Why Our Thoughts About God Matter

by Grace Fox

Where I live in British Columbia, winter is marked by overcast skies and rain. It’s already upon us. The marina dock is slick, and carrying groceries or suitcases from the parking lot to our boat isn’t exactly a ton of fun. The memory of falling face-first while pulling a suitcase and wearing a 25-pound backpack still haunts me.

I could quickly fall into complaining about the damp cold and the dangers of walking on a wet dock, except that I know God placed me and my husband here. I also know that God is wise and good. He makes no mistakes. He has my best interest in mind. He uses circumstances to refine my character and make me more like Jesus. He has purposes beyond my understanding for placing us here, and He’s given me the privilege of playing a role in seeing those purposes fulfilled.

If I start second-guessing God’s goodness and wisdom (ie: “What was He thinking when He told us to move aboard a sailboat? This is ‘way too hard for a woman my age!”), then I will soon resent living here. I’ll envy my friends who live in houses—especially if they have attached garages—and discontentment will eat me alive.

In contrast, focusing my mind on truth about God brings peace. Because He’s wise and good and makes no mistakes, I know He is completely trustworthy. He’s got my back and will give me everything needed to thrive through another winter as liveaboards. I can trust and not be afraid.

John 8:12-25 tells the story of Jesus addressing a group of unbelievers:

“That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.”

“Who are you?” they demanded.

Jesus replied, “The one I have always claimed to be” (vv.24-25 NLT).

When Jesus walked this earth, He taught that people’s thoughts about Him mattered. Unless they believed the truth about who He said He was—the Savior sent to cleanse them from sin and restore them to a right relationship with God—they would die in their sins.

The same principle holds true in our thoughts about God the Father. They matter. They matter a great deal. If they’re not based on truth, we develop a skewed understanding of who He is and His role in our lives. We develop a distorted perspective and start living according to our own truth. Eventually we sacrifice peace and joy for envy, discontentment, and fear.

Our human tendency is to make God into something our finite minds can grasp. We make Him into something we want Him to be so we can excuse sinful behaviors. We misconstrue His character by over-emphasizing one attribute at the expense of another.

Let’s guard against doing this, okay? Let’s ask God to reveal any inaccurate thoughts about Him and to replace them with truth.

Our thoughts about God ultimately determine our destiny both in this life and in the hereafter. They’re the most important thing about us, so let’s strive to ensure they’re based on truth.

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

About the author: Grace Fox co-directs an international missionary sending agency, speaks at women’s events overseas and across North America, and has authored ten books. She’s a regular contributor to Mornings with Jesus (Guideposts) and a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries. Her new devotional Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos won the Golden Scroll “Devotional Book of the Year” award and is available wherever Christian books are sold.

Join the conversation: Have you been tempted to give God human limitations in your understanding of Him?

This Really Happened.

by Nan Corbitt Allen

Years ago, when we were serving in a small country church, a lady stood up in the Wednesday night prayer meeting and requested prayer. It was not for herself, she said, but for Laura. Seems Laura was going through a difficult time and needed God’s touch. Well, the church member went on to describe Laura’s woes. It seemed that Laura had a premonition that something bad was going to happen and it did. A friend of Laura’s was shot by a deranged acquaintance, Mickey, who has had amnesia since he returned from the Korean war…

Wait. What?

It didn’t take long for the rest of the congregation to realize that this prayer request was for characters on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. The pastor looked at the lady with sympathetic eyes, and, finally realizing what the rest of us understood, he prayed for Laura while most of us snickered under our breaths.

But for most of us, it was a time to realize that the truth can be skewed by a perception—even a sincere belief.

Many years ago, I heard this story that has stuck with me:

The three-alarm fire started in an upstairs bedroom. By the time the first responders arrived, the building was in full blaze. A young couple and their three-year-old son stood outside huddled together, all sharing a blanket.

“My baby, my baby is still in there!” the mother shouted. “She’s still in her crib.”

The brave fire fighter rushed into the burning building, battling the smoke and flames. Finally, he saw the infant’s crib. Quickly, the man grabbed the child, wrapped it in a blanket, and prayed that he’d make it out of the house alive with the baby. Outside, the mother rushed to the fire fighter, grabbed her baby, and began to thank the man for the rescue. But then, her relief turned to horror. As she peeled back the layers of the tiny blanket, she didn’t see the beautiful face of her child, but the artificial features of a life-like doll that had also been lying in the crib. The fire fighter truly believed that he had picked up the child, but he had been mistaken. A classic case of being sincere, but being sincerely wrong.

Sincerity and even honesty are revered in our culture. In fact, these are admirable traits in a biblical context as well. Paul writes in Philippians 4:8-9 “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (NIV). How do we know what is true? It will align with what the Bible teaches. Period.

I later found out that the lady in prayer meeting had a history of dropping out of reality, and I was truly sad for her. Yet sometimes, we can make the same error by assessing a situation before having all the facts or by accepting a half-truth as the whole. That’s how gossip and spiritual tangents develop.

Paul addressed this in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV), “…[take] every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…” To me this means that we should test everything that we hear or read before we start to believe or internalize it. Many core beliefs are not based on truths (those found in Scripture), but on what we want to hear, “…wanting to have [our] ears tickled …”  (2 Timothy 4:3 NIV).

It’s easy to mistake sincerity for Truth. So, test everything. Pray about everything. Don’t believe everything you hear.

P.S. As for Laura and Mickey, I’m sure they figured it out. We prayed for them anyway.

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

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books. Nan and Dennis retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

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Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: What truth has been skewed in the past for you by a misconception?

The Subtle Deception of Sin

by Candy Arrington

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Matthew 7:3 NIV

In recent years, various celebrities have pled guilty to wrongdoing after vehemently denying charges, and sports figures have admitted cheating to win. When I read these accounts, my first response is indignation. How could these public figures set such a bad example and maintain a seeming lack of remorse?

And then, as is often His way, the Lord whispers, “You are the same.”

“Me? No, I’m not!”

“Remember high school Latin class?”

“Oh, that.”

It began innocently, although cheating is never innocent. There were only four of us in the class and our teacher was old and partially blind. One day we were surprised by a pop quiz, and one of the girls slid her open book into her desk and looked up the answers. Soon, the others were doing the same. I resisted until a day when I hadn’t studied the vocabulary. I was going to fail the quiz…unless. Everyone was doing it. Why shouldn’t I?

Soon, an open book in my desk was commonplace. Then, prior to the exam, which we all were to be exempted from because of our high, ill-gotten grades, the one who began the practice of cheating outed us all. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and mad. Why had she exposed us without warning, without giving us a chance to stop? I’d been caught, and my sin was out there for all to know.

Satan is a sly guy. He convinces us sin is fine, as long as we don’t get caught. He whispers, “Go ahead. You’re safe. No one will find out.”

So, we reason there is nothing wrong with tiny sins—jumping a turnstile, running a red light, fabricating excuses, enhancing the truth. We look at others, measure our sin against theirs, and think what I’m doing isn’t that bad. But don’t be deceived by the father of lies. Sin is sin and all sin is equal. There is no grading scale—no this-sin-is-less-bad-than-another. Every sin has the same effect—separation from God.

Perhaps the greatest deception of sin is the lies we tell ourselves to justify our actions and attitudes, and the only way to avoid deceiving ourselves is to actively work to stay off the slippery slope of lies. You see, sin has a snowball effect. Once you lie, to yourself or someone else, you usually have to tell another lie to cover the first one.

My grandfather was a wise man. One of his life precepts was: If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said. In other words, if you lie, you must remember the lie so you can make sure you re-create it later. Most of us aren’t smart enough to juggle many lies for very long. So why try?

Start today. Make a conscious effort to change the things in your life that you consider “tiny” sins. Ask God to help you. One of the first steps in overcoming sin is admitting what you’re doing is sin and that it’s wrong. Then repent, which means to go in the opposite direction, making an intentional about-face.

While we may be indignant about the sin of others, we’re all just as tarnished. Admit it, and then move forward with honesty, believing you can change through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit within. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but He does expect us to make an effort to be more like Him.

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

About the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals on faith, personal growth, and moving through and beyond difficult life circumstances. Her books include: Life On Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books),  When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H Publishing Group). 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 new book, Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Wellprovides insights on learning from and growing through a time of waiting.

Join the conversation: Are there “tiny” sins you tolerate in your heart?

Please Pass the Salt!

by Kelly Wilson Mize

I’m not proud of it, but I am an admitted salt-a-holic. For me, this simplest of seasonings makes almost any food taste better. A generous amount of salt on vegetables and even some fruits (I think it’s a Southern thing?) Yes, please!

Health-wise, too much salt in a person’s diet can definitely be problematic. But in moderation, salt brings a food’s natural flavor to life. Salt contains nutrients that are not only beneficial, but essential to the human body. Did you know that if you drink too much water, it can flush the sodium out of your system and cause a fatal condition called hyponatremia? 

In the book of Colossians, Paul uses salt to illustrate the importance of being gracious in conversation. Just as salt provides a desirable seasoning for the food we eat, grace should season the words we speak.

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6 NIV

In the New Living Translation of this passage, the phrase “seasoned with salt” is synonymously described as “gracious and attractive.”  In communicating with nonbelievers, our words should be attractive–welcoming and full of flavor, appealing to those who have not yet come to know God.

Salt is a preservative. Besides adding flavor, it can extend the life of certain foods. Do our words help or hinder the spread of Truth? Preserve it or destroy it?Without God’s grace, communication can be dull, tasteless, and ineffective. Matthew Henry wrote, “Grace is the salt that seasons our discourse and keeps it from corrupting.” 

In addition to its other uses, salt helps save lives! Did you know that in the United States, more salt is used to de-ice frozen streets and highways in the winter months, than is consumed in food year-round? Salt, in essence, clears the way. Shouldn’t that be true of the words we speak? They should make clear, and not obstruct the path to Jesus!

Words are forever. Positive or negative, once a word has been spoken, it can never be taken back. How gracious are we in the way that we behave and communicate?  In our interaction with others, let us consistently ask ourselves:

  • Are my intentions pure? 
  • Is my tone kind? 
  • Do my words preserve Truth?
  • Do my conversations make clear the path to Jesus?

As believers, may we take great care in the words that we speak, prayerful that our conversations are pleasing to God and helpful in expanding His kingdom. And where our words lack flavor, preservation, or clarity–may we always remember the simple recipe for improvement that we read about in Colossians: just add a pinch (or more!) of salt! 

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

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About the author: Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother of two young adults, and former educator with a master’s degree in education. In 20 years as a published writer, she has composed numerous articles, interviews, curriculum projects, and devotions, and has contributed to eight traditionally published books. Credits include LifeWay, Bethany House, Guideposts, (in)courage, and others. Kelly’s first full-length publication, a picture book, will be released later this year. You can find out more at kellywilsonmize.com

Join the conversation: With what do you try to salt your words?

The Root that Pushed Through

by Terri Gillespie

When the wicked thrive, wrongdoing increases, but the righteous will see their downfall. Proverbs 29:16 TLV

Have you ever seen a thin blade of grass find its way through concrete? It seems impossible, but as a homeowner, I can tell you it’s not only possible, it happens frequently. How about a mystery plant or those tiny seedlings from the maple tree breaking through the sidewalk? How is that possible?

Concrete contains microscopic cracks invisible to the naked eye. Plants have new cell growth at the tips of their roots. As the plant grows, so does the root system. God gave these roots sensitive tips that have the power to seek the path of least resistance for growth. Those microscopic cracks become the open door for plants growing beneath your sidewalk, patio, or driveway.

Once a plant’s roots discover a minuscule crack in the concrete, they force their way into the slab. Even small weeds and seedlings have the power to displace concrete using potential energy from root growth. Over time, the plant’s continued growth can crack, break, or buckle the surrounding concrete—at which point you may see the plant break through the surface.

God’s truth is like that little plant and the hard concrete is like those in the world who have turned their back on that truth. Nothing can keep His truth from springing forth. So, if the Creator of the Universe can create a tiny seed with enough power to push through concrete, then how much more, can we His children be a voice in this world?

These days we see a lot of “concrete” that scoffs at our little seedlings of truth. At times it may feel like they have buried us alive in hardness. The world may think themselves clever and firmly in control with what they think is a solid barrier against God’s truth, but a single little seedling of His truth can break up the hardness.

Therefore he told me, “This is the Lord’s message to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength and not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Zechariah 4:6 NET

What is your blade of truth? What is the seedling of truth that you are passionate about—that He has planted in your heart? God’s love? His redemption? His reconciliation? His forgiveness?

This isn’t about religion, or doctrine, or the finer points of our faith journey. This is about the core foundational truth that changed us. That which caused our hardness to break, so that life could spring forth. The root that pushed through and turned us to Jesus, who brought us to His Father.

Is that truth evident in our writing, our social media, and our conversations?

Sometimes, we might surrender and think there’s no way to break through. We mustn’t give up because the victory may already be growing and ready to push through. When that crack presents itself, our little root will find the doorway to get through. Are we ready to speak in love and wisdom?

So brace your minds for action. Keep your balance. And set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Yeshua the Messiah. 1 Peter 1:13 TLV

May we watch for the seedling that springs forth and be prepared to share the truth that set us free.

About the author: Award-winning author and speaker, Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus. Her newest book, Sweet Rivalry, releases in late 2021. http://www.authorterrigillespie.com

Join the conversation: Have you seen truth break through the hardness? Please share!

Don’t Be Switzerland

by A.C. Williams @Free2BFearless

The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me, because I accuse it of doing evil. (John 7:7 NLT)

I used to work in cubicle maze. The only creative writer in our international company, I touched pretty much every project that our mostly female marketing department produced. If you’ve ever worked in a group of women, you already understand the tension.

Historically, groups of women working together in close quarters don’t get along well. We were fortunate in our little team because for the most part, we did. But there were some strong personalities, that’s for sure, and sometimes, they got sideways with each other.

Three of the gals who all did similar jobs were all in a row. The ladies on either end of the row had very different working styles and personalities, and they sometimes clashed. The gal in the middle generally refused to take a side. So, we had a long-standing joke in our department, that her cubicle was Switzerland. We even took it so far to buy her a miniature Swiss flag to hang up as a symbol of her neutrality. Looking back, I’m so thankful that we could laugh about it.

I mean, I was with her, honestly. Whenever there’s conflict or the potential for conflict, you will find me hiding from it. Conflict exhausts me. I hate it.

But the longer I live and the darker our world grows, the harder it is to find neutral ground. And there’s a reason for that, my friends. Believers aren’t supposed to be neutral. We’re to be peacemakers, yes, but being neutral and making peace are two completely different ideas.

I was reading John 7 for a study I’m doing, and I found this statement that Jesus said to his brothers before He left Galilee for the Festival of Shelters in Jerusalem.

“The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil” (John 7:7 NLT). Cue the mic drop, right?

Have you ever noticed that nobody had lukewarm feelings about Jesus in Scripture? Have you noticed that people today are the same way? What was true then is true today: Nobody has half-hearted feelings about Jesus.

Ever wonder why? Was it His miracles? His personality? His popularity?

No, I believe it was because He spoke the truth, and the truth is never neutral. Truth, by its very nature, is exclusive. As much as our culture and our world wants to claim that truth depends on the person, they can’t. Truth is either true or it’s not. And when we plant our flag there, we will experience hateful backlash, just like Jesus did.

That’s why it’s important to remember that the world hated Him first (John 15:18). But does the world hate you? Or are you neutral? Jesus stood for the truth. He didn’t bend just to make others feel better about their foolish choices. He didn’t make excuses for evil. He faced it with compassion, kindness, and love, but He was relentless and unyielding. People could say what they wanted about Him, but they could never say He was neutral.

Believers, we’re here for a reason. We are His ambassadors, called to represent God to the world, and too many of us blend in too well. I get it. I love blending in, but I’m not called to an ignorable life. I am called to be holy. Loving, speaking, and living the Truth will make me stand out. A life like that can’t be ignored.

It’s time to stop hiding. It’s time to speak up. I’ve been on neutral ground long enough. I’m standing on holy ground now, and I intend to tell the world.

How about you?

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Don’t Be Switzerland – insight on #FollowingGod from A.C. Williams @Free2BFearless on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if isn’t, her socks will never match. She likes her road trips with rock music, her

Finding Fireflies

superheroes with snark, and her blankets extra fuzzy, but her first love is stories and the authors who are passionate about telling them. Learn more about her book coaching services and follow her adventures on social media @free2bfearless.

Join the conversation: How do you know if someone is a Christian? What makes them stand out from the crowd?

Compelling Love

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV

Years ago, whenever I came for a visit, my sister, my mom, and I frequently shopped together at our favorite Connecticut venue: Marlboro Country Barn. An old farmstead house and barns had been converted into a group of country shops that sold furniture and other home accessories.

As we were browsing one day, I noticed a cute little boy alone.  He was mesmerized by some magnetic figurines “skating” around a mirror pond. His attention was so focused, he was unaware when his parents moved on to another room. Suddenly he looked up and realized he was alone.  In a panic, he began to whimper, “Mommy? Where are you?”

My heart went out to him. I stooped down and gently asked, “Honey, did you lose your mom and dad?”

But before I could offer to help find them, he looked at me in horror and screamed at the top of his lungs: “NO! GET AWAY FROM ME!  YOU… ARE… A… STRANGER!!”

Embarrassed, I backed away, trying to assure the other shoppers now condemning me with their stares that I was only trying to help. Of course, my sister and mom were of no assistance; they were hiding behind the candles doubled over with laughter. Fortunately, the mother came quickly at the sound of her son’s cry, and the little guy was rescued. 

That boy was so convinced that all strangers were a threat to him, he was absolutely compelled to reject my offer of help. And not a person in that room had any doubt of his conviction!

As believers, we have convictions, too. “For Christ’s love compels us,” Paul wrote the Corinthians, “Because we are convinced that one died for all…that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV). 

The Greek lexicon defines that word, compels, as urging or providing impulse for some activity. It can also mean occupied or absorbed, or involved in intensive engagement. You get the picture. What we have experienced of the love of Christ has provided a life-altering insight.

What we know to be true, then, compels our response.

The night Jesus was arrested, the disciples scattered. They went into hiding, afraid for their lives. Yet forty days later, those same men are found preaching on the streets and in the temple, boldly proclaiming the name of Jesus. What happened? They had witnessed the resurrected Christ. They now understood why He had come and what He had accomplished on the cross. There was no doubt in their minds as to what was true. And that truth compelled them to spread the word, even at the risk of death.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear,” Ambrose Redmoon once observed. The disciples stood ready to risk everything, because they knew something more important than their lives was at stake.      

What we know compels a response. Like that little boy at Marlboro Country Barn whose conviction moved him to scream at the advances of a stranger, our conviction moves us to respond just as strongly to what we know to be true. We owe Him everything. The great love that He has lavished upon us demands a response. It only makes sense that we would choose to live for Him.

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Compelling Love – insight and encouragement from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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About 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 knowledge compels you into action?

When God Speaks

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

God is always speaking to His children, guiding us toward His very best, but sometimes His voice grows faint amid the noise and confusion all around us.

Early in my parenting days, I was probably the most insecure, and often confused, mother around. I felt bombarded by advice, warnings, and contradicting tips from so-called experts. As a result, I routinely felt overwhelmed. Initially, I tried to raise our daughter in my wisdom and strength, largely because I hadn’t learned to discern God’s voice. I gave too much weight to the faulty and often shifting “insight” of others and falsely believed I could make sense of it all.

Relying on my own intellect characterized every area of my life, and in fact, had for some time, but it rarely brought the results I wanted. I did not experience the peace and confidence I craved.

Granted, I did pray. Oh, how I prayed. But I wasn’t always alert to God’s answers—in part because I rarely sat still long enough to hear Him. And when I did, though my heart would prick with the confidence and assurance that can only come from God, all too soon “common sense” or popular opinion overshadowed His perfect wisdom.

I often resembled a woman caught on an inflatable in the middle of a tumultuous ocean. James 1:5-8 describes this scenario. The principles found there apply to all of life. James began by encouraging us to seek God’s guidance, saying, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

God doesn’t expect me to know it all. He doesn’t expect me to have life all figured out, or even to know His will perfectly. Rather, He invites me to seek Him, and when I do, no matter the question, no matter the struggle, He responds with grace.

Yet, responsibility comes with this access and invitation, for he goes on to say in verse 6, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

When we doubt the very truths God Himself deposits into our souls, our thoughts become divided and disordered. We become unstable, pushed and pulled in whatever direction feels strongest or screams loudest. What an unsettling, if not terrifying, place to be!

Have you ever tried to swim or paddle in choppy water? It’s exhausting and defeating!

Years ago, our family vacationed to Hawaii. One afternoon, my daughter and I went paddle boarding in the ocean. Rather than paddling, I relaxed and allowed the waves to gently rock me. At some point, I realized how far I’d drifted. The people on the beach looked so small and the water surrounding me vast and deep!

I immediately began paddling back, but I didn’t seem to get anywhere against the waves.

Though I did ultimately make it back, the experience painted a vivid reminder of what life feels like when we’re not anchored to truth.

That’s not to say we’ll never experience doubt, but when we do, may we always bring our questions to the One with all the answers and choose to believe His Word.

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When God Speaks – encouragement on #FollowingGod from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites.

In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever inadvertently ventured away from the truth? How did God speak to you?

Sometimes Love is a Hard Conversation

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-3 ESV

I have witnessed incredible courage in my times – bravery on the battlefield of childhood.

Times when adults stood around muttering that “someone should do something” until a child, full of love, tugged the sword out of their stone hearts and became king of love and reason.

An eight-year-old alone in a room of professionals, speaking up to say, “We’re not safe at home. Please don’t make us go back there.” Then, taking up her mother’s hand, “Mommy, I’m sorry. I love you, but you’re not protecting us.”

A ten-year-old boy who leapt to his feet in a living room crowded with adults and shouted, “Ha! Mom, I knew that was wrong, even though you said it was okay for me to ride in the trunk of the car. It is wrong, isn’t it?”

I nodded my head as I watched his mind make connections like a pinball machine the moment after the quarter drops. “And, I bet it’s not okay for me steal stuff for you! Mom, I think you believe you love me, but you’re doing it way wrong.”

Then, he turned to the relatives sitting in the room. “And you guys! How come you aren’t saying anything to her? I’m a kid. Grown-ups are supposed to watch out for kids.”

Or the thirteen-year-old girl who sat across a kitchen table and looked me square in the eye. “Why should I tell you anything about my hopes and dreams? You’re like the fifteenth old lady to sit in this kitchen and act like you know something that might help us. Why don’t you ask my dad his hopes and dreams? If you start working on that, we might actually get somewhere, but that’s a lot harder than sittin’ with a thirteen-year-old, isn’t it?”

Sometimes love is a hard conversation.

Don’t tell a kid in your ministry you love them in the name of Jesus, unless you’re willing to sit with their parents and talk when you suspect things aren’t right at home.

Don’t tell a young woman you love her, and then suggest she stay quiet when she says that a church leader made her feel uncomfortable with his words or his hands.

Don’t tell a young wife to go home, pray, and be a better wife, when she confides about her husband’s unexpected rages, drinking, pornography, or abusive words.

When your friend gossips in the guise of a prayer request, don’t just walk away and feel self-righteous that “at least you’re not like her.”

To be like Jesus is to love like a child.

A child sees no conflict between loving someone and telling them the truth.

A child sees no dissonance in loving a person and saying hard things to them.

A child knows that if someone doesn’t stand up to people doing wrong things, they’ll keep doing them.

A child knows how to love someone and still tell them they have to stop hurting other people.

Children learn from the people doing wrong to silence themselves, to hide, to cower, and to embrace helplessness. Jesus calls out the child in us to unlearn these ways for these are the ways of the sinful world.

Jesus demonstrated that sometimes love is a hard conversation. Just look at what He said to the Woman at the Well, the hypocritical Pharisees, or to Judas at the Last Supper.

Let love incite us to speak truth into our own lives and to choose love even when it would be easier to stay silent. This is the way of light. Sin, pain, and all manner of evil flourish in the darkness.

Our words can be light, against which, the darkness will not prevail.

TWEETABLE
Sometimes Love is a Hard Conversation – encouragement 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: Can you recall a time when a child fearlessly expressed the truth?

 

 

 

A Bad Diagnosis

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

“And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’” Mark 2:16-17 ESV

My husband and I used to love watching House. You remember the medical drama about the damaged but brilliant doctor who solves medical mysteries that elude other doctors? He was usually the last hope for his patients and because of that, unlike other medical shows where a patient is devastated to receive a dire diagnosis; these patients welcome the life-altering news.

Why would anyone welcome a bad diagnosis?

It’s because the patients have suffered with symptoms that they know are real. They’ve tried dozens of other avenues for treatment and cure. Usually, the incorrect treatment was not only ineffective for solving their problem; it created more problems and sometimes threatened their lives.

The correct diagnosis, even if it is a terrible one, is better than suffering in the dark.

My husband’s life became a real-life House episode for over five years. He battled a mystery illness and pursued courses of treatment that created more problems than they cured. When we prepared to visit a new doctor to receive test results, we’d be more devastated to have no answers than we would if we were receiving news of a life-threatening disease with a name.

My college professor used to say “the facts are our friends; truth is always on our side no matter what that truth is.” An inaccurate diagnosis, a wrong course of treatment, false hopes – these are the enemies – not the truth.

Which is why most Christians were relieved to learn the condemning news that they are sinners with no hope of saving themselves.

See, we knew something was wrong inside us. We suffered from the symptoms but could not find the cause no matter where we looked. And boy, did we look!

We pursued all kinds of false diagnoses. We tried every self-help treatment available and followed each healer who told us they knew the cure for what ailed us. Those false cures were not only ineffective; they created more problems, some of them life-threatening.

Then, one day, someone told us they knew what was wrong with us. That person may have exhibited compassion, or they may have been as cold as Dr. House, but they knew the truth about our condition – we were sinners with no hope of saving ourselves, facing a sentence of death.

Rather than be offended or devastated by the news, we were relieved to hear the truth that somehow, we already knew. We’d suffered the symptoms of our sinful condition for so long we were ready for the cure.

And THAT was the good news. The cure was available for us. We could be healed by trusting Jesus Christ with our lives. No longer did we have to search bookstores and drugstores, gurus and shamans, backrooms or bedrooms for treatments that only quieted the symptoms but did nothing to touch the disease. Now we were free to pursue the effective treatment available through a relationship with the God of the universe.

Just like on House, for some the evidence of the cure was immediate, for others it took time, but the Great Physician has a 100% survival rate among those who are willing to receive the truth and trust His prescription for their lives.

Not only is the survival rate 100%, but the effects are extended release – they extend into eternity.

TWEETABLE
A Bad Diagnosis – encouragement 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: When did you receive the correct diagnosis on you spiritual ailment?