It’s Time To Be The Church

by Sheri Schofield

People from all over the city have been hiking our mountain trails, having paintball parties, and hunting meat for their freezers this year. With the pandemic in full swing, there has been little else to do except recreate in the mountains, maintaining social distancing when approaching others on the trails. With the increase in human presence, the deer and the elk have disappeared from our mountainside. They have fled to safety elsewhere.

But in the meadow below, the field mice, ground squirrels, and the bunnies have remained, undeterred by the tromp of boots or the sound of rifles. They shelter together in their dens and nests. They have endured. They are peacefully abiding in what is a time of great stress for the other wildlife.

People around the planet are struggling. COVID, intertribal fighting, famines caused by drought and locusts, loss of jobs, and the disruption of the food supply, has brought many people to the point of desperation. The World Food Program alone reports that 270-million people are going hungry in countries where they are serving. They are able to help only 130-million with their program. Rebel groups are recruiting people with the promise of food in exchange for fighting.[1] Christians around the world are suffering.

In times like these, it would be easy to panic or flee to safety. The problem is, the whole world is affected. There is nowhere to go. What can we do to endure this crisis on planet earth?

The past holds the key. When we look back to the World Wars, when over 65 million husbands, sons and fathers marched off to war, we read of communities coming together for prayer meetings. They sang songs like, “O God, Our Help In Ages Past” to keep up their courage. They helped each other.

With social distancing, it is hard to get together for prayer meetings or singing. Unless … remember Zoom? Remember Face Time? We can still meet, pray, and sing together, with help from our social media tools.

In these difficult times, we need each other! We need to interact and remind each other of our great God, who keeps our souls safe during the stormy blast. God has provided us the tools to meet, whether by phone or by computer. If ever we needed to abide together in our safe place with God, it is now.

During the early days of the church, when persecution drove the believers underground for safety, the writer of Hebrews wrote: “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…” (Hebrews 10:25, NLT).

Let 2021 be a time when the church abides together in God, making use of whatever means we have been given, to communicate, love, lift, and support. Is anyone sick, unable to work, or has had their business closed down? Those of us who have enough must reach out in love and help them. Is someone alone? Discouraged? Imagine what a phone call could do to lift them up! And of course, there’s email. Or how about the old-fashioned, written note of encouragement, sent by snail mail?

If ever the church needed to be the church, it is now. Let us turn the Holy Spirit loose among us and see what God can do through us! This could be the greatest time of revival in decades … if we reach out to each other… and to the lost … with words of hope and love, with deeds of kindness and support.

Church, it is time: BE the light of Jesus to your world.

Our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others; then they will not be unproductive. Titus 3:14 NLT


[1] https://www.time.com ‘2021 Is Going To Be Catastrophic’, by Joseph Hincks, December 9, 2020

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

sheri schofield

About the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator. She was named Arise Daily Writer of the Year in 2020, and Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Sheri also writes devotions for children at her website: www.sherischofield.com in “Campfire”, and is in the process of developing a children’s program on her YouTube site. 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: How have you responded to God’s call in this pandemic crisis?

Help! The Heat Is On!

by Sheri Schofield

About a year ago, I decided it was time to try steaming veggies. You know – no fattening oils or butter that would drive up the calorie count. I bought an inexpensive double boiler to see if I liked the way the veggies tasted when steamed. They were delicious! I found myself using the double boiler more and more often. Then one day, when I was cooking, the double boiler began rocking wildly back and forth.

“What?” I thought. “Why’s it doing that?” I discovered that the metal on the bottom of the boiler had popped into a rounded shape. I could see this lack of reinforcement would be a problem. One can’t cook with the kettle wildly shaking and rotating on the burner!

I have a glass-top stove, very convenient for moving kettles around. I moved the tea kettle over next to the boiler and pushed the shaking and rattling pan up against the top of the stove. Bolstered between the tea kettle and the stove, the faulty boiler settled down and did its job. I now keep it braced between those two sturdy objects when I cook…until I can find a better kettle.

There are many people in this world whose foundations are not strong, much like that double boiler. Maybe they have not grown up with hardship. Maybe they have been taught to blame others for their problems instead of taking ownership. Maybe their faith is weak. Maybe they struggle with fear or insecurity or mental illness. Or possibly they have gone through far more suffering than we have endured, and it has broken them. There are many reasons why people struggle under pressure.

Our assignment from God is not to judge others who are weak, but rather we are to come alongside them and bolster them up and encourage them. Gentle words of encouragement can help move them closer to God and help them learn to trust Him. He alone can build strength into our souls.

The Apostle Paul wrote: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up… May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had… accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you” (Romans 15:1, 2, 5, 7, NIV).

In this life, each of us are likely to have weak times, moments or even years of grieving or loss. When we are weak, we rattle around and may seem a little overwhelmed or hysterical to those around us.

I’ve been there. For three years, I suffered from posttraumatic stress after a fierce battle to save my husband’s life from the overwhelming power of some unscrupulous people. During that time, nearly everything I said when talking with others ended up about that battle.

I was in a new community and nobody seemed to know what to do or say to help me. But there was a very small group of Christian people who came alongside me. They listened, they loved, and they prayed for me. Eventually, the Lord healed my heart. Now I can laugh again! I am free!

Had it not been for those caring, patient friends, I would not have been healed. For God gives us to each other to strengthen, encourage, and to help Him bring healing to troubled hearts.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 NIV.

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Help! The Heat Is On! – Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofield

About the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator. She was named Arise Daily Writer of the Year in 2020, and Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Sheri also writes devotions for children at her website: www.sherischofield.com in “Campfire”, and is in the process of developing a children’s program on her YouTube site. 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: Do you know someone who is struggling? Will you stand alongside that person?

Stand Together or Fall Alone

by Kathy Howard KathyHHoward

Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV

Last week, Hurricane Laura blew through my home state of Louisiana and my adopted state of Texas. As I write this, our son and daughter-in-law, who live in north Louisiana, are coming onto on a week without power. My husband just got home today from an exhausting week of cleanup. First, he spent a couple of days with our son helping there. Then he spent a few days at our fishing camp on the Texas-Louisiana border where we lost a tree.

Dozens of trees grow on that property, mostly pine, but a few hardwoods. Unfortunately, Laura’s winds toppled a large, beautiful red oak. Unlike most of the other trees there, the oak was unsheltered, sitting alone in an open space. It was just no match for a hurricane. Thankfully, it narrowly missed our small fishing cabin.

That lone oak got me thinking about the giant redwoods of California. These giant trees of the western United States are some of the largest trees known to man. Amazingly, they have relatively shallow root systems. Their enormous weight is supported, in part, by the interlocking of its roots with those around it. A single redwood is vulnerable in extreme weather, but with the support of the surrounding trees, it can withstand a great deal.

Christians need interlocking roots like the giant redwoods. God never intends for Christians to be like the lone oak, attempting to follow Jesus on our own. When God saves us, He saves into His family. God’s design is for each Christian to be a vital, active part of a local church.

Ironically, during all the storms of 2020, when we’ve needed each other the most, we’ve been forced into isolation. Don’t get me wrong. I’m so grateful for technology and the ability we have to do virtual church and meet in virtual groups. But it can never and should never replace real life, face-to-face church. This is why the author of Hebrews reminded his readers of the importance of coming together as a local church body:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV).

With everything going on, it’s tempting to settle for virtual church for the long-term. But let us not settle. The consequences of neglecting the real-life body of believers far outweigh the ease of doing church at home.* We need support, encouragement, accountability, and fellowship. We need face-to-face human interaction. We need to serve and be served.

Oh yes, the Day is closer than ever before. Let’s come together in love. Let’s be the church.

* This assumes your church is open and following safety guidelines, and your health is not compromised.

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Stand Together or Fall Alone – encouragement from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy Howard

About the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest. Kathy’s latest book, “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents” combines Scripture, biblical insight, personal experience, reflection questions, and prayer prompts to provide spiritual and practical encouragement to those caring for aging or ill parents.

Join the conversation: How has Covid 19 and its isolation affected you this past summer?

 

Things I Otter Do

by Sheri Schofield

The first time I heard of the playful otters, I thought of my grandmother. She grew up in Arkansas and had a southern accent with a faint “r” sound at the end of certain words. She often used “ought” to suggest a course of action to our family. Her advice would begin with, “We ought ter do this . . .” Otter. So of course, I associated that little sea creature with her!

During the past decade since my daughter moved to Alaska, I’ve learned a lot of fascinating things about wildlife in the far north. The sweetest thing I’ve heard is about otters. These little creatures hunt in the ocean. When they get sleepy and need a nap, they find a friend and hold hands. This keeps them from drifting away from the group. Sometimes their groups have hundreds of otters, all holding hands, napping peacefully! Scientists call this a “raft”. In this way, the otters protect one another when they are the most vulnerable.

Those little darlings are onto something very special! They are worth mimicking. So in the year ahead, I’d like to take a moment to think of a couple of things I “otter” do.

Jesus provided a great foundation on this subject. He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34 NIV

 That kind of love is very hard to duplicate! What would that even look like? I’m not sure, but one thing it might mean is that I ought to listen to others better and extend more compassion, because listening with compassion demands that I put myself in other people’s shoes, to see with their eyes and feel with their hearts. It means dying to myself for the sake of entering into another person’s joys and sorrows.

Yes, both joys and sorrows! I know it is easier to feel another’s pain than it is to feel their joy. But joy must be shared if it is to last. I’m fairly quick to reach out my hand to comfort another. But when they are rejoicing? I nod, smile, listen for a few moments then move on. Too many times I forget that joy gives people strength to endure the hard things in life that we all suffer. I ought to do the happy dance with them!

The Apostle Paul gave us some great “Otter Verses”:

 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25 NLT

Doesn’t that sound like “raft” building?

Many believers are growing weary of the battle between good and evil. We often hear of other Christians around the world who are driven out of their homes or killed because of their faith. Here in the United States, we are struggling to preserve freedom to believe and worship as we choose, for we can see what happens when that freedom is lost.

This is a moment in time when we need to hold onto God for faith and strength, a time when we ought to be holding onto one another so that we do not drift away on the ocean of life, alone and vulnerable. So here’s my hand. Let’s make a raft!

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Things I Otter Do – encouragement from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout 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!

Sheri’s book, The Prince And The Plan, is a beautifully illustrated, interactive picture book, written for children ages 4-8, that helps parents lead their children into a lasting, saving relationship with Jesus. It explains abstract concepts through words and interactive, multi-sensory activities. Useful for children’s ministry as well.

Join the Conversation: What ways have you found to “hold hands” with fellow believers?

Abandoned, Alone, and Sad?

by Yvonne Ortega 

Have you ever been overwhelmed by grief? That’s how I felt eight years ago when, three days after Mother’s Day, my only child died. My mother had died before Mother’s Day of that same year. The sadness was so great, I wanted to die myself so I could join them in heaven.

That may have seemed logical to me at that time, but God had another plan. My coworkers stopped by to comfort me with compassion and concern. The phone rang non-stop, but one of my coworkers answered each call until 6:00 pm, when a friend from church came to spend the night with me. A friend from North Carolina drove to Virginia for the three-day weekend. We talked non-stop from the time she came until she left.

When I went to my son’s Celebration of Life Service, one of his friends picked me up at the airport. He’s a hair stylist and fixed my hair every day I was there. Another friend arranged for me to stay with someone I hadn’t even met.

More friends joined me at my son’s Celebration of Life Service. The next day, another group of supporters came to the cemetery for the burial service.

Thanks to those brothers and sisters in Christ, I felt supported and loved through those terrible days. I felt sad that my son died so young. I felt sad that I would never be a grandma and have a grandma’s brag book. But looking back, I could see that God never abandoned me nor did he leave me alone.

Even now, eight years later, there are still overwhelming moments of sadness when I think of my mother and my son. However, I would never wish them to leave their heavenly home to keep me company. They are happy and lack nothing. One day, I will join them.

But in the meantime, God’s continues to unfold His plan for my life. I left my job to become a full-time speaker and author. I prayed and fasted off and on for six months as I wrestled with that decision. Many people supported me at that time in prayer. Even my dad encouraged me to make the move, the man who normally focused on security, benefits, and a pay check.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (NIV)

He has given me many opportunities to share his unfailing love, mercy, and peace. He allowed me to become a published author and a speakers’ coach. I have the security, benefits, and paycheck my father so valued!

Hope? Yes, God gives me hope because his Son Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God interceding for me. A future? Yes, God has allowed me to help others in ministry and has given me the privilege in teaching Bible classes and pray for those in need.

Life may not turn out the way you planned, but you don’t have to feel abandoned, alone, or sad. Even when you can’t feel Him, He is by your side.

“. . .Lo, I am with you always. . .” Matthew 28:20

yvonne ortegaAbout the author: Yvonne Ortega speaks with honesty and humor as she shares her life and struggles to help women find comfort, peace, promise, and purpose. As a counselor, she brings a unique perspective into the heart of women. She is the author of four books: Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Grief, Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Forgiveness, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward, and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer

Join the conversation: What gives you hope?