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)

Rebecca Price Janney Author Photo 2018About 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?

Always Welcome

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

My sturdy little old Ukrainian grandmother was quite a character. In her old age, she came to despise anyone in the medical profession, especially nurses. During a brief stay in the nursing home, she once mistook my mother for a nurse when Mom entered my grandmother’s room. Grandma grabbed my mom and threw her across the floor; “Get out of here!” she snarled.

Shaken, my mom retreated. Standing outside in the hall, she began to wonder if maybe my grandmother hadn’t recognized her. So she attempted to enter again, this time announcing her arrival. “Mama, it’s me, Roberta,” she hesitantly called.

My grandmother greeted her with a big smile, arms opened wide. “Roberta!” she cried. We began to understand why the nurses were not crazy about Grandma.

While Grandma wasn’t fond of nurses, she was always warmly enthusiastic when a family member came to call. I never once doubted my welcome with her. Even the night that my grandfather died, as I arrived at midnight to spend the night with her, she welcomed me enthusiastically and with open arms. “You look hungry,” she told me. And got working right away to make me a poached egg.

I never doubted a warm reception from Grandma because I knew she loved me, unconditionally. Yet there have been times in my life I have doubted my reception with God. Usually it was after I had put my relationship with Him on the back burner and hadn’t talked to Him in days. Now I needed Him, and barely knew how to approach Him without embarrassment. Surely He would see right past any apologies I might offer as to my neglect—and look right into my selfish motives in approaching Him now.

Maybe this time he has had enough of this self-centered, unfaithful daughter of His.

That may be how a fallible human might receive me. But it is not how God, as revealed in the pages of Scripture, will interact with one He loves. James tells us “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5 NASB).

Did you catch that? Without reproach.

I might have been neglecting God, but He will not neglect me, nor will He ever. Like the father of the prodigal son, He patiently waits for us to turn to Him, ready to receive us back into open arms after we ignore or disobey Him. Later in his letter, James wrote, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you… humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4: 8, 10 NASB).

Not once in Scripture, when someone approaches God in humility, are they ever rejected. Even the worst of sinners are freely forgiven and welcomed back into the fold. Every time.

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness… the Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.  Lamentations 3:19-23, 25 NASB

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With God, I’m Always Welcome – insight from @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 conversations Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What makes you hesitant to approach God?

Gazing Upon the Lord’s Face

by Doris Hoover

My daughter has two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels who love her with their whole being. When Emily puts them outside, they sit at the back door staring through the glass at her. Their big, soulful brown eyes track her every move until she opens the door for them. When they’re inside, the dogs follow Emily from room to room. They lie at her feet and stare into her face while she works at her desk. And when she sits on the sofa, they scramble to her side, heads on her lap, delighting in her touch as she strokes their heads.

Dogs and humans have a unique emotional connection. Scientists attribute it to eye contact. Experiments have shown a link between increased oxytocin in both man and dog after they look into each other’s eyes. The act of gazing at one another bonds them emotionally.

Dog owners are familiar with that look, when their pets seem to stare clear into their hearts. The dogs’ eyes radiate unconditional love and the owners’ hearts melt with the power of that gaze.

The Savior’s gaze has the power to melt our hearts. When we look into His face, we see unconditional love radiating toward us. In Psalm 27, David expresses the emotional bond he feels with God. “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4 NIV).

David had an intimate relationship with the Lord because he desired to be close to Him. He regularly spent time in God’s presence, praising His goodness, pouring out his heart to Him, and trusting Him with his whole being.

We, too, can develop an intimate relationship with the Lord by spending time with Him and staring into His glorious face.

Even though we can’t see the physical face of God, we can still gaze upon Him. His essence, His character, and His heart are revealed to us through Scripture. Each time we read the Bible, we glimpse the Lord’s majesty.

We also learn from Scripture that God is always near us everywhere we go. “‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:24 NIV). God may be spirit, but He provides a way for us to adore Him. We can both see and be near the Lord.

My daughter’s dogs adore her. Whenever she leaves the house, they sit by the window anticipating her return. At the crunch of her car tires, they wiggle with unrestrained excitement. The one they love has returned!

I wonder if God created dogs to show us what unbridled devotion looks like. Do we have an intense longing to be near the Savior? Does our spirit flutter with excitement at the thought of Him?

Just as the bond between people and dogs develops as a result of eye contact, eye contact with the Lord will bond us to Him. Every time we read our Bibles, we gaze upon our glorious Master. Through prayer, we move in close and lay our heads on the Lord’s lap while He strokes our hair. Then, if we look up into His face, we’ll see something amazing—the Lord is gazing back at us with that look, the one that peers clear into the depths of our souls with unconditional love.

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Psalm 27:8 NIV

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Gazing Upon the Lord’s Face – Doris Hoover on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

doris HooverAbout the author: Doris Hoover lives in Florida, but she also spends time along the coast of Maine. Her passion is discovering God’s messages in nature and sharing them with others. You can visit Doris at captivatedbythecreator.com. 

Quiet Moments in The Villages, A Treasure Hunt Devotional invites you to step outside to discover the treasures God places around you. Doris Hoover leads you to beautiful places in her home town. Her poetic descriptions and beautiful photography draw you into the moments that will stir your heart.

Join the conversation: What do you do to seek the Lord’s face?

Why John the Baptist’s Mission Matters to You

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

Fifteen months before the birth of Jesus, God sent the angel Gabriel to Zacharias to announce the birth of John the Baptist. John’s ministry was to prepare the hearts of Israel for the coming Messiah. One line in his mission intrigued me.   

“And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children…to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:17 ESV).

I wondered how turning the hearts of the fathers to the children prepared the way for Jesus. Then a counseling class taught by Jim Craddock, a pioneer in connecting the relationship we have with our fathers to the relationship we feel with the heavenly Father, showed me the staggering impact a father plays in a child’s concept of God.

During the course, each of us took an inventory on how we perceived our heavenly Father in regard to a variety of issues. I zipped through the simple list checking the appropriate columns.

Later, we filled out the same inventory with respect to our earthly fathers. I whizzed down the columns until my pattern arrested me. I flipped back in my workbook to the first inventory. I was stunned. The pattern of my answers was identical. I’d projected the image of my earthly dad onto my heavenly Father.

Where Daddy had a sense of humor, God chuckled too. Where Daddy was strict, I saw my heavenly Father frown. The lesson startled and warned me. My relationship with my earthly fathers had direct impact on the way I experienced my heavenly Father.

A friend took a seminary class that echoed this finding. A survey found that every self-proclaimed atheist shared a common trait—a damaged relationship with his or her father. Their fathers had been either absent, distant, or abusive.

John the Baptist’s mission now made sense to me. Turning the hearts of the fathers to their children opened Israel’s arms to welcome God’s Son. Loving, engaged fathers tenderize their children’s hearts towards the Father. Self-absorbed and emotionally disengaged fathers hinder their children from experiencing the unconditional love of our heavenly Father.

Two Modern Examples

Josh McDowell, Christian author and speaker, is a modern-day example of this. Josh grew up in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father. He entered college a hardened agnostic. But in his attempt to disprove the resurrection he discovered Christ and a heavenly Father. His heavenly Father healed his past wounds and transformed his life. Read his bio here. Josh McDowell has impacted millions of lives for Christ through his speaking and writing.

C.S. Lewis’s mother died when he was ten. Lewis was shipped off to school. The physically and emotionally distant relationship he had with his father no doubt played a role in his becoming an atheist. But the story doesn’t end there. Christ pursued Lewis. Experiencing the love of his heavenly Father transformed Lewis into the great Christian author and influencer we so deeply love.

If you struggle with trusting God, feeling close to Him, or believing He loves you, look at the relationship you had with your father. Perhaps there is a good reason you feel that way. But it is not based on the truth about who God is and who you are to Him.

Jesus came to show us the Father. Grow close to your Father by getting to know your Savior. His love will transform you as it did Josh McDowell and C. S. Lewis.

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”  John 14:9 NIV

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How Does John the Baptist’s Mission Matter to You? @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Join the conversation: Can you think of ways your ideas about God have been influenced by your earthly father?

 

Remember to Power Up & Plug In!

by Deb DeArmond @DebDeArmond

“I wish I had a picture of my mom, “ the young man said. “You look just like her.”

A compliment, yes? Not so much.  Five minutes earlier, I had learned he was the youngest of nine children—and that his mother just celebrated her 83rd birthday.

“She wears her hair just like yours. And I think she has those same shoes.”

He smiled at me. I smiled back. It kept me from bursting into tears or screaming hysterically or some other inappropriate response. It was a business setting and those types of outbursts are generally frowned upon, you know.

Truthfully, I really am old enough to be his mother. But I’d have been happier to hear she was still very much a youthful, with-it kind of gal. Not someone 83.

So, what to do with his observation . . .? Well for starters, I’m getting my hair cut today and am considering refreshing my highlights. And those shoes? Gotta go. I imagine someone will consider them quite a find at the Goodwill store.

In all fairness, the conversation did nothing more than remind me of the obvious: the sand in the hourglass is shifting. If someone said to me today, “You’re only as old as you feel,” I’d probably smack him.

Life has been both exhilarating and demanding of late. Exhilaration can be demanding. It all requires energy, which has been in short supply for me lately.

Recently, I recognized my power pack light was blinking. I’d failed to plug into the source—His power—consistently of late. It hit me yesterday on an airplane as I listened to Natalie Grant’s Your Great Name with tears streaming down my face right there in seat 3B.

“All the weak find their strength at the sound of your great name.”

It was a moment. Just ask the lady in 3C.

I know how much I need time in His presence, drinking Him in. But of all the things that pull on me, demanding my time and attention – He is the kindest and gentlest of them all. He never pushes His way to the front, knocking my world off its axis, but waits expectantly, believing this daughter who has been given so much – redemption, new life, and unbelievable favor – will appear and sit at His feet. That He waits while I wade through other stuff is a level of love I do not understand.

God’s plan for this time of my life is ambitious. He has set me on a path I never saw coming, and I’m running to catch up with it on a daily basis. I love the path. But I love Him more. And I have no illusions about whose power is required for this race.

How do I recharge? It’s just not that difficult. It’s in being mindful of Him, a minute by minute presence with God, talking to Him throughout the day and listening intently for His Spirit to direct and empower. It’s an ingrained awareness of the living Word in everything I touch. It’s also time to sit at His feet and recognize the majesty of our great God.

I’ve been trying to live and move and have my being in my own power these last few weeks. But it’s embarrassingly insufficient for what He’s called me to. Obviously… since I’m reminding people of their 83-year-old mother.

God has no intention of letting me off the hook for what He’s called me to. His word is clear that He never changes His mind about His plans for us: “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn,” Romans 11:29 (NLT). Since that’s the case, I’d better change and my practices and plug in daily.

So really, that young man did me a favor.

But I’m still getting rid of those shoes.

“God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being,” Acts 17:27-28a.

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DeArmond-29 copyAbout the authorDeb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship, and conflict resolution. A writer and professional speaker, Deb addresses topics related to the family and women. Her books include: Related by Chance, Family by ChoiceI Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last and Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! Deb’s books help readers, whether engaged, newlywed, or long-time married, create the life God meant marriage and family to be. You can read more from Deb at Family Matters/Deb.

Join the conversation: How do you plug in?

A Lesson in the Storm

by Julie Zine Coleman

 I once asked my husband Steve what he did when struggling with doubts about God. “I look back to the many times in our lives when He intervened,” Steve told me. “And I know that He is faithful because I have experienced Him firsthand.”

We experienced that kind of intervention early in our marriage. Steve, baby Adam, and I were struggling to keep financially afloat. Steve was a full-time grad student. I had just finished six weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Our financial status was grim. One day I got a surprise call from my Aunt Fay, who would be in town for a conference. Could she come and stay with us? I was thrilled.

I made a grocery list for her visit. Then I looked in my wallet. There was just enough to buy eggs, bread, and milk. But we also needed formula for the baby: what we had would be gone by early the next evening. Steve and I prayed together that God would provide for our family. I went out and bought the milk and eggs.

Trusting God can be a challenge. Jesus’ disciples struggled with it, too.

One night, the disciples found themselves in a fight for their lives. Wind had surged without warning down the narrow gorge from the north and whipped the sea’s waters into a frenzy.

Some of the disciples knew how to handle a boat. But even the most experienced of the fishermen had begun to panic. The wind would not let up. The boat was filling with water, faster than they could bail. It looked like they were about to lose the battle.

So what did they do? They woke up Jesus, who was sleeping peacefully through the calamity in the bow of the boat. “Jesus! Don’t you care that we are about to go down with the ship?”

In stark contrast to their panic, Jesus calmly sat up. “Be still,” He commanded the storm, with the authority He knew was His. Immediately the wind stopped. The waves became calm water. Nature itself had obeyed the voice of the Lord.

The disciples sat in awed silence. Who was this guy? Even the wind and waves obeyed Him! They might have been scared in the storm. But now they were absolutely terrified.

The disciples already knew a lot about Jesus. They had seen Him heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead. Yet witnessing the power He had over nature that stormy night gave them a whole new level of understanding. Maybe they knew in theory that Jesus could do such a thing. But it wasn’t until the storm that the possibility became an earth-shaking reality for them.

Scripture contains everything we need to know about God. Most of us could write pages about Him from what we have studied and read. Yet much of what we “know” is really just theory, at least to us. Until we experience His sustaining power and faithfulness firsthand, we cannot truly know God. The storms in our lives serve that purpose.

Theory becomes reality in the storm.

What Jesus had shown the disciples that night was information they would need. Someday they would be carrying forward God’s message of salvation. No longer would they have the comfort of His reassuring presence. But when things got tough, they could look back to that stormy night and be reassured that Jesus truly was the Son of God. What they witnessed first-hand would serve to anchor them in confident trust.

We had a wonderful time with Aunt Fay. The next morning after breakfast, we said our goodbyes. When Steve and I arrived home that afternoon, we found a note folded over a twenty-dollar bill waiting for us. In all the entertaining we did those first few years, not once did someone leave money for us. But that morning, when we were secretly in desperate need, the Lord moved Aunt Fay to leave that twenty dollars. The formula crisis was solved. And we understood better than we ever had before about the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God.

As we face the storms in our lives, we can know that God will be faithful to not only meet our need, but reveal Himself in the storm to us in a new way. It will not be easy. But what we come away with will serve us well for the rest of our days.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.   Psalm 100:5 NIV

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. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. 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.

Join the conversation: How has God revealed His faithfulness to you?

Photo by J W on Unsplash