Kill Me Now – Keeping It Real with God

by Lori Stanley Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

“Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” Numbers 11:11-15 ESV

What I love about the relationship between Moses and God is how real it all gets. Moses spent time meeting with God “face-to-face,” the Bible says, “as a man speaks with his friend.” Wow. I mean, seriously, wow.

You can’t read the book of Numbers and miss what a whining, complaining, grumbling bunch of people Moses led through the wilderness (and before you think I’m picking on the Israelites, my husband and I can’t drive thirty minutes without a quarrel. So I’m pretty certain they’re representative of the entire human race on a forty-year wander with only McManna burgers and McManna fries to eat.)

Their complaining reaches such heights, there are moments when God tells Moses to stand back while He destroys them all (Exodus 32:10). He assures Moses He can create a whole new people using just Moses’ DNA. Moses intercedes for them, then marches down the mountain to have a word with his wayward flock.

Then there are moments when Moses loses it. If we paraphrase the Numbers 11 passage above, essentially Moses is saying, “Kill me now. I’ve had it with these people.” This is the prayer of a holy man who speaks with God face-to-face.

I’ve prayed that prayer under far less pressure.

Even after five-plus decades of following Jesus, I’m trying to go deeper. I’ve seen some amazing things following God – miracles, answered prayer, and transformed lives. I’ve also known disappointment, silences from heaven, prayers that fell back to earth like shot-gunned quail, and lingering questions about big theological issues.

What I sense about going deeper with God is this idea of being real with Him. At my baptism, they played the hymn “Just as I am.” Its message is that I come to God through Jesus Christ, with nothing to my own credit.

But, somewhere along the way, I started trying to clean up my own act before I appeared before Him in prayer. I started masking feelings and questions with flattering phrases and religious words I thought would provide the formula to getting the answers I wanted. My prayers often bordered on idolatry as I struggled to break the “Open Sesame” code that would pry open God’s fists that seemed to be clenched around my desired blessing.

I’ve discovered that “Just as I am” still applies. Even after knowing Him for decades. Even after reading the Bible cover to cover again and again. Even after a degree in Biblical Studies. Even after all I know and all I’ve done “for Him,” I still appear before Him with nothing to my own credit. I come just as I am in the name of Jesus and am welcome in Jesus’ name.

Sometimes, “just as I am” means lost or confused. Sometimes it means happy and content. Other times it means angry, doubting or “just kill me now, I’ve had it with these people.” It’s freeing to stop hiding from God and working so hard to get something from Him. I want to want God first. Usually, I come to Him wanting something else, but I want to aim higher.

So, I’m learning from Moses, because he was real with God. He spoke with God face-to-face, as one would speak with a friend. I suspect the reason for this is that when Moses met with God, he knew immediately that God was the real Promised Land.

Are you keeping it real with God? Start today and you’ll also find that He is your Promised Land.

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Kill Me Now – Keeping It Real with God – 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. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

Lori’s latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. The dialogues everyday Christians delay are often the very channels God wants to use to deepen relationships and transform lives. Through funny, vulnerable personal stories and sound biblical teaching, the principles here are guaranteed to increase the confidence and competence of Christians in discussing sensitive topics of every kind.

Join the conversation: How do the words of “Just as I Am” speak to 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.

TWEETABLE
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?

 

My Heart’s Desire

by Christina Rose

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4 NIV

After 22 years in the family home it was time to sell. I dreaded it. The house seemed so quiet and empty after my two daughters left for college, yet it was filled with joyful memories of new babies, holidays, birthdays, love and laughter. I never wanted those days to end. Now that my husband was living nearby with someone new, I felt more lost and alone than ever. I was on the verge of sliding into a serious pity party, and there was only one thing to do. I put on my hiking boots and headed out with the dogs to call on my Father.

My home was at the base of Ring Mountain, a beautiful nature preserve that overlooked San Francisco bay. Each day I hiked and prayed and found my peace.  Today I needed it more than ever. I looked to the sky in prayer and heard, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NIV.

The Lord spoke these words to His people in exile, spread all over the known world to give them hope. While things were grim at the moment, they were not to fear. The Lord would uphold and restore them. He never forgets His own.

Peace began filling my spirit and answers flowed. I was guided to call an old friend who had a beautiful historic home with a few rental cottages in the nearby town of Larkspur. His 100 year- old home sat on a hill in the middle of a redwood forest with spectacular mountain views and was a short drive to the beach. While I had not spoken to my friend in years, God’s message to call him was insistent. He was now living a few hours away and offered me the main house for a reasonable rent. He was in bankruptcy which meant if he lost the house I might have days to move out if I moved in. This was a huge financial and emotional risk. Again, I prayed on my mountain and the guidance to make this move was clear. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”  (Proverbs 3:5 NIV).

I lived in paradise for three years. My daughters and their friends loved to visit. The stained glass windows, high beamed ceilings, decks, views of the mountain, lush garden in the redwoods with visiting deer, hummingbirds and butterflies were heavenly. Each sunrise and sunset I prayed on the top deck. In the evenings the fog from the ocean would roll over the mountain refreshing the air. A cottage became vacant and my sister and her kids spent the summer with us. A niece came by with friends on their way to a Bible retreat. One morning as I was watching the group praying in the garden, I thought, God’s plan is so much bigger than our own if we would just ask for his help and trust him.

The three years I spent in Larkspur were so blessed, and I am beyond grateful. My leap of faith was rewarded in ways that were far greater than I could have ever imagined. But I learned the true desire of my heart was not Larkspur. My true heart’s desire was to have comfort in knowing how much our Father loves us and how much he wants his best for us.

If we will just turn to him and trust him he will astound us with his mercy and grace. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 (KJV)

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My Heart’s Desire – encouragement from Christina Rose on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

christina roseAbout 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. A devoted mom of two daughters and great aunt to over 40 nieces and nephews, Christina loves spending time in nature and hosting gatherings for family and friends.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story. Her marriage in shambles, 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 and miraculous empowerment. That power that is available to us all, especially those who are in need of hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: When has God blessed you beyond what you had hoped? How did it increase your trust in Him? 

One Example that Proves God has a Sense of Humor

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

The lights went out. And when the lights go out in the country, it’s really dark. I had gotten into my pajamas, washed my face, and brushed my teeth, but I wasn’t quite ready to crawl into bed just yet.

I had only been back in my room at the Christian camp about ten minutes. It was the second night of a weekend ladies retreat where I was speaking to a church group about God’s extraordinary grace. That night I shared how we are to be grace-givers. God wants us to be channels of His grace to others, not merely receptacles. Great truth, but also challenging. Apparently God decided I needed some practice.

I managed to locate my cell phone then used its light to find the number for the front desk. Assuming the whole unit was down, I reported a power outage for the K Building. Instead, the desk clerk said my key had been turned in. So, as per their policy, they had shut off the power to my room. What??

In moments like these I can picture God sitting on the edge of His throne. The Father turns to the Son and says, “Let’s see if she paid attention to what she told those ladies tonight. This should be good.”

I tried to calmly assure her that I was still in the room – and would remain in the room – all night. She apologized and said they would get the power right back on. I thanked her then waited in the dark.

No power means no lights or air conditioning. It began to get stuffy. After all, it was mid-September in southeast Texas and the humidity was about 125%. I checked the time on my cell phone. Five minutes had passed. I decided I would wait five more and then call again.

Five minutes later, still in the dark, I picked up the phone and dialed the front desk. I could feel the battle inside me. This graceless girl wanted to say “Just how long does it take to flip a switch?!” But I had just boldly taught a room full of women from Ephesians 4:29:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (NIV).

So, I began to pray that gracious words would flow. Although I could have done worse, I also could have done better. Even a hint of irritation is not very gracious. And I know how I was feeling inside even if the desk clerk didn’t.

Not long after the second call the power returned and I finished getting ready for bed. As I settled in, God and I had a little “post-game” chat. I really do love that He gives us opportunities to apply what He’s teaching us.

After the retreat session the next morning, I returned to my room to gather my things, make the check out time, and head home. I opened the door and flipped the switch. Yes, you guessed it. No power. Oh well, no problem. I opened the curtains to let in the sunlight and smiled.

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One Example that Proves God has a Sense of Humor – @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.

Grace with No Reservations

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

I’ve experienced it several times and you may have too – the miracle in the Starbucks’ drive-thru line. That thrilling experience when you order your drink, pull around to the window, and the barista announces that the person in front of you paid for your coffee.

My first reaction is always “Wow! How nice! That’s awesome!” Then almost as quickly I think, “Man, I should have ordered a venti!” (That means “extra large” in Starbuckese!)

My gratitude initially fosters a desire to buy the coffee for the person behind me. But before I pull out my wallet, I sneak a peek at the vehicle behind me to make sure it’s not a 12-passenger van carrying a high school basketball team. I mean, I want to pass along the blessing, but there are limits.

Sometimes I feel that way about sharing God’s grace. I want to actively love others and submit to them out of reverence for Christ. But some people don’t deserve it. And others can’t do anything for me. Then the Holy Spirit gently reminds me, that’s the point of grace.

By definition, “grace” means being kind to those who don’t deserve it. To give and do without any expectation that the other person will reciprocate. To show kindness to those who have hurt us and meet the needs of those who will never be able to help us in return.

Yet sometimes I still feel stingy or choosy with the kindness God has freely given me. As believers, we have an abundant supply of His grace. I love Paul’s description in Ephesians 1:7-8:

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on upon us, in all wisdom and understanding” (NASB).

God doesn’t just give us enough grace. He has lavished it on us with great abundance. Yet sometimes we hoard it, withholding it from those who desperately need it.

We may withhold kind words or actions from someone who has hurt us. Or we may take a meal to a sick friend hoping they will do the same for us in our time of need. While that expectation of reciprocation may not be our primary motivation, it is often still there, lurking in the back of our minds. We allow our sinful nature to qualify our grace.

Jesus constantly extended grace to those who could give Him nothing in return – the orphan, the prisoner, the widow, the homeless, the invalid, the dying, the sinner. He healed, He touched, He gave. The One “who came from the Father full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) extended grace with no expectations. And Jesus calls us, His followers, to do the same.

Who are the “needy” people right around you – neighbors, friends, family members, church members? In what ways are you extending grace with no expectation of return?

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Grace with No Reservations – wisdom from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the author: This post is adapted from Kathy Howard’s new Bible study Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing. Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle PaulLavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing by [Howard, Kathy] 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: When was the last time you experienced grace from someone else?

The Case of the Deep-fried Guilt

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I went to the food court at the mall the other day. Pretty sure I was found guilty.

It’s weird because at the food court, you can eat an entire meal before you even find a table. Those people feed it to you one toothpick at a time. Three thousand deep-fried sample calories later, you still have to order dinner. “Order in the food court”—it’s probably some sort of mall law. I tried to object once but then I overruled myself.

Last time, just before the guilt of overeating was about to kick in, I was polishing off the last curly fry (the curly fries I SO should’ve said no to), and I think I might’ve heard my left ventricle squeaking closed. I wonder if the toothpick people could eventually be charged with ventricular manslaughter.

On the spiritual side, our non-physical heart does better when we say no to guilt. Sin is a killer and we need to always confess and get rid of it quickly. But we need to be just as quick to get rid of any residual guilt.

When we dredge up old sin that’s already been forgiven, we clog up our hearts in an entirely different way. Unwarranted guilt hinders our walk with the Lord. Our enemy doesn’t want us operating in the powerful place of forgiveness. He doesn’t want us to experience a sweet, unhindered connection with the Father. If he can obstruct that connection by convincing us that our sin is unforgivable, he can choke out our fruitfulness. We’ll end up so distracted by guilt that we can’t clearly focus on the purposes He’s called us to.

Sometimes we try to get rid of the guilt ourselves. People who attempt to take care of their own guilt feelings usually realize the futility of it at some point. They end up trying to numb it with some sort of chemical or another item from a long list of destructive habits. Or some try to cover over the guilt by doing enough good deeds. Less destructive, sure, but still ineffective and completely frustrating.

There’s one way to get rid of every kind of guilt. Jesus. He took it for us on the cross. The sinful deed you find yourself continually dredging up? Jesus died for it. Is there a sin that haunts you, one that hangs onto your psyche like grease on fries? Do you ever find yourself thinking that yours is the one sin that God couldn’t possibly forgive? Let me encourage you to recognize that the sacrifice of Christ was enough.

At any point you can’t fathom a grace that will cover your sin, overrule yourself, because you’re not understanding His grace as it really is. It’s bigger than we can ever sin.

I love it that Jesus never dispenses His grace by the toothpick. He gives it in heaping helpings. He doesn’t give it out according to our success. He doesn’t take it back when we mess up. He gives that grace, desiring to be close to us. Hebrews 10:22 says, “Let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, because we have been made free from a guilty conscience” (NCV).

Freedom from a guilty conscience—that’s the way to live. And that’s the truth. And nothing but the truth.

For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. Hebrews 10:14

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The Case of the Deep-fried Guilt – @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown, mostly-coffee-drinking children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: What makes you feel guilty?

Awash in Grace & the Forethought of God

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

You can tell a lot about people by the way they do their laundry. I have friends who have certain days they designate as “laundry days.” I confess, I’m probably much more impressed by that than any grown woman should be. My laundry days? They usually happen on whatever days I realize I have to make a choice:  I have to wash a load, or I have to be one of those people who goes to Wal-Mart in pajama pants.

I’m further impressed by my friends who go the extra mile, laundry-wise. They…are you ready for this?…pretreat. They do it like it’s this normal thing that people do. But do you know what pretreating is? It’s doing laundry before you actually do the laundry. There’s something remarkably intentional and impressively diligent about that.

I have other friends who go beyond even that and carry one of those pen-things so they can pretreat even before a stain makes it to the laundry room. They’re essentially doing laundry before they’re even home. It borders on laundry lunacy.

It probably won’t shock you to know that when I’m having dinner out and hot fudge drips down my sweater, I’m not thinking about laundry. You know what I’m thinking? Fudge. And if I scrape the fudge off my sweater, it’s not a pretreatment. It’s a fudge salvage.

Some people do laundry with great forethought. I do laundry with great afterthought.

Of course, there’s regular forethought. And then there’s the forethought of God. His is a whole different basket of laundry. We’re told in Titus 3:4-5 that “when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us,” (ESV). How vital it is to stay intentional and deliberate about remembering His planning of our salvation. That passage continues, “not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (vv. 5-6, ESV).

No kind of laundering would ever make us clean enough apart from that “washing of regeneration,” the saving work of Jesus Christ. We can’t do enough deeds, attend enough services—we can’t pray enough, or pay enough—to earn what is freely given by His mercy.

I know what you’re probably thinking. This is an oversimplified, everybody-already-knows-it, fact of the faith. Yet how many times do we overcomplicate the Gospel? It’s just:  Jesus. His amazing, pre-thought grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, ESV).

Even those of us who’ve been around the Christian block a few times need to be reminded to trust His grace. It’s easy to get off-track, concentrating on all the “good” we might be doing, forgetting the One we’re doing it for. Embracing our own lack of ability to do anything of lasting value is at the same time embracing His ability to do more than we could ever imagine. And that’s something we need to embrace anew every day.

Incidentally, there are also things I’ve embraced about my lack of laundry finesse. A spot on a sweater? It doesn’t really mean a laundry fail to me. It means a new sweater.

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.  2 Timothy 1:9 NIV

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Awash in grace and the forethought of God – @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown, mostly-coffee-drinking children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: How had God’s grace made a difference in your life?

Six Ways You Can Change the World

 by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Sometimes it feels as if darkness has overpowered light, sorrow dominates joy, and confusion and fear have infiltrated peace. Watching the news play out before me, or perhaps even sitting with a hurting friend, can make me feel powerless. Ineffectual.

But Scripture tells me this is a lie. In Christ, I–we–have the power to transform our world. Each day, with every word and action we choose, every smile we offer, we can speak hope into despair, love into loneliness, and healing into the most broken and beaten down hearts.

We have the power of the risen, victorious, life-and-light-bringing Savior residing within.

Here are ways we can unleash that power:

Engage. In our hyper-interactive culture, where tweets, posts, and likes often replace face-to-face encounters. The result: Many feel unseen. Insignificant. Unvalued. Simply taking the time to engage others in conversation, even if but for a moment, can encourage a deflated heart. Because remember, we’re representatives and reflectors of El Roi, the God who sees. (Gen. 16:13) May we reflect Him well.

Choose grace. I mess up a hundred times each day. I respond with frustration instead of kindness. I behave selfishly instead of releasing my Father’s love. And many, many times I let my mouth (or keyboard) run when I should simply walk away. But though each non-Christlike reaction leads me to confession, I’m also very quick to offer myself grace. I was tired, stressed, overwhelmed … perhaps caught off guard. Yet do I offer the same grace to others? Do I make allowances for their faults or “make much” of every blunder? Whenever I choose grace, I reveal a bit of Jesus and point others to Him.

Stand up. To champion the beaten down, discarded, or marginalized is to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. He left heaven to rescue the oppressed—those burdened and enslaved by sin—and His Word tells us to speak out for those who don’t have a voice. Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (NIV).

Enter into someone else’s darkness. Did you ever make flashlight shadows when you were a kid? Did you ever try to do this in a well-lit room? Not so effective, right? Most likely you closed yourself in a darkened bathroom where the beams from your flashlight radiated strong and bright. Whenever we seek out, reach out, and intentionally walk beside those shrouded in darkness, we flood their world with light.

Show kindness. Offer a smile, a hug, a word of encouragement, and an open door. Never underestimate the power of a simple yet intentional kind act done for another. It can soothe anger, counter distrust, and open hearts to the love of Christ. In everything we do and every word we speak, may we remember it is God’s kindness that leads people to repentance.

Pray. May we see every act of darkness, ugly display of hate, and destructive outburst of anger as a reminder to turn to our unchanging, unconquerable power source—Jesus Christ. Those moments spent on our knees may feel … anti-climactic. We may be tempted to think our time in doing—serving in ministry, feeding the poor, typing out oodles of words for books and blog posts—holds more value. But Scripture promises this is far from true. Prayer isn’t meant to be something we do in random, still moments before our real work begins. Prayer is our first and most important work, regardless the task, because ultimately, only Jesus can truly change a heart and a world. When we prioritize prayer, we’re acknowledging we believe this to be true.

Imagine if we each chose to do one of the above each day. Imagine how our families, relationships, neighborhoods—our world—might change.

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Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer and international speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and other writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels maintains a devotional blog found at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who Dancing in the Rain by [Rife, Eileen, Slattery, Jennifer]they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, (http://whollyloved.com) she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband. Connect with her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte) or Instagram

Join the conversation: What is one way you plan to be a world-changer today? Share your “I’m gonna!” along with anything else you’d add to my list in the comments below. We can all learn from and encourage one another! And in Christ, we can change the world!

How to Stop Being So Hard on Yourself

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

I glanced at the Waze GPS app on my phone. Great. I was on my way to a group who’d invited me to visit after discussing one of my books. Before I was even out of my driveway the estimated time of arrival said I’d arrive five minutes late.

Why can’t you leave on time? What’s wrong with you? My thoughts chided me.

This line of thinking neither helped me make up for lost time or prepared my heart to encourage the women I’d see. I thought of a book I’d recently finished with an imperfect heroine. If she ran late I didn’t love her less. I empathized with her. So why was I so hard on myself?

I shifted my thoughts off myself and onto God. I thanked Him for making me who I am. I asked Him to help me do better and to work this situation out for good—and to help me arrive on time!

A woman pulled in behind me as I parked my car. She jumped out of her car and raced to open the door. “I was so glad to see you drive up. If I walk in with the speaker I’m not late.” We both laughed.

God used my timing to build a bond. I entered relaxed and happy to be there. Would that have happened if I’d stayed self-absorbed brooding over my weaknesses?

Reading how God dealt with His flawed children in the Bible has helped me learn to give myself grace when I disappoint myself. God appeared to Jacob and gave him a spectacular dream in which the Lord stood at the top of a ladder that spanned the gap between heaven and earth and His angels ascended and descended it (Gen. 28:10-17).

God blessed Jacob in the dream and promised to give Jacob and his descendants the land of Canaan. “Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (v. 14 NIV). God was passing the blessing of Abraham to Jacob.

What amazes me about this scene is its timing.

The Lord revealed Himself and the promise to Jacob after Jacob had just deceived his father. Jacob was fleeing his brother Esau’s wrath.

God showed similar grace with Abraham. A pagan king took Abraham’s wife Sarah into his harem because Abraham told everyone that she was his sister. When the king discovered the truth, he reprimanded Abraham and had him escorted out of the country (Gen. 12:10-20).

I’m sure God didn’t condone this lapse on Abraham’s part, but He never mentioned it. Abraham had suffered the consequences of his deception. That was enough. Instead, in the next recorded conversation between God and Abraham, God gently reassured him and showed him the land He would give him.

If God is patient with us, shouldn’t we emulate Him and extend grace and patience to ourselves as well?  Living in regret doesn’t help us move forward. But if we surrender it to God, He can use our weaknesses for His glory and our good.

Perhaps the key to accepting ourselves—which precedes the ability to unconditionally love others—comes from seeing ourselves as our Lord sees us. “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (Ephesians. 1:4 NLT). When He looks at us, He sees what we will be.

And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.  Romans 8:30 NLT

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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, Debbie speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with forgiving yourself?

My Imperfections and God’s Power

by Kristine Brown @kristinebrown43

How could a task-oriented, detail-driven girl like me be so careless? I thought.

Mistakes happen. I knew this in my heart, but it was not just one mistake. It was two, and the errors caused problems for my entire team. I can usually maintain a lighthearted attitude about making mistakes, but not that day. Instead of laughing at myself, I questioned my abilities. Frustration grew as my thoughts centered around my flaws.

Making mistakes can make me feel inadequate. Defeated. Unable to get the job done.

The truth is, sometimes I get caught up in my own expertise, and I run ahead full speed. Tackling one task with ease gives me the confidence to take on another, then another, then another. Before I know it, I’ve run into a wall because I didn’t slow down long enough to place my confidence where it belongs.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV).

In verse 9, Paul explains to the church at Corinth how God responded to him when he asked God to take away a “thorn in his flesh.” Paul knew the purpose of that thorn, or weakness. Verse 7 says, “… in order to keep me from becoming conceited.”

God allowed Paul to carry the weakness to keep his dependence in the right place. Paul accepted his weakness with gladness, knowing full well that he needed it. I’m inspired by how Paul acknowledged his own vulnerability. He wanted to remain humble, keeping the focus of his life and ministry on Christ.

God provided grace for Paul, and He does the same for us. Even when our mistakes reveal our weaknesses. Messing up shouldn’t cause us to question our abilities. It simply provides a pause for us to check our dependence. Have we become reliant on ourselves rather than our Savior? Do we put pressure on ourselves to never make a mistake? God cares enough about us to expose our weaknesses, so He can shine through our lives and teach us how to place our trust in Him.

Mistakes happen, because we are imperfect. But through those imperfections, God’s power is revealed. Like Paul, let’s embrace our weaknesses, knowing we can rely on God’s strength instead of our own.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Hebrews 4:15 ESV

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kristine brownAbout the author: Kristine Brown is a communicator at heart, sharing biblical insight with readers and audiences in a relatable way. Her life experiences blend together to create an eclectic backdrop for her lessons that highlight God’s powerful Word and redemptive grace. She is the author of the book, Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan, and founder of the non-profit organization, More Than Yourself, Inc. Read Kristine’s weekly devotions and Bible study resources at kristinebrown.net or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Join the conversation: What are the weaknesses in you that have moved you back into a deeper dependence on God?