What Impact Is Your Faith Having?

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death … the world was not worthy of them.                                                      Hebrews 11:36-38 NIV

Have you ever met someone whose presence changed you?

My husband and I once had the privilege to eat lunch with the late Romanian pastor Richard Wurmbrand and his wife, Sabina. Mrs. Wurmbrand’s radiant smile still lights up my mind. I believe her countenance would have glowed in the dark like a full moon at midnight. This is amazing when you consider what they’d suffered for Jesus.

When the Communists took over Romania, they held a special meeting for pastors, filled with brainwashing and propaganda. Wurmbrand said: “My wife and I were present at this congress. Sabina told me, ‘Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ! They are spitting in his face.’

I said to her, ‘If I do so, you will lose your husband.’ She replied, ‘I don’t wish to have a coward as a husband.’”

Pastor and Mrs. Wurmbrand were Messianic Jews. They suffered under the Nazis and the Communists. Pastor Wurmbrand spent fourteen years in Communist imprisonment—three of those in solitary confinement, where he saw only his Communist torturers. His body never fully recovered from the abuse.

His persecutors drugged his food. They regularly beat him for preaching to fellow prisoners. In his drugged state, the only Scripture he could recall at one point was, “Our Father.”

He shrugged, “It was enough. I knew I had a Father.”

Sabina suffered greatly too. The Nazi Party murdered her parents, four siblings, and five children, yet she showed no bitterness or resentment. She continued to show God’s love to all. She nurtured the underground church her husband had started and spent three years working in slave labor after being arrested for subversive evangelism.

One of her greatest burdens must have been having her nine-year-old son Mihai, left to fend for himself while both of his parents were in prison. Because it was against the law to help families of the imprisoned, the women who did try to help him were beaten so badly they were left crippled.

Our language barrier kept me from talking with Mrs. Wurmbrand, but her countenance communicated more than words. How could she smile after suffering such loss? How could she forgive the years spent in poverty—starving and not knowing if her husband was alive? Her youngest son was a boy when the Communists took his father. He was a man when Richard was finally released.

How did she hold such composure among tragedy? She knew Jesus was worthy of any sacrifice. She “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10 NIV).

None of us knows what trials we’ll face. But we know we will be tested (James 1). Someone once said we are either coming out of a trial, in the middle of one, or headed into to one. Faith in Jesus prepares us and leads us triumphantly through any challenge. The Scriptures build our faith and equip us for life because they testify about Jesus (John 5:39).

The purpose of Bible study isn’t primarily to expand our knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1). The purpose is to open our eyes to our glorious Savior. Jesus is the object of biblical faith. Knowing him kindles a hope that won’t disappoint. The better we know him, the more radiant our faith and witness for Christ will shine in a dark world. Just look at the Wurmbrands.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV)

Adapted from Little Faith, Big God Copyright © 2020 by Debbie W. Wilson

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What Impact Is Your Faith Having? – encouragement 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 Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]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: Are there people in your life that have had a big impact on your faith?

Parenting Can Have Its Moments

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

One Sunday afternoon, as I tackled the pile of dishes in the kitchen, I heard a distinct dripping sound coming from the foyer. Upon investigation, I found a large puddle on the tile floor. The ceiling above it was bowed with water. Where was all that water coming from?

I dashed up the stairs to find the hallway bathroom sink running full-force, plug down, water cascading over the edge like Niagara Falls. The bathtub was also plugged up and nearly filled to capacity. I shut the faucets off but could still hear water running. A quick check revealed the master bathroom had been rigged to overflow as well.

I knew there could be only one culprit—make that two—THE TWINS. I marched into their room to find them up on the top bunk surrounded by every stuffed animal in the house. “Hi Mommy!” my four-year old daughter cheerfully greeted me. “We’re playing Noah’s ark! Joseph is Noah, and I’m his wife!”

Apparently, with the animals safely aboard, they were just sitting back, waiting for the flood.

Motherhood has its moments, right? We had four children in the space of 3 ½ years. I could curl your hair with stories from those early days. Someday I’ll write a book.

Whenever I read James, I have to wonder if he was a parent. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4 NASB).

This verse should be stamped on the forehead of anyone attempting to raise a family. Experiencing trials? It’s not a question of if, but when.

Consider it all joy, my brethren…

How much joy did I experience as I mopped the floors that day? There was no cheerful whistling nor a single happy thought as I repeatedly wrung out my mop, I can assure you. But is that what James meant by joy?

A look into the grammar of the original language reveals that James was identifying the type of joy a person should have. It is a state of being, not an emotion. If it were, we could equate joy with happiness. But seriously—who could possibly be happy about spending time reserved for a Sunday afternoon nap soaking up gallons of water? Not this girl.

Joy is something deeper, more consistent than what certain circumstances would allow. It can be had in any situation, because it is a steady, thankful trust in a God who uses even the hard things for His glory. It is not so much of an emotion, but rather a way of thinking. It is the lens through which we should view everything this world throws at us.

Trials are an opportunity for us to put the viewpoint of joy into practice.

The testing of your faith produces endurance…

There’s something else in James’ exhortation worth noting: “…the testing of your faith produces endurance…” How do trials like water dripping out of a ceiling test our faith?

What we believe about Him is the content of our faith. In His kindness, God allows trials for the purpose of testing those ideas and revealing what we need to reevaluate—in a good way! Trials grow our understanding of Him.

So, next time a trial comes down the pike, think: how is God revealing Himself? What He may be showing you can produce endurance in your ability to trust Him. Even the little challenging moments of parenting can have a real impact on our spiritual well-being.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.                                                                                             2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NASB

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Parenting Can Have Its Moments – 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: Do you have a parenting trial story? Please share! (Surely I’m not the only one!!)

 

 

What Good Can Come from Bad News?

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

“The vet called. The tests on Max came back positive.” My husband’s words punched me in the stomach. Have you ever felt slugged by unwelcome news?

Max is our standard poodle. If I could use only one word to describe him, it would be magnificent. Max’s beautiful tail waves like a banner when he glides down the sidewalk. His coat is as thick as lamb’s fleece. When he was a puppy, we marveled the first time he watched a distant plane cross the sky. His sensitive spirit knows when to be gentle and when to play hard.

Max also impresses strangers. One man ran out of his house to get a closer look. Another pulled his truck over to ask about him. Perfect strangers want to have their pictures taken with him.

The vet had tested Max for Masticatory Muscle Myositis (MMM). I’d hoped Max’s issues were a side effect of Addison’s disease. The descriptions of MMM are too horrible to fathom.

Knowing Max’s challenging health issues, you might think we wish we’d chosen another puppy. Not at all.

As my daughter said, even if MMM takes Max, it has been worth it to have him. We wouldn’t trade a few years with Max and all of his problems for decades with another healthy dog. A day doesn’t pass without him making us laugh. He has taught us much about love, life, and faith.

Our son Brant expressed how Max’s challenges have refined his faith. “I had to ask myself if I’ve really trusted God with my eternity,” he said. “Because if I can trust Him with something that big, shouldn’t I be able to trust Him with Max?”

Brant was expressing the truth of 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NASB): “…you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Fire purifies gold so that it will gleam for a little while on earth. Trials purify faith so it will sparkle for eternity. Watching Brant’s faith shine has filled me with joy. We have great hope God will transform Magnificent Max into our Miracle Max. But, no matter how this turns out, Max has been worth it!

If we can say that about Max now, imagine how we will respond when we are finally able to see how God used our temporal pain to bring us eternal joy. Grieving a loss, a beloved family member, friend, or even a pet, is not wasted when it polishes our faith. With the Psalmist, we learn to say “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25, NIV).

God cares about our challenges and uses them to polish our faith. One day, we will see the result and gasp—it was worth it!

Max was only two when we learned his diagnosis. He is eight now and though he has experienced some setbacks, he continues to fill our lives with joy. He is indeed our Miracle Max.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT).

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What Good Can Come from Bad News? – encouragement 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 trials have you experienced that ultimately grew your faith?

Seasick from Traveling with Jesus

by Lori Stanley Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

“For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” Psalm 107: 25-28 ESV

For years, I encountered wave after relentless wave of trial. After a time, I cried out against the storms. Alone in the dark, I asked: “Is it something I’ve done?”

I repented over things I did, things I should have done, things I could have done better. Which decision had sent me spiraling into this Odyssean wormhole? Was there some prayer, an “open sesame” combination of phrases or liturgies that would release the blessing, open the door, move God’s hand to stop the crazy spinning helm, the everyday vertigo of being me?

But there are no Christian incantations, and God isn’t an idol to be flattered or a genie to be conjured. And anyway, what did I expect following a God who naps through storms?

My spirit flailed on the deck of the life and heaved over the side, sickened by the unending waves.

I watched as others seemed to have a measure of peace, security, victory, calm seas and fair winds. They seemed to be peacefully traveling on a cruise ship with buffets, entertainment, and day trips to the shore. While my peace allotment was ladled out in splattering scoops like sips of water rationed to galley slaves.

I developed an intense aversion to manna. I didn’t want grace for the day, bread enough for now, strength for the moment! I wanted a diversified grace portfolio that would allow me to retire on grace at any time of my choosing; an account full of provision so I could live off the interest; bona fide security that came from earning enough blessing that I was assured calm seas for miles.

I didn’t want to be along for the ride, I wanted to own the ship, direct its course and hire weathermen to dictate the weather. At least that’s what I screamed into the wind as I lay drenched on the storm-tossed deck.

And when God whispered to me to trust His goodness, love, His plan – the hope of that was sometimes like a stale cracker. Internal waves competed with the assault of the sea—waves of self-pity, bitterness, doubt, and fear, leaving me tempted to abandon ship and hope for dispassionate strangers willing to toss me over the rail and a large passing fish.

But then, the wind blew in the truth like an albatross, and as I watched it glide and land beside me on deck, I suddenly recognized the blessing of my storm training and the kindness of God. He never allowed me the illusion that I could bank grace. I stood for a moment on the deck, utilizing muscles that had developed by clinging on so hard and experienced a new confidence; not in the sun or the soundness of the ship or in a hopeful breeze, but confidence in Him, the One who is outside me, within me, and around me. The One who is able, because I never am, even when I feel like the captain of my soul.

He knew that a steady diet of manna is the prescription for self-righteousness, which is no righteousness at all. He knew that if He removed all other resources I would hunger and thirst after the real thing: only available through Him and only provided in each day, each moment, each breath, but promised for eternity.

Manna. It is a holy word. God provides. What is it? Grace. Wow.

The waves still crash over my bow, but the nausea has passed. I have my sea legs now and hope no longer feels like a weight I cannot bear. Now it is my anchor, Jesus.

Are you in the storm? He is with you. Hang on.

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Seasick from Traveling with Jesus – insight from @LoriSRoeleveld on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

lori Roeleveld Headshot 2015About the author: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

Join the conversation: Are you in a storm? What are you learning?

What Does It Look Like to Be Highly Favored of God?

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

“She lives a charmed life,” a friend said regarding her daughter-in-law. “Everything just works out for her.” If a charmed life is easy, then what do you imagine a highly-favored-of-God life to be?

If an angel called you highly favored, wouldn’t you expect some free “get out of pain” passes? If God picked you to carry His child, wouldn’t you anticipate some special treatment? Surely, He’d assure your fiancé of your faithfulness.

God chose Mary to be the mother of His only Son. Gabriel the angel called Mary highly favored of God twice in their brief encounter. “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28).

I’m not sure what Mary imagined would happen when she returned from a three-month visit with her cousin to tell Joseph she was pregnant—with God’s Son. But he didn’t buy it. Since their engagement could only be ended by divorce or death, he looked for a way to quietly divorce her.

Mary didn’t live a charmed life. Her fiancé believed she’d cheated on him. She saw Joseph’s pain and had no way to prove her faithfulness.

Since God set the bar on sexual purity, why did He let others believe Mary was sexually immoral? Why did He put this couple through this tension?

In the nick of time, God sent an angel to stop Joseph from divorcing Mary. But the religious leaders continued to call Jesus illegitimate even in His adult years. God allowed people, including their religious leaders, to believe Joseph and Mary were sexually loose, when they had shown extraordinary restraint. Joseph kept her a virgin until after Jesus’ birth.

I wonder how many Jewish customers and friends Joseph lost in his carpentry business because of this scandal. Wouldn’t you think God would clear the reputation of this highly favored couple?

Isaiah 55:8 reminds us God’s ways are not our ways. They are far better. God cleared Mary’s reputation with those for whom it mattered. He also used this misunderstanding to benefit Mary, Joseph—and us.

  • Mary and Joseph could empathize with those who doubted their story. They didn’t waste energy being offended that others didn’t believe them. After all, it took an angel’s visit for Joseph to understand.
  • Joseph modeled how to handle betrayal.
  • Mary and Joseph’s faith grew. With each new challenge they remembered God’s faithfulness through previous tests.
  • When people believe lies about us, we know we’re in good company. Some of God’s most highly favored saints were misunderstood.

Having God’s favor didn’t mean ease for Mary.

  • Instead of having a midwife and a clean bed, Mary delivered God’s Son in a stable.
  • Instead of being escorted by the king’s army, soldiers hunted her boy to murder him.
  • Instead of being protected from suffering, her Son’s scourging and crucifixion pierced her own heart.

Definitely not a charmed life!

As we prepare for Christmas, let’s not let the world’s view of how this holiday should look rob us of the true riches we have in Christ. God’s ways are not our ways; they are infinitely better. Despite her trials, Mary found peace in knowing no problem is too big for God. She dwells in heaven today with the Father and the Son.

If you asked her, she’d tell you: the favor of God far surpasses living a charmed life.

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised by the fiery troubles that are coming in order to test you. Don’t feel as though something strange is happening to you, but be happy as you share Christ’s sufferings. Then you will also be full of joy when he appears again in his glory. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed because the Spirit of glory—the Spirit of God—is resting on you” 1 Peter 4:12-14 GW

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What Does It Look Like to Be Highly Favored of God? – encouragement 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 has God done that didn’t make sense to you at the time? Did His ways prove better than yours?

“Have a Nice Thanksgiving Life”

by Christina Rose

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.                                                                                         Psalm 100:4 NIV

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.  For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.                       Psalm 95:2-3 NIV

 My dad was a dreamer and had big plans for his family.  While working for the government in Washington, DC, one day he noticed a job posting to enlist in the foreign service.  I had just finished sixth grade when he came home from work and announced that we would be moving to Bogota, Colombia. Our family of six was so excited. Within a few short months we were embarking on a life-changing adventure.

We spent six exciting years traveling throughout South America. Our three years living in Rio de Janeiro were the most memorable. We lived in a beautiful home on the water and went to the International School, where we met students from all over the world. Rio has many spectacular beaches; surfing after school was our favorite pastime.

After graduation, we returned to the United States, but my brother Chuck could not forget Karla, his high school sweetheart from Rio. He drove an ice cream truck for countless hours and saved every penny to join her in Colorado where she attended college.  They were married shortly thereafter. Then an unthinkable tragedy struck.  Karla’s brother Brek, who had recently married, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Brek was a handsome, blond, blue-eyed soccer star who was loaded with optimism and love for Christ. Shortly after the diagnosis, it was discovered that Brek’s wife was pregnant with what would be their only child. As Brek’s condition worsened, his daughter was being formed in her mother’s womb. Beautiful little Keah came into the world nine months later.

For more than 15 years Brek’s wife Kim devotedly assisted her husband as his body deteriorated. By the end of his life, he was confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak, walk, talk, feed or bathe himself. He was fed with a syringe of blended food through his stomach, yet through it all he never complained. His unwavering faith inspired all around him.

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day”  (2 Corinthians 4:15-16 NIV). 

A friend rigged a keyboard so that he was able to use his computer with a muscle in his left leg. “Brek’s Briefs” were newsletters about his life. When I consider the many hours that it required to painstakingly type each brief, I am in awe of his perseverance.  Every brief was insightful and encouraging. They reminded us to approach every day with gratitude, knowing himself that any day could be his last.  He closed each brief with “Have a nice Thanksgiving life.”

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).

The last time I saw Brek was a few years before he passed. We both attended a large family wedding full of dancing and celebrating.  Brek could only look on in silence with his devoted wife by his wheelchair. He glanced at me for a moment and instantly I could see that sunny, blond kid with the big grin from my childhood days in Rio. He seemed to smile at me while the steadfast light of devotion streamed from his eyes.

In his memory, I pray that all of you will “Have a nice Thanksgiving life.”

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV

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“Have a Nice Thanksgiving Life” – insight from Christina Rose on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

christina roseAbout the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer and speaker certified by the John Maxwell Team of Leadership.  She is a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. A devoted mom of two daughters and great aunt to over 40 nieces and nephews, Christina loves spending time in nature and hosting gatherings for family and friends.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story. Her marriage in shambles, Christina finds herself in a desperate situation with no resources other than herself. After appealing to heaven, the Lord takes her on a journey of awakening and miraculous empowerment. That power that is available to us all, especially those who are in need of hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: How had God refined your faith lately?

Things Are Not Always What They Appear

by Evelyn Johnson-Taylor @drevetaylor

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”                                                                                                                                   1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV

The weeks leading up to my “Stepping into Sixty” celebration brought great joy to my heart. As a younger woman, sixty seemed so far away and appeared very old to me. However, the closer I came to that milestone, I came to think differently.

In our Christian life, we face many challenges. There are mountains that appear insurmountable. But the reality is, when viewed from a distance, we can get a very different perspective. Could it be that the obstacles appear larger than they really are?

Many of the adversities we encounter take our eyes off the prize and miss the potential victories that are in front of us. If the enemy can entice us to concentrate on the problem, we set ourselves up for defeat. But when we stand firm in the promises of God, we can rest in Him and know that our labor is not in vain.

As I look back over my life and see the many battles I’ve lost simply by walking in fear, it saddens my heart. Too often I focused on the magnitude of the situation and neglected to focus on the God who controls every situation. This is not what God wants for us. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV).

Fear is worrying about something that has not yet happened and in some cases will never happen. Up close, a challenge can seem frightening, but backing away from it will help us see that God has already given us what we need to overcome that moment.

As my birthday drew near, instead of looking at it as “I’m getting old,” I started focusing on the advantages of being sixty. My thoughts were, “How can I make this next chapter better? How can I move forward in this new season of my life? What new opportunities await me? How can I use my sixty years of experience to pour into someone else’s life?” I began to thank God for allowing me to see another birthday.

It would be the first one I would celebrate without my husband. The reality of knowing that he didn’t live to see his sixtieth birthday made me appreciate God’s blessing that He has allowed me to come this far. Not everyone is blessed to reach this age. Even with such great loss, there were still so many things for which to be thankful. I had the memories of having the love and support of an incredible man for twenty-eight years. God blessed us with two magnificent daughters. I’m grateful for extended family, kind neighbors, and my sisters and brothers in Christ. I know that I am a blessed woman.

Life presents an assortment of changes and challenges, but as we focus on the big picture, the good things in our lives, the challenges seem smaller. Change your perspective on your insurmountable mountain and find the opportunity. Keep your eyes on the prize: “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB).

Simply because we still have life, we still have hope. Focus more on the one who holds the future and less about the future itself.

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Things Are Not Always What They Appear – insight from  @Drevetaylor on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

evelyn johnson-taylorAbout the author: Evelyn Johnson-Taylor is a professor of theology, author, speaker, and coach. She shares her life experiences through mentoring and encouraging others to move forward in whatever God has called them to do.  Evelyn believes that nothing is wasted with God and that everything He allows us to walk through in life is to be used to help someone else. You can connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, and Facebook.

Evelyn shares her experience of caring for her husband for a decade in See Me Hear Me Know Me: From The Heart of a Caregiver, a book that she and her husband wrote together. God has given her a passion to enlighten caregivers on the importance of self-care and has graced her to share a message of hope and encouragement.

Join the conversation: What seemingly insurmountable mountain has God allowed you to overcome?

The Bull Rider

by Sheri Schofield

It’s rodeo season here in Montana. Crowds flock to the fairgrounds to watch friends and family compete for prizes. The youngest rodeo riders, usually ages 4 to 7, start the contest by riding bucking sheep. They are the “wool riders”. Welcome to Mutton Busting! They hold onto the thick wool for dear life, cheered on by their families. Sometimes they cry when they are bucked off. They run to their mothers, who fold them in their arms and comfort them for a few minutes. Then the child wipes away his tears and rushes over to watch the next wool rider perform.

The rodeo events will gradually increase in danger from calf roping, to steer roping, horse shows, barrel racing, and bronco riding. Finally, the experienced riders head for the bulls. The huge animals snort and stamp their feet, just waiting for that man to drop on top of them. The gate opens. The bulls rush out, thrashing wildly.

This is the bull rider’s greatest test. Atop a horned bull that weighs between 1,500 and 1,900 pounds, the rider must spur this mountain of powerful muscles to make it an even wilder ride! It seems like an eternity as he holds on with only one hand! But in truth, the ride lasts only eight seconds. At the sound of the buzzer, the rider tries to jump off the bull and a clown rushes in to distract the angry beast while the bull rider picks himself up and heads for safety.

Sometimes, life can feel like a rodeo bull ride. We hold on for all we’re worth for what seems like an eternity before we are able to rest! We pass through stress, grief and loss. But it is not forever. It is only for a relatively short time, in view of eternity.

When we first begin to experience difficulties in life, we may be like the children—the wool riders—on sheep. It looks fairly safe from the standpoint of the bleachers. But to the child, it seems impossible! Then the tests increase in difficulty. We grow stronger. Soon, if we learn to stay in the saddle, we may find ourselves on top of the equivalent of a bull in life. Stay strong! Stay in the saddle! The ride is short! The rest is sure for those who trust God. The reward is tremendous!

We do not ride through these difficulties for our own spiritual maturing alone. Paul writes, “He (God) comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4, NLT).

As we grow spiritually from these difficult experiences, we are able to reach out to others and help them through their own anxiety or grief. Sometimes, we simply stand with them, arm across their shoulders, and let them know we care, that we are there for them. Sometimes we share our own sorrows or stress, and tell how God helped us through them. We help others hang onto life and Christ. We give them the gifts of listening and understanding, prayer and comfort – gifts that God has given us in our times of testing.

Are you riding a bull today? Or are you resting from the testing? If you are in the saddle, hold onto Jesus! He will get you through this.

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle, you will still be standing firm.  Ephesians 6:10-13, NLT

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The Bull Rider – insight on spiritual maturity from SheriSchofield 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 new 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: Have you been riding a bull lately?

 

Flourishing in the Desert

by Cindi McMenamin

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.”   Hosea 2:14 NIV

Do you ever have one of those weeks – or months – when it seems like God isn’t around? When it seems He’s gone on vacation while you’ve been hitting the rough times?

When my husband voluntarily stepped out of his pastoral job for an unpaid “one year sabbatical” (that was his term for it), I began to wonder if after eight months God had gone on a permanent coffee break.

God, he’s restless to get back into ministry.  Where are You? God, we can’t keep paying for our own health insurance. Aren’t You taking note of this? Lord, we need You to intervene…any time now!

Yet God wanted to take us to the edge of desperation – where we truly needed Him – and there He reminded us that He’s been right there with us, all along.  Through the years I’ve learned that God has a way of drawing us out into the desert of need in order to teach us about Him.

In the early years of my marriage, I learned that my husband couldn’t possibly meet all my emotional expectations and I had to look to God to be my “spiritual husband” (Isaiah 54:5).

At the beginning of my husband’s first ministry, we didn’t have much money, so I learned to depend on God as my Provider and take Him at His Word when He says He will supply all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).

While I was parenting a teenager, I had to look to God to be my Wisdom, my Source of Strength, and my Counselor.

And just recently – as I waited for God to move during a time in which my husband and I  seemed to be standing still  financially, emotionally, and in ministry – I had to look to God to be my Future, my Hope, and my Direction.

God knows that if I have everything I want, right when I want it, then I no longer need Him. Without need, I’m not truly desperate for Him.

In the Old Testament book of Hosea, God compared His people to a wife who had betrayed and deserted her husband. God told the prophet about His plans to draw them back to Him:

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of  [Trouble] a door of hope. There she will [sing] as in the days of her youth….“In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’….” (Hosea 2:14-16 NIV)

I wonder, sometimes, if God doesn’t take that same strategy with us today. Could He be allowing us to go through a desert (in our marriage, job, or personal life) so He can “speak tenderly” to us and show us a new side of Himself? Could He be allowing you to trek through the wasteland of financial hardships, so you will see Him as your Great Provider? Is He allowing you a journey through parched areas of loss so you will see Him as your Greatest Possession?

When we filter every circumstance of our lives through the grid of His unfailing love, we will see every test and trial, every desert and disappointment, as a loving gesture on His part to draw us closer to Him.

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 16 books including When Women Walk Alone (more than 120,000 copies sold), and Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her books and ministry, and free resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 9.01.28 PMgenerator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Cindi’s  book, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: When has God drawn you closer to Him through a walk through the desert?

Trusting the Master

by Debbie Wilson

I felt like a traitor luring my standard poodle into my vet’s lab room. I did it to save his life. But Max didn’t know that. Did he think I was heartless to let the vet draw blood from his thin leg—again?

For months after we learned Max has Addison’s disease, the vet had to draw his blood to check his electrolyte and hormone levels. One week Max refused to go with the technician. So instead of handing her the leash, I followed her, and he followed me.

Max’s trust in me made me consider the conditions I’ve put on fully trusting my Master in painful situations. I’ve thought if only I knew the purpose of my pain then I’d be able to trust God better. But was that true?

Imagine me trying to explain Max’s condition to him. I could read him the symptoms off the Internet. I could show him his lab reports. I could remind him how he almost died. But would he have understood any of it? Of course not. I know the pain of the treatment is brief and the benefits are lasting. All he knows is I keep bringing him back for more needles.

How much greater is God’s knowledge than mine as He takes me through a trial! Sometimes God allows me to see the benefit of my pain. But more often the “whys” remain unanswered.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (NIV).

The difference between my thoughts and my dog’s is relatively small when compared to the vast disparity between God’s thoughts and mine. If Max can’t understand why I have his blood drawn, why would I think I could ever understand God’s ways with me?

But God has not left me without assurance. He has promised:

  • “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17 NIV).
  • “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18 NIV).

Life on this planet is a vapor. But how we live here affects our eternity. Pain, loss, and confusion are opportunities to trust our Master. The pain is real, but if He allows it then we know He will use it to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). And I can trust that my pain and the tears will never go unnoticed by my very personal God.

When I see Max romp across the yard without a symptom of Addison’s, I thank God for blood tests and shots. I remember how sick he was without them. He doesn’t understand the connection. He doesn’t need to. Max only needs to know that I take care of him.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” Romans 8:31 NASB

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 and writes 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.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Debbie’s book, Little Women Big God,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: What things in your life have caused you to question God?