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.

TWEETABLE
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

TWEETABLE
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

TWEETABLE
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

TWEETABLE
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

TWEETABLE
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?

TWEETABLE
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?

Silver Ribbon in the Sky

by Sheri Schofield

It was a beautiful, clear day. Summer breezes blew up from the valley below and murmured in the pine trees around our log home on the side of the mountain. My husband’s parents were visiting us, and Mom and I walked out onto the deck to enjoy the view.

As we stood there, we noticed a strange sight. It looked like a shimmering, silver ribbon was floating in the sky over the lake. “What is that?” Mom pointed.

We watched, intensely curious about that long, beautiful ribbon. It seemed to be coming toward us! As the ribbon drew closer, it broke up into individual parts and we saw that it was not a ribbon at all. It was a long line of white pelicans teaching their young to fly! They were white but the tips of their wings were black. As their wings beat up and down, the sun caught the flickers of black against their white feathers and created the illusion of a silver ribbon glistening in the sky.

Individually, the pelicans were insignificant. But working together under the bright sun, they presented something very beautiful to our watching eyes.

Calvary love is like that. When we love those around us, and stretch out our hands to our world, people see something unusual and are drawn to us. When we band together with other believers and reach out in love to the people in our neighborhoods, our world takes note. We become like that silver ribbon in the sky, a marvel that draws others to Jesus.

All around us is a dying world. People are trapped in addictions, anger, pain and hopelessness, separated from God. Do you know anyone like that? How beautiful and effective we can be when we reach out to them in love!

There’s nothing easy about Calvary love. Calvary love cost Jesus great anguish and pain. Not only did he suffer from the torture of the cross, but he also suffered the grief of becoming sin for us, and being separated from his Father. When we choose to love others, it doesn’t mean we love them only when they behave well and treat us right! It’s a battle sometimes. It means praying for those who are unkind to us. It means reaching out to them with a smile and a warm heart when we do not feel like it.

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you….” Jesus said in Luke 6:27 & 28 (NIV).

I don’t know about you, but I find that impossible to do in my own strength! My own nature says, “Avoid that person who is causing me pain or hurting someone I love.” But Jesus does not avoid me when I say or do things that offend him. He loves me anyway and challenges me to learn to love others in his strength.

Love is a risk. I have to risk being misunderstood and hurt by others in order to serve Jesus effectively. But I do know this: Everything I do out of love for Christ and others is establishing a foothold for the Holy Spirit’s miraculous work in the lives of those around me.

So once again, Lord, let me pick up the mantle of love – – for Jesus’ sake. Let me be like that silver ribbon in the sky today!

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.                                                                                                                                                   John 13:35, NIV

TWEETABLE
How a silver ribbon in the sky reminded one author of God’s perfect love – Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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

Join the Conversation: Have you seen love in action make a difference in your life or in the lives of others? Please share.

Skipping the Valentine Gift

by Michele McCarthy

A wise person demonstrates patience, for mercy means holding your tongue. When you are insulted, be quick to forgive and forget it, for you are virtuous when you overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11 NASB

Ah, the cycles of gift giving! The bountiful, countless gift giving options marrieds appropriate. The “Surely if my husband loved me, he’d make a mental note of any gift I might enjoy, say, for Valentine’s Day or our anniversary. He’d remember the earrings, book or CD I mentioned and tuck the idea-nugget away on the gift giving list he carries in his man-card wallet. I just need to allow him to read my mind” cycle. No pressure there.

Then there’s the “no fail, surprise romantic dinner” rotation. But the steak burned or one of the kids got sick or the business meeting ran long, and dinner went cold. Dinner wasn’t the only thing cold that night.

Close behind: the “Let’s don’t give gifts this year” series. Yet one of you breaks the rule, thinking other said person will break the rule. Oops, the spouse with no gift to give feels like a heel.

All kidding aside, we can, at times, put pressure on our husbands or ourselves…wishing for mind readers that enable becoming the perfect fulfiller of our wants, gifts and dreams—much like the characters in a Hallmark movie. FICTION Hallmark movie, mind you. So much can go wrong and can lead to hurt and unforgiveness.

My husband is a good gift giver; it is often me that messes everything up. One time he bought me a special coffee maker and a beautiful white coffee cup. A sweet remembrance of our trip to Italy and our daily coffee “experiences”—always with a white cup. Poor guy, I hated to tell him I had just decided I needed to cut down my coffee habit. As soon as he has me figured out, I change my mind! Yes, I have returned gifts he has spent precious time finding.

This year, I’m skipping the nicely wrapped Valentine gift. Instead, I’ll offer my Valentine a richer sacrifice. I’d like to become (for him) unoffendable. Yes, what if I never again hold my husband accountable for my happiness, my worth, my value…even at Valentines…gift, no gift, thoughtless gift or greatest gift?

Have I matured enough in my walk with Christ? Am I as easily able to be unoffended with my husband as I am with others? I want to be consistently, kindly unoffendable. In our home. Holiday or not.

Jesus lived it. He gave and gave and whether appreciated or not, loved or not, received or not, beaten or not, He never gave an offended response. He loved continuously and unconditionally. Everyday. Everywhere.

Long ago I received the best LOVE gift ever, one that never fails. Jesus. When He took residence in me, His amazing love toward others, in kindness and truth, was to become who I am. I have the pleasure and power of learning to love like Christ.

Can you hear it? Maybe my husband will hum Nat King Cole singing a new song, “unoffendable that’s who you are…unoffendable both near and far…”

I will get my hubby a funny Valentine card to accompany a noticeable shift in my expectations. The key word being my. As I walk out who I am in Christ, I want to increase my love out of the overflow of Christ’s love for me, no gift expected in return or any need to be returned.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NASB

TWEETABLE
Skipping the Valentine’s Gift – thoughts from Michele McCarthy on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Michele McCarthyAbout the author: A wife to her devoted husband and a mom of two fine young men, two fabulous daughters-in-law and five beautiful grandchildren, Michele McCarthy has served her family faithfully for years. She is now enjoying attending Lifestyle Christianity University and exploring long hidden talents of writing and watercolor. She has written a children’s book, Daddy and Me, that is currently at the publisher. She loves reading, scrapbooking, deep conversations and talking about Jesus.

Join the conversation: How is that gift cycle working for you?

The Molt

by Sheri Schofield

Have you ever been to a pond in early spring, when all the colorful ducks are swimming around, quacking and raising their young? It’s one of my favorite times to duck watch. The male mallard ducks are particularly beautiful, with their iridescent green heads, white collars, red breasts and blue-striped wings. This is the season when they are trying to attract female mallards, those plain, unadorned brown ducks on the pond. Eventually, the mallards pair up, build nests, and hatch ducklings. Life is busy and happy for the duck families.

But then comes The Molt. The males take off and go to a distant pond where they hang out together, turn grumpy, lose their beautiful feathers and get ugly.

This is a very difficult season for the female mallards. They are left behind to care for their young while they molt. They’re grumpy, too, but they have to watch the kids and molt at the same time. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

The next time the female sees her male partner, she probably thinks, “What did I ever see in him?” But her memory is short and she is kind. By the next spring, she’ll be looking for the bright plumage and sleek adornment her mate will develop. Once again, she will fall in love, help build a nest, and raise the ducklings. Wild mallards are monogamous. They stay with their mates year after year, through the good times and the bad.

Love forgives and forgets. Love doesn’t hold grudges. Love makes allowances for others to fail and to find victory. Though one’s mate may struggle at times, and though he may not look like the man one married anymore, love accepts. Love hopes for his best. Love supports. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love works toward a common good.

It is the same with one’s fellow Christian. Whether our brothers and sisters are doing well in their faith or whether they are struggling, we are told to be supportive and help them find victory. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (NLT)

Are you living through The Molt now? Or are you living in the springtime, when all is beautiful? Each season of life will call for different skills. But unity of focus and purpose is the key to survival. Are you focused on what will unite you?

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:13,14 NLT.

It is not always easy to forgive those who cut you out of social gatherings, or say unkind things about you to others! Sometimes our mates may say and do things that hurt us, and we may not want to forgive them. Nobody said this would be easy! But if we want to fulfill God’s purpose, we need to forgive and learn to live in harmony.

Our world is watching us. Will they see infighting and anger? Or will they see unity and love? We influence their destiny by our behavior.

We are all treasured by the One who loved us enough to die for us. So, Lord, teach us to love one another. . . even in The Molt.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance . . . . Three things will last forever – faith, hope and love – and greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:4-7, 13 NLT

TWEETABLE
Living through the molt with grace – Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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

Join the Conversation: What season are you in? What helps you to unconditionally love the one who has treated you badly?