Are You a Jesus Fanatic?

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

My friend Jan was the ultimate high school football fanatic. When her son Clint played for the Midland High Bulldogs, she held back nothing. She even had purple highlights in her hair in honor of the Dawgs.

During Clint’s senior year, the Bulldogs got into the playoffs, so I invited myself along to a game. The kickoff was at noon. Jan arrived at the stadium at 9:45 am to get seats in the lower section on the 50-yard line. She suggested I bring ear plugs in case the cheering, jugs full of rocks, and cow bells got to be too much for my delicate ears. But Jan forgot to warn me to wear my most comfortable shoes. Bulldog parents do not sit down during the game except for time outs and half-time.

The Bulldogs’ parents are fanatics by definition. A fanatic is a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics (or West Texas football). These Bulldog fanatics are not ashamed of their Dawgs.

Their enthusiasm shows in their actions, their speech, and their attire. During that game I saw painted faces, purple shoes, purple sun glasses, and purple purses. Their attitudes and actions clearly show their love for their sons and their devotion to the team. They willingly travel great distances and sit out in inclement weather to show their support.

That experience got me thinking. I should be that enthusiastic about Jesus. Jesus calls us to be fanatical about Him: to have an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm and zeal for our Lord.

“Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels” (Luke 9:23-26, NLT).

If no one ever calls me a fanatic then I’m not following Jesus like I should be. True Christianity necessitates fanaticism. I love the apostle Paul’s example. He was definitely a Jesus fanatic. He lived full out for Jesus and held nothing back. “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8a, NLT). “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better” (Philippians 1:21, NLT).

Sounds just a bit crazy doesn’t it? Paul loved Jesus and he wanted everyone to know. I long to love Jesus so much that everyone thinks I’m a bit crazy too.

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Are You a Jesus Fanatic? – insight & encouragement from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy Howard

About the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. She encourages women to get into God’s Word for themselves in order to build an unshakable faith that will stand firm through all the trials of life. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught the Bible in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She has a Masters in Religious Education and a certificate in Women’s Ministry from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 8 books and Bible studies, including “Lavish Grace” and “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents.” She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her “mostly retired” husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and three dogs – one of them on purpose. She provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy also connects with women at FacebookPinterest, and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Are you a Jesus fanatic? Are you willing to be a fool for Christ? Let’s talk about what this should look like in our lives.

Make the Plunge

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake… Philippians 1:29 NASB

The water was COLD. Driven into the ocean after becoming overheated in the hot sun, I stood in it up to my knees, wincing as the periodic waves drenched me a little higher with each step forward. I knew a quick dip would put an end to the painful, slow progression. But I just couldn’t do it. Avoiding the shock, I continued to inch my way in. I couldn’t bring myself to make the plunge.

We all hate pain. We’ll do anything to avoid it.

Paul told the Philippians that God had granted them suffering. Granted? Could providing an opportunity to suffer be some kind of benevolent gesture, a giving of something desirable?

Wait…what?

No one likes to suffer. Neither did Paul! Yet he regarded his suffering as a favor from God. He looked past the temporary to the eternal. Paul saw suffering as a means to invaluable and eternal benefits.

1. Suffering is a path to knowing Jesus better.

“I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…” (Philippians 3:8 NASB).

We follow a suffering Savior. It only makes sense that walking in his footsteps will involve suffering in our journey as well. Sharing that common experience will develop an intimacy in our relationship with Him that would not have possible without it.

Paul saw sharing the sufferings of Christ as a means to intimacy with Christ.

2. Suffering produces glory.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” 2 Corinthians 4:17 NASB

God has purposed to conform all believers to the image of Jesus Christ. Transformation requires change, but change does not come easily. Suffering can force us to abandon old habits or ways of thinking and move us forward into the new.

The end result of sharing Jesus’ suffering will be sharing in his glory as well! Romans 8:17 (NASB) tells us “if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”  

3. Suffering teaches us how to access the power of Christ.

“He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB

God makes His amazing power available to us. Sometimes accessing that power can only come after finding our own resources insufficient. Paul saw his “thorn in his flesh” as a means to that end and so embraced his weakness. Suffering reveals the reality of our insufficiency and drives us deeper in our sense of dependency on God. When we are weak, then we are strong in the Lord.

4. Suffering makes us more effective for God’s Kingdom.

“[God] comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted…” 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NASB).

My daughter was blind-sided four years ago with a debilitating illness. For three years, her life was completely interrupted. As our family crawled through that torturous time, we clung to two facts: the pain would enable us to know Jesus far better, and our experience would give us insight (and a resulting empathy) into other people’s pain. She is now able to minister to people I can’t touch, because she has been in their shoes.

When suffering comes along, and it does more often than we wish, it can be overwhelming. But instead of thinking “Why me?”, we must choose to keep our eyes focused on the Savior, who, through suffering, made a relationship with God possible for us. Now God is using pain once again, this time to bring us further along in that relationship.

We must look past the temporary to the eternal. We must choose to trust in His good intentions. Taking that plunge will not only give relief but peace throughout the process.

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Make the Plunge – encouragement on #FollowingGod from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300

About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: How has suffering or hard times changed you for the good?

For Want of a Better Word—And a Word on a Better Want

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

Some people seem to have a way with words. Words, sentences, paragraphs—they all just flow out of them, all polished and pretty. The fact that I don’t despise those people is a testament to how truly spiritual I am. (If you’re not rolling your eyes right here, then you’re obviously even more spiritual than I am. Impressive.)

Most of the time my words have to be coaxed, wheedled and prodded. My muse cops an attitude and is all like, “Not today, suckah.” Then when I finally do get some words down, I still have to edit them up one side and down the other.

Writers of my caliber? We’re the ones who want the words—written or spoken—all perfectly packaged. And we’re constantly stepping back to look at the package, thinking things like, “That package really could’ve used a bigger bow. Maybe a red one. Perhaps an entirely different paper. Also…a different package altogether.” Incidentally, we’re the same people who spend a good minute and a half practicing to get the wording just right in our heads before ordering into the drive-through speaker.

Word-discontent. I have it often. As a matter of fact, I just edited those last few sentences, like, six times. Then still left “word-discontent” in there, pretending it’s grammatically sound. And pretending it’s actually a word.

Discontentment is a tricky rascal. All kinds of discontentment originate in thinking we need something different than we have. Something better. Something in a different package. Something with a red bow. Something more. And at every level of discontentment is that next little niggling thought that we will never be truly happy until we have that something more.

That kind of dissatisfaction always breeds conflict—within ourselves and with other people as well. “What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you?” (James 4:1, HCSB).

Are you warring with dissatisfaction—maybe even warring with others because of it? Want to change that? There’s only one way to stop wanting more. And that is to want a different kind of more. More Jesus.

Wanting more of Jesus than anything else in life—that changes everything. Focusing on Him shines a light on any selfish wants and they’re seen for the empty, unfulfilling distractions they really are.

Wanting more Jesus is a life pursuit. Maybe not so much coaxing, wheedling and prodding, but it is learned, day by day, and it requires our attention. As we give that attention to times of seeking the Lord’s face in prayer, making His Word part of our everyday life and our everyday thinking, letting those connections with Him make us quick to get rid of sin, we find the temporary things of this world less appealing. And we find His love, His truth, His “Him-ness,” so much more desirous than anything else we’ve ever known. (Yes, I just wrote the word, “Him-ness” in there—with nary an eye-roll.)

At that place of praise-filled closeness to Him we’re drawn into worship. It’s impossible to worship in His fullness and still want what we’re not supposed to want. In worship we’re reminded we truly do have everything we need. In Ephesians 1:3, Paul praises the Father who “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.”

Discontentment? Bye-bye. Because…not today, suckah!

Wait, did I word that wrong?

…I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…  Philippians 3:8 NIV

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For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure – 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: In what ways has the Lord filled you with contentment?