God Comes Down To Us

by A.C. Williams

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.  Philippians 2:6-8 NLT

Recently, I got to dog-sit for a dear friend. She has two dogs, a little old white fluffy dog and a bigger younger golden fluffy dog. She set me up in her adorable little house, gave me the run of her kitchen and pantry, and provided a list of things that needing doing while she was gone.

Not a problem, I thought. How hard can dog-sitting be?

Shoot. If I ever think that again, y’all have permission to kick me.

Turns out dog-sitting is very hard, especially when one of the dogs doesn’t trust you. This silly critter spent thirty minutes making sure I was fully aware of her disapproval. The entire first day, she wouldn’t let me within three feet of her. That was a problem because she wouldn’t go out. I couldn’t walk her. I couldn’t give her meds. AND she wouldn’t eat.

Worried for the poor dog’s safety, I asked for help, and my friend’s neighbor came running to the rescue. And what do you think she did?

She got down on all fours and crawled around the kitchen floor, laid down on the dog bed, and acted as though she would eat the dog’s food. I believe there was a conversation about vegan meatballs, too.

Guess what? The dog calmed down, ate her food, and chilled right out.

The dog was scared. She felt alone. And a stranger had come into her safe place. She needed someone to come down to her level, to walk like her, to live like her, so that she could learn to trust them.

As I watched this neighbor lady crawling around on all fours for the sake of a silly, stubborn puppy, all I could think about was God’s grace.

Maybe some of us sneer at the idea of crawling around on all fours for the sake of a dog. Maybe some of us would never stoop to doing something so ridiculous.

My friends, what do you think Jesus did for us? He is God. He made the universe. All of creation began with Him (Colossians 1:15-17). He didn’t begin in that Bethlehem manger. He existed before Time. And He put on human skin and came to us (Philippians 2:7).

We were scared and stubborn and lost (Luke 19:10). We were lonely and empty inside. And He didn’t sneer at the idea of humiliating Himself. He crawled down in the dirt with us for three years, going knowingly to the most excruciating death in history, all for the sake of giving us someone to trust with our eternal souls Philippians 2:8).

So the next time you run into someone who needs help, remember how Jesus helped you. The next time you encounter another person who looks different than you do or who doesn’t dress as nicely as you do, remember what Jesus gave up to reach you. The next time you butt heads with some stubborn person who disagrees with you, remember the status Jesus sacrificed to have a relationship with you.

Oh, in case you were wondering, the dog and I figured each other out. A few days into my dog-sitting stint, we became buddies. But I had to take a page out of the neighbor’s playbook and get down on the floor with her for a little while.

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

Flipping Fates (The Misadventures of Trisha Lee Book 3) by [A. C. Williams]

About the author: A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if isn’t, her socks won’t match. She has authored eight novels, two novellas, three devotional books, and more flash fiction than you can shake a stick at. A senior partner at the award-winning Uncommon Universes Press, she is passionate about stories and the authors who write them. Learn more about her book coaching and follow her adventures online at www.amycwilliams.com.

Join the conversation: How do you practice the grace of God?

Irreversible

by Julie Zine Coleman

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  Ezekiel 36:26 NIV

Some changes cannot be undone.

One of the science concepts I taught my fifth graders every year was the difference between a physical change and a chemical change. One is reversable and one is permanent. A physical change is a change in the state of matter. Applying heat to ice will melt it to liquid and eventually turn it into gas. But no matter in what state we find it, water remains H2O.

A chemical change is quite different. Heat actually causes a chemical break down of the bonds that hold atoms in a molecule together. They then rearrange to form new molecules that are completely different substances. For instance, the eggs you mix into cake batter, when baked, become something different. You can’t unbake a cake and retrieve those eggs again. What they were no longer exists. An irreversible molecular change has occurred.

There is another kind of irrevocable change: the transformation that God works in us at the moment we believe in Jesus Christ. Paul tells us that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV).

Just as a new substance has new properties, what once was true about us is true no longer. Where there was only death, now there is life (Ephesians 2:1). The Holy Spirit has come to permanently dwell in us as a guarantee of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13). Our status has gone from condemned to free, from people who once walked in the flesh now walking in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-2). Once alienated from God, we have now been permanently adopted into His family (Ephesians 1:5). Our spiritual blindness has been irrevocably altered to an ability to see and understand spiritual truth (Romans 8:5-6). We have been rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13, Philippians 3:20).   

And again, just as in chemistry, where a substance cannot change itself (heat is responsible for any transformation), the transformation that happened at our salvation was nothing we could do ourselves. It was something only God could do for us.  

The best news of all: God’s changes are permanent. We didn’t make it happen, and we cannot undo what He has done. We can rest in His work with confidence. Like most children that grew up in Christian homes, I prayed every night for Jesus to come into my heart, just in case the last prayer didn’t take. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood it was God’s doing: He was already there.

Every other religion bases a relationship with God on what they DO. But followers of Christ trust in what God has DONE. Jesus told His followers: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).

Do you worry that you can out-sin the grace of God? That somehow you can undo His work in you and change yourself back into what you were before He healed you? Lean into what you know He has already accomplished in you. Trust that His work is sufficient to save. We didn’t do it, and we cannot undo it. He has made us new.

The change is unalterable.

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

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300

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

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What of God’s changes mean the most to you?

Grace to Help in Times of Need

by Alma L. Carr-Jones

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:16 KJV 

Blam! Blam! Blam! “Momma, somebody is at the door!” Louise knew it was the Rent Man there to collect the rent. Her momma opened the door.

“Well, you got my money this morning?”

“No sir, I don’t. Can you give me one more week? I can catch up on the rent then, sir.”

“Don’t bother; I want you gone by Sunday or I will have you set out!”

“Now see here Mr. Rent Man, you can’t …”

Louise stepped boldly in front of her mother. “Excuse me, good morning Mr. Rent Man.” Her words came out a whisper.

“Uh, good morning Lula’s little kid,” and down the steps he stormed.

Later at church, Louise’s prayer was silent but fervent. “Hey, JESUS, It’s me. The rent man was hollering at Momma and he told her we have to move by Sunday. I don’t know what to do. Please help us. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.”

The next day she walked up the huge steps, wiped her nervous, sweaty hands on her dress, and went inside the door of The Cotton Exchange. She asked a lady for Mr. Fred Smith.

When she walked into his office, he looked up distractedly from his desk. “Excuse me, Mr. Smith. My name’s Louise; I’m Lula Mae’s daughter. We live on…”

“I know where you live and I know your Momma,” he interrupted.

“Yes sir, well the bus ride took my $0.50 but I have ten cents left from the bus that you can have and Momma will only owe you $9.90.”

Mr. Smith nodded and cleared his throat, “Put the dime on the table and tell Lula Mae I’ll see her on Sunday.” “Yes sir! Thank you, sir!” She thanked Jesus all the way home! 

Grace to help in time of need. The above verse says that God knew there would be times in our lives when we would have need. Because He knew about the need, He prepared the way for us. You see, I learned need when I was a child and learned where and how to go for help in those times. I prayed in faith; I stated my need; I thanked God, and closed my prayer. My need was met by God’s grace through the rent man because the LORD gave me favor in his sight. 

Have you ever been in need and experienced someone’s grace? Has God ever given you an opportunity to show grace to someone else? Look for opportunities this week to offer grace. Don’t be surprised if God uses you in some mighty ways.

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

Get Yourself Up: Motivation and Inspiration To Keep Pressing Forward For the Next Generation (The Tallest Mountain Series Book 1) by [Alma Carr-Jones]

About the author: Alma L. Carr-Jones, wife of gospel minister Bro. Paul C. Jones and mother of two children, is a beloved educator, poet/author, and speaker. Alma lives in McKenzie, Tennessee. To date, she has published Chopping My Row, Get Yourself Up (Book 1 of The Tallest Mountain Series), and three volumes of poetry. Alma’s motto is, “Doing what I can while I can.”  She says of her writing; “Leaving a positive legacy each day, so that my words can help countless others, even after my voice is stilled.”

Join the conversation: Have you ever witnessed the transformative grace of God?

GRACE

by Susie Crosby

  noun: mercy, pardon, approval; special favor

Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace and more grace. Isaiah 30:19 MSG

Grace is a hard concept for me. I need it so desperately. This undeserved favor, this washing away of my mistakes and failures, this loving welcome into the open arms of Jesus. This generous gift of God–pure and simple and free–is supposed to be anything but hard to receive, yet I can struggle with it.

I try to earn it. I try to understand it. I try to explain it. I ask why? Why does God give me this unconditional love when I don’t deserve it? And how? How can He possibly see me as innocent and clean despite my stains of selfishness and failure?

God teaches me over and over that I get his grace because of WHO HE IS… 

-not because of anything I do or don’t do

-not because of how loving or how critical my heart has felt

-not because of how well or how poorly I perform

-not because of how obedient or how self-serving my choices have been

And he reminds me that grace doesn’t have to be earned, understood, or explained by me.30:19

It is free, undeserved. A gift.

Ahhh. But I don’t do well with those. If someone gives me something, I have a hard time accepting it. I scramble. Something in return–quick! A gift for them, a note of thanks, a favor. I can barely handle it. But that isn’t why people give me gifts, is it? To make me run around and try to earn them?

It certainly isn’t the reason that God gives. The only thing God wants me to do with his precious grace is to humbly receive it. 

“When you come before me, whoever gave you the idea of acting like this, running here and there, doing this and that–All this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?” Isaiah 1:12 MSG

But I feel like I should do something. Run here and there, strive hard, criticize myself…maybe these might make me feel like I could possibly earn it a little bit?

Nope. He reminds me again. That isn’t how grace is given. It is an absolutely free and completely undeserved gift from his loving, forgiving, good, and generous heart.  

All I can do is thank him.

All I can do is be still and accept this gift that he is offering without trying to pay him back.

All I can do is cry to him for help.

As I open my heart and trust His, He will do all the work. Grace will flow in overwhelming abundance. More and more will pour over me, around me, into me. So much grace, that all I can do is laugh (or cry) in relief and rest in this waterfall of love and joy and freedom.  

This is all he wants in return.

My heart…open to His.

Open your heart to His greater-than-expected gift of grace. Cry to Him for help as you struggle to receive it, to believe it. He is pouring out his forgiveness, His love, His joy to wash over you and draw you close. And He will keep it coming. More and more for the rest of your life.

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

susie crosby

About the author: Susie is a grateful mom of two (almost) grown boys who currently live and go to school in Honolulu, Hawaii. She and her husband live in a seaside town in the Puget Sound region called Mukilteo. They love to hike and kayak, they are huge Seattle sports fans, and they mostly love hanging out at home with their little dog Koko. Susie teaches P.E., Art, Technology, and Music at an all-kindergarten school which keeps her busy full time. Her passion and joy is sharing encouraging words with the people she loves. She is an active blogger and speaker, and she is the author of Just One Word: 90 Devotions to Invite Jesus In. She is always on the lookout for fun coffee shops, inspiring books, remote beaches, and farmers’ markets. Connect with Susie at www.susiecrosby.com.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with grace?

Do You Have a Friend that Needs Your Grace?

by Lee Ann Mancini

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, Just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

Do you have a friend that needs your grace? I remember one day a friend of mine made an unfavorable remark about my husband’s weight. It really hurt me, because even though he is overweight, his heart is pure as gold. I tried to forgive and forget what she had said, but every time I saw her, those mean-spirited words always came to my mind. I discovered that sometimes it is easier to forgive than to forget.

Praise God that we have the perfect example of what we need to do in what He has done for us. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25, NIV). While Jesus hung on the cross, He asked the Father to forgive those who were killing Him (Luke 23:34)! It is a wonderful picture of total forgiveness.

“The living God so forgives that he forgets!”[1]  If He can forgive and forget our many sins, surely, we can forgive and forget a sinful act of a friend or even a foe.

Grace is needed in order to forgive completely. Grace is the gift of mercy and love towards those who don’t deserve it. Mephibosheth, grandson of King Saul, found himself in a situation that should have cost him his life. It was common for the reigning king to kill the bloodline of the previous king to make sure the king’s position would not be jeopardized. King David’s love for Jonathan allowed him to extend grace to Mephibosheth, who voiced his gratification when he said, “All my grandfather’s descendants deserved nothing but death from my lord the king, but you gave your servant a place among those who eat at your table” (2 Sam 19:28, NIV). 

The Greek word for grace is charis. “It is significant that the most common cognates for joy (Chara, “inner joy,” and chairein, “to rejoice”) are derived from the same root— char—as in the Greek word for “grace.”[2] Grace may be the most important word in the Bible because grace is love in action!  We are to rejoice because of His loving grace and the hope we have in Christ. “We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2 CSB).

I always extend grace to my friend, because a loyal friend is a treasure beyond comprehension. A friend who forgives and loves when we deserve nothing but condemnation is a treasure that can’t be measured.

When the world says we are to judge and punish the offense, God’s word says we are to lovingly extend grace. If you think your friend was loyal before, watch how your love and grace will transform them even more!

[1] Knight, G. A. F. Servant theology: a commentary on the book of Isaiah 40–55  (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Publications), page 71.

[2]  Morrice, W. G. Joy. G. F. Hawthorne, R. P. Martin, & D. G. Reid (Eds.), Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press), p. 511–512.

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Do You Have a Friend that Needs Your Grace? – insight from Lee Ann Mancini on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author:  Lee Ann Mancini is an adjunct professor at South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary. She is the executive producer of the Sea Kids animation series https://seakidstv.com that helps children to build a strong foundation in Jesus.

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Lee Ann’s books, The Sea Kids series, has won over 25 awards, and is a favorite among teachers, parents, and especially children! In I’m Not Afraid!, Susie and her friend go to the Undersea Amusement Park. After  saying a prayer to Jesus, she rides the roller coaster and her fear turns into faith! She learns that praying to Jesus during difficult times and having faith are all she needs to overcome her fears!

Join the conversation: Do you need to forgive someone?


Secret Petitions of the Heart

by Christina Rose

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.”                                                                                                              Psalm 37:4 AMP

One summer day many years ago I planted a secret petition in my heart. A thunderstorm had sent me and my cousin Susan racing from the pool to the cozy den where we plopped down with bowls of ice cream to watch a movie. “The Sandpiper” was filmed on the wild, central coast of California. I was overcome with awe by the spectacular Pacific coast. As I watched actress Elizabeth Taylor paint a canvas of sandpipers by the ocean, a bold dream was born in my heart. I knew I belonged there on that beautiful wild coast and that somehow and someday I would find my way there. For a little ten-year old girl who had never traveled west of Maryland, this dream seemed so big and impossible that I kept it to myself.

As years went by I forgot this dream amid the busyness of life. After college, I moved to San Francisco where I was married and had two children. Each summer we would drive down the coast to camp under the redwoods in Big Sur. We would spend hours on the beach, exploring tide pools and enjoying the surf. We would often stop by Nepenthe restaurant for an early dinner on the way back to camp.

One afternoon, as I was exploring the gift shop at Nepenthe, I noticed a huge poster of  “The Sandpiper” movie. Further inquisition revealed that the movie had been shot on the very beach I had been taking my children to every year. I learned that the stars in the movie often came to Nepenthe after filming for dinner. As the wonder of God’s grace in fulfilling a child’s secret dream from more than 30 years ago flooded me, I was filled with awe at how great God is. He never gives up on us or our dreams. He knows our every secret, even if we have buried them so deep, they have become secrets to ourselves. God actualized my childhood dream in a way far greater than I had imagined. He blessed me with a beautiful family with which to enjoy it all.

God’s greatness in restoring dreams is evidenced throughout the Bible.

Elisha was a prophet in the Bible who often traveled through the town of Shunem. A local woman wanted to honor him as a man of God, so she and her husband built a room for him in their home. Elisha wanted to repay the woman for her generosity, but she insisted there was nothing she needed. When Elisha discovered she had no children, he promised her that she would have a son within one year. She had kept her dream of having a child a secret, as she had given up on it many years ago. While she dared not hope again, the secret petition of her heart was granted when Elisha’s promise came true; she was blessed with a baby boy within the year. (2 Kings 4:8-17)

As a young teenager, Joseph had a great dream of being a powerful leader. When his jealous brothers sold him into slavery, he may have felt that this dream was just an illusion. For all the years he toiled in prison, there may have been moments when he wondered if his dream would ever be realized. All the while, God was not punishing Joseph, he was merely preparing him. Joseph’s dream came true, and he became the leader God called him to be. (Genesis 37, 41:38-43)

Have you given up on a dream that seems impossible? With God all things are possible, including granting the secret petitions of our hearts.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

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Secret Petitions of the Heart – encouragement from Christina Rose on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

christina rose

About the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer, and speaker certified by the John Maxwell Team of Leadership.  She is a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. She is a world traveler, surfer, foodie, cappuccino- loving chocoholic and a devoted mom to kids and dogs, as well as auntie to many nieces and nephews who live around the world.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story.  With her young family on the verge of falling apart, Christina finds herself in a desperate situation with no resources other than herself.  After appealing to heaven, the Lord takes her on a journey of awakening, redemption and restoration. Christina hopes her story will encourage others who are in need of hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: Has God fulfilled a secret dream of yours? Please share!

How to Ask God for Help

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

Do questions dog you or wake you up at night? What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Do you know how to ask God for help?

Recently I’ve heard people wondering—

  • If it’s safe to return to business?
  • What’s the right medical protocol for my issue?
  • Does God want me to start a new project?

Even before the added complications of Covid-19, we faced questions that reached beyond our understanding. Where do you go for answers?

After observing His prayer life, a disciple asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. In Luke 11:1-13, Jesus showed His disciples and us the art of asking. Let’s look at the familiar verses of what many call the Lord’s Prayer in relation to finding answers to our questions.

Call Him Father: Jesus said to call God “Father.”

This speaks of our special relationship with God through Jesus and reminds us to approach God with childlike trust and humility. We aren’t asking an impersonal computer or busy call center for help. We’re approaching One who has a vested interest in us. One who counts us as family. His care for us reflects on Him (Ps. 23:3).

Remember God’s Nature When You Ask: “Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2 NIV).

My husband is a seasoned relationship counselor. If I have a question dealing with people and relationships, I ask him. But I don’t ask him for technical support. He’s a counselor, not a techie.

Hallowed means holy. Our Father grants requests that line up with His nature. Remembering His holy nature eliminates foolish requests. Does my request agree with God’s character?

Ask God for Daily Needs: “Give us each day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3 NIV).

For 40 years, God provided daily manna for the Hebrews in the wilderness. A few foolish people hoarded some for the next day, even though God told them not to. The day-old manna was stinky and wormy.

God provides the grace we need when we need it—not before. Learning to look to Him for my daily needs teaches me to trust Him and removes my fears of the future. How many of your concerns deal with the future? How might trusting God with today help you not worry about tomorrow?

Ask God with a Clean Heart—Forgiven and Forgiving: “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Luke 11:4 NIV).

If we have trouble forgiving, we need only to remember how much God has forgiven us. By receiving God’s forgiveness, we then have grace to extend to others. This clears any blocked channels so we can better hear from God. Has unforgiveness hampered my connection to God? What do I need to confess and forsake? Who do I need to forgive?

A Different Kind of Protection: “And lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:4b NASB).

God never tempts anyone (James 1:13). So why does Jesus include this? To remind us to ask for protection from temptation. I once read of a study where individuals were put in a room with a plate of fragrant chocolate chip cookies and told not to eat any. Other individuals were given a plate of radishes and told not to eat.

Afterwards, both groups were given a set of problems to solve. Those who hadn’t spent energy resisting cookies spent more time solving the problems before giving up. Resisting temptation taxes our strength and energy. When we put ourselves in positions to be tempted, we drain strength and energy that could be channeled to more profitable endeavors.

The Most Important Ask: “How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13b NASB).

Today, the Holy Spirit indwells every believer (Rom. 8:9). Whatever fills us controls us. A person controlled by worry acts very different from one filled with hope. When we yield to the Holy Spirit, we manifest His fruit (Gal. 5:22-23), have the power to resist sin (Gal. 5:16), and understand His will for each day.

When you need help, ask God. Your heavenly Father wants to help you.

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How to Ask God for Help – insight from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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

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

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

Join the conversation: What part of the Lord’s Prayer is most difficult for you to pray?

Is Love All We Really Need? Or is There Something Else Missing?

by Lee Ann Mancini

I love music! When I hear an old familiar song, it brings back memories of when I first heard it. But sometimes the words suddenly take on a new dynamic, even though I’ve heard them hundreds of times before. Like the other day, when after listening to one of the Beatles’ blockbuster hits, I couldn’t get the song out of my head. And it’s no wonder: at the very end of the song, “All you need is love” is repeated twenty-five times! As it continued to echo in my mind, I found myself wondering: is love all we really need?

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 lists the benefits of true biblical love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”  Colossians 3:14 states that love binds all the virtues together in perfect unity. God commanded us to love one another as He loves us (John 15:12). And remember, love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

We all exhibit love in some capacity. Most people love their families, friends, and neighbors. But obviously, love has not been enough to keep us from family problems, political division, or racial conflict. On its own, love cannot bring peace. So what is the missing piece of the puzzle?

We need more grace.

Grace can bring peace to any relationship. Grace is practicing unconditional favor towards those who don’t deserve it. Grace is love in action. It chooses others over ourselves. We’ve been given abundant grace by God—Paul described the grace of God as lavish (Ephesians 1:7-8). It was grace that enabled us to receive salvation (Ephesians 2:8).

The thing is, grace and intended retribution cannot simultaneously exist in our hearts.

All we need is love and grace. John Newton, who wrote the song Amazing Grace, was once a slave trader. It was God’s grace that changed him. In gratitude, he wrote,

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found: was blind, but now I see.”

As racial tensions and anger unfold this spring, I’ve been examining my heart. Where am I blind to the needs of others? How can I reach out and bridge the gap that stubbornly continues in this country? Why can’t love be enough?

I would say that love is crucial to all of us understanding each other. But we need grace as well. Grace says I have done nothing to earn favor with God. Recipients of grace know: “I was lost but now I see. I was hopeless and now I have hope. I am unworthy but God has made me His daughter. I was helpless to fix my sin, but Jesus paid my debt.”

The important thing to remember is that spiritually, we are all coming from the exact same place. We are sinners in need of a Savior. None of us can be righteous on our own. We all need Jesus and owe everything to Him. We all need God’s unconditional love.

When we understand what we have been given, in spite of our failures and sin, we can let the abundant love and grace we have been given spill over into the lives of others. Forgiving those who have wronged us becomes the only reasonable option. God’s grace can set us free to love as He loves.

The two really do go hand in hand.

Then summoning him, his lord said to him, “You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you? Matthew 18:32-33 NASB

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Is Love All We Really Need? Or is There Something Else Missing? – encouragement from Lee Ann Mancini on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author:  Lee Ann Mancini is an adjunct professor at South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary. She is the executive producer of the Sea Kids animation series https://seakidstv.com that helps children to build a strong foundation in Jesus.

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Lee Ann’s books, The Sea Kids series, has won over 25 awards, and is a favorite among teachers, parents, and especially children! In I’m Not Afraid!, Susie and her friend go to the Undersea Amusement Park. After  saying a prayer to Jesus, she rides the roller coaster and her fear turns into faith! She learns that praying to Jesus during difficult times and having faith are all she needs to overcome her fears!

Join the conversation: Of the two, which is more challenging for you–giving love or giving grace?

Living in Grace Will Guide Our Words

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions.                                                                                                                                        Proverbs 18:2 NIV

Over the years, my words have gotten me into a heap of trouble. I’ve initiated and meddled in arguments I shouldn’t have, fought to be right rather than understand, and wreaked destruction in the name of self-defense.

For years, though I longed to behave differently, my mouth failed to change.

Here’s why: I fought the symptom instead of the cause.

Whenever my words run amuck, my pride’s at fault. The solution, then, is surrender—making Jesus, obedience to Him (rather than man’s opinion) and the intimacy that follows—my treasure.

Let me explain.

Proverbs 18:1-4 (NIV) says, “An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels. Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes reproach. The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.”

When I speak foolishly, focused on defending myself or proving my point, I’m likely acting out of fear: fear of losing face or not getting what I want or hope for. But in my desire to elevate or defend myself, I miss crucial unspoken “heart talk.”

A while back, I engaged in a heated discussion that revealed considerable miscommunication—things heard that were never said, statements taken out of context, and others extrapolated in confusing ways. Focused on the miscommunication, I attempted to unpack each one.

I remained oblivious to the insecurities and wounds underlying it all, and thereby only exacerbating the problem. Had I focused on the person’s heart more than their words, I could’ve responded with wisdom and grace.

Reading through Proverbs 18, I thought of this interchange and prayerfully evaluated my heart.

I came up with this list of reminders and steps:

  1. I don’t need to defend myself. When someone criticizes me, if their complaints are valid, acknowledge them and prayerfully consider ways I might change. Because living in grace means I’m in need of it, too. I’m broken, prone to sin, and nowhere near who God would have me to be, yet even now I’m accepted and deeply loved. This disarms my pride, as I humbly recognize my need for Christ, which increases my courage to grow.
  2. God’s opinion and my obedience to Him is more important than man’s perception of me. When I base my identity in Christ and treasure intimacy with Him more than saving face, I don’t need to defend myself or prove my point.
  3. When I begin to feel defensive, I must uncover the fear beneath and remind myself of who I am in Christ. He’s my defender, protector, perfect guide, and the One who holds my future in His hands.
  4. Don’t own whatever’s not true. Simply disregard it, reminding myself of steps one through three.
  5. Finally, listen for the fears and insecurities behind my “opponent’s” words and address those before attempting to resolve anything external.

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Living in Grace Will Guide Our Words – encouragement from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Relational conflicts can be messy, confusing, and cloaked in emotion and false perceptions. Seeking grace-filled resolution means putting a guard rail on my tongue and taking time to go deep—to my and my opponent’s heart. It also involves surrendering my pride and emotions to Jesus so that He can love others through me. It’s just another way to live out grace in our lives.

Jennifer SlatteryAbout 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 Hometown Healing 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 HERE to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.

Do you ever feel insignificant or unseen? As if what you do or even who you are isn’t quite good enough? If so, this seven week Bible study, Becoming His Princess, is for you. Based on the remarkable life of Sarah, you will find a grace that will prove sufficient for all your failures and insufficiencies.

Join the conversation: Let’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to guard your tongue? When considering times your words have gotten you into trouble, can you see similar “root causes” as I mentioned above? How often has fear and pride lied at the root of your conflicts? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

 

Seasick from Traveling with Jesus

by Lori Stanley Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

“For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” Psalm 107: 25-28 ESV

For years, I encountered wave after relentless wave of trial. After a time, I cried out against the storms. Alone in the dark, I asked: “Is it something I’ve done?”

I repented over things I did, things I should have done, things I could have done better. Which decision had sent me spiraling into this Odyssean wormhole? Was there some prayer, an “open sesame” combination of phrases or liturgies that would release the blessing, open the door, move God’s hand to stop the crazy spinning helm, the everyday vertigo of being me?

But there are no Christian incantations, and God isn’t an idol to be flattered or a genie to be conjured. And anyway, what did I expect following a God who naps through storms?

My spirit flailed on the deck of the life and heaved over the side, sickened by the unending waves.

I watched as others seemed to have a measure of peace, security, victory, calm seas and fair winds. They seemed to be peacefully traveling on a cruise ship with buffets, entertainment, and day trips to the shore. While my peace allotment was ladled out in splattering scoops like sips of water rationed to galley slaves.

I developed an intense aversion to manna. I didn’t want grace for the day, bread enough for now, strength for the moment! I wanted a diversified grace portfolio that would allow me to retire on grace at any time of my choosing; an account full of provision so I could live off the interest; bona fide security that came from earning enough blessing that I was assured calm seas for miles.

I didn’t want to be along for the ride, I wanted to own the ship, direct its course and hire weathermen to dictate the weather. At least that’s what I screamed into the wind as I lay drenched on the storm-tossed deck.

And when God whispered to me to trust His goodness, love, His plan – the hope of that was sometimes like a stale cracker. Internal waves competed with the assault of the sea—waves of self-pity, bitterness, doubt, and fear, leaving me tempted to abandon ship and hope for dispassionate strangers willing to toss me over the rail and a large passing fish.

But then, the wind blew in the truth like an albatross, and as I watched it glide and land beside me on deck, I suddenly recognized the blessing of my storm training and the kindness of God. He never allowed me the illusion that I could bank grace. I stood for a moment on the deck, utilizing muscles that had developed by clinging on so hard and experienced a new confidence; not in the sun or the soundness of the ship or in a hopeful breeze, but confidence in Him, the One who is outside me, within me, and around me. The One who is able, because I never am, even when I feel like the captain of my soul.

He knew that a steady diet of manna is the prescription for self-righteousness, which is no righteousness at all. He knew that if He removed all other resources I would hunger and thirst after the real thing: only available through Him and only provided in each day, each moment, each breath, but promised for eternity.

Manna. It is a holy word. God provides. What is it? Grace. Wow.

The waves still crash over my bow, but the nausea has passed. I have my sea legs now and hope no longer feels like a weight I cannot bear. Now it is my anchor, Jesus.

Are you in the storm? He is with you. Hang on.

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Seasick from Traveling with Jesus – 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: Are you in a storm? What are you learning?