God’s Gentle Persuasion regarding This Versus That

by Patti Richter

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  James 1:5 NIV

I tried pushing the sewing needle through the layers of fabric again and again. Deciding the needle must be dull, I chose another one and went back to work—with no success.

The other ladies surrounding the framed quilt worked easily while I spent at least ten minutes in my attempt to make just one stitch. I had hoped to become a part of this group by joining my church’s quilting ministry, which raised funds for those in need. But now, frustrated and embarrassed, I mentally scratched the new activity off my list of goals in the new year.

Yet, even with the mortification I felt, I was struck by the realization that God may have just 1answered the short prayer I uttered before heading to the quilting club that night: Please, Lord, help me to know if I belong in this group.

I drove home disappointed about giving up the opportunity to spend time with those mostly older women. They had a lifetime of wisdom I could’ve tapped into seamlessly as we worked side by side. Driving in the darkness, my view of God’s involvement in my life grew dim; I wondered if it really mattered to him whether I chose to serve in one ministry versus another.

Later, recalling some lines from the book of James, I had an answer to that question:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow… Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15 NIV).

Those verses reminded me that God knows our future. And he’s willing to provide direction based on his foreknowledge.

Before his death on the cross and return to heaven, Jesus comforted his disciples with the promise of the coming Holy Spirit, saying, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever…. But you will know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17 NIV).

Not long after my quilting club failure, the pastor’s wife asked me to consider serving as a coordinator for a women’s outreach ministry the church had planned. Since the role would involve recruiting volunteers, I felt both unsuited and unenthusiastic about jumping in. Yet, after praying about it, I sensed the gentle persuasion of the Holy Spirit.

After saying yes to this ministry opportunity, I could hardly believe it when an older woman signed up to assist me and said she could recruit many of her senior-adult friends as well! I went on to serve in the coordinator role for ten years, working side by side with more than a dozen well-seasoned saints.

I’m so thankful for God’s guidance concerning this versus that.

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

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles. She also serves as an editor for Arise Daily.

Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation. Has God guided you into a ministry? Please share!

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Know It All

by Nan Corbitt Allen

Don’t fool yourself. Don’t think that you can be wise merely by being up-to-date with the times. Be God’s fool—that’s the path to true wisdom. What the world calls smart, God calls stupid. 1 Corinthians 1:18-21 The Message

I overheard a conversation recently between a mother and her 8-year-old son.

SON: Mom, do you know everything?

MOM: Oh, no. Not everything—just a little something about a lot of things.

SON: Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I wanted to say to that mom, “Cherish this moment, because he won’t always think so highly of you or your knowledge.”

Perhaps the young boy wasn’t asking about his mom’s knowledge, but about her wisdom. There’s a difference, you know.

Knowledge is acquired through experience or education. In other words, we can study enough and travel enough and experience enough to gain knowledge. That’s impressive!

Wisdom, however, goes beyond knowledge. A wise person has perspective and discernment. They know how to use the information to make good decisions. The only way to gain wisdom is through a gift from God. Someone once said: “Knowledge is knowing what to say. Wisdom is knowing when to say it.” 

When thinking of wisdom, we often think of good King Solomon from the Bible. He was the son of David and Bathsheba who inherited the throne of Israel when his father died. God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” Solomon, with a whole kingdom at his disposal, asked for a “discerning heart” to judge the people wisely. God told him because he didn’t ask for riches or health or long life, He would give Solomon wisdom. And along with the wisdom He would bless him with all of the other things that usually follow success. (Find this story in 1 Kings 3 and 2 Chronicles 1.)

Of course, the rest of the story isn’t so good. Solomon had it all, but he allowed his possessions and successes to go to his head. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18 NASB). His pride was his undoing, not his knowledge or his wisdom.

There is something about getting older that awakens us to new things, new ideas, new knowledge. Trial and error. Adventure and experimentation. Voracity. These teach us a little something about a lot of things. But wisdom comes from a heavenly source. My favorite verse about this is in James 1:5 (NASB) “…if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

As a mom, I called on this promise often—everyday sometimes. Child rearing books were everywhere, and I read many of them. I had a lot of knowledge, you might say, but what I needed was wisdom on how to bring up my boys in a way that was pleasing to God. And when I asked, He provided.

These days we get a lot of information—some of it tainted with opinion and some of it sound with truth. However, none of this is valuable without first asking, “Give me wisdom, Lord.”

Romans 12:2 (NASB) says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (emphasis mine). The first part of the verse is a great word about gaining new ideas and insights, but the last part is the promise to which I cling. If I test information I receive against truth, wisdom will guide me to finding what is the right action.

Like the old hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory” says, “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour…” No matter what we face, we should first ask for wisdom, then for the courage to act upon it.

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

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ 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 retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

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Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. 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: Can you think of a time when wisdom was vital to the knowledge you possessed?

Can You Distinguish the Voice of God?

by Lee Ann Mancini

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 NIV

“What do I do, Lord?” “Can you hear me, Lord?” “God, is that your voice?” “When will you answer me, Father?” I’ve asked these questions at many points during my Christian walk. Certainly, my desire is always to follow the will of God. But sometimes when I am faced with a major decision, I struggle to identify how the Lord is leading me. I ask Him for an audible command or a clear sign regarding which way to proceed, but instead, all I get is silence. Can you relate?

God isn’t always so hard to read. In the Old Testament, God led the Israelites through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). He spoke directly to the heroes of our faith like Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, giving them clear and audible instructions as to His perfect will. They did not have to wonder what God’s will for them was.

But even hearing from God directly, they did not always respond with obedience. God instructed Adam very clearly, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17 NIV). We all know what happened next! When God told Moses that He had chosen him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses was reluctant to follow God’s instructions, saying, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11 NIV). Even Abraham proved disobedient to the Lord.  He put the covenant seed in jeopardy when he lied to the king concerning Sarah, “She is my sister” (Genesis 20:2). The patriarchs’ behavior demonstrates that even an audible command from God is not enough to ensure the obedience of His people.

God still communicates with those He loves. He reveals Himself to us through the revelation of the natural world around us and through the special revelation of His Holy Word. He comes to us in dreams and visions. He speaks to us in times of joy and in times of sadness, such as the birth of a newborn baby or the death of a loved one. He impresses thoughts on us as we pray in His presence.

Jesus spent a great deal of time in the presence of His Father to hear from Him. This was imperative to His mission here on earth: “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30 NASB). His humble obedience led to His death on the cross (Philippians 2:8) and resulted in salvation for all humankind.

Part of communication with God is taking the time to listen. If you believe in Jesus, His Spirit dwells within you. He is in your heart, mind, and soul. He is there to guide, teach, and convict. Paul tells us to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). He is already present. We just need to remain sensitive to His leading. To be filled is to be fully submitted to His voice.

Pray daily that you will be yielded to the Holy Spirit. I like to say the following prayer every day: “Thank you, Holy Spirit, for dwelling within me. Let every thought I have, every word I speak, and every decision I make be according to your will and not my own.”

In the busyness of this world, we need to be proactive about asking the Lord for guidance. Sometimes we aren’t given the time to wait for as clear an answer from the Lord as we’d like to have. Nevertheless, we must trust that God will be faithful to show us His will in our lives—if we seek Him daily and choose to listen closely.

As God told Isaiah and the people: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3 NIV).

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Can You Distinguish the Voice of God? – encouragement from Lee Ann Mancini on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lee Ann Bio PictureAbout the author: Lee Ann Mancini is an adjunct professor at South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary. She is the author of the Sea Kids book series and an executive producer of the new Sea Kids animation series.

Lee Ann’s book, Forever with Jesus, teaches children how wonderful heaven is: no more tears, pain, or suffering. When their neighbor passes away, the children in the story learn that they do not have to fear death, because their belief in Jesus guarantees they will live forever with Him.

Join the conversation: Have you heard from God lately?

Perception vs. Reality

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.  1 Samuel 16:7 NLT

Preparing for our first beach vacation after the birth of our daughter was a tremendous task. A week away from home with an eight-month-old required planning, coordination, and an inordinate amount of equipment.

Just before dawn on the day of our departure, I hauled various bags, the play-yard, a table-mounted highchair, electric swing, and stroller onto the front porch. As I worked, I noticed a car creeping past our house. The occupants stared. I must have been quite a sight, still dressed in my nightgown and sporting a bed-head.

I went in the house for more items, and when I came out again, the car was making a second pass. The intense scrutiny of this second drive-by raised my discomfort level. Were they “casing the joint,” flagging our house as a target for theft while we were out of town? We had been robbed before, so I was alarmed.

On the third drive-by, the woman in the passenger seat rolled down her window and yelled, “What time does your yard sale start?”

Momentarily confused, it took several seconds for me to comprehend the question. Then it dawned on me. While I knew I was packing for a beach trip, this woman thought I was preparing to hold a yard sale. Annoyed, and slightly embarrassed, I yelled back, “It’s not a yard sale!”

“Are you sure? It looks like a yard sale,” she countered.

Things are not always as they appear at first glance. Our appraisal of people or situations can be influenced by our experiences, perceptions, or expectations. Sometimes, what seems like the right assessment or choice really isn’t. Running ahead of God, instead of waiting for his directive, can create problems we never anticipated.

1 Samuel 16 recounts the story of God sending Samuel to anoint Israel’s next king. Samuel knew the place and the designated family, but not the exact member. When Jesse presented his first son, Eliab, who perhaps carried himself in a regal manner, Samuel assumed he was the chosen one. But the Lord stopped Samuel, telling him a person’s heart matters more than outward appearance. Seven of Jesse’s sons paraded before Samuel, but, at the Lord’s instruction, he rejected them all. Finally, the youngest son, David, who was out shepherding his flock, was brought in from the fields. David’s father didn’t even consider him worth presenting, but Samuel knew immediately that he was God’s chosen one and anointed him.

Our wisdom can never equal God’s. Sometimes what appears to be a good opportunity can lead down a dead-end path, wasting time, energy, and talents. Other times, our perception of people is skewed, and we either miss out on a great connection, or end up being hurt by someone who isn’t what they appeared to be. In seeking God’s guidance before making decisions, we avoid the consequences of mistakes and detours. As James promises: “…if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5 NASB).

The better we know Him, the better we are able to sense His guidance. Through cultivating a relationship with God, we gain His perspective, make wiser choices, and follow His plan for our lives. He’ll never steer us wrong.

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Perception vs. Reality – 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: When has your own judgement or perspective led you astray?

Mistakes and All

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.  Psalm 18:30, NIV

This morning I blew it.

I was selfishly thinking of my needs and not anyone else’s. And thus, my home became not such a nice place to be.

Why do I do that?

I can so relate to the who Apostle Paul who wrote “… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19 NIV).

I know we all feel like we’ve blown it at times — as moms, as wives, as daughters, as employees, as friends. We carry guilt on our shoulders in some area of life, feeling that we have failed to measure up to others’ standards – or our own.

I will be the first to admit that I’ve failed more times than I’d like to count. In fact, my books recount much more of my failures than my victories. That’s because we can learn through our mistakes. We can be shaped by our mistakes. And we can become more humble and extend more grace toward others when we are able to recognize the areas in which we have needed God’s grace, wisdom, and correction.

When I begin to feel I am not measuring up to the standards of others, I remember my God who is perfect and makes no mistakes (Psalm 18:30).  That means He doesn’t regret making me or putting me where He has. That means my mistake didn’t take Him by surprise. And that means He can still use me for His purposes, mistakes and all.

In spite of my mistakes, I’m encouraged by God’s promise in James 1:5 (NIV): If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

God gives generously (He’s not stingy in doling out the wisdom), He gives to all (even if  I don’t feel I deserve it), and He gives without criticizing or finding fault (meaning He won’t say “Uh no, I gave it to you before and you didn’t use it”).

The next time I feel that I’ve blown it, I’ll take it to the Generous One who knows all about it and is waiting for me to seek His comfort, His ear, and His wisdom.

Thank You, God, that You know all about my fears and failures. And You are waiting to pick me back up, make me stronger, and show me all that You can still do in and through my life.

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Mistakes and All – insight on #FollowingGod from @CindiMcMenamin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 17 books including When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold), and When God Sees Your Tears. For more on her books and ministry, or for free resources to strengthen your marriage, parenting, or walk with God, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Cindi’s book, When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurtsexplores the kinds of hurt women experience and offers gracious, biblical counsel on how and where to find healing. Cindi replaces the faulty thinking that often accompanies life’s wounds with truths every woman needs to know about how God views her.

Join the conversation: Has there been a time when you learned a lot from a mistake? Please share!

Always Welcome

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

My sturdy little old Ukrainian grandmother was quite a character. In her old age, she came to despise anyone in the medical profession, especially nurses. During a brief stay in the nursing home, she once mistook my mother for a nurse when Mom entered my grandmother’s room. Grandma grabbed my mom and threw her across the floor; “Get out of here!” she snarled.

Shaken, my mom retreated. Standing outside in the hall, she began to wonder if maybe my grandmother hadn’t recognized her. So she attempted to enter again, this time announcing her arrival. “Mama, it’s me, Roberta,” she hesitantly called.

My grandmother greeted her with a big smile, arms opened wide. “Roberta!” she cried. We began to understand why the nurses were not crazy about Grandma.

While Grandma wasn’t fond of nurses, she was always warmly enthusiastic when a family member came to call. I never once doubted my welcome with her. Even the night that my grandfather died, as I arrived at midnight to spend the night with her, she welcomed me enthusiastically and with open arms. “You look hungry,” she told me. And got working right away to make me a poached egg.

I never doubted a warm reception from Grandma because I knew she loved me, unconditionally. Yet there have been times in my life I have doubted my reception with God. Usually it was after I had put my relationship with Him on the back burner and hadn’t talked to Him in days. Now I needed Him, and barely knew how to approach Him without embarrassment. Surely He would see right past any apologies I might offer as to my neglect—and look right into my selfish motives in approaching Him now.

Maybe this time he has had enough of this self-centered, unfaithful daughter of His.

That may be how a fallible human might receive me. But it is not how God, as revealed in the pages of Scripture, will interact with one He loves. James tells us “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5 NASB).

Did you catch that? Without reproach.

I might have been neglecting God, but He will not neglect me, nor will He ever. Like the father of the prodigal son, He patiently waits for us to turn to Him, ready to receive us back into open arms after we ignore or disobey Him. Later in his letter, James wrote, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you… humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4: 8, 10 NASB).

Not once in Scripture, when someone approaches God in humility, are they ever rejected. Even the worst of sinners are freely forgiven and welcomed back into the fold. Every time.

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness… the Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.  Lamentations 3:19-23, 25 NASB

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With God, I’m Always Welcome – insight from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie 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 walking her neurotic dog. 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 look at the conversations Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What makes you hesitant to approach God?