A Banner

by Dana Peters-Colley

Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people…thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.  Isaiah 49:22, 23b KJV

Today, I asked the Lord what to share. The word banner came. A banner is how people are led into battle. Isaiah 13:2 instructs the Lord’s army: lift the banner up on the high mountain, raise your voice, and wave them into the doors of the nobles.

Often, as I live my life, I don’t feel like I can make it one more day through the battle. I’m dealing with prodigals and decades of heartache. The Lord’s been super-good to me, but oh, the battle, and oh my, the giants. Yet, here is God’s instruction. The banner. Let’s look deeper at Isaiah 13:2.

First, we are told to lift what we have on a high mountain. It makes me think of when Moses ascended the mountain to spend time with God, to bring the Almighty’s standard back down to men. The places up there, so joyous. Why would you ever want to come back after experiencing that? But Moses was faithful to bring what God said to the people, and so must we be.

Second, the passage describes waving our hands. Israel gave the Lord wave offerings (Exodus 29:19-28). This made me think of the freedom we receive in Christ to use our hands to reach up and beyond our own limitations and ask for heaven to move in our behalf. People might stare as we lift our hands, so it shows we aren’t man-pleasers but God pleasers. Give the Lord a big wave and say, “I love you, Jesus!”

Third, in that Scripture is the invitation to enter in. And not only that, but enter to where the nobles are. This is God, through the Prophet Isaiah, instructing us that we belong amidst greatness. Nobles. Ones who live well, who are respected and esteemed. Righteous. The banner brings us to this greatness. Nothing we create or do is worthy. Jesus is worthy. And He considers all His children nobility (Ephesians 1:5).

Most Saturdays, I read the portions of the Bible that the Messianic communities and the observant Jews study. All over the world, they read from the first five books of the Bible and then read a portion from the prophets of the Old Testament. The day I received the word ‘banner’ I was in Isaiah 49. In my King James translation, they used the word standard, so I almost missed it. But in modern day English, the best translation is banner.

Our banner. God will place His banner over us. It was there for me to find after the Holy Spirit spoke. I realized as tears swept down my face that this is one of my favorite passages, because the promises are so good to someone like me who is praying that her grown children will return to the Lord.

I hope this simple word, banner, brings you encouragement. God’s banner is filled with His promises to us. It ends with Isaiah 49:25 KJV where it states, “I will contend with him that contends with you, and I will save your children.” I continue to stand and wait with spiritual eyes, knowing that with God all things are possible. I wait for God draw them back to Him. The enemy has done a superb job in deceiving them; it’s been a nightmare. But God, with one word, turned my helplessness into watching what He will do. The banner. He has it over you, too. Don’t you just love the Lord?

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

About the author: Dana Peters-Colley is a creative who loves Jesus. She has been tucked away developing a brand of Christian parable books, faith-based fiction, and inspirational books as well as screenplays. Dana holds a B.A. in journalism, studied screenwriting at U.C.L.A., and is a former long-time Disney creative leader and producer. When the Lord got ahold of Dana everything marvelously changed. She is developing a heavenly-inspired brand line that brings stories to build family, inspire discovery, and teach kingdom ways. See danapeterscolley.com to connect to her spiritual blog and gaze at her adventures.

Do you have a friend you want to receive Jesus into their lives? Do you want to receive how much God loves and values you? Do you want to be empowered to do the impossible? Then, you have to know who you are! Treasure will take you into the realization of God’s love for you as you discover you are His treasure.

Join the conversation: What does God’s banner over you mean to you today?

Sweet Words to a Stressed-Out World

by Karen Wingate

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”  Proverbs 12:25 NIV

I feel rather s­orry for Amazon workers.

Recently, my husband and I moved from an isolated rural setting to a big city with an Amazon distribution center three miles from our home. Within 24 hours after placing our first order, an Amazon delivery truck stopped at our driveway. Ah! That’s how Amazon could boast, “25,000 items delivered to your doorstep in two hours.” I could get used to this, I thought.

That’s the problem. I hope I don’t get used to it.

Our hurry-up society likes to push us to new records and accomplishments. Lunch at the speed of a microwave. Athletic record setting for faster times and higher scores. High tech music performances that make a performer wannabe feel inadequate because it’s not perfect enough.

For years we’ve been told to reach higher, try harder, and run faster.  Is faster really better? Is better and more any more perfect?  And what if, at our accelerated pace, we’re running in the wrong direction? Attaining what was never meant to be ours?

In the case of speedy delivery Amazon service, what’s the tradeoff? Stressed out workers who are asked to do the impossible. A society who learns they don’t have to wait for anything and who forgets the impact our convenience has on others.

Our world’s incessant demand for more, better, and faster is not the lifestyle God intended us to have. The Bible tells me to trust God for my needs (Proverbs 3:5), wait on Him (Psalm 27:14), and put the needs of others before myself (Romans 12:10).

As a Christian, how then should you live? It might feel like you are swimming upstream, but determine in your own life to view time, perfection, and accomplishment from God’s view. You also have a fabulous opportunity to minister to the people around you who are worn out from their high demand world. A few words of kindness will be enough to show them not everyone expects them to kick up their performance by a notch or more.

Words like:

  • “Take your time.”
  • “That’s okay. You did your best.”
  • “You go ahead. I can wait.”
  • “How can I help you?”
  • “Thanks for going the extra mile for me.”
  • “You did a great job.”

Will our reassuring words do any good toward relieving stress? Yes. They will. A lot. Your kindness and concern have the potential to reverberate for perhaps the span of a lifetime.

I was a young, anxious teenager when I went shopping one day with my sweet Aunt Charlotte. I freaked at the line of people behind me in the checkout line, and in grabbing my change, I fumbled coins and became even more distressed.

Aunt Charlotte’s voice murmured in my ear. “Stand where you are. Put your money in your wallet now. Take your time. They’ll wait for you.” Her kind words taught me that haste really does make waste, doing a job well is more important than doing it fast, and to resist assuming that other people won’t wait for me.

Gracious words that allow time, space, and room for mistakes may not sound like much, but they will stand out in stark contrast to the constant barrage of a do-better, move-faster world. Your sweet words will make your listener feel like someone has lifted weights from their shoulders; they’ll feel reenergized to keep moving forward.

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

About the author: Karen Wingate is learning to take life at a slower pace after her husband retired from 33 years of located church ministry. She is author of the soon to be released book, “With Fresh Eyes: 60 Insights into the Miraculously Ordinary from a Woman Born Blind,” published by Kregel.

Join the conversation: What gracious words and acts can you express to diffuse the stress in those around you?

The Gift of Words

by Shirley Brosius

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 BSB

After taking in mail for a friend while she vacationed, she sent me a gift—six small LED flashlights. How practical, I thought, as I distributed them throughout our home. When I called to thank her, she said, “You know why I got you those flashlights, don’t you?” She explained that once, when our power had failed and I was caught without a light, I told her I was going to have my husband put flashlights in every room of the house. She wanted to furnish those lights. My friend remembered my words months after I had spoken . . . and forgotten . . . them.

Our words—whether delightful or derogatory—impact others. They plant seeds. And their words affect us. I still remember the words of a patient pastor to always read the Bible in context when I, as a new Christian, visited him with questions about Bible passages. I still remember the words of teachers who told me I could go to college to become a teacher even though I lacked finances.

A woman once approached me at a church bazaar to tell me how much it meant to her when, 40 years earlier, I invited her to serve on her high school yearbook staff. She said she would never have had the confidence to join had I not encouraged her. It turned out to be such a positive experience for her. Truth be told, she was doing me, as yearbook advisor, a favor. She was an excellent student, and I knew she would be an asset to the staff. But little did I know how insecure she felt.

The words we hear may bless our lives, but I also hear the cruel words of teasing classmates echo across the decades. They knocked down my self-esteem and made me feel bad about getting good grades and having a lanky body.

An older sister often joked that my legs were my redeeming feature. I suppose she meant it as a compliment, but it made me wonder what was wrong with the rest of me. Why did the rest of my body need redemption?

In his letter, James warned of the destruction words could cause: “See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tone is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and set on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell” (James 3:5-6 NASB). Just a few misplaced words have potential to change a life, for better or worse.  

We dole out words on a daily basis—to children, spouses, coworkers, friends and even store clerks. We communicate through emails, text messages, phone calls and face-to-face conversations. Do we think about the messages we send through the words we choose? Do we realize that we plant seeds or sow weeds with our words?

What words do we allow to enter our minds? Do the characters we watch on television show grace or do they promote crudeness and rudeness in relationships? Do our children learn words of disrespect for authority by the shows we allow them to watch? Even game show hosts may promote sarcasm and disdain for the inept.

As they say, “garbage in/garbage out.” We need to watch not only our own words but the words of others to evaluate how they affect us and our families. Do they make you doubt your uniqueness as a person made in the image of God?

Go out today and encourage someone to use their God-given abilities to step up to the plate, whatever that plate may be. Mind your words because others mind them as well. Plant seeds and block weeds from growing in your garden of relationships.

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

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About the author: An author and speaker from Millersburg, Pennsylvania, Shirley Brosius has written Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories about Women Who Made a Difference and coauthored Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides. She speaks at women’s events throughout the east as a member of Friends of the Heart, three women who share God’s love through messages, skits and song. Shirley has a daughter waiting in heaven, and she enjoys passing on inspirational thoughts and books to two married sons and five grandchildren.

Join the conversation: What impacts have the words of others had on your life?

Resurrection Victory

by Julie Zine Coleman

O Death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?… Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:55, 57 NASB
 
Once only inhabited by a small Japanese civilian community of sulfur miners and sugar farmers, the island of Iwo Jima became a stronghold of pivotal importance in World War II. As the war progressed, Japan evacuated its citizens from the island and prepared for the inevitable Allied forces invasion. A huge number of bunkers, hidden artillery, and an amazing eleven miles of tunnels were in place by 1944. Twenty-one thousand soldiers were at the ready when Allied forces began firing on Iwo Jima.
 
On the fourth day of the battle, the first objective was captured: Mount Suribachi. Five marines and a Navy corpsman were photographed raising the American flag at its summit. That moment is now immortalized in the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington, VA.
 
Once the high ground was secure, the invasion slowly moved northward. Very heavy fighting continued as Allied forces eventually took the airfields and remainder of the island. The Japanese fighters considered surrender dishonorable and most tenaciously fought to the death. A month into the invasion, 300 Japanese soldiers launched a last-ditch effort counterattack. The casualties were heavy on both sides, but the next day, the island was officially declared secured by the Allies.

Even so, over 3,000 Japanese troops remained in the island’s maze of caves and tunnels. More American lives were lost as they worked their way through the tunnel system routing those Japanese that refused to surrender. The battle may have been won, but the enemy continued to fight, determined to take as many with them in their demise as possible.

Yesterday on Easter Sunday we celebrated the greatest victory the world has ever witnessed. The Son of God, after three days in the grave, rose from the dead. No longer are we under condemnation for our sin. It was dealt with, paid for, and cast from us as far as the east is from the west. The victory is already ours because Christ has already won. “When you were dead in your transgressions,” Paul wrote, “He made you alive together with Him . . . having canceled out the certificate of debt . . . having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-15 NASB). Sin no longer holds us slave in its power.
 
The enemy has also been soundly defeated. Satan’s future final demise is already recorded in the Bible, when he is cast into the lake of fire to suffer torment for eternity (Revelation 20:10). The war is over.
 
Yet while victory has been recorded with indelible ink, the skirmishes still go on. While we were given new life at our salvation, we still struggle against our old sinful nature which relentlessly demands satisfaction, and we fight the enemy ever-tempting us to sin. As Paul wrote the Galatians, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Galatians 5:17 NASB) The war may be over, but the fighting continues on.
 
These skirmishes are a part of the life God expects us to live. In fact, He carefully equips His soldiers to fight the good fight. Satan may have lost the war, but he is deadly serious about taking as many down with him as possible before the last nail is driven into his coffin. So we have been issued a belt of truth (a great thing when you are up against the Father of Lies!), a breastplate of righteousness, and shoes bearing the gospel message in which to stand firm. Our shield is one of faith, which can deflect every fiery dart of doubt and accusation the enemy can launch at us. Our head is protected by the helmet of our salvation. And last but not least, the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, contains all the knowledge we need to win each skirmish, which mostly, after all, takes place in the mind.
 
We may even lose some of these skirmishes, especially when we attempt to fight in our own strength. But it is important to remember in those moments of depressing defeat: the war’s victor has already been determined. The Good Guy won. Our hope is not in the circumstances of this world. It is in the future God has prepared for us, “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4 NASB). Nothing that happens to us on earth will impact the surety of our salvation. The battle belongs to the Lord.

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

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About the authorJulie Zine 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 crafting. 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 revealing 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: What has been the most meaningful to you this Easter Sunday?

Accepting and Utilizing Your Gift

by Candy Arrington

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 NLT

Have you ever encountered someone who was hesitant to receive gifts? In my lifetime, I’ve known a few people who didn’t want to be given gifts. Initially, I thought being given a gift embarrassed them in some way, but later determined it was because they didn’t want to be obligated to the giver, feeling they had to repay in kind.

Years ago, my husband and I participated in an in-depth Bible study that included a spiritual gifts inventory. Not only did we each do a personal assessment, the group members also assessed each other. When I tallied my scores, and the highest was in the category of prophecy, I was upset. I was even more upset when everyone in the group also scored me in the prophecy category. When I heard the results, I looked around the room and said, “But I don’t want to be a prophet!”

The leader replied, “But you are. That is your gift. Receive it.”

Historically, prophets were unpopular. In Scripture, prophets were ostracized, criticized, and sometimes killed for delivering God-given messages.

Why couldn’t my spiritual gift be something happy and heartwarming like hospitality or mercy? Why was I given the un-fun, unwanted gift of prophecy?

At the time I took the inventory, I didn’t fully understand what the gift of prophecy meant. I envisioned standing in a group of people delivering messages about the future that no one wanted to hear. I didn’t realize God had other ways of using me to speak His messages.

Several years after I learned my gift, our group re-gathered for a retreat. Early the second morning, God woke me. Words swirled in my head, forming phrases. I got up and could hardly get my notebook and pen in hand fast enough to capture the sentences that were pouring from my mind.

Later, when I shared what I had written with the group, many asked for a copy of my words. That weekend, I began to realize how God planned to use my spiritual gift. I wasn’t supposed to forecast the future. Rather, I was called to write God-given words of hope, encouragement, and help for readers, right now.

Like me, perhaps you’ve been hesitant to use your spiritual gift. Maybe you don’t like your gift or feel uncomfortable accepting and implementing it. Don’t worry. The gift God gave you is uniquely designed for you. If you’re willing to accept it, God will equip you to utilize your gift for your benefit, the church’s benefit, and for his glory.

Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be use in the service of others. So use your gift well. 1 Peter 4:10 CEV


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

Candy Arrington

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

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

Join the conversation: What is your calling?

Reserving my Spot

by Deborah McCormick Maxey

            I’m always among the first to register for a favorite writer’s conference held at a massive complex, tucked into the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. What a blessing to learn from top professionals in Christian writing, share laughs and meals, crazy costumes on genre night and deep and moving praise time together. Not to mention that my mountain girl heart soars looking out on the majestic scallops of those blue mountains lining the horizons as I walk in the woods. I feel so close to God in outdoor cathedrals.  

But the reason I book super early is I always want the same room. Every year. You might wonder why I would request a room that overlooks a huge parking lot and the backside of a mountain.  But the reason is beyond the asphalt and the wooded hillside directly across from my window. What draws me to that room requires me to look up. Like the first step in worship.

High atop the hill that my window faces is a massive white cross that can be seen on the interstate from miles away. I look forward to doing my devotions every morning in a small chair pulled up to the window and focusing first on that enormous cross and what it represents.

No matter what I do throughout the conference, when I unlock that door and return to my room, I feel a sense of home at the foot of the cross.

But the first morning of the last conference I attended, when I prepared to do my devotions, I positioned the chair and opened the drapes only to stand in stunned silence, flooded with disappointment. Fog. Fog so dense I couldn’t even see the parking lot.

After I read my devotions, I turned to prayer, starting with praise.

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)

So, digging deep, I thanked God for the fog and whatever reason He had for it. Within minutes warm tears of gratitude slid down my cheeks. I felt His presence, loving me with a fog lesson, recognizing that even though I could not see the cross, I knew for certain that it was still there. In those times when it seems as though my prayers hit the ceiling or I pray but don’t feel Him near me, it is just like the fog, my limitation. My emotions and thoughts, seasons, years, cultures, government, even white crosses on a hill can change. But not God.

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 (KJV)  

My worry, doubt, fear, disconnection, or emotional numbness is only a temporary internal fog.

We walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7(KJV) 

I am so grateful that unlike a manmade sculpture our Father is indestructible, steadfast, unchanging, and waiting faithfully in the fog of my humanness with outstretched arms. Arms that reach as far as the east is to the west (Psalms 103:1 KJV), to welcome me back from my internal nearsightedness.

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

About the author: A licensed therapist, Deborah McCormick Maxey retired from her counseling practice in 2020 to joyfully invest her energy in writing Christian fiction, devotions, and her website that focuses on miracles.  Her debut novel, The Endling is available for preorder on Amazon, and will be released by Firefly Southern Fiction/Iron Stream Media, May11, 2021. https://deborahmaxey.com

Join the conversation: What Scriptures have encouraged your heart lately?

Strengthened in Prayer and Lion-Aware

by Kelly Wilson Mize @KellyWilsonMize

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5: 8 (NLT)

Most people either love cats or despise them. I am most definitely a cat person: I love small cats, big cats, house cats, and wildcats. Cats are strong, independent, and beautifully graceful creatures. 

One species of big cat especially fascinating to me is the lion.  No zoo visit is complete without seeing the King of the Jungle. But while captivating to observe from a safe distance, this extraordinary creature has the power to be deadly.

Did you know that male lions weigh around 400 pounds, and can reach running speeds of up to 50 miles per hour? A lion’s roar can be heard from up to five miles away! As intriguing as they are, I would never want to share personal space with a hungry lion.

Peter warns believers that our enemy, Satan, is like a roaring lion. He roams around just looking for someone to attack, devour, and utterly destroy. A lion attack is horrific; the process is graphic and violent.

Have you experienced a season in your life when you felt you were under attack?

Peter prefaces the above verse with words of comfort and encouragement–to prepare us for the inevitable times in our lives when we will experience attack from our enemy. He writes: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).

Then, only after we are assured of God’s great love and care, we read the warning: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NLT). 

Here’s another interesting fact about lions: they hunt for food mostly in the dark hours between dusk and dawn. How many times do we wake in the middle of the night, plagued with worry, doubt, loneliness, or fear? The lion is most dangerous at a time when there is an absence of light. 

So what can we do to protect ourselves from the enemy’s powerful attack? We welcome the Light! God’s word continues by telling us exactly what to do! Verse 9 says:

  • Stand firm.
  • Be strong in your faith. 
  • Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.

Don’t you just love it when God’s word gives us clear, step-by-step instructions? We are to stand firm, be strong, and remember that we are not alone. Through God’s Word, His presence, and the accountability of other believers, we are able to withstand the violent attacks of the Prince of Darkness. Together.

But verse 10 offers the best news of all. After we have suffered through the pursuit, we will be restored, supported, strengthened, and given a firm foundation upon which to stand. Through His amazing grace and power—a power that is exponentially stronger than any roaring, prowling enemy—God will redeem us. Because even the King of the Jungle is no match for the King of Kings.

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Strengthened in Prayer and Lion-Aware – encouragement from @KellyWilsonMize on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother of two, educator, and freelance writer with a master’s in education and 20 years of published writing experience. She has written numerous articles, interviews, and curriculum projects, and has contributed to seven books. Credits include LifeWay, Bethany House, Guideposts, Group Publishing, (in)courage, and many others. You can find out more about Kelly at kellywilsonmize.com.

Join the conversation: Have you experienced an attack from the enemy recently?

As Far as Accountability Is Concerned

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I was scrubbing furiously, trying to get the hot fudge stain out of my fave workout shirt. And then…the revelation. It was like, “Oh hello, irony. For a minute I didn’t see you there.”

Not that the new diet isn’t going well or anything. Because I don’t think it actually counts as eating badly if you only ate your husband’s dessert because you forgot you already ate yours. Doesn’t count. Because, “forgot.”

It’s not that I haven’t tapped into all the diet helps presently out there. But I considered I might not be doing it right when I started typing “healthy recipes” into my phone and auto-correct filled in with “pudding cake and cheese dip and lies.” Also, auto-correct can be very judgey.

In the meantime, I’ve found there are stages a person must go through before accepting a new diet: 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Donut…and then I’m not exactly sure what comes after number four. Very probably another number four.

The other day, after too many fours, I knew I needed some human accountability. I may, however, have overdone it there. This afternoon I was reaching for an oatmeal cream pie when a sniper fired a warning shot.

Still, maybe I shouldn’t concern myself as much with sniper fire as I do with taking accountability seriously. Would you believe I’m actually scripturally compelled to “be concerned”?

“And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, HCSB).

The Greek word translated “be concerned” means to so focus the mind—to consider this thing so carefully—that the result will be the right response. And this “be concerned” is in the present tense, so it’s not simply referring to a one-time consideration. We’re called to seriously and perpetually think of ways we can promote love and good works, encouraging everyone in our sphere of influence to love Jesus by the way they love and serve each other.

And isn’t it almost another irony that we promote those things as we ourselves live in that love? That means our accountability is loving—no bullets. It’s not even “judgey.” It’s more “stir-uppy”—stirring up others to love and good works.

This kind of accountability looks best when no one is aiming for condemnation or judgment. Not for wounding or shaming or angering, either. It can happen when we lovingly confront. But it should never be our aim. Loving, not sniping. It’s good to let humility be the order of the day when someone else is concerned enough to “stir” us as well—even if we don’t necessarily agree. The truth is, we don’t exactly have an auto-correct, either.

O Lord, may we love You better as each of us buoys the other. May we inspire and encourage—and be inspired and encouraged—to love you, love each other, and to love serving.

Even though it’s not a new message, we can decide to be okay with reminders that we’re accountable to one another. Because, never mind the desserts and the four stages of donuts or whatever, sometimes…“forgot.”

TWEETABLE
As Far as Accountability Is Concerned – encouragement 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.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

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: How do you build up the believers around you?

Us Loves You

by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior.” Psalm 25:5a NIV

My family attended a Baptist church while I was growing up and no excuse was good enough to get out of going, barring coma or gushing blood. As a preteen, I was quite annoyed to be stuck in Sunday night “Training Union” class. I did not wish to be either trained or unified with the other unfortunates, like me, who were forced to be there.

So many more important things to do – bike paths to forge; Lost in Space to watch on TV, homework to ignore.

Instead, I was held captive week after week by Mr. and Mrs. Buford, a childless, elderly couple, neither of whom had completed eighth grade in order to help their families scratch a living on farms during the depression. They owned no television, nor microwave, and had never been on an airplane. Why, they had no idea what a video game was. Unfathomable.

Yet there they were, week after week, month after month, faithful as the springtime rain. I and my know-it-all cronies scoffed at their country bumpkin speech. So uncool.

“Us loves you.”

It was the phrase with which Mrs. Buford started every class. An occasional snicker would burst from one of us enlightened scholars, but the Buford’s never seemed to notice.

Soon they’d have us racing to look up Scriptures, learn the books of the Bible, and win candy for answering Bible story questions. Of course, we acted as if none of this was the least bit fun. Yawn.

“Us loves you.”

Mrs. Buford would close the hour with the same ridiculous phrase, a warm smile crinkling her careworn face. Somehow, I remember like it was yesterday.

Fast-forward thirty years.

My husband Chuck and I are surrounded by a group of 12- to-14-year-olds, all of whom wish they were elsewhere. We are trying to teach them scriptural principles and bring God’s Word to life.

They’re only interested in who got busted Saturday night.

Chuck asks a boy with a purple Mohawk whose father is in prison to read a specific passage of Scripture aloud in answer to his question about how we know the Bible is true. The boy reads haltingly, unsure of what some of the words mean.

We explain it in terms he can understand. He’s still unconvinced. Skeptical. Mistrusting. But for some reason, he keeps coming back. I notice that he listens, really listens, when one of the other boys asks, “Miz Coty, why do you meet with us every week, when all we do is eat your food, wreck your house, and give you one big headache?”

The answer travels through time and registers in my mind as if I’m hearing it for the first time.

“Us loves you.”

Faithfulness has a resonating voice, doesn’t it? In this world of casual abandonment, when we choose to faithfully serve God by using our gifts and abilities to help others in His name, His love shines through like a lantern piercing the darkness.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you” (Proverbs 3:3 NIV).

We may not preach globally, or teach from an elevated platform, or have more than a handful of Facebook friends, but if we show up day after day, week after week, faithfully glorifying our Savior in the ministry He has custom-designed for us, He’ll be there too.

Whether we’re riding herd on a passel of squirming preschoolers, sweeping up crumbs after a home Bible Study, or invisibly running the worship service sound system, Papa God promises to bless us and keep teaching us the eternal truth of His ways.

And that’s the way I want to go. How about you, my friend?

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Us Loves You – insight and encouragement from @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deboracotyAbout the author: Debora Coty lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband, Chuck, two grown children and four energetic grandbuddies. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Debora’s newest release, Too Blessed to be Stressed for Momsaddresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: Have you ever felt frustration that your ministry is too small? How has/is God using your efforts for His kingdom?

God’s Not-So-Random Acts

by Patti Richter

A friend of mine has experienced God’s very present help in trouble. But after seeing so many signs of His watchful care, she worried that people might not believe her stories.

Luann and her family endured several years of great stress due to an injustice. A federal court case connected to her husband’s former business partners hung over them like a dark storm and threatened their well-being. Meanwhile, her parents’ health declined and they died within months of each other. And these events were only birth pangs before greater suffering set in. Luann’s husband received a sentence of restitution and prison for a wrong he had nothing to do with.

For those of us who stood with this family during their one-after-another losses, the story of Job came to mind. But we also observed God’s mercies on their behalf. Noticeably, the timing of each painful event seemed remarkable in the best possible way.

During this long season, Luann began to experience unusual assurances of God’s tender care, and they came in bright and living color. On many of her lowest days, a cardinal would perch within clear view. Luann could not recall ever seeing these birds come close before this time of suffering. Not knowing their official name, she had always called them redbirds. The cardinal visits provided much comfort since Luann believed the Lord was sending them her way.

One bird came calling after Luann’s family returned home from her father’s burial. Too sorrowful to do anything but seek the Lord’s encouragement, Luann was resting in a chair when she noticed a chirping sound. She jumped up to open the window shutter behind her—knowing what she’d find. The cardinal stood on a sprinkler head in the yard as if waiting for her. The beautiful sight consoled Luann’s heavy spirit that day, and she cried in amazement over God’s goodness.

Though Luann was thankful for each close-up view of a cardinal, she initially wondered whether God truly directed birds in this particular way. When she expressed her misgivings to me, I recalled the Old Testament account of a prophet sustained by the Lord through birds.

Elijah had risked his life by delivering God’s message of coming drought to the king of Israel. To protect Elijah, the Lord instructed him to hide in a ravine east of the Jordan river. And the Lord said, “You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.” (1 Kings 17:4, NIV). The birds obeyed the Lord; they brought Elijah bread and meat each morning and evening until he received his next assignment from God.

Luann called me one day to share yet another cardinal encounter. Afterward, I spent a few minutes resting on an outdoor settee with my dog curled up beside me as I marveled over God’s encouragement supplied to my friend. I further considered how I needed a bit of cheer for myself. That’s when a bird—a cardinal—flew down and perched atop the chair next to me. My bird-crazy dog somehow remained still, perhaps spellbound like me. We gazed in silent wonder for a long half-minute until our visitor flew away.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning…. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.                                                                                        Lamentations 3:22-23, 25, (NIV)

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God’s Not-So-Random Acts – encouragement from Patti Richter on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Patti Richter headshot 2017-1nAbout the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She writes and edits global mission stories for The Gospel Coalition and her faith essays appears at BlueRibbonNews.com.

Patti is the co-author of Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of SufferingIt 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 received encouragement from the Lord lately? Please share!