Why the Church Loves So Badly

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.                                                                                                                                               1 Peter 4:8 ESV

Once I did something badly until I achieved success.

In my forties, after several years of training, I earned my first-degree black belt. I was last in my class.

It never stopped surprising everyone, including me, that I’d managed this feat. I was driven, by my love for the martial artists in my Bible Study. Before karate, I’d only invested time in things at which I excelled. I was a good student, talented musician, promising writer. Clumsy with my feet, I never attempted athletic pursuits.

Initially, I thought God drafted me into karate so I could minister better to the women in my small group. But I came to see the value of pursuing a goal that seemed impossible, one where I trailed my classmates from day one to graduation.

Besides the honing of my humility, God showed me that He does, indeed, call His people to do some things badly.

He commands us out of our comfortable chairs and into pursuits that don’t present us in the best light, that remind us we have much to learn, require us to depend on others, and drive us to cry out to Him for strength and persistence when ours has been drained from us. There has never been a time when this was more needed in the church than now.

As the battle for souls intensifies, God is calling all hands, on deck. There are countless souls wandering the earth in darkness, blindly groping for the truth, wondering if they’ll ever find their way and feeling unloved by God, angry, hopeless, and alone. There are more people than your pastor can reach, or Billy Graham or KLove Radio. God never intended the furthering of His kingdom to be something accomplished solely by professionals, applauded by amateurs from their pews.

Building God’s kingdom is, in fact, a calling for oafs. It’s a task uniquely suited for the weak, meek, stumbling, fumbling, falling, appalling, imperfect, and unfinished: the inept lot of us that Christ called to Himself and adopted into His family.

God designed this work for us outlaws who have already pled guilty, received our sentence and our pardon, and now live free – with nothing to prove and nothing to lose, so we may, in return, boldly and sometimes badly love those who Jesus loves, in His name.

Ask hard questions. Have I slipped into that comfy space of only taking on what I know I can do in my own strength? Am I only loving people easy to love? Am I only communicating with people I understand or who understand me?

Do I function as if I believe God only ministers through me when I look strong, competent, intelligent, and secure? Am I passing on invitations from God to offer people a love that fumbles around searching for the open door because I don’t want people to think I’m inept or lacking?

God calls His imperfect church, to love others, falteringly, fallibly, but faithfully. Initially, we will love badly, but this can be overcome with persistence, practice, the Holy Spirit’s coaching, and reliance on God.

Why does the church love so badly? Because we’re attempting the impossible in a world where most love grows cold. Because we’re trying to love the way God loves. Because we have an enemy putting obstacles in our path at every turn.

The amazing thing isn’t how badly we love – it’s that many of us keep trying. And that He uses our faltering attempts at love to reach hearts for Him.

Let’s get out there today (and the day after) and love others badly, serve others poorly, and worship like oafs until, by God’s grace, we fumble our way into loving like Christ.

TWEETABLE
Why the Church Loves So Badly – insight and encouragement from @LoriSRoeleld 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: When has God used your fumbling attempts to reach others for Him?

 

 

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When You Get a Rock in Your Candy Bag

by Lori Stanley Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

“Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”                                                                                                            Hebrews 11:36-40 ESV

Don’t you just love Charlie Brown?

His big, old, round head, and his black dot eyes. His sober approach to the trials of daily life and his wise but innocent perspective? Charlie seems to exist in a dimension just one degree apart from all the other kids – separated by an invisible shield. One that keeps him from kicking footballs, but also helps him see what others cannot.

Remember Charlie Brown on Halloween? He is trick-or-treating with his friends, but when comparing their candy sacks after each house the other kids exclaim, I got a popcorn ball! I got a chocolate bar! I got gumdrops!

Then, poor Charlie – I got a rock. I can relate to Charlie Brown.

It’s hard to stand by while others receive exactly what they are requesting or hoping to find or need while you’re holding a sack full of rocks. But sometimes, that’s how life works – even when we love Jesus.

When disasters strike, there are stories of miracles, people who should have been harmed, but were somehow delivered. Praise God for that!

But there are also stories of those who fell victim to tragedy, were caught in the crossfire, lost precious loved ones in the storm. And how hard is it to praise God when the miracle passed over the one you love only to land on another? It’s hard as rock.

Or, perhaps you’ve worked towards a dream, knowing it’s a dream from God – a vision, a goal, a ministry, an art. And you thought you knew where it was going. Believed it was blessed – prayed over – inspired. And you have poured everything into the endeavor.

But the finish line eludes you, or worse, it seems to be disappearing all together. You find yourself on the sidelines watching others called out onto the field, crossing the finish line, achieving the dream while you sit by holding a bag of rocks. How hard is that? Hard as rock.

But, what gift does Charlie Brown give us? This little cartoon with a soul. His story makes us feel less alone in a crazy world. His perseverance inspires us to carry on. His disappointments help us see that often there is more to life than getting exactly what we want.

Through Charlie Brown, we are drawn to the mystery of grace. The grace of a God who pours out His love in ways we sometimes miss while we’re standing at His door asking for what we want.

And Charlie Brown reminds us that there is a bigger story. While the other children were busy about their lives, Charlie stands there with a sack full of rocks and moves us to ask the greater questions.

It’s hard to be Charlie Brown. It’s painful to watch others rejoice or receive while we stand there wanting, grieving, lacking, struggling, waiting. The temptation is to become bitter or to assume we’ve been rejected or that we are unseen. When really, God has simply written us a role that moves us – and others – to ask the greater questions. It’s a role that is hard as rock.

But Jesus was the first rock – the cornerstone – and on Peter the rock, Christ built His church, and we are all living stones. So, we are not alone.

Did you get a rock? I know it’s hard – but take it to Jesus who has held that same rock and praise God, dear Charlie Brown, praise God.

TWEETABLE
When You Get a Rock in Your Candy Bag – 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: Have you ever been given a rock? What deeper issues did it lead you to question?

 

 

You’ve Been Served

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

If it hadn’t required law school and…you know…brains and whatnot, I would be a lawyer right now. Except I’d want to do it exclusively so I could someday say to a colleague, “See ya later, litigator!”

It’s all about the line! It’s probably just as well that I didn’t. For many reasons, yes, but also, some people might’ve considered it the wrong motivation for a career choice. But come on, the line! Plus, somewhere in the course of that long-term legal education I could’ve also used the line, “After while, legal file.” So—totally worth it.

The secret to motivating people. What is it? How many times do we offer forever-heaven-points, for instance, to get nursery workers? Or offer to wash people’s cars to get them to keep Sunday School records? Or pay for their kids’ to go to college, so they’ll help with the 7th grade boys’ sleep-over?

Guilting, bribing, manipulating, even brilliantly arguing that case…those don’t usually work for very long when we’re seeking to provoke people to serve. They don’t even work for me on myself.

Do you ever try to reason with your own motivation? “YEAHHHHH! I’m going to do that project right now! And clean my house! Do every piece of laundry! Paint the kids’ bedrooms! Paint the entire church fellowship hall!!”

Then, before you get to even the first project, your motivation sasses back to you, “Nah, just kidding, bro. What I meant was that I’m just gonna get on Facebook for an hour, and then take a little siesta.”

R.I.P., Motivation.

In Samuel’s final public speech—his “closing arguments,” as it were—he encourages his people: “Above all, fear the LORD and worship him faithfully with all your heart; consider the great things he has done for you” (2 Samuel 12:24, CSB).

Anytime we’re interested in seeing motivation resurrected—our own or others’—considering our great God and all He’s done, is the perfect start. Real motivation to work/serve begins with an “all your heart” love for Him.

When people serve out of obligation, or feel used or manipulated, not only is the service half-hearted, but it’s not likely to continue very long. It’s exhausting, draining, often fruitless and can end in burnout.

Whole-hearted-service produces joy in jobs big and small. Our God notices that. “For God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you demonstrated for his name by serving the saints—and by continuing to serve them” (Hebrews 6:10, CSB). The service described there grows out of love for the Lord—for His name. And it’s a service, implied by the last part of the verse, that keeps on giving.

As we focus on the amazingness of our infinite, all-knowing, all-loving God, who is worthy of our love and praise and service, that love and praise and service happens organically. He is our motivation, and it’s our joy. “Serve the Lord with gladness, come before him with joyful songs” (Psalm 100:2, CSB).

So, we can weigh ourselves and others down with guilt and pressure. Or we can get free so that service is merely an overflow of joy-filled worship. You can’t even stop a worshipper from loving on those babies in the nursery or hanging out with 7th grade boys. They do it with dedication.

Not litigation.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.                                                                                                               Ephesians 3:17-19 NASB

TWEETABLE
You’ve Been Served – insight from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown, mostly-coffee-drinking children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: When have you found long-lasting motivation? What was it?

Endure

by Cheri Swalwell @CheriSwalwell

“But we’re not quitters who lose out. Oh, no! We’ll stay with it and survive, trusting all the way.” Hebrews 10:39 (MSG)

When I used to think about the word endure, I have to admit, it left a bad taste in my mouth. It brought to mind all these horrible things I had to do because they were good for me: choking down cooked spinach, exercising for 30 minutes a day, every day,  cleaning the house; ____ (you fill in the blank).

After attending a women’s conference at my church, the word “endure” has now become more palatable. I would even venture to say I’ve changed my whole perspective. I learned that if God tells me to do something, even when I know it will be anything but easy, when I choose to remain faithful and obedient to His calling, God will bless that choice. That’s endurance.

Enduring doesn’t have to be painful. It can be a simple choice every day to ask God to help me in those painful moments, so that I can fulfill the assignment He has given me to do. For however long He chooses for me to do it.

A great example of endurance is Noah – he persevered for 100 years building the ark God called him to build. He followed God’s instructions even when his region had never seen the kinds of rains that God promised. He completed the assignment God gave him, and his family was saved from death.

And then there was Moses. He 2-4 describes how he lived in exile in the desert with his father-in-law and wife for 40 years before his encounter with God. Moses didn’t know it at the time, but it was all preparation for his big assignment: leading a mass of complaining, rebellious people through the desert. God was getting him ready to lead His chosen people out of Egypt into freedom.

Six years ago, I surrendered my life to God. Three years ago, I began specifically praying for something that still has not come to fruition. This past September, I surrendered even those dreams to God and asked Him to replace my desires with His.

While on the outside it may look like I’m still merely enduring, my perspective about the journey has changed. I am choosing joy. I am choosing to be faithful. I am choosing to look for and see God in the little and the big. I am choosing to endure because I know, in His time, if I continue to obey and be faithful, God will bless that obedience and faithfulness.

Do you think Noah envisioned as a teenager that one day God would use him to replenish the world and to save his family by building a giant boat? Do you think Moses, while wandering around in the desert, exiled from Egypt, had any inkling God was using that preparation to save His chosen people from bondage and lead them into freedom? God chose to use both of those men to fulfill His purpose, one much greater than any they could have imagined.

And, my friends, I’m believing God is going to use this time of preparation I’ve been in to fulfill His desire for my life, no matter how He wants it to look. I am choosing to endure, so I can give Him all the glory for when His plans for my life are fulfilled.

TWEETABLE
Learning that Endurance isn’t the same as a call to suffer – from @CheriSwalwell on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

cheri swalwellAbout the author: Cheri Swalwell is a Christ follower who thoroughly enjoys her calling to be a wife, mother, and writer, in that order. She writes regularly for Book Fun Magazine and her devotional book series, Spoken from the Heart. You can connect with her on Facebook.

Her newest release, Journey of Complete Surrender, delves into the freedom that comes with giving God your whole heart and taking your hands completely off to give Him the chance to move as only He can.

Join the conversation: What do you struggle to surrender completely to God?

 

Dumbbells and Smart Belles

by Peggy Cunningham @Inca_Writer

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.                                                             Acts 20:24 NIV

I’m not an exercise guru. Not even close. But I strive to keep going physically, mentally, and spiritually. Yes, there are days I want to give it all up––the writing, the classes, even the ministry. Did I just admit that?

Honestly, haven’t you been there a time or two? I’m guessing yes. When it happens, what can we do?

Admitting it is the first step. It makes us face the reality that things change, and sometimes God does want to move us into a new task. Or maybe He wants to renew us for the task at hand. Perhaps, we are burned out or just weary. Either way, He doesn’t want us to give up, but to move forward.

You don’t have to be in your senior years to feel like putting yourself on the beach. Some seasons in our lives can be discouraging and make us lose our drive, sense of purpose, and our way. We are tempted to give up on our dreams and our divine tasks. 

I think it is because we have lost sight of why we are in the race. The finish line vanishes from our view.

When I reach that point, I frankly ask myself: is it time to give up, or do I want to do more? It’s a reality check that shakes my soul and causes me to evaluate my emotions. No, of course I don’t want to give up. I want to finish the race well––on the path I walk or another path waiting for me.

In my book, Shape Your Soul, I write about resistance training.  Resistance training increases stamina. As you grow stronger, you don’t tire as quickly. Likewise, the more we resist the devil, the more our faith muscles strengthen and our faith increases. Each victory over sin builds our faith. We resist the temptation to give up, and we don’t give in to his schemes. “Therefore, submit to God. But, resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 HCSB).

Physically, I push myself. I love to scrub floors (go figure). I look for ways to incorporate exercise into my daily routine. I put things away where I’ll have to bend—yup, bending exercises. I keep moving, physically, mentally, and spiritually. If not, the body withers, the mind gets lazy, and the soul dies. Equally, I push myself spiritually—studying my Bible, reading daily devotions, and applying what I learn. Soon the hardest part of pushing ceases and strength is gained.

A few years ago, I developed carpal tunnel because of excess computer work. Then last year, my right arm developed golf elbow and tennis elbow from completing five book contracts. Both times, I had physical therapy for many months. The therapist advised dumbbell lifting to straighten my wrists and arm. Grueling can’t adequately describe the pain of the therapy. But, without pushing myself, my shoulder risked being frozen, I faced possible surgery for my wrists, and my dream (writing more) would come to an end.

In order to persevere, I continually envisioned the result of all the therapy––and worked toward the healing of my injured tendons without hesitation. I set my sights on the final therapy session and the possibility of enjoying my work again. Using dumbbells meant being a smart belle who understood that without finishing the therapy, her dreams would fade away.

Striving for the finish line and our accomplishments in what God has called us to do along the way keeps us going. The daily working out our faith strengthens our soul. There may be setbacks and rest periods along the journey, but if we don’t give up, we’ll finish well.

Let’s be smart belles using our proverbial dumbbells to strengthen our souls. Never give up.

TWEETABLE
Dumbbells and Smart Belles – insight from @Inca_Writer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Peggy CunninghamAbout the author: Peggy Cunningham and her husband, Chuck have been missionaries in Bolivia since 1981. In 1999, they founded Rumi Rancho Ministries. Rumi Rancho is their ministry base and home, located outside the city of Cochabamba. There they work with the Quechua people and have a children’s ministry. Peggy is also a published author of children’s books and women’s devotionals.

Shape Your Soul is Peggy’s latest devotional book for women. Enter God’s Gym and exercise your body and soul, so you can seize difficult life-mountains, and in God’s strength, move them!

Join the conversation: How do you fight in times of discouragement?

Choosing Endurance with Joy

by Cheri Swalwell @CheriSwalwell

“But we’re not quitters who lose out. Oh, no! We’ll stay with it and survive, trusting all the way.” Hebrews 10:39 (MSG)

When I used to think about the word endure, I have to admit, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I would invariably think of these horrible things I had to do because they were good for me, but for which I had absolutely no desire: choking down cooked spinach because it’s healthy, exercising for 30 minutes a day, cleaning the house, ____ (you fill in the blank!)

However, a September women’s conference at my church changed my perspective on enduring. I learned that when God directs me to do something, even when (or maybe especially when) I know that the assignment is going to be anything but easy, if I choose to remain faithful and obedient, God will bless that choice. That’s endurance.

Enduring doesn’t have to be painful. It doesn’t have to be torture. It can be choosing every day to ask God to help me in the difficult moments, so that I can fulfill the assignment He has given me to do, for however long He chooses to keep me there.

I’m reminded of Noah—he endured building an ark year after year— even when the world had never seen rain like that before. He completed the assignment God gave him, and his family was saved from death. Do you think he enjoyed coming home from his day job only to put in hours into his ark assignment? With the dimensions that were given in Genesis 6, this was one assignment that couldn’t be knocked out in a weekend!

And then there was Moses. Exodus 2-4 describes his life as a shepherd in the desert with his father-in-law and wife for forty years, before his encounter with God at the burning bush. His assignment: to lead a bunch of complaining, grumbling people through the desert for another forty years. I’m thinking the first forty years were less painful and definitely less effort for him than the latter forty. Yet because he chose to obey, he was used to lead God’s chosen people out of Egypt into freedom.

Six years ago, I surrendered my life to God to use however He chose. Three years ago, I began praying specifically for an answer to a prayer that still has not come to fruition. This past September I surrendered my dreams to God (fully this time with no hidden agenda) and asked Him to replace my desires with His.

While on the outside it may look like I’m still “enduring,” my perspective about the journey has changed. I am choosing joy. I am choosing to be faithful. I am choosing to look for and see God in the little and the big. I am choosing to endure because I know, in His time, if I continue to obey and remain faithful and endure the present circumstances, God will bless that faithful obedience by carrying out His dreams for my life.

Do you think Noah envisioned as a teenager that one day God would use him to replenish the world and to save his family by building a giant boat? Do you think Moses, while wandering around in the desert, exiled from Egypt, had any inkling God was using that preparation to eventually use him to free His people from bondage and lead them into freedom?

God used both these men to carry out His purposes, intentions much greater than anything they could have thought up in their wildest dreams.

And, my friends, I’m believing God is going to use my time of preparation to fulfill His dream for my life, no matter how He wants it to look. I am choosing to endure so I can give Him all the glory for the answer when He chooses to fulfill his purposes for me.

TWEETABLE
Choosing to endure doesn’t mean a choice of hardship, surrendering to endurance often brings joy – @CheriSwalwell on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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

Join the conversation: What dream has God called you to? Do you feel this time (while you endure) could be His preparation for what lies ahead?