Serve the List, or Enlist to Serve?

by Rhonda Rhea

Set your hearts on the Lord, and worship only Him. 1 Samuel 7:3 CSB

List-maker, list-maker, make me a list. But wait, make it for someone else, not me. Because I already have 8000 lists of my own, thanks. A family member told me the other day that my stacks upon stacks of lists make me look like an organized person. Then we laughed and laughed. Because we both know me.

I don’t make all these lists because I’m organized. I make them because I’m not. Those who know me know I make lists and lists, and lists of lists. In list form. (When it comes to this kind of devotion, I’m hoping to become a speciaLIST.)

How do I love my lists? Let me list the ways. Well, it’s all of them. All the ways of list loving. So anytime I misplace the list of the hour, I confess that my tendency is to go a little ballistic. Ba-LIST-ic? See what I did there?

Even aside from mine, there are so many types of lists. Wish lists and waiting lists. Short lists and shopping lists. Hit lists and honey-do lists. Backlists, blacklists, and bucket lists. And while you don’t want to make the injured list, you might be disappointed if you didn’t make the Christmas list. I could try to make a complete laundry list of all the different kinds of lists, but I think that’s probably unrea-LIST-ic.

Not only am I a list maniac, but I also tend to be a mania maniac. As in, my lists often have more to-do’s than any one person could ever possibly get to done.

Could I get real here? I have to force myself to examine my list regularly—daily, really—and to ask myself hard questions. Am I serving the list? Or am I serving the King? Have I put items on that list that are outside of His calling on my life? Have I said any yeses where I should’ve said no? Have I added manic and panic, and, by doing so, hindered service to my King?

Instead of serving a list, instead of bowing down to the expectations of others, and instead of bending to my own sometimes unreasonable expectations of myself, I want to take a knee before my King. I want to enlist in His service. It’s not so much about the listing. It’s so much more about the EN-listing.

In 1 Samuel 7:3, Samuel tells the people of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, get rid of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths that are among you, set your hearts on the Lord, and worship only Him” (CSB). He’s telling the people that if they’re genuinely and completely giving themselves to their God, what follows is getting rid of idols and anything else they might love more than the Lord.

The people followed Samuel’s leading, and God rewarded them with favor and His presence. When the Philistines attacked, God gave Israel victory: “So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israel’s territory again. The Lord’s hand was against the Philistines all of Samuel’s life” (1 Samuel 7:13 CSB).

PhiLISTines? Delisted. While there are blacklists and hit lists and various other naughty lists, how wonderful it is that we never have to find ourselves on God’s “subdued” list.

Father, help us remember—maybe even write down and remember—that we don’t serve a list. We serve You, our mighty God. That we don’t need to fret about meeting anyone’s expectations but Yours. May we daily bow before You, our King, and enlist in Your service, with whole hearts of dedication and worship.

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

About 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 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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 41NYe0+mkOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation: How do you keep focused on Jesus to avoid problems with your lists?

Advertisement

A Culture of Temporary Relationships

by Jennifer Slattery

Is our culture creating the “walk-away kind”?

Granted, relationships have always been tough—to form and to keep, and sometimes we do need to sever unhealthy ties, especially if a particular person routinely steals our joy, effectiveness, or peace. But with all of the “toxic people” graphics I’ve seen in my social media feed the past few years, I worry we’ve learned to label every unpleasant interaction with imperfect people as poisonous. That we’ve found ways to justify remaining planted within our comfort zones surrounded by those who tell us what we want to hear.    

The other day, a friend shared recent interactions with her adult daughter. The two had issues to work through, false perceptions to correct, and misunderstandings to clear up. Initially, both parties appeared interested in seeking resolution and health, until my friend began setting boundaries and speaking truth regarding past issues. Having read the texts, I knew she’d chosen her words carefully and presented them with gentleness and love. In essence, she was inviting her daughter into something beautiful and whole. But to reach that place, they both needed the courage to be honest with themselves and with one another.

The latter comes much easier, doesn’t it? Admitting we’re broken and a bit of a mess, however, tends to prick some of our deepest insecurities and fears, primarily because few of us truly understand how to live anchored in grace. Unfortunately, most of us have had way too much experience with the converse. Living in our profoundly broken world among profoundly broken people, we’ve grown accustomed to others cutting us off, rather than inviting us close, when we fail to meet their expectations. This is especially true for those, like my friend’s daughter, who don’t know Jesus.

This should not, however, be true of you and I. Because here’s the thing—if responding to others with Christ-like love came easily, such interactions wouldn’t leave our watching world confounded. Yet, Jesus, the One who laid His life down so you and I might live, stated without any disclaimers, that others would know us by our love. True, healthy, honest, and growing love.

The type that takes work, humility, incredible bravery, and perseverance.

In Acts 2:1, the Bible says the first century Christ followers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (NIV).

This passage may read familiar to you. It did to me, only this morning one word I’d previously skimmed over grabbed my attention. These men and women devoted themselves to one another and grew together in Christ. Theirs weren’t casual interactions they engaged in when convenient or conversations felt comfortable. They remained steadfast and diligent, persevering with “intense effort” and at times “despite difficulty.”

No doubt there were many times when it would’ve been much easier to walk away. Just as it will be for us today.

We will often find it easier to:

  • Self-protect and isolate than to deepen our relationships and risk getting hurt.  
  • Feed our pride than to cultivate the humility necessary to break down barriers, resolve conflicts, and heal hurts.
  • Hide behind our well-rehearsed, cheery Sunday morning smiles and slogans rather than  allowing others to see our imperfections.
  • Attack rather than receive, defend rather than hear, and isolate rather than grow. 

But none of those behaviors will bring the relationship depth our souls crave. To the contrary. When we choose to live like the world, we tend to find ourselves in the same lonely and fearful places into which everyone else has fallen. We begin to experience the abundant life that Christ promised, however, when we push past the fears and sinful tendencies that keep us in bondage to boldly seek Jesus, His people, and His ways.

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2 NIV

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

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

Faith Over Fear (podcast) - Jennifer Slattery, Jodie Bailey and Shellie  Arnold | Listen Notes

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

Join the conversation: Do you have a relationship that has moved past the shallow into something deeper? What made the difference?

Camping Anyone?

by Sheri Schofield

Once upon a time, I thoroughly enjoyed camping out in the mountains. At least I think I did. But for some reason, all I can remember now is freezing at night every time I rolled off that thin, rubber mat that was supposed to protect me from the cold, hard ground. Honestly, that is all I remember about camping.

But nostalgia is a strange thing. Somehow, my husband, Tim, wants to camp out again. However, he wants an upgrade on the equipment. So, he bought a tiny camper and tried to tow it home behind his little Suzuki. Bad plan. It caught fire on the way home. Unfortunately, the fire only consumed the Suzuki, not the camper.

I recognize ill omens when I see them.

Tim assures me that the old man who sold it to him, slept in it all year. I seriously doubt that: It has a hole in the roof. “We’ll have some good times in it,” he assured me.

Fat chance. I am not sleeping in that thing! Tim, however, said it is an investment in our retirement. Now I’m worried about his plans for our retirement! I seem to hear the music from “Jaws” getting louder and louder in my brain.

Coincidentally, my daughter married a man who is eerily like her dad. He, too, is enamored with camping out. My daughter called to invite us to camp out in their new little trailer…in Alaska. Burr! “It will be so much fun!” she tells me.

I hate to be a party pooper, but I am not camping out in another tiny trailer with three other people! “At our age,” I tell her, “we have to use the restroom more than once during the night. And we snore.”

“Oh,” she says after a long pause. “It’s not going to work, is it?”

I can imagine how Sarah felt when Abraham said, “Honey, God told me to leave town and go to a new land where we will live in tents and herd sheep and goats and camels and move around a lot. It will be so much fun!”

No wonder Sarah was barren. With all that exercise, her body probably refused to add childbearing to her burden. That’s what happens sometimes to women devoted to aerobics. Have you ever tried to round up sheep on foot? Well. There you are: Aerobics.

On top of that, God had told Abraham he would be the father of many nations. The pressure’s on, Sarah! It’s all up to you! After many years, Sarah got tired and said, “Hey, let my servant girl, Hagar, take over.” Bad idea!

But Sarah’s faith was exhausted from trying to measure up to Abraham’s expectations. Exhausted from moving all the time. Exhausted from trying to conceive a child to build a nation.

Trying to measure up to others’ expectations can be a faith-drain on anyone. If you’re there, know this: God loves you unconditionally. He will give you the strength you need for each day as it arrives. The grace for tomorrow will be there on time. Your future is assured in Jesus. You’ve got a wonderful eternity ahead…and it does not involve camping out!

Jesus said, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may be where I am,” John 14:2-3 (NIV).

Heaven’s going to be a blast!“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NKJV).

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

About 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!

FREE CHILDREN’S PROGRAM!
Sherri offers a free series of video lessons about Jesus and His salvation—for children ages 4 and up. It is available at her website www.sherischofield.com. In this video series, Walk-The-Talk Island, Sheri presents her award-winning book The Prince and the Plan, in 24 video lessons for your children, grandchildren and any others with whom you wish to share. In addition, Campfire provides devotions for children.

Join the conversation: Have you ever caught yourself using someone else’s expectations to measure your success?

Life with Jesus—Travel Light with Arms Linked

by Jennifer Slattery

If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s this: Life will be tough, and you can’t plan for everything. We can wear ourselves out trying by filling our brains with information we hope will help us stand firm through the next recession or global pandemic. Or we can travel light and alert, releasing our fear and expectations, with our arms linked and our hearts set on Christ.

That second option is the only way we can truly run this race well, and we’ll need God’s help to do it. May He inform our prayers and our steps.

Like many of you, I’m anticipating a busy fall, and honestly, I’m feeling a bit nervous. I know God is leading me and is more than sufficient for all I and my team might need. But I also know I’m going to be more dependent on Him, and potentially, others, than ever before. I know, if He doesn’t “come through,” I’ll fail–in so many areas.

And yet, I’m determined not to evaluate my time and assignments through my abilities and limited perspective. Instead, I’m trusting God to lead me step by step and to give me all that I need.

He’s been so faithful. Each morning, as I open my Bible, He lovingly, gently, speaks to my soul, encouraging and preparing me for all that’s ahead. Alerting me to challenges, those obstacles and storms I can’t yet see but He can.

And in response, He urges me to unite myself with His mission-minded children, and to pray, as He instructed His disciples when He sent them out in pairs to preach His truth.

Scripture says, “Now after this,” (“this” is likely referring to when He sent out the 12 in the chapter prior), “the Lord appointed seventy-two others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I am sending you out like lambs in the midst of wolves.Carry no money belt, no bag, no sandals, and greet no one along the way’” (Luke 10:1-4, NASB).

Jesus wanted His disciples to travel light and remain dependent on Him, but He didn’t want them to journey alone. Not only did He pair them up, thus providing them the support they’d need to stand confident and firm when surrounded by “wolves.” But He also told them to ask God to raise others up to help further His mission.

I’m struck by how often I get this backwards. When I see a large assignment, I tend to take off running, recruiting people to help along the way. But notice, Jesus told His disciples to pray first, and not just to pray but to “plead” with God that He would raise up allies and coworkers. This reminds me of the importance of the mission and how much I need co-laborers. I’m to pray for them with the same desperation as if I was praying for myself.

I’m left wrestling with this: When was the last time I felt that level of urgency for those who don’t know Jesus? When did I last surround myself with those brought to tears over the condition of someone’s soul?

How might you answer those same questions?

Lord, help us to live with deeper dependence: dependence on You and one another, because we know this mission of breaking through darkness with light is too big and too important for us to race forward alone. Touch our hearts afresh. Draw us so close to Yourself that our hearts and prayers resembles Yours. Raise up Your children. Ignite our souls, link our arms, and mobilize our feet. 

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

Jennifer Slattery

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

Faith Over Fear (podcast) - Jennifer Slattery, Jodie Bailey and Shellie  Arnold | Listen Notes

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

Join the conversation: Are you working in tandem with others?

When Christ Doesn’t Fit Our Expectations

by Jennifer Slattery

He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Isaiah 53:3 NASB

Years ago, in the middle of a crisis, God challenged me to consider how deep my loyalties lay. I needed to consider who He truly was to me. Would I treat Him as a Genie or a motivational guru who offered plithy words of affirmation when I needed an emotional boost, or would I live as if He truly was my Lord?

This was about thirteen years ago, during what I term my “Louisiana experience,” when God’s healing work within me intensified in a way that left me reeling. I felt as if I was reliving key, devastating moments, free-falling into some of my greatest fears.

I wanted Him to fix my circumstances–immediately. To save our house, save our finances, and really, our way of life.

But Christ wanted to fix my soul. So, in the middle of my desperate prayers, He asked, “Do you love Me now?”

In other words, “If I don’t answer your prayers as you hope, will you still choose Me?” He was challenging me to evaluate my expectations and toss them, if need be.

Some 2,000 years ago, the men and women of Nazareth faced a similar choice. Would they accept that Jesus, their neighbor and friend, was the long-promised Messiah? They must’ve heard about all the miracles He’d performed. How He’d healed people of their diseases, cast out demons, and even raised a dead girl to life. The people were amazed by all He did and said, until He made it clear, He wasn’t just a prophet or well-spoken teacher. He wasn’t just Someone out to better their day. He was God’s anointed Savior, His Son, with the full authority that entailed.

In the synagogue at Nazareth, He read from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor …Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-19, 21 NIV).

Granted, the Jews wanted a Savior; just not the One standing before them. No. They wanted a much more regal, more prestigious, and more political, less … rustic Messiah. And so they scoffed, rejecting the freedom Christ offered because it didn’t come packaged as they’d expected.

I’m no so different from them. While I’ve accepted God’s free gift of salvation, there’ve been times when I’ve resisted His Spirit. I’ve learned, however, after stumbling down numerous exhausting dead ends, that His is the only path that leads to freedom. He truly did come to bring good news to the poor and freedom for the oppressed and enslaved.

What Jesus read to the people in that Nazarene synagogue some 2,000 years ago, was a prophecy given during a dark time in Israel’s history. After a short period of revival, the people had once again slipped into idolatry. God warned them, again and again, if they didn’t repent, judgment would come. But even then, God wouldn’t abandon them forever. Life wouldn’t always be hard and painful; eventually, jubilee, a day of joy and freedom, would come.

God makes that same promise to us. Whether we’re suffering the consequences of our sin or perhaps sin that’s been done to us, we can trust good will come. His heart is for us always. When we remember that He truly did come to set the captive free, we’ll find it easier to surrender to His lead, even when His plans or methods don’t match our temporary expectations.   

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

Jennifer Slattery

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

Faith Over Fear (podcast) - Jennifer Slattery, Jodie Bailey and Shellie  Arnold | Listen Notes

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

Join the conversation: Have your expectations of God ever let you down?

His Terms, Not Ours

by Julie Zine Coleman

“It is a fundamental principle in the life and walk of faith that we must always be prepared for the unexpected when we are dealing with God.”      D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The stream of pilgrims entering the city had been steady for several days. It was time for Passover, and every male living within fifteen miles of the city was required to come to celebrate in Jerusalem. One particular group of travelers stood apart from the rest.

As they ascended into town from the Mount of Olives, some of the men began to spread their coats or freshly cut palm branches on the road before them. The object of their tribute came into view, astride a donkey. As He neared the city gate, the surrounding crowd began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” This was obviously no ordinary pilgrim.

The scene was reminiscent of another historical triumphal entry. Antiochus, King of Syria, had desecrated the Temple by offering swine flesh to Zeus at the altar of God. After the battle in which Antiochus was soundly defeated, the victorious Simon Maccabaeus was welcomed into Jerusalem with shouts of joy and branches of palm trees. Now, 150 years later, history seemed to replay itself as Jesus rode into the city. Waving palm branches and shouts of acclamation announced the arrival of another conquering hero.

The crowd believed that Jesus had come to oust their enemies and lead them to political independence. Their expectations were reflected in the very words they shouted. “Hosanna” literally means “save now!” It was a conqueror’s welcome they gave Jesus, but they did not comprehend the kind of conqueror He came to be.  He would score victory over an oppressor, but the oppressor was not Rome. It was the death-grip of sin. He came on His terms, not theirs.

Days later, the crowd was shouting at Jesus again. But this time the words were vastly different: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” He had failed to meet their expectations. And so they rejected Him as their Messiah.

Has God ever failed to meet your expectations? In the two years my mother was dying, I had expectations of God. I would not suffer grief like most people. I had the Lord in my life. I assumed He would be there for me and hold me close and shield me through the process. So I cried out to Him in anticipation, waiting for Him to reveal Himself to me and fill me with peace.

It was like shouting into the wind. I got nothing.

His silence shook my faith to its very foundation. Where was God? This was the hardest trial I had ever encountered. Why was He silent when I so desperately needed Him?

I was hurting so badly I could hardly see straight. I wanted out from the pain. But God had plans for my pain. He would use it to mold me more closely into the image of Christ. I would learn to identify with Him by going through the process of grief and suffering. Most importantly, I would experience a deeper intimacy with Him as I learned to lean on and trust Him on a whole new level. He proved Himself faithful through the crisis. But He came to me on His terms, not mine.

When God seems to let you down, it’s time to look at why you are disappointed. Maybe it’s time to adjust your expectations.

The crowd on Palm Sunday those many centuries ago was looking for a temporary fix. They wanted peace and an easier life. God had something bigger and far better in mind for them. What He would accomplish over the next few days had eternal implications. They would be given a chance of peace with Him, a cure for their sin, and a hope for an eternity in heaven. His goals were far superior to any the crowd could have imagined.

We are limited in our understanding of God’s plan for us. We go for the temporary fix quite often, begging for relief from our temporary discomfort or pain. But He has higher goals for us than that. He will use the pain to accomplish what will afford eternal benefit. His terms are superior to ours. And we can trust Him to deliver far greater things than we can even know to ask.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”       2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NASB  

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

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300

About the author: Julie 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.

Did you know Arise Daily has a book that just released? Arise to Peace is a compilation of devotionals from 72 well-loved authors in the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Julie Coleman served as General Editor for the project. Order your copy today!

Join the conversation: How has God surprised you with better than you could have imagined?

Manger Meditations

By Brenda Poinsett

The season meant to honor Jesus can have the ironic effect of crowding Him out. There is too much to do—shopping, baking, decorating, cleaning. There are too many gifts to buy. There are too many expectations to fulfill. There are too many events to attend. There is too much food. Too much money is spent.

To help me deal with it all, I sometimes place a crude wooden manger (what I’d call “authentic Bethlehem”!) filled with straw by the Christmas tree. It will serve as a tangent reminder of what the season is all about, keeping me centered on Jesus rather than the hustle and bustle.

When the pressures of gift selection (Will she like what I bought?) and gift buying (How will I ever find the money?) close in on me, I sit for a while beside the manger. I reach out and touch the rough wood, and I remember the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth, how He came to establish not a material but a spiritual kingdom. That prompts me to think about how I can spiritually give to others. Money doesn’t necessarily buy the best gifts, and I can give of myself in friendship and ministry long after Christmas is over.

When I feel rushed and agitated by Christmas expectations, I think about what everyone expected of Jesus. He was consistently Himself, maintaining that His kingdom was not the political one people wanted. I remember what He said in a vexing conversation with the religious authorities: “I am Who I Am” (John 8:24, 28). Recalling His words remind me that I am a Christ-follower, as well as a woman who can make choices. I can exercise some control over the kind of Christmas I have.

Sometimes when I move the manger to vacuum, I get a splinter in my hand, reminding me that the first Christmas was not perfect either. Mary and Joseph did not have a perfect place to lay their son. Jesus came into an imperfect world and accomplished His mission through imperfect people. This reminds me to not be surprised when my Christmas does not go perfectly.

I’m sometimes reluctant to entertain during the holidays because my furniture is shabby, the carpet is frayed, and the upholstery on the wingback chair has a big hole in it. (I’ve tried covering it with an afghan in hopes it won’t slip off, but invariably it does, giving me a real appreciation for Jesus’ words, “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed.”) I cringe at the thought of the detail-noticing gazes of the women who will come. When they step through the door, my house will be under their scrutiny.

I reason: I just can’t invite people here…and then I look at the manger. I rub my hand over the coarse wood, and I remember another invited guest. Jesus will be present!

So I breathe, “I am who I am,” pick up my pen, and start addressing invitations. A sense of expectancy begins to rise within me. I look forward to His presence and for a chance to share Him with my guests. I can’t predict what that will look like, but He will be there because I am who I am and He is who He is.

[Jesus] said to them, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that ‘I Am Who I Am…’ Many who heard Jesus say these things believed in him.  John 8:28a, 30 TEV

TWEETABLE
Manger Meditations – insight from Brenda Poinsett on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

brenda poinsett (2)About the author: Brenda Poinsett works with women who want a new lease on life and with adults who want to know Jesus. She does this through writing, speaking and teaching. She’s the author of more than 20 books including Can Martha Have a Mary Christmas. She and some of her family will celebrate Jesus this Christmas at their home near Saint Louis.

The Christmas season can often be a time of great stress and pressure for women, who feel the weight of expectation for a “perfect” holiday. Can Martha have a Mary Christmas is a practical book of meditations that will help the “Martha” in each of us realize that she is entitled to the “Mary” time with Jesus that He desires.

Join the conversation: What stresses you out during this holiday season?

Perception vs. Reality

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.  1 Samuel 16:7 NLT

Preparing for our first beach vacation after the birth of our daughter was a tremendous task. A week away from home with an eight-month-old required planning, coordination, and an inordinate amount of equipment.

Just before dawn on the day of our departure, I hauled various bags, the play-yard, a table-mounted highchair, electric swing, and stroller onto the front porch. As I worked, I noticed a car creeping past our house. The occupants stared. I must have been quite a sight, still dressed in my nightgown and sporting a bed-head.

I went in the house for more items, and when I came out again, the car was making a second pass. The intense scrutiny of this second drive-by raised my discomfort level. Were they “casing the joint,” flagging our house as a target for theft while we were out of town? We had been robbed before, so I was alarmed.

On the third drive-by, the woman in the passenger seat rolled down her window and yelled, “What time does your yard sale start?”

Momentarily confused, it took several seconds for me to comprehend the question. Then it dawned on me. While I knew I was packing for a beach trip, this woman thought I was preparing to hold a yard sale. Annoyed, and slightly embarrassed, I yelled back, “It’s not a yard sale!”

“Are you sure? It looks like a yard sale,” she countered.

Things are not always as they appear at first glance. Our appraisal of people or situations can be influenced by our experiences, perceptions, or expectations. Sometimes, what seems like the right assessment or choice really isn’t. Running ahead of God, instead of waiting for his directive, can create problems we never anticipated.

1 Samuel 16 recounts the story of God sending Samuel to anoint Israel’s next king. Samuel knew the place and the designated family, but not the exact member. When Jesse presented his first son, Eliab, who perhaps carried himself in a regal manner, Samuel assumed he was the chosen one. But the Lord stopped Samuel, telling him a person’s heart matters more than outward appearance. Seven of Jesse’s sons paraded before Samuel, but, at the Lord’s instruction, he rejected them all. Finally, the youngest son, David, who was out shepherding his flock, was brought in from the fields. David’s father didn’t even consider him worth presenting, but Samuel knew immediately that he was God’s chosen one and anointed him.

Our wisdom can never equal God’s. Sometimes what appears to be a good opportunity can lead down a dead-end path, wasting time, energy, and talents. Other times, our perception of people is skewed, and we either miss out on a great connection, or end up being hurt by someone who isn’t what they appeared to be. In seeking God’s guidance before making decisions, we avoid the consequences of mistakes and detours. As James promises: “…if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5 NASB).

The better we know Him, the better we are able to sense His guidance. Through cultivating a relationship with God, we gain His perspective, make wiser choices, and follow His plan for our lives. He’ll never steer us wrong.

TWEETABLE
Perception vs. Reality – insight from @CandyArrington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy ArringtonAbout 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: When has your own judgement or perspective led you astray?

God Is Supposed to Do It My Way

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

My sister-in-law, Leslie, took her ten-year-old daughter, Megan, to the ballet and carefully explained beforehand what Megan would be seeing. But it turned out Megan didn’t quite get the concept.

During the performance, Megan watched the dancers communicating through their dance with a questioning look on her face, like, “This doesn’t make sense.” During one scene, when a male dancer was trying to communicate something to the ballerina, Megan leaned over to her mom and whispered, “Why doesn’t he just tell her?” Megan was troubled at the dancer’s frustration that the ballerina didn’t seem to understand his message.

Leslie replied, “It’s a ballet; they don’t talk.”

During the performance, Megan asked several more times about the lack of verbal communication. She just couldn’t get the non-verbal concept.

When Leslie and Megan returned home, her father asked about the ballet, expecting an enthusiastic response. Megan’s “OK” was definitely not enthusiastic.

Chuck was surprised. “Didn’t you like it, Megan?”

“No, Daddy, it was all in sign language.”

Megan had missed the beauty of the ballet because she expected something different—even though Leslie had tried to prepare her. Her incorrect assumptions had kept her from a wonderful experience.

Sometimes God’s children have the same problem. We expect God to work in a certain way, and when He doesn’t, it’s like He’s communicating in sign language—and we aren’t getting the point.

Maybe you have been waiting for God to do a certain thing. When He hasn’t, you have assumed He hasn’t done anything at all. But maybe your expectations are getting in the way of seeing the ways He is at work in you or others.

Maybe it’s time to release your expectations and believe that He is faithful according to His will. Let’s notice everything God is doing—not just what we are hoping for—and trust His will is best.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:8-11 NASB

TWEETABLE
God Is Supposed to Do It My Way – @KathyCMiller on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy C MillerAbout the author: Kathy Collard Miller loves to travel and has been in more than 25 countries and has spoken in 8 of them. Her passion is to teach about God’s unconditional love and acceptance.  Kathy is the author of more than 50 books. She and her husband, Larry, are lay counselors and write and speak together. They have two children and two grandchildren and make their home in southern California.

Kathy’s recent release is a women’s Bible study. In Heart Wisdom: Daughters of the King Bible Study Series, you will learn to navigate every area of your life through insightful commentary and challenging questions from the wisdom in Proverbs.

Join the conversation: When has God met your expectations differently than you assumed He would?

 

 

Skipping the Valentine Gift

by Michele McCarthy

A wise person demonstrates patience, for mercy means holding your tongue. When you are insulted, be quick to forgive and forget it, for you are virtuous when you overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11 NASB

Ah, the cycles of gift giving! The bountiful, countless gift giving options marrieds appropriate. The “Surely if my husband loved me, he’d make a mental note of any gift I might enjoy, say, for Valentine’s Day or our anniversary. He’d remember the earrings, book or CD I mentioned and tuck the idea-nugget away on the gift giving list he carries in his man-card wallet. I just need to allow him to read my mind” cycle. No pressure there.

Then there’s the “no fail, surprise romantic dinner” rotation. But the steak burned or one of the kids got sick or the business meeting ran long, and dinner went cold. Dinner wasn’t the only thing cold that night.

Close behind: the “Let’s don’t give gifts this year” series. Yet one of you breaks the rule, thinking other said person will break the rule. Oops, the spouse with no gift to give feels like a heel.

All kidding aside, we can, at times, put pressure on our husbands or ourselves…wishing for mind readers that enable becoming the perfect fulfiller of our wants, gifts and dreams—much like the characters in a Hallmark movie. FICTION Hallmark movie, mind you. So much can go wrong and can lead to hurt and unforgiveness.

My husband is a good gift giver; it is often me that messes everything up. One time he bought me a special coffee maker and a beautiful white coffee cup. A sweet remembrance of our trip to Italy and our daily coffee “experiences”—always with a white cup. Poor guy, I hated to tell him I had just decided I needed to cut down my coffee habit. As soon as he has me figured out, I change my mind! Yes, I have returned gifts he has spent precious time finding.

This year, I’m skipping the nicely wrapped Valentine gift. Instead, I’ll offer my Valentine a richer sacrifice. I’d like to become (for him) unoffendable. Yes, what if I never again hold my husband accountable for my happiness, my worth, my value…even at Valentines…gift, no gift, thoughtless gift or greatest gift?

Have I matured enough in my walk with Christ? Am I as easily able to be unoffended with my husband as I am with others? I want to be consistently, kindly unoffendable. In our home. Holiday or not.

Jesus lived it. He gave and gave and whether appreciated or not, loved or not, received or not, beaten or not, He never gave an offended response. He loved continuously and unconditionally. Everyday. Everywhere.

Long ago I received the best LOVE gift ever, one that never fails. Jesus. When He took residence in me, His amazing love toward others, in kindness and truth, was to become who I am. I have the pleasure and power of learning to love like Christ.

Can you hear it? Maybe my husband will hum Nat King Cole singing a new song, “unoffendable that’s who you are…unoffendable both near and far…”

I will get my hubby a funny Valentine card to accompany a noticeable shift in my expectations. The key word being my. As I walk out who I am in Christ, I want to increase my love out of the overflow of Christ’s love for me, no gift expected in return or any need to be returned.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NASB

TWEETABLE
Skipping the Valentine’s Gift – thoughts from Michele McCarthy on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Michele McCarthyAbout the author: A wife to her devoted husband and a mom of two fine young men, two fabulous daughters-in-law and five beautiful grandchildren, Michele McCarthy has served her family faithfully for years. She is now enjoying attending Lifestyle Christianity University and exploring long hidden talents of writing and watercolor. She has written a children’s book, Daddy and Me, that is currently at the publisher. She loves reading, scrapbooking, deep conversations and talking about Jesus.

Join the conversation: How is that gift cycle working for you?