Fruitless Labor

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

He was a preacher who felt the call of God to share the gospel with college students in Chapel Hill, NC. Every Saturday, month after month, he got into his white Ford van and headed for the same street corner. He set up megaphone speakers to play hymns for those who happened by. Then he stood by his van and handed out tracts to anyone who would take one.

Not once, month after month of Saturdays, did he see fruit from his efforts. But he knew God had called him, so he pressed on.

The prophets faced a similar challenge of a fruitless calling. In fact, some of them never got any positive response from their efforts. Not in their lifetimes, at least. But Peter writes, “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you…” (1 Peter 1:12 NASB). As the prophets recorded God’s Words to a rebellious nation, their message was not only for their immediate time frame. God would use those writings many years later, to enable a future generation to confirm the messiah’s identity and recognize the plans of God.

The prophets simply did what God asked, never seeing the fruit of their labor. They trusted God to use their efforts for His glory.

Sometimes God calls us to that kind of seemingly thankless work. He does not offer guarantees or give us insight as to how He will use our efforts. Yet we are called to persevere, operating in faith that God will somehow use what we do to build His kingdom. Our job is to be faithful, leaving the responsibility for any growth to Him.

That faithful but fruitless street preacher? One day a skinny college senior, who was a hippie, drug dealer, and fraternity bad boy, stopped to talk with him. He had been searching for the meaning in life: why was he here? What was his purpose? After discussing Jesus for two hours, the preacher gave him a Bible and suggested he read it. God worked mightily in that young man as he did, until one evening, the boy dropped to his knees and gave his life to Christ. His name was Lon Solomon.

God eventually led Lon to seminary, eventually giving him the position of senior pastor for a large church in Northern Virginia. God used his ministry and preaching to lead countless others to Christ. Through Lon, the Lord saw fit to grow McLean Bible Church into a congregation of over 20,000 members.

Why do I share this story? Lon Solomon was that preacher’s only convert out of his street ministry. God used all that effort to lead one single soul to Christ. But the fruit from that one soul’s transformation impacted the world.

Paul was faithful to the calling he received on the road to Damascus. It wasn’t easy. During his years of ministry, he was beaten, stoned and left for dead, experienced hunger and thirst, but tirelessly traveled dangerous roads to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. And through it all, he trusted in God to take the seed he sowed and multiply it for His glory.

What has God called you to do?  Will you have an impact on the world? Our efforts rarely do. And just as Paul and the street preacher did, we will face hardships and discouragement as we obey. But our responsibility is simple: do what we are called to do. We can trust God to take our efforts and use them for his kingdom while generously allowing us to participate in his glorious cause.

“Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”  1 Corinthians 3:7 NASB

TWEETABLE
Fruitless Labor – insight on #FollowingGod 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 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: Have you ever discovered some God did through you after the fact? Please share!

 

It All Starts in the Mind

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

You’d never know it to look at me, but I am an expert at dieting. I’m on a first name basis with the ladies at Weight Watchers. Sugar-free Jell-O jumps off the shelf into my grocery cart as I walk by. I can recite the points value of most foods on demand. My overweight status is not a reflection of dieting ignorance, believe me.

So far I am down 17 pounds since April. For some reason, I am sticking with it this time around. I think it has a lot to do with discovering that dieting is really a two-step process. The first step is to gain the proper mindset. Vegetables are our friends. Exercise is a good thing. Hunger means fat is burning. Once the brain is in gear, now the dieter is ready to begin taking actual measures to lose weight. Exercising portion control, reducing fats and carbs, and planning ahead are all actions that will move the dieter toward her goal.

What started in the mind must become a lifestyle.

This two-step process rings true for our spiritual lives as well. Jesus demonstrated this for us. Philippians 2:5-6 (NASB) shows us how Christ’s mindset played a key role in His coming: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped…” Before descending to earth, Jesus completely gave up His privilege, rank, and honor. All that He had and deserved He set aside for the sake of His mission: redeeming those He loved.

Step One: Get the right mindset. As we follow Christ’s example, we, too, must give up our claim to rights and privileges. Like Jesus, the desire for things like proper recognition and standing, all those things that make us special in man’s eyes, must be voluntarily set aside. As Americans, this is almost foreign to us! We prize our rights highly. When they are ignored, we feel victimized. Yet when we follow Christ, the right mindset—complete humility with no thought to ourselves—is crucial.

Paul did not stop there. For Jesus, thought led to action. “[He] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). Christ’s actions were a reflection of His attitude. He did not come as a king or a member of any privileged class. When the magi came from the east to find the king, they went straight to the palace. Where else would a king be born? Certainly not in some dirty stable.

But Christ left privilege and rank completely behind. He was born to common folks from a town of no consequence. He lived out His ministry with “no place to lay His head.” Paul calls Him a bond-servant (Philippians 2:10), the lowest of ranks. When it happened, the climax of Christ’s ministry was what you would least expect from the King of Kings. It was not when He rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. It was when He hung on a cross several days later, like a common criminal, bearing the crushing load of the world’s sin. Crucifixion was considered a shameful death, and an embarrassment to family and all who knew Him.

Christ’s every action was governed by His complete submission and obedience to the Father. In our imitation of Him, our actions must flow out of that same attitude. What will following Christ’s example look like in our lives? How will an attitude of surrender be fleshed out as we live?

It will be seen in the small, every day decisions we make to put others ahead of ourselves. We will serve, not to get acknowledgement, but simply in response to what God has done for us. Our own agenda will be put aside in the interests of God’s purposes. We will voluntarily submit our will to His.

It all starts with a mind-set of submission and humility. Challenging, to be sure. We are much more prone to look out for number one. But it can be done. Jesus showed the way with His perfect example of obedience to the Father’s will. He is not asking anything of us that He has not already done Himself.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 NASB

TWEETABLE
It All Starts in the Mind – 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 close 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 other facets of Jesus’ example mean the most to you?

Knowing Who We Are Not

by Lori Stanley Roeleveld @lorisroeleveld

He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” John 1:20-21 ESV

As vital as knowing who we are is knowing who we are not – and accepting that.

To my mother’s despair, I’ve always been a sensible shoe girl. I grew up studious, bookish, and serious about God and didn’t see the allure of shiny shoes. I was happy with a brown pair for every day, one black pair for Sundays, and sneakers.

My mother had an entire closet devoted to shoes. It sported every color imaginable, heels of varying heights, and, of course, purses to match. She always looks polished and lovely, but it seems exhausting to me to switch purses all the time and shop for the perfect shoes for each outfit.

When I began speaking to women’s groups, I fretted about my shoe situation. I imagined rooms full of women like my mother quietly assessing my boring, sensible shoes. Suddenly, speaking didn’t feel as much about my message as it did about what was on my feet.

It’s not that I wanted to change myself for them as much as I wanted the women to know I respected them enough to work at my appearance. I didn’t want my footwear to distract them from what God had given me to share.

So, I shopped for heels with lovely colors and practiced walking in them. I developed a modest collection, weathering blisters and sore ankles in preparation for events. But as much as I tried, I couldn’t feel at home in pretty shoes.

To my dismay, while no audience member may have been distracted by my footwear, I certainly was! The complaints from my feet began to register by the middle of my talks, growing into undeniable screams long before the end. Afterward, I could only half-listen to earnest women trying to share their concerns before rushing to my car for the relief of my sensible shoes.

Providentially, during a home renovation project, several hundred pounds of sheet rock crushed my left foot, leaving me in a boot for months. The orthopedist informed me that my days of wearing heels were over.

I could almost hear God’s sigh of relief.  I was never meant to be a pretty shoe kind of girl. He designed me for sensible shoes. I’ve worn them ever since. And you know what? None of the women to whom I speak have even noticed. How I underestimated the depth of my pretty shoe-wearing friends! I can now give them my full attention without the agony of screaming feet.

John the Baptist not only knew who he was, but also who he wasn’t. This grounded his ministry and prepared him to serve in the way God designed. He came on the scene with such incredible power. And as the crowds flocked to hear him preach, it might have been tempting to consider taking a greater role. But in humility, he accepted that as Christ increased, he must decrease.

Knowing who we are provides us courage in Christ; accepting who we aren’t increases our humility and helps us to see ourselves within the context of a body of believers. This ultimately gives us freedom in Christ to appreciate the varying gifts of others.

And as long as our feet are fitted with the gospel, we can serve in heels, flats, or flip-flops, but in the end we serve together as a body in the name of Christ!

TWEETABLE
Knowing Who We Are Not – insight 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. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

Lori’s latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. The dialogues everyday Christians delay are often the very channels God wants to use to deepen relationships and transform lives. Through funny, vulnerable personal stories and sound biblical teaching, the principles here are guaranteed to increase the confidence and competence of Christians in discussing sensitive topics of every kind.

Join the conversation: Have you ever tried to be someone you weren’t?

Humility’s Shining Joy

by Katy Kauffman @KatyKauffman28

“Humility.” The word was seared on my brain.

At the Florida Christian Writers Conference two years ago, I was dazzled by beautiful Lake Yale. Every morning the lake greeted us with its serenity and offered the perfect retreat for writers. Anne of Green Gables would have called it “the lake of shining waters.”

The sun shining on the lake, however, was blinding. One morning I was hypnotized by the glistening ripples, and I studied them too long. The image of the sun on the water was seared across my vision, and I said a fervent prayer that I wouldn’t lose my sight.

I concentrated on the image with my eyes shut, and I saw a word forming. I blinked once for the word to become sharper and shut my eyes again. The image most resembled the word “humility,” and it was appropriate.

Humility keeps us locked into God and His purposes. When we have success in ministry, it’s easy to get focused on ourselves and our accomplishments. I had a temptation to do that at different points in my writing career, like when I actually won something in a contest at my second writers’ conference. Success can shine like beautiful waters, but it can also blind us to from Whom it came.

What has kept me on my knees in prayer throughout my ministry is knowing the Source of the blessings, and sharing ministry adventures with Him. That brings joy. God faithfully helps us in our ministries, and when we stay dependent on and connected to Him, it’s His love, grace, and truth that impact people’s hearts. Humility is recognizing His work in our lives, and turns into a grateful joy over what He has done.

If anyone could have had pride over success in ministry, it would have been Jesus. But the mindset He chose for Himself was humility. He chose to be born to a humble couple in a humble setting, greeted by humble shepherds. Yet, there was joy present. Angels heralded His birth and the people heard about God’s great gift to us.

His birth displayed humility, and so did His death. Jesus chose to humble Himself “and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8 NKJV). Yet joy wasn’t missing from His heart even in such a mission. “For the joy that was set before Him [He] endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV). He knew what God would accomplish through His death, and He said yes.

When God calls us to serve Him, humility keeps our hearts tethered to Him and to joy. He is the One who provides wonderful opportunities to help people, and our part is to faithfully follow Him and work hard, and He helps us even with that. Joy comes from sharing the adventure with Him and with the people He has given us to work with.

So when good things happen as a result of hard work, we can rejoice in the One who made them possible. He is the One guiding us on the journey, and the joy of life with Him shines ever so brightly.

He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen.  Deuteronomy 10:21 NKJV

TWEETABLE
Concentrating on Humility’s Shining Joy – insight from @KatyKauffman28 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

headshot_katykauffmanAbout the author: Katy Kauffman is a Bible study author, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. Her writing tends to focus on winning life’s spiritual battles, and she loves connecting with writers and creating compilations such as Breaking the Chains: Strategies for Overcoming Spiritual Bondage and Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character. Katy makes her home in a cozy suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

Join the conversation: How has humility been important in your life?

Have You Discovered Your Purpose?

by Sheri Schofield

The truck’s headlights shot twin beams out into the darkness as it slowly negotiated the hairpin curve. Tomas Bencomo, our driver, backed up, tightened the wheels, and moved a little forward. It was the first of twenty such curves on our descent into Mexico’s Copper Canyon. The dirt road had no guardrail, and the drop below was over a thousand feet. One false move, and we would be toast. I was so glad that I could not see that drop in the darkness!

At the bottom of that fearsome cliff, Tomas pulled up to a parking area carved into the rocks. The headlights shone on a group of Tarahumara and Mexican Christians who smiled broadly as they sang a welcome.

For centuries, the Tarahumara had lived in the Copper Canyon, hiding from those who would destroy them. They still live in caves scattered along the canyon walls and occasionally in primitive, adobe houses. The mortality rate among their children is about 50%, as many of them starve to death.

There is no word in their language for love.

About twenty years ago, God called Tomas to reach the canyon Tarahumara for Jesus. At first, he was not welcomed. But he brought mule trains of beans and corn down the dangerous cliffs and left the food for the Tarahumara. Gradually, they accepted him.

Now there is an orphanage/boarding school clinging to the cliff, where a hundred children come each week to study. On the weekends, those with families bring food home to them. Tomas put out a call for someone to run the school as it was being built. A young Mexican woman in her early twenties volunteered. Her name is Sandra.

One day during her first year, a Tarahumara came by the orphanage and told Sandra of two toddlers who were starving. When they cannot feed all their children, the parents are forced to choose which ones to feed and which ones to let die. These were two that had been left to die.

Sandra hiked for two hours to find the cave where the children were. She was given permission to take them home. She adopted them as her own, and they now attend the boarding school along with the other ninety-eight youngsters.

This determined young woman has given her life to the care, feeding and spiritual development of the Tarahumara children. Our pastor once asked her once why she did it.  Sandra answered fiercely, “Here I have purpose!”

Purpose. Sometimes it can be difficult to feel that we have purpose. Young mothers caring for their babies may wonder if all their repetitive work has purpose. Sunday school teachers who serve year after year, investing spiritually in the lives of children, can sometimes wonder if they are making a difference. Those who serve God in quiet, unacknowledged ways, like taking meals to those who are sick, are seldom noticed by the more flamboyant leaders. Yet each one serves in her own way, and each is necessary to Jesus and his church.

Like a jigsaw puzzle, each of us fills a place in the picture of God’s redeeming work. No one piece is the whole picture! Each is only a part of the whole. Yet without that piece, the picture is incomplete. When we discover God’s purpose for our lives and do it with all our might, we find fulfillment, just as Sandra did.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” I Peter 4:10-11, 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, will be launched June 1. It is designed to help parents lead their children into a saving relationship with Jesus.

Join the conversation: Has God shown you His purpose for you?

IMG_7617

Answering the Call

by Letitia Suk

I took another quick peek at the clock…  I should have left ten minutes ago…if traffic isn’t too bad I won’t be late to work.  As I gathered my bags for the day, the phone rang.  Can’t talk NOW.   Just won’t answer it.  Maybe it’s more work, though, I really could use that right now…I’ll just check the Caller ID.

Marjorie. One of the poor and needy. So needy. Last time she called she wanted me to go to the grocery store for her. She’s been laid up a long time with a round of ailments. Even when well, though, there was always something she needed.

God will surely understand if I don’t get it this time.  She’ll probably call back. It is more important to be a responsible employee and get to work on time. She’ll think of someone else to call.  I’ll call her back when I get home, or maybe tomorrow. WAIT. With that prompting of the Holy Spirit, my heart was seared. I answered the phone.

Sure enough, she was out of food and needed someone to go shopping. My mind raced through my meager options. Maybe sometime tomorrow between my prayer meeting and my lunch date? She would just have to wait until I could work this into my schedule.

Just then, an idea hit. The locally owned grocery store in the neighborhood, didn’t someone tell me they delivered phone orders?

I changed my tone, “Marjorie, I think Oakdale Market will deliver groceries…No, I don’t think you have to go in but you can call in an order…Do you want me to call and check for you?”

After a quick call to confirm and a call-back to Marjorie, she was ecstatic. Relieved. Strengthened. She thanked me profusely. Her daily bread was secure once again. Suddenly, I was a hero.

Four minutes. Four minutes from being obedient to being satisfied. Me, that is. God asked nothing of me other than to pick up that phone and listen for what to do next.

Why am I so afraid every time I say YES to God? Who told me to expect the worse-case scenario when doing God’s will?  Doesn’t Scripture say, “And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God? “(Micah 6:8 NIV)

I can do that. When did I start making it so complicated?

I moved into a new level of trust that afternoon. To trust to not be afraid to listen, to act, to watch my straw turn into gold. O Father, I hope I got it this time!

“When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:39-40 NASB

letitia sukAbout the author: Letitia Tish Suk invites women to create an intentional life centered in Jesus. She is a blogger and author of Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat and Rhythms of Renewal.  She is a speaker, personal retreat guide, and life coach in the Chicago area.

Join the conversation: When has God prodded you to serve Him by serving others?

Photo by Tiko Giorgadze on Unsplash

Wrong Number

by Charlotte Adelsperger

“I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.”  Psalm 16:18 (NIV)

I prayed about ways I might encourage a friend who was facing perplexing medical needs. When I met with her, I listened as she shared her journey. When it was time to leave, I gave her a bookmark with Psalm 16:18 on it. Then my cell phone rang.  The area code was from another city. I almost didn’t answer. But I did.

“Oh, I have the wrong number!” the woman said. I asked what number she was calling. In an urgent voice, she told me she was trying to find a motel near a medical center in Kansas City.  I was familiar with that hospital, because I lived in the area.

“Is there a medical need?” I asked.

“Yes, my sister is very sick,” she said with a tremble in her voice.  “She needs a liver transplant as soon as possible. I’m coming from out-of-town to be with her.”

I felt inadequate to help this woman find a motel. But I told her I was a Christian and I would pray right away for her sister. Then I asked for her sister’s name. “It’s Heidi and she’s only 39. We need all the prayers we can get! I think I dialed an angel– to get you.”

I chuckled. “I’m not an angel, but you can count on me to pray for Heidi and for you. May I check on you later to see how things are going?” She gave me her name—Kathy, and told me I could text her.

When I got home, it dawned on me that God had given me a verse to share with my friend, but that same verse was also just right for Kathy! I hesitated to intrude by contacting her, so I prayed to do the right thing.

An hour later I texted her: “From Charlotte—talked to you on phone. Bible verse: “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.” Psalm 16: 18.”

Within minutes a text came back: “Thank you for the verse!  Heidi is critical now—we might lose her. She has young children back home. Keep praying!”

I did just that, and over the next few days I kept in touch with Kathy. She shared one crisis after another. Then 10 days later, Heidi underwent a successful liver transplant! It was miraculous, and we praised God together.

Thinking over this experience, I think God allows us the privilege to be at the right place at the right time. He wants us full of His love and ready to be used by Him in the lives of others.  But I can sometimes miss the opportunity, because I’m so absorbed in my own life.

What can we do to be more available to be used by God? I think deepening our relationship with Him will enable us to hear Him more readily. As we start each day, we should ask Him specifically to draw us into His purposes. Express our desire to be used for His glory. And as we take the living Word of God with us in our hearts—or even on a bookmark—we never know what blessings may come!

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Galatians 6:9-10 NASB

Charlotte AdelspergerAbout the author: Charlotte Adelsperger is an author and speaker from Overland Park, Kansas where she lives with her husband Bob. She has written four books and material for more than 200 publications. Charlotte writes for both adults and children. Her credits include Cricket magazine for children and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse & Clubhouse Jr. Most recent is her picture book, Amazing Miracles of Jesus, (Tyndale). Charlotte specializes in women’s groups. She enjoys hiking as well as walking/jogging in 5K races. Charlotte can be reached through the AWSA website and through Facebook.