Halloween Candy—On Sale This Week!

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

Halloween candy goes on sale this week. But before you snatch up your favorites, beware of the monster you may unleash.

We’ve given Eve a hard time for eating the forbidden fruit, but if it smelled like chocolate, I understand.

Somebody knew women who like china also love chocolate and placed my favorite bar among the housewares where I was shopping. I picked up the 14.1-ounce Swiss Toblerone bar and remembered its smooth taste. “Shall I buy it for you?” my friend asked.

“Absolutely not!” I dropped it and walked away, but temptation had taken root. I ambled back to look at the fat grams, 12 grams per serving. Ridiculous. Who eats only one serving? Again, I walked away.

I discovered this particular chocolate on a mission trip in Europe. The music of the Alps played through my mind. In those days, you couldn’t find Toblerone bars in America. I could save it for when I really wanted chocolate.

The check-out clerk said he had never seen such a big chocolate bar. Good, it must be fresh.

Now that chocolate bar torments me day and night. One serving is just a tease for me.

I know how chocolate works. Like a sponge that begins the size of a flat dollar bill and puffs up in water to the size of a walrus, every gram of Chocolate fat expands into ten pounds of human fat. If someone can figure out how to pack a thousand photographs into a thumb drive, you’d think they could keep cocoa fat from expanding your hips.

Wrestling with chocolate reminded me of how powerful and deceitful temptation can be. Once you open the door to a temptation, it’s hard to resist doing more of the same.

How do we protect ourselves from destructive attractions? Consider the following.

Temptations are common to everyone. Whether we’re enticed by unwise relationships, rich foods, or over-spending, this world offers many deadly hooks (1 Corinthians 10:13). Even Jesus was tempted, but He never succumbed. Now He stands ready to help us resist.

Temptations lie to us. The Bible calls them “deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22 NIV). They make promises they can’t keep. The guy at work promises excitement and love but delivers heartache. Rich foods make our taste buds dance, but too many of them compromise our health.

Temptations promise you’ll get away with it. One time won’t hurt. You’re smart enough to know when to quit. But the Bible warns sin is destructive and addictive (James 1:15, John 8:34).

God wants us to enjoy His good gifts. But indulging every whim makes us slaves to our passions and deadens our spiritual senses (Romans 6:16). Saying no to ourselves may be the most liberating thing we do.

When we wrestle with an attraction to what we know will harm us, we need to consider the implied promise behind the pull to go against our better judgment. What is the more likely outcome?

The good news: we will not struggle with temptation in eternity. Neil Anderson once said that heaven will be a place with no bad options. But until we get there, we have a High Priest who is able to rescue us from temptation and restore us when we fall.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV

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Halloween Candy—On Sale This Week! Thoughts on wrestle with temptation 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: What kind of temptations are hardest for you to resist?

My Comforter Saw it Coming

by Meredith Kendall

I knew God was up to something when my husband and I both felt it was time to sell our home in order to be ready for our next assignment. But God’s literal handwriting on a wall on March 10, 2018 while driving. I had to hit my brakes so that I would not rear end an 18-wheeler who just happened to be going slow as I turned the corner. “Ready 2 Move” was the slogan on its back doors. One of the three cities printed underneath the slogan was Cape Coral, Florida.

It was more than mere coincidence. We had been earnestly praying for God to give us an answer as to whether we were to move over 12 hours away from our children and grandchildren to Cape Coral to plant a church.

Since moving, things haven’t gone as I planned, so to say I have been at odds with God is an understatement. During one of my episodes, I told Him that if I was going be depressed and lonely, the least He could’ve done was leave me where I had grandchildren and thirty-four years of roots.

Then at the beginning of May, our thirty-six-year-old son-in-law was diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He went to the doctor thinking he had pneumonia and walked out after hearing “we need to find out what this iPhone sized mass behind your heart and lungs is.”  And his wife, our daughter, is finally pregnant with number three after almost four-years of month after month disappointment.

I started in again with God. “Why am I here? Why did you send me 823 miles away? Why would you keep me away from them? Why?”

When I started to yell, God didn’t apologetically say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t see this coming.” No. He ushered me into His lap, put His loving arms around me and said, “My child, you will see, I promise. I have a plan for this as well.”

I found myself often repeating Romans 8:28, a verse for which I actually have a love-hate relationship. It says that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” And just like God, He didn’t leave me there. He also gave me 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4, a promise that the comfort we receive from Him in our suffering will be something we can someday offer to other fellow-sufferers.

I know that I will come away from this hardship better for it. I will be equipped to offer new wisdom and truth that comes from experiencing adversity. I will know Jesus better than ever before, because my suffering will give me insight into His heart. I will learn to trust God on a deeper level by the necessity of placing my broken heart into His hands.

I choose to trust God through this present affliction. He will be my Comforter and my teacher. He will carry me through the pain. And in the end, it will be worth it all.

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Philippians 3:8-10 NASB

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My Comforter Saw it Coming – insight on following God from Meredith Sage Kendall on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

meredith kendallAbout the author: Meredith Sage Kendall, is a change agent, driven by her God-given passion to equip struggling families to achieve their unique God-given potential. As a nationally recognized sales leader, Meredith learned how to build bridges and make connections with the heart of what people need. God called her to co-found Advancing the Gospel which serves those who are often forgotten. Today she uses her giftings to help people understand the root causes of their struggles and find freedom through Christ. Visit her online atwww.meredithsagekendall.com.

The Number One Rule of Engagement

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

The day my littlest grandson was born was excruciating. It had been a difficult pregnancy for my daughter-in-law. Joseph had arrived ten weeks early, but barely alive. He was resuscitated three times in the first few minutes of his life outside the womb. He had a myriad of severe complications, including underdeveloped lungs, RH factor problems, extreme fluid issues, and most likely Down Syndrome. I could scarcely take it all in. My first reaction was shock, but it wasn’t long before my emotions morphed into full-fledged outrage.

God, how could you allow this to happen to our grandson and his precious family?

Attempting to muster up strength to even get out of bed the next morning, I found I could barely pray. And I wondered: Was it sin that I would question God at all?

If it is, I can at least know that I had good company. Plenty of people doubt God in light of their confusing circumstances. The prophet Habakkuk, for example, was full of questions about the violence and evil flourishing around him. “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and you will not hear? I cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ Yet you do not save…the law is ignored and justice is never upheld,” Habakkuk complained. (1:2, 4 NASB)

God quickly assured Habakkuk that He was indeed working to rectify the situation. “I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth…All of them come for violence…They will sweep through like the wind and pass on” (1:6, 9 NASB).

Hang on, Habakkuk, justice is coming.

But Habakkuk found this to be even more disturbing than God’s previous silence. He was sending the Babylonians, an empire far more wicked than Israel, as His tool of judgment? THAT was justice?

“Why are you silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?” he pressed (1:13 NASB). God was making no sense at all.

But God did not get angry at Habakkuk’s questions. I believe the reason is that in his struggle, he never forgot what God had already revealed Himself to be. “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and you can not look on wickedness with favor” (1:13 NASB).

Habakkuk asked his questions from a place of faith.

We’ve all had circumstances in our lives that are impossible to understand in light of the merciful, holy, good God we love. The honest dialog recorded by Habakkuk through his struggle is a wonderful prototype for anyone with questions for God.

The principle the book of Habakkuk demonstrates is simple: when finding a need to question God, don’t give up too soon. Stay in the conversation.

Warning: God may not ever directly answer your questions. More likely, He will use the exchange to teach you more about Him rather than explain our circumstances. That’s why hanging in there with God, interacting with Him through the doubt and fear, is so worth it. In the end, we walk away with a more mature faith and a deeper relationship with Him.

Warren Wiersbe assures us: “To avoid tough questions, or to settle for half-truths and superficial pat answers is to remain immature, but to face questions honestly and talk them through with the Lord is to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ.”

At the end of his interactions with God, Habakkuk declared a renewed understanding of the God he loved. And so will we.

Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.                                                                                                                                Habakkuk 3:19 NASB

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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 theKingdom? 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 has God taught you about Himself during a struggle?

Strength in Rest

by Jeanne Gowen Dennis @HeritageTruthTV

 It seems for most of my adult life I’ve been trying to become the Proverbs 31 woman. Through her industriousness and creativity she took amazing care of her family, succeeded in business, and even helped the poor. Just think about the organization skills she needed to get everything done! What self-discipline she exercised every day! What confidence she must have had! All qualities I struggle to own.

As a creative person, I’ve had to face the fact that my natural tendencies fall on the opposite side of the spectrum from hers. It takes all the strength I can muster to stick to a daily schedule, keep everything in order, and disengage from creative activities early enough to get to bed on time.

Am I alone in this? Please tell me I’m not the only one!

When I become discouraged, I often quote Paul’s words to myself: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). But I have to remind myself that God will give me the promised strength providing I stay in His will.

How can I know God’s will? I’m not talking about the big question, “What is God’s will for my life?” I know the answer to that one. Jesus said God wants me to love Him with my whole heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love my neighbor as myself (Luke 10:27). That’s His will for all of us.

But how can I know God’s particular will for each day, each moment? That requires relationship, and relationship takes time to develop and grow.

I know what you’re thinking. If time management causes me so much grief, how will I find time to develop a deeper relationship with God? With the self-discipline I don’t have? No, I’ll do it with the strength He gives me.

I may seem to be talking in circles here, but that’s exactly how it works. When I spend time reading the Bible and praying, when I turn my thoughts toward God, I receive His power, His wisdom, and the desire to do His will (Philippians 2:13). It’s not a matter of doing more but of resting more in Him.

Resting in Him brings amazing results. For one thing, I find I can get more of the most important things done. When I start the day with God, my priorities shift. His desires become my desires.

I also experience less stress. He gives me the wisdom to see tasks, difficult circumstances, and other people’s requests through His eyes.

Most of all, He fills me with joy that carries me through tough circumstances, disappointments, and even tragedies.

Sure I still get upset, angry, or frustrated when things go wrong. I still cry and grieve when someone gets hurt or dies. I still wonder what He’s doing when I’m laid low with physical pain or illness when so many tasks remain undone. But deep inside, He holds me together because of the intimate love we share, and I have the inexplicable peace that comes from knowing I belong to Him.

So if you struggle as I do, take heart. It doesn’t take much self-discipline to read a few verses of Scripture and visit with God about your day. When you do, He’ll fill you with the desire for more of His Word and more time with Him. You’ll find your priorities shifting. And without even trying, you’ll become a little bit more like that Proverbs 31 woman. In Jesus’ strength, found by resting in Him, there’s hope for us all.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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 NASB

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Strength in Rest – insight on #FollowingGod from Jeanne Dennis, @HeritageTruthTV on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jeanne DennisAbout the author: An award-winning author of a dozen books, Jeanne Dennis hosts Heritage of Truth TV and is a commissioned Colson Fellow and Centurion. Through her writing and online ministry, she encourages Christian families to live biblically in our confused culture. She and her husband of over 40 years serve actively in their local church and enjoy spending time with their family, including three amazing grandchildren.

Have you ever wanted to witness the Red Sea opening or the walls of Jericho falling? Jeanne’s book, Bible KidVentures Stories of Danger and Courage takes you into the middle of the action of your favorite Bible stories. The lives of Moses, Rahab, Jehoshaphat, and early church leaders take on compelling excitement through up-close-and-personal accounts. In each of the four choose-your-own-ending stories, you decide how the story ends!

Join the conversation: What have you experienced when you have rested in God?

 

A Sunrise of Strength

by Katy Kauffman @KatyKauffman28

One morning I couldn’t shake the gloomies. Although I was half-awake, I started focusing on the wrong thing, and I needed God’s help to refocus my attention and strengthen my heart. Even though I wanted more sleep, I opened my Bible, and my eyes fell on the verse I needed.

Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! Isaiah 52:1 NKJV

The “awake, awake!” part got my attention. But more importantly, this verse called on God’s people to put on strength. This passage in Isaiah talks about God restoring His people after they had been in captivity. My own heart had been held in captivity to impatience and restlessness a few years before, and I was still feeling the effects of its bondage even in my freedom.

Is your heart help captive by something? Or are you still feeling the effects of a struggle that exhausted your strength and determination to win? Even when we’re involved in ministry, our hearts can become captive to sorrow, fear, worry, anger, or sin. We can become lulled into despair or apathy. We may think, Things will always be this way, or I just don’t care anymore.

God calls us to “awake!” and depart from our captivity. To depart from the after effects of our struggles and heartaches. He wants us to leave behind the burdens of guilt and despair (Hebrews 10:22), and to embrace His ways instead, His ways that are good for us and build us up in godliness (Colossians 3:12-14, 3:8-10). He wants us to put on strength and to share life’s journey with Him in the fullness of His joy and power (Nehemiah 8:8-10, 1 John 1:7). When we draw close to God, remember who He is and all He has given us, and step forward into the light of His goodness, the darkness of weakness and helplessness shatters into a sunrise of strength.

After realizing that I had the choice of moving past sadness and adjusting my focus to be on God, my strength returned, and I was able to tackle the day. If a struggle has lulled you into a not-wanting-to-deal-with-it stupor, awake into God’s bright sunshine of joy and strength. He has not left you to handle life on your own. He is always with you. Find strength in His presence with you and in the hope and guidance that’s found in His Word. Put on your strength!

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 NKJV

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headshot_katykauffmanAbout the author: Katy Kauffman is a Bible study author and teacher, 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, a 2018 Selah Awards finalist. Katy makes her home in a cozy suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

Her latest book, Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character, is a 2019 Selah finalist. How does God make our character more like Christ’s? What is His part, and what is ours? This Bible study compilation is a construction guide to building godly character and overcoming the hidden problems that sabotage it. It explores how God works in our lives and gives us wisdom to handle such real-life issues as unwanted change, grief, loneliness, financial debt, and difficult people.

Join the conversation: What still holds you captive, sapping your strength?

Worth It

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

I never look forward to walking the dog. Each morning, as my alarm goes off, Sasha paws eagerly at the side of my bed, anxious for our daily constitutional to begin. I longingly glance at the coffee maker on the way out and give a regretful sigh as we emerge through the front door into the great outdoors.

Weather conditions can be uncomfortable– the winter air is bitingly cold and the summer air too warm and humid. But that’s not the worst of my discomfort. My neurotic dog excitedly barks at the sight of any other dog along the way and practically pulls me off my feet in her frenzy. It’s downright embarrassing. (A neighbor once condescendingly informed me I should get her formal training. I quickly assured her that we had: this is Sasha, trained, I laughingly tried to explain. She was not amused.)

One thing on our walks remains a constant: I am always delighted to round the last bend and spot my house, knowing the effort is at an end.

Yet, despite the negatives, I know the walks are so good for me. My doctor called to report my cholesterol is down, along with my blood pressure. She specifically requested I pat the dog on the head for her.

It is psychologically good for me as well. Spending a half-hour in the sunshine boosts my morale. I have gotten to know many neighbors while walking in the community that I would never have otherwise met. The splendor of nature and the gradual change of seasons always lifts my spirits and each day the beautiful surroundings in which we live uplifts me.

But even knowing all this, getting up and out the door never gets easier. On any given morning, I would much rather roll over and go back to sleep. Sad to say, I have not once hopped out of bed in eager anticipation. Yet once it is accomplished, I am never sorry I did it.

My dread of exercise is similar to my dread of painful situations. No one looks forward to those. But it is in those times that God does His best transforming work. The metaphors that we use to describe God’s process for change are largely painful in character: like the hot flames of a refiner’s fire or chipping off the rough edges of rock to reveal the beauty of a diamond within. Transformation seems to almost always bring pain to the one being transformed.

But always the outcome is worth the struggle.

Hard circumstances are frequently not all bad, but mostly just hard. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Light and momentary troubles? Several times Paul was beaten to within an inch of his life and left for dead! He had been imprisoned, thrown out of synagogues, faced angry mobs, and rejected by his own kinsmen. Not so light, right?

My guess is that he classified his suffering as light and momentary only in comparison to the resulting glory they would accomplish. The glory being produced in him was eternal. And worth the momentary pain.

We can count on facing tough circumstances many times in our lives. But one thing is certain: the destination will be worth the journey, even when forced to travel a rocky, pothole-filled road. We might not ever voluntarily choose that path, but even as we place one foot in front of the other, we can know we will not be sorry when the trip has reached its conclusion. The outcome is worth the struggle.

Our God is faithful and will not waste one minute of our pain. He will reap the benefits from it for us and use every moment to make us better reflectors of His glory. He is transforming us into the image of Jesus Christ. Just like the faithful God that He is.

“For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifest in our mortal flesh… Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”                                                                                                                                   2 Corinthians 4:11, 16

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“Always the outcome is worth the struggle” wisdom from author @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. 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 used pain to transform you?

Persistence vs. Perfection

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

On the way to our Weight Watchers meeting, my daughter and I lamented over all of the slip-ups (O.K., deliberate cheats) we had committed over the past month since last weighing in. But rather than shame us, stepping on the scale brought instant relief; we were shocked to find we had not gained a thing. I even lost a pound and a half!

One thing our lecturer always stressed was that persistence is more important than perfection. I need to hear that over and over again, for I am a legalistic dieter. Once I cheat, I usually count the rest of that day and even sometimes the entire week as a total loss. And spend those lost days eating whatever I want–not especially conducive to weight loss! Instead, I need to put the slip-up behind me immediately and get back on the plan. Persistence wins the battle. Even in the light of a profound lack of perfection.

I wonder if the writer of Hebrews had this principle in mind when he penned, “Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1 NASB)

I am no expert in running. But I do walk. And I can tell you with great authority that if you don’t keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will never get to where you are trying to go.

Does God expect perfection as we move forward?

Well, God called David a man whose “heart was fully devoted to God” (1 Kings 11: 4 NASB). Yet we know that David was far from perfect. He planned a murder and had an adulterous affair. So why would God describe him as fully dedicated? I believe it is because the general direction of David’s life was toward intimacy with the God He loved.

The Connecticut River flows from north to south through the heart of New England. If you were to get into a canoe somewhere between Vermont and New Hampshire, and let the current take you, eventually you would end up in Long Island Sound. Now if you were tracking your progress with a compass, this might not always seem to be the case. At times, as the river curved, you might be moving eastward, westward, or even northward! But the general, persistent flow of the river would eventually carry you into the Sound.

That is a great picture of persistence. Moving in a general direction, despite the twists and turns your life might take.

Jesus compared following Him to traveling the Narrow Road. Perseverance is crucial to the traveler walking in faith. As we walk the Narrow Road, there are potholes and uneven spots along the way. We may even stumble and fall from time to time. Yet our forward progress continues as long as we get back up, brush ourselves off, and begin moving again. And eventually, we will reach where we are aimed.

Don’t get discouraged about your lack of perfection. Just be persistent.

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  James 1:12 NASB

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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 do you keep yourself on track?

Praise: A Stone’s Throw Away

by Janet McHenry @LookingUpFirst

“I tell you,’ he replied, “’if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:40 NIV

As I recently traveled through Israel with my tour group, I kept marveling at the off-white limestone rock. More than anything else there, it seemed to connect me with my Savior Jesus, who had lived within rock walls and trod on rock walkways. Every spot we visited seemed to whisper, He was here.

One day I stood at the rocky edge of the Mount of Precipice and gazed down into the Jezreel Valley near his hometown of Nazareth. That spot was where the townspeople chased him to the edge of the mountain, only to have him disappear somehow in the crowd.

Later that day we collected rocks on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where he had called his disciples, preached to the multitudes, and walked on the water. Perhaps he had stood on those very stones.

A couple days later when we strolled through the stone-paved streets of Old Jerusalem, I knew that certainly somewhere I had walked where Jesus had walked.

That was not far from where his crowd of disciples had loudly praised him as he entered Jerusalem for the last time: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38 NIV). The Pharisees told him to rebuke his disciples, to which he responded, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40 NIV). That verse kept ringing through my ears as I took in the landscape of natural rock of the hillsides and stonework of the buildings and walls.

How many times, I wondered, had I kept quiet when I could have given him praise? When I got my teaching job, did I praise God or pat myself on the back? When I’ve heard his name cursed in public, did I speak up? When I needed surgery, did I thank him?

It may seem challenging to incorporate praise into our daily routines, but it’s not if we simply focus on one of God’s characteristics each day of the month. Some of those characteristics are loving, creative, sovereign, patient, and faithful.

For example, we can pray, Father God, your love is everlasting. I see it in the beautiful landscape of mountains and forests that circle this beautiful valley where I live. I see your love in the face of my daughter and her new baby girl. I feel your love when I realize that your provision for me is abundant: I have a cozy home and more than enough clothes to wear and food to eat. You take care of me day after day, and your love inspires me to love others well. Thank you, Lord, for loving me this much!

When our days are going smoothly, it may seem easier to spend time praising the Lord. However, when life is hard—with hurts and disappointments and downright struggles—it is challenging to remember to praise our Creator. However, we can turn negative feelings and emotions into times of praise.

For example, when we are in a time of confusion—with circumstances fighting against the grain of what we might otherwise feel is the right course to take—we can praise God for his sovereignty. That could sound like this: Lord, I praise you for your sovereignty. You have all power, dominion, and authority over all creation, all people, and all circumstances. Though I am in a crazy state of confusion, I know that I can trust you, because you are the calm in the center of that tornado. So, instead of pushing or manipulating, I can wait on you, Lord Most High, and anticipate your just-right results.

Instead of waiting for the stones around us to cry out praise to our God, we can do it ourselves.

TWEETABLE
Praise: A Stone’s Throw Away – Janet McHenry @LookingUpFirst on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Janet McHenryAbout the author: Janet McHenry is a national speaker and the author of 24 books, including the best-selling PrayerWalk and The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus. A former educator, she now writes full time from her home in the Sierra Valley, where she and her rancher husband Craig have raised four children and where she still walks and prays for her town. She may be contacted through her website, www.janetmchenry.com

Am I a Spiritual Hoarder?

by Edie Melson

 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.                                                                                                                      I Corinthians 4:2 NASB

When I think of stewardship, I think about managing something that is owned by someone else. I don’t often think of my own life in that context, and I especially don’t think of my struggles that way.

I think of my struggles as part of the journey. And in a lot of ways that’s what they are.

Truthfully, though, they’re much more than that. The difficulties I face go beyond just being bumps in the road. The things I struggle with are circumstances and experiences that mold me into a clearer representation of Jesus. The situations I’ve been a part of, the things I’ve learned along the way, even the people I’ve come into contact with, make up a very real part of who I am.

And I’ve come to realize that every aspect of this life—along with these struggles—is a gift from God. Each one is something He’s given me to make me into the person He knows I can be. Some of these experiences have been resolved and ended up in places of joy. Others have led me through great sorrow. Each one has added something to who I am.

This process of accepting the necessity of struggle has led me to think deeper about them; to question the purpose of the difficulties I’ve faced.

What if these experiences aren’t just for me?

I’ve learned that they aren’t just for me. God hasn’t given me these experiences to have me squander and hoard them only for my benefit. I believe He expects me to share my experiences with others. He wants to use them to show others His faithfulness, and allow them to learn difficult lessons through my experiences.

Paul talks about this in his second letter to the Corinthians. He’d seen wonderful success in his ministry: many souls won to Christ, numerous local churches planted, and deep friendships formed. He’d also been through some terrible times: imprisonment, beaten and whipped numerous times, stoned, and shipwrecked. After listing the difficulties, he summarized: “If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30 NASB).

What would be the benefit of sharing those struggles with others? Paul wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV). Paul shared God’s faithfulness in each of his experiences to help others in their own relationship with Him.

So instead of hoarding my struggles, I’m going to share them. I’m going to trust that God has a bigger purpose than just me. I’m going to quit hiding away my experiences, letting them gather dust in the dim corners of my memory. From this moment forward, I’m throwing open the doors and inviting those around me see the good, the bad, and yes, even the ugly.

Edie-MelsonAbout the author: Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, whether she’s addressing parents, military families, readers of fiction or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker, she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her latest book, While My Child is Away; Prayers for While Were Apart is available at local retailers and online. Connect with her further at www.EdieMelson.comand on Facebook and Twitter.

Join the conversation: What past experiences have you shared with others? What were you hoping they would learn?

Photo by Tom Rogerson on Unsplash

How to Rest from Worry

by Debbie W. Wilson

I can worry with my eyes closed. In fact, I’ve done some of my best fretting in my sleep. Even when I’m alert, worry drones on beneath the surface looking for an opening to pop through.

My worries appear reasonable. Physical facts support them. But—and this is a big “but”—they leave out the character and nature of God.

When I experienced some health issues that included fatigue and brain fog, assorted fears taunted me. The realization that aging could make me frail and vulnerable frightened me. I realized that when I feel strong I know that with God I can handle life. But when my ump to push though evaporates, my confidence fizzles.

I reexamined my premise: with God can handle anything. I had to ask myself if I believed God could cover everything when I couldn’t help. Was my confidence in Him or in me? Physical, mental, emotional, and financial proficiency brings the illusion of security. Lack of those brings a terrible awareness of vulnerability.

Nature supported my perception. Strong animals dine on the weak and wounded. Ruthless people exploit the poor and aged.

But God gently, but strongly, interrupted my fretting. The Bible Gateway app I’d set on continuous play got stuck on Deuteronomy 33. Even after I manually moved it forward, every time I opened it to continue where I’d left off, it went back to this particular chapter. Since I tend to listen to it when I’m doing other things, I couldn’t always readjust it. I decided God had something He wanted me to hear.

Sure enough, verse 12 continued to stand out. “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders” (NIV).

One morning, while listening to praise music, that verse opened up for me. “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him.” God offered security. Would I let myself rest in Him?

That morning I decided to “rest secure in Him.” I pictured my Shepherd lifting me onto His shoulders, as a shepherd would a lamb, and carrying not only me but also all the cares I’d picked up. Relief washed over me.

What cares has the world laid on your shoulders? Will you let yourself rest secure in Him? Jesus offers rest to us. We choose whether or not we’ll receive it.

 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 25:28 NIV

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: What are the things in your life that are making you yearn for rest?

Photo by Joanna Nix on Unsplash