An Opportunity for Joy

by Denise Wilson

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  James 1:2 NLT

This verse in James is familiar, but when I read it in the New Living Translation, it struck me in a way that it never had before. The word opportunity jumped off the page. The troubles that come into our lives are an opportunity for joy. Not just any kind of joy, but “great joy”.

I knew a missionary who seemed to find joy in everything. On one occasion his car broke down, and his response was, “Thank you, Lord, for this good trouble.”

The chance of having trials in this life is 100 percent. James says not “if” but “when” trials come our way. The question is, what attitude will I have when I go through them?

Trials are uncomfortable and often painful, yet when I realize our sovereign God is in control, I have an opportunity for great joy. I am not just speaking theoretically. I have experienced the joy of the Lord during the deepest trials of my life.

While pregnant with our first child, I went into premature labor. We prayed that our child would survive. We also prayed, “Thy will be done.” In God’s sovereign plan our son Samuel was born and moments later died in my husband’s arms. What a trial, and what deep grief; yet mingled with that grief was joy.

It sounds impossible to experience joy in such circumstances, but it is possible. God cannot lie, and if he tells us that troubles are an opportunity for great joy, then it must be true.

Our faith was tested further when I became pregnant with our second child Hannah Faith, who was stillborn. Despite great pain and sorrow, I experienced peace and joy. God’s promises are true.

“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).

I had read these verses so many times before, but during those trials I lived them.

While God ultimately blessed us with two more children, not all stories have happy endings. Regardless of the outcome, God is in control and God is good.

Sorrow is a natural and normal human response to a painful situation. Even Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. The author of Hebrews tells us how Jesus responded to the greatest trial of his life. “…Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame” (Hebrews 12:2 NLT). Jesus is our example. We are to fix our eyes on him.

I wish I could say that I experience joy in all circumstances. I don’t. Strangely, I often find it easier to trust God in the big areas of my life. It’s the small things that trip me up.

We must remember that God uses trials to help us grow (James 1:3-4).

Be encouraged friends, God truly does work all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).

We may never understand why we have to go through the things we do, but we do know this: God is in control, and he loves us. When we trust him, he promises peace and joy. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NIV).

My prayer for me, and for you, is that the next trial that comes along, we will be able to say, “Thank you, Lord, for this good trouble.”

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

About the author: Denise Wilson lives in small-town Ontario with her husband, two teenage sons, and a whole bunch of chickens. She is passionate about sharing the gospel and is the author of Seven Words You Never Want to Hear

                                                                                             

Trial, Not by Fire, but Almost Everything Else

by Carol McCracken

Count it all joy my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.                                                                      James 1: 2 NIV

Her wedding dress, which had begun at thirty pounds, now weighed at least fifty.

A tropical storm was making landfall soon, and the rain bands had toyed with the venue all day. As her wedding planner, I knew chances of the planned outdoor ceremony were slim. But God had just given us a forty-five minute rain-free window. The surface under the decorated arch where the bride and groom stood was wet with residue, which the bride’s gown had absorbed. Unfazed, she grabbed her groom’s hand and recessed victoriously down the aisle.

I’ve seen many weddings with challenges, but this one was an extreme. The ironic thing was the bride and groom met when a tropical storm canceled a concert they had separately planned to attend. They met when pouring out their sorrows about that with mutual friends. Without a tropical storm to start things, they never would have crossed paths. And now here was another.

In the last months of planning, a global pandemic paralyzed the economy. Multiple crises occurred, one after the other. Carefully made plans were repeatedly derailed. She had shed many a tear, but with the quiet support of her groom, she always rallied.

As the world seemed to settle, it was decided to move forward with the wedding. But the bride called me in tears yet again when half the groomsmen’s suits didn’t arrive. The resulting customer service was abysmal, and the bride seemed ready to jump off the proverbial ledge.

Now a tropical storm loomed in the Gulf. The venue staff graciously offered to postpone the wedding. She turned the offer down, saying she was going down the aisle with her fiancé no matter what. Now, with all those trials and troubles behind her, the bride waved her bridal bouquet in triumph. She had just married her love and wanted the world to know it.

We will all none-too fondly will remember 2020, because we faced trials of all kinds, forcing us all to navigate uncharted territory. Not that we should be surprised at hardship: take a look at what James wrote at the top of this page. Notice, he didn’t say if, but when trials come. God tests our faith. This is not for His benefit; He already knows what is in our hearts. I think He does it to help us see where our faith really lies.

Some of us got mean. Some of us gave up. Some of us searched for answers in the wrong places. Our bride felt forces were against her as she tried to plan her special day. But amid the challenges, when the going got tough, she refused to postpone the wedding because she loved her groom and wanted to walk down that aisle in front of God and everyone. She stood before God in faith and thanked Him.

Are we as steadfast when difficulties appear or plans are canceled or postponed? Are we trusting in the circumstances we see around us rather than in a faithful God who holds all matters in His hands? God may be using the difficulties you are experiencing to help you see where you have placed your faith.

God loves us and wants us to face the tests by turning to Him in trust. He will reward the faithful in the end.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 NASB

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Trial, Not by Fire, but Almost Everything Else – encouragement from Carol McCracken on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Carol McCracken has been a Bible teacher for over twenty years. She has been on church staff in Leadership Development and Women’s ministry for over 30. Her passion is to make the Bible come alive for women and connect it to a real relationship with Jesus Christ in today’s busy and demanding world. She is an AWSA Protégé and Destin Word Weavers member.

Carol is a contributor to ChristianDevotions.us, Arise Daily, and Mustard Seed Ministries. She is currently working with an editor on another Women’s Bible study.

Join the conversation: What has God revealed to you through the trial of the Covid crisis?

Choosing Peace Over Perfection

by Beth Vogt @BethVogt

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NLT

I can’t remember the last time I had a perfect day.

Oh, I daydream about perfect days. Catch glimpses of other people’s picture-perfect times on social media. Their just completed kitchen remodels or their “look what I accomplished today!” photo ops. The beach sunrises and sunsets, bare feet by the pool days. My dreams aren’t about elaborate escapes to Tahiti – although there are times those salt-breezy vacations sound, well, perfect.

Most times, perfection would be all about having time to clean my house. No clutter on my kitchen countertops. No dirty laundry in my hampers. No search and destroy missions to remove mystery foods from my fridge. No smudges on my mirrors or dog hair lurking under my couches. Who am I kidding? No dog hair on my couches.

And sometimes all I want is uninterrupted time. No disruptions. No surprises. Enough quiet for creativity to flourish so I could work on my novel. But the last time I managed to squeeze in even a partial day of calmness, circumstances went awry, requiring that my 100-year-old mother-in-law be transferred from assisted living to a rehab facility. Immediately.

The reality is we’re not promised perfect days. This year has certainly proven that, hasn’t it? We all would like one giant do-over on 2020. But these less-than-perfect days remind me that Jesus was honest enough to tell us that life is going to be hard enough to make us sad.

Jesus was having a long conversation with his disciples about abiding with him and how he was going to leave them, but then Spirit would come and that would be better … and then he said he was telling them all these things so they would have peace (John 16). If you’re like me, you want to skip over the rest of verse. But there’s no glossing over words like “trials” and “sorrows.”

The challenge is in choosing how we react when we want one thing – perfection – but we end up with the other – challenges and heartaches. That’s when we need to notice how Jesus bracketed his honesty about how hard life would be for us. He book-ended his straight talk about tough times with two promises:

  • That he would give us peace
  • That he has overcome the world

Jesus was honest enough to tell us we’d have trials, not easy circumstances. But we are promised his peace. And in the midst of our complicated days, the peace of God, which exceeds anything we can understand (Philippians 4:17 NLT), is what strengthens and steadies us, enabling us to navigate the “what just happened?” moments that upend our lives. Yes, today may be challenging, but God is our “more than this” – and he will see us through whatever we are facing.

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Choosing Peace Over Perfection – encouragement from @BethVogt on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” Having authored nine contemporary romance novels and novellas, The Best We’ve Been, the final book in Beth’s Thatcher Sisters Series with Tyndale House Publishers, released May 2020. Other books in the women’s fiction series include Things I Never Told You, which won the 2019 AWSA Award for Contemporary Novel of the

Year, and Moments We Forget. Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner, a 2016 ACFW Carol Award winner, and a 2015 RITA® finalist. An established magazine writer and former editor of the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth blogs for Learn How to Write a Novel and The Write Conversation. She enjoys speaking to writers groups and mentoring other writers. Visit Beth at bethvogt.com.

Join the conversation: How have you found peace in the interruptions?

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

TWEETABLE
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

TWEETABLE
“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?