Big Faith

by Christina Rose

He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’” Matthew 17:20 NIV

My niece gave birth to her first child in a fierce whiteout blizzard in South Dakota.  It was impossible to reach the hospital as they lived in a remote area. Tica settled into the bathtub with towels while Dusty called her mother Karla, a labor and delivery nurse.  Dusty stayed on the phone while Karla coached the young couple through labor.  After several hours little Faith was brought into the world, perfectly healthy, while the swirling wind and snow continued to rage outside.

A few years later, I was visiting and passed three year-old Faith on the stairway.  “Oh my,” I said, “There’s little Faith!”

She climbed a few stairs to reach my height, and her big blue eyes stared directly into mine. “I’m not little Faith, I’m big Faith!” she boldly announced. She continued to march up the stairs and glanced back at me as if to say, “Don’t ever call me little Faith again!” In that moment Faith taught me that there is nothing small about faith of any size, we just have to own it and declare it.

David, the scrawny shepherd boy, declared his faith when he defeated the giant Goliath with merely a small stone and slingshot. It looked impossible that he could slay him, yet he did.  “ David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied’ ” (1 Samuel 17:45 NIV).

Moses led the Israelites to safety by faith in following God’s commands. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground’” (Exodus 14:15-16 NIV). Once they were safely through, Moses faithfully followed God’s command to raise his hand over the sea, and it swallowed up the Egyptians who were trying to kill them.

Queen Esther risked her life when she dared to request an audience before the king. She had faith that her purpose was to boldly step forward on behalf of her people, and they were spared.  “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”  (Esther 4:14 NIV).

There was a woman who could not stop bleeding for twelve years, and no one could heal her.  She knew that Jesus was passing by, and although the crowd was overwhelming, she believed that if she could just touch him she would be healed. She fought through the crowds, came up behind Jesus and touched the edge of his cloak. Instantly her bleeding stopped and she was healed. “Jesus said to her, ‘Daughter your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from  your suffering.’”  Mark 5:34 NIV.

The Bible is full of testimonies of faith. Jesus told His disciples that trusting God was the key to tapping into His power. “Have faith in God…truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours”(Mark 11:22-24 NIV).

Life throws us tests that we would never have imagined. Some days it feels as though we’re slaying giants and crossing stormy seas. But as Jesus tells us, faith as small as a mustard seed is big enough to enable us to do whatever God asks of us in serving Him and His perfect plan. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1.

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Big Faith – inspiration 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: Do you have a story of when God carried you through a challenge? Please share!

Comforting and Encouraging Others

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

What a wonderful God we have—he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 TLB

After my father’s death, I uncovered an ancient cardboard box wedged in the back of his closet. Inside were some remnants of his military service during World War II: a good conduct medal, his wings, war department ID, aircraft spotters’ guide, a 1943 Christmas menu from headquarters in Fortaleza, Brazil where he was stationed for a time, and the letter notifying my grandparents that my father was a prisoner of war.

In a daring endeavor, my father eventually escaped captivity through the Underground. When he returned to America, he didn’t talk much about his experiences. One of his brothers told me that Daddy often sat in front of the radio in those days, head bowed and arms on his knees, listening. If someone entered the room unexpectedly, daddy jumped, wary, eyeing the intruder with suspicion.

Today, my father’s post-war reactions would likely be labeled post-traumatic stress, but there was no name or counseling for it then. Daddy packed his emotional pain in a mental compartment and shoved it to the back of his mind, in a similar fashion to the back-of-the-closet cardboard box housing the history of his military service.

Decades later, my cousin was accepted at the US Air Force Academy. The summer before his freshman year, my father bought Wesley a pair of military dress shoes, took him out to our driveway, and taught him to march.

“I want him to be a step ahead of the other boys,” Daddy said.

My father also hauled out war stories, dusted them off, and told him about his experiences. Much of what he said had never been shared with others. He identified with some of the challenges Wesley faced in the coming four years, and hoped to help him in his adjustment to military life.

Often, when we go through difficult life situations, we swallow the hurt and consign the pain to a private corner of our minds and hearts. Some stagnate in grief, withdrawing from those around them, never discussing their challenges, or moving beyond the pain. Others find a way forward, with God’s help, yet never encourage others dealing with similar situations.

But 2 Corinthians 1:4 reminds us that we are to minister to those around us with the same comfort we’ve received from God. My father didn’t share his experiences until my cousin embarked on a similar journey.

Perhaps someone you know is struggling. Although the situation might not be identical to yours, your wisdom and encouragement may be of great benefit. Dredging up memories may feel uncomfortable, but despite the emotional pain, be available to support someone marching down a difficult path. By listening and encouraging, you pass on the comfort you found through Scripture, prayer, and a deeper relationship with God forged through hardship.

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Comforting and Encouraging Others – insight from @CandyArrington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy ArringtonAbout the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: Has anyone ever encouraged you with their experience of God’s faithfulness?

What NOT to Say to a Drama Queen

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

I recently had a conversation with someone who volunteers in a nonprofit organization. Something she said sent up red flags for me. She was complaining about her clients, who were so dramatic over trivial problems. “Everything that happens to them sends them into a tizzy, even the smallest things. So I just tell them: you need to have more faith.”

Not the best response.

First off, the people she is serving have not had easy lives. Many have experienced major trauma somewhere along the way. Many have only recently come to know the Lord and are only now learning what healthy looks like. From my (albeit brief) foray into counseling training, I learned that trauma victims react strongly to “small” things for a reason. On a scale of 0-10, what would barely register at a 1-2 for a healthy person can be a 10 for the traumatized. Why? While a normal baseline is 0, the traumatized are living life at a steady 7 or 8. Unresolved trauma keeps them on continual fight-or-flight mode. So it doesn’t take much to get them to 10.

In ministering to someone in the healing process, one of the least compassionate things we can say is “you have to have more faith.” Because in doing so, we will only add to their burden, which is already too much to bear. It’s just one more way they are not measuring up. So while “you need to have more faith” might sound like good advice, it’s actually more damaging than helpful.

Second, Jesus said if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, “you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you” (Matthew 17:20). Faith as small as a mustard is enough. Faith is not quantified in the Bible. You believe or you don’t. It is the line in the sand that sets believers apart from those who have not believed. It’s the only difference between saved and perishing.

Where believers struggle is not in how hard they believe. The problem is in doubting the object of our faith, in thinking Him to be only selectively involved in our lives. That while He may be capable, He is not concerned with the little things that matter to us. After all, we all prioritize what deserves our attention. You can’t jump at every little thing.

That’s true for us…but not for God. He knows the number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30). He knows when a sparrow, the commonest of birds, falls (Matthew 10:29-31). He knows what we are about to say before we say it (Psalm 139:4). He holds our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). He is a Heavenly Father who delights in His people and gives good gifts to His children (Psalm 149:4, Matthew 7:11). He is a God who is INVOLVED. In all of it. Even the things that might seem too trite to bring before Him. (Because really, what would seem big to God, anyway?)

So the answer to trusting Him in the “little” things is to learn about His intimate care for us. That He is not only capable, but interested. The better we know Him, the better we can trust Him.

After the conversation, I started thinking about what would have been a proper response to that volunteer. How should I have responded to  her frustration? (I am very good at “I should have said”s. In fact, it may be my spiritual gift.) What could she say to help someone on the path to healing? What would I have said if I were confronted with the same drama?

Thinking through what I know about God gave me the answer. I could encourage them with what I just listed about Him above. I could let them know that what is important to them is important to Him. That we can trust Him, no matter what is smacking us in the face at the moment. Because He is a God of details. And He is good.

There’s no burden in knowing God better. There’s no guilt induced for someone in hearing how deserving He is of our trust. And maybe, after receiving that encouragement, they will gain ability to place what has sent them into crisis into His capable hands.

Incline your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me. For you are my rock and my fortress, for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. Psalm 31:3-4 NASB

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What NOT to Say to a Drama Queen – @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

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

Join the conversation: What do you know about God that could be an encouragement to others?

Is God Still Good?

by Ashley Lauren McClain

The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:9 NASB

Our front yard has always been one of my favorite things about our house. It’s beautiful. Our house sits back off of the road, there is a weeping willow tree, a white fence with horses and a barn, and a perfect place to watch the sunrise every morning. I remember sitting on that front porch before we bought our house and looking out at that front yard, dreaming about the wonderful life we would live there.

This morning as I sat on our couch looking out the window, I could see the “coming soon” sign recently erected out front. That sign represents so much excitement about the future and our new home, but it also represents those dreams that are now gone.

I always pictured children playing in that yard or sitting on that ugly living room carpet. I thought I would someday show them pictures of Mommy & Daddy’s first house where they lived part of their happy childhood.

But sitting here today I now there is no possible way for that ever to happen. Those children never came. Why God? I prayed for that. Why didn’t you do it?

I wish I could tell you that my faith is so strong, I don’t ever question Him. That I know He is sovereign, and His plans are the best plans for my life. I DO know that to be true. But I still sometimes ask Him questions… and you know what? He is not mad or even disappointed in me for doing so, not one bit.

Even in my questioning, I know He still loves me. Even in my disappointment, I know He is still good.

Maybe today you are not moving on and leaving behind unfulfilled dreams. Maybe your struggle involves a recent diagnosis, an unexpected death, the loss of a job; maybe it is hurt recent or from your past, or plans you had that never came to fruition.

But you know what? He is still good.

That can be hard to believe in the midst of some of our greatest challenges. But it is true. I know that His Word tells me that He will NEVER leave me or forsake me, and I believe it. I know His Word tells me that He has GOOD plans for my future, and I believe it.

When the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, they faced some of the biggest challenges possible. The land was filled with strongly fortified cities, fierce warriors, and impressive kingdoms. Not much had changed since their parents had balked in fear and refused to go in forty years earlier. But God had once again promised to go before them. He would give them the victory and eventually the land. And as they prepared for what lay ahead, He reassured them once more: “The Lord will deliver them up before you…Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:5-6 NASB). God had their good in mind. And unlike their parents, they chose to believe in His goodness.

It was the right choice.

He is the same God today. I am sorry for the pain, the hopelessness, the frustration, or loneliness you may feel today. I am sorry for whatever dream you may have had to lay to rest. I get it. I am laying down one of mine with you today.

But here is what we can know: God is good all the time. No matter what you may have to face today, know that you are facing it with the strong & trustworthy presence of Jesus Christ living in you.

The plans that the Lord has for my life and yours are greater than any dreams we have for ourselves. Does that mean they will look exactly like we thought or wanted them to be? No. But we can trust in His goodness. Because He is good. Always.

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Is God Still Good? – thoughts on #GodsLove from Ashley Lauren McClain on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Ashley McClainAbout the author: Ashley McClain is a girl with big dreams and a blog to encourage women in their journey through this life we have been given by the greatest Gift Giver there is! She loves to read, write, drink coffee, and spend time with the hubby & puppies! Connect with Ashley on her website ashleymcclain.org. She would love to hear about your journey too!

Join the conversation: What dreams have you had to lay down? What did God give you instead?

 

Stop Talking to Me

by Donna Nabors @DonnaNabors1

“Stop talking to me.” This is a sentence I hear from my husband at least once a week.

Let me explain. We have a great marriage, full of humor. My husband’s quick wit tends to characterize our interactions. Invariably, he will say something that leaves a wide-open spot for a witty comeback. So I give one right back to him, and then he often says, “Stop talking to me.”

An example of our banter would go something like this: I complain, “My tendinitis is acting up, and my feet hurt tonight.” Without missing a beat, my husband quips, “It’s because of the sin in your life.”

My automatic response, “He sleeps next to me every night.”

After a brief pause, he retorts, “Don’t talk to me.”

Same thing with other platitudes, like: “God is teaching you patience.”

My response: “That’s why He gave me you.”

Then, “Stop talking to me.”

Thankfully God never says, “Stop talking to me” even in jest. But I think sometimes He does shake His head at us, and maybe even sees the humor, if not sadness, in our responses to life.

The Israelites were an unfaithful bunch. God delivered them from Egypt. He parted the Red Sea, He provided water and food. He met their every need. Yet when they spied out the land He had promised them, they focused on the negative. They confirmed a land flowing with milk and honey; yet in their eyes, the possible blessings were outweighed by the size of the people and cities indwelling the land. Instead of trusting God, they doubted in His ability to handle the giants.

“We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However… (Numbers 13:27-28 ESV).

So, they were left to wander in the desert for 40 years. They tested God’s patience over and over. But Moses stood in the gap and petitioned God on their behalf. He listened to God’s voice.

Thousands of years later, not much has changed. The Israelites might have earned a bad rap for not trusting God, but they have nothing on me.

I don’t even face real giants. I live in a nice home, drive a good car, and never worry where my next meal is coming from. I have a great job, my own room at home to write, and a husband supportive of my writing. However, I complain I don’t have time to write because of my day job. I complain because my writing room is upstairs, and I’m too tired to climb those stairs after work.

While both are sometimes true, the reality is God has abundantly provided for my writing needs. Like the Israelites, I let my complaints outweigh my blessings. My complaints and excuses are another way of saying to God, “Stop talking to me,” when what I need more than anything is to hear His voice.

It’s tantamount to telling God I don’t trust Him.

Thankfully He forgives and restores me when my trust falters. I am so thankful for His faithfulness, even when I am not faithful to Him. I am thankful for Jesus Christ, who paid the price for my sin. And for the Holy Spirit, Who stands in the gap, petitioning for me. He reminds me of my blessings and calls me to listen.

Lord, please don’t stop talking to me. I need you.

“Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10 NASB

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Stop Talking to Me – thoughts on #GodsLove from @DonnaNabors1 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Donna Nabors HeadshotAbout the author: Donna Nabors is a wife, mom, grandma, and follower of Christ focused on filling her spiritual jewelry box. Through disappointments in life, she shares that the treasures from God’s Word are where we find the strength to stand. Donna lives in Texas, and her hobbies include antique shopping and organizing. She often jokes that her life is in an Excel spreadsheet. You can find more about Donna at donnanabors.com.

Donna’s book: Pearls: 5 Essentials for a Richer Prayer Life, outlines five elements that can lead to a richer prayer life. It focuses on how Jesus’ words, “It is better to give than to receive,” relate to prayer. Pearls demonstrates how giving to God through prayer draws you into a closer relationship with Him.

 

Give Me This Mountain!

by Sheri Schofield

The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites….” Numbers 13:1 NIV

I finally finished it. The painting I started for my daughter and her husband is ready to be framed, at long last! But I didn’t realize how long it had taken me to finish it until my daughter, Christy, said, “Mom, you started painting this before Matt and I were married.”

They were married ten years ago! I almost finished it then, but somehow, I couldn’t quite envision the foreground to my satisfaction. It didn’t balance right. So, instead of finishing the painting, I let it sit next to my desk all those years. Occasionally, I’d glance at it and wonder how on earth to make it look right. That rock I’d painted on the left side – there was something wrong with it.

Then one day I thought, “You know, if I were to take that rock out of there and put different rocks on the right side instead of the left, it would look good.” So I put it back up on the easel, put some dabs of oil paint on a pallet, and started painting over the rock, effectively erasing it. Within two hours, the painting was finished, and it looked great!

IMG_2938

My focus had been on the rock. I just needed to look at the painting from a different perspective.

Israel had a similar problem when they arrived at Canaan, after God had rescued them from Egypt with great miracles poured out through Moses. When they reached the Promised Land, Moses sent out twelve spies to look things over before they went in.

When the spies returned, they said, “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is the fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there…” (Numbers 13:27-28 NIV). The descendants of Anak were giants. The spies went on to tell of all the powerful people they had seen in the land.

“Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’” (Numbers 13:30, NIV)

But the other ten spies were bent on discouraging the Israelites. No one stood with Caleb and Joshua, who urged the people to believe God.

As a reward for their faith, only Caleb and Joshua of that generation were allowed into the Promised Land. Everyone else who was twenty years old or more, died over the next forty years as Israel wandered in the desert.

The nation of Israel saw only the giants — the obstacles. Caleb and Joshua saw God and his mighty power.

By the time Caleb and Joshua had led Israel into victory over much of Canaan years later, they were old men. At age eighty-five, Caleb saw one more area to conquer. He said, “I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I am just as vigorous to go out into battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there (the giants) and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” (Joshua 14:11-12, NIV)

And in God’s power, Caleb did it!

This is the same God we serve today, just as powerful, just as willing to give us victory when we call on him. Are our eyes on the obstacles or on the power of God?

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Give Me This Mountain! – insight 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 for 2018 at 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: What obstacles get in your way of trusting God?

 

Under His Wings

by Christina Rose

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”… He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.                                                                                                                    Psalm 91:1-2, 4-5 NIV

Living life under the shadow of God’s wings brings peace and security to a believer. But there was a time years ago when I was lost and wandering in the wilderness, searching for that peace.

My husband and I met windsurfing under the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. We loved all the outdoor adventures that northern California has to offer.  When we started a family, I was able to stay at home as my husband was a partner in a successful law firm.  I loved being a mom; however, my husband started coming home later and later. I would come to find out that my life with Prince Charming was not what I had hoped.  

While I was busy caring for our children and home, Prince Charming continued his sports activities in the company of single women, who were free to join him.  My many efforts to be the perfect wife and mother went unnoticed. It seemed whatever I did was never good enough… and he was never home.

In despair, I turned to my Savior. I returned to work and ironically found myself working in the same law firms with which my husband associated.

It was not easy, but I knew God’s hand was in it, and that He would use me for his purpose. Through the years God provided for us in ways that were truly miraculous.  He took care of us because we called on Him.  My daughters are now beautiful, successful scientists!

As little girls, many of us were raised on fairy tales of the handsome prince sweeping us up to a magical life of happily ever after.  This did not prepare me for the reality of bills, diapers, illness, and adult conflict. I learned the hard way that the foundation of our life needs to be a relationship with the Lord.

Through my struggles, I learned that God does rescue the lost and broken-hearted, because He rescued me. He has been continually at work in me developing humility and compassion. I am grateful.  I now stand on a firm foundation and am blessed with a freedom and peace I did not have before.

All He wants us to do is put our trust in Him. And His faithfulness will be our shield and rampart.

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Living Life Under His Wings – 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: Have you ever made an appeal to heaven that changed everything?

Obedience Brings Joy

by Susan U. Neal @SusanNealYoga

“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:10–11 (NIV)

I had read the above verse many times, but this time I realized Jesus was teaching that obedience to God’s commands brings us joy—His joy. In 1 Samuel 15:22 (NIV) Samuel explained, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice.” God takes pleasure in our obedience. So when I am obedient to God, he is pleased. And you know what? That makes me joyful.

When it’s spelled out in God’s Word, there is little to question. But when God nudges in a small, quiet voice, submitting can be more of a challenge.

Unfortunately, obedience often goes against our natural inclinations. Most people have an area of resistance to God. For me, my lack of submission concerned tithing. I wanted to obey God, but I was afraid that if I gave Him a larger part of my income, I would not have enough money for the future.

I let my fear become bigger than God. The God of the future.

So I told God my fear. And the more I prayed, the more my fear decreased. At first, we did not give a full 10%, which was what we felt God would want us to give. But as time went on, we eventually jumped into the deep and began to tithe fully. What Jesus said to his disciples in John 15: 10 was that when we are obedient, we can rest (remain) in His love. (The Greek lexicon defines “remaining” as an inward, enduring personal communion.) I found this to be true: eventually I stopped fretting, finally able to trust that God would provide for our needs. And He did.

Tithing is no longer a struggle for me. Instead, I actually find joy in writing checks for the church, a Christian camp scholarship, or sending support for our Compassion child.

In fact, our family chose to sponsor a child while we were on a mission trip in Ecuador. My daughter fell in love with a five-year-old girl named Laurita (little Laura). They were hand-in-hand on the playground all week. The pastor at the VBS site told us, “Laurita is the only girl at our church that does not have a Compassion sponsor.” My heart longed to take care of this little girl like I do my own children. I felt God’s calling to sponsor her. But an uncertain future made me wonder: would we have enough money to support her on a monthly basis for over a decade? Our family discussed the sponsorship together. We were tithing at 10% now and still could meet all our financial needs, so we chose to take a leap of faith once again.

Even when I was afraid to obey God, I discovered that when I did obey, I found something so much more precious than money—it was a joy that is complete. It seemed strange that obedience and joy were so connected. I also found that having a willing heart enabled me to hear His call on me more clearly. My heart was full.  I felt His joy keenly—just like the verse indicates: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you.”

It has been nine years since we sponsored Laurita. Our family members take turns writing to her. I joyfully look forward to reading her letters. The day I read, “I pray for your family every night,” a tear dripped down my cheek. Oh, what joy!

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Obedience Brings Joy – insight from @SusanNealYoga on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Susan Neal HeadshotAbout the author: Susan Neal RN, MBA, MHS, lives her life with a passion to help others improve their health so they can serve God better. She is a Certified Health and Wellness Coach, and her mission is to improve the health of the body of Christ. She is the author of six healthy living booksYou can find her on SusanUNeal.com.

Susan’s best-seller, 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates, a Selah award winner, sold over 5000 copies in its first thirteen months. Over half of Americans live with a chronic illness, primarily due to the overconsumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates. This book provides a day-by-day plan to wean your body off of these addictive products and regain your health.

Join the conversation: Is there an area in your life in which you struggle to obey?

Are you Testing God or Thanking Him?

by Linda Evans Shepherd @LindaShepherd

Some years ago, my new acquaintance, ‘Melissa,’ and I met for the first time at the hotel registration desk, because we were to be roomies at a conference that weekend.

A few minutes later, as we pulled our luggage into our hotel room, Melissa realized her purse was missing. She quickly called the front desk.

“No ma’am, we do not have a purse here,” the gentleman told her.

Tears filled Melissa’s eyes and she turned to me. “What will I do without my wallet?  How will I get back through security at the airport?”

“It’s time to pray,” I said as I bowed my head. “Help Melissa find her purse!” I cried to the Lord. “In fact, we thank you in advance.”

Melissa snapped, “I don’t approve of that.”

I looked up, alarmed. “Approve of what?”

“Thanking God before he answers. I won’t do that.”

“Well,” I said. “I love to thank God in advance, to show I’m trusting him…”

“No! You are being presumptuous.”

A knocked sounded at the door and Melissa swung it open as she continued to reprimand me. “I will have no part in a prayer like that.”

The bellhop held up her purse. “Does this belong to you?”

Melissa turned and stared, dumbfounded. “Yes, where did you find it?”

“It slid into one of the potted plants next to the front desk.”

Melissa quickly pulled out her wallet to find nothing was missing.

I quietly thanked the good Lord, for answering my prayer even as I prayed it. I understand not everyone jumps onto the same prayer bandwagon as me, ‘the prayer lady,’ but let’s consider: is it wrong to thank God before he answers?

Look no further than Philippians 4: 6-7, which says, “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.”

I believe this is important, because our prayers should not be a way we test God. Our prayers should be an expression of trusting God. For this much I know, even if God had not answered my prayer for Melissa, he would have helped Melissa make it through her travels without her purse. So my thanks is an expression of trust, no matter how God answers.

My prayer was not a test to see how much God loved Melissa. His love for Melissa is a given. Neither was I testing God to see if he would obey me. No way. My prayer was simply a request to the one I love, the one who loved me first.

What request do you need to ask God today? Thank him, even before he answers. For after all, he hears you, he loves you, and he is moving in answer to your prayers even before you pray.

Thank you God! And thank you Melissa. I’m glad God answered my prayer, and I’m glad you found your purse.

“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” Psalm 91:15 NASB

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Are you Testing God or Thanking Him? – Insight from @LindaShepherd on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Linda ShepherdAbout the author: Linda Evans Shepherd is the author of 34 books including Praying God’s Promises and The God You Need to Know.  She is the CEO of Right to the Heart Ministries and the founder of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association.  She’s the publisher
of Leading Hearts Magazine and Arise Daily.

The Potluck Club: In the small Colorado town of Summit View, a surprising multi-generational mix of women from Grace Church meet once a week to pass a hot dish and to pray. But the Potluck Club, as they call themselves, is a recipe for disaster when they send up enough misinformed prayers to bring down a church. And the funny thing: the more they pray, the more troubles seem to come their way. It isn’t until they invite God to the table that they discover friendship is the spice of life, and a little dash of grace, just like salt, goes a long way.

With charming, down-home characters, humor, poignancy, and a recipe in every chapter, The Potluck Club will keep readers hungering for more.

Join the conversation: How has God come through for you with an answer to prayer?

Fearing the Worst (or Believing the Best)

by Cindi McMenamin @CindiMcMenamin

 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”  Matthew 7:11 NIV

The email subject line from my editor read: “The email you’ve been waiting for.”

Yet I was still afraid to open it.

I’d had a rash of bad news lately. What if my editor means it’s the news that I’ve been WAITING to hear, but not exactly the good news I’m HOPING for? 

I said a quick prayer: “Lord, get me through this,” and read the email.

It turned out to be great news. And immediately I thought about that critical (I defensively call it “protective”) mode in me that takes over when I fear disappointment: Don’t get your hopes up, just in case. It can’t all be good, so beware.

How that lack of faith and absence of joyful expectation must hurt the heart of my Heavenly Father, who enjoys delivering good news to His children.

Our critical sides can rule us, at times, can’t they? We’re hesitant to hope, lest we be disappointed. We’re afraid to apply, lest we don’t get the job. We refuse to audition in case we don’t get the part. Yet, when we expect disappointment we are clearly saying to God – and others – that He is not capable of coming through for us or giving us anything better.

The Angel of the Lord rebuked Abraham’s wife – a doubting 90-year-old, barren woman – by asking her: “Is anything impossible for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). Yet I have my own list of “impossibles” that I tend to think God can’t or won’t allow. But that is simply my lack of faith.

I love how Ephesians 3:20 (HCSB) sets me straight every time: “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” 

Did you catch that? God is able to do — not a little more, not even much more, but – above and beyond all that we ask or think. Immeasurably more. So much more than we believe is possible.

God measures what we receive in eternal proportions that we can’t see or even fathom. He measures out what is best for us eternally, rather than temporally; what is best for our character, rather than our sense of convenience.

The God who numbers the hairs on our heads and has thoughts of us too numerable to mention wants to blow our expectations out of the water by coming through in a mighty way for each of us.

Instead of expecting the worst, will you start believing the best?

Lord, I will expect immeasurably more today because You are an immeasurably big God who is capable of doing the impossible!  

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Fearing the Worst (or Believing the Best) – insight from @CindiMcMenamin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and award-winning author who helps women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and others. For more on her resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Cindi is the author of 17 books including Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. You know what drama is…in your circle of friends, extended family, and in the unexpected circumstances of life. Truth is, we’ve all been both actor and audience when it comes to life’s dramas. But here’s another truth: You don’t have to let it sweep you away. You can find peace even when emotions overwhelm you.

Join the conversation: Has God ever surprised you when you were dreading the worst?