A Sunrise of Strength

by Katy Kauffman @KatyKauffman28

One morning I couldn’t shake the gloomies. Although I was half-awake, I started focusing on the wrong thing, and I needed God’s help to refocus my attention and strengthen my heart. Even though I wanted more sleep, I opened my Bible, and my eyes fell on the verse I needed.

Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! Isaiah 52:1 NKJV

The “awake, awake!” part got my attention. But more importantly, this verse called on God’s people to put on strength. This passage in Isaiah talks about God restoring His people after they had been in captivity. My own heart had been held in captivity to impatience and restlessness a few years before, and I was still feeling the effects of its bondage even in my freedom.

Is your heart help captive by something? Or are you still feeling the effects of a struggle that exhausted your strength and determination to win? Even when we’re involved in ministry, our hearts can become captive to sorrow, fear, worry, anger, or sin. We can become lulled into despair or apathy. We may think, Things will always be this way, or I just don’t care anymore.

God calls us to “awake!” and depart from our captivity. To depart from the after effects of our struggles and heartaches. He wants us to leave behind the burdens of guilt and despair (Hebrews 10:22), and to embrace His ways instead, His ways that are good for us and build us up in godliness (Colossians 3:12-14, 3:8-10). He wants us to put on strength and to share life’s journey with Him in the fullness of His joy and power (Nehemiah 8:8-10, 1 John 1:7). When we draw close to God, remember who He is and all He has given us, and step forward into the light of His goodness, the darkness of weakness and helplessness shatters into a sunrise of strength.

After realizing that I had the choice of moving past sadness and adjusting my focus to be on God, my strength returned, and I was able to tackle the day. If a struggle has lulled you into a not-wanting-to-deal-with-it stupor, awake into God’s bright sunshine of joy and strength. He has not left you to handle life on your own. He is always with you. Find strength in His presence with you and in the hope and guidance that’s found in His Word. Put on your strength!

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 NKJV

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A sunrise of strength – thoughts on dealing with discouragement from @KatyKauffman28 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

headshot_katykauffmanAbout the author: Katy Kauffman is a Bible study author and teacher, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. Her writing tends to focus on winning life’s spiritual battles, and she loves connecting with writers and creating compilations such as Breaking the Chains: Strategies for Overcoming Spiritual Bondage, a 2018 Selah Awards finalist. Katy makes her home in a cozy suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

Her latest book, Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character, is a 2019 Selah finalist. How does God make our character more like Christ’s? What is His part, and what is ours? This Bible study compilation is a construction guide to building godly character and overcoming the hidden problems that sabotage it. It explores how God works in our lives and gives us wisdom to handle such real-life issues as unwanted change, grief, loneliness, financial debt, and difficult people.

Join the conversation: What still holds you captive, sapping your strength?

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?

Say Your Prayers

by Deb DeArmond

“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” Romans 12:12 NLT

“I can’t hear you Debbie,” my mother said.

“I wasn’t talking to you,” was my five-year-old reply.

I do not recall the conversation, but it was one of Mom’s favorites to recount. As she told it, we had experienced a no good, really bad, awful, terrible day. My behavior had been less than desired. There had been upset and tears and enough of my strong will to go around.

As Mom tucked me in that night, she looked at me squarely and said, “You’d better say your prayers and ask Jesus to forgive you for being so naughty today.”

I dutifully bowed my head, closed my eyes, and began my conversation with God.

“You need to speak up. I can’t hear you, Debbie,” Mom said.

I peeked my eyes open and quietly said, “I wasn’t talking to you.”

When somebody tells you to “say your prayers” it typically not an exhortation; it’s a warning suggesting that prayer may be the only way to ward off some impending disaster.

Sounds like good advice.

No matter how old we are, no good, really bad, awful, terrible days hunt us down. And we sometimes show up as less than the shining beacons for Jesus we desire to be. God is not surprised by our behavior – His view of us is a horizontal perspective beginning on the day of our birth and ending the day we go to be with Him. As an all-knowing God, there are no “Oh wow! Did not see that coming!” moments. He knows us, and He loves us still.

He has the best open-door policy, ever. “Come in and let’s talk – you go first,” He suggests. “I’m listening.” And unlike my nighttime prayers with mom, no observers or witnesses stand by to make sure we get it done right. It’s just the two of us.

I see Him in such a myriad of ways: the King on His throne, the Savior who took back the keys of sin and death, the sweet Spirit who nudges me on the right path, and the loving Father whose lap is warm, safe, and familiar. It’s that lap I seek when I need to come to Him, hat in hand to do business and make things right. And when I climb down I am once again free from guilt and assured that my Father and I are solid.

In truth, we are always solid, but the reality of grace is one that I struggle to understand on a daily basis. It may be incomprehensible with my limited human capacity, but I’m grateful that my inability to grasp it is not required for it to be effective in my life.

So, the next time somebody suggests to you, “Say your prayers,” thank them and consider it the best heads-up of the day!

“Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:22 NLT

DeArmond-29 copyAbout the author: Deb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship, and conflict resolution. A writer and professional speaker, Deb addresses topics related to the family and women. Her books include: Related by Chance, Family by ChoiceI Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last and Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! Deb’s books help readers, whether engaged, newlywed, or long-time married, create the life God meant marriage and family to be. You can read more from Deb at Family Matters/Deb.

Join the conversation: What has inspired you to pray lately?