The Telltale Tail (No, I’m not stuttering!)

by Sheri Schofield

It is autumn here in Montana. The air is crisp and we have had our first snow. It’s that time of year when bucks fight each other, competing for does. So it did not surprise me when I saw two bulls locking horns the other day in their corral. There were no cows around to notice, so they were being very careful with those long, sharp horns. But I knew they were having fun fighting because they were wagging their tails!

Sometimes I think it is a huge disadvantage that people don’t have tails. Have you ever wondered how another person was responding to you? If he or she had a tail, you would know! Serious face and straight out tail: “I don’t like you! I may attack!” Tucked tail: “I’m nervous and a little bit afraid.” Smiles accompanied by small wags: “I am willing to get close and see how we get along”.  Happy smiles and joyfully wagging tail: “I am soooooo glad to see you!” Then there’s the ever-popular male greeting of serious face and wagging tail: “Let’s fight!”

But then, animals don’t lie. Except for cats.

If the world had a tail, I think it would have a straight face and wag its tail, just like dogs circling each other preparing to attack. The world is engaged in battles at every level. Nations attack nations. People attack people. Even children fight each other over toys. It is our nature, just as it is the nature of animals, to fight or to run away in fear.

But someday, the Prince of Peace will return to this earth. The lion will lay down with the lamb. Men will hammer down their weapons and turn them into plows, and there will be peace.

The Holy Spirit was sent to teach us and to fill our hearts with peace. He brings us a foretaste of heaven. Those who surrender their lives to the control of the Holy Spirit will exude love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23, NLT).

Imagine a world filled with those qualities. What a world it would be! Imagine a church filled with those qualities. That is what Jesus intends. But even the early apostles struggled with their human nature, a nature that goes against God’s peace. Remember Paul and the conflict he had with Barnabas over John Mark, who couldn’t take the struggle of missionary work and went home? That’s just one example. And these struggles continue in Jesus’ church today.

We cannot change our world. We can only influence it. We cannot change our churches. But we can surrender our own hearts to the power of the Holy Spirit and allow the peace and love of Jesus to flow toward those around us, both inside and outside the church. The more Christians surrender to the Holy Spirit, the more we will see lost souls turn to Jesus, for love is a magnet to those who are searching for hope. Where there is love, there is hope. This hope blossoms into faith in Jesus and blooms into eternal life.

So today, I’m going to smile. If I had a tail, I’d wag it at you. Pass it on!

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.   Isaiah 54:10 NIV

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The Telltale Tail (No, I’m not stuttering!) – Sheri Scholfield 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 new 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: What has been your more recent experience in hearing from the Holy Spirit?

How to Find Courage in the Face of Danger

by Karen DeArmond Gardner

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.                                                                                                                          2 Timothy 1:7 NASB

God rarely answers why questions, especially when we are in pain. But every once in a while, when we’re not even asking, He answers one of our why questions when we least expect it.

This was one of those moments. I was sitting with hundreds of women at my church listening to Pastor Debbie teach on 2 Timothy 1:7. On the outside, I may have appeared cool, calm, and collected, but on the inside, I was stunned. God had just shown me why I’d stayed in an abusive marriage for 30 years.

I’d spent years beating myself up for staying as long as I did. The NLT version of Jeremiah 31:19 expressed how I often felt: “I kicked myself for my stupidity!”

Now, I suddenly realized being stupid wasn’t my problem. Instead, I’d been conditioned to live in fear… of my husband, of his retribution, of not pleasing him. The brainwashing was so gradual, I didn’t realize that fear had changed me into a timid mouse.

It turns out fear and love are opposites; you can have one or the other, but not both at the same time. In my situation, fear had permeated every part of my spirit. There was no room for love.

Fear had such a hold on me, I couldn’t leave. I believed my marriage was my lot in life, since I had chosen to marry him. My understanding of Scripture had gotten all twisted around: I thought God wanted me to suffer for Jesus and would one day reward me with a crown for enduring it. I was responding to another kind of fear: I was afraid that leaving my marriage would displease God.

So I looked into the meaning of the words in 2 Timothy 1:7.

  • Power is the capability to act or do something dangerous.
  • Love describes the commitment God has for us, always wanting our good.
  • Discipline is the ability to think in a sound or sane manner.

The enemy had tricked me into giving up my power, love, and ability to think soundly. I wrote out what I had learned from 2 Timothy 1:7: God has breathed courage into my spirit and has given me the ability to act in the face of fear and danger, to experience His extravagant love, and to walk in His wisdom, so I can be the woman He called me to be.

I’m so grateful that God answered why that night and set me free from the lies of fear.

Are you trapped in your circumstances? Is fear preventing you from making healthy decisions? Are you ready for the secret to being able to kick fear to the curb?

Look up all the ways God’s love is described in Scripture. Immerse yourself in His pure, powerful, and glorious love; soak in it, embrace it, then share His love with everyone you encounter. Living in God’s love will give you the courage to confront whatever difficulty you’re stuck in, as well as provide wisdom and understanding to know what action He would have you take.

Are you ready to exchange fear for love? “There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear…the one who fears is not complete in love” (1 John 4:12 CSB).

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How to Find Courage in the Face of Danger – encouragement from Daren DeArmond Gardner on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

karen dearmond gardnerAbout the author: Karen DeArmond Gardner is a 30-year survivor of domestic violence. She has spent 15 years on her own healing journey and nearly that long helping others find freedom, restoration, and redemption.

Karen is a facilitator in Freedom Ministry/Sozo and directs the Women’s Ministry at Catch the Fire DFW Church. She also facilitates Mending the Soul, a group that leads women through the trauma of their past into healing and wholeness. She serves on the Board of Directors for Arukah House, a transitional home for women coming out of sex trafficking and abuse.

Karen blogs at Crack the Silence and can be found at her Crack the Silence Facebook page. She continues to be a helpful contact and resource for abused women in her church and community.

Join the conversation: In what ways has fear trapped you?

 

Filled to Overflowing

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

For years, I was a stale and stagnated Christian. Christ had deposited His living water within my soul, but it felt more like a trickling creek than a gushing river.

I wasn’t thriving. In fact, in many ways I was barely surviving. Then one weekend, I went on a women’s retreat and heard the account of the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42) who’d gone through a string of relationships, and, I felt certain, lived as empty as I was. She may have been widowed, abandoned, or she may have chosen divorce. But regardless of the causes, she’d committed to and then lost five different husbands. That had to have left emotional scars.

Jesus saw her pain and sought her out. He arrived at the community well, and after sending His disciples away, waited.

Upon the woman’s arrival to draw water, He initiated a conversation with her by asking for a drink of water. He wanted to make her conscious of a deeper, spiritual thirst she had that no physical liquid could quench. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks for a drink,” he said, “you would have asked Him, and He would’ve given you living water” (John 4:10, NIV).

In ancient Palestine, water so necessary to life was scarce. Rain fell only a few months each year. But when it did, the previously brown and barren countryside suddenly became lush and green.

It was in that dry, barren environment that Jesus invited her to believe in Him. It was a chance to come fully alive for the first time in her life. Later in John, Jesus described the saving work of the Holy Spirit: “Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:37-39, NIV).

As I sat under this teaching that day, I felt confused. I’d already trusted in Christ for my eternal salvation. But I had never learned to truly live in response to His Holy Spirit (Jesus’ Living Water) in me. Much of this failure came down to one simple issue: I didn’t know how to live loved. The scars of past hurts, fears, and continual self-loathing covered my heart. It was all blocking me from fully accepting God’s continual grace being poured over me.

I spent so much time attempting to fill all my empty places—through alcohol, social interactions, and food—in an attempt to distance myself from the only One who could ever fill me completely.

I hadn’t a clue how to have an authentic relationship—with anyone, let alone the all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present yet invisible Creator. So I asked Him to show me. To teach me. To heal me.

And He did. For the next fifteen or so years, He has healed my wounds, removed my distrust, and helped me discover the freedom of living love.

Of living filled.

We receive God’s living water, the Holy Spirit, the moment we trust in Christ for salvation. But our experience doesn’t end there. As we deepen our relationship with Jesus and surrender more of ourselves to Him, the river God has deposited within us grows stronger.  It will soak into every crack and crevice in our hearts, filling us completely with His Living Water.  His Spirit pours out in a refreshing, life-giving stream.

…Be filled with the Spirit…singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord. Ephesians 5:18-19 NASB

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Filled to Overflowing – encouragement from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout 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 Hometown Healing and numerous other titles, hosts the Faith Over Fear Podcast (available soon on Crosswalk) and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder Hometown Healing: A Fresh-Start Family Romance (Love Inspired) by [Slattery, Jennifer]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 HERE to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.

Join the Conversation: Let’s talk about this! Have you experienced God’s living water? Is something slowing the waters of God’s Spirit? How can you give Him more access to yourself so that He can flow within and from you unhindered?

Ambassadors of the God Who Sees

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20 NASB

Less than five years off the street, I simultaneously craved love and fought against it. I hungered for Jesus but acted as if I didn’t know Him. And in part, I didn’t. I had bits of knowledge, enough to cross over from death to life, but not enough to propel me into freedom.

To the onlooker, I was rebelling against God and His truth. My husband and I went to bars almost every Friday and Saturday. It wasn’t uncommon for us to stay until last call. We were living together while unmarried, and quite honestly, it didn’t even cross my mind that this was wrong.

My entire worldview was contrary to God’s. This worldview, this way of thinking, had developed slowly, over almost two decades. Transformation—which always begins first with the heart and then one’s thoughts—would take time. And love. And Gentleness.

Patiently, bit by bit, God brought light to my darkness and truth to my falsehood.

He used three people in particular, one I initially found strange. This man worked with my husband, a railroader, and in time, a friend. He kept coming around, offering to help, giving and letting us borrow things. Wanting nothing in return. Every once in a while, he’d throw Jesus into the conversation, or subtly say he was praying for us. And then he’d leave.

No pressure. No Bible thumping. No condemnation.

God also sent two pastors our way, one right after the other. They stopped by, joined us for coffee. Took us to lunch and dinner. Answered our questions, but mainly acted as friends–as if oblivious to our drunkenness, foul language, and frequent fights.

They looked past the outward gunk to the hurting, hungry hearts beneath.

And here’s the deal—had they come at us with condemnation, with any expectation, I would’ve bolted. Hid. Maybe never entered a church again. Though I might not have known a lot of Scripture, I had years of condemnation, of self-loathing. Of shame. Of believing I was unworthy of God’s love.

And God saw me (Genesis 16:13). He saw my hurt, my confusion and deception. My shame. And instead of calling me to rise to where He was, He came to me. As the God who bends down to listen (Psalm 116:2). Through three obedient and faithful men, God shattered my expectations, broke through my defenses, and built steady and enduring bridges, gently, lovingly, drawing me closer to Himself.

We moved four years later, and those men never saw the results of their patience. For all they knew, their efforts had been wasted. They have no idea the impact their relationship with this sinful, foul-mouthed couple from the west coast made.

Except for one of them—my husband’s coworker. Last year, this man, the one who’d so patiently reached out, joined us for dinner. It wasn’t long before our conversation turned to my writing and ministry, and all God has done through a street-girl turned speaker. That night, we were able to share how God used his efforts, nearly a decade later.

He’d chosen to build bridges. To show love. To trust that, God would bring two broken, sinful people to Himself, in His perfect timing. He didn’t consider himself responsible for the end result. He was but a guide along the journey, long before any fruit from his efforts emerged.

I’m reminded of their example when I encounter others so different from me. My initial reaction is to pull away, to self-protect and choose the comfortable. To resist focusing on the outside and stay focused on the broken heart within. I’m reminded of who I’ve been, yes, but also of who I am now—another representative of the God who sees, loves, and transforms.

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Ambassadors of the God Who Sees – 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: What ambassador of God has had an impact on your life?

 

The Frost Busters

by Sheri Schofield

Yesterday was one of those Rocky Mountain High days: high altitude, high humidity, and high temperatures – for Montana, at least. Even the buzzards were hot! I saw one perched on a fence post, facing into the wind. Its wings were stretched out with every feather separated as far as it could go, and its tongue was hanging out of its beak.

You wouldn’t think 74 degrees would be considered that hot! But back in March, we hit a record low of -42 degrees during calving season. We lost thousands of calves across the state and many adult cattle as well. That buzzard weathered the cold. Now it was 116 degrees hotter. You bet it was overwhelmed!

Jesus spoke of a spiritual climate change that would happen in the last days. He said, “Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 12:10 NLT).

Sin has always been with us. But in recent years, it seems to be increasing at a gallop. What was once hidden from others is brazenly broadcast to all. There is a boldness and pride about sin these days. What was once considered sin is now being celebrated as personal rights. Evil is considered good. People’s natural love for their own families is freezing over under this increased assault. Our natural response as Christians is to back away from those who boldly proclaim their sin.

But is that the answer? Should we let fear hold us back from giving our world the antifreeze it needs so desperately? What can we do to bring warmth to a frozen-hearted world?

Peter wrote, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sin. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.  God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (I Peter 4:8-10 NLT).

Love begins at home. Then it spreads outward to other believers. Love from God that cannot be contained then reaches out to the lost around us. It grows, spreading warmth to those who are secretly enduring lives of frozen desperation, captured by the powers of darkness that dominate our land.

Before He left this earth, Jesus told His disciples what would happen after He was gone. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem [home], throughout Judea [neighborhood], in Samaria [surrounding countries], and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8  NLT).

We are to love in the power of the Holy Spirit. Loving those who are difficult cannot be done on our own steam. We have to be plugged into God’s supernatural strength and power, like electrical appliances must be plugged into electric outlets. Then, with the Holy Spirit flowing through us like an electrical current, we can reach our world with the Son of love and defrost frozen hearts one at a time.

Have you mastered loving your own? How about those at church? Your neighbors? Take these challenges one step at a time, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and see just how many hearts God can melt through your love!

God wants to defrost hearts with his love, and he is gathering a defrosting team. Maybe we could even have team shirts made: “The Frost Busters!” Will you join us? Go, Team, Go!

“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” 1 John 4:7-10, NLT

TWEETABLES
The Frost Busters – thoughts in #FollowingGod 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 new 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: When has your heart been warmed by the love of others?

Superman’s Cape

by Cheri Cowell @CheriCowell

When growing up, I loved to watch Clark Kent turn into Superman. He entered a phone booth as a shy, unassuming, everyday guy until he put on that cape and Superman clothes. Then he’d step out of the telephone booth as a new man—bold, certain, and… well …Superman! The clothes gave him cover to become someone he could not be otherwise. He was proud and confident when clothed in garments that made him a new person.

We are like that, too. When you and I wear certain clothes, we behave differently. For instance, when I get dressed up I feel pretty and professional, but when I put on my comfy clothes all I want to do is curl up with a good book.

As God’s chosen people, we are holy (set apart) and loved. Because we are set apart from the world, we are to “clothe” ourselves differently than those around us. To put in another way, we should stand out of the crowd because of the clothes we wear.

Our new clothes have names—the garments of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Each morning I have a choice in what I will wear, both physically and spiritually. Some days I physically make wise choices and put on clothes that make me want to exercise or smile throughout the day. Spiritually, I can make a similar wise choice to wear patience or kindness.

The Scripture for today tells us the clothes we wear are our choice as we dress every morning.  This implies we don’t wake up with them already on. Honestly, if I am left to my own, I will wear judgment and impatience. So, each day when I reach into my closet, I am reminded of this Scripture, and as I get dressed, I am mentally putting on the garments of God.

Thankfully we won’t be asked to leap tall buildings in a single bound! However, it is good to know that just like with Superman’s cape, these clothes come with power to help us do mighty things. God’s power. He enables us to show patience when we’re unable to muster it on our own. When we yield to the Holy Spirit, our lives will display love, joy, peace (Galatians 5:22-23)…the best wardrobe we could possibly own. 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12b NIV

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Superman’s Cape – and thoughts on #FollowingGod from @CheriCowell on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Cheri Cowell is the author of 365 Devotions for Peace (Thomas Nelson). She can be found at www.CheriCowell.com.

Cheri CowellCheri Cowell is also a contributor to When God Calls the Heart to Love. To learn more about Cheri visit www.CheriCowell.com.

Inspired by best-selling author Janette Oke and the Hallmark Channel original TV series When Calls the Heart, Brian Bird and Michelle Cox explore the love-filled moments from the fictional early 1900s town of Hope Valley. Stories of romantic love, as well as love between families, neighbors, and friends, will touch your heart and encourage your soul to recognize the potential of love in your life.

Join the conversation: What is your favorite piece of “clothing”?

The Hardest Thing to Surrender

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

If God were calling me to a temporary fast, I could do it. Give up sugar? Ice cream? Television and technology? Though it wouldn’t be easy, I’d manage. But this, what God is currently calling me to surrender, indefinitely, will take my most earnest prayers and every ounce of strength I possess. This thing cuts to the core of my hopes and dreams, triggers insecurities and fear, and ultimately, reveals where my heart truly lies.

So what is this thing that God calls me, persistently, to relinquish?

Control.

My agenda. My time and my to-do list. Whatever I’m striving for that keeps me from saying, at each moment, “Not my will, but Yours, Lord Jesus, be done.”

When I’m sitting with my Bible, reading of His love and care, meditating on all He’s done for me, surrender comes easily. Or perhaps I should say, easier. “Take everything, Lord. And help me to obey You. Help me to give up everything to follow after You.”

But then the day begins, and pricks of selfishness weaken my resolve and hinder my obedience. My prayers sound more like complaints and long-winded requests than commitments to my Savior.

This is my greatest, most fervent and frequent battle—the battle against self, saturated in pride and selfishness.

But Christ calls me to love—not with the conditional, temporary, convenient love our world offers, but the kind He demonstrated when He stripped Himself of all His heavenly glory, took on flesh, and died in my selfish, prideful place.

For, though He was God, He “did not considering equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:6-8).

This, Scripture says, is the same attitude I am to have.

Often, my prayers are centered on me—on what God wants me to do or not do, on how I wish things would turn out. And each time, God answers, but not in the way I expect. I’m looking ahead to countless external things. And though I’m certain He cares deeply about every one of my concerns, His focus often narrows on something of utmost importance, something that enables great ministry to occur and true love to flow, and that’s my heart.

If I want to be used by God and touch lives for eternity, to avoid the dangerous pitfalls of sin, my life must be touched first by the transforming power of God, the God who shows me how to love, to surrender, and to give all of myself no matter the cost.

Even if it means surrendering everything I hold dear.

In Romans 12:1, Paul urges us to “offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices.” In other words, to live sacrificially for Christ, not just today, or when it’s urgent or convenient, but always. To put God’s agenda above our own.

This is the call. The first step to greatness, and it begins with a quiet, yet desperate plea, “Change me, Lord. Help me. Do whatever you need to within me to make me pliable in Your hands, a cleansed and open vessel always and ready to do Your will and Your will only.”

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 NASB

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The Hardest Thing to Surrender – insight from author @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer Slattery

Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s also a Crosswalk featured blogger and maintains a devotional blog found atJenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder ofWholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events that help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. (They just released their first Bible study, Becoming His Princess, which you can grab for free HERE.) When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Check out her latest release,Restoring Her Faith, published by Love Inspired. She left belief behind…Yet this family could change her mind. With two boys to raise, a fledgling contracting business to run and a family ranch to keep afloat, widower Drake Owens finds his hands aren’t just full, they’re overflowing. When Faith Nichols is hired to help him renovate the church, he’s drawn to the beautiful artist, but he can’t fall for a woman who isn’t a believer. Can love restore her faith and his heart?

Join the conversation: Let’s talk about this! How might pausing to reflect on all Christ did for us—His death and resurrection—empower you to surrender completely to Him? To daily surrender our heart to be cleaned and filled by Him? And why might this be of even greater importance than anything you or I might do for Him?

 

The Lent Buzz

by Sheryl Giesbrecht Turner @SGiesbrecht

Okay folks, it’s lent, not lint. Most of us have noticed the lent buzz’ has begun, currently all over social media. First, let’s define what lent is. Biblegateway.com offers this definition:

“Lent is the span of time in the church calendar that starts with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday…[It] is generally observed as a time for Christians to reflect, repent, and pray as a way of preparing their hearts for Easter.” (from Andy Rau, Senior Manager of Content, Biblegateway.org.)

Lent is about love: our Savior’s sacrificial love for us. Jesus literally became sin for us, so that we might have fellowship with the Heavenly Father. (2 Corinthians 5:21) That gift of love covers a multitude of sin. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 NASB).

There is only one solution for the problem of our sin separating us from God…some have tried to earn their way to heaven by working harder or being religious…but Hebrews 9:22 says “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (NASB).  Jesus Christ is our only hope… he died to pay the penalty for our sin and provided a way for us to have a relationship with God.

I am preparing for Easter through an observance of lent. Some may be working their way through devotional readings. Others are considering how we can love God in a deeper way by denying themselves– some abstain from coffee, chocolate or fried foods in an effort to draw near to God.

Recently I heard of a woman, who instead of “giving up,” chose to “give away” something each day before Easter Sunday. It got me to thinking about how the love of God compels us to give away to those who will never be able to give back to us. That’s just how God gave his son Jesus to us. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NIV).

I started in my clothes closet, vowing to purge and donate one item a day that I haven’t worn in a year. (If you haven’t worn it in a year, you probably won’t wear it again.)  Since beginning, on some days, I’ve unloaded up to ten items. It’s gratifying to think of the many who will be blessed by receiving my unused clothes.

The process has been so freeing. I’ve been a victim of my fear of letting go. During this season, instead of caving in to fear, I have chosen to show love during lent. I’ve learned something important through the process: you have to let go to take hold of something new.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14 NIV

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The Lent Buzz – thoughts on the Easter season from @SGiesbrecht on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheryl giesbrechtAbout 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 Magazine and many others.

Sheryl is the author of It’ll Be Okay: Finding God When Doubt Hides the Truth (Redemption Press, March 2018). When we don’t get answers or see God’s guiding hand, it’s hard to keep moving forward in faith. Does God see me? Does he hear me? Does he care? Many Christians confuse doubt with unbelief and are afraid to admit those fears, but God is not threatened by our questions, and doubt does not negate our faith. Find a deeper understanding of the role doubt plays in your spiritual growth–and how learning to doubt your doubts enables faith to prevail.

Join the conversation: How will you choose to show love to Jesus during lent? How can we fall more deeply in love with our Savior?

Are you Dead or Alive?

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

A few years ago, my car battery died and left me stranded in a doctor’s office parking lot. I didn’t get a warning. I had no trouble starting the car to drive to the appointment, but when I came out to go home, the motor didn’t even try to start.

I intercepted a cowboy headed out to his pickup truck and asked for his help. He agreed to do what he could and managed to finagle his vehicle into a position to connect our batteries. But still my car wouldn’t start.

I decided it must be something other than the battery. Maybe the starter. So I called Triple A and my father-in-law. The tow truck took my car to the dealership and my father-in-law took me home.

Later that day the service department called with the diagnosis. It was the battery. What? I asked why the “jump” didn’t get it going? According to the man who understands cars far more than I do, a battery has to have at least some life left in it to respond to a jump. My battery, on the other hand, didn’t have a single spark of life remaining. The only hope left for my car was a brand new battery. One that contained life. So, dead battery out and live battery in. Car started. Amazing.

Before Christ saves us, we’re like my car sitting in the doctor’s parking lot. We might look fine from the outside, but because we’re all sinners, we are all dead in our sin.

All have sinned (Romans 3:23); The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23); Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins (Ephesians 2:1 NIV).

Sin brings spiritual death, cutting us off completely from the Source of spiritual life. We have no power to save ourselves, and no access to the One who does. Sounds like a hopeless state, doesn’t it? Oh, but the grace of God…

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV

I am so overwhelmed by what God has done for us in Christ! Because of His love, and mercy, and grace, God replaces our death with His Life. And His Life is Jesus Himself. Eternal life is The Life in us.

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 NIV).

Are you dead or alive? Has there ever been a time in your life when you received God’s unbounded grace and crossed over from death to life? If so, then rejoice over that life today. If not, then why not receive His life today?   How to know Jesus

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Are you Dead or Alive? insight 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 Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing by [Howard, Kathy]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.

Join the conversation: Are you dead or alive? Tell us your story.

 

 

 

 

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?