Side By Side And Back To Back

by Sheri Schofield

I was on my way home from town the other day. I turned off the highway onto the dirt road,  my eyes feasting on the beautiful valley and mountains ahead. As I passed a clump of willows, two bald eagles rose gracefully into the air, one flying directly in front of my car. I slowed down to give the other one room to fly. It passed over the hood of my Rav4, its giant wingspan as wide as my windshield. The two birds joined each other and slowly soared over the field, looking for mice and prairie dogs.

This was the raven family’s territory. I looked around for the ravens, but they were nowhere to be seen. The week before, they had caught one of the eagles trying to hunt their territory. They had ganged up on him and chased him away. Now he was back with reinforcements. Together, the two eagles owned that field for the day.

It reminded me of the battle Christians are in. Jesus did not save us so that we could coast through life then spend eternity sitting around on clouds playing harps! No. He saved us to join him in the battle for souls. We live on a doomed planet, a planet captured by sin and despair. Jesus came to rescue us and as many others as possible. He gave his life for this purpose! He has asked us to join in the battle to rescue others by sharing the good news, so that others can share in the magnificent blessing of an eternity with God in a place where there are no more tears, no pain, no suffering. A place of peace and beauty.

But that task is not an easy one. Working alone, we are like a lone eagle among the ravens. We spend all our time fighting off the opposition. But when we join together in the work, we become strong. Those who would oppose our efforts lose power over us.

On the battlefield, soldiers often fight back to back. In this way, they are stronger and less vulnerable. The expression “I’ve got your back” comes from the battlefield. Those who do this usually become lifelong friends.

Too often, Christians bicker among themselves, draining spiritual and emotional energy, distracting each other from the battle, leaving each other open to attacks from the devil and his followers. How can we serve Jesus effectively if we are constantly trying to guard ourselves from attacks from other believers?

This was the case in two women Paul knew. Their names were Euodia and Scyntyche. They were working in the church at Philippi. Their focus had shifted inward, toward each other. Bitter words were exchanged. They stood face to face, weapons pointed at each other.

Paul wrote to their church, “Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News” (Philippians 4:2-3 NLT).

Are you part of a team of believers who are reaching this world for Jesus? Do you have each other’s back?

There’s nothing easy about resolving conflicts. But when we ask God to work, He does what we cannot do. He will make a way for us to work together, side by side and back to back, like we should. And when we do, we will be like those two eagles, harvesting the field together, seeing greater victory in the battle to reach the lost.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me – everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.                                                                                                                 Philippians 4:8,9 NLT

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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 experienced an attack from another believer? How did the conflict get resolved? Please share!

Round-Up Time for My Thoughts

by Sheri Schofield

It’s round-up time here in Montana. The mountains behind our house are free range, which means that the rancher below our property drives his cattle up into the mountains in early summer, where the cattle graze for about three months. They are all cows and calves. (The bulls have to stay home, for they are extremely valuable breeding stock.)

When fall comes and the trees start to turn yellow and red, the rancher and his family mount up and ride into the mountains where they round the cattle up and drive them back to their home pasture. The older cows know when round-up time is coming, so they head down the mountain on their own.

Early one morning when my husband and I were still asleep, a loud “MOO” roared across our dreams. Our eyes popped open. There was a cow looking into our bedroom window! She was in my flowers!

I jumped out of bed, grabbed my robe and flip flops and dashed out the back door, with Tim close on my heels. I raced around to the side of the house, clapped my hands at the cow and shouted, “Haw!”

The cow jumped and began running toward the creek instead of the gate. I raced around and headed her off.

“Sheri! Come back!” Tim shouted. “You’ll get hurt!”

He’s obviously watched too many western movies where the cattle stampede and kill the cowboys.

“She’s just a cow!” I shouted back. He didn’t get it, since he did not grow up on a farm like I did. Cows and bulls are not the same critter at all. One can chase cows. One avoids bulls. “Go stand at the top of the driveway and don’t let her get up behind the house!” I shouted.

We eventually chased the cow out and closed the gate. Whew! What a workout! Our lawn and garden were safe . . . but now there was a cow pie in the middle of the lawn to clean up. Cows are messy.

Sometimes when I least expect it, I find that bad thoughts, like that cow, have crept into my brain when I’m not on guard against them. When that happens, I must immediately go into action and chase those thoughts out, for they will lead me into bad actions if I don’t. They will spoil my peace and hurt my relationships.

The Apostle Paul, in his closing remarks to the Philippians, wrote, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you”(Philippians 4:8-9, NIV).

Guarding my heart against bad thoughts toward others is something I’ve had to learn to do. My natural tendency is to take offense at what others say that may hurt my feelings. If I allow those offenses to fester, they will bubble up into my speech, and my resentment will spill out. As Jesus said, ” . . . the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34 NIV). So, I work to give those thoughts to Jesus and ask him to drive them out and replace them with right thinking. I choose to fill my heart with thoughts that please God instead. When I do that, I am filled with God’s peace, and my relationships prosper.

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3, NIV

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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: How do you deal with your thought life?

De-clogging Our Minds

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

I had a little wrestling match with my vacuum cleaner recently. It was doing that wimpy-clean thing—you know, where you have to get down on your hands and knees and hand-feed it every little fuzz ball? If I’m going to do that, I might as well not have a vacuum cleaner. I could just pick up every little piece of fuzz and throw it in the trash myself—cut out the middle man.

A vacuum that’s lost all its “suck-ocity” is not worth much. So I got down in the floor, got the thing in a headlock and looked inside to find the problem. Oh, I found a problem alright. Several.

The first was a little piece of sock. Then there was that string. And while I call it a string, I think it might better be described as a length of yarn that could’ve been an entire sweater in another life. There was a hunk of the bathroom rug the size of a Chihuahua—and I hadn’t even missed it. I was also surprised to find what I thought was a loofa. But then I realized it was just a whole bunch of those little plastic fishing-line-like connectors that attach price tags to things. Who knew they could find each other inside the dark recesses of the vacuum cleaner and form their own little solar system? No wonder the machine didn’t want to work! How did all that stuff even get in there?

At least it gave me a little reminder. When we let our minds suck up the wrong things, we can’t expect them to work the way they’re supposed to. There’s a lot less wrestling with our minds when we’re emptying out the clogs and filling our minds with the kind of thoughts that truly feed our spirits and grow our faith.

Negative, evil thoughts will find each other in the dark recesses of our minds. And they multiply. The next thing you know, you find yourself with a solar-system-sized problem in your thought-life.

There’s so much garbage available to us. On the Internet, TV, movies, magazines—it’s accessible at every turn of the head.  If we let our minds suck up trashy junk, we shouldn’t be surprised when we have a hard time staying alert to walking out our faith-life well.

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8-9 what we’re supposed to continually feed our minds: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (NIV).

There’s a lot less wrestling with our minds when we remember to fill them with the right things. Less wrestling, more peace. As a matter of fact, that passage doesn’t merely say that we’ll experience great peace, it tells us that the God of peace Himself will be “with” us. It’s vital to our faith-life that we remember that His presence makes all the difference.

And personally, I’m also going to try to remember to clean out my vacuum a little more often. Especially since this last time I was unclogging it, even though we’ve never had one, I’m pretty sure I also found a gerbil.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 NASB

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rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is still wondering if coffee can actually ferment. She 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: How do you keep your mind de-clogged?

 

The Trouble With Snakes

by Sheri Schofield

It was time to sell the house. The market was moving quickly and my husband felt we could make a good profit if we got in on the boom. We lived in a quiet neighborhood next to a wetland full of wild iris, willows, a seasonal pond, and lots of wildlife in Washington State. It was an ideal place to raise our two children.

Drew, a lively third grader, was always catching little creatures in the swamp. One afternoon he came racing into the house with a bucket. “Mom! Mom! Look what I’ve caught!”

I peered over the rim to see four black water snakes. “Can I keep them?” Drew begged.

“NO!” I said quickly. “They will escape!”

My husband Tim said, “No they won’t, Sheri. I’ll make sure they can’t get out of the terrarium.”

I did not argue with him, but I just knew we would regret this.

A couple of days later, the doorbell rang. It was a middle age, plump lady who was a prospective buyer. I smiled and ushered her into the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen. As we turned to go down the hallway, I noticed an escapee from Drew’s room coming our way.

“What’s THAT?” the lady screeched.

Trying to be soothing, I said, “Oh, it’s just a little ….”

“SNAKE!” she shrieked, jumping three feet straight up. She landed with a loud crash then pivoted and raced out of the house, pounded down the sidewalk, and squeezed herself into her tiny VW Beetle.

“But it’s a very nice house!” I called after her hopefully.

She gunned the engine and raced off in a cloud of dust.

We didn’t sell the house that spring. About a month after we removed it from the market, Drew and Christy, our youngest, caught two-dozen black snakes from the wetland. Together, they brought them to the back door, beaming at their catch.

“NO!” I said. “Get rid of them!” This time there was no argument from Tim.

A few minutes later, I heard a shriek from my next-door neighbor, Val. Dashing out the back door, I looked over to see if she was okay. I saw Val waving her hands around frantically, her two kids each holding up two black, wiggly snakes for her to see. I quietly went back inside and closed the door. When another neighbor screamed, I just shook my head. No need to wonder about the reason for the scream. Her kids played with mine, too. I didn’t answer the phone when it rang, either.

It’s so easy to allow little things into our lives that displease our Father. We may think they are harmless, like those water snakes. But they are bound to show up at the most inconvenient moments! If I hold onto anger or resentment, it is going to become evident. It will eventually grow into something that will hurt those around me, even those I love the most. For anger and resentment turn into bitterness, and bitterness poisons not only me, but others as well.

I’ve found that the best way to keep those seemingly little sins out of my heart is to deal with them on the spot, refuse to let them into my soul, and close my thoughts against them. I must not hold onto feeling self-righteous or wounded, or those feelings will come crawling out into the open around others.

Lord, let me treasure only those thoughts that find their origin in You, not in the serpent of Eden!

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things …. and the God of all peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8 & 9, NIV

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Children’s ministry veteran Sheri Schofield was unexpectedly called on to save her husband’s life, a battle that took her to the Pentagon, Congress, National Security and the President of the United States. At her website, www.SheriSchofield.com, she shares this journey in her book One Step Ahead of the Devil. Sheri’s new book, The Prince And The Plan, launched on June 1. It is designed to help parents lead their children into a saving relationship with Jesus.

Join the conversation: How do you guard against harboring anger or bitterness?

Don’t Open the Cellar Door!

by Lori Hynson

 As a chronic over-thinker, I know how quickly and often anxious, negative thoughts and evil forebodings can send us reeling in the wrong direction.

You’ve seen that movie. You know, the one where a woman arrives home alone, kicking off her shoes after a long day at work. But suddenly, she hears a noise. The thumping of footsteps. Scratching sounds. Coming from behind the cellar door.

Frightened, her imagination runs wild. She doesn’t want to open that door. She hates the cellar. It’s dark with evil forebodings. Full of dust-covered trunks holding stuff she doesn’t want to remember.

“Run!!” you think as you watch. “Call out! Scream!” But she can’t. She’s helplessly drawn towards the sound, as scary background music heightens the suspense. She should know better—have some common sense! But she has to know what’s there. Who’s there. And what might happen to her. Against her better judgment, her hand slowly reaches for the knob. And opens the door to terrible trouble.

This is the point at which I always yell at the screen, “Don’t do it! Are you nuts?” But they always do. It’s in the script.

Too bad. Because this behavior is in our scripts, too. It is what lies in the dark places—the cellars of our minds–that scratch at our doors. Thump up our steps. Behind the trap doors where Satan lurks.

We hear him scratching, luring us away from what we know is right. Unable to resist, we grab our own dim flashlights. We fearfully head down the creaking, rickety steps. Our eyes scan the blackness, searching the shadows for answers. We timidly push open the dusty trunks of guilt and shame. And try to ward off our own scary ending.

Yes, that’s what we do when we allow our minds to fill with negative thoughts. If  we go searching for the boogeyman in our head, we’re sure to find him: hiding in the dark, shrouded in lies. He’ll lunge out of the blackness. Chase you. Grab at your ankles as you try to scramble back up the cellar steps to safety.

Don’t buy into Satan’s evil tricks. The next time you feel the fear, hear the things that go bump in the night, run to that door in your mind. But don’t dare open it. It’s Satan’s trap door.

Instead, throw a padlock of prayer over the broken chain.

Instead, jam a chair of thankfulness and gratitude under the doorknob.

Instead, call out for help. God’s help. First.

Forget about trying to chase away the shadows with your own dim light. Instead, switch on the Light of the World. And watch those shadows flee.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)

Lori HynsonAbout the author: Living much of her life as a stressed-out, burned-out SuperGal, Lori Hynson’s life was completely turned around when she met Jesus during a tragic storm. Defeated and broken, she laid down her prevalent pride and faced her lack of faith. Today, Lori is an inspirational speaker, singer, Bible teacher and author of her memoir, SuperGal vs. GOD. Through her experience, she encourages women to surrender their struggles with their stressful, self-reliant, too-busy lives and find God’s abundant peace through His Word.

Lori loves to sing, garden, take long morning walks, and laugh in the chaos of her grandkids. Lori and her husband have five children, thirteen grandchildren, and enjoy living near Valley Forge, PA.

Join the conversation: What negative thoughts tend to plague you? Have you found ways to avoid opening that cellar door?

Photo by João Victor Xavier on Unsplash

Fix Your Thoughts

by Twila Belk

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8–9 NLT

Be still. That’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Sometimes I wish I could flip on a little “be still” switch to pacify myself, especially when I have days like today. Right now I’m struggling to gain control of my churning insides.

I’m currently dealing with several major life stressors—undergoing treatment for an aggressive breast cancer, caregiving for my husband who has a rare and progressive muscle disease, carrying a huge burden of financial responsibilities, handling concerns about my youngest son’s circumstances, and facing a looming book deadline. Add to that, in the last couple of days, both vehicles stopped working, my faithful recliner broke, and wasps are entering the house through the bathroom vent.

Then this morning, after putting in many hours on a special project for a person I greatly respect, I received a harsh email rather than a thank-you for my hard work. Reading that email, while being physically and mentally exhausted, pushed me into a not-so-good place. I turned into an emotional mess. Although the person apologized a few hours after sending it, my memory naturally wants to replay the narrative again and again, which agitates my spirit more and more.

And here I am with the task of telling people how to be still. Seriously?

I’ve learned over the years that God likes to give me plenty of opportunities to become well-versed in my topic. And this is one of those times. So after much consideration, I decided I need to change topics. I want to be well-versed in something else! (Perhaps I’ll change it to “How to be happy with a million dollars while living in the Caribbean and looking great in a bikini.”)

For now, I’m reverting to self-talk mode. “Breathe in. Breathe out. Calm down, Twila. It’s time to remind yourself of the sermons you so readily give to others.” In other words, I’m giving myself a pep talk to practice what I preach.

And one of the important truths I like to remind people of is this: whatever we focus on becomes magnified.

If I keep my attention on my problems and heartaches (or hurtful words), they become overwhelming to me and tend to control my life. But if I fix my thoughts on God, he becomes magnified in my heart and mind, and I’m reminded of who he is and what he’s able to do. My attitude changes, and my unsettled spirit quiets down. It takes resolve, but it’s so worthwhile.

Philippians 4:8–9 encourages us to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. If we put that kind of thinking into practice, peace will be ours.

Lord, when the pressures of life become too much for me, and my circumstances are the foremost thing on my mind, I become stressed and overwhelmed. Would you help me to fix my thoughts on you? I want you to be magnified, not the stuff I’m going through. You are excellent and worthy of praise. You are able to calm my agitated spirit. You are the giver of peace. Thank you for being with me.

(This devotion is an excerpt from The Power to Be, (c) 2018 Twila Belk. Used by permission of BroadStreet Publishing.)

twila belkAbout the Author: Also known as the Gotta Tell Somebody Gal, Twila Belk  loves braggin’ on God. Whether she’s writing, speaking, or teaching, she offers hope and encouragement for people to fix their eyes on him. Twila is the author of The Power to Be: Be Still, Be Grateful, Be Strong, Be Courageous and Raindrops from Heaven: Gentle Reminders of God’s Power, Presence, and Purpose as well as five other books. Mom to three grown children and Grandma to three precious little boys, Twila lives with her husband in Iowa, not far from the Mississippi River and the home of American Pickers, John Deere tractors, and Whitey’s ice cream.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner 51veIj1tu+L._SX344_BO1,204,203,200_from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Twila’s new devotional book,  The Power to Be, please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (NLT). What have your thoughts been fixed on lately? What current issues are keeping you from being still?