It focuses on how Jesus’ words, “It is better to give than to receive,” relate to prayer. Pearls demonstrates how giving to God through prayer draws you into a closer relationship with Him.

 

The Genuine Thing

by Cheri Cowell @CheriCowell

Have you ever bought something from one of those television ads that promote their product as a “genuine original?” Often, they offer a certificate of authenticity to substantiate their claim, but even with that, how can you be sure you are getting the real thing?

There is a whole industry created to peddle fake ‘genuine originals’ the police call knock-offs. These fakes cost the consumer millions in fraudulent sales, and an untold amount of public trust. James, Jesus’ brother, was concerned about the same thing around 49A.D., when he wrote to first century Jewish Christians. There were a lot of people claiming to be genuine Christians, yet they lacked fruit on their tree.

So, what does this fruit look like? How can we tell a knock-off Christian spouting wisdom from the true Christian? James explains that true wisdom which comes from God is accompanied by a degree of humility, coming from a depth of character within the wise person. On the other hand, foolishness, or fake wisdom, leads to a disorder of the spirit.

God’s wisdom is identified by its purity of spirit, peace and mercy, and a considerate and submissive attitude toward others. You may have heard a Christian say, “Something just didn’t sit right with me,” after encountering someone peddling fake beliefs. Beneath the glossy exterior, they saw a lack of humility, character without depth, selfishness, and a lack of peace. That “real genuine” is a fraudulent copy of the Genuine Original, pure and holy.

Thank God today that His wisdom is so easily identifiable, now that you know what to look for. Ask God to help you spot the difference between true wisdom and the knock-offs. Ask Him to help you become wiser: pure of spirit, peace-filled, mercy-giving, considerate, and submissive so you can be a vessel for genuine, original truth.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:13-18 NIV

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The Genuine Thing – thoughts on #FollowingGod from @CheriCowell on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Cheri Cowell

Cheri Cowell is the author of 365 Devotions for Peace. To learn more about Cheri visit www.CheriCowell.com

Cheri is also a contributor to When God Calls the Heart to Love. 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.

Join the conversation: Have you spotted a bogus imitation of the truth lately? How did you know it was fraudulent?

Where are You?

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

“But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?'” Genesis 3:9 (NIV)

The final years of my mother’s life were filled with health issues, resulting in surgeries, complications, physical therapy rehabilitation, and pain. In the last months, dementia wrapped her in a haze of befuddlement and fear.

Each day, when I entered the “memory” unit of the care facility, before I even saw my mother, I heard her pleading voice reverberate down the corridor, “Please! Please! Won’t somebody help me?” Even when I sat beside her, held her hand, and assured her of my presence, she continued to yell for help. During those difficult days, I often prayed, God, where are you? How does my mother’s suffering glorify you? When will you answer her cry for rescue?

During challenging times, it’s not unusual to ask, “God, where are you?” We want an immediate response to questions that sometimes have no ready answers. We question God’s timing, wanting to know the outcome of the situation prior to its resolution. But have you ever wondered what it’s like for God when we distance ourselves from him?

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they experienced fear for the first time. Suddenly, they understood the consequences of sin—separation from God. Prior to sin, they eagerly awaited God and enjoyed fellowship with Him in the cool, lush garden that was their home. After disobeying, they feared God’s reaction and hid from their Creator.

Even before he asked “Where are you?” God knew his relationship with Adam and Eve had changed.

Many days, God asks me the same question, “Where are you?” Chores capture my attention. Deadlines loom. Emails, social networking, phone conversations, or TV watching eat up valuable hours with little return. And God waits patiently, knocking on my heart’s door, asking where I am and why I haven’t spent time with Him.

Where are you? A good question. Where am I in my spiritual walk? Where am I in my prayer life? Where am I in Bible study? Where am I in sharing the Good News? Sometimes I am hiding because I’ve allowed unconfessed sin to erect a colossal barrier. Other days, I am simply lazy and undisciplined, navigating life on my own terms, seeking wisdom elsewhere, and fearing things that may never happen. Yet God patiently waits, longing for special times of connection with me.

Sometimes we forget that God created us specifically for the purpose of having fellowship with him. The word picture in Revelation 3:20 of Jesus sitting at the dinner table sharing a meal with us provides a reminder of the warm fellowship afforded us, if we’re willing to take advantage of it.

But too often we ignore His offer of intimate friendship. God stands by waiting to impart wisdom, encourage us, comfort, and help us with problems and struggles. He misses us when we remain distant. But instead of seeking him and looking forward to time with him, we hide behind duties, obligations, events, relationships, or self-created busyness that we consider more urgent or important. We fall into bed at night exhausted, and God is still waiting, sad that we have ignored him yet another day, whispering, “I’m here. Where are you?”

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” Revelation 3:20 (NIV).

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Where are You? Thoughts on #FollowingGod in the Tough Times from @CandyArrington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy ArringtonAbout the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: What keeps you from fellowship with the Father?

Run Where Jesus Walked

by Michele McCarthy

My husband and I just returned from literally running uphill both ways where Jesus walked.

Following His footsteps required going low, beneath the current city level. Once we went low, the rest of the trip was uphill, no matter where we went! Israel is an urban mound sitting on top and old, older and finally the oldest of empires. Layers of ancient civilizations are unearthed daily as Tel (a hill with ruins within) upon Tel are explored by archaeologists. The search is ongoing day in and day out.

Up to this point, there has never been an ancient relic that has contradicted one word of Scripture. Excavating truth is a full-time business in that part of the world.

The last day of our trip we participated in an archaeological dig. Under the guidance of professionals, we sifted through buckets of dirt scooped from a street in the time of King David. Totally surreal!

Talk about the best treasure hunt EVER. I was like a kid in a candy store. We dumped small bucket contents in a box sifter, rinsed off centuries-old debris, and scavenged for ancient artifacts.

There were pottery shards, tile pieces, and several tiny bones. We turned up a small nail—the kind the Romans had on the bottom of their shoes to grip the ground. Clearly the earliest use of cleats ever!

I found a small chunk of a stone jar.

Stone, during the time of Jesus, was considered insusceptible to impurity. Stone containers were used for ritual washing. Every Jewish household would’ve had a stone vessel. Those same stone jars were used for the miracle at the Cana wedding. Even though every find stays in Israel for copious study, I smile, thinking my find could be from an important event in the time of Jesus or David.

I could have stayed all day looking through the dirt, but we headed to the airport. I wondered if I’d ever come back, perhaps as a volunteer at a dig. What a remarkable experience feeling the soil upholding Bible stories literally sliding through my fingers.

Visiting Israel was to open the Bible and step inside. Miles of desert, stone relics, the Red Sea, a 2000-year old fishing boat, the Sea of Galilee, baptism in the Jordan, and the empty tomb seared upon my heart. All sights I’ll now recall as I read the Word. The mass of history found beneath the topsoil of Israel boggles my mind. Scientists dig and dig and dig by hand until they reach Biblical time levels.

We have possession of the inspired Word of Almighty God. Do we realize the fortune we hold? Stories, songs, history—truth literally resting atop our hands. Am I as diligent to dig into God’s Word? To study it, and put the pieces together until it makes a whole?

“For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 HCSB).

Those centuries-old pieces of glass, nails, and stones will likely end up in a museum, proving the validity of the Bible. We can hold truth in our hands. We can have a relationship with Jesus that roars authentic louder than any historical object ever will.

But the word of the Lord endures forever. 1 Peter 1:25 NIV

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Run Where Jesus Walked – insight on #FollowingGod from Michele McCarthy on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

michele mccarthyAbout the author: Michele McCarthy is married and a mom to two sons and Gigi to five adorable grandchildren. She is a Texas Christian University graduate with a degree in Education. She attended Lifestyle Christianity University in Watauga, Texas. Michele is a co-founder of LWT (Living Write Texas), a Christian writing group for women. She loves, reading, painting, all things witty, and hot fudge sundaes.

Michele’s book Daddy and Me, is the story of the unconditional love of the Father. It is a reminder of how important and influential our words are to children. In Daddy and Me, daddy’s form is left to the imagination. Every child is free to picture their own daddy and most importantly their heavenly Father. The Father who loves them perfectly, without reserve no matter what, while gently holding each child in His hand.

Join the conversation: What truth from God’s Word are you holding in your heart today?

The Root of Bitterness

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV

Where I live in Texas, Mesquite trees are an invasive and often destructive problem.  Ranchers have been known to refer to them as “Devil Trees” or “The Devil with Roots.” They are hard to destroy.

We can cut them off at ground level. That solves the problem, for about a day, because they come back—with enthusiasm. The Mesquite tree has a tap root that reaches deep underground. Far down the root is a knot, and in order to get rid of the tree for good, we have to dig down to that knot and cut it out.  Anything less, and we’ll be dealing with that tree again before too long.

Bitterness in my soul is the same. It comes in so easily, a comment made, or a look given. Sometimes it floats in like the soft weightless seeds of the dandelion, so lightly that I don’t even know I’ve allowed an offense to settle in and turn to bitterness.

But once it takes root and starts to grow, it interrupts my fellowship with God.

Less than ten seconds of watching the news tells me I’m not alone in this. The urge to be bitter is a temptation—and we know from whom temptations come. We want to give in to the bitterness, because it is our justification for feeling anything other than love towards another.

Sometimes we must distance ourselves from the source, if we aren’t yet able to withstand the temptations: social media, certain people, or even the news channel. As long as we are still feeding the root of bitterness with the fertilizer accessible from these sources, we can’t begin to dig down and remove the root.

I know some situations are impossible to avoid. Your job, your neighbors, family members. But what if it’s your church?

Paul wrote: “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:26-27 NASB). Holding a grudge and refusing to forgive gives Satan a foothold—not only in me, but in God’s Church.

I suggest that sometimes we need to step away until we can recognize where the bitterness is coming from. My tendency to be fertile ground always stems from something in me more than anything someone has done to me. Perhaps the offense spoke into one of my insecurities or threatened the control I try to keep on my life—or highlighted the fact that I’m not really in control anyway.

My bitterness will be contagious. Perhaps I will spread it through the way I respond to a comment or answer a question, what events I choose to attend, or where I sit. A little look here or there. Body language that reflects something other than joy and love. On a bad day, I might be tempted to make an innocent remark that isn’t really innocent at all. Like the weightless seeds of the dandelion, my bitterness can spread with very little effort. And Scripture tells me that the seed will grow to cause trouble and division, and become the burden of many.

Keeping myself in the same environment that feeds my bitterness only distracts me from getting to the true source. Like the pesky mesquite trees, I can be so busy fighting what is above the surface that I don’t take time to dig down below and get to the real source of the problem.

Paul wrote: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice…” (Ephesians 4:31 NASB).  Don’t allow that invasive, stubborn root to remain in you. Ask the Lord to help you forgive, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

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The Root of Bitterness – insight on #FollowingGod from @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: How do you deal with bitterness?