A Deeper Romance

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone.”              Song of Solomon 2:10-11 ESV

Hollywood is rife with romantic notions and many of us have taken our cue from Tinseltown as to what qualifies.

It’s usually a flashy ordeal with diamonds, dancing and beautiful people in beautiful clothes. Romance, the movies tell us, is about gifts and musicians, flowers and fireplaces, fancy foods and fantastic footwork.

As our anniversary approaches every spring, my husband grumbles that I’m not a normal woman. If only my idea of romance lined up with Hollywood, it would be easier to woo and wow me!

On the one hand, I’m not that hard to please. On the other hand, it takes everything he has.

I don’t wish for diamonds or pearls; in fact, I’d prefer he not spend any money at all. What I want is his attention, a long walk, and a real conversation.

For me, it’s the relationship that creates the romance. Romance that works begins when we say, “good morning” and builds as we work through the daily challenges of paying bills and living life. It’s the together part that makes the romance happen. If we haven’t been together in overcoming the obstacles of the day, it’s impossible to impress me with a rose and cheesecake.

God is a romantic. You can tell by His extravagance and the lengths to which He goes to get our attention.

As I sat stewing once over my prayer time, frustrated that certain situations had not worked out to my desiring, I was determined to fret and scowl. As I read His Word, however, He whispered to me again about the depth of His love and reminded me of His unchanging character.

As I prayed, I looked out through the doors of my deck at the muted greens of the spring forest against the gray sky of a rainy day and marveled at His handiwork and the gift of this view. The greens and browns of the freshly budded woods were interrupted with flashes of blue or red or yellow as birds alighted on the feeders before returning to nests hidden in the trees. Their songs warbled and whistled to me as they grew bold through the camouflage of their platforms.

Ever so slowly, the romance of creation quieted my heart and spoke to my soul of a deeper relationship, wooing me to see beyond the transient troubles of the day to the great heart of God, to begin to ask for greater gifts than quick answers.

The God of Creation desires my attention, my attendance, my full focus. He crossed the greatest of divides and gave His only Son to bring me safely into His fold. Because He created me, He knows the secrets of my own soul better than I.

Just as Hollywood has many plastic notions of romance, so the world has many misconceptions about a relationship with God and often these ideas pollute my own thinking. He’s not a genie in a bottle. He’s not the great wish-granter in the sky. He’s not about making my life easier or taking orders for my best life now.

He is about a deeper story, a greater adventure, an eternal romance that began before I was born and will continue into a place where there will be no more false notions, no Hollywood hoaxes, no cheap imitations of grace. And He wants me beside Him on this adventure.

On the one hand, it’s not that hard. On the other hand, it takes everything I have.

The romance of God calls to me and I will follow into the deep, deep heart of the greatest story ever told.

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A Deeper Romance – thoughts on #GodsLove 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: How has God romanced you lately?

Shining Brighter in the New Year

by Patti Richter

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.  John 1:4-5

I heaved a sigh of relief as my husband, Jim, pulled a chunk of splintered wood from the palm of my hand. A small piece remained behind, however, and weeks later, though I couldn’t see it, the splinter still smarted if I touched the right spot.

Jim’s own little splinter was more elusive. He’d rubbed one eye for days after using his drill to repair a mailbox. A doctor’s bright light revealed an embedded metal shard, which he successfully removed.

Illumination is so helpful in spotting hidden issues—like mold. We signed a contract to buy a house that had everything we’d been looking for, but an inspector with a high-intensity lamp found this problem. We learned the mold could be removed for a hefty sum of money, and also how to avoid the threat of mold in the future. How much easier and less expensive these preventative measures would have been!

Today’s technology includes the blessings of tests, machines, and lights that reveal abnormalities and dangers otherwise unseen, especially regarding physical maladies that might lurk within. Some people, like me, put off health checks. We’d rather not know what might be amiss; we prefer to wait in blissful ignorance unless our bodies signal an alarm. So, for the present time, we avoid anxious hours of awaiting test results. But we might later regret this head-in-the-sand outlook.

At the dawn of each new year, we may tend to prioritize self-improvement—mostly physical health and fitness. Spiritually, however, our fix-it list requires more than resolutions. But while the thoughts and intentions of our heart are not hidden from God, we may delude ourselves that we can deal with any dark spots on our own.

Luke’s Gospel includes a scene of Jesus teaching a crowd about the need to have a life full of inner light, “no part of it dark” (Luke 11:36-42 NIV). Afterward, a Pharisee who’d invited him to dinner expressed concern that Jesus did not wash up before the meal, as their custom dictated. (I wonder if Jesus passed by the water bowl to spark a needful conversation.) Jesus responded by saying it’s foolish to cleanse the outside parts while ignoring corruption on the inside, such as “greed and wickedness” (vv. 39 – 40). Jesus further rebuked the Pharisees and teachers of the law for performing righteous acts while neglecting “justice and the love of God” (v. 42). God could see right past their self-righteousness to their dark hearts.

Serving God without nurturing a relationship with him—through prayer, Scripture study, worship, and the fellowship of believers—never worked out for the saints of old. Israel’s glory years during the reign of King Solomon went bust soon after his son, Rehoboam, inherited the throne. Rehoboam “did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:14). This was likely a sin of neglect since Rehoboam surely knew God’s greatest command to his people, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV). We allow His light to shine in our dark places when we seek Him.

“Light has come into the world,” through Jesus Christ, and we are justified—made right with God—by faith in his name. Our sanctification process, however, requires that we continually yield those dark recesses of our hearts to the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit. His work in us will bring effective remediation.

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Shining Brighter in the New Year – 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: How do you “seek the Lord” as you walk with Him?

To Know and Make Known

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His
sufferings, being conformed to His death… Philippians 3:10 NASB

My husband has many wonderful qualities. But the night I began to fall in love with
him, something bigger captured my heart. It was on a walk around the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool one chilly fall evening. Strolling arm in arm, we shared our amazingly
common experiences growing up in the Plymouth Brethren assemblies. We laughed over our camp stories, so similar in substance though experienced in different places.
He may have been from Virginia, and I from New England, but it was like we had known each other our whole lives. And something clicked.

Our mutually familiar backgrounds proved to be a great foundation for an excellent
marriage. Our shared experiences furnished an ability for good communication and
understanding. On a profound level, we got each other, and still do to this day.

When God sent Hosea to prophesy to his people, he prepared him in a most unconventional way. He didn’t send him to study at seminary or into some kind of prophet-internship program. Instead God told Hosea to find a woman prone to unfaithfulness and marry her. “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord,” he commanded. (Hosea 1:2 NASB). Hosea’s painful relationship with Gomer would furnish a visible picture to Israel of God’s grace: choosing a nation that would ultimately prove unfaithful to him. Knowing it would bring heartbreak in the long run. Doing it anyway.

That much is plainly spelled out in Scripture. But I believe there was an even deeper,
unspoken purpose in God’s unusual requirement. Hosea, through his personal suffering,
would learn first-hand about God. Through the pain of his own rejected love, he
would gain insight into God’s heartbreak over his people. That insight would inject
a passion into his message delivery not otherwise possible.

The Navigators, an international Christian ministry, have a motto appropriate for
every believer: “To know Christ and to make him known.”  The latter can only follow
the former. We cannot make someone accurately known without personal knowledge of them.

Some of that insight cannot be gained through anything but shared experience.

We follow a suffering Savior. One way we can know him is through experiencing a
bit of what he did on earth: insight that can only be gained through pain. Our heartache,
our hurt, gives us a glimpse into his. In turn, that new intimacy and insight into
God’s heart ignites a passion for him. The more we love him, the more effective
message bearers we become.

Has God called you into painful circumstances lately? Grief over the death of a
loved one, rejection from a spouse, hearing the word cancer, watching your children
suffer; the list could go on and on. Our first response is often to demand: Why?
Surely God would not allow this into the life of someone he loves!

The Bible shows us God’s love is precisely why he allows suffering into our lives.
God is all about the relationship. Suffering is one tool that effectively draws
us into to his open arms.

“Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for my glory… you
are my witnesses,” declares the Lord… “so that you may know and believe Me and
understand that I am He…and there is no Savior beside Me” (Isaiah 43:7 NASB). In the hard and sometimes inexplainable, God is at work to reveal himself to us and through us, His glory-bearers.

Someday, as the last tears are wiped from our eyes, we will understand the suffering
that was a part of our lives. Standing in his glory, we will be grateful to have been used to reveal a small portion of that glory on earth. So worth it.

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To Know and Make Known – @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About 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 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: What have you learned about Jesus through suffering?

Deepening Our Knowledge of Christ through Surrender

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

Our relationship with Christ begins and is sustained through surrender.

For years, I held a distorted view of God. I knew intellectually that He was loving and kind. But my actions and fears, demonstrated my true beliefs—beliefs that hid so deeply in my heart, my conscious mind wasn’t aware they were there. Through a series of events, God allowed my world to completely unravel. At least, that was how it felt.

In reality, He was unraveling lies and fears never meant to be part of my world, so that I could truly come alive in Him.

It all began when my husband quit his job—twice, in under a year—and moved our family across the country. Through a three-year upheaval period that followed, I realized, while I claimed God was my provider, sustainer, protector, and guide, my continual fight for control proved I believed otherwise. In many ways, I knew of God, but didn’t truly know Him, not at the deep, peace-sustaining level.

Otherwise, I would’ve had no cause for alarm or striving and no reason to self-protect. As I surrendered, through gritted teeth at first, I came to understand just how true all those truths Scripture reveals truly were. That terrifying, mind-shifting experience resulted in an intimacy with Christ I hadn’t even previously thought to pursue, and a much deeper understanding of who He is.

I’m learning to say, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord …” (Phil. 3:7-8, NIV).

Those words in Philippians were written by an ancient church planter named Paul who truly had forsaken all things in order to know Christ. Prior to his conversion, he’d known of God but he didn’t come to truly know Him, personally and intimately, until He surrendered. And through his continual surrender, his intimacy with Christ grew to a level I suspect few of us will experience, because few of us will ever truly understand what it means to say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

As I said, our relationship begins, and is deepened and fueled, through surrender. Less of us, more of Him. As we rely on Him—His power, protection, strength, and provision—our understanding moves from mere intellectual assent to a deep and abiding knowledge that forms a strong, unshakable foundation.

“This is eternal life,” Christ said, while praying to the Father, “that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3, NIV). The word our Bibles translate as know, ginóskó in the original Greek, points to a deep intimacy acquired through experience. But even this word lacks some of the depth revealed through its Hebrew counterpart, yada. This is the same word used to describe the union Adam and Eve experienced through intimacy with each other. Genesis 4:1 says, “Now the man knew his wife Eve …” (NRSV).

Our culture has turned sex into something selfish and ugly, but God designed this most intimate of acts to, in some mysterious way, unite two individuals into one. It’s a complete unveiling of oneself, to live “naked but not afraid.” To know one another fully, without shame or fear.

This is the level of intimacy Christ longs for with us, to usher us into a relationship so fulfilling, we, like Paul, would consider all else rubbish for the sake of knowing, truly knowing, Him.

We reach that place of ever-increasing intimacy through surrender.

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Deepening Our Knowledge of Christ through Surrender – @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 Restoring Her Faith and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.

Join the conversation: How has surrender transformed your life? What did that involve? We want to hear your story!

 

 

Am I Doing Enough for God?

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

A mother of three young children, who works part-time, recently told me: “I sometimes feel guilty that I’m not doing enough for God.”

Have you ever found yourself saying that?

We live in a world focused on doing to the point of making busyness our badge of success. Multi-tasking in the church is what appears to others—and ourselves—as ultra-spiritual. But while a relationship with the Living God produces a desire to obey and serve Him, that service results in joy and rest, not perpetual stress!

I shared with that precious mom that her ministry was her husband and the three little lives she shaped and influenced on a daily basis. I also shared that God wanted a relationship, not a work record from her.

I believe God would rather have us be with Him than do a bunch of things for Him. We can see that desire in Jesus’ response to a man who asked about the greatest of all the commandments. Jesus’ answer was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 NIV).

God is focused on relationship. We tend to be focused on activity. He is the One who tells us to “be still” (Psalm 46:10) and to come to Him and rest (Matthew 11:28). We are the ones who are striving to do more.

Yet, as we spend time cultivating a love relationship with God, we will know how to serve others well. But it will never be at the expense of overlooking our primary responsibilities (our families and those God has placed in our care) or feeling over-extended.

If you are a mom with young children, or a woman who works full time, or someone who has her hands full (and who doesn’t these days?), rest in the truth that as you grow in your love for God, your labor will naturally follow. As you sit at His feet, He will eventually call you to get up and serve Him. And as you are growing in your love relationship with Him, you will learn how to discern the difference between His loving voice and the voice of your own guilt telling you to do more.

Lord, help me to remember that Your greatest requirement of me is to love You before anyone and anything else.

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Am I Doing Enough for God? insight from @CindiMcMenamin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 17 books including her best-selling When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold), When You’re Running on Empty, When Women Long for Rest, and Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her books and resources Cindi McMenamin Long for Rest book cover (1)to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, or for more information on her coaching services to help you write the book on your heart, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with guilt about not doing enough for God?

Preparing the Soil of Your Heart

by Debb Hackett @Debb_Hackett

In the fall, I check the strength my biceps for the hours I know I will spend leaf blowing and bagging. This isn’t anything I ever did when I lived in England, but despite the hard work, it remains a joy because it’s still a multicolored novelty. At least until the next good wind gives me another yard-full. Then I might frown for a moment.

Fall isn’t traditionally a time we think about planting seeds; it’s when we watch the foliage lighting up the horizon before falling away. The trees then grow dormant over the winter, only to burst to life again in a blaze of spring glory. But even when the plants are “sleeping” they’re preparing for spring.

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”  Matthew 13:23, NIV

The Parable of the Sower was a metaphor about different responses to the Word of God. Even when we have heard and responded, there can be challenges that can draw us away from the Lord: distractions that can pull our eyes from the life-giving message of the cross to focus elsewhere.

Both seeds grew. As I pondered the difference between the thorny ground and the good soil, I was struck by how slim the difference was between the two types. It’s the same with my heart. How often am I walking closely with the Lord, but then begin to fixate on my circumstances?

Jesus, in His great love and mercy knew that we’d face challenges. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). He is greater than anything we can encounter here on earth. In order to stay healthy, we need to aim our face toward the Son, giver of life and hope.

We follow His teaching, asking Him to guide our steps. We try to live faithful lives that bear fruit. But in order to grow anything, the soil needs tending. So how do we prepare the garden of our hearts to foster future growth?

I’m checking for weeds, things that distract me from the Gospel, and I’m fertilizing the soil, putting in the nutrients that will feed new growth. I’m spending time reading the Word, studying it, and applying it to my life. I’m worshiping in my car, my kitchen and of course — in the shower, I am belting praise out unless the house is sleeping. Finally, I’m fellowshiping with other believers who can encourage me as I go.

This fall as the leaves tumble, let them be a reminder to take the time to tend our hearts to keep them hospitable to future new growth. It’s the way to keep us from growing hard towards the God who loves us passionately. Then we will be ready for whatever lies ahead, for a new season of challenge and abundant life.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105, NIV

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Preparing the Soil of Your Heart – insight from @Debb_Hackett on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Deb HackettAbout the author: Writer, broadcaster, and speaker Debb Hackett  has been a radio journalist for more than twenty years. Married to a test pilot, Debb writes for military wives and lives just outside Washington D.C. with her husband and children. She’s having lots of fun working on an inspirational contemporary romance series. When she’s not writing, Debb can be found leading worship, playing bass, or skiing. Also, if you can swing by her house while she’s making scones, that would be a win. She blogs at: http://debbhackett.com

Join the conversation: How do you keep your heart soft towards God?

The Only Thirst Quencher

by Rebecca Barlow Jordan

For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:9 NLT.

A few years ago I bought a new plant called an Ornamental Mustard. It has beautiful leaves, such pretty colors–different from anything I owned. I wasn’t sure where to plant it, but I knew I’d find a place for it.

New plants always perk up the garden, especially when some things are fading. I found a temporary spot on the back porch, until I decided on its permanent home. But I forgot something vital about that plant. In fact, it’s a fairly general principle about gardening, one that’s crucial to a gardener’s success: Plants get thirsty; they need water.

Three days later I looked out the window at my mustard plant sunning on the back porch. I had forgotten to water it. The sun, wind, and rising temperatures had sucked the life from my mustard plant. The leaves drooped so low, they sagged on the hot concrete. Plants can die without water. And just one drink won’t suffice. I could water it today. But the next day, if left in the hot sun–especially if it’s not rooted yet–that plant will need another long, cool splash of water.

In the same way, it’s so easy for us to think we can survive without a daily spiritual drink from God and His Word. I prayed once last week. I did read a chapter in the Bible last year. Been a little busy lately.

Disappointments arrive at our door; harsh winds blow; relationships dry up, and suddenly we’re dehydrated. Last month or last year’s drink didn’t last. We need spiritual refreshment daily. I’m not talking about the Living Water God gives us–our salvation. God has given us life in the Spirit to us as believers.

This is about everyday life. God waits daily for us, eager to refresh our spirit, body, and soul. I am not suggesting we meet with Him because of a sense of guilt or duty. Whether we spend five minutes or five hours alone in His presence is not the issue. Depending on the season of our lives, that time may vary.

But I can testify to this: when we are aware of an extreme thirst to the point of spiritual dehydration, we will run daily, not walk, to Jesus. And we’ll hold cupped, outstretched, hands for Him to fill to overflowing.

And the next day, we’ll want to drink again, because we know our survival depends on it. I don’t mean if we skip our daily “quiet time,” we won’t make it through the day. God is more interested in relationship than in rule-keeping. Our eternal destiny is not the issue. But we do need daily spiritual refreshment and fellowship with Him.

The more we spend time with Jesus, the more we’ll want to again—and again. Because the more we come to Him, the more we will be filled. And the more we drink, the more “vitality” we will experience. Our spirits need daily, spiritual refreshment to thrive.

God’s Word is both our fertilizer and our sprinkler system. And His Spirit is eager to refresh us daily with life-giving water as we communicate heart to heart. He is the only true Thirst-Quencher. And we need Him daily!

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The Only Thirst Quencher – encouragement from Rebecca Barlow Jordan on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

IMG_7350About the author: Rebecca Barlow Jordan is a day-voted follower of Jesus who loves to paint encouragement on the hearts of others. She has authored and contributed to over 20 books and written over 2000 articles, greeting cards, and other inspirational pieces. Rebecca also loves gardening, visiting with her children and grandchildren, reading great fiction, and fishing with her husband. Find Rebecca and her encouraging blog at www.rebeccabarlowjordan.com.

Rebecca’s latest book, Mornings with Jesus 2019, will help you experience a closer relationship with Jesus. It’s full of inspiring, lasting motivation, and provides spiritual nourishment that will fill you with hope and direction.

 

Traffic, Walmart, and Wedding Planning with God

By Carol Ogle McCracken

I hate sitting in traffic. In fact, I even don’t like any cars ahead of me that I can’t see around when I drive. If you are in the left lane and another car comes up behind you, move over. Don’t bottleneck traffic.

I think I just petted my pet peeves. Where I live in a condo on the beautiful Gulf Coast, the population is growing. It’s a whole different world than when I was a young and could go where I wanted without aggravation.

I just got back from Walmart. Due to the lack of food in my condo, I had been forced to go shopping. No one would get out of my way. I had planned to go straight in and straight out, since I really didn’t even want to be there. I had other things to do.

Sometimes all that planning gets in the way of what God has for me. I can get out in front of God and subconsciously wait for Him to catch up. It’s almost like I have made plans and now look for Him to bless them. While these plans may not be bad in themselves, they may not be the exact things God wants me to do.

I really can’t help it sometimes. Owning a wedding planning company has me planning for a living. So it’s easy to slide into the routine of timelining a project and preparing for any contingency I can think of.  What if it rains?  What if the divorced parents of the groom come together and fight? What if the bride cries her make up off, and she hasn’t done her pictures yet?  I plan how to use both my time and others’.

God doesn’t necessarily have a problem with planning, but He wants to be involved from the beginning. “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NLT).  That interruption may be His provision, a divinely appointed opportunity to minister or be ministered to. Yes, He might want us to accept an interruption from our plans, because He has something different in mind.

God alone is the sovereign king who sees the big picture and how we fit into it. He wants us to be open to his leading and not do the leading ourselves.

How can we be open to God’s leading? By investing in our relationship with Him. Just like any other relationship, we must make the effort to get to know the other person. Trust comes with that. It may seem hard to get to know an invisible being. God knew that and sent his Son to earth to show us what God is like, so we could relate to Him and learn about Him. Jesus did exactly what God told Him to do. Even to the point of death on the cross.

So, pray for God to make you aware of Him. Be open to His leading. (Maybe there is someone at Walmart He wants you to talk to!) God wants a relationship with you. He loves you so much that He gave His Son to make that relationship with Him possible. Clear the distractions of your plans, share some time with Him, and get to know His voice.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,  but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21 NIV

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Traffic, Walmart, and Wedding Planning with God – insight from Carol McCracken on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

carol mccrackinAbout the author: Carol McCracken has been a Bible teacher for over twenty years.  She has been on church staff in Leadership Development and Women’s ministry for over 30.  Her passion is to make the Bible come alive for women and connect it to a real relationship with Jesus Christ in today’s busy and demanding world.  She is a contributor to ChristianDevotions.us and is currently working with an editor on a women’s Bible study.

Join the conversation: Has God ever interrupted your plans? What happened?

Anxiety, Distorted Vision, and the Power of Christ

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

You may have heard it said that each of us view our world through rose-colored glasses, which means we perceive situations or perhaps events as being better than they actually are. I disagree. I think, most often, our perceptions are distorted by a combination of garbage-splattered lenses and curved reflections similar to those displayed by carnival mirrors.

Our vision is tainted by past hurts, pride, fears, sin, and deception, making it hard to see God’s hand and clearly discern His guidance.

This tax season, as all my vision distortions fight for dominance, I’m combating them with truth. This is the only way I’ll be able to clearly see God’s will and heart for me.

In Matthew 6:22-23 Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if you eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

In Scripture, vision refers to one’s ability to view our world and lives from God’s perspective and clearly discern His heart and plans. Our vision sharpens as we grow closer to Him and align our thoughts and actions with His truth. It dulls when we move further from Him and become increasingly consumed with self—our sin, desires, and concerns.

Right now, due to an unsettling tax appointment, money has become a dominant concern, one that has me prayerfully questioning how I spend my time. When financial uncertainty hits, my first response is often to plot and plan ways to “fix” the situation. Where and how can we cut our spending and increase our income?

Relying on my wisdom, it seems logical to allocate my time differently, focusing on those things that generate the most income while reducing those tasks that don’t. Though there’s great honor in providing for our families, when doing so, we must operate from a heart that is completely centered in Christ and His will.

Because we can’t serve, which according to the original Greek, means to become a slave of two masters (Matthew 6:24). We can’t live enslaved to our finances and clearly hear and heed God’s voice. If our focus is on the here and now and finding security in material things instead of, ultimately, in Christ, the voices of fear, insecurity, and greed will drown out that of our Savior’s. The result will be confusion rather than clarity and anxiety and angst in place of peace.

“Therefore,” Jesus said, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear,” Jesus said. Do not marimnaó (original Greek) about your well-being, which means allowing your anxiety to draw you into opposite directions and pull you apart. Do not be internally divided, acting as if you were an orphan forced to rely on yourself and navigate life on your own.

Instead, God invites us to live like a child of the victorious, risen King. An adopted and chosen heir of the One who loves us deeply, knows us intimately, and holds the entire world, our lives included, in His hands.

Seek God first, Jesus said, and trust Him to provide, knowing He truly is a good and attentive Father.

The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130 NIV

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Anxiety, Distorted Vision, and the Power of Christ – encouragement from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryJennifer Slattery is a multi-published writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s also a Crosswalk featured blogger and maintains a devotional blog found at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events that help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. (They just released their first Bible study, Becoming His Princess, which you can grab for free HERE.) When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Check out Jennifer’s latest release, Restoring Her Faith, published by Love Inspired: She left belief behind…Yet this family could change her mind. With two boys to raise, a fledgling contracting business to run and a family ranch to keep afloat, widower Drake Owens finds his hands aren’t just full they’re overflowing. When Faith Nichols is hired to help him renovate the church, he’s drawn to the beautiful artist, but he can’t fall for a woman who isn’t a believer. Can love restore her faith and his heart?

Join the conversation: What fears or past hurts can distort your spiritual vision?

 

Do I Treat God Like the Stein Mart Clerk Treated Me?

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

A few days ago I went into a local discount department store (Stein Mart for you shopping aficionados) to buy a birthday gift for a friend. The clerk behind the checkout counter was talking with another employee as I approached with my purchase.

I laid the scarf on the counter. The checkout clerk picked it up and scanned it but continued to talk to her associate. She did not say “hello” or “did you find everything alright.” In fact, she didn’t even look my way. She just continued her conversation with the other lady.

I couldn’t help but hear what they were talking about. It had something to do with another employee reporting the checkout clerk to the manager for some kind of unprofessional behavior. Hmm. I can’t imagine.

Well, she continued to ring up my purchase without looking at me or speaking to me. I saw the total pop-up on the register and handed her the money. She took it and gave me my change. Still, no word. The only acknowledgment from her that I had even been there was a tossed out “Thanks, have a nice day,” as I headed out the door.

I headed to my car sporting a rather indignant attitude. I couldn’t believe she would just totally ignore me. I wanted to report her to the manager. She went through the physical routine of her job but was never really “with” me.

That’s when God tapped me on the shoulder, like He often does, and said “You do that to Me all the time.” Huh?

It didn’t take me long to grasp what He meant. How often do I go through the motions of spending time with Him only to really be doing something else? I read my Bible. I pray through my list. But in many ways I’m already off in the middle of my day. I’m thinking about all the things I have to do. I’m planning next week’s meeting. I’m wondering what to fix for dinner.

Even when I do truly focus on Him, I hold something back. I don’t yield myself totally to His leadership in my life. I give Him part of me, but not all of me.

God deserves so much more than that from me. In fact, He deserves everything. First, He deserves all my worship. David expressed it this way:

I will extol You, my God and King, and bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. Psalm 145:1-3, ESV

I also owe my very life to God. I was lost, but now I’m found. I was dead in my sin, but now I am alive in Christ. Yes, I owe Him my life today and always.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

Update: After seeing this post, Stein Mart graciously contacted the author to apologize for its clerk’s behavior. Of course, the attitude of this one clerk is not typical of Stein Mart employees and the author still regularly shops at Stein Mart!

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Do I Treat God Like the Stein Mart Clerk Treated Me? @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the author: Find out more about how to treat others with grace in Kathy Howard’s Bible study Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing is her latest book. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Lavish Grace: is a unique, nine-week study of Paul’s teachings about grace and ways he experienced God’s grace in his life. Filled with contemporary examples of grace at work, this well-written format gives you the rare opportunity to combine a character and topical study into one rich, practical approach to Scripture. Lavish Grace is the eye-opening study you need to recognize how God’s grace is being poured out on you and through you. His grace will give you reason to rejoice every day.

Join the conversation: Have you ever been made to feel insignificant?