Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men

by Christina Rose

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:13-14 KJV

It was a peaceful night in Bethlehem long ago where shepherds kept watch over their flocks.  An angel of the Lord appeared in the sky and told them that she had come to bring great tidings of joy. She announced that on that day the Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in the city of David. Suddenly a heavenly host joined the angel, and the sky was filled with praises glorifying God, declaring peace on earth and good will to men. When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds left the fields and found Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in the manger.

“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those  things which were told them by the shepherds.” Luke 2:17-28 KJV

It was a peaceful night, many years ago, on Christmas Eve at our quaint little church in rural Massachusetts. I snuggled up to my mother’s soft blue coat with a silver fur collar that smelled of her perfume. The snow was gently falling outside while the church was filled with the glorious sound of the congregation singing Christmas carols. At the end of the service, lit candles were passed around as we sang “Silent Night.” This moment is etched in my memory of the perfect peace I felt as a child. I felt loved, safe, and protected.

As we approach this holiday season, many have forgotten the peace that Jesus died to give us. The heated Presidential election has incited riots, destruction, killing and anger. Our news and social media are filled with hate and attacks on our President, police, and anyone with opposing beliefs. Businesses and properties have been destroyed. Jobs and income have been obliterated by the Pandemic that has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Our children are living in isolation and fear. They have been born into a time where they do not know the peace I felt as a child long ago in rural Massachusetts. Those of us who have been privileged to know this peace have a duty to stand firm and remind all around us that peace is our birthright and to trust in God’s word.

It is significant to note that the angel who announced Christ’s birth appeared to shepherds who were located on the lower rungs of the social ladder, and that Jesus was born in a manger emphasizing how God lifts up the humble. Rather than be fearful and angry at this time, we must be humble and trust that God is in control and has a great plan for the world.

When I worked in San Francisco a few years ago, we often ate lunch outside on sunny days. Many homeless people would wait on the sidelines for leftovers. One day someone handed an unkempt woman in rags a bowl of hot noodles. She broke into laughter and started singing. She held each noodle up and sang to it as she slurped it down, laughing and giggling at the sky. She had no home, no job and walked in rags, but she blessed us all with her delight in unexpected noodles. Her humility and gratitude exemplified the peace that Christ died to give us.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 NIV

With all the unrest that is happening in our world today, we must model Christlike love to encourage those around us. We must give faith and hope to our children. We must trust that the peace Christ gave us is greater than any unrest that may be raging about us. We must think back to that perfect holy night in Bethlehem when Christ was born to give us a peace that surpasses all earthly understanding.   

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 NIV

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

About 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. She is a world traveler, surfer, foodie, cappuccino loving chocoholic and a devoted mom to kids and dogs and auntie to many nieces and nephews who live around the world.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story.  With her young family on the verge of falling apart, 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 is available to us all, especially those who need hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: What thoughts of God bring you peace?

Ties That Bind

by Nan Corbitt Allen

 “…Lay aside every encumbrance…which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” Hebrews 12:1 NASB

Recently I felt encumbered. My jeans were digging into my waistline, my shoes were pinching my toes, and my face mask got tangled up in my reading glasses. And those are only the things I’m willing to share! As I was trying to disentangle myself, this Bible passage came to mind. I realize, of course, that this word is not about physical comfort; that kind of encumbrance will inevitably get worse as I get older! This admonition from the writer of Hebrews is a metaphor, using a physical race to make a point. 

I’m not a runner, never have been, and probably never will be, but I’ve watched many races in my time as the mother of sons who participated in sporting events. These events were often about speed and endurance; for those competing, being dressed in heavy clothing, carrying superfluous weight, or wearing shoes that were too tight were just not an option. 

Some of the burdens in our lives are from the past—failures and successes. Wearing our medals or carrying our trophies, like the winner of a race, can become a burden because it’s impossible to “rest upon” our laurels. 

Disappointments and bad decisions can anchor us to our past as well. As my friend, Derric Johnson, says: “My ‘I never could,’ becomes my ‘I could never.’” In other words, just because I failed in the past doesn’t dictate a lack of success in the future.

Paul also used the race metaphor several times. In his letter to the Ephesians, he writes… “lay aside the old self…” (Eph. 4:22) “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you…” (Eph. 4:31)

Bitterness and anger are things we can do without! Holding on to anger toward someone who has done us harm is a huge weight to lug around. Usually, we who hold the grudge are the ones most afflicted by it. Extra baggage.

These kinds of encumbrances affect not only our spiritual and mental well-being, but it can influence our physical health as well. A University of Minnesota study on how fear and anxiety can damage our physical health declares, “Fear [and anxiety] weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased fertility. It can lead to accelerated aging and even premature death.”[1]

How do we throw off the encumbrances? Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

Rick Warren, the renowned author and pastor, suggests this to help us to find peace when we feel encumbered:

R—Realize nobody’s perfect.

E—Enjoy God’s unconditional love.

L—Let God handle things.

A—Act in faith, not fear.

X—Exchange your perfectionism for God’s peace.[2]

[1] https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/impact-fear-and-anxiety

[2]  https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/daily-hope/read/devotionals/daily-hope-with-rick-warren/five-ways-to-relax-in-gods-grace-daily-hope-with-rick-warren-october-7-2018-11799282.html

Cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

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

TWEETABLE
Ties That Bind – encouragement from author Nan Corbitt Allen on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 40 years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

Nan and Dennis live in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. 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.

Join the conversation: What keeps you from running the race well?

Guarding our Hearts When Hurt

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 NASB

The heart is a fragile yet powerful organ. Nurture and feed it well, and life and health follows. Neglecting it allows hurts to sink deep and fester. Bitterness begins to invade, which strangles our joy and peace. Suppressing or denying our hurts only leads to decay.

Instead, we need to feel with Jesus.

Perhaps that’s the difference between those who find healing and those who remain stuck, not only in their wounds, but also the byproducts of unresolved, and often fed, hurts. 

A while back, after a powerful women’s event proclaiming the freedom of forgiveness and emotional release, I talked to a woman who’d been struggling for years. Someone hurt her deeply. They betrayed her trust, abandoned her, and treated her unjustly. She had every right to feel angry, and she was.

After nearly a decade, her anger was destroying her, imprisoning her, only it didn’t show up as anger. Instead, those deep wounds presented as anxiety, depression, sorrow, and distrust. I encouraged her to grieve with Jesus, following His lead in full surrender. But she couldn’t.

No. She wouldn’t. Her injustice felt too unjust for her to let go. I suppose she thought releasing the offense would absolve her offender of guilt. She couldn’t see how she was continuously allowing him to hurt her over and over again.

She was letting him snuff out her candle. Her inner spark. What made her her. She was robbing herself of the life Christ had died to give her.

Consider the converse. Years ago, a friend called me. “Pray for my heart,” she said, explaining how she’d been wounded pretty deeply. She didn’t tell me how or by whom, nor did she need to. Instead, she asked me to help guard her candle, her inner spark, with prayer. She grieved the hurt, absolutely. But because she invited Jesus into her pain, bitterness never took root.

Some say anger is often a secondary emotion, arising from fear or pain. It’s so easy to bypass the hurt, which can make us feel weak, and jump straight to the anger, which can give the illusion of strength. But Scripture tells us, “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord” (Psalm 4:4-5, ESV).

Before we react, God invites us to pause. To ponder. And trust.

What hurts lie beneath our anger? Why do those hurts hurt so deeply?

What lies have we attached to them? We almost always do this. We’re not simply hurt because someone snubs us. No. The hurt often comes when we assign motive—“they don’t value me.”—and then a falsehood—”I’m annoying.”

Pause to prayerfully consider how that’s been true for you. Invite God to unpack your anger, your hurts, to show you everything entangled in them. Then ask Him to replace every falsehood He reveals with truth.

This is how, in part, we guard our hearts above all else, so that the well springs of life might first fill them then flow from them (Proverbs 4:23).

Is there something you need to grieve? An offense you need to let go? Will you have the courage to release it? Will you guard your candle, your inner spark, knowing all God has for you is good?

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

TWEETABLE
Guarding our Hearts When Hurt – insight from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer Slattery

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites.

In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.

Join the conversation: How do you guard your heart?

Let Go

by Terri Gillespie @TerriGMavens

For the earth will be filled with knowing the glory of ADONAI [the LORD], as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14, TLV

We thought it was safe. The Missouri River had a long sandbar that was invisible from the shore. A group of people ran over it making them appear to be walking on water. Of course, we wanted to do it, too. So, my daughter, three of my nieces, and my sister-in-law and I skipped and laughed all the way to the end—which dropped off suddenly, in the middle of the rushing river current!

I was the last person to hit the undertow. I tried to swim back to the shallows but went nowhere. All I could do was keep myself from being dragged under the water. Within seconds I was exhausted from fighting to stay afloat. Part of me wanted to just give up—until I watched in horror as my daughter and nieces frantically tried to keep from going under.

Finally, I screamed for my brother on the shore. He ran in and stopped at the edge of the sandbar. Since I was the closest, he grabbed for me.

Have you ever heard the stories of rescuers being drowned by the victims they tried to save? I had. Still, I panicked and nearly pulled my brother in. He rebuked me—yelled at me to stop or I would drown us both.

In seconds I did the most counterintuitive thing I could do given my fear—I let go. I chose to trust that my brother would help me.

Once I did this, he was able to easily pull me to safety. Then, we both rescued the rest of our family. Had I not let go, the outcome could have been tragic.

One of the greatest lessons I learned from that experience had nothing to do with water safety. I learned what it felt like to want to give up, and how that is different from letting go.

Today’s passage is a prophecy. The prophet Habakkuk had witnessed another round of disappointing behaviors by Israel. Discouraged, he questioned why God had allowed all this. Amid this whirlpool of despair, Habakkuk proclaims that one day the earth would be filled with knowing the glory of the LORD.

The prophet continues with one of the most beautiful psalms of letting go—letting go because he trusted in the Most High God:

Though the fig tree does not blossom,
and there is no yield on the vines,
Though the olive crop fail,
and the fields produce no food,
the flock is cut off from the fold,
and there is no cattle in the stalls.
Yet will I triumph in Adonai,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!
Adonai my Lord, is my strength.
He has made my feet like a deer’s,
and will make me walk on my high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19, TLV

Giving up is wrapped in despair. Letting go is supported by faith and trust.

It can be discouraging to see the disappointing behavior all around us—sometimes within our own families. We may want to give up—to not be engaged in our calling. We wonder how we can let go of our fear, anger, disappointment, and choose to rejoice and speak words of faith: that one day all the earth will recognize the glory of our Heavenly Father, and acknowledge the hard-won salvation by His Son, Jesus.

We may wonder, but it is possible. All we need to do is let go.

TWEETABLE
Let Go – insight on #FollowingGod from Terri Gillespie, @TerriGMavens on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Award-winning author and beloved speaker, Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus.

Making Eye Contact with God is a women’s devotional that will enable you to really see God in a new and fresh way. Using real life anecdotes, combined with Scripture, author Terri Gillespie reveals God’s heart for women everywhere, as she softly speaks of the ways in which women see Him.

Join the conversation: Do you need to let go?

Pressed, but Not Crushed

by Rhonda J. Dragomir @RhondaDragomir

“I’m sorry, honey. He’s gone.” I dropped the phone and sagged to my knees.

The voice on the line belonged to my father, but his words could not be true. I’d left for my honeymoon only four days earlier, and the last person I’d hugged goodbye was my eighteen-year-old brother. How could he be dead? An accident at work had ushered him from the construction site straight to heaven.

Numb with disbelief and grief, the next days blurred together in a bizarre mishmash of emotions and activities. My new husband and I left immediately for home, winding our way around mountain curves in dense fog. Friends thronged the funeral, but greetings and condolences flitted through my mind faster than hummingbirds. Few words lingered, not even those of the sermon.

For months afterward, sorrow and anger pressed me under their combined weight. I mourned my brother and raged at God for allowing him to die. The beautiful blossom of newlywed life became unrecognizable, its petals torn asunder and ground into pieces.

God is a Master Perfumer, a fragrance creator of great artistry and skill. A fine perfume begins with rare, costly ingredients. A flower is plucked at the height of its vitality while its aroma is sweetest. But the strongest, most beautiful scent will only be released when the blossom is pressed until its oils are extracted.

The Master knows the unique aroma he wants our lives to emit and permits only the circumstances that will enhance the overall blend. As flowers in his hand, it pleases him when we humbly submit to the press, even though we cannot understand the formula.

All fragrances have a “top note” when applied, and it is often tangy and too intense. Through time it fades until the body of the perfume, the “heart note,” emerges. Though the top note of my fragrance was unpleasant, the grief faded as years passed. When the perfume was absorbed and warmed by my acceptance, a different aroma came to the fore. I shared my “heart note” with others who struggled with grief, and I reveled in lively, happy childhood memories. The fragrance of joy once again scented my life.

Never was a more fragrant bloom pressed than the Rose of Sharon, our Lord Jesus Christ. Not only was he pressed—he was crushed, freely giving his life, so through his sacrifice we might be spared the same horror. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed (2 Corinthians 4:8). God desires us to emit the very aroma of Christ in this world, especially among those who wonder how we endure disasters while maintaining our faith and peace.

When hard times come—and they always do—know that God, the Master Perfumer is at work. Yield to his plan. When you do, the aroma of your life infuses the air with a heavenly fragrance that glorifies God and permeates the world.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing… 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 NASB

TWEETABLE
Pressed, but Not Crushed – insight from @RondaDragomir on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: An avid reader and writer, Rhonda Dragomir lives in the heart of idyllic horse country in central Kentucky. Her degree in Social Work from Asbury University prepared her for more than forty years of ministry as a pastor’s wife.

Rhonda writes both fiction and nonfiction, and she was named 2019 Writer of the Year by Serious Writer, Inc. Learn more about Rhonda on her website: www.rhondadragomir.com.

Join the conversation: Have you been “pressed” by God? How did it change you?

Live God’s Light

by A.C. Williams @Free2BFearless

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.       1 Peter 2:9 NLT

Have you seen the fish that live at the bottom of the ocean? You want to see something bizarre and weird, those guys are freaky looking. It ain’t right for anything to have that many teeth.

But it’s not just fish. What about animals that only come out at night? Owls, monkeys, armadillos—weird! Beautiful sort of, but strange, alien in their features and survival mechanisms.

They’re nocturnal creatures. Since they live in the darkness, they have features and characteristics that allow them to function and survive at night.

Know what? Human beings don’t have those characteristics. We aren’t designed for the dark. We were made for the light. Otherwise we’d have eyes the size of dinner plates and more creepy glowing teeth than an enchanted chainsaw.

Granted, we begin in darkness, hidden in our mothers’ wombs, but we don’t stay there. When we’re born, we emerge into a world of sensation. Sight and smell and sound and touch—all those senses were out of reach, and in the light of life we get to experience them.

Sound familiar? It should, because emerging from darkness into light isn’t just something that happens in a physical birth. This is what happens when we’re born again.

God called us out of the darkness. He didn’t build us to survive in the shadows; He created us to thrive in His light, and He did it for a specific purpose.

But what does that mean? What does a life in the light look like? Seeking God’s will. Following Jesus. Listening to the Spirit. So many stained-glass idioms that sound wonderful but lack practical application.

We live in interesting times, facing unprecedented challenges. We’re surrounded by the darkness of hate and prejudice, and it feels like it gets stronger every day, while we get weaker. Is it any wonder it seems right to join the angry mobs and shout our perspectives from the rooftops and point accusatory fingers at the people we feel deserve the blame?

But doesn’t that just add to the noise? Giving in to anger and rage draws us into the dark, not away from it.

Jesus-follower, God didn’t call you into His light to be angry. He didn’t rescue you from darkness so you can condemn others to it. We are called into His light to show the world how good He is. Jesus told His followers: “Let your light shine before men is such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 NASB).

How we interact with others matters. It will make the difference in their ability to see Christ in us. Let’s focus on God’s goodness. Let’s share stories of how He has been faithful when we weren’t. Let’s tell others about how God provided for us when we had no hope. Let’s shout from the rooftops, not with anger or rage, but with joy that we have a future, and it’s good.

Don’t build your life on rage and guilt and shame. Build your life on God’s uncompromising love and unchanging truth. Don’t live in the darkness where evil is concealed and redefined as something good; live in the light where we call sin what it is and confess it and turn away from it and show others how to do the same with our lives—not just our words.

Want to change the world? Come out of the darkness, Jesus-follower. Live God’s Light.

TWEETABLE
Live God’s Light – #encouragement from A.C. Williams, @Free2BFearless on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

amy c williamsAbout the author: A.C. Williams is an author-preneur who weaves fantastic tales about #AmericanSamurai and #SpaceCowboys, and she’s passionate about helping writers master the art of storytelling. A quirky, coffee-drinking, cat-loving thirty-something, she’s on Finding Firefliesa mission to help authors overcome fear and live victorious. Join her adventures on social media (@free2bfearless) and visit her website, www.amycwilliams.com.

Join the conversation: How would you describe what living in God’s light looks like?

From Bitterness to Beauty

by Ashley Lauren McClain

I recently saw a quote going around social media. “God doesn’t always change our circumstances. He sometimes changes us.”

Have you ever prayed for something with such confidence that you just knew God would do it…that it was just a matter of time before He came through and answered your prayer? I have.

My husband and I had recently walked together through a really hard season at our church. I was ready to go, and he was determined to stay. Month after month I woke with the same prayer first thing on my mind.  “God, change his heart to go, or give me peace to stay.”

Of course, I was fully confident that the Lord was going to change my husband’s heart and waited with full anticipation for Him to do so. But He didn’t. He changed my heart instead. He did that by showing me that I had allowed unresolved conflict to become bitterness.

As the writer of Hebrews encouraged his readers to live lives in holiness and peace, he also warned them of things NOT to do. Living with a root of bitterness was on this list. “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many” (Hebrews 12:15 NLT).

If you have ever lived with a root of bitterness in your life, you know that poisonous is the perfect word to describe what it does to us. My hatefulness had affected every aspect of my life, just as literal poison spreads in the body. There was no peace… in any situation. And worse, I had allowed my anger to spread to others, causing corruption in them as well.

For a long time I felt totally justified, until the Lord began to reveal the extent of my issue. As He did, He proceeded to change me, unexpectedly softening my heart towards the situation. His grace and mercy completely amazed and overwhelmed me. Had I preemptively run away from the situation, I would never have experienced His healing power. I would have missed Him taking me from bitterness to beauty and freedom that ONLY the Lord could have done. Trust me. I was very determined I would not change my mind.

There is no way to even begin to explain the beauty that is on the other side of bitterness if we are just willing to walk through the process with the Lord.

He is so kind to not let us stay there, because He has so much more for us. I will be the first to raise my hand and say that this is not easy, but I will also be the first to raise both of my hands and say “Thank you Jesus for not letting me stay in camp bitterness. Thank you for loving me so much that you didn’t answer my prayer the way that I wanted you to. Thank you for wanting so much more for me than I could ever have imagined for myself. Thank you for being so good.”

I don’t know where you may find yourself today. But I do know if you find yourself in camp bitterness where I was living, the very best thing you can do is to give that burden to the Lord.

I encourage you to let Him change your heart, to willingly walk through that process with Him.

Let Him free your heart and show you what unspeakable beauty, freedom, and joy that is waiting for you. He wants so much more for us. Sometimes we just have to be willing to let Him change us, as hard and as humbling as that may be. It is so very worth it.

 “…giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”  Isaiah 61:3 NASB

TWEETABLE
From Bitterness to Beauty – encouragement 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: Has God ever healed you from the root of bitterness? Please share!

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.

TWEETABLE
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?

The Trouble With Snakes

by Sheri Schofield

It was time to sell the house. The market was moving quickly and my husband felt we could make a good profit if we got in on the boom. We lived in a quiet neighborhood next to a wetland full of wild iris, willows, a seasonal pond, and lots of wildlife in Washington State. It was an ideal place to raise our two children.

Drew, a lively third grader, was always catching little creatures in the swamp. One afternoon he came racing into the house with a bucket. “Mom! Mom! Look what I’ve caught!”

I peered over the rim to see four black water snakes. “Can I keep them?” Drew begged.

“NO!” I said quickly. “They will escape!”

My husband Tim said, “No they won’t, Sheri. I’ll make sure they can’t get out of the terrarium.”

I did not argue with him, but I just knew we would regret this.

A couple of days later, the doorbell rang. It was a middle age, plump lady who was a prospective buyer. I smiled and ushered her into the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen. As we turned to go down the hallway, I noticed an escapee from Drew’s room coming our way.

“What’s THAT?” the lady screeched.

Trying to be soothing, I said, “Oh, it’s just a little ….”

“SNAKE!” she shrieked, jumping three feet straight up. She landed with a loud crash then pivoted and raced out of the house, pounded down the sidewalk, and squeezed herself into her tiny VW Beetle.

“But it’s a very nice house!” I called after her hopefully.

She gunned the engine and raced off in a cloud of dust.

We didn’t sell the house that spring. About a month after we removed it from the market, Drew and Christy, our youngest, caught two-dozen black snakes from the wetland. Together, they brought them to the back door, beaming at their catch.

“NO!” I said. “Get rid of them!” This time there was no argument from Tim.

A few minutes later, I heard a shriek from my next-door neighbor, Val. Dashing out the back door, I looked over to see if she was okay. I saw Val waving her hands around frantically, her two kids each holding up two black, wiggly snakes for her to see. I quietly went back inside and closed the door. When another neighbor screamed, I just shook my head. No need to wonder about the reason for the scream. Her kids played with mine, too. I didn’t answer the phone when it rang, either.

It’s so easy to allow little things into our lives that displease our Father. We may think they are harmless, like those water snakes. But they are bound to show up at the most inconvenient moments! If I hold onto anger or resentment, it is going to become evident. It will eventually grow into something that will hurt those around me, even those I love the most. For anger and resentment turn into bitterness, and bitterness poisons not only me, but others as well.

I’ve found that the best way to keep those seemingly little sins out of my heart is to deal with them on the spot, refuse to let them into my soul, and close my thoughts against them. I must not hold onto feeling self-righteous or wounded, or those feelings will come crawling out into the open around others.

Lord, let me treasure only those thoughts that find their origin in You, not in the serpent of Eden!

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things …. and the God of all peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8 & 9, NIV

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Children’s ministry veteran Sheri Schofield was unexpectedly called on to save her husband’s life, a battle that took her to the Pentagon, Congress, National Security and the President of the United States. At her website, www.SheriSchofield.com, she shares this journey in her book One Step Ahead of the Devil. Sheri’s new book, The Prince And The Plan, launched on June 1. It is designed to help parents lead their children into a saving relationship with Jesus.

Join the conversation: How do you guard against harboring anger or bitterness?

Shine Like a Star

by Michelle Lazurek

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure “children of God, without fault, in a crooked in a crooked and depraved generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.     Philippians 2:14-15 NIV

Opening up my Facebook page one day, in my news feed, I read:

“Those dummies in government, they should be fired!”

“I can’t believe Kim Kardashian…”

“I had another terrible day…”

I wouldn’t have minded reading these status updates on occasion, but for the second straight week, I had had enough.

“Isn’t there anything good going on in people’s lives?” I asked myself.

Depressed and frustrated, I contemplated closing my Facebook account down permanently. I didn’t need any additional negativity in my life. I hadn’t had the best week, either. It would have been easy to post my own rant for all my friends and family to see. But instead, I chose to redeem the situation rather than quit altogether.

I wrote a post on how proud I was of my kids and husband. And you know what? I found that my attitude about how bad my life had all but disappeared. Moving from self-centeredness to others-centeredness made it almost impossible to wallow in my own misery. As I began to count my blessings, I quickly realized there were more of them than I originally thought.

In the midst of difficult circumstances, we need to go to the Lord with our concerns and complaints rather than to social media. He will remind us of His deep love for us. We will no longer need to go to social media for that fleeting moment of praise or attention. The inward love we have for God will eventually pour out in every thought and subsequent action, including what we write on social media.

Stars can’t shine if they are hidden behind thick clouds or fog. Yet, even one star can reflect light in a darkened sky. As God’s children, we are not immune from trials in our lives. However, how we choose to react to those circumstances can make the difference in whether people see Christ in us or not.

Protect your heart from the sin of anger and resentment by opening your heart to open and honest communication with the Lord. We can choose to shine our light to the world both on social media and in real life by allowing God’s love to overflow out of us and into the lives of others.

michelle lazurekAbout the author: About the author: Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, national speaker, pastor’s wife and mother. A member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, she loves to help people encounter God and engage with the world around them. When not writing, you can find her enjoying a Starbucks latte and collecting vintage records. For more info, please visit her website at www.michellelazurek.com.

Join the conversation: What kinds of things do you post to keep things positive on Facebook?

 

IMG_7617