Recognizing Jesus’ Voice

by Sheri Schofield

Winter storms have covered Montana with snow. In many places, it is so deep that the cattle cannot paw through to reach the grass beneath it. If it were not for the rancher who owns them, the cattle would starve.

Every day, the rancher brings a big roll of hay to the field and spreads it out on top of the snow. When the cattle hear the sound of the familiar tractor, they all head toward the gate, eager for the food. If another truck or car drives by during the day, the cattle will ignore it. They only respond to that one tractor’s engine, for it represents their lifeline through the long winter months.

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me … [The shepherd] goes ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:14, 4 NIV).

Many new believers in Jesus wonder how they can recognize Jesus’ voice. While Jesus is no longer on earth, He has sent us the Holy Spirit to give us instructions. The Holy Spirit speaks the words of our Shepherd to our hearts, for He lives inside each person who belongs to Jesus. But how do we know when the thoughts we have are from the Holy Spirit and not from our own emotions?

I have found that memorizing Bible verses, sometimes entire passages, has helped me learn to discern the source of my thoughts, for the Holy Spirit will never tell me to do anything that is not in agreement with the Bible. It is God’s love letter to us that tells how He has communicated and dealt with mankind from the beginning.

I have learned to recognize my Shepherd’s voice very well! It is as different from my own thought patterns as apple juice is from lemonade. It is distinctive, instructive and holy. Many times, when I am busy with my life, a thought will come to me that is not like my own thoughts. It will feel like it comes from another source. It is my Shepherd.

I was recently depositing some money at the bank, and my Shepherd said, “Tell this young teller about your book for children on salvation.” I did. The young man turned out to be a Christian who had fifteen nieces and nephews, and he immediately wanted some of these books for them. So I gave him a book for each separate family, and one for himself. He began sharing the book with others at the bank, and they wanted the books, too. With that one brief conversation, I was able to reach multiple hearts for Jesus.

Once I was talking on the phone to a friend when my Shepherd said, in no uncertain terms, “GO TO KAREN!” It was so powerful that it overwhelmed all my other senses. I excused myself and went to Karen* immediately. She had recently lost her husband, and a known, New Age witch was at her house, trying to influence her while she was vulnerable. My timely intervention amazed Karen and put her on guard spiritually.

When we learn to listen to the Lord’s voice and obey Him, He will speak to us more and more, for He knows He can accomplish His goals through us, goals that bring life and healing to a lost and dying world. The joy that Jesus gives us when we hear and follow His commands is unequaled! It is living water that satisfies our deepest thirst.

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.                                                                John 7:37-39 NIV

* Not her real name.

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Recognizing Jesus’ Voice – encouragement from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Sheri’s book, The Prince And The Plan, is a beautifully illustrated, interactive picture book, written for children ages 4-8, that helps parents lead their children into a lasting, saving relationship with Jesus. It explains abstract concepts through words and interactive, multi-sensory activities. Useful for children’s ministry as well.

Join the Conversation: Have you experienced the Holy Spirit speaking to you?

Receptive Listening

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

In the morning let me hear about your faithful love, because I’ve put my trust in you. Show me the way I should live, because I trust you with my life.                         Psalm 143:8 NIRV

On my morning walks, I usually encounter the same couple, at the same place, at the same time. The man always wears headphones. Not ear buds, but big, thick, cover-your-whole-ear headphones. Although he walks with his wife, it’s obvious he’s tuned out everything around him. He doesn’t hear birds chirping, leaves rustling, or cars approaching. He’s in his own zone, and conversation with his wife, or anyone he meets, is non-existent.

One morning, as I passed them, I realized I’m often like the headphone man. Even though I talk to the Lord each day, I don’t always listen. Frequently, my ears are plugged, because my mind is consumed with solving problems, pondering concerns, or planning the course of my day. Most often, I spend a lot of time requesting and rehashing and very little time listening.

Receptive listening requires a cessation of speech, a silencing of not only audible language, but also mental self-talk. Often, after an incident, we craft and perfect what we wish we’d thought to say on the spot. But what would happen, if instead, we turned off the mental speech-making and listened to what God has to say about the situation?

The Children of Israel were backwards-looking whiners. They spent a lot of time complaining about what they didn’t have and wishing for a return to their former existence. (Apparently, the abuse and living under the oppression of slavery had slipped their minds!) When Moses wanted to get their attention, the message was often preceded with “Hear, O Israel!” In other words, “Heads up, people. I’m about to tell you something important.”

God often prefaces his message to us in a similar way. It may be through the words of a friend, family member, Scripture, or an event. Or he may speak to us directly via the Holy Spirit. No matter the vehicle for the message, if we’re not listening, we miss important directions.

Spiritual lack of focus is a struggle for all of us. What happens in our physical life almost always overtakes our spiritual life, unless we make a conscious effort to integrate the two. The world yells for our attention while the spirit quietly prompts. The best way to tune in to God’s voice is to spend time in his Word. Scripture ingestion and digestion are as vital to spiritual life as food is for physical nourishment. “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty” (Jeremiah 15:16 NIV).

Sometimes, it feels like God isn’t listening because he doesn’t answer in the time frame we establish, but Scripture assures us he hears, “And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for” (1 John 5:15 NLT).

Remember, we are the ones with the hearing problem, not God. Today, tune out the noise of the world. Take off the headphones. Remove the ear buds. Silence the TV. Stash your phone. Stop talking. Open your heart, mind, and spirit and listen. Can you hear God’s voice?

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Receptive Listening – insight from @CandyArrington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy ArringtonAbout the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: Do you often hear from God?

Hear and Obey the Right Voice

by Nan Corbitt Allen

But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” Mark 4: 35-42 NKJV

Have you ever been to a wrestling match? I don’t mean “rasslin’” like they do on Saturday night in some down-home venues. I’m talking about a legitimate competitive sport recognized by the high school and collegiate associations—and the Olympics. I’m told that there are several styles: Greco-Roman and Free Style among them. I don’t really know the difference between the styles but I do know this: it is the MOST intense and nerve-wracking sport I’ve ever witnessed!

Both of our sons have been on high school wrestling teams at some point. Wanting to show our love and support, we attended most of their matches. And it was agonizing.

As a spectator/supporter, a parent must sit semi-quietly and watch her son’s body get twisted into positions she never thought possible. And the noise! Fans and competitors yelling at the tops of their lungs to “shoot the half” or whatever. And there were cheerleaders, too. Did you know that some schools have cheering squads for wrestling teams? Ours did. They not only scream and chant but also pound the gym floor in support.

Worse than school matches were tournaments where several schools participated. Three or four matches occurred simultaneously in a gymnasium. Imagine the noise, the smell, the chaos. I was totally spent after one of those.

At one tournament, however, I tried to detach from the chaos as best I could so to preserve some energy and sanity. It was hard but for brief stints I was able to focus on one thing. One of these times I chose to watch our team’s coach. I’d never really watched him before mostly because he was a gentle, unassuming man by nature and he didn’t often draw attention to himself. But what I saw him do that day made a lasting impression on me.

Coach Gentry was often down on his hands and knees almost at eye level with our boys —watching, evaluating and admonishing, but not loudly at all. Just in a normal tone. I wondered: how could those guys hear their coach’s voice above all the rest? And then it hit me.

This coach had worked with some of his team members for many years and so the guys recognized his voice. He had also led his team to many state championships and it was obvious he knew the sport. The boys trusted him.

Jesus taught a similar lesson about Himself using the analogy of sheep and shepherds:

“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10: 3-5, NIV)

Recognition and trust are important when filtering out His voice from the rest. Get to know His voice by deepening your understanding of Him.

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Hear and Obey the Right Voice – thoughts from Nan Corbitt Allen on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Nan Corbitt AllenAbout the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 40 years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

Nan and Dennis live in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the seemingly insignificant routine experiences can have great impact on a life. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: When is the last time you heard His voice?

Take Time to Listen

by Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner @SGiesbrecht

“Say what?” “Can you hear me now?” These familiar catch-phrases have been used in popular commercials to get our attention. But hearing  words are no guarantee that we are actually listening.

According to Google, to hear means “to perceive with the ear the sound made by someone or something.” However, listen means “to give one’s attention to a sound.” Listening happens when we are drawn into someone’s words with interest, and choose to engage ourselves with them. Hearing occurs by happenstance, but listening intently is a choice.

Jesus struggled against people who were hearing but not listening. He told a parable to illustrate this. A sower tossed seed over different kinds of ground. Some seed fell on the hard path, which was trampled under and never grew. Some fell on rocky soil, which withered as soon as it sprouted. Other seed feel among weeds, which were eventually choked out. But some seed fell into good ground, grew up strong and reproduced. The seed represented the Word of God. Many would hear it, but few would receive it. As Jesus told the parable, he interspersed a warning several times to his audience: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Luke 8:4-8 NASB) They may have been hearing the Word of God, but they were not really listening.

Last week I was disappointed by a dear friend who has recently relapsed into her addictions. In processing the situation, I asked myself, “What more could I have done?”

I mentioned this concern to one of our mutual friends, who said, “She has all the tools she needs. She knows what to do.” Wow. My cloud of guilt and shame lifted as I was comforted with the truth – my struggling friend had heard already everything that needed to be said. It was her responsibility to choose to listen.

It was up to her. She had to decide to actively respond to God’s Word. She had to want to get back up again. God wanted me to surrender the responsibility for results to Him. My job now is to be faithful to pray for her and trust Him to work it all out.

So I’ve learned a new way to die to myself. I must choose to decrease so He can bring abundant increase. I need to practice what Paul did when he was faced with something he could not resolve on his own. “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, to that Christ’s power may rest in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).

I’ve been encouraged by the people of God and recalibrated by the Word of God. I’ve chosen to lean in and listen closely as God communicates to me through the circumstances, my friends, and the Holy Spirit.

I’ve made a choice to be a different person come Resurrection Sunday. I’m making this time of lent a time to listen to God. Interestingly enough, God wants us to listen to him speaking through the people he has placed in our lives. Can you hear Him now?

“So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he things he has shall be taken away from him.” Luke 8:18 NASB

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Take Time to Listen – insight from @SGiesbrecht on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

SherylGiesbrecht_35.JPGAbout the author: Exchanging hurt for hope is Sheryl Giesbrecht’s focus—a message she shares with audiences as a radio and television personality, author and speaker. She served as Focus on the Family’s columnist for Pastor’s Wives for four years. Hundreds of her columns, magazine, It'll Be Okay: Finding God When Doubt Hides the Truth by [Giesbrecht Turner, Sheryl]and devotional articles have appeared in Focus on The Family MagazineJust Between Us, Discipleship JournalCCMWalk Thru the Bible’s –  and Tapestry, Live-Living and Charisma publications. You can find more about Sheryl at www.fromashestobeauty.com, or follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Sign up to receive Sheryl’s weekly blog on her website: www.fromashestobeauty.com.

Sheryl’s latest book, It’ll Be Okay: Finding God When Doubt Hides the Truth , addresses the healthy role doubt can play in a Christian’s life. She encourages addressing doubts head-on to feed faith, knowing that misgivings and fears can be happily resolved through the grid of God’s Word—without leading to an unbelieving way of life.

Join the conversation: Have you ever felt shame as you approached God?

 

When God “Showed Up”

by Sheri Schofield

It was rodeo week in our Montana town during that a hot, dusty July. By the time Sunday rolled around, the children were exhausted by late nights of watching bull and bronco riders. I was teaching children’s church that day. The classroom was hot, so I took the children outside to the lawn, where I spread quilts on the ground under the towering shade trees. It was cooler, but not a breath of wind came to cool us. Within a minute, every child was laying down instead of sitting, and I could see their eyes drooping.

The story for the day was about Pentecost. “Lord,” I silently prayed, “these children need to understand your power! They need to know that the Holy Spirit can do great things through them! The children are sleepy. I need your help here!”

“Jesus had left earth and had returned to heaven,” I began. “He told those who followed him to go back into Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come. They did. They met together and prayed for days.” I looked around at the children. Ah! One child was almost asleep! Lord, help!

“Suddenly, the Holy Spirit came. He rushed in with the sound of a mighty wind!” I looked up into the trees and stopped talking. Are you there Lord? I asked. A quick wind stirred in the tree tops.

The children looked up, startled.

“Hm.” I said. “No, it wasn’t a gentle wind. It was stronger.” I kept looking up. Suddenly, a great burst of wind hit the trees, and the sound filled the air!

The children’s eyes popped wide open! They were all sitting up now, mouths open, staring up into the trees!

“Yes!” I exclaimed. “It was like that!”

I jumped up, “They each began speaking in a different language! Over here, someone may have said, ‘Buenos dias!’ That’s Spanish. Over there, someone said, ‘Guten morgan, kinder!’ That’s German.”

Moving around the quilts to different locations, I greeted the children in seven languages, each one different than the other, to give them a taste of Pentecost. I had their full attention now, for God had “shown up”! Not a child there doubted it.

How many times in our lives do we feel that God is not with us in our times of trouble? Do we pray without ceasing, hoping he will show up? Do we anxiously cry out, “Help! Help! Help!” and keep on worrying? Or do we cry out to God and then fall silent, looking up, expecting our heavenly Father to “show up”, to speak to our hearts?

Our Father has a hard time answering us if we’re busy talking! It is when we fall silent before him that we can hear his voice. When we are silent, the Holy Spirit rushes in like a mighty wind and declares, “I am with you! Don’t be afraid! Don’t be anxious!”

When I am anxious, I often reach for my Bible. In God’s love letter, I find peace. Sometimes, I go for a walk in the forest and breathe in the fresh air while I wait for his answer to my problem. I’ve told him plenty about it! Now I need to listen. In my expectant silence, as I wait on God, he fills me with joy and comfort. He puts new thoughts in my mind, a better way of dealing with the problems. I am not alone in my struggle. God always shows up! He will always be there for each and every one of his children.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14, NIV

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When God showed up – Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield, an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years, has just released her new book, The Prince And The Plan, to help parents lead their children into a saving knowledge of Jesus. Sheri was named Writer of the Year for 2018 at Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Join the Conversation: When has God “showed up” for you?

Noticing When God Says “I Love You”

by Sheri Schofield

Life has been challenging lately. First, my children’s picture books were misprinted in black and white. “Oh, Noooooo!” I told the Lord. I wandered around the house for about twenty-four hours in a state of anxious prayer. The usual method of dealing with misprinted books is to destroy and replace them. But these were books on the plan of salvation. The black and white pictures were still nice, though not saleable. “What should I do?” I asked.

Gradually, the Lord showed me his answer: I was to give those books to the pastors ministering on our Montana Native American reservations – for the children – where unemployment is 80%. Jesus was clear: This misprint was NOT a mistake! He had planned it!

My thoughts went to the printer, who would take a loss over the misprints. Surely Jesus would not let her suffer if HE was behind this! I asked the printer what she would need to recover her losses. She said she would need $4,180, money we didn’t have. I told the Lord, “If you will provide the funds to salvage those books, I will give all two thousand books away.” God is now providing the funds as the requests from those pastors pour in.

The stress from that incident may be over, but more stress is on the horizon.  I keep giving it to Jesus. My new books have arrived, and the boxes weigh much more than I can lift. I wondered how I would ever get them into Walmart for my book launching party. I could just picture myself grunting and groaning, trying to manhandle those boxes! What should I do? I have a book carrier on wheels, but it was insufficient for a two-hour Walmart launch party.

For those who live in the cities, this may not seem like a big problem. But I live in the wilds of Montana! The stores rarely carry this type of thing. I talked with God about it. He showed me a picture of the Goodwill store, the right-hand aisle at the back of the store, the merchandise on the left-hand side of that aisle. I sensed His voice: “Sheri, that is where you will find what you need.”

Wow! Pretty specific, eh? So I hopped in the car, drove down the mountain, over the meadow, and through the woods to Goodwill. I went into the store and walked to the place God had shown me, wondering if there was a book carrier in that place. There was not.

“Where is it, God?” I asked. I walked around the backside of the aisle and returned to the same location.

“Look harder,” he said. And there it was, tucked away behind some other things: a light-weight, collapsible dolly. That, along with smaller boxes for the books, will provide a more professional way to move them, a way that will not hurt my back.

Isaiah 64:24 (NASB) says, “It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.” I’ve always looked to the Lord for guidance and provision, but lately I feel as though I were on a sailboat being blown across the water by the Holy Spirit’s breath. It is such an awesome place to be! God is saying, “How I love you! Let Me count the ways! Listen to My voice! I will stand at your shoulder and tell you what to do if you will stay close to Me. In this way, you will feel My love poured out on you.”

Could there possibly be a more peaceful place to be? Listen for his voice! He will take you to some incredible places . . . and not just Goodwill!

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go. I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8, NASB

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Children’s ministry veteran Sheri Schofield was unexpectedly called on to save her husband’s life, a battle that took her to the Pentagon, Congress, National Security and the President of the United States. At her website, www.SheriSchofield.com, she shares this journey in her book One Step Ahead of the Devil. Sheri’s new book, The Prince And The Plan, will be launched June 1. It is designed to help parents lead their children into a saving relationship with Jesus.

Join the conversation: Have you heard from God lately?

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