Advice from a Jack-O’-Lantern

by Dianne Neal Matthews

We are Christ’s representatives. 2 Corinthians 5:20 GW

Most people have strong feelings about Halloween, one way or the other. Some love figuring out how to morph into another character using costumes and makeup. Others detest the emphasis on witches, ghosts, vampires, and monsters. Some people enjoy answering their door to hand out candy; others prefer to turn off their lights and pretend that nobody’s home.

My own attitude toward the holiday has fluctuated over the years. As a young mother, I dreaded coming up with ideas each October for wholesome yet fun costumes for four children. Now, as an empty nester living far away from family, I appreciate the chance to pass out candy bars, gush over cute little kids, and wave at parents on the sidewalk.

I still don’t care for yards decorated with giant spiders or fake headstones. But I have made my peace with Jack-O’-Lanterns. I’ve even decided they illustrate a few spiritual truths. 

First impressions are important. One glance at a Jack-o’-lantern tells you its intended personality or mood. Some have a big friendly grin carved on their faces, while others exhibit frowns creepy enough to scare the fur off a black cat.

People react to the expression on our face, too, so it’s important that they see a reflection of Jesus. While we live on earth, we represent Him; God entrusts us with His message of reconciliation, forgiveness, and eternal life through Christ. Rather than stress, anger, or self-absorption, our face can show the joy and peace that springs from knowing our Savior. “Therefore, we are Christ’s representatives, and through us God is calling you” (2 Corinthians 5:20a GW).

You have a lot to offer. Many people throw away their carved pumpkin after Halloween, wasting the treasure inside. That orange pulp makes delicious pies for those who take the trouble to scoop it out; the roasted seeds are a healthy snack.

Our culture may obsess over physical appearance rather than what’s inside a person. But each one of us represents a unique combination of God-given talents, skills, abilities, and gifts. Our Creator wants us to use these treasures to build up His kingdom by encouraging, nurturing, and serving believers, and drawing others into His family. “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well” (Romans 12:6 NLT).

Let your light shine. The most noticeable Jack-o’-lanterns are the ones that have a candle or battery-operated tea light inside. That glowing light really makes them stand out on a dark night.

This world can be a cold, dark place. Thankfully, we can personally know the Light of the World. As we grow closer to Jesus and learn to imitate His character, we will develop an inner glow that makes us stand out in a crowd. People will take notice and want to know Him, too. “In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 CEB).

Next year I plan to start a new tradition. Whenever I pass a Jack-o’-lantern, I’ll imagine it prompting me to examine my spiritual walk; and I’ll ask myself three questions:

  • What expression do I exhibit to the world? A warm, inviting smile that reflects my Savior’s love, or a look that makes me seem unapproachable?
  • Am I putting all my God-given inner resources to use for His Kingdom work as He leads me?
  • Do I behave in such a way that others see the light of Jesus shining in my life even in the darkest of circumstances?

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation by [Dianne Neal Matthews]

About the author: Dianne Neal Matthews has written, co-written, and contributed to twenty books. Her daily devotionals include The One Year Women of the Bible and Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation (a Selah Award winner). She also writes for websites, blogs, and compilations (including Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus). Learn more at DianneNealMatthews.com or check out her books on Amazon.

Join the conversation: How do you examine your spiritual walk?

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Ambassadors of the God Who Sees

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20 NASB

Less than five years off the street, I simultaneously craved love and fought against it. I hungered for Jesus but acted as if I didn’t know Him. And in part, I didn’t. I had bits of knowledge, enough to cross over from death to life, but not enough to propel me into freedom.

To the onlooker, I was rebelling against God and His truth. My husband and I went to bars almost every Friday and Saturday. It wasn’t uncommon for us to stay until last call. We were living together while unmarried, and quite honestly, it didn’t even cross my mind that this was wrong.

My entire worldview was contrary to God’s. This worldview, this way of thinking, had developed slowly, over almost two decades. Transformation—which always begins first with the heart and then one’s thoughts—would take time. And love. And Gentleness.

Patiently, bit by bit, God brought light to my darkness and truth to my falsehood.

He used three people in particular, one I initially found strange. This man worked with my husband, a railroader, and in time, a friend. He kept coming around, offering to help, giving and letting us borrow things. Wanting nothing in return. Every once in a while, he’d throw Jesus into the conversation, or subtly say he was praying for us. And then he’d leave.

No pressure. No Bible thumping. No condemnation.

God also sent two pastors our way, one right after the other. They stopped by, joined us for coffee. Took us to lunch and dinner. Answered our questions, but mainly acted as friends–as if oblivious to our drunkenness, foul language, and frequent fights.

They looked past the outward gunk to the hurting, hungry hearts beneath.

And here’s the deal—had they come at us with condemnation, with any expectation, I would’ve bolted. Hid. Maybe never entered a church again. Though I might not have known a lot of Scripture, I had years of condemnation, of self-loathing. Of shame. Of believing I was unworthy of God’s love.

And God saw me (Genesis 16:13). He saw my hurt, my confusion and deception. My shame. And instead of calling me to rise to where He was, He came to me. As the God who bends down to listen (Psalm 116:2). Through three obedient and faithful men, God shattered my expectations, broke through my defenses, and built steady and enduring bridges, gently, lovingly, drawing me closer to Himself.

We moved four years later, and those men never saw the results of their patience. For all they knew, their efforts had been wasted. They have no idea the impact their relationship with this sinful, foul-mouthed couple from the west coast made.

Except for one of them—my husband’s coworker. Last year, this man, the one who’d so patiently reached out, joined us for dinner. It wasn’t long before our conversation turned to my writing and ministry, and all God has done through a street-girl turned speaker. That night, we were able to share how God used his efforts, nearly a decade later.

He’d chosen to build bridges. To show love. To trust that, God would bring two broken, sinful people to Himself, in His perfect timing. He didn’t consider himself responsible for the end result. He was but a guide along the journey, long before any fruit from his efforts emerged.

I’m reminded of their example when I encounter others so different from me. My initial reaction is to pull away, to self-protect and choose the comfortable. To resist focusing on the outside and stay focused on the broken heart within. I’m reminded of who I’ve been, yes, but also of who I am now—another representative of the God who sees, loves, and transforms.

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Ambassadors of the God Who Sees – insight from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer Slattery

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

Hometown HealingShe’s home again, but not for long…
unless this cowboy recaptures her heart…

Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good?

Join the conversation: What ambassador of God has had an impact on your life?

 

This is Our Story and We’re Sticking to It

by Rhonda Rhea

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us,” 2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV.

“Ya know, we’ve had that same flooring in the guest bathroom for a long time anyway, right?”

My husband gets a look of fear and dread when I start a conversation like that. But that morning I had been picking up a couple of towels in the guest bath when—and this was concerning—the towels refused me. I could not pick them up! I tugged. They tugged back.

I put some real muscle into it and finally won the tug of war. That’s when I discovered someone had knocked over one of the girls’ jar of leg wax. The stuff may have looked like peanut butter, but oh my, it so wasn’t. It must’ve spilled onto the floor during some point of semi-liquidity, just hidden enough by the bathroom cabinet to get lost under those two towels. That consistency of semi-liquidity in leg wax lasts around .03 seconds. So by the time I found the mess a couple of days later, we were looking at a serious…um…“waxident.” The towels were ridiculously glued to the wax and the wax was even more ridiculously glued to the floor.

I warned my husband that whatever tool he used to get the wax up, he’d better be ready to kiss it goodbye. Because there’s some weird science involved in leg wax. Whatever it takes to give a gal smooth legs? It will also keep shields intact through a rocket’s atmospheric reentry. Does. Not. Come. Off. Of anything. Apparently, my warning wasn’t timely enough. I later found his putty knife in the trash.

There’s a life-giving message to which Jesus-followers are called to adhere—in the stickiest way. Paul said, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6, ESV). My personal goal? To be extra salty, extra sticky. Sounds a bit peanut-buttery. And while that’s delish, that’s not even close to what I’m after. My goal is to speak words of grace—so full of Jesus and so packed full of flavor that those words make outsiders thirsty for Him. The verse right before it instructs us to “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time” (Colossians 4:5, ESV).

So how can we walk in wisdom and make the best use of our time here? The verses just before give us a great rundown: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:2-4, ESV). Praying faithfully and thankfully, asking and watching for open doors to share His Gospel—making that Gospel clear. If we want to follow Paul’s example, that’s exactly how we ought to speak.

I love it that the Greek word for “ought” here is dei, which means “under compulsion.” This Gospel message is so vital—so very binding—that it should stick on our every word. Talk about waxing eloquent!

Oh, how I want to be quick to tell. May His Gospel be beautifully—even ridiculously—glued to my speech. The clear Gospel. The complete Gospel. The whole ball of wax.

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 children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Rhonda’s book, Fix HER Upper: Hope and Laughter Through a God-Renovated Life,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: What spiritual nourishment have you ingested lately?