Closed Doors and the Christian’s Call

by Tina Yeager

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV

The last rays of summer light hinted at the lateness of the hour. Hunger’s rising growl confirmed our situation. We lacked access to a kitchen of our own that evening and time to find nourishment ran shorter as our shadows grew longer.

We walked into the first take-out spot in the strip mall, only to find filth and soapless restrooms. Not our place. The second establishment had no room. Rain pelted us as we continued our search for a table along the sidewalk. At the third doorway, we heard the same bad news: no space. The fourth restaurant announced imminent closure.

The sands of our hope dwindled through the hourglass.

On our way back to the car, I glanced around the last corner and noticed a single, walnut door with a huge brass handle. Scrolled lettering on the glass inset identified this as a restaurant entrance. My husband asked what I might be doing as I reached out to tug at that final opportunity. The maître-de informed us we had arrived just in time for an open table.

A candle flickered on a spectacular, white-clothed nook awaiting us. The finest gourmet meal of our trip soon lay before us in an exclusive setting. And we had almost missed it.

In pursuit of purpose, we can face an overwhelming number of closed doors. An ill-suited place. Not the right time. Or no one seems to have room for us. Rejection upon rejection, the slam of each lost opportunity turns our souls out into a hungrier and more despondent trudge. How often do we wonder if we’ll ever enjoy a seat at the ministry table? The temptation to leave our calling behind and give up grows stronger with every pelt of circumstantial rain.

Yet, the Lord has called us for a purpose. He made reservations for us at an exclusive place. He created this calling, this hunger in our souls. Our Creator plans to bless us with a certain, glorious experience in which we will find fulfillment. If we give up, we risk missing out on the one of the finest opportunities of our journey with Him.

As the rain and our rising hunger deplete our perseverance, we must remind ourselves to trust the Lord to nourish and fulfill us.

Lord, guide me on this path of multiple door closures toward the perfect spot you’ve reserved for my message. Strengthen my weary steps and sustain me through discouraging circumstances. Remind me to look for your opportunities, which await around a corner where I cannot yet see them. Amen.

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

Tina Yeager

About the author: Award-winning author, speaker, licensed counselor, and life coach, Tina Yeager encourages audiences to fulfill their potential. She offers writing workshops through Serious Writer Academy, hosts the Flourish-Meant podcast, and is a mentor with Word Weavers International.

Tina’s book, Beautiful Warrior, empowers you to break free from the insecurity that has you trapped. Pick up your shield―the Word of God, your identity in Christ, and healthy thought patterns―and become the divine heroine you were destined to be.

Join the conversation: Have you been in a place where only closed doors are in sight?

When God Feels Distant

by Crystal Bowman

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8 NKJV

Life is hard sometimes. For many, life is hard most of the time. Being a Christian is no guarantee that we get a free pass from pain and hardship. Just look at the stories in the Bible. Joseph spent some dark moments in a pit, was sold as a slave, and just when things were improving, he ended up in prison because of a woman’s lie. For 40 years, Moses led the grumbling, complaining Israelites through the wilderness on their quest to the Promised Land, and then he only got a sneak peek of the land from a mountain top. Do I even need to bring up the name Job? Probably not.

In the New Testament, many of Jesus’s followers were beaten, imprisoned, and experienced violent deaths. The suffering we see in the pages of Scripture is more than enough to understand that life is hard. And sometimes, in the midst of our pain and suffering—in the midst of wondering how life got so messed up—we wonder where God is.  

Do you ever feel distant from God? If we are honest, most of us will say yes. But just because we feel distant from Him, God is never far from us. Whether we feel close to God or not, it doesn’t change who He is. God loves us with an everlasting love. He is with us wherever we go, and His Spirit lives within us. In Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV), the Apostle Paul writes to the Romans, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That about covers it, right? Nothing can separate us from God! And here’s the thing—it doesn’t matter what we feel. It matters what we know. Feelings can be unpredictable and unreliable. Feelings can come and go like the wind. When we base our beliefs on what we feel, we will be tossed to and ‘fro, like the waves on the sea. Rather than letting your feelings determine your closeness to God, cling to what you know and believe. Do you know God is with you? Yes. Do you believe He will never leave you? Yes.  Do you know and believe He loves you? A thousand times yes. 

Whenever I feel distant from God, I know that He isn’t the one who moved. And so I seek Him though reading Scripture, through worship music, through prayers, and through looking at His creation. Psalm 95:4-5 (NIV) says, In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. And Psalm 19:1 (NIV) says, The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

If you want to feel close to God, just open your eyes. Do you see the sky? God made that. Do you see trees, rivers, or mountains? They belong to God. Do you see birds and squirrels? God feeds them. Do you see flowers? God makes them grow. We are surrounded by God’s creation that speaks His name.

Psalm 100:4 (NKJV) gives us clear instructions on how to draw near to God: Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

If you are feeling distant from God today, follow the advice of the Psalmist. Thank Him. Praise Him. Enter His presence. He is waiting for you with open arms, and nothing can separate you from His love.  


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

About the author: Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books including, Our Daily Bread for Kids.She and her husband have three married children and seven huggable grandchildren.

When a child’s grandparent or great-grandparent is afflicted with dementia, it’s difficult to explain the disease in a way that helps the child understand why the person they love is not the same. I Love You to the Stars–When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembersis a picture book inspired by a true story to help young children understand that even though Grandma is acting differently, she still loves them–to the stars!

Join the conversation: What do you do when you feel distant from God?

Detours—No Camping Allowed

by Terri Gillespie

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 TLV

Are there scriptural passages that are painful to read for you? I have a few. The above is one of them. Why? I have several “deferred hopes” — people and situations I’ve prayed about for many years. Answers that haven’t come to fruition. These are not wants or desires—like a Christmas list—but heart hopes of an eternal nature. Salvations. Deliverances. Restoration. Family.

Sometimes, it feels like deep holes in my heart, that for whatever reason, our loving Heavenly Father has left unfulfilled. Sometimes, I feel isolated with my discouragement — out there in the dark of doubt. Do you know what I mean?

So, knowing the longings are there and not knowing when, or if, they will be fulfilled can get a bit disheartening. And there are times when I am heartsick. But I can’t “camp” there.

A painful detour . . .

When my heart takes a detour, it’s generally caused by some area in my life that is weak. Those things that remind me that my heart hope is still longing. I must be especially vigilant to not get lost but find my way back to the path of faith.

One of the ways I do this is to focus on GOD’s truths. Verses that re-direct me into His loving arms — reminders of His sovereignty and love. Reminders of His love for those I love. As I come across them, I add them to my journal.

Here are a few passages meaningful to me [emphasis mine]:

  • Looking at them, Yeshua [Hebrew for Jesus] said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God!” Mark 10:27, TLV
  • Fulfill Your word to Your servant, which leads to reverence for You. Psalm 119:38 TLV
  • I am sure of this very thing—that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of Messiah Yeshua. Philippians 1:6 TLV
  • And the shalom [peace] of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua. Philippians 4:7 TLV
  • Chazak [Be strong]! Let your heart take courage, all you who wait for ADONAI [the LORD]. Psalm 31:25(24) TLV
  • Never snatch out of my mouth a word of truth, for I hope in your judgments. Psalm 119:42 TLV
  • When my troubling thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations comfort my soul. Psalm 94:19 TLV

I’m sure you have your own passages of hope — verses that shift the focus from waiting for an outcome to trusting in the Father, come what may.

While I would love to see my heart hope fulfilled in my lifetime (Psalm 27:13), but like Abraham and the fathers and mothers of Scriptures, not all lived to see their promises fulfilled (Hebrews 11:13). And, I must be okay with that.

Once I return to that understanding, I’ve exited the detour and am back on the right path.

Have all your heart hopes been fulfilled? Or are some still deferred? Just know we don’t have to take the detour of discouragement, and camp alone in the darkness—at least not for very long. Because He gives us plenty of reminders of that love, we just need to pay attention.

May we trust and remember the goodness of our Father, my friends—and may our detours be avoided or brief.

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

About the author: Award-winning author and speaker Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith 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. She tries to avoid spiritual detours.

Terri’s weekly devotional, Making Eye Contact with God, for women only, enables 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 God.

Join the conversation: What passages are your go-to when you are discouraged?

One Good Reason to Trust God with Unanswered Prayer

by Debbie Wilson

“The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:25 NIV

What if I told you unanswered prayer may be a sign of God’s favor? You might argue that since biblical days, many have taught otherwise. That if you’re sick, or God has closed your womb, then you’ve fallen from grace.

What if I told you the Bible shows the reverse was true for some of God’s chosen ones?

In the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, one line spoken by Elizabeth, after she became pregnant, speaks volumes about the pain she suffered during her years of unanswered prayer. “‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people’” (Luke 1:25 NIV).

The Jews believed Elizabeth’s barrenness represented God’s punishment for some hidden sin. For decades, Elizabeth, a descendant of the High Priest Aaron and a priest’s wife, felt disgraced among her people. I can imagine her begging God to show her what she had done to lose God’s favor.

We know God’s delay in answering Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayer wasn’t because of His displeasure. But they didn’t know that—until much later.

The Bible describes Zechariah and Elizabeth as “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old” (Luke 1:6-7 NIV).

In their culture, righteous and barren didn’t go together. But what her peers saw as disgrace, God saw as special favorHe had not overlooked Elizabeth. He had chosen her for a special honor. He’d chosen her to raise the forerunner of His Son!

When the angel told Zechariah that God had answered his prayer, I picture Zechariah scratching his head. Which prayer? Since they were both very old, I’m sure they hadn’t prayed for a child in ages. Listen to the angel’s words:

“But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord’” (Luke 1:13-17 NIV).

If God had shown Elizabeth His plan when she was young, whose plan do you think she would have chosen? Would she have chosen to fulfill her friends and family’s expectations by having an ordinary child at the expected age? Or would she have chosen to be a part of the miracle of Christmas and bear the son Jesus described as, “among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11 NIV)?

Do you have a prayer that has gone unanswered? Have you felt judged by others or forgotten by God because of it? From the perspective of time, we seeGod’s plan for Elizabeth was better than her own. Will you trust Him with your desires too? Elizabeth provides one more reason to trust God with unanswered prayer.

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

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big Godand Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Have you struggled with unanswered prayer?

The God of Caves and Mountaintops

by A.C. Williams @Free2BFearless

Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” 1 Kings 19:4 NLT

Have you ever identified with a historical figure? Like, you read about them and recognize so much of yourself that it can’t simply be coincidence. You must have been born in the wrong century and separated from them at birth.

That’s how I feel about Elijah sometimes.

Not because of any great thing he did, but more because of his dramatic emotional kneejerk reactions (1 Kings 19). Elijah had just witnessed one of the most spectacular displays of God’s power ever recorded in Scripture. Then a single threat from a defeated, evil woman comes along, and what does Elijah do? He runs for his life and collapses in a heap and begs God to kill him.

I’m sorry. What? Who are you again? Did you not just witness the power of God up close and personal?

See, this is the part of Elijah’s life that I identify with.

I spent last week with the Lord, hearing from Him almost audibly. I saw Him working miraculously, answering specific prayers as though He had written down my every request on a list to personally fulfill. And the moment that miraculous week was over, all it took was one bit of bad news to send me spiraling into a pit of discouragement.

It’s an important lesson to learn and carry with us as we follow Jesus. We are the most vulnerable immediately after a great spiritual victory. Why? Great spiritual victories are exhausting. They often require a lot of emotional and mental fortitude. Just like battle, when you see the other side of any victory, you need rest. The enemy knows that, and that’s why he comes after us harder in those moments.

He throws things at us that he knows will trigger us. He pokes and prods at the dormant fears hovering just under the surface of our faith. And before you know what’s happening, you’re sobbing melodramatically under a broom tree begging God to end your life because it’s just too hard.

We would wise to remember how God handled Elijah during his little meltdown.

God got him to eat, drink, and rest (1 Kings 19:5-7). Then, God sent Elijah on a bit of a road trip that would eventually result in restoring his faith.

So where are you today? If you’ve just experienced a great spiritual victory and you’re still riding the high, hold on, because the valley is coming. It always does. If you’re already in the valley, feeling isolated and worthless, listen up.

The God who spoke to you in victory is still the God you run to in weakness. He hasn’t changed. His power isn’t made less because of the challenges you’re facing. His grace isn’t diminished because you’re struggling to trust it. He is, and always will be, everything you need, and if you don’t have an answer right now for what you’re facing, wait a bit longer. He will provide (Philippians 4:19), and He will fight for you (Exodus 14:14).

In the meantime, when was the last time you ate? Are you drinking enough water? Did you get restful, restorative sleep? Have you gone on a walk outside to marvel at His creation?

Fellow warriors, if Elijah needed these things, so do we.

When the valleys and the caves come—and they will—take care of your physical health so that you will have strength to obey the Lord. Above all else, don’t forget who God is. Whether you’re on a mountaintop or deep in a cave, He is the same.

TWEETABLE
The God of Caves and Mountaintops – encouragement from A.C. Williams @Free2BFearless on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Finding Fireflies

About the author: A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if isn’t, her socks will never match. She likes her road trips with rock music, her superheroes with snark, and her blankets extra fuzzy, but her first love is stories and the authors who are passionate about telling them. Learn more about her book coaching services and follow her adventures on social media @free2bfearless.

Join the conversation: Do you identify with Elijah?

The Grinch That Stole Spring

by Sheri Schofield

“Where did all those dandelions go?” I asked myself, as I walked through the mountain meadow near my home. There had been at least six cheerful flowers blooming on the bank the day before, some of the first flowers of spring after the long, barren winter months. I had been looking forward to seeing them! To me, they represented joy and new life.

Later that day as I was driving into town, I saw an animal head pop up from a culvert not far from the missing dandelions. It saw me and quickly ducked back into the tunnel. I stopped and waited to see what it was. The head looked kind of like a prairie dog, but it was much bigger. I thought, “If the prairie dogs are getting that big these days, I’m moving into town!”

Soon the animal’s head popped up again. I sat very still, my camera phone ready. Slowly, the creature moved a little higher, and finally climbed up on the bank where I could see it. I snapped a few pictures then drove down the mountain to a wide spot in the road to try and figure out what the animal was.

It was a yellow-bellied marmot. It turns out that marmots just love to eat dandelions! He’s been nibbling away at the cheerfulness of our mountain’s colors. I’ve named him Grinch.

Our current world health crisis is doing the same thing as that marmot: stealing the new life and joy of springtime. So what can we do to combat this Grinch?

Habakkuk faced a Grinch, too. He had been complaining to God about all the evil in Israel and asking God to do something about it. God told him that Babylon was going to invade Israel. God was allowing this in order to turn his people back to himself. God had had enough of Israel’s disobedience. Habakkuk describes what would happen:

God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden. Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps. He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble . . . (Habakkuk 3:3-6 NIV).

We are living in a time when God is, figuratively, shaking the earth, trying to get its attention and draw earth’s people back to himself. It is scary, even for believers! But Habakkuk’s response gives us great insight about how to overcome this time of trouble, this Grinch – this plague – that God is using to get earth’s attention. Habakkuk said:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights (Habakkuk 3:17-19 NIV).

Do not be afraid of what God is doing! For he is calling earth’s people to himself. In the face of this great trial, rejoice in the goodness of God – goodness that will get people’s attention before it is too late, and will draw all who listen back to his loving heart.

Lord, let there be revival!

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God .  Psalm 42:1-2 NIV

TWEETABLE
The Grinch That Stole Spring – insight from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.

Join the Conversation: How has God gotten your attention in these troubled times?

Focus on the Facts

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.                                                                                                                                     Psalm 16:8, ESV

I remember the week I wanted to quit the ministry. (As a pastor’s wife, I haven’t quite figured out what that means, except that it’s a low point of discouragement and sometimes it feels good to say “I want to quit.”) My husband and I had just met with a couple from our church who listed the ways we had let them down over the past couple years. As I sat there, listening to how we’ve disappointed them and anticipating that they would leave the church for such reasons, I was feeling frustration, pain and anger. As I drove away from that appointment in a separate car, I cried out to God, and told him how I felt.

“God I don’t want to do this anymore!” I yelled through tears. “I don’t want my husband to sit through one more meeting and hear how he has let someone down. I’m tired of pouring out, because everyone just takes and takes and leaves in the end.

That’s how I was feeling: I have nothing left to give and everyone eventually leaves, anyway. But in prayer, I was reminded of the facts: God can fill me up again and He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

Instantly, God spoke to the recesses of my heart: I went to the cross for you. And in light of what I did for you, do you know how many times you have disappointed Me? Do you realize how many times you have failed to meet My expectations? And yet, I have never left. And I never will.

 In the moment my heart received that truth, everything changed. I remembered Whom I am serving: The One who will never leave. It was all about the facts (that He is a faithful God and worthy to be served) and not my feelings (that it’s hard sometimes and I just want to quit). My prayer of complaint turned to praise: God, I can’t do this, but You can. And I will gladly serve You because of what You have done for me.

 When my feelings lead me down a dark tunnel of despair,  I know now to switch on the light of what I know about God to find my way back out.

Psalm 16:8 gives me clarity and helps me focus on the facts of Who God is, rather than on what I feel. “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8, ESV).

Thank You, Lord, that You do not shift and change along with my feelings or circumstances. You are the Rock. Steady. Constant. Persevering. Thank You, too, that You promise to never leave.

TWEETABLE
Focus on the Facts – encouragement from @CindiMcMenamin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer, national speaker, and certified writing coach who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of several books including When Women Long for Rest, When You’re Running on Empty, and Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her books and resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, or for more information on her coaching services to help you write the book on your heart, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

What Readers are Saying about When You’re Running on Empty: “Truly, there is not a woman out there who cannot relate to When You’re Running on Empty.” – Cheryl M. Anderson, Director of Women’s Ministry, Morrill Baptist Church, Morrill, ME

Join the conversation: What fact about God encourages you when you are feeling discouraged?

 

Then Sulks My Soul

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I think my spirit gets a little pouty every now and then. It’s a spoiled rotten little spirit, mind you, and the things that inspire the pouting are most often quite trivial. Like having to get a new phone and not being able to keep the old number. Or like when you’ve been thinking about that last Ding Dong all day and then find somebody ate it and left the empty box.

I so hate to admit this, but I’m just climbing out of a ridiculous pouty-mope right now. The other day I sighed so hard I’m pretty sure my neighbors felt a breeze. Embarrassing.

To add to it, as usually happens when I’m brooding, suddenly I hated all my clothes. I’m not sure exactly why, but sulkiness always seems to bring out the worst in my closet. It’s not that I necessarily want new clothes even. It’s more that I become discontent with absolutely everything and I’m convinced I need a different body to put inside the clothes I already have. It doesn’t matter that I know I’m to blame, I still blame the closet. Goofy closet.

When I’m overwhelmed or blue or hormonal or discontent or just plain pouty, there’s one thing that can snap me back around like nothing else. It’s dwelling on the Lord. Not just passively thinking. No, really and truly meditating. Contemplating to the point of being overwhelmed and undone by the glorious God of all joy. It’s an altogether better “overwhelmed.”

“I greatly rejoice in the Lord, I exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness,” (Isaiah 61:10, HCSB). The New Living says, “I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!” As I focus on Him and rejoice in His goodness, it’s amazing how those trivial, pout-inducing circumstances shrivel in significance.

It’s at the moment of praise, as I ponder amazing grace, that I remember—I remember all the way to my soul—that when He gave me the gift of salvation through the cross of Christ, He gave me absolutely everything my soul needs. Whatever I’m whining about looks small and petty. And even when I’m fretting over something that’s not small or petty, that something is still nowhere near as big as the grace of God.

It makes me smile to recognize that as I dwell on His goodness and the sulkiness fades into worship, the Lord totally takes care of the closet thing. The spiritual closet, anyway. The very reason for rejoicing is that “He has clothed me with the garments of salvation.” It’s impossible to whine about the “robe of righteousness.” It’s borrowed from Christ. And though this whiny woman doesn’t deserve it, it fits perfectly.

The sweet, old hymn expresses it well:

“And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,

Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,

That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,

He bled and died to take away my sin.”

A soul can hardly sulk when it’s singing about the greatness of God.

            “Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

            How great thou art! How great thou art!”

Reveling in our great God. It reboots a mope. It inspires a joy that goes all the way to the soul. And all the way to the closet.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.                                                                                                                                       Isaiah 26:3 NIV

TWEETABLE
Then Sulks My Soul – insight on praising God from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for the Messy to Meaningful series, with My Purse Runneth Over coming soon. Edie Melson and Rhonda have a new book as well, Unruffled—Thriving in Chaos.

Rhonda 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.

Join the conversation: What do you do with the sulks?

Simple Obedience

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

On a September morning in 1853, young Hudson Taylor departed England for Shanghai, China. He was just 21 years old, but possessed a God-given passion for the Chinese people. At that time, there were only a few dozen missionaries bringing the gospel to this great empire largely unknown to the west. During Hudson’s fifty-year ministry, that would all change.

Unlike the established missionary presence which largely kept to coastal areas, Hudson traveled deep into China’s interior. He eventually established the China Inland Mission, which would sponsor over 1,000 new missionaries to China in Hudson’s lifetime. His lifetime of dedicated service continues to be an inspiration to Christians everywhere even today.

And now for the rest of the story… I wish I could tell you that God blessed Hudson with a life free of trouble as he ministered so tirelessly among the Chinese. Not so. Hudson contracted a serious illness, probably hepatitis, and was forced to return to England for an extended time. For the rest of his days, he would struggle with poor health. Hudson also suffered several long bouts of serious depression. His beloved wife died at age 33. Four of their eight children died before the age of ten. In 1900, exhausted and overwhelmed, Hudson suffered a complete physical and mental breakdown. His was no “charmed” life.

The Chinese church is most likely the fastest growing church on earth today. Largely underground due to oppressive government policies, it has been estimated that 234 million Chinese are now believers. Much of the success in reaching the Chinese with the gospel is a result of the seeds sowed by Hudson Taylor in the nineteenth century. I wonder if he could have ever imagined how amazingly God would use his efforts.

We are called to be faithful in doing what God has called us to do. We are not given any guarantees or even insight as to the eventual success of our efforts. Our lives will not be free of problems and obstacles. Yet we are called to persevere, operating in faith that God will use our meager and faulty efforts to build His kingdom.

The prophets faced this same challenge. 1 Peter 1:12 tells us, “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you…”  As the ancient prophets recorded God’s words to them, it was not for themselves or even their contemporaries, but for those of a future generation, which would use their writings to confirm the messiah’s identity and comprehend the plans of God. The prophets simply did as God asked, never seeing the fruit of their labor in their own lifetimes. It was obedience in faith.

What has God called you to do?  It probably does not appear to be a world-impacting ministry. Our efforts rarely do. Like Hudson Taylor, we will face hardship and discouragement as we attempt to obey. Our responsibility is only to do what we are called to do. Simple obedience is all that is required.

God will take our efforts and use them for his kingdom, generously allowing us to participate in his glorious cause.

“Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth… Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”                                             1 Corinthians 3:7-8 NASB

TWEETABLE
Simple Obedience when #FollowingGod – insight from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the 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: Have you felt discouraged at the effectiveness of your efforts? Please share your experiences!

Fruitless Labor

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

He was a preacher who felt the call of God to share the gospel with college students in Chapel Hill, NC. Every Saturday, month after month, he got into his white Ford van and headed for the same street corner. He set up megaphone speakers to play hymns for those who happened by. Then he stood by his van and handed out tracts to anyone who would take one.

Not once, month after month of Saturdays, did he see fruit from his efforts. But he knew God had called him, so he pressed on.

The prophets faced a similar challenge of a fruitless calling. In fact, some of them never got any positive response from their efforts. Not in their lifetimes, at least. But Peter writes, “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you…” (1 Peter 1:12 NASB). As the prophets recorded God’s Words to a rebellious nation, their message was not only for their immediate time frame. God would use those writings many years later, to enable a future generation to confirm the messiah’s identity and recognize the plans of God.

The prophets simply did what God asked, never seeing the fruit of their labor. They trusted God to use their efforts for His glory.

Sometimes God calls us to that kind of seemingly thankless work. He does not offer guarantees or give us insight as to how He will use our efforts. Yet we are called to persevere, operating in faith that God will somehow use what we do to build His kingdom. Our job is to be faithful, leaving the responsibility for any growth to Him.

That faithful but fruitless street preacher? One day a skinny college senior, who was a hippie, drug dealer, and fraternity bad boy, stopped to talk with him. He had been searching for the meaning in life: why was he here? What was his purpose? After discussing Jesus for two hours, the preacher gave him a Bible and suggested he read it. God worked mightily in that young man as he did, until one evening, the boy dropped to his knees and gave his life to Christ. His name was Lon Solomon.

God eventually led Lon to seminary, eventually giving him the position of senior pastor for a large church in Northern Virginia. God used his ministry and preaching to lead countless others to Christ. Through Lon, the Lord saw fit to grow McLean Bible Church into a congregation of over 20,000 members.

Why do I share this story? Lon Solomon was that preacher’s only convert out of his street ministry. God used all that effort to lead one single soul to Christ. But the fruit from that one soul’s transformation impacted the world.

Paul was faithful to the calling he received on the road to Damascus. It wasn’t easy. During his years of ministry, he was beaten, stoned and left for dead, experienced hunger and thirst, but tirelessly traveled dangerous roads to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. And through it all, he trusted in God to take the seed he sowed and multiply it for His glory.

What has God called you to do?  Will you have an impact on the world? Our efforts rarely do. And just as Paul and the street preacher did, we will face hardships and discouragement as we obey. But our responsibility is simple: do what we are called to do. We can trust God to take our efforts and use them for his kingdom while generously allowing us to participate in his glorious cause.

“Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”  1 Corinthians 3:7 NASB

TWEETABLE
Fruitless Labor – insight on #FollowingGod 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: Have you ever discovered some God did through you after the fact? Please share!