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?

Biking or Bumbling

by Peggy Cunningham @Inca_Writer

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.  Proverbs 3:6 MSG

Learning to ride a bike sometimes results in scratches, sore muscles, and maybe even broken bones. At least that was my experience. It was on my son’s seventh birthday. He got a bike and so did I. Warning: Don’t learn to ride a bike at the same time your kids are learning.

Seriously, I was still young! How hard could it be to sit on two wheels and stay upright? Pretty hard, I was soon to discover.

The July sun beamed down on the shiny new bikes. My son and I walked our bikes down the steep driveway and across the buzzing highway onto a less-traveled mountain road. Earlier that day, my husband pleaded for me to wait until he came home so we could all be together for this memory-making venture. He knew our son couldn’t wait to get on that new bike, so he finally conceded and agreed to join us when he arrived home.

I helped my son up onto the seat. He got the hang of it quickly while I played the role of traffic police. Then it was my turn. I sat with the posture of a natural cyclist even though I had no idea about brakes or speeds or balance. Determined to do this thing, I pushed the peddles while my son took his turn as traffic police.

With one push of the peddles, I sped into the wind. Whoa, what fun! Fun, yes…until I realized I had no idea how to brake. Panic set in as the wheels seemed to lift from the pavement. How to stop? What if a car came over the little knoll? Think, I told myself! The only place to go and the only way to stop was to steer straight into a fence. Crash! Fortunately, a big bush kept me from a fall.

Tears fell over my son’s sweet face. I assured him I’d be okay. We walked those bikes home as I tried not to limp. The experience never deterred that seven-year-old from learning to ride––but I put my bike up for sale that very night.

Sometimes the Spirit nudges us to avoid a bumbling outcome. And, sometimes he pushes us into a fence to avoid a dangerous fall on the pavement while He gently teaches us that while we don’t know it all, He does.

I’m sure God’s hand held me up that day and kept me from falling. I learned this, “…don’t try to figure everything out on your own” (Proverbs 3:6 MSG). Sometimes we go ahead of Him as I did that day by not waiting for my husband who knew how to ride. When we are out of step with God, we may end on a pavement with bruises or even worse. Even so, He promises He will direct us in the way we should go––even into the bushes to lessen our injures from going our own way and not waiting on Him.

Have you gone off track and crashed into the bushes thinking you know it all? Me too. So, how do we avoid the proverbial crashes and bushes? Listen for God’s voice. He’ll keep you on track. The key is…drum roll please: Listen to His voice by reading His word, praying, obeying, and also learning from our circumstances.

I finally learned to ride a bike while passing through my mid-life zone. But still, I strive to trust God for less bumbling and more proverbial biking without crashes because He does know it all. I’m still learning to ride my proverbial bike. How about you?

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Biking or Bumbling – insight on #FollowingGod from Peggy Cunningham, @Inca_Writer, on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Peggy CunninghamAbout the author: Peggy Cunningham and her husband, have been missionaries in Bolivia, South America, since 1981. In 1999, they founded Rumi Rancho Ministries. Rumi Rancho is their ministry base and home outside the city of Cochabamba where they work with the Quechua people and have a children’s ministry. Peggy is also a published Shape Your Soul: 31 Exercises for Faith that Moves Mountains by [Cunningham, Peggy]author of children’s books and women’s devotionals. Shape Your Soul is her latest devotional book for women. All her books are available on Amazon.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever crashed and burned? Please share your experience and what God did in you as a result.

 

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?

 

God Answers While We Live Life

by Cheri Swalwell

“The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Judges 6:11-12 (NIV)

I’ve been struggling spiritually for a while. God has been speaking dreams and desires into my life. Passions and dreams that include writing, speaking, and something more I can’t name. Passions planted eight years ago by God after a sincere prayer of wanting my life to matter for Him, however He chose. Passions which have now become my passions and longings and gifts and talents to offer back to Him. Passions I don’t want to let go because they excite me.

A few years ago, God moved me to give those dreams and desires back to Him. In a small way, I felt it was much like when God asked Abraham to offer his son Isaac, the son of promise he’d waited so long to receive (Genesis 22). In my “Isaac moment,” I chose to believe that in giving back the dreams God had planted in my heart, He would  either give those desires back in His time or replace them with something better than I could ever imagine.

Then recently, God started whispering that I should get ready because change was coming. And I keep hearing that whisper, but nothing beyond that, which has me feeling like I’m in a sort of limbo. Have I missed something? Lost out on an opportunity? Or should I assume God is working in the background and just hasn’t given the signal to “move” yet?

Sometimes I get so fixated on the unseen future that it almost paralyzes me in the here and now.

But this week, God gave impressed a new truth on me as I read about Gideon in the book of Judges. Judges 6:11-12 states, “The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

It was while Gideon was living ordinary life, actually hiding away from the enemy, the angel appeared to give him an assignment.

God then reminded me about others: Noah, Esther, and Mary. The Bible isn’t specific about what Noah was doing when God approached him, so that makes me think he was busy with life, working to provide for his family. Esther was living in the palace with her eunuchs and female attendants when God called her to step up into her assignment. God announced His plan for Mary, the future mother of Jesus, while she lived with her family, quietly preparing for her wedding.

Each of these people was living in the here and now, simply determining each day to be faithful to Him in the ordinary.

No one missed the message, not one blew their calling. He was kind of hard to miss.

Bottom line? When I’m fully surrendered to Him, I’m living to fulfill His purpose, no matter how seemingly mundane it may be. And what better way to be ready to hear when a call for new service comes? When I keep my focus on Him, my heart is attuned to His. And no matter where He has me in any given moment, He will use me for His glory.

cheri swalwellAbout the author: Cheri Swalwell is a Christ follower who thoroughly enjoys her calling to be a wife, mother, and writer, in that order. She has the privilege to write regularly for Book Fun Magazine and her devotional book series, Spoken from the Heart, as well as two other books, Hope During Heartache and Caring for the Caregiver are available through Amazon. She would love to connect with you through her website, www.cheriswalwell.com, through email: clSwalwell99@gmail.com, or Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/cheri-Swalwell.

Join the conversation: What has been your experience in hearing God’s calling?

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Good, Better, Best

by Linda Rooks

“Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths.” Psalm 25:4 NKJV

Each time I prayed for Marsha, I remembered her last words to me when we spoke on the phone. “I just went to Moffitt and they’re letting me try an experimental treatment,” she said.

I felt encouraged. She sounded encouraged.

But, of course, that was Marsha’s nature—always positive. Even though doctors said her cancer was too advanced and there was nothing more they could do for her. Even though they gave her only a few months to live . . . .

In the midst of my busy schedule I thought often about calling and checking up on her. But as my to-do list grew longer and more urgent, time slipped away. I’d even been too busy to check my Facebook notifications. Wow!

A few weeks after my last conversation with her, I finally got around to checking in with Facebook. At the top of my news feed, I spied a post from Marsha’s daughter. I caught my breath and felt my heart constricting.

Marsha had died the day before.

In addition, Marsha herself had posted a week earlier, telling her friends about her deteriorating condition and encouraging us not to fear for her. “I have my hand on the doorknob of heaven,” she said. She had posted, and I had missed it.

I cried. I grieved. My heart was broken. Recognizing my failure to follow up on those nagging reminders to call Marsha, I was filled with regret.  But I could not change what happened.

Thankfully, I knew she was now safely home with our loving heavenly Father and free from pain, but the incident caused me to reevaluate my priorities.

What was more important? My projects? Or my relationships?

Sometimes, the good things we choose to do in life multiply to such an extent that what is good begins to crowd out what is better—or best. We fail to realize that for everything we choose to do, we simultaneously choose not to do something else. In our twenty-four-hour day, time is limited. We can’t do everything.

When we routinely concentrate on what seems urgent, things that don’t cry out with insistence or immediate deadlines are put to the side. For me, keeping up with friendships is often the first casualty. Family relationships can take a backseat too. We can be so busy trying to do our best at work, helping at church, or working on a project, we neglect to give our children the attention they need. Or we may be so engrossed in solving our children’s problems, we forget our husband has needs too. One day, however, those innocent oversights may transform into grief and regret.

Perhaps that’s why we need to start each day in prayer. One of my friends recently told me that before she gets out of bed each morning she asks God not to let her miss whatever He has for her that day. Now, as part of my morning prayers, her plea to God has become mine as well.

Staying sensitive to God’s leading at the beginning of each day, throughout the day, and before making commitments can help us shed the frustration of crowded schedules, depleted energy, and mediocre or even heart-rending outcomes. Most importantly, when we stay tuned into the promptings of our Living God, He can keep us on a clear path of His intended purposes.

“Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice.” Psalm 55:17 NKJV.

linda rooksLinda W. Rooks has a ministry of hope for those in broken marriages. Her book Broken Heart on Hold, Surviving Separation continues to bring strength and healing to those who need an encouraging friend in the midst of marital breakdown. Linda writes for both adults and children, and her stories and articles have appeared in numerous publications including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Focus on the Family and Today’s Christian Woman. She and her husband reside in Central Florida and thank God for the many reconciled marriages they witness through their ministry and the classes they lead.

Join the conversation: In this crazy-busy life, how do you set priorities?

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Open Hands, Open Heart

by Michelle Lazurek

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22: 41-42 

“Why do we have to move?” my seven- year- old son asked, his face full of tears.  After twelve years of ministry with a church plant, we were facing our most difficult season as pastor and wife. Because our church was close to closing and our financial situation dire, we had no option but to take another job. Although this was tough on all of us, my son was particularly sensitive to the thought of moving away from his friends.

“Honey, I know this is hard. But I want you to think about it this way. So often when I’m faced with something outside of my control, I tend to keep my hands clenched tightly in a fist, resistant to hear what God has to say. But what if I kept my hands open and ready to listen? When my hands are clenched, I am saying no to God’s blessing. But when I leave them open, I am opening not just my hands but my heart.”

I took my son’s right hand in mine and opened it, placing it face up on his lap. “Practice opening your hands to God. Whenever you feel closed off to what God has for you, open up your hands and place them on your lap. I bet you’ll find your mind and heart are more receptive to God when you do this.”

As someone who struggles with fear, I often try to control my environment by carefully planning out every detail. When things don’t go according to plan, I tend to close my fists, closing myself off to Him. Even worse, when I’m going through a trial, I shake that fist in the air, angry that a good God would allow me so much pain. It is then, during my times of prayer, I physically open my hands and place them face up. My heart softens. I finally let go of my will and embrace His. The result of this process is that I learn to trust God more fully.

Here are three things I have learned by opening my hands (and heart) to God:

I become more receptive to the Holy Spirit’s influence. When I am closed off in my mind, I cannot hear Him speaking to me. His prodding is gentle for the most part: He does not force Himself on us. When I physically open my hands, my spiritual posture changes, and I am better able to hear from Him.

I receive what God has in store for me. God wants me to remain open to Him, willing to offer what I have been tightly holding as a sacrifice to Him. Very often, He has something bigger and better than what I was so reluctant to release.

I am transformed into a closer reflection of Jesus Christ. We follow in the footsteps of a suffering, obedient Savior. In the Garden, even Jesus petitioned God to spare Him from what He was about to endure. But in spite of His agony, He chose to submit Himself to the will of the Father. There’s nothing wrong with having personal desires. But in the end, we must choose to trust God when He has something else in mind.

Lord, help me to open my hands and heart to you. Amen.

michelle lazurekAbout the author: Michelle S. Lazurek is an author, speaker, pastor’s wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children’s Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal, and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author’s Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Michelle is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more on Michelle, please visit her website.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random numberrighteous and lost generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Michelle’s book, Righteous and Lost: Finding Hope for the Pharisee Within,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Are there areas of your life in which your hands are closed to God?