Sometimes Love is a Hard Conversation

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-3 ESV

I have witnessed incredible courage in my times – bravery on the battlefield of childhood.

Times when adults stood around muttering that “someone should do something” until a child, full of love, tugged the sword out of their stone hearts and became king of love and reason.

An eight-year-old alone in a room of professionals, speaking up to say, “We’re not safe at home. Please don’t make us go back there.” Then, taking up her mother’s hand, “Mommy, I’m sorry. I love you, but you’re not protecting us.”

A ten-year-old boy who leapt to his feet in a living room crowded with adults and shouted, “Ha! Mom, I knew that was wrong, even though you said it was okay for me to ride in the trunk of the car. It is wrong, isn’t it?”

I nodded my head as I watched his mind make connections like a pinball machine the moment after the quarter drops. “And, I bet it’s not okay for me steal stuff for you! Mom, I think you believe you love me, but you’re doing it way wrong.”

Then, he turned to the relatives sitting in the room. “And you guys! How come you aren’t saying anything to her? I’m a kid. Grown-ups are supposed to watch out for kids.”

Or the thirteen-year-old girl who sat across a kitchen table and looked me square in the eye. “Why should I tell you anything about my hopes and dreams? You’re like the fifteenth old lady to sit in this kitchen and act like you know something that might help us. Why don’t you ask my dad his hopes and dreams? If you start working on that, we might actually get somewhere, but that’s a lot harder than sittin’ with a thirteen-year-old, isn’t it?”

Sometimes love is a hard conversation.

Don’t tell a kid in your ministry you love them in the name of Jesus, unless you’re willing to sit with their parents and talk when you suspect things aren’t right at home.

Don’t tell a young woman you love her, and then suggest she stay quiet when she says that a church leader made her feel uncomfortable with his words or his hands.

Don’t tell a young wife to go home, pray, and be a better wife, when she confides about her husband’s unexpected rages, drinking, pornography, or abusive words.

When your friend gossips in the guise of a prayer request, don’t just walk away and feel self-righteous that “at least you’re not like her.”

To be like Jesus is to love like a child.

A child sees no conflict between loving someone and telling them the truth.

A child sees no dissonance in loving a person and saying hard things to them.

A child knows that if someone doesn’t stand up to people doing wrong things, they’ll keep doing them.

A child knows how to love someone and still tell them they have to stop hurting other people.

Children learn from the people doing wrong to silence themselves, to hide, to cower, and to embrace helplessness. Jesus calls out the child in us to unlearn these ways for these are the ways of the sinful world.

Jesus demonstrated that sometimes love is a hard conversation. Just look at what He said to the Woman at the Well, the hypocritical Pharisees, or to Judas at the Last Supper.

Let love incite us to speak truth into our own lives and to choose love even when it would be easier to stay silent. This is the way of light. Sin, pain, and all manner of evil flourish in the darkness.

Our words can be light, against which, the darkness will not prevail.

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Sometimes Love is a Hard Conversation – encouragement from @LoriSRoeleveld on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

lori Roeleveld Headshot 2015About the author: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

Join the conversation: Can you recall a time when a child fearlessly expressed the truth?

 

 

 

As Far as Accountability Is Concerned

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I was scrubbing furiously, trying to get the hot fudge stain out of my fave workout shirt. And then…the revelation. It was like, “Oh hello, irony. For a minute I didn’t see you there.”

Not that the new diet isn’t going well or anything. Because I don’t think it actually counts as eating badly if you only ate your husband’s dessert because you forgot you already ate yours. Doesn’t count. Because, “forgot.”

It’s not that I haven’t tapped into all the diet helps presently out there. But I considered I might not be doing it right when I started typing “healthy recipes” into my phone and auto-correct filled in with “pudding cake and cheese dip and lies.” Also, auto-correct can be very judgey.

In the meantime, I’ve found there are stages a person must go through before accepting a new diet: 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Donut…and then I’m not exactly sure what comes after number four. Very probably another number four.

The other day, after too many fours, I knew I needed some human accountability. I may, however, have overdone it there. This afternoon I was reaching for an oatmeal cream pie when a sniper fired a warning shot.

Still, maybe I shouldn’t concern myself as much with sniper fire as I do with taking accountability seriously. Would you believe I’m actually scripturally compelled to “be concerned”?

“And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, HCSB).

The Greek word translated “be concerned” means to so focus the mind—to consider this thing so carefully—that the result will be the right response. And this “be concerned” is in the present tense, so it’s not simply referring to a one-time consideration. We’re called to seriously and perpetually think of ways we can promote love and good works, encouraging everyone in our sphere of influence to love Jesus by the way they love and serve each other.

And isn’t it almost another irony that we promote those things as we ourselves live in that love? That means our accountability is loving—no bullets. It’s not even “judgey.” It’s more “stir-uppy”—stirring up others to love and good works.

This kind of accountability looks best when no one is aiming for condemnation or judgment. Not for wounding or shaming or angering, either. It can happen when we lovingly confront. But it should never be our aim. Loving, not sniping. It’s good to let humility be the order of the day when someone else is concerned enough to “stir” us as well—even if we don’t necessarily agree. The truth is, we don’t exactly have an auto-correct, either.

O Lord, may we love You better as each of us buoys the other. May we inspire and encourage—and be inspired and encouraged—to love you, love each other, and to love serving.

Even though it’s not a new message, we can decide to be okay with reminders that we’re accountable to one another. Because, never mind the desserts and the four stages of donuts or whatever, sometimes…“forgot.”

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As Far as Accountability Is Concerned – encouragement from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: How do you build up the believers around you?

How Do I Love My Enemy?

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”                                                    Matthew 5:44 NIV

How do two porcupines hug? Very Carefully.  How do we love our enemies? With divine empowerment.

What did Jesus mean when He told His disciples to love their enemies? What does it look like to love your adversary?

We associate love with objects that make us feel good. When I say I love chocolate chip cookies, sunsets at the beach, and the gal I just met, I mean I enjoy the taste of cookies, the beauty of sunsets, and my new acquaintance’s personality.

To love our enemy, we need a stronger love than that. We need a love that can’t be stopped by the erratic behavior of its recipient. We must become conduits of Christ’s love.

What Does Love for My Enemy Look Like?

When God tells us to love our enemies, He isn’t asking us to manufacture warm feelings. God’s love is practical. It does what’s right. It seeks the eternal best for all involved.

Two concrete ways to show love are to “pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44 NIV) and provide help when they experience trouble.

God told the Israelites to return their brother’s stray ox or donkey when they found it (Deuteronomy 22:1). If they found their enemy’s lost animal, they were to return it, too (Exodus 23:4). In other words, we do good for everyone.

What Loving My Enemy Is Not

Loving your enemies is not seeking a close relationship with them or tolerating evil. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. If you wouldn’t place your child or best friend in a situation, you should treat yourself with the same consideration. God calls us to be loving—and wise.

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15 NIV).

Unsafe people put kind people in awkward positions. It’s uncomfortable to live guarded. But we must practice caution with those who manipulate, deceive, and back-stab. We don’t do anyone a favor when we protect wrong doers.

A young woman once told me she felt guilty because she told her principal about a young man who bullied her. “I should have been able to shrug it off. He got into trouble, and it’s my fault.” This woman had warned the man many times to stop. Yet she accepted the blame he put on her when he reaped the consequences of his wrongs.

The instruction to love our enemies does not mean to tolerate sin or abuse. Permitting sin is not good for us or them (Ephesians 5:11). Love and boundaries go together. Real love hates wrong.

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good” (Romans 12:9 NLT).

Where Do I Find the Power to Love My Enemy?

God is love. His Spirit produces love through us when we submit to Him (Galatians 5:22). As we obey the Romans 12:14 command to bless those who persecute us, power shifts from our enemy to us. They don’t control us; God does.

When Christ rules our hearts, we love, based not on who they are, but on who we are in Christ. Nobody can rock that.

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How Do I Love My Enemy? – practical insight from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, is to be released February 2020. She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: How do you go about loving your enemy?

Love or Nothing

by Patti Richter

“Isn’t love the most important thing?”

My friend’s mother had just repeated the question for me a second time as I attempted to share my born-again faith.

“Of course,” I had to agree. We both knew the Apostle Paul’s admonition to love: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal . . .  and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-2, ESV).

I was a college student at that time, maturing but still growing, and my concept of love was yet unformed. But even as a new follower of Christ, God’s Spirit and His Word were already transforming my heart and mind.

I was much like a woman who marries a man with children and later realizes her commitment entails much more than one relationship. Loving God requires loving others, and I had a long way to go in this area.

When I shared my testimony of coming to Christ with long-time friends who also needed a Savior, they didn’t respond as I hoped. But instead of praying for them and keeping in touch, I gave up these friendships without considering Paul’s words from that lyrical chapter, “Love is patient and kind” (v. 4 ESV).

My superior attitude likewise threw cold water on the home front, where I tried to enlighten my parents by comparing their longstanding faith traditions to my fresh understanding of the gospel.

And when my younger brother interrupted me, I yelled at him.

Obviously, I needed to memorize those verses in 1 Corinthians 13 regarding love, which “is not arrogant or rude… does not insist on its own way… is not irritable or resentful” (vv. 4 – 6 ESV).

Though I valued the biblical way of love, I seemed to fail at every opportunity to practice it. My heart throbbed with love for God but harbored some stubborn deposits of selfishness.

When I look back at those early days as a believer, I can easily see how much I needed to grow. The challenge of loving as God loves had barely begun for me.

God had much in store for that young woman all those years ago. He would use her eventual marriage and then having children to continue her education. Through those challenges, she would learn to lean into Christ’s power, which would enable her to love in a way that would please and glorify him.

Yet, while God saw every dark spot in my heart, He would never give up on me because of his amazing love—so patient, so kind. Experiencing His awesome love must have inspired Paul’s clear descriptions, “Love bears all things… endures all things” (v. 7 ESV). God is our foremost example of offering truly selfless love.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him…. We love because he first loved us…. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:16, 19, 21 ESV

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Love or Nothing – insight from Patti Richter on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Patti Richter headshot 2017-1nAbout the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She writes and edits global mission stories for The Gospel Coalition and her faith essays appears at BlueRibbonNews.com.

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

Join the conversation: What have you learned about love since you came to know the Lord?

My Secret Love

by Janet Perez Eckles

We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:19 NIV

Some months back, two girlfriends and I relaxed in the balcony of a hotel room, chatting about groups popular in the 70’s. We swayed to the oldies, singing the lyrics with the same ease as the year we wore bell bottoms.

We confessed. Each of us back then looked for the true love. Each of us had a list of what we looked for in the husband of our dreams. Back then, all traits on the list seemed crucial. Now, the fact that Mr. Right needed to be built with muscles of a football player echoes with sad shallowness.

But whatever our secret list held, we all questioned. “Did we marry the man of our dreams? Are we sharing the house with the husband who displays true love?

How unrealistic. How immature of us to expect that the true love we sought would be inside the man who said, “I do” at the altar. If any of us were tricked into thinking the perfect man wore that tuxedo beside us, future disappointment was as sure as dirty dishes in the kitchen.

That delusion is the reason for happiness to fade away in the darkness of long nights. And married bliss is lost in the hamper of dirty clothes.

The only true love comes from the man who wore but a cloth and displayed muscles ripped by lashes on the way to Calvary. And when we make Jesus our only true love, our husbands can play the role they were meant to have–our mate, our companion and lifetime friend.

While swaying to the music of God’s divine, true love, expectations sing with joy. The exquisite blend of love and reassurance only Jesus brings echoes nearby. It’s the divine and true formula that brings peace to storms. Brings logic to life. And gives a colorful hue to married life.

And that life shines when we read what was tucked in the Valentine card God signed with His promise: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again…” (Jeremiah 31:4).

Father, when life is broken, desires echo with emptiness, and we wonder how to find true love, your reassuring commitment soothes the anxiety and your reminder brings a new song to my life. Thank you for the love no one else can give and for the promise no one else can keep. In Jesus’ name I thank you. Amen.

TWEETABLE
My Secret Love – insight and encouragement from Janet Perez Eckles on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

janet perez ecklesAbout the author: Blindness tried to darken her life, but Janet Perez Eckles became an international speaker, best-selling author, personal success coach, radio host and best playmate to her grandchildren. Her books include Contagious Courage: a Thirty Day Journey to Overcoming Stress and Anxiety and Simply Salsa: Dancing without Fear at God’s Fiesta. You can learn more about Janet at www.janetperezeckles.com.

Janet’s book,  Hola, Happiness: Finding Joy by Dancing to the Melody of God’s Word is a brief Bible study to nudge you to the next level of triumph and joy. It is packed with deep reflections and answers from God’s Word. No matter what you face–disappointment, fear, heartache, shame, insecurity, sorrow–you will say “Hola” to happiness, peace, and the joy for which God created you.

Join the conversation: How has living in the love of God affected your relationships?

Is Someone Gossiping About You?

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

I recently learned someone criticized me to a group of people. Although I didn’t know this group of people, I felt deeply wounded that I was misrepresented.

My first instinct was the desire to lash out in response. Then I thought of the Apostle Paul’s response to his fellow Jews who were gossiping about him. “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:2-3 ESV).

Paul faced a lot of criticism in his efforts to spread the gospel to the known world. He often answered those trying to discredit him in his letters. But he did not do so because of concern about his personal reputation. He was fearful that by discrediting the messenger, the gospel message would be compromised as well. But even in the face of such damaging condemnation, Paul responded in love. He didn’t want anything to stand in the way of people receiving the gospel of Christ.

Because of that passage, I asked God to give me godly sorrow for that person—even at my own expense. Asking myself three questions helped me to respond to the gossip like Paul.

  1. Why might this person be speaking negatively about me?

The gossiping woman had been deeply wounded as a child and felt inadequate. She compared herself to everyone, and always found herself lacking. Her need to gossip, though sinning, wasn’t particularly about me. It was her sinful pattern to deal with her own insecurity. Allowing her to offend me would result in believing her opinion about me rather than believing what God says about me and who I am in Christ.

I truly believe most gossipers are motivated by their own broken self-image. Most often those who listen to a gossiper can identify their motive. But even if they don’t, my worth and value is determined by God, not someone else’s words about me.

  1. How can I love that gossiping person?

Although I wanted to confront that person, I was able to correctly evaluate God’s will because of the peace from godly sorrow in my heart.

Sometimes the Lord will lead us to confront that sinning person. What we say or do needs to be done in love, not in haste or in anger. Seeing their broken heart and motives will give us the ability to love them for their good, not our defense.

My own sin of succumbing to the temptation of gossiping in the past helped me to forgive this woman. The Bible says we can forgive others who have hurt us because we have been forgiven. Colossians 3:13 says, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

  1. Why do I feel threatened?

That question might seem totally ridiculous because the answer is she talked about me! But there’s something deeper. I felt a need to defend the halo around my reputation. To make sure everyone knew I really am a good person.

But my peace came from knowing God is in charge of my reputation and He can defend me if He wants. Even if I go around trying to correct other people’s opinion of me, it will only cause me distress. People choose what they want to believe. I can’t control that.

Have you been gossiped about? Have you gossiped? If we’re on the receiving end, we can trust God by knowing He is our defender. If we have gossiped, we need to ask God to forgive us and ask for forgiveness of the person we sinned against. Either way, peace from godly sorrow will well up inside us—whether it’s the sin of others or our own.

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Is Someone Gossiping About You? – insight from @KathyCMiller on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy C MillerAbout the author: Kathy Collard Miller is the author of over 55 books, including one of her most recent No More Anger: Hope for an Out-of-Control Mom (Elk Lake Publishing). She loves to speak at events and has spoken in over 30 US states and 8 foreign countries. She lives in Southern California with her husband, Larry. They are parents and grandparents. Visit her at www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

In No More Anger, Kathy tells the riveting true story of being an angry and abusive mother. In desperation, she prayed for an instantaneous deliverance from her deep-seated anger. “God answered yes through a process of growth. He also healed her relationship with her husband. Is ‘no more anger’ possible? Let Kathy’s story assure you through hope and God’s help, the answer is ‘Yes!'”–Carol Kent, author, speaker.

Join the conversation: How can we respond in love when someone is spreading damaging information about us?

When Love Is Hard to Give, and Harder to Receive

by Donna Jones @donnajonesspeak

The conversation that set the event into motion went something like this: “She has nowhere to go. Do you think we should invite her to spend Christmas with us?”

What better time of the year to open our hearts and our home, than Christmas? we reasoned.

I’m excited to lovingly enfold her into our family traditions, and ensure she has a Christmas to remember.

I buy presents. I make sure she has Christmas pajamas to open on Christmas Eve, along with the rest of our family. I wrap her gifts late into the night, using carefully selected paper and coordinating ribbon.

She joins our family for the Christmas Eve service, and spends the night at our home, all cozy and warm in her new Christmas PJ’s. It feels like a holy night.

On Christmas morning, however, things take a turn.

She questions my choice of Christmas breakfast options. She wonders aloud if we’re spoiling our children with the amount of gifts they receive. I lose count of how many times I hear “Why did you do that?” and “I would have done this”. The list of complaints seems endless. Christmas isn’t at all what I’d hoped, or envisioned, or planned.

Christmas is Just. Plain. Hard.

Finally, darkness falls and desert is done. We hug her neck, close the door, and I breathe a deep, weary sigh. Relief spreads over me. And nearly as fast, so does guilt.

Am I a terrible person? I wonder to myself. Why is it so hard for me to love difficult people—even when I genuinely want to? I’m not naïve enough to believe one family Christmas with us would fix her broken pieces. I thought I simply wanted to show love—but my disappointed soul told me otherwise.

What I really wanted was to show love and have her receive love. But she didn’t know how. And I didn’t know what to do with someone who didn’t know how.

If you are like me, love feels most like love when it’s effortless, and when it’s embraced. But holy love can be hard. Love is a gift; one that is given even when someone else doesn’t take it–or worse–takes it for granted.

This holy, hard love is what Jesus offered when He traded the comforts of heaven for the constraints of humanity. In Jesus, God gave His love, even though people complain about it, misunderstand it, misuse it, or reject it.

Our houseguest isn’t the only one who has a hard time embracing love. Sometimes I do, too. How many times have I questioned God, thinking, why did you do this? or I would have done it like that? How often have I wasted blessings God lavishly purchased for me?

I suspect you can relate.

Yes, love is sometimes hard to give. But sometimes love is even harder to receive.

This hard, holy love–the kind of love extended to those who struggle to love when it’s hard, and also to those who have a hard time accepting love when it’s given–was embodied in Jesus. Jesus is God’s love gift to me. To you. To everyone.

This is the message of Christmas.

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.    John 4:10 NLT

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When Love Is Hard to Give, and Harder to Receive – insight from @DonnaJonesSpeak on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

donna jonesAbout the author: Donna Jones is a national speaker, author and pastor’s wife who is passionate about helping people know and love Jesus. The author of several books, Donna is mom to three funny, Jesus loving young adult kids who frequently sit on her kitchen counter, just to chat. Connect with Donna at www.donnajones.org or on Instagram @donnaajones.

The market is full of books and Bible studies for well-seasoned believers,but what about the woman who longs to know God but has never cracked open a Bible? Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting God is a refreshingly real look at the fundamentals of the Christian faith, written for the woman who doesn’t know Jacob from Job. It combines solid biblical teaching with engaging explanations to guide the spiritually curious woman on her journey to meet God.

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).

TWEETABLE
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

TWEETABLE
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?