Arise Under the Sun

by Christina Rose

“I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity, a futile grasping and chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:14 AMP

King Solomon asked God for wisdom when he ascended to the throne, so that he could rule the people justly. God favored Solomon by giving him more wisdom and wealth than any other king of the earth. During his 40-year reign, Solomon wrote many proverbs and songs, amassed tons of gold, completed many building projects, including the Jewish temple, and built a fleet of ships.  Unfortunately, among the 700 wives and 300 concubines he had were many foreigners who led him into idolatry in his old age. This became a diversion that he reflected upon as he neared the end of his life.

Solomon considered his many accomplishments and the years of earthly striving. “But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere” (Ecclesiastes 2:11 NLT).  He had finally realized that after a lifetime of chasing everything the world had to offer, obeying God and fearing his word was the only thing that made sense. Once we put God first, we are free to enjoy the gifts of life he has bestowed upon us.

“So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15 NLT

In the early years of my career, I enjoyed a glamorous life in San Francisco. I worked in one of the most prestigious offices in the city and was treated to extravagant restaurants, parties, and events. One evening on a dinner cruise under the Golden Gate, I noticed the colorful sails of windsurfers racing back and forth. Within weeks I had signed up for lessons, and before long, I was flying across the waves under “The Gate,” where I met and married another surfer. We were addicted to the thrill of chasing the wind under the sun until we learned we were expecting our first baby. My carefree life changed instantly when I was confined to bedrest out of concern for her. I was now slowly turning into a baby whale while I laid in bed, often alone, praying for my baby’s safe arrival. In the silence, I relentlessly searched for God and asked for his help.

Labor completely humbled me. I thought I had been so fearless surfing the waves, but as Solomon points out, there was a vanity in chasing the wind. It was easy to be fit and strong for all to see, but now I was a vulnerable, young mom in labor, hooked up to a monitor, dependent on those around me to help me give birth. Hours later when I laid eyes on my new daughter was the moment that I knew God was real.  There was no other explanation for such an exquisite miracle. Her birth was the beginning of learning to understand the greatness of God which continues to be an amazing journey each day, many years later.

Over time, many of my windsurfing friends stopped windsurfing.We came to see that we were just going back and forth across the waves but not accomplishing anything of significance.  Those years long ago of youth and adventure are glorious to remember, but having that life ripped out of my hands and confined to bedrest made me rethink everything. It was during those times of darkness and doubt that I searched for God and prayed for his help. He answered me with a perfect baby daughter that was a blessing far greater than the life I had been living.  

During this time of the Pandemic many, lives are being drastically altered. People are searching for answers in darkness and doubt, just as I did many years ago. They may be wondering if God is real and if he hears them. For those of us who know that he is real and hears our every cry, we are being called to arise to be a light to help others walk through this time of uncertainty.  In the process, God will birth something new and wonderful that one cannot see in the darkness as he draws us into his light.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Isaiah 60:1-3 NIV

This article is 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: For what answers are you searching in this season of darkness?

Night and Day of the Zombies

by Patti Richter

We sat on the floor hugging our knees to our chest for protection, wide-eyed at the scene before us. Several people with the same ghastly appearance stumbled forward— not in living color but in half-dead black and white.

That was my first encounter with zombies, when Mom allowed my sister and me to stay up late one Friday night to watch a scary movie. It may have been the only time I forgot to eat my popcorn.

Zombies have maintained a steady following for decades, which may have something to do with people facing their fear of disease, or death, or life after death. But it’s a gruesome type of therapy to entertain yourself with the walking dead—rotting flesh, infected and infecting.

I recently observed some modern-day, civilized zombies (although they might refer to themselves in another way since their particular form of mindlessness begins with exercise). I’d seated myself at the only empty picnic table under a shade tree for an hour of reading while my husband and son hiked.

The group of young women sat cross-legged in a circle on a blanket with several babies stowed in a playpen beside them. I assumed they gathered for social and health benefits, but after some low humming they rose and surrounded my shade tree. As they caressed the tree with long strokes, they chanted unintelligible words. When the women’s voices grew shrill with laughter, the babies began centering on their own self-actualization—wailing for their mothers’ attention.

I felt sorry for those women and children. They’re soaking in the world’s counterfeit light in place of “the light of the world” (John 8:12 NIV). Tim Keller says, “Christ gives us true things to think about that overcome the darkness of this life, while others say ‘just hum loudly and look away.’”

However, I do not condemn those who seek to fill a spiritual void since I, too, was once a zombie. According to the Apostle Paul, I was dead in my sins while I “followed the ways of this world” (Ephesians 2:2 NIV).

Paul, sent by the Lord to minister to Gentile nations that did not know God, explained that, without Christ, we are the walking dead. “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts” (Eph. 2:3 NIV). He observed the futility of those “separated from the life of God,” who have “lost all sensitivity” (Ephesians 4:18 – 19 NIV).

The nations currently hope for a return to normal through an effective vaccine against the deadly virus that plagues us. But our normal world features untold suffering from the problem of sin. Greed, strife, deceit and all kinds of depravity will continue to plague our world. And troubled souls will still seek relief through escape mechanisms and mind-altering substances.

However, “a new and living way opened for us” that allows us to “draw near to God” (Hebrews 10:20, 22 NIV). We don’t have to stumble through life infected with sin.

Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV) foretold of the transformation the Messiah would bring: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” This Old Testament promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who came to seek and to save the spiritually lost and confused, even those who were demon-possessed.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2 NIV  

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Night and Day of the Zombies – encouragement from Patti Richter on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.

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Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: Have you been transformed into the land of the living?

Let There Be Light

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

...God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  1 John 1:5b

A wonderful part of the Christmas season is the plethora of lights on houses, trees, and shining from windows. The Christmas tree in our home glitters with white lights, reflecting off the ornaments and giving the room a festive glow. Light is a very appropriate symbol to be used at Christmas, since the holiday is all about the birth of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

God’s glory has been revealed in light since the beginning of time. In His first recorded words, God said, “Let there be light.” With a blinding flash, creation was revealed.   Genesis tells us that the sun, moon, and stars were not created until the fourth day. What was the source of light that lit up the formless, watery creation that existed at that command? Revelation 21 gives us a possible answer when it describes the future New Jerusalem: “And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it.” Creation was made to reveal God’s glory. Maybe God’s glory revealed creation as well.

We read of many examples where God’s glory is revealed as light. When Moses spoke with God on Mt. Sinai, his face had to be veiled when he came down the mountain because it shone. God’s presence filled the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, revealed with a pillar of fire that glowed throughout 40 years’ worth of nights. At the Transfiguration, Matthew tells us Jesus’ garments became as white as light. The light of God’s glory stunned anyone in Scripture who was privileged enough to experience it.

When the world was new, God’ glory continued to be revealed at the creation of Adam and Eve. Were they reflectors of a literal light? We do know that God made them in his “likeness.” As originally created, they certainly reflected God’s glory. Then came the moment when they submitted to the temptation placed before them by the Prince of Darkness. At the first bite of that forbidden fruit, the light went out. The curse of sin had descended on creation. Adam and Eve looked at each other, saw their nakedness, and for the first time, knew the sting of shame.

The world plunged into darkness. The sun, moon, and stars continued to provide physical light, but the darkness this time was much more crushing. Man was now spiritually blind. It would take a miracle for him to be able to “see” once more.

The people lived in darkness for many years until God once again gave the command: “Let there be light.” This time, instead of a blinding flash of brilliance, the command was fulfilled in the quiet, unseen miracle of the Holy Spirit planting a baby within a young girl. In a dirty animal stall one night in Bethlehem, the light snapped on for the lost. The Light of the World had come to a people who were blind and hopeless.

As he lived here on earth, he lit up the darkness around him. With his glory he exposed the sin of the proud, hard-hearted religious leaders. From place to place he traveled, healing all kinds of sicknesses and even reversing death, freeing fortunate ones of the consequences of living under the curse of darkness. His teachings exposed the darkness of the burden of sin and revealed the glory of God that had come to save.

Those living in darkness hated the Light and finally managed to orchestrate his death sentence. Even the skies went dark that day as the Light of the World hung on a cross, suffering under the unimaginable burden of the sin of the world. At his death, for a short while it seemed the light had been snuffed out and darkness had finally won.

But in a sunburst of glory that first Easter morning, the Light of the World banished the darkness, dealing Satan a fatal blow. No longer would darkness have the victory. Death had lost its sting.

The command continues today: “Let there be light.” Those who seek him are rewarded with the light of spiritual vision when they are given the priceless gift of salvation. Then they, in turn, are charged to be light reflectors to those within their sphere of influence. They bear witness to the truth, endeavoring to live lives of love while guiding others who remain in the darkness to come into the light.

As we string the lights around the tree and place candles in our windows, let us give thanks to the Light of the World whom these lights represent. The glory that is God’s continues to shine in the hearts of those who love him, made possible by his coming to Israel over two thousand years ago, when God said, “Let there be light.”

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Let There Be Light – encouragement from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailydevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Is there another symbol present at Christmastime that reminds you of spiritual truth?

Dancing in His Light

by Janet Perez Eckles

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption , the forgiveness of sins.                                                                                                                                                             Colossians 1:13-14 NASB

“Sit down,” my Mom said patting the sofa beside her. “Listen to this invitation that just came in the mail: The Foundation Fighting Blindness is sponsoring a dinner dance in the dark.”

I wrinkled my nose. “What in the world is that?”

“It’s kind of clever,” she said, “It’s a fund-raiser for research. And also to give folks a chance to experience what it’s like to be blind. The whole event will be held in the dark.”

“Crazy,” I said. “You can be sure hands will be in the mash potatoes. And who knows how many glasses of water will be spilled. And, with no lights, wait till they have to visit the bathroom.  Lots of fun there, for sure.”

Living for thirty years in physical darkness, I’ve grown accustomed to it. In fact, I often forget I’m blind. Okay, you can laugh. It’s kind of silly, but I do forget. In fact, that dinner dance in the dark is way too familiar to me.

But to be fair, I had time to adjust and it’s no big deal now. But for sighted folks to be thrown into a dark room, what a bizarre thing!

But…sigh… not as bizarre as living where spiritual darkness is not an event, a fund-raising dance, or even a temporary episode, but a life-long choice.

I’ve been there. While physically sighted but spiritually blind, I sunk into secret disobedience. In the darkness, I slammed into obstacles while I groped, vainly searching for happiness. Barriers like relentless pride, shameful stubbornness, and disgusting cynicism all blocked my path, resulting in emotional bruises, cuts, and wounds.

But thank you, thank you, Lord. The day He turned on the light for me, the light of His Word, the splendor of His ways and the clarity of His path, new life began for me. Like a flower blooming, my heart opened up to joy and His reminder ever echoes in me: “… for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible” (Ephesians 5:8-13 NIV  ).

…and for me, now visible is the dance floor where Jesus leads the dance, step by step, day by day, to the melody of His promises and the harmony of His grace.

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Dancing in His Light – insight on accepting God’s Light from Janet Perez Eckles on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

janet perez ecklesAbout the author: Blindness tried to darken her life, but Janet Perez Eckles became an international speaker, best-selling author, personal success coach, radio host and best playmate to her grandchildren. Her books include Contagious Courage: a Thirty Day Journey to Overcoming Stress and Anxiety and Simply Salsa: Dancing without Fear at God’s Fiesta. You can learn more about Janet at www.janetperezeckles.com.

Janet’s book,  Hola, Happiness: Finding Joy by Dancing to the Melody of God’s Word is a brief Bible study to nudge you to the next level of triumph and joy. It is packed with deep reflections and answers from God’s Word. No matter what you face–disappointment, fear, heartache, shame, insecurity, sorrow–you will say “Hola” to happiness, peace, and the joy for which God created you.

Join the conversation: How does light make a difference in your life today?

British Beasties

by Sharon Tedford @61Things

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV

I loved my pet rabbit with every bit of my teenage angst emotions. He was the very large listening ear to whom I whispered my problems, and the one who paid attention to me without judgment. He never questioned my choices, and always listened when I complained.

Honey (named for his golden fur and sweet personality) lived in a once discarded, now refurbished wooden playhouse. My Dad was a whiz with tools, and he’d created this palatial bunny kingdom. It would have been perfect, had it been adjacent to our house. However, my parents saw fit to put Honey’s dwelling far, far from my house, in the dark. You see, the dark was a big problem for me.

I grew up in rural Southern England where darkness falls around 5 p.m. in the winter. Most often I didn’t get in from school much before that. Every night I had to make the trip to the bottom of the yard alone. I was always terrified. Of course I put it off, which never helped, because each minute I procrastinated, the darkness grew deeper.

I would carry the biggest flashlight I could find and hum, cough, or make other noises to announce my arrival to any other creatures who might be skulking about. I had no desire to meet up with wild animals on my nighttime foray. I was pretty sure they were just outside the beam of my flashlight, ready to pounce on me at any second. (Let’s be honest, the only creatures around would have been wild rabbits, rats, or maybe a small fox. But in my imagination there were wolves, hyenas, and lions on the prowl!)

Why does the dark cause us so much consternation? What is it, still to this day, that can make this grown woman’s stomach flip when putting the rubbish out in the dark and hearing a rustle in the bushes?

Darkness veils and conceals. Darkness hides truth. The obscurity of the shadowy gloom seems to be where the unknown shelters itself. Darkness causes fear.

God is Light. He is bright, clear, present, illuminating and warm.

“God is light, in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5b NIV)

 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7 NIV)

When I live in the pure light of Jesus, He will kindly show me where the hidden messes of my heart dwell. With gentle intentionality He will shine His light on them, so their hold over me is beaten.

When we allow the light of Jesus to radiate within us, we have no need to fear. I can walk the path of this life with every confidence that Jesus is with me; I am never alone. No eternal harm can come to me, and with Jesus I cannot be overcome. There are no unexpected events for Jesus. He sees it all.

I will choose to walk in the light by Jesus’ side, as I trust Him to lead me. I have nothing to be afraid of. Not even the British beasties!

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British Beasties and Using the Light to Face Our Fears – from Sharon Tedford, @61Things on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Sharon tedfordAbout the author: Sharon Tedford is an experienced British storyteller who uses her gifts as a singer, author, worship leader, and speaker to connect with her listeners, inviting them into a revitalized relationship with God.  Her humorous stories always end with an invitation to action.  Her book, Stand, is a devotional based on the stories behind her songs. Mother to three teenagers and the wife of an Irishman, Sharon encourages people to live a God-focused life. You can connect with her at www.61-things.com.

Join the conversation: What is it about the dark that scares you?

Six Ways You Can Change the World

 by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Sometimes it feels as if darkness has overpowered light, sorrow dominates joy, and confusion and fear have infiltrated peace. Watching the news play out before me, or perhaps even sitting with a hurting friend, can make me feel powerless. Ineffectual.

But Scripture tells me this is a lie. In Christ, I–we–have the power to transform our world. Each day, with every word and action we choose, every smile we offer, we can speak hope into despair, love into loneliness, and healing into the most broken and beaten down hearts.

We have the power of the risen, victorious, life-and-light-bringing Savior residing within.

Here are ways we can unleash that power:

Engage. In our hyper-interactive culture, where tweets, posts, and likes often replace face-to-face encounters. The result: Many feel unseen. Insignificant. Unvalued. Simply taking the time to engage others in conversation, even if but for a moment, can encourage a deflated heart. Because remember, we’re representatives and reflectors of El Roi, the God who sees. (Gen. 16:13) May we reflect Him well.

Choose grace. I mess up a hundred times each day. I respond with frustration instead of kindness. I behave selfishly instead of releasing my Father’s love. And many, many times I let my mouth (or keyboard) run when I should simply walk away. But though each non-Christlike reaction leads me to confession, I’m also very quick to offer myself grace. I was tired, stressed, overwhelmed … perhaps caught off guard. Yet do I offer the same grace to others? Do I make allowances for their faults or “make much” of every blunder? Whenever I choose grace, I reveal a bit of Jesus and point others to Him.

Stand up. To champion the beaten down, discarded, or marginalized is to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. He left heaven to rescue the oppressed—those burdened and enslaved by sin—and His Word tells us to speak out for those who don’t have a voice. Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (NIV).

Enter into someone else’s darkness. Did you ever make flashlight shadows when you were a kid? Did you ever try to do this in a well-lit room? Not so effective, right? Most likely you closed yourself in a darkened bathroom where the beams from your flashlight radiated strong and bright. Whenever we seek out, reach out, and intentionally walk beside those shrouded in darkness, we flood their world with light.

Show kindness. Offer a smile, a hug, a word of encouragement, and an open door. Never underestimate the power of a simple yet intentional kind act done for another. It can soothe anger, counter distrust, and open hearts to the love of Christ. In everything we do and every word we speak, may we remember it is God’s kindness that leads people to repentance.

Pray. May we see every act of darkness, ugly display of hate, and destructive outburst of anger as a reminder to turn to our unchanging, unconquerable power source—Jesus Christ. Those moments spent on our knees may feel … anti-climactic. We may be tempted to think our time in doing—serving in ministry, feeding the poor, typing out oodles of words for books and blog posts—holds more value. But Scripture promises this is far from true. Prayer isn’t meant to be something we do in random, still moments before our real work begins. Prayer is our first and most important work, regardless the task, because ultimately, only Jesus can truly change a heart and a world. When we prioritize prayer, we’re acknowledging we believe this to be true.

Imagine if we each chose to do one of the above each day. Imagine how our families, relationships, neighborhoods—our world—might change.

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Six Ways You Can Change the World – @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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

Join the conversation: What is one way you plan to be a world-changer today? Share your “I’m gonna!” along with anything else you’d add to my list in the comments below. We can all learn from and encourage one another! And in Christ, we can change the world!