Seeing the Light in Dark Times

by Jennifer Slattery

You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. Psalm 18:28 NIV

No matter how dark things appear, light is breaking through. The question is, will we see it? When difficulties come, it’s so easy to focus on the challenges and disappointments, and in that, to forget the heart, power, presence, and purposes of Christ.

I’ve noticed something lately, something that happens again and again. So often, my most challenging moments, in Christ’s hands, become so life-giving. When Covid-19 hit, my ministry lost an entire year of conferences, and therefore a year’s worth of funding. At the time, I felt confused and uncertain. But God used the pause and our renewed focus on Him to lead us into new, increasingly fruitful territory.

This pattern has also played out in my relationships. Years ago, my marriage was in a rough place and I felt the hours and stress of my husband’s job routinely stole him from me. Initially, the situation seemed to worsen. But God was working, revealing things both of us had too easily ignored. That dark period became a catalyst for change and growth.

Perhaps the most vivid light-piercing-darkness event occurred when I first became sick. Initially, fighting my illness alone, I tried various supplemental “cures.” The more out of control my body felt, the more I fought for control. By the time I sought a doctor and received a diagnosis, my latent, previously manageable and largely “ignored” OCD morphed into obvious germaphobia.

That period was so hard on all of us, but it also led to deep healing. We couldn’t justify or downplay my behavior anymore. I wasn’t simply focused or particular. When life became challenging and darkness pressed in, it squeezed out my inner gunk that we had learned to ignore.

We could’ve become suffocated by the darkness. Instead, by God’s grace, we linked arms, turned to Jesus, and steadily sought and followed His light. And His light indeed broke through in such a beautiful, life-giving way. While this didn’t eliminate our pain, that period changed us, for the better.

Speaking of Jesus, John 1:4-5 says, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (NIV).

Jesus didn’t come during a rosy time in history. Lives were ravished by King Herod’s infanticide, Roman oppression, poverty, hunger, and leprosy with the lifelong isolation that accompanied it. But God was doing a mighty work not even the most powerful tyrannical ruler or most devastating disease could halt. He was bringing life to the dead and piercing the darkness with light (John 8:12).

The Pharisees couldn’t see this. They were blinded, distracted by the darkness; the darkness within themselves, yes, but also all the oppression and uncertainty in their world. All they could see was what they might lose, should this faith-movement continue: their prestigious roles as religious leaders, their already tenuous relationship with the Roman authorities, their way of life (John 11:47-48). They couldn’t, or maybe wouldn’t, see the light—the gift of life and freedom Christ offered.

No matter what 2021 brings, I refuse to be like them. I refuse to become so engulfed in today’s challenges that I fail to see God’s light breaking through. Because I know it’s there. It always is, a light that nothing, not the pain of today or the uncertainty of tomorrow, can extinguish.               

How is God’s light breaking through your circumstances this month? And perhaps more importantly, how can you seek out and hold tight to that light when dark circumstances hit?

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.

Join Jennifer and her Wholly Loved Ministry team for an online mother-daughter conference for moms of teen through adult daughters. The mother-daughter relationship can be one of the most precious connections we experience, but they can also be a source of conflict and pain. Wholly Loved Ministries wants to help moms and daughters love one another well and experience the deep connections their hearts crave. Through personal anecdotes, biblical truths, and thought-provoking discussion questions, this event equips moms and daughters to cultivate the depth of relationship God Himself wants them to experience. 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 you seen God’s light breaking through in this challenging season?

Because You Said So

by Stacy Sanchez

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:5 NIV

Critical people are THE worst!

They can hurt us, make rude comments, judge our decisions, talk about what we’re doing wrong, and rarely have anything nice to say. One way to deal with them is to stop being around them. But this is hard to do when the critical person is YOU.

Sometimes the most powerful voice we believe is the critical voice inside our own heads. And we can’t get away from us.

  • “I can’t.”
  • “I’m not good enough.”
  • “I’m not smart enough.”
  • “I’m not pretty enough.”
  • “My personality is too strong.”
  • “Who do I think that I am?”

These are just some of the lies that frolic freely in our minds, because we allow our brains to become playgrounds for self-defeating aphorisms. The lies could have come from our childhood. An adult may have said we will never amount to anything, and we now believe it.

The lies can be our way of sounding humble. “Oh, she is so much more (fill in the blank) than I. Let her do it. She will do it better than me anyway.”

Maybe we find ourselves defining who we are by our past mistakes. We love to beat ourselves up because of something we did a long time ago.

Whatever the source of the lies, the enemy of our souls would love to use our perceived inadequacies to keep us handcuffed to him. But Jesus came to free us from him. He wants to free us from our own self-defeating thoughts.

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:14-17 NIV).

God has proven himself over and over to be faithful and true. Has he ever turned his back on us or let us down? NEVER!Why do we believe the self-condemnation over him? Probably because if we believed God’s truth, we would be responsible to act on it. Ouch! That’s scary. He might want us to step out of our comfort zones. Yikes!

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:5 (NIV)

Because you said so… Those are four small words, but they sure pack a powerful punch. We can say, “Because you said in your word”:

I am loved: This is real love-not that we loved God, but He love us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 4:10 NIV

I am beautiful: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV

I am free from condemnation: So now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 NIV

I am never alone: God is in the midst of her; she shall not me moved; God will help her when morning dawns. Psalm 46:5 NIV

I have value: She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Proverbs 3:15 NIV

I am who you say that I am: chosen, adopted, blessed, holy, blameless, loved, daughter, redeemed, forgiven, have purpose, united and included with Christ, predestined, sealed, have inheritance, have a spirit of wisdom, enlightened, have calling, have mighty power and strength. Ephesians 1 NIV

… I will believe you.

“Now with the voice of truth and power of God—armed on the right and armed on the left with righteousness from God—we continue. 2 Corinthians 6:7 NIV

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

stacy sanchez

About the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Armed with the truth about who says we are, what will you believe today, because He said so?

From Hurt to Forgiveness

by Janet Holm McHenry

Ever had someone cuss you out in a nonstop blue streak of the worst possible names?

I have.

I tell you, teachers put up with a lot. When I gave a kid (who was also rude and sassy) a low grade because zilch effort had gone into an assignment, his mother made an appointment with me. I had a hunch what might lie ahead, so I asked both my administrator and a teaching peer to sit in on the conversation.

It was more like a confrontation. Every awful word in the book was screamed at me in front of those other two women. It was a low in my teaching career of 26 years. The young man did eventually pass my class and graduated but struggled for some years afterwards.

I avoided that woman for two years, but knew she’d be back in my life when I began teaching her daughter. I had to forgive. But you can’t really forget, can you? So the not-really-forgetting simply means that the forgiveness happens over and over, and kindness then has a chance to settle in.

The daughter turned out to be a lovely person and a very good student whom I helped get scholarships to a wonderful private university, from which she graduated in four years.

The mother did a complete reverse, thanking me for helping her daughter. I think she began to see that I was not a monster who had it in for her son.

However, I’ve got to tell you, it was hard seeing the mom. Deep breaths and prayer went into a lot of prep, along with a huge measure of forgiveness. After all, as the mom of four kids, I well know how one child can be so different than another.

But forgiveness is freeing. The anger and the hurt no longer have control over your emotions and your reactions. In fact, forgiveness, friend, is the hallmark of the Christian faith. In Luke 6 Jesus taught that we should not only forgive people but also do something kind for them. When we are cursed, we are to offer blessing in return. When someone mistreats us, Jesus taught us to pray for the person.

You see, forgiveness is the difference between Christianity and any other. After all, Jesus died for our own forgiveness. One of his last prayers on the cross was “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV). He forgave his enemies—those who had physically hurt him, wrongfully convicted him, betrayed him, denied him. Thus, we are called to forgive others for the measure of their offenses—small or large.

Forgiveness has allowed me to live and breathe and sleep and move on. I pray for a season of forgiveness in our personal and wider circles of life. And I hope you will too.

“But if you will listen, I say to you, love your enemies and do something wonderful for them in return for their hatred.” Luke 6:27 TPT

About the author:  Janet McHenry is a national speaker and the author of twenty-four books—six on prayer, including the bestselling PrayerWalk, which has encouraged tens of thousands to pray for their communities while they walk.

In her newest book, The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus, she examines the “Father, forgive them” prayer, among the other prayers, prayerful practices, and teachings of Jesus. She would love to connect with you at https://www.janetmchenry.com.

Join the conversation: Have you experienced the freedom that forgiveness can bring?

Freedom: Is It Safe?

by Stacy Sanchez

Aslan is a lion–the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he–quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

 (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)

Is he safe? No, but he is good. The first time I read these words as a child, they leapt off of the page and resounded in my being. They became somewhat of an unofficial motto that I have chosen to live by. It’s right up there with “How hard can it be?” My friends won’t even let me finish that sentence anymore. They know what will be coming next–-something very, very hard.

I am a bit of a rule breaker. If there is a sign marking a trail that I’m supposed to stay on, I see that as a mere suggestion and forge my own. Nothing was ever discovered by staying on the path.” I assert, as I grab my reluctant niece’s hand and tromp off  into the desert. (I may have got a text from her mother the next time I took her hiking, asking if we could please stay on the path.)

I could have been an explorer–-except in cold climates. I’m daring, not stupid. I’m more of a warm weather, beach explorer. More than once, my husband has had to reel me in. The echoes of his warnings still ring in my ears: No, Stacy, you can’t do that. Don’t taste that! There might be parasites. Get off of the lava!! Don’t swim after the sharks! Moray eels don’t like you all up in their face. You went where? By yourself? Are you crazy?

This dare-to-be-me personality of mine has come at the cost of other people’s judgment. When I became a pastor, I was called sinful, uppity, and a woman with an agenda to take over. That’s a lot of names for someone that just wanted to love God’s people.

As the only female to play and coach in a baseball league, I was labeled with words that would today be considered homophobic and sexist. Even now, when I stand up for a righteous cause, I learn a whole new set of words that describe how others think of me.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 NIV

In him and through faith in him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12 NIV

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 NIV

I guess I just take these verses to heart. If the Bible says we are free, ’nuf said. We have the freedom in Christ to be all that He has created us to be. Why don’t we act like it?

Freedom isn’t always safe. Quite the opposite. It can be messy. It costs us something. It cost Christ everything to give us our freedom. He definitely didn’t live a life of safety. If you think about it, a safe life isn’t a free life. We’re bound to be held captive by something or someone—maybe even our own fearful desires for safety.

When we are doing what God has called us to do or be, it can be scary. People will judge us. They will make their opinions known. It can hurt. But God is much more concerned with our character than our comfort. It is scary to step out into the great unknown of his calling. Nope, it might not be safe out there, but it is good because God is good. His ways are good. His plans for us are always good. And sometimes we find out that even though scary, it can be a lot of fun.

I prefer a dangerous freedom over a peaceful slavery.” –Thomas Jefferson

Amen! Me too! We are free! We have been set free from religious laws, opinions, judgments of others, and the lies of the enemy, because of the unsafe thing Christ did for us on the cross.

No, He is not safe, but He is good! 

Father, sometimes You call us to step out into the great unknown. You want to stretch and grow us into the people you created us to be. It can be scary out there. Forgive us for not trusting You. Just like You grew a little shepherd boy into a great king, You want to make us into something great. Help us to trust that the plans You have for our lives are good and we don’t have to be afraid.

TWEETABLE
Freedom: Is It Safe? – encouragement from Stacy Sanchez on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

stacy sanchez

About the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: What scary thing has God asked you to do?

The Best Way to Celebrate St. Patrick

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20 ESV

Around the fifth century, as the story is told, Irish raiders stole an adolescent named Patrick from his family and enslaved him for six years until he escaped back to his family in Britain. After entering the church, Patrick returned to Ireland – to the people who had held him in slavery – serving them as a missionary and spreading the truth of Jesus Christ.

Patrick is quoted as saying, “Before I was humiliated, I was like a stone that lies in deep mud, and he who is mighty came and in his compassion raised me up and exalted me very high and placed me on the top of the wall.”

In his studies, Patrick must have read the story of a boy named Joseph, favored by his father above all his brothers. One day, out of jealousy for their father’s attentions, the brothers conspired to kill Joseph, but instead sold him to passing slave traders.

Joseph was enslaved in Egypt but found favor with the man he served. Once again, though, despite Joseph’s innocence, he was falsely accused and imprisoned. Any one of us would have been tempted to sink into self-pity, bitterness, and anger. Joseph’s faithfulness had been once again repaid with injustice and humiliation. During his imprisonment, Joseph, again, distinguished himself for his faithful work.

Finally, Joseph was freed and rose to be second only to Pharaoh. God used him to serve and deliver not only the nation where he served as a slave, but also his family, the very brothers who betrayed him. By the time he saved them, he, like St. Patrick, had found a greater purpose to his trials than they could ever know.

To celebrate St. Patrick is to celebrate the power of the One True God who continues to work in those of us stones that lie in modern mud, in those of us betrayed or victims of injustice, in those of us who suffer despite our faithfulness and love.

Today, before you don the green, cook up the corned beef, or raise a pint, consider those who have committed wrongs against you – those who perhaps held your spirit captive  – and choose, like St. Patrick and Joseph, to forgive them, maybe reach out to them, to serve in the power of the name of Jesus Christ.

People harmed many of us in our youth. Like St. Patrick who was taken captive, or Joseph, the dreamer, sold by his brothers into slavery, we experienced harm and a certain type of bondage that interrupted our direct track to growing as we thought we should. St. Patrick and Joseph both found the power of God to be stronger than the power of those who had done them wrong.

They overcame through the spirit of Jesus Christ and not only broke free but forgave those who wronged them. Rather than being crippled by their captors, they translated their experiences into the language of God’s love and wove it into a greater story.

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is to celebrate a kind of freedom that many still have not experienced. The freedom to forgive those who have harmed us and to live our lives defined – not by them – but by our devotion to the truth and to Jesus Christ.

It isn’t an easy path. But it is a possible path. Jesus. Jesus is the Way.

Ask Patrick. He found the road. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. It is a celebration of those, freed by Christ, who spent their freedom serving others.

TWEETABLE
The Best Way to Celebrate St. Patrick – insight from @LoriSRoeleveld on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

lori Roeleveld Headshot 2015About the author: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever been given a rock? What deeper issues did it lead you to question?

Join the conversation: When did you receive the correct diagnosis on you spiritual ailment?

 

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

TWEETABLE
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!

How Do You Define Freedom?

by Debbie W. Wilson @DebbieWWilson

My husband and I zipped along I-95 South, near Washington DC, on a section of interstate that never sleeps. Among the mostly courteous drivers, a few wanna-be race car drivers cut in and out, too close for comfort. I marveled at how a tight space could hold so many speeding vehicles. That changed when we reached an area marked, “Warning: Unmarked Pavement Ahead.”

The space abruptly shrank to three lanes, and we were left with no markings defining the lane boundaries. This slowed us down considerably, since there was nothing to define where exactly we should be driving. We lost any sense of security that we would not be scraped by someone else.

I imagined the rest of I-95 without marked lanes and shuddered. Then I thought of our culture. In the name of freedom, we’ve erased timeless limits that protect the liberty and well-being of all.

Defined limits provide safety and ease even in a crowded parking lot. In a populated world we need clear boundaries to prosper. The Bible provides timeless parameters to protect our travel through life. When we navigate within those limits, we avoid wrecks and heartaches.

The Problem with Religious Rules

Human additions to God’s laws become heavy chains that cause people to rebel against God’s perfect law of liberty and are unprofitable (James 1:25).

“‘Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!’? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires” (Colossians 2:21-23 NLT).

Jesus understands. He invites us to come to Him so He can teach us how to live without heavy burdens. Even better, He promises to walk with us. Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light’” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT).

The Problem with License 

Perhaps, repulsed by legalism, other believers have swung to the opposite extreme. They minimize and dismiss God’s instructions. In contrast, the Bible shows how God’s commandments serve as guardrails of liberty.

  • “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17 NASB). God’s commandments serve as guardrails of liberty.
  • “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3 NLT).

We avoid the potholes of our fallen nature and sin and enjoy life’s journey when we walk His path in the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s Word outlines our lanes. (Psalm 119:105)

The Protection of Guardrails

In Satan’s conversation with Eve, he portrayed God to be like him, a liar and a thief who steals our freedom and joy (Genesis. 3; John 8:44, 10:10). Nothing could be further from the truth. As we remember God’s character, we won’t fall for lies.

Don’t be duped. Biblical instructions on right and wrong keep life’s interstates safe.

The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.                                                                                                                                           Psalm 19:7-8 NLT

TWEETABLE
How Do You Define Freedom? 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: What standards help define how you choose to live?

 

Stuck Tight in a Turnstile

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

We all have them – those funny family stories. The stories, when retold, bring peals of laughter from everyone. Well, almost everyone. Sometimes one family member simply responds with an embarrassed chuckle. That’s the way it is with our daughter Sarah and the turnstile story.

It was the last week of summer and time to get ready for a new school year. Back then we lived in a small town about 25 miles outside Calgary, Alberta. The kind of shopping we needed to do required a trip to the city. So the three kids and I piled in the mini-van and headed off for a day in Calgary.

We had almost hit the city limits when the smallest voice from the backseat announced he had gotten into the van without any shoes. Mom made a quick decision. We would not return home; six-year-old Mark needed new shoes anyway. Our first stop would be the sports store not far into the city.

It didn’t take long to pick out a nice pair of sneakers and socks and get to the check out. While trying to explain to the checker why I was paying for an empty box, I heard a familiar scream close behind me. Sarah, our 9-year-old, had somehow managed to get herself caught in the turnstile at the store entrance.

I can’t even explain how she did it, because I didn’t see it happen. The best I can determine is she tried to push through the turnstile on the wrong side where it spun under a crossbar. When she discovered she couldn’t get through that way, she tried to back out, but instead wedged herself between the turning tripod and the stationary crossbar. Head and shoulders hung out one side and lower half out the other. (I know you’re probably thinking I’m a horrible mother, but honestly, I only took my eyes off her for a second.)

She wasn’t hurt, but she was mad. While she continued to scream, the rest of us couldn’t help but laugh – while trying to help her, of course. But she was stuck fast. Her release required the manager and a special turnstile key.

Have you ever been trapped with no hope for escape? Held in slavery and in need of salvation? Just like Sarah’s turnstile prison, we’ve all been caught fast in sin with no way to save ourselves.

Yet, while we were still held captive, God called us out of the bondage of sin and into the freedom of holiness. Loosed from sin, we are free to be bound to God with cords of love and righteousness. Free to embrace the holy life to which He calls us. Free to embrace the Holy One Himself.

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.   Romans 6:22 NIV

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Stuck Tight in a Turnstile – 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.

This post was adapted from Kathy’s book, Embraced by Holiness. Have you longed for a deeper walk with God, but you seem to lack the intimacy you desire? This book is a focused, six-week study dealing with the biblical principles of holiness and includes life-changing opportunities to apply those principles to your life.

Join the conversation: Is there something still keeping you in bondage?

Weeding It Out

by Sharon Tedford @61Things

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

The weeds in Texas are gargantuan, and they spread like… well, weeds!

We have a beautiful back yard with lots of lawn in which the dog can scamper around. When we moved here almost ten years ago, the lawn was green and lush. Over time, the weeds have taken over, and my golfer husband is offended by the nonsense they create. Golf guys (and gals, I’m sure!) do rather enjoy a nice bit of green grass. Over the years the weeds have crept in further and spread their message of choking defiance all over the place.

Of course, we’ve tried all kinds of ways to get rid of the weeds. First, we mowed them down. They were gone but not forgotten and popped up in cheery disobedience the very next season. Then, we tried a weed killer we’d used at our previous house. Once again, it looked hopeful, but this time only some of the weeds died. The rest continued to blossom as if they were prize blooms in a flower show. Rude!

Why did these pesky plants ignore us every time we attempted to serve them notice?

One afternoon I found my husband on the horticulture pages of the internet. He wanted to know exactly what the weed in our yard was. We needed a more powerful and direct approach that would get down to the very root of the nasty pest. We needed a specific solution to a specific problem.

My clever husband identified the precise plant, found the correct chemicals for exact extermination, and we were in business! Let me tell you, we haven’t won this battle outright quite yet and will no doubt be reapplying this wonder mixture for quite some time, but we are at last on the right track. Perseverance will lead to the final elimination of this pasture of pestilence!

We needed to be specific in our attack.

In our pursuit of an answer, I was reminded that this is how I should pray over the sins and “weeds” in my life. I became aware that sometimes I pray a “blanket” prayer over the messes I see. I ask for forgiveness for the outcomes caused by my wrong behavior.

When I pray like that, it should be no surprise to me that those sins, like the weeds in our yard, may disappear for a short time but don’t get eradicated for good. In His kindness, God showed me that I ought to be specific about how I seek forgiveness.

Now, don’t get me wrong – God hears us when we call to Him and there’s not a  “right” way to pray. He loves it when we pray – period. But the Father seemed to ask me this question, “Are you more concerned with the result of the sin than the root of it?” You see, I need to spend intentional time and look for the root of my repeated wrongs. I need to seek God’s wisdom as I search to find the origin of my errors. It’s then God can bring healing on the specific issue and transform my heart and mind.

Let’s choose to ask God to examine the deepest parts of our hearts, so we can live a life of true freedom. And just like the recurrent application of the weed killer on our grass, let’s put ourselves under the repeated cleansing of God’s Word and wisdom, until the weeds that spoil will no longer have root in the lawn of our hearts.

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Weeding It Out – insight for dealing with the “weeds” in our spiritual life from Sharon Tedford, @61Things, on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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

Join the conversation: What is the sin that keeps reappearing in your life?

Having the Right Doesn’t Make it Right

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

They refused to sit down. Over the course of the first half of the football game several of the older fans around them politely asked the young couple to sit so they could see. But they ignored the requests.

They didn’t just hop up when something exciting happened. They stood continuously. Which would have been fine on the student side of the field. But alumni, parents, and grandparents filled this side. Many who could not physically stand for long periods of time.

Just before half time a university employee approached the standing pair.  Ah, someone had complained.

Will you please sit so others around you can see?

 No. We have every right to stand if we want. We will not sit.

 The employee shrugged and turned away.

I’d like to say the situation resolved with civility. Unfortunately, after the couple refused the employee’s request a few of the nearby fans got nasty. People tossed out rude comments. Still others approached them with less than polite demands to sit.

By the time the two football teams headed to the locker room for half time, tears ran down the young woman’s face and her husband looked like he could spit fire.

Did they have the right to stand for the entire game? Yes. No law against it.

Was it right for them to stand for the entire game? Especially when they knew their actions inconvenienced or harmed others? No.

Graciously letting go of their right for the benefit of others would have been the right thing to do.

Believers regularly have a similar choice to make. Christ’s sacrifice has set us free from sin, death, and the Law. Our life in Christ grants us great liberty. God has freed us from legalism and guilt. Yet, many things we have the freedom to do may not be God’s best for us – or others around us – in a given situation.

Paul confronts this issue in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth.  The specific situation involved eating meat sacrificed to idols. Because an idol of wood has no power, meat sacrificed to it benefits the body the same as other meat. A believer was “free” to eat. However, some believers had trouble with this truth. Seeing a mature believer eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols would have confused and misguided them.

Paul clearly taught a believer’s “freedom” must take a backseat to the well-being of others.

Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others… So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24, 31, NIV)

When we make decisions regarding our freedom, God’s glory and the needs of others should always be our guiding principles. We may have the right to eat, drink, or act, but is it right? May grace and God’s glory guide our choices.

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Having the Right Doesn’t Make it Right – insight from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the author: Find out more about how to treat others with grace in Kathy Howard’s Bible study Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing.Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: Have you ever given up a right because it was the right thing to do?