Monday, November 11, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Amanda's thoughts about a Biblical hero

Be Like Bezalel
A devotional by Amanda Wen

“See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.” – Exodus 31:2-5 (ESV)

One of my favorite Biblical heroes is Bezalel. He’s not one you hear a lot of Bible stories about in Sunday school, nor is his name one that trips easily off the tongue the way Joshua, Esther, Ruth, or David do. In fact, I’d guess even many lifelong Christians would be hard-pressed to remember the guy or what he’s famous for.

But anyone who saw the Tabernacle would instantly know that name, because the original dwelling place of God, the portable sanctuary where His Shekinah glory resided, was largely Bezalel’s handiwork. Bezalel was a master craftsman, enormously gifted and spectacularly skilled in a variety of fields, including metalworking, stoneworking, textiles, and woodcarving. The source of this gifting? The Holy Spirit.

Before Jesus’ death and resurrection tore the curtain of the Holy of Holies and forever removed the separation between God and man, the Holy Spirit did not automatically indwell believers. Instead, God filled chosen men and women with His Spirit to accomplish certain tasks. Joshua (Numbers 27:18), the judge Othniel (Judges 3:10) and King Saul (1 Samuel 10:10) were all filled with the Spirit at specific times for specific reasons. In addition, this power came upon Mary when she conceived Jesus. (Luke 1:35).

But after Jesus returned to the Father, His Spirit came to indwell believers (Acts 2). Any of us who profess Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord receives the Spirit of God to dwell inside us and enable us to do what He has called us to do. And just as Bezalel did nothing to earn this indwelling, we don’t earn it, either. It’s automatic, as much of a grace-gift as salvation itself.

As a believing creative, I’ve often heard that we should create “in the Spirit.” For a long time, this puzzled me. How would I know when I was doing it, or, more importantly, how would I know when I was not doing it, so I could get back on track?

But I don’t think there’s any magic to it. No easy steps to follow to make sure we’re “creating in the Spirit.”

Brothers and sisters, if the Holy Spirit lives inside you, than any creative work you do for the glory of God is done in the Spirit. Little by little He uses our work, our circumstances, everything about our lives, to shape us to be more like Him. In return, we glorify Him by what we give back: the gifts and talents He’s has given us, along with the enabling of the Spirit to create what He has called us to create.

It’s pretty awesome to think about.

One final thought: Bezalel was filled with the Holy Spirit in order to construct God’s dwelling place (the Tabernacle). Mary was overshadowed by the Spirit to conceive the Word made flesh, God’s only Son, in order that He might dwell with His people here on Earth. And now we as believers are filled with the Holy Spirit and so become His dwelling place. 

1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. The places where God’s Shekinah glory dwells.

And because of this indwelling of the Spirit, like Bezalel, we are able to do whatever He calls us to do. It might be something spectacular, like building a tabernacle. 

More probably, it’s simply enabling us to do the everyday tasks He puts in front of us, whether that’s raising children, writing books, creating art, making music, or serving faithfully at our day jobs. Not because of anything we do, or anything we are on our own.

It’s only because of who He made us to be.

Author Bio:
Amanda Wen is an award-winning writer of contemporary inspirational romance and split-time women’s fiction. 

A first place winner in the 2017 Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest, she also placed first in the 2017 Phoenix Rattler Contest, the 2017 Great Expectations Contest, and the 2016 ACFW First Impressions Contest, among others. In addition, she was a finalist in the 2018 ACFW Genesis Contest.

Amanda is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and regularly contributes author interviews for their Fiction Finder feature. She’s also been spotted onstage with the worship team at recent ACFW conferences. Amanda is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.

In addition to her writing, Amanda maintains an active and rewarding career as a freelance cellist, frequently performing with symphony orchestras, string quartets, and her church’s worship team. She lives in the Midwest with her amazing husband and their three adorable and hilarious Wenlets.

Connect with Amanda:

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Celebrate Lit blog tour featuring Bill Crowder's book "Before Christmas"

Welcome to my blog's stop on Bill Crowder's Before Christmas book tour!

Read my review of his book below and remember to enter the giveaway contest toward the end of this blog post.


My Review:

Before Christmas is a book with a lot of heart.

The author, Bill Crowder, has penned a nonfiction story about the greatest story ever told!

The book is well-written but a bit too heavy on backstory from the author's life and overloaded with factual information that slowed me down as a reader. 

The author's storytelling style did not hold my attention. I found myself stopping, pausing and re-reading sections of this book to make sure I understood because some of the information went over my head.

However, this is not to discourage you from reading this book. There is an audience for this book who will be helped and inspired by reading it. Though I do love Jesus Christ and enjoy reading about His birth, life and mission to save humanity, this portrayal of His great mission did not strike a chord with me.

There are many good points about this book: The author writes well. The editing is flawless. The descriptions are very detail-oriented. The factual information, while heavy at points, is theologically sound (as far as I can tell) and the author's heart for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ shines through this book!

I would recommend this book to new believers in God and for those who do not know Jesus Christ.

Readers who already know God and follow Jesus Christ may enjoy learning more about Him in this book but again, it just wasn't my cup of tea. However, that is nothing against the author because he has produced a good final product. 

So don't be deterred from reading his book! Give it a chance.

*Celebrate Lit provided me (Alexis A. Goring) with a complimentary copy of this book, Before Christmas, by Bill Crowder. My opinions in this book review are my own.

About the Book

Book: Before Christmas
Author: Bill Crowder
Genre: RELIGION / Holidays/Christmas & Advent
Release Date: October 2019
Before ChristmasEmbrace the majesty of the Messiah
Bill Crowder invites you to explore the backstory of the first advent. He brings you on a journey into the very heart of God, to a greater understanding of what it means that “the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).
Walk through Scripture to see and know Jesus in a richer way. Examine His character as God, His relationship with the Father, His appearances in the Old Testament, and more. Understand how these pre-Bethlehem truths lead into the Savior’s birth and the events of that first Christmas—and, most importantly, how it all comes together in God’s great story of redemption and rescue.
You’ll embrace the majesty of the Messiah and celebrate Christ’s birth with renewed joy and wonder.
Click here to get your copy.

About the Author

Bill CrowderBill Crowder, who spent over twenty years in the pastorate, is vice president of ministry content at Our Daily Bread Ministries. He is a contributor to Our Daily Bread and the author of nine books, including My Hope Is in You, Seeing the Heart of Christ, and For This He Came. He and his wife, Marlene, have five children.

More from Bill

During my years as a pastor, I found Christmas and Easter to be challenging.

Certainly I love those seasons (for very different reasons), but finding creative ways to retell these important stories was often difficult. But, at one such season I realized that the story we tell at Christmas is not really the whole story.

By entering the story at Nazareth or Bethlehem, we enter too late. We can’t simply start with the Baby in the manger—we need to go back. Before time began. To the eternal Christ.

Unless we seek to understand Him, we’ll never fully appreciate who He was and why He came. That is the Christmas story.  – Bill Crowder

Blog Stops

The Power of Words, October 31
Mary Hake, October 31
A Rup Life, November 3
Texas Book-aholic, November 4
janicesbookreviews, November 5
A Reader’s Brain, November 7
Emily Yager, November 8
Older & Smarter?, November 9
God is Love, November 10
She Lives To Read, November 12
Inklings and notions, November 13


To celebrate his tour, Bill is giving away the grand prize package of a copy of the book, Starbucks Holiday Blend Coffee, and $10 Amazon card!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! 
Click the link below to enter.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Dreams

Following your God-given dreams

A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." – 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

Most of us would never steal and find cheating to be reprehensible. Yet, we often steal from ourselves by minimizing or failing to live up to our own potential.

We do this by rationalizing or justifying why now is not the time to act on a flash of inspiration or a task that looms larger in the light of procrastination than the reality of applied effort. Philip James Bailey, an English poet of the 19th century, said, "The first and worst of all frauds is to cheat one's self."

There may be several reasons why we cheat ourselves. The first is because we esteem ourselves to lowly. The second may be a lack of courage. Lack of courage occurs on a continuum of fear. At either end is failure or success. The third condition is often fear of regret. Let me challenge each, briefly.

At some point in my early years of pastoral ministry, the verse above came to life in my being. I dreamed and watched a dream come to greater fruition than I could have imagined. In retrospect, even though I was now awake, I was not courageous enough to walk into that portal of destiny.

God directed me to plant a church in Reading, Pennsylvania. We named it Rehoboth. We found a temporary worship site, but God planted a thought in my mind. I called the Lincoln Hotel to inquire about renting one of their three ballrooms on Sabbath from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. for one year.

I was referred to the owner, a kind, elderly Jewish woman. When we met, she asked me what I wanted. My reply was clear and succinct, to rent one of your ballrooms every Sabbath for one year. Her reply still echoes in my mind to this day. She said, “Why rent a ballroom when you could own the entire hotel?”

I responded that I don’t need the entire hotel. She persisted in her inquiry. I responded that “My mission was to plant and build a church, I know nothing about hotel management.”

When I perceived that she was serious and that she was responding to a movement of God in her life, my thoughts and dreams expanded. I did not ultimately acquire the hotel, because my faith was too small, but the lesson that I learned from that event was that we often miss God’s best for us because of our own timidity, flawed humility, broken spiritual connections and an inability to see and receives gifts from God with a thankful spirit.

There is a difference between humility and low personal regard. A lump of coal, when fuel is needed, is more valuable than a diamond. A diamond really is a lump of coal that persisted for a long time while under intense pressure. I was given a diamond and did not know how to receive it. I did not feel worthy, or qualified. God can and does call the gifted. He also gifts the called.

So, a remedy for cheating ourselves is to reassess our value, first within and later in each of our social contexts. Pray, meditate, communicate with God, not just about what we want from Him; listen to what He wants for you, then He will guide you into what He needs you to do.

The issue of courage, or the lack thereof, is an internal fight. Harold Wilson coined a secret of success when he said; “Courage is the art of being the only one who knows that you are scared to death.” Practice helps to overcome fear. Self disciplines, like getting up earlier in the morning and making time to commune with God can change your immediate perceptions and open your perceptions to God’s plan for your day and your future.

Act on your initiatives with prayerful boldness. Divorce your mediocrity. Stop waiting to find yourself or to be found and valued. Prayerfully dream of the life, career, experiences and acquisitions that you would like to have, then get about creating it. It is when we take the requisite steps toward fulfillment that God intervenes. Put your foot into the stream of your destiny and God will part the way for your successful journey!

Author Bio:

Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.

Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md.

He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: No Law

There Is No Law
A devotional by Allison M. Wilson

Key Scripture: Galatians 5:22-23, Proverbs 25:2, Philippians 4:4-8 (NASB)

We’ve come to the end of the Fruit of the Spirit, and I have to say, God’s shown me some pretty neat things about these gifts. The progression of them has such deep meaning. I look forward to letting Him bring out more and more.

The last line in this particular set of verses has always been interesting to me: “…against such things there is no law.” Why would that need to be said? Who could think any of these fruit would be a bad thing? I mean, love is what makes the world go around, right? And kindness has had movies made about it. Songs are written about these qualities, so why point out that there isn’t a law against them?

Christ knows we are dense sometimes. I don’t say that to be mean. It’s a reality. We see the Word repeating things … a lot. That’s because we need it to be repeated. Just once isn’t enough. Repetition is how we learn. There are some who say that it takes 7 or 8 times of hearing something you’d like to remember before it starts to stick. It would have taken a lot of space to repeat all of these fruit here in the section.

We need something to snap us out of our stupor and make us pay attention. The Word says that it’s to the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to seek it out. I think this might be one of those places. Why is it important for Christ to tell us there’s no law against these fruit?

Whether we all agree what it is, we’re all born with a moral compass. One person’s may be different than another’s, but everyone has something in them that tells them something is right or wrong. Yet, don’t we see great wrongs being done every day, and by those who should “know better?” At that point, what do we tend to do? We judge that person’s walk, their faith, their relationship with God. God alone knows the heart, however, we feel we have seen enough to make a judgment on that person, sometimes based on less than a minute of time.

What if we attach the fruit of the Spirit to those situations? Since there is no law against them, put love alongside the issue. Where does that leave you in the situation? And joy? Or faithfulness? Oh, don’t forget peace.

We can’t exhibit too much of any of these things. Honestly, we can’t exhibit any of them on our own. But, Christ wants these to be our first line of defense against all the things that come at us each day. We are strengthened when we know and walk in His love. That springs joy up through us, and spills out on those around us. We’re peaceful, making everyone feel at ease or welcome, solely due to our encounters with the love of God.

I see nowhere in Scripture where we’re told to dwell on our past…our sins. What I do see are several lists of positive things that God wants us to focus on for a huge benefit. We gain a guarded mind and heart when we do. Who here needs that today? All of this stems from knowing there is no law against, and no reason not to have, these fruit freely flowing through us. They are the very essence of Christ living in us to a world that desperately needs His love. Be fruitful, and multiply.

Let’s Pray:
Dearest Jesus, we know Your ways are better. We know the Fruit of the Spirit that You’ve given us are for our benefit, but they are even more for others. Let there be no boundary on how Your Fruit are used in and through us for Your glory. In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.

Author Bio:

A very early reader and lover of the written word, Allison M. Wilson has been writing since the age of eight with the heart to impart stories and God's truth. 

She has judged countless contests for the last 25 years, reviewed for several online publications, professionally edited, and written articles and devotionals.

Wife, mother, writer, editor, teacher, mentor, and mompreneur, God keeps her busy while living in east central Florida with her family.

Connect with Allison:

Monday, November 4, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Loneliness

How my relationship with Jesus got rid of my loneliness
A devotional by Jessica Brodie

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”—1 John 4:7 (NIV)

Friendship was always a huge struggle for me. I was shy, I moved around a lot, I was a little socially awkward, and I had issues going on in my family that created a ton of turmoil within me—perhaps these are many of the reasons.

Still, it left me lonely. I never had that one “best friend,” and while I would make friends, I never had a close inner circle. As I became an adult, I’d hear about other women getting together to go shopping or grab lunch or do a girls’ weekend together, and a pang of envy would stab in my heart. What’s “wrong” with me? Why aren’t I likable?

Friendship always seemed out of reach for me. I felt so deeply isolated—on an island of my own. I was certain I was the only one going through this because everyone else I knew at least had a single friend or two. But me? Nope. I’d start to make friendships but never got past what felt like an invisible wall that blocked me from real depth. My best friends were in the pages of books I’d read.

Over the years, life happened. I had children. My relationship with the Lord deepened and grew.

And one day I looked up and realized I wasn’t lonely anymore.

Wait—what? I still didn’t have close female friends. On the surface, life hadn’t changed very much. What was the difference?

Jesus. That was the difference. It wasn’t that I didn’t know Jesus before. I believed wholeheartedly. But along the lines, belief became relationship, which is quite different.  And now, because I had a relationship with Jesus, somehow I didn’t feel lonely anymore. I felt complete.

It’s like before, I was always wanting to be a closed and perfect circle, fully connected, spinning round and around, but somehow there was a little opening, an open wound, in my circle, and all that love was spilling out like water from a hose. That’s why I never felt complete.

I didn’t realize it, but I think I’d been looking for my “other half” my whole life, that I firmly believed there was another person out there who would complete me, whether in a love relationships or a friendship—like that Jerry Maguire movie (“You complete me”).

But Jesus closed that hole, mended that gash, and with that my soul felt right. Jesus completed me.

With this realization came another, more painful one: how much of my energy had been going into myself. Ouch!

When I became centered on my Lord, I stopped being self-centered. With that, not only did I feel a million times better, but something magical happened: I began to attract friends like bees to honey!

You know that old saying, “To make a friend you’ve got to be a friend?” I used to think that meant acts of service or giving up all my time, but those can be superficial. What I’ve realized is that being a friend means giving yourself in love—full-on, sacrificial love.

Just like Jesus loved us.

Love means sacrifice. It means living out the greatest commandments, which Jesus told us are to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). Or, as I saw condensed on a T-shirt a few years ago: God first, others second, self last.

That was an impossible task before I had a true and deep relationship with Jesus, but somehow from that deep relationship with Jesus, everything else miraculously fell into place.

Because of that relationship with Jesus I knew how to love. I could love friends. I could love my children. I could love my husband. Fully and completely.

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:10-13 that he had learned the secret to true contentment: that he can do all things through Christ who gives him strength. I’ve learned the same. My relationship with Christ is the only thing that gave me the inner strength to overcome my loneliness.

And when his light shines into that lonely darkness, it obliterates the darkness.

Today, I’m not lonely in the least. Whether I’m in a crowd or I’m by myself, it is well with my soul.

Jesus is love. Because I now have that love in my heart I’m no longer lonely, and now I can love others back, too, the right way. The Jesus way.

Author Bio:

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden.

She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and a member of the Wholly Loved Ministries team.

Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at

Friday, November 1, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: The Battle

The Battle Belongs to God
A devotional by Mirachelle Canada

“For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.” –Deuteronomy 20:4 (ESV)

One of the hardest things to do is watch someone going through battle.

Whether it’s a physical, emotional, or psychological one, the desire to fix or change a difficult situation for someone else comes from the core of our humanity, the place where God put compassion. The need to rescue someone can even keep us up at night.

I found myself in such a situation when a friend of mine was being bullied for something she didn’t do. I wanted to step in and defend her as I had knowledge of the situation her bullies didn’t, knowledge that proved her side, but she didn’t want it made public. She didn’t want to make it so easy for her bullies. I had to respect her wishes. All I could do was offer her my support and stand silently by as she battled alone.

I struggled in my inaction and lifted her up to the Lord. I asked Him to defend her and lead her out of her misery. I also enlisted my prayer group on her behalf as well.

As I sought the Lord regarding my frustration as a silent witness to injustice, He took the opportunity to humble and reminded me that all battles belong to Him.

Deuteronomy 20:4 (ESV) says, “For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

In His Word (The Holy Bible), God gives His people a lot of instructions regarding battle, especially about trusting Him to bring us through it. He doesn’t promise us we will win, but that the victory belongs to Him. Victories are won to show God’s glory.

By surrendering my friend’s situation into the hands of the only One who could truly defend her, I was also believing for God to be victorious because I know He loves His children and tells us to as He says in Isaiah 41:10 (ESV), “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

By believing and interceding for my friend through prayer, God showed me I was not standing idly by, but that my prayers were covering my friend as He battled on her behalf.

I’m happy to say my friend made it through her battle and God restored her reputation as well. He sees and knows the things we cannot. His intent is to show us He will make something good out of something bad, and He will always be victorious for us.

Who can you pray for today that’s going through a battle? Lift them up today. They may just be one prayer away from victory at the hand of God.

Author Bio:

Mirachelle Canada is a writer, playwright, screenwriter and theatre director/producer from Northern Virginia. She teaches television production at C.D. Hylton Senior High School.

She earned her Master of Fine Arts in Script & Screenwriting from Regent University and is a member of Act One: Hollywood Film & Television Writing Program, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), ACFW Virginia Chapter, The Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild, and Your Novel Blueprint.

Mirachelle is passionate about awakening creativity and the gifts of God in everyone. She is currently working on her first historical fiction novel set during WWII, inspired by her time studying theatre education in London, England.

In her spare time, she also writes and directs Christmas and Easter passion plays at Christ Chapel Assembly of God in Woodbridge, Va.

Connect with Mirachelle: