Undos and Do-Overs

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

I love the “undo” button. You know the one on the computer—that little arrow that curves to the left. When you click it, the last thing you did magically reverses. Make a mistake? No problem. Click, it’s fixed! Accidentally deleted something? Not an issue. Click, it’s back!

But “undo” isn’t an option for everything. Like Christmas morning, when I got distracted and “overcooked” the cinnamon rolls. Sadly, it’s not possible to uncook something.

Wouldn’t it be great if life had an “undo” button? I could click it to magically erase the unkind words I blurted. Or wipe out my selfish behavior. Or eliminate the wrong decision that proved to be oh, so bad. I could “undo” all those things that brought unwanted consequences or now weigh heavy on my conscience.

“Do-overs” would be another great life tool. For instance, it would come in really handy when the trials and difficulties of life pile up around us until we’re overwhelmed. When every path forward is blocked we’d just call a do-over. We could simply start over like on one of those puzzle apps. No more moves? Okay, let’s just begin a new game.

Yep. I think undos and do-overs for life would be very popular. When everything is messed up, when nothing is right, we could get a clean slate. Then we could start fresh.

It might sound too good to be true, but for Christians, that’s exactly what we received when we entered into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. A clean slate.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  2 Corinthians 2:17, NIV

Our “old” life seriously needed a do-over. It looked like the ungodly world around us. We were burdened with the weight and consequences of self-centered living, bad decisions, and poor choices. But our “new” life is radically different from the world, holy and set apart to God. A life of holiness brings glorious freedom and joy. Freedom from the weight and consequences of sin.  And joy in a deeper intimacy with our holy God.

Sometimes Christians living the new life of faith can still get off track. We may fall back into old habits or allow the things of the world to distract us from following Christ. But praise God, He continuously invites us to repent and return to Him.

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23 NASB

We will not be perfect in this sinful world. Even as we grow spiritually to be more like Jesus, we will sometimes fall into temptation. But our faithful God will continue to give us second chances, undos, and do-overs until Jesus returns. Then we won’t need them ever again.

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Undos and Do-Overs – insight from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest.

Kathy’s book “Before His Throne” will lead you on a 9-week journey through the book of Malachi to discover what godly fear looks in our daily lives and how this biblical attitude will help you find deeper intimacy with God.

Join the conversation: How does the possibility of a do-over affect your walk with Jesus?

 

Renew a Right Spirit

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 ESV

All was in readiness. Outside, luminaries flickered on the curb. Inside, polished furniture gleamed, a fire crackled on the hearth, strains of Handel’s Messiah filled the house, candles glowed, and mouthwatering aromas wafted from the kitchen. The presents were wrapped, the Christmas china in place, the relatives on the way. Everything was perfect, except for one thing.

I was in a rotten mood. My sour attitude had been building all day like dark thunderclouds on the horizon and now threatened to storm all over the festivities. I was being a grump at the least, and at most, closely impersonating the Grinch.

Circumstances earlier in the day combined to fuel my mood, culminating with a last- minute request to purchase a gift for a family member to give. As I drove around in the cold pouring rain, dashing in and out of crowded stores without finding the requested item, I fumed. Why didn’t she ask me to do this weeks ago? I’m suffering because of her procrastination!

I arrived home hours later to find the children lounging all over recently straightened sofas, pillows strewn across the floor. Their chores remained undone. My husband had gone on some secret Christmas Eve gift-purchasing mission, failing to do the one job I requested of him before leaving. His foray was probably for my benefit, but by this point I didn’t care. As I barked orders to reluctant children, I knew I was being unnecessarily gruff. When my husband returned, all smiles and excitement, I greeted him with a sullen look and a cold shoulder.

Now, I attempted to plaster a polite hostess smile on my face as the relatives arrived. I looked nice and managed warm greetings, but inside, my spirit was anything but right. Following our tradition of having a birthday party for Jesus, we gathered around the piano and sang carols. I heard the words of each song in my heart as my husband played the piano, our beautiful daughter played the violin, and our handsome son sawed away at the cello. Precious grandmothers and great-aunts sang in beautiful harmony.

A lump formed in my throat and tears stung my eyes. What is the matter with me? I am so blessed, but I’ve chosen to allow a negative, ungrateful spirit to overwhelm me on Christmas Eve.

During the reading of the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke 2, I silently asked God to forgive me for my attitude. I thanked Him for home, family, traditions, and most of all, for the precious gift of his son, Jesus. As we circled around a fluffy white confection of a birthday cake and sang “Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus,” I whispered, “And renew a right spirit within me.”

King David wrote Psalm 51 after the prophet Nathan confronted him about his sin. Not only had David committed adultery, he had arranged for Bathsheba’s husband to be put forward in battle, knowing it would ensure his death. Until Nathan confronted him, David ignored his sin. David’s plea for God to cleanse him from his transgressions and create a clean heart within him demonstrates humility and repentance.

All too often we compartmentalize sin and allow it to hamper our relationship with God. Is there something festering within your heart that is stealing your joy today? Search your heart for any sin that you’ve been ignoring. Come clean with God and ask him to restore a right spirit within you. It could make this Christmas Eve especially bright.

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Renew a Right Spirit – 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: Are you struggling to have a happy heart this Christmas season?

Deck the Soul with Boughs of Forgiveness

by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio @DrMaryAnnDiorio

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will…give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins…”   Luke 1:76-77 NASB       

CHRISTMAS!  The word evokes many feelings, depending on our experiences. For some, Christmas is a happy time, filled with beautiful memories and joyful expectations. For others, Christmas is a depressing time, a season one wants “to get over with” as quickly as possible because of bad memories associated with this time of year.

Having ministered to people for many years, I have come to the conclusion that depressing memories at Christmas time are most often related to problems of refusing to forgive. Hurts from the past become more pronounced during the Christmas season, but the reason those hurts still affect us is that we have not let go of the bitterness associated with them. In short, we have not forgiven the people who have hurt us.

Why do most people have such a difficult time forgiving? I believe the main reason is that they do not understand what forgiveness really means. So, what is true forgiveness?

LET’S LOOK FIRST AT WHAT FORGIVENESS IS NOT:

  • Forgiveness is NOT letting someone off the hook.
  • Forgiveness is NOT condoning evil.
  • Forgiven is NOT being a doormat.
  • Forgiveness is NOT having to trust again the person who hurt us.
  • Forgiveness is NOT a feeling.
  • Forgiveness is NOT an option.

NOW LET’S LOOK AT WHAT FORGIVENESS IS:

  • Forgiveness IS taking the person who hurt us off of our hook and placing him on God’s hook, then praying that God will have mercy on him.
  • Forgiveness IS acknowledging that evil was done but choosing to bear the consequences of that evil without retaliation.
  • Forgiveness IS taking charge of our emotions.
  • Forgiveness IS setting boundaries with the person who hurt us, even refusing temporary or permanent interaction with that person, if necessary.  An example would be a wife who is being beaten by her husband.
  • Forgiveness IS a decision.
  • Forgiveness IS obedience to God’s commandment to forgive.

No matter how badly we have been hurt, we must choose to forgive. It’s the best thing we can do for our own well-being. Refusing to forgive is unhealthy for us. It chains us emotionally to the person who hurt us. Forgiveness breaks that chain and sets us free.

What better time is there than the Christmas season to forgive those who have hurt us? Paul wrote the Ephesians: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32 NASB). The very essence of Christmas is the truth that God forgave humanity through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Who are we not to forgive when God has forgiven us?

So this Christmas, let’s forgive! But not just forgive. Let’s ask those whom you have wronged to forgive you. As the Word of God tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV). As long as we are on this earth, it is never too late for the healing forgiveness brings.

May we all forge happy memories this Christmas as the power of forgiveness sets us free!

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Deck the Soul with Boughs of Forgiveness – @DrMaryAnnDiorio on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Marianne DiorioAbout the author: Dr. MaryAnn Diorio loves God, people, children, and dogs, in that order. She is passionate about story and its power to transform the human heart. Dr. MaryAnn, as she is affectionately called, writes compelling fiction that deals with the deepest issues of the human heart. She and her husband Dominic are the blessed parents of two wonderful daughters, a fantastic son-in-law, and five precious, rambunctious A Christmas Homecoming (Christmas Holiday Extravaganza) by [Diorio, MaryAnn]grandchildren. Find out more about MaryAnn at http://maryanndiorio.com/.

For a heartwarming, compelling story on the power of forgiveness, you may wish to read MaryAnn’s popular novella titled A Christmas Homecoming,  available in electronic format for your Kindle, Nook, or iPad.  To view the beautiful book trailer, click here.

Join the conversation: When has forgiveness set you free?

 

Called to be Generous

by Louise Tucker Jones

Blessed are those who are generous… Proverbs 22:9 (NLT)

 My son, Jay, is a Sonic Coke-a-holic. His day is not complete without his Sonic Coke, so I take him every day after lunch. Jay is an adult with Down syndrome and thrives on routine. This one started years ago. Truthfully, I enjoy our outings, and most of the Sonic crew loves seeing his beaming smile. But once in a while, we are served by someone who is in too much of a hurry to appreciate Jay’s exuberance. And sometimes we wait for service a little too long, and I’m tempted not to give that extra tip in my hand.

Then God prompts me to remember the word He dropped into my spirit months ago. GENEROUS. Then I can’t refuse a tip just because I’m impatient. And it isn’t just Sonic where the Lord expects my generosity. He’s challenged me with a whole new meaning to that word.

I’m to be generous in every walk of life, not just in the financial realm. I often hear the Lord remind me to be generous with praise, encouragement, love and kindness. To offer a helping hand without being asked. To compliment one who isn’t expecting it. To be gracious and generous to those unlike me, even if they seem rude.

And here is the biggie. Be generous with forgiveness.

Wait! Does that really fall under the umbrella of generosity? Yes, it does. God expects me to give forgiveness generously. And here’s what I’ve learned. Many times, the hardest person to forgive is myself. Yes. Me. It’s the little things. It’s the big things. Heart-breaking things.

Everything from eating midnight snacks while trying to lose 10 pounds to losing a friend whom I had planned to call to an unexpected death. I too easily pronounce myself guilty and assault my spirit with negative comments.

“What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t I listen to my instincts?”

Perhaps you can identify. Sometimes we’re perfectionists. We don’t allow ourselves to make mistakes and pile on accusations when we do. We don’t think of it as egotistical. In fact, we often feel we just didn’t listen well to God. We prayed then made a wrong decision so it must be our fault. And sometimes that’s true, but other times it’s simply being human.

But no matter which, we need to offer the same forgiveness to ourselves that we give to others. We are not on the same spiritual plane as God. We don’t have all the answers. We will make mistakes and when that happens, we need to quickly forgive ourselves, whether we think we deserve it or not.

I can’t imagine King David thinking he deserved forgiveness when his selfish actions caused not only the death of a faithful warrior but also that of his own baby boy (2 Samuel 12). And I wonder if Peter berated himself when he became frightened and began to sink while walking on water to meet Jesus (Matthew 16:29-30).

 The lame, the blind and the sick begged Jesus for healing, but left with more than a healthy body. Why? Jesus forgave their sins as well, just as God forgave David and Peter. As people who want to follow Him, we need to cultivate forgiveness in our hearts—by remembering the grace of God.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) God’s extravagant love frees us to accept ourselves, with all our faults, as well as others. It also produces a grateful heart that is open to all kinds of generosity. Even forgiveness.

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Called to be Generous – insight from Louise Tucker Jones on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Louise Tucker Jones ProfileAbout the author: Louise Tucker Jones is a speaker, columnist and author of four books, including The Gift of Christmas. Her poignant life stories will touch your heart or tickle your funny bone. Having a son with Down syndrome, Louise writes extensively concerning people with special needs, co-authoring the Gold Medallion award-winning book, Extraordinary Kids. Married to Carl for 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands. LouiseTJ@cox.net http://www.LouiseTuckerJones.com

Join the conversation: Do you have trouble forgiving yourself?

A New Song

by Doris Hoover

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”                                                                                                                                            John 8:11 NIV

Birds serenade from the treetops, singing joyful songs that make me smile. Each melody floats over me with happy notes. As I sit on the porch enjoying nature’s concert, I imagine God smiling also, delighting in His creation.

The birds cause me to wonder about my own melodies. What kind of music have I composed over the years? Have my life-songs brought a smile to God’s face?

The Lord definitely didn’t delight in many of my compositions—my music has often been filled with many discordant notes. Even so, He didn’t give up on me. He let me play out my song the way I chose to write it.

At one time, pure innocent notes flowed from my heart. But as sin crowded in, my life became totally out of tune. Then, when my song was nothing more than objectionable noise, I cried out with remorse. Jesus pulled me into Himself and kissed my head. He forgave my off-key choices and gave me a chance to rewrite my song. Then He promised that together we would create a beautiful duet.

Jesus gave me a chance to write a new song with my life.

Jesus gave that same chance to a woman one day in the temple. A mob of outraged men dragged her before Jesus and accused her of committing adultery. “In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. Now what do you say?” (John 8:5 NIV). John tells us they were using the scorned woman as a way to trap Jesus so they could accuse Him of not upholding the Law.

As the crowd jeered, ready to throw stones, Jesus knelt down and wrote in the sand. The men demanded He address the situation, so Jesus stood up and said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7 NIV). Then He stooped back down, giving the crowd time to think about their motives and reflect upon their own lives.

One by one, the accusers dropped their stones and left. Jesus looked up at the woman, not with disgust or condemnation, but with a question. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:9-11 NIV).

In other words, go write a new song with your life.

I know exactly how that woman felt because I, too, was drenched with grace and enveloped in the soft cotton of God’s mercy. Covered with the balm of forgiveness, my soul sang out the only words possible: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!

When we stand before Jesus with all of our shame exposed, He wraps us with a clean white sheet. Gently, He lifts our chin with the crook of His finger. As we look into His eyes, we don’t see disgust; we see eyes overflowing with immeasurable love.

Jesus offers gives each of us a chance to compose a new song that resounds with notes of mercy and grace. He will help us to write a new life-song that will make God smile.

O Lord, we’re undeserving of your grace; yet we’re desperate for it. Help us change our discordant lives into beautiful melodies that float up to you.

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A New Song – encouragement from Doris Hoover on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

doris Hoover

About the author: Doris Hoover lives in Florida, but she also spends time along the coast of Maine. Her passion is discovering God’s messages in nature and sharing them with others. You can visit Doris at captivatedbythecreator.com. 

Doris’ book, Quiet Moments in The Villages, A Treasure Hunt Devotional invites you to step outside to discover the treasures God places around you. She leads you to beautiful places in her home town. Her poetic descriptions and beautiful photography draw you into moments that will stir your heart.

Join the conversation: What new song has God written on your heart?

Creating a Culture of Grace

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 1 John 4:18 NASB

Our response to other people’s failures and mistakes matter. A lot.

Our daughter has always been the type who longs to please. She hungers to know her father and I are proud of her, and at times, this heightens into an unhealthy fear of displeasing us. When she was younger, I often told her, “I almost want you to fail in this, so that you can see failure isn’t the end of the world.”

Mostly, I wanted her to experience grace and learn to live in it.

Grace isn’t overlooking sin or acting as if it’s acceptable, nor is it diminishing its effects. Grace says: I know you messed up here, and that stinks. But your actions won’t push me away. Instead, they motivate me to draw closer. Because I know you can do better. I believe you will do better, and I’ll be walking beside you each step of the way.”

Fear paralyzes, but Scripture says perfect love casts out fear.

Let me play on those words a bit. We all fear that we’ll be cast out. That others will reject us when we fail. But love draws near. If I instill nothing else into our daughter’s heart, I want it to be this: my love will always remain. No matter what.

Imagine our relationships, our churches and Bible study groups, if we learned to communicate grace-based love, not just with our words, but more importantly, with our actions and reactions. How can we create a culture of grace in our churches?

Understand failure will occur. We’re all in a process of growing. We know this intellectually, but it’s easy to forget when someone behaves badly.

Often, when I disciplined our daughter when she was growing up, I’d say, “You’re supposed to mess up. You’re a kid. That’s why God gave you parents.” That didn’t mean I condoned or ignored her behavior. It meant I saw it through a grace-and-growth-based lens. Paul put it this way to the relatively new believers in Philippi: “[I am] confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).

Prioritize relationships above behavior, mistakes, and incidents. We need to keep the end goal in mind: working toward the kind of relationships that go beyond the superficial. One bad incident does not a relationship make. The challenges that inevitably come can actually be relationship builders, if we work through them together with an attitude of grace.

Jesus offered Himself. Completely. When He met a tax collector who’d swindled money from others, He didn’t list all the man’s sins. Instead, He drew the man close, saying, “Come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5, NIV).

We forgive because of what Jesus has forgiven in us. When healthy and filled with grace, relationships give others a safe place to land, an opportunity to come clean with themselves and others, and grow from the experience.

Deal with things as they come then move on. When our daughter was a teenager, she and I went through a “passive-aggressive” phase where we routinely threw snarky comments at one another. Whenever we took the effort to unpack these interactions, we learned one of us had spoken out of hurt or fear. Watch others, or even better, analyze yourself, and I suspect you’ll discover the same.

Usually, passive-aggressive behavior stems from aversion to conflict, yet that is precisely where it leads—to ongoing, unresolved conflict. We discovered how important, how healing and powerful it can be to simply state our feelings and concerns. This allowed us to get to the real issue, which so often wasn’t what originally presented. It gave us the ability to move on, grudge and hostility-free.

I’ll never love others as Christ loves me. But I want to grow in this area. I want to create a culture of grace, where relationships are prioritized over mistakes and poor behavior and growth is valued above perfection.

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Creating a Culture of Grace – insight from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer Slattery

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Restoring Her Faith and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.

Hometown HealingShe’s home again, but not for long…
unless this cowboy recaptures her heart…

Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good?

Join the conversation: When has someone extended grace to you? How did it affect the outcome of your failure?

 

From Bitterness to Beauty

by Ashley Lauren McClain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From Bitterness to Beauty – encouragement from Ashley Lauren McClain on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Ashley McClainAbout the author: Ashley McClain is a girl with big dreams and a blog to encourage women in their journey through this life we have been given by the greatest Gift Giver there is! She loves to read, write, drink coffee, and spend time with the hubby & puppies! Connect with Ashley on her website ashleymcclain.org. She would love to hear about your journey too!

Join the conversation: Has God ever healed you from the root of bitterness? Please share!

The Root of Bitterness

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV

Where I live in Texas, Mesquite trees are an invasive and often destructive problem.  Ranchers have been known to refer to them as “Devil Trees” or “The Devil with Roots.” They are hard to destroy.

We can cut them off at ground level. That solves the problem, for about a day, because they come back—with enthusiasm. The Mesquite tree has a tap root that reaches deep underground. Far down the root is a knot, and in order to get rid of the tree for good, we have to dig down to that knot and cut it out.  Anything less, and we’ll be dealing with that tree again before too long.

Bitterness in my soul is the same. It comes in so easily, a comment made, or a look given. Sometimes it floats in like the soft weightless seeds of the dandelion, so lightly that I don’t even know I’ve allowed an offense to settle in and turn to bitterness.

But once it takes root and starts to grow, it interrupts my fellowship with God.

Less than ten seconds of watching the news tells me I’m not alone in this. The urge to be bitter is a temptation—and we know from whom temptations come. We want to give in to the bitterness, because it is our justification for feeling anything other than love towards another.

Sometimes we must distance ourselves from the source, if we aren’t yet able to withstand the temptations: social media, certain people, or even the news channel. As long as we are still feeding the root of bitterness with the fertilizer accessible from these sources, we can’t begin to dig down and remove the root.

I know some situations are impossible to avoid. Your job, your neighbors, family members. But what if it’s your church?

Paul wrote: “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:26-27 NASB). Holding a grudge and refusing to forgive gives Satan a foothold—not only in me, but in God’s Church.

I suggest that sometimes we need to step away until we can recognize where the bitterness is coming from. My tendency to be fertile ground always stems from something in me more than anything someone has done to me. Perhaps the offense spoke into one of my insecurities or threatened the control I try to keep on my life—or highlighted the fact that I’m not really in control anyway.

My bitterness will be contagious. Perhaps I will spread it through the way I respond to a comment or answer a question, what events I choose to attend, or where I sit. A little look here or there. Body language that reflects something other than joy and love. On a bad day, I might be tempted to make an innocent remark that isn’t really innocent at all. Like the weightless seeds of the dandelion, my bitterness can spread with very little effort. And Scripture tells me that the seed will grow to cause trouble and division, and become the burden of many.

Keeping myself in the same environment that feeds my bitterness only distracts me from getting to the true source. Like the pesky mesquite trees, I can be so busy fighting what is above the surface that I don’t take time to dig down below and get to the real source of the problem.

Paul wrote: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice…” (Ephesians 4:31 NASB).  Don’t allow that invasive, stubborn root to remain in you. Ask the Lord to help you forgive, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

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The Root of Bitterness – insight on #FollowingGod from @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: How do you deal with bitterness?

Breaking Free

by Doris Hoover

In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.  Psalm 118:5 NIV

Specks of color flutter across my field of vision, flitting from flower to flower, to tree and back. I glimpse masterful designs painted on tiny wings – mosaics, stripes, and polka dots. Beautiful winged creatures sail in the breeze, free and unfettered.

In contrast, their earthbound larvae creep along the ground or on tree trunks, caterpillars awaiting the day they’ll morph into spectacular butterflies. Caterpillars and butterflies may be the same creatures, but they live two very different lives.

I wonder if God created caterpillars to demonstrate the power he has to change lives. Metamorphosis isn’t just for butterflies — it’s for people, too. Through God’s power, we can be released from the bonds that keep us earthbound, the fleshly attitudes which impede our ability to fly.

The Lord can change the lives of broken, defeated people, those chained to addictions or childhood traumas, those shackled with the weight of bitter memories. Minds encased with wrong thinking can crack open like a cocoon, freeing us to think and live in a new way.

When circumstances knocked me to the ground, I wasted years groveling in the debris of bitterness, unable to rise above the resentment that kept me in the muck. “I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me” (Psalm 118:13 NIV). Jesus showed me how to rise above the sinful attitudes that kept me earthbound. He showed me the way of forgiveness.

It wasn’t easy to change the way my mind thought or the way my heart felt. The change could only happen through His Holy Spirit in me. The Lord opened my eyes to see that I was living a caterpillar life by crawling in the dirt of resentment. He showed me the truth about bitterness, that holding on to bitterness will keep me from fully living out God’s abundant grace for me (Hebrews 12:15). Through my bitter attitude, I was willingly shackling myself to the earth.

The Lord brought me to a point where I had to make a decision. I could continue to be miserable and creep in the dirt of resentment, or I could release my bitter memories and forgive the one who hurt me.

Just as a butterfly has to fight its way out of a cocoon, I had to fight my way out of bitterness. It took much prayer, confession, and repentance before my heart changed. It took God’s power working in me. “The Lord’s right hand is lifted high; the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!” (Psalm 118:16 NIV) When I chose to forgive, my cocoon cracked open and now could fly above my resentments. I was free!

The Lord wants each of us to fly. He didn’t create us to crawl through life, miserably dragged down by weights we don’t need to carry. We’re meant to live as butterflies, to be creatures of beauty, offering loveliness to the world.

We can leave our caterpillar existence. The Lord sees our hurts and wants us to break free from the bonds of our wrong thinking. He has power to heal the most aggrieved heart. By teaching us how to forgive, He shows us how to rise above what plagues us.

God envelopes us with his Spirit, encasing us in his power as he works in our hearts. The moment we choose forgiveness over bitterness, the Lord molds us into something new and beautiful. We break free from our cocoons as changed individuals with beautifully painted wings. Then He releases us from the palm of his hand, and we soar.

Thank you, Jesus, for the miracle of forgiveness that sets us free.

TWEETABLE
Breaking Free – insight from Doris Hoover on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

doris HooverAbout the author: Doris Hoover lives in Florida, but she also spends time along the coast of Maine. Her passion is discovering God’s messages in nature and sharing them with others. You can visit Doris at captivatedbythecreator.com. 

Doris’ book, Quiet Moments in The Villages, A Treasure Hunt Devotional invites you to step outside to discover the treasures God places around you. She leads you to beautiful places in her home town. Her poetic descriptions and beautiful photography draw you into moments that will stir your heart.

Join the conversation: Have you struggled to forgive a hurt from the past? How did the Lord enable you to forgive? Please share your story!

Why Should I Forgive?

by Debbie W. Wilson @DebbieWWilson

“Will you help me control my thinking?” The airport shuttle driver’s question surprised me. He’d obviously overheard my conversation with the woman leaving the shuttle. His landlady, who called herself a Christian, had wronged him. Hurt and anger showed in his eyes and words.

How could I help this man see that to be freed from his pain he needed to forgive the woman who’d caused it?

I’m sure people have disappointed and hurt you too. It’s part of life on planet earth. Maybe that’s why Jesus included forgiveness in the prayer He taught his disciples.

Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (Matt. 6:12 NLT).

Isn’t it ironic that we must forgive the ones we least want to forgive? This isn’t a cruel joke. It’s protection. Granting forgiveness heals our wounds and frees our souls.

I’ve read articles about forgiveness. Some platitudes offered more harm than good. They painted forgiveness as a magic wand that erased all pain. Hurt feelings don’t necessarily indicate unforgiveness. They may reveal deep wounds.

Scratches heal quickly. But deep injuries take time to mend. Forgiveness sets healing in motion.

To avoid the hard work of forgiving, we avoid the issue with, “It’s no big deal.” Or we tell ourselves, “Why must I forgive? This is too big. They don’t deserve to be forgiven.” To overcome this resistance, it helps to remember who benefits when we forgive. We do—as well as those we love.

They may not deserve to be forgiven. But do you deserve to prolong your suffering by holding on to the sharp barbs of bitterness? Or do your loved ones deserve to live with your hostility or be shaped by your destructive example?

Forgiveness benefits the one who gives it. We forgive for our own sake. We also forgive for the sake of those we love, because bitterness is a poison that can’t be contained.

The person who wronged us may not even be aware of our turmoil—or care. They may be dead. But if our resentment lives on, we suffer and model a harmful example to those who watch us.

Resentment drains the joy out of life and erects a wall between us and God. He hasn’t moved, but we feel distant. Tormented souls snap at small irritations, miss the beauty around them, and injure those in their wake. How many spouses, children, and coworkers suffer because of someone’s unwillingness to forgive?

Your freedom is at stake. Forgive to free yourself from turmoil. Forgive for the sake of those you love. Scripture describes how holding on to offenses can affect those around us: “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15 NIV).

I explained the benefit of forgiveness with my shuttle driver. When we reached the airport, he handed me my luggage. “I’m going to do what you said,” he smiled. “I am going to be free.”

What about you? Are you ready to be free? Forgiveness brings freedom for the one who forgives. Forgive—for your sake and the sake of all you love—including Jesus.

 The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:40 NIV

TWEETABLE
Why Should I Forgive? – insight from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, she speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Debbie’s book, Little Women, Big God will introduce you to the surprising women in Jesus’s family tree. As they journey through impossible circumstances, each discovers that quality of life is not determined by the size of our problems but by the size of our God.

Join the conversation: Have you been able to forgive a wrong done to you or a loved one? Please share how God enabled you to do so.