Irreversible

by Julie Zine Coleman

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  Ezekiel 36:26 NIV

Some changes cannot be undone.

One of the science concepts I taught my fifth graders every year was the difference between a physical change and a chemical change. One is reversable and one is permanent. A physical change is a change in the state of matter. Applying heat to ice will melt it to liquid and eventually turn it into gas. But no matter in what state we find it, water remains H2O.

A chemical change is quite different. Heat actually causes a chemical break down of the bonds that hold atoms in a molecule together. They then rearrange to form new molecules that are completely different substances. For instance, the eggs you mix into cake batter, when baked, become something different. You can’t unbake a cake and retrieve those eggs again. What they were no longer exists. An irreversible molecular change has occurred.

There is another kind of irrevocable change: the transformation that God works in us at the moment we believe in Jesus Christ. Paul tells us that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV).

Just as a new substance has new properties, what once was true about us is true no longer. Where there was only death, now there is life (Ephesians 2:1). The Holy Spirit has come to permanently dwell in us as a guarantee of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13). Our status has gone from condemned to free, from people who once walked in the flesh now walking in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-2). Once alienated from God, we have now been permanently adopted into His family (Ephesians 1:5). Our spiritual blindness has been irrevocably altered to an ability to see and understand spiritual truth (Romans 8:5-6). We have been rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13, Philippians 3:20).   

And again, just as in chemistry, where a substance cannot change itself (heat is responsible for any transformation), the transformation that happened at our salvation was nothing we could do ourselves. It was something only God could do for us.  

The best news of all: God’s changes are permanent. We didn’t make it happen, and we cannot undo what He has done. We can rest in His work with confidence. Like most children that grew up in Christian homes, I prayed every night for Jesus to come into my heart, just in case the last prayer didn’t take. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood it was God’s doing: He was already there.

Every other religion bases a relationship with God on what they DO. But followers of Christ trust in what God has DONE. Jesus told His followers: “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).

Do you worry that you can out-sin the grace of God? That somehow you can undo His work in you and change yourself back into what you were before He healed you? Lean into what you know He has already accomplished in you. Trust that His work is sufficient to save. We didn’t do it, and we cannot undo it. He has made us new.

The change is unalterable.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

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About the authorJulie Zine 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 crafting. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

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

Join the conversation: What of God’s changes mean the most to you?

The Rule of Double Negatives

by Doris Hoover

Don’t use no double negatives. That was a saying we had in elementary school to emphasize a grammar rule. When two negatives are used in a sentence, they indicate the opposite—a positive. So, the actual meaning of the example sentence instructs us to use double negatives.

The same rule occurs in mathematics, but as many times as I tried to make sense of it, my math-impeded brain couldn’t understand the examples. But whether you understand things mathematically or with words, the rule is accurate.

Not surprisingly, God incorporates the rule of double negatives in the spiritual realm. He cancels out a negative with a negative to create a positive. The sin we commit is cancelled out by the sin Jesus bore on the cross, so we can become sinless. Logically, it defies common sense. Just as I have trouble understanding things in mathematical terms, God’s double negative rule makes no sense to a fleshly mind. It is spiritually discerned.

When in our flesh, and we are confronted with the guilt of our sin, we frantically search for spiritual hope. The day the Lord opened my eyes to see the immensity of my sin, boy, did I hold onto the rule of double negatives. I desperately needed my sin cancelled out. I needed the gift of Jesus bearing my sins on the cross to make me sinless before God.

That’s not the only time I needed the rule of double negatives. As a Christian, I continue to stumble into sinful actions, thoughts, attitudes and choices. They cause me to build up guilt.

Guilt is the enemy’s delight. With it, he torments us. But God reminds us in Romans 8:1 there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The One who cancels negatives with negatives makes a way for us. He gives us the guilt-freeing gift of confession. Even though we may act according to the ways of our flesh, we don’t have to carry the guilt of those actions. The sins we commit daily in our flesh have been cancelled by the gift of salvation; yet God gives us a way to clear them from our minds and release the guilt that torments us. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV)

We can be certain that our blood in the flesh that brings us death was cancelled by the blood Jesus shed, so that through His blood we have eternal life. That’s a given. But God also provides a positive for those negative feelings of guilt. Jesus invites us to share our guilt with Him so He can deal with it and give us a clear conscience. Our negative actions which produce negative feelings of guilt are cancelled by the positive action of remembering we’re loved by the God of mercy, grace, and compassion.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-22 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

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About 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. 

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

Join the conversation: How does God’s unrelenting grace impact your life?

Swamp Smoke

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

As I stepped out to walk my dog a few years ago, a pervasive smell in the morning air accosted me. Something was clearly burning, but I could not see smoke. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the odor’s point of origin. Apparently, lightning had ignited a fire in Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp the previous week. The ensuing fire was still going strong. The afternoon preceding our walk, the wind began to blow from the south. The entire Washington, D.C. area was now the unhappy recipient of dismal air quality, thanks to the smoke blowing over us. 

You may be surprised to learn the Great Dismal Swamp is not even close to where I live. It is 250 miles away, a good five hour drive from here. We couldn’t see the flames or the smoke. Yet we were suffering effects, just the same. Pollution can be pervasive.

When Moses was leading the people of Israel through the desert, three men, named Korah, Dathan, and Abiriam challenged his and his brother Aaron’s authority. You can imagine how it began: three men sitting around a campfire, discussing the day’s events. Soon careless remarks became angry in tone as they encouraged each other on. Others joined in, and it wasn’t long before the discontentment had infected a sizable group. Bitterness quickly spread, resulting in a rebellion 250 men strong. Sin had infiltrated the camp.

With such encouraging support, Korah publicly confronted the leaders. Who did they think they were, putting themselves in charge? Moses humbly responded by suggesting they assemble at the Tent of Meeting the next day. There God would indicate whom he desired to lead.

God let them know alright, and in no uncertain terms. The ground opened up to swallow Korah and his cohorts, their families, and all their possessions. Then fire came down from heaven and consumed the 250 followers as well.

You would think that would have been the end of that, and the rest of the people would have been scared straight. Not so.

The next day, the entire congregation voiced their anger at Moses and Aaron for the terrible judgment they had witnessed. At this point, the Lord had had enough. He sent a plague; immediately people began dropping like flies. In three days’ time, the sin of three men was now affecting thousands.

Moses, desperate to save the people, ordered his brother to take incense and make atonement for their sin. Numbers 16:48 (NASB) tells us: “He took his stand between the dead and the living, so that the plague was checked.” Sin’s egregious effects had finally come to a halt. (Read the story in its entirety in Numbers 16.)

Yes, sin will spread its insidious swamp smoke every time. But as we face its far-reaching pollution, we are not without hope. The remedy to stop the damage in its tracks has already been provided. Our High Priest Jesus has also taken his stand between the living and the dead. He’s made atonement for our sin. No longer are we helpless under its fierce onslaught of destruction (Romans 7:13-15).

After a few days of smelly air, a cold front went through Maryland. We awoke the next morning to fresh, clean air, all traces of the Dismal Swamp fire swept away by a northwesterly wind. God has offered us the same kind of new beginning. He is waiting for us to invite Him into the mess sin has caused to bring healing and restoration for all involved that place their trust in Him.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32 NASB  

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

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

Join the conversation: Have you seen sin cause destruction in those who never knew about the original event?

This May Be the Strangest Question Jesus Ever Asked

by Kathy Collard Miller  @KathyCMiller

“Do you want to be healed?” John 5:6 ESV

Jesus may be asking the most intriguing question ever as he talks to a man waiting to be healed. Our initial reaction is, “Of course he does. Jesus, what are you thinking? Who wouldn’t?”

But the man responds, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going, another steps down before me” (John 5:7 ESV).

The crippled man doesn’t say, “Of course. Can you help?” He gives an explanation. Or is it an excuse?

After thirty-eight years of a debilitating disease, is he comfortable in his situation? What would it mean to be healthy again? Maybe he fears handling the responsibilities of normal life.

I wonder how often Jesus asks us a similar kind of question.

  • By allowing frustrating circumstances, he might be asking: “Do you want to give up your disability of discontent?”
  • When someone hurts us, is he asking, “Do you want to be emotionally healed by relinquishing your bitterness?”
  • If someone takes advantage of us, is he asking, “Will you give up your victim mentality?”

Do we have standard reasons—or are they excuses—for our discontent, anger, and powerlessness? The waters of healing are right before us. Why don’t we jump in?

Jesus is a wise counselor. He knows how to prod the handicapped man’s heart and our own. Our hearts are an open book to him and a mystery novel to us. But he desires to reveal the pages which are stuck together with the glue of sin or fear.

Jesus is prying two pages apart as he gives the man an assignment he can refuse. “Jesus says to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk.’ And at once the man is healed, and he takes up his bed and walk[s]” (5:8-9 ESV).

We are cheering as he is healed and obeys with no explanations or excuses. Interestingly, Jesus tells him to “take up your bed.” The man couldn’t leave it there as his safety blanket in case he felt bad again.

Many years ago, I didn’t know releasing my unrealistic expectations of my husband, Larry, would be Jesus’s way of asking me to burn my “bed” of bitterness. In our early marriage, Larry worked two jobs and had a flying hobby. He was rarely home and gave little help with our two children, a new-born and a toddler. I wrapped myself in my mat of resentment as a way to protect myself from the pain of his rejection.

My husband says now, “I wrapped myself in my mat of controlling pride thinking Kathy had the problem, not me. In my view Kathy never appreciated my efforts, so I gave up even trying.”

We both at different times and in different ways heard Jesus ask, “Do you want to be healed?” The process of restoration began when we each stopped giving explanations and instead acknowledged our own self-centered spiritual sickness.

We will soon celebrate our 50th anniversary and are more in love with each other and Jesus than ever before.

Although we each will sometimes try to pick up another mat, God persists saying, “Do you want to stay well?”

Adapted from God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature, copyright 2020, Kathy Collard Miller

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This May Be the Strangest Question Jesus Ever Asked – insight from @KathyCMiller on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Kathy Collard Miller loves to study God’s attributes. As a result, her latest two books are devotional books about God’s nature: God’s Intriguing Questions: 40 Old Testament Devotions Revealing God’s Nature and God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature.

These are co-authored with her husband, Larry, and make a wonderful couples’ devotional study. Kathy is also the author of 55 other books and has spoken in 9 foreign countries and over 35 US states. Check out her website: www.KathyCollardMiller.com and YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2SwiL03

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KathyCollardMillerAuthor

Join the conversation: Can you identify a time you were clueless to your motives and God prodded your heart to show you?

More Than Conquerors

by Sheri Schofield

“Hey, Jim, want to go on a rattlesnake hunt?”

“I’d love to!”

So our friend, Jim, and his buddy went out and had a blast hunting rattlesnakes and shooting their heads off. Afterward, Jim put his catch of headless rattlers into a plastic shopping bag, tossed it under the front seat of his truck and headed for home. (For some reason, guys like to take all their trophies home to show their wives. Eeeew!) The problem was that he forgot that rattlesnakes have reflexes. The headless snakes began crawling and rattling around in that bag under his seat!

Now, Jim knew the snakes could not harm him: they had no heads – no fangs with which to bite him. But it still unnerved him!

In the Garden of Eden, after the serpent – the S-N-A-K-E – talked Adam and Eve into disobeying God, bringing mankind under slavery to Satan and sin, God cursed it. In his first prophetic clue about how he would save mankind, God said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15 NIV).

Satan did not know what that meant. When God sent Jesus into the world to save mankind, Satan tried many times to get Jesus killed. He finally succeeded at Calvary. He gloated! He cheered! The forces of hell rose up in a roar of applause! What Satan did not understand was that he had merely struck the heel of Messiah. . . and signed his own death warrant.

When Jesus died on that cross and rose from the dead three days later, he crushed Satan’s power over mankind. The snake was now powerless – its head was crushed – its fangs were powerless against all who believe in Jesus and have committed their lives to him. Satan no longer has the power to drag us down into hell for eternity. We are free because of Calvary!

But Satan, like the snake he is, still crawls around making noise, scaring people, and creating havoc on earth. His reflexes are not dead yet. Only his fatal bite is gone. He can still wriggle into the hearts of mankind and drag them down. He can still wrap his coils around their emotions and squeeze. He gets people to live according to their fallen natures, the flesh.

Paul wrote about this in Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV): “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

When we choose to follow Jesus, he helps us to overcome these things. He frees us from the coils of the headless snake, Satan. He gives us the Holy Spirit to wash our hearts clean from Satan’s poison.

Paul goes on in verses 22 and 23 (NIV): “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

This is the kind of life Jesus wants for us – a life free from the power of Satan’s still active reflexes. The devil is a headless foe – but watch out for that tail! We can live free of Satan’s power. Just don’t hold onto that snake! Hold onto Jesus instead.

…in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.    Romans 8:37-39 NIV

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More Than Conquerors – encouragement from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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About the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.

Join the Conversation: Is there a sin you have become comfortable with?

 

Wanted: Antidote

by Sheri Schofield

My Gramma Jewell and Papa Carl loved gardening. They lived on the side of a steep hill that they terraced and filled with flowers. One day when they were weeding the garden, Gramma saw a baby rattlesnake coiled up, rattling its tiny tail.

“Carl,” Gramma called. “Come see this!”

When Papa arrived, Gramma was laughing. She pointed to the tiny little snake and said, “Isn’t that cute?”

Papa, a man of few words, calmly killed that baby rattlesnake, raised his eyebrow at Gramma, and went back to where he had been working. Cute? Was she kidding? It was a rattlesnake, for crying out loud! Its bite would be serious! There’s no such thing as a “cute” rattlesnake!

We all have another kind of snake in our lives, no matter where we live. It’s called sin. Our children unfortunately inherit sin natures like ours. But they may sometimes do naughty things in such a way that we want to laugh because it seems so cute! In our own lives, too, sometimes a sin may seem too innocent and sweet to squelch. But like that baby rattlesnake’s bite, its venom in our heart is deadly . . . even the seemingly small sins.

King David wrote, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you . . . How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:9-10, 103-10 ESV).

People who do not want to follow God, or those who claim to be Christians but who do not want to abide under godly discipline, usually hate the laws given in the Bible. But those who walk in a love relationship with Jesus discover that those laws are precious. They are sweet in our lives, for they show us the path of life and grant us freedom from the ravages of sin.

Some Christians seem to love the ways of sin. When confronted, they say, “But other Christians are doing the same thing! It’s okay!

No. It is not okay. It is like allowing rattlesnakes to live in their gardens. Sin bites them often. It’s makes their lives miserable. They have not yet found the freedom of obedience to God. Sin has become a habit.

Sometimes I find myself thinking, “Oh, this thing in my heart is just a little sin! I can ignore it.” Thankfully, my Lord keeps bringing it up until I deal with whatever it is. As I read the Bible, the Holy Spirit shows me a better way – the path of obedience. It applies God’s cleansing antidote to sin’s bite and I am healed. I find that the Word lifts me up and rescues me from that which holds me back. The Word is sweet to me! It brings me victory. Through the Word I find supernatural strength to overcome the power of temptation and sin. It helps me keep the snakes out of my life’s garden!

Today, let’s lift our faces and hearts to the sweet, healing rain of God’s Word and let it wash us clean! How refreshing it is!

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. Isaiah 44:3 ESV

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Wanted: Antidote – insight from author Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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About the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.

Join the Conversation: Is there a sin you have become comfortable with?

Don’t Stick Your Finger in the Fan

by Crystal Bowman

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”                                                             Genesis 2: 15-17 NIV

I enjoyed the convenience and comfort of living next door to my grandmother when I was growing up. If Mom wasn’t home, Grandma was. If Mom didn’t have something, Grandma did. My siblings and I had the privilege of going in and out of her home as though it was our own, and we always helped ourselves to the pink and white peppermints she kept in the milk glass candy dish on her bedroom dresser. 

Every Sunday, Grandma attended church with us and came to our house for dinner. She often contributed something fresh, homemade, and delicious to our meal. One warm summer Sunday, as we sat down to eat, my mother noticed that we were almost out of butter. When Grandma offered to donate a stick from her refrigerator, I volunteered to get it. As I went out the door to walk across the driveway to Grandma’s house, she hollered, “Don’t stick your finger in the fan.”

Since those were the days before air-conditioned homes, Grandma had a portable fan on her kitchen table. As I passed by the table on my way to the refrigerator, I took one look at the fan and promptly stuck my finger into the large spinning blades. Fortunately, the blades were rather dull and rotating at a slow speed. I only sustained a minor cut, but the oozing blood required a bandage which I found in Grandma’s medicine cabinet. After bandaging my finger, I finally opened the refrigerator and took out a stick of butter—which was, after all, the purpose for my trip.

As I walked into our house and placed the butter in the empty butter dish, everyone noticed my bandaged finger. Through tears, I confessed my act of disobedience to a stunned audience.

So why did I stick my finger in the fan? Because Grandma told me not to. If she had said, “Be sure to stick you finger in the fan,” I never would have done it! There is something about our human nature that makes us desire what we can’t have or do what we are told not to do.

In the book of Genesis, God tells Adam and Eve that they may eat from all the lush trees in the Garden of Edan, except for one. Seems pretty generous to me. But what do Adam Eve do? They taste the forbidden fruit and change the world forever.

The laws and commands we find in Scripture are not suggestions. They are designed by God to protect us from harm. Obedience to God’s Word results in blessings, whereas disobedience can result in emotional or physical pain. The more we read and study God’s word, the more we will understand that his commands are founded in love and that he desires what is good for us. 

It’s a daily challenge to live according to God’s Word. But with fervent prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can walk in obedience and enjoy the blessings God wants to give us. God can give us the strength we need to resist temptations, avoid forbidden fruit, and keep our fingers where they belong.

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About the author: Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books including, Our Daily Bread for Kids.She and her husband have three married children and seven huggable grandchildren.

Ten percent of women struggle with infertility. Mothers In Waiting—Healing and Hope for Those with Empty Arms contains 30 hope-filled stories from contributors like Valorie Burton, Katie Norris, and Shay Shull, whose journeys through infertility and miscarriage to adoption and miracle births will buoy your faith. You don’t have to suffer alone.

Join the conversation: Does hearing something is off-limits tend to make you want it more?

Doggin’ Sin

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

…Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.                                                                                                                                                        Genesis 4:7 NASB

One day, the Boys treed a squirrel. I came outside to find two of the smaller limbs of our large cottonwood tree hanging against the trunk, the obvious result of the bigger boy trying to get to the furry rodent. (By the way, “the Boys” is our collective name for Boone and Remi. Boone – Boy #1 – is an 80-pound yellow lab, and Remi – Boy #2—is an energetic, 11 pound rescue pup. The two are great friends.)

While I stood there trying to decide what to do, the squirrel leaped to the ground and took off across the back yard with Boone in hot pursuit. The squirrel jumped into the globe willow near the back fence and hustled to the upper branches.

When Boone reared up on the small tree he reached halfway to where the squirrel sat. The squirrel barked; Boone barked and howled; Remi yipped and circled; and several neighborhood dogs even joined the chorus.

Something had to be done before my willow tree became a casualty of war. I put Remi in the house. Then I dragged Boone by the collar to the patio and held him there to give the enemy a chance to escape.

After several minutes, the squirrel inched down the trunk of the willow and jumped to the ground. Unfortunately, at that moment I lost my grip on Boone and off he went to catch his prey. The squirrel climbed the 6-foot wooden fence and scurried along the top. But instead of leaping over it to safety, it hopped into one of two small Bradford Pear trees in the corner flower bed.

Focused on his mission, Boone thundered into the flower bed plowing over small shrubs as he went. The squirrel taunted him, hopping from one pear tree to the other and back again, Boon doggin’ his every step. The trees whipped from one side to the other as the chase continued, while I desperately tried to catch and hold the dog.

The wicked squirrel could have easily escaped, but instead, it hit the ground and took off back toward the house with Boone in hot pursuit. When the squirrel reached the cottonwood tree, back up it went, and we were right back to where we started.

Thankfully, my then-teen son arrived home about that time. Mark put Boone in the house and got rid of the trespasser. With the evil rodent gone, the Boys could go back outside without being tormented. However, for the rest of the evening, Boone sat under the cottonwood, looking up into its branches. Just in case.

I wish I was as determined about keeping sin out of my life as Boone is about keeping squirrels out of the yard. Sin is serious, and can often lead to destruction. Getting rid of sin can require extreme measures. Jesus said “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Matthew 5:30 NIV). Jesus used hyperbole to emphasize the danger of allowing sin in our lives. We must cut it out of our lives. And we must guard ourselves from new temptations.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:4 NIV). On the night He was betrayed, Jesus told the disciples to diligently protect themselves from temptation. Sin will torment us if we don’t constantly and carefully guard our hearts and minds.

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Insight on “Doggin’ Sin” from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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

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

Join the conversation: What sin do you need to “dog” today? What temptation requires a little extra guard duty?

Do God’s Restrictions Seem Unreasonable?

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

“Stop, stop!” I ran to stop the man clearing our land. I’d asked him to remove a section of trees so we could plant some evergreens behind our new house. He and his yellow bulldozer had gotten carried away. Or so I thought.

Now, years later, I regret stopping him.

At the time, I wanted to keep as many trees as we could. Now the gumballs that litter our yard and sprout up new trees remind me of my misplaced affection. While I’d focused on the immediate appeal of the trees, this pro had seen the trouble those trees would cause.

My gumball trees have helped me with some Old Testament laws and stories that sound over the top. One man remarked in a discussion about one such law, “Stoning for adultery? That seems rather severe.”

According to our culture, yes, that sounds unreasonable. But God gave that law to prevent the lifetime of suffering and loss some spouses, children, and even societies have suffered because of this kind of betrayal. Romans 6:23 and James 1:15-16 reveal the deadly nature of all sin. Old Testament laws and stories illustrate spiritual realities. God made the penalty for sin visible so we could visualize the damage wrong actions wreck on our souls and on the lives touched by our wrongs.

We live in a culture that normalizes sin. Illicit sex, recreational drugs, and other deviant behaviors are portrayed as personal expressions and even a means for finding personal meaning and fulfillment in life. The Bible acknowledges the passing pleasure of sin but warns that it ends in death—of character, relationships, spiritual life, and sometimes even physical life.

Is God Unreasonable…or Protective?

If you knew something would destroy your loved ones, wouldn’t your love motivate you to protect them? Is it loving or harsh to forbid your twelve-year-old from borrowing your car? Is it mean to take away the food that sends your child to the ER?

Just as I couldn’t imagine those shade trees causing so much aggravation, I can’t begin to comprehend the ripple effect of sin. But I can trust God’s wisdom and Word about those things. He is eternal. He makes no mistakes because He’s seen the end from the beginning. When He warns against certain behaviors and associations, I can trust that He does so to protect my life and well-being.

“Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Philippians 2:15 NLT).

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Do God’s Restrictions Seem Unreasonable? insight from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, is to be released February 2020. She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Have you witnessed your sin or the sin of others causing destruction?

God of Second Chances

by Julie Coleman @JulieZColeman

“…Where sin increased, grace increased all the more… Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 5:20, 8:1, NIV

He was a golden boy, loved in part for his sincere heart for Jesus. After seminary, he took a position as pastor of a small church. It was a good life. But then one day, he fell. During a counseling session with a church member, in the heat of the moment, he committed adultery. He was immediately ashamed. After confessing, he was asked to step down from his position, to take time to heal and devote attention to his devastated family.

We wondered: how do you come back from that? Were his days of ministry over? Had his failure disqualified him for good?

Of all the accounts of failure in the Bible, the night of Peter’s denial rates right up there at the top. Three times he denied knowing Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest. It was too dangerous to be linked to the man being tried for blasphemy. Peter simply lacked the courage to let his relationship be known.

We can relate to Peter’s shortcoming, can’t we?  Who of us hasn’t had a big fail in one time or another? A moment in which we did the wrong thing and continue to regret, even years later?

Up until his big fail, Peter was slated to be a leader in the Kingdom of God. Jesus had affirmed this on several occasions. But now? I’m sure Peter had his doubts. In fact, the next time we see Peter, he has gone back to fishing in the Sea of Galilee. Did he think that in his failure, he had forfeited any chance of the leadership for which Jesus had groomed him?

We can’t be sure, but the indications are there that he did. As the fishermen rowed toward the shore, they realized Jesus was there. John tells us Peter jumped into the water. But rather than eagerly swim to shore, I believe Peter jumped into the water on the other side of the boat.[1] And busied himself with the net and fish.

He was avoiding the moment he would have to look Jesus in the eye.

Jesus told them to bring some of the catch to the fire. John tells us Peter came up out of the water with the fish. Until that moment, he’d avoided stepping up onto the beach. He was dreading his moment of truth.

After breakfast, Jesus took Peter aside. And he asked him: “Do you love me?”

Three times he asked Peter that question. Three chances to set the record straight. But what about Peter’s denial? If I were Jesus, I would have sat him down for a little talk. What did he learn from his mistake? What would he do next time?

But Jesus didn’t do that. He just reconfirmed Peter’s Kingdom assignment: Feed my lambs.

Many commentators are hard on Peter. They feel his story is told as a stern warning. After all, Jesus had said early on that if someone denied Him, He would deny them.

Is that why his story is featured in all four gospels? I don’t think so. I think that hearing of  Peter’s failure would have been a huge encouragement to first century readers. They were facing terrible persecution. If God could forgive Peter and use him in leadership, then there was hope for them. Hope even if they caved and denied Jesus under the threat of the sword. God’s forgiveness was not based on how well they stood the test. It was based on grace alone.

God is a God of second chances. No matter what we have done, even if we do it over and over again, His grace is greater. There is nothing we can do to make us love Him more. And there is nothing we can do to make Him love us less. We can’t disqualify ourselves. We never did anything to earn God’s favor in the first place. He loved us when we were in total rebellion. He died for us while we were His enemies.

My pastor friend? He now works in a prison ministry, encouraging the inmates with the story of his failure and God’s redemption.

Do you need a second chance? Are there things in your past that seem unforgivable? God’s abundant grace covers that sin. Jesus nailed it to the cross. Put the guilt into God’s capable hands and let it go. We cannot out-sin His grace.

[1] The NIV says the boat “followed” Peter into shore. But the Greek verb is literally “came,” not followed.

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God of Second Chances – 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 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 story of redemption has God given you to share?