Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Romantic Reads: Beyond Justice


The Story behind Beyond Justice by Cara Putman:

Beyond Justice was my first legal romantic suspense. 

This book was a little different from the others because editors were asking me for a legal proposal. One thing that I learned early in my writing process is that I have to find an idea I can fall in love with for two years. Yep, you read that right. Two years. It takes roughly two years to go from building the proposal to writing and editing the book then through marketing the book as it releases. I knew I had to find an idea with Beyond Justice that could carry me through that space of time.

I was very deliberate about working toward that idea.

I quickly had the idea that the series would focus on a group of friends who became close in law school. Each book allowed a different woman to step forward as the heroine, and because I set the books in Alexandria, Virginia, I had immense flexibility about what they could do with their law degree. Each book wouldn’t have to be a courtroom driven drama.

But I still needed the hook for Beyond Justice. What would be the quest that Hayden, the first heroine, embarks on? What would motivate her to change throughout the course of the book?

It started with a headline. The United States was experiencing a flood of unaccompanied minor illegal aliens – a theme that is repeating in headlines now. I began to wonder what that experience was like for the children and young adults. How should we care for them when they entered the country? Then I saw the photo of the Syrian refuge toddler who drowned while fleeing with his family. Combined, these different stories made me think. What would it take to make a mother believe that her child was better off taking the horrific risks both journeys involved to reach the freedom offered by another country? And what if a child died while in custody of the United States at a detention facility? Those questions became the genesis of Beyond Justice.

I added in a feisty heroine, a strong hero, and layers of problems. The result is a book I hope you will enjoy reading.

Be sure to click here to read the first five chapters of Beyond Justice.

~*~
Author Bio:
Since the time she could read Nancy Drew, Cara has wanted to write mysteries. In 2005 she attended a book signing at her local Christian bookstore. The rest, as they say, was history. 

There she met a fellow Indiana writer Colleen Coble. With prompting from her husband, Cara shared her dream with Colleen. Since those infamous words, Cara’s been writing award-winning books. She is currently writing book 35 and dreaming up future books, not hard when she sees what-ifs everywhere. 

Cara Putman is an active member of ACFW and gives back to the writing community through her service on Executive Board. She has also been the Indiana ACFW chapter president and served as the Area Coordinator for Indiana.

Cara is also an attorney, full-time lecturer at a Big Ten university, active in women's ministry, and all around crazy woman. Crazy about God, her husband and her kids that is. 

She graduated with honors from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Go Huskers!), George Mason Law School, and Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. 

You can learn more about Cara at www.caraputman.com.

~*~
Book Blurb for Beyond Justice:

Hayden McCarthy is on track to become the youngest partner in her prestigious D.C. law firm . . . if the case she's just been handed doesn't destroy her first. 


Hayden McCarthy knows firsthand the pain when justice is not served. It's why she became an attorney and why she's so driven in her career. When she's assigned a wrongful death case against the government, she isn't sure if it's the lucky break she needs to secure a partnership—or an attempt to make sure she never gets there.

Further complicating matters is Andrew, her roommate’s distractingly attractive cousin. But Andrew’s father is a Congressman, and Hayden's currently taking on the government. Could the timing be any worse?

The longer she keeps the case active, the higher the stakes become. Unknown enemies seem determined to kill the case—or her. Logic and self-preservation would indicate she should close the case. But how can she, when justice is still just beyond her reach?

Monday, April 12, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: Dinner


Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
A devotional by Cyndi Staudt

He replied, “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me.”
– Matthew 26:23 (NLT)

Have you noticed the Bible talks a lot about meals? I’m not complaining by any means. This girl loves her food and even more so when I can enjoy that food in the company of good friends or family. Gathering together, especially for meals has always been a great way to connect with others and, much like Biblical times, many significant events happen around a table.

In the Bible we see that sharing a meal together is one of the primary ways relationships are established, deepened, and enjoyed both with God and with others. Old Testament prophets often compared life in the new heavens and earth with the picture of a divine banqueting table. In the New Testament, we regularly find Jesus “reclining” at a table during His earthly ministry, engaging with real people, furthering His kingdom work, fostering true community, demonstrating reconciliation with God, and building genuine fellowship among His disciples.

While we see that eating or gathering together is important, what might be more important is who we gather with. If we are going to establish, deepen and enjoy relationships around the table there must be others at the table. And who those people are matters. In fact, we can often tell a lot about a person by the people they hang around with. Typically, we tend to gather with people who are a lot like us – think like us, believe like us, maybe look like us, etc.

This got me thinking about those Jesus fellowshipped with while He was on earth. Jesus loved to hang out with people that made the Pharisees uncomfortable. It’s part of what got Him killed. Certainly, when you look at his closest crew, they were people that if we simply looked on the surface, might make us scratch our heads.

My study Bible has a chart that lists occupations, qualities and traits of the disciples and it’s somewhat comical to read through. Among the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ was Matthew the despised tax collector, James described as short-tempered and judgmental, Thomas the doubter, and Peter who was impulsive and disowned Christ three times. Yet they were all part of His ride or die crew – the ones He went everywhere with! It makes me feel good to read some of the people Jesus chose to spend time with – it gives me hope that maybe, in spite of my less-than-stellar traits, He would choose to spend time or share a meal with me too.

But, let’s not forget Judas, the betrayer. He too was in Jesus’s inner circle, part of His ride or die team. Judas was there for the miracles and the ministry. He saw the healings and heard Christ’s teaching. And he also had a seat at the table with Jesus many times during His ministry, including at the Last Supper. In fact, if we read the entire account of the Last Supper in the Matthew 26:20-30, we see in verse 25 that Jesus lets Judas know that He knows Judas will betray Him. Yet none of the disciples do or say anything in reaction to this statement. This would lead you to believe that Judas was sitting very close to or right next to Jesus at the table during the Last Supper—close enough for Jesus to say this and no one else to hear.

I also find it fascinating that the disciples were asking “Am I the one, Lord?” This indicates the disciples had no clue who the betrayer was and that they each knew they had the potential to be unfaithful, to be a betrayer, to Jesus as well. In fact, it wasn’t long after that they scattered and even denied knowing Jesus. If we are honest, we all have the capacity to be unfaithful, a bad friend. Recognizing this should prompt us to extend understanding and offer grace when others let us down and, yes, even invite them to our table.

Their questions also tell us that Jesus must not have treated Judas any differently during their time together. Nobody suspected Judas was the betrayer because, despite knowing that Judas would betray him, Jesus loved and treated Judas the same way He did the rest of the disciples. Every meal they shared, every conversation they had, every road they walked together Jesus knew Judas would betray Him, yet Jesus never treated Judas any differently.

Let’s be honest, how many of us would dine at the table with a person that we knew was going to betray us and hand us over to die? And how many of us would bend down before them and wash their dirty, dusty feet as we discover Jesus did in John’s account of the Last Supper?

Until we learn how to sit at the table with people who are like Judas, we’ll never fully understand the love of Jesus. If we want to love like Jesus and not simply be loved by Him, we must figure out how to reconcile our differences and personal agendas and accept everyone at our table – the person who votes differently than we do, the person who looks differently than we do, the person who loves differently than we do. We must learn how to sit at the table with our “Judas” and love them like Jesus did.

Let’s Pray: Loving Savior, thank You for Your unconditional love and abounding grace that You offer freely for everyone. Help me to search myself and locate those places where I am holding back love or withholding grace so I can open up the floodgates allowing both to flow without restraint. I want to open my heart to others without reservation, without hesitation and without inhibition so I am a vessel for Your overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love. In Jesus’s mighty name I pray. Amen. 

*Note from Alexis: Cyndi's devotional message reminds me of this "Nobody" song by Casting Crowns, featuring Matthew West. Listen to it here.

~*~
Author Bio:
Cyndi Staudt is a Jesus-loving, adrenaline junkie who is devoted to living her life for Jesus Christ until the day she is living with Him. 

With a passion for cultivating a craving for God’s Word, her devotions and Bible studies are saturated with faith and hope to stir your soul to connect with God in deeper, more intimate ways.

Through her writing she hopes to ignite your desire to read God’s Word, invite your heart to experience God’s love, and inspire you to live your live life “souled out” to the One whose love has no limits.

~*~
Connect with Cyndi:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/souledoutcyndi/

Friday, April 9, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: Advocacy


Advocacy is a Spiritual Imperative
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

“Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” 
–Proverbs 31:9 (KJV)

Lately the news has been filled with horrible stories of abuse. Rogue police officers facing trial for flagrant abuses of power. Scenes of thousands of children seeking asylum at the southern border of the United States.

Yesterday, I saw the film of a huge man, seemingly unprovoked, kicking an old woman. Even after she was down on the sidewalk, he kept kicking her. What was most galling to me was that there were three men standing within 30 feet of the incident. They did nothing to intervene! Nor did they help the woman after the aggressor left her, wounded and broken, on the sidewalk. Watching the news has often left me wondering about what my role and responsibility in the world is. What do you do when you witness struggling humanity?

The wise writer of Proverbs gives an answer. If you can’t do anything else, open your mouth and say something! To “judge righteously” means to litigate, condemn, avenge, defend, judge, and plead for what is right, equitable, righteous and just.

It is a spiritual imperative to do something to uplift the poor and the needy. The poor among us are not just those with no money or means of earning money. Scripturally, the poor includes those who are depressed in mind or circumstance. In this mindset, a person of means can be poor. The men who did nothing in the above story, by virtue of their social location, were privileged. They may have been in shock, seeing what they saw, but, they were also morally impoverished. Rather than aid the injured woman, one of them closed the door to the building.

I know that many companies tell their employees not to intervene in crisis moments like this. Passivity in moments like these protect the company from liability. I get it, but civility and chivalry demand that someone should have intervened.

When George Floyd was killed on the street in Minneapolis, bystanders were pleading with the policemen to let him up. They lived out the meaning of Proverbs 31:9. They spoke up with righteous indignation. The world watched the horror of that murder. We also saw the bravado of Darnella Frazier the young woman who stood nearby, recorded and published the video. We all heard her, repeatedly, implore, plead and beg for the life of a man she did not know.

As you enter your day, every day, may the instruction of Solomon be resident and reflexive within you. If and when you witness a wrong, intervene! Speak up! Condemn the wrong and speak right into the world. Plead the cause of the poor and needy. Right and righteousness is risky. But silence in the face of evil and wrong demands a higher price. 

J. S. Mills poignantly wrote, “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” Edmund Burke, with some debate, is credited with a similar and more popular statement by David Bromwich: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

As you go through the day, remember these words spoken by Eugene H. Peterson: “Speak up for the people who have no voice, for the rights of all the misfits.”

If you see something, say something!

Let’s Pray: Dear God, please be with us today. Give us the gumption to change the world around us by making a difference for the people closest to us. If we are met with or see an injustice, drive us to speak up and call out the wrong. If we see someone being marginalized, convict us to step up in their defense. And when we act at your promptings, protect us and deliver us from evil. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

~*~
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 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.

You may connect with Chaplain Anderson via email at this address, psanderson75@gmail.com.




Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: The Cross


Celebrate the Cross!
A devotional by Patricia Russell

Spring has sprung and it’s time to celebrate!

Celebrate is a word that you will often hear in my vocabulary because I believe we all have a reason to do this. Celebrate that you are able to read this, you woke up, and you have the ability to do something to impact someone else’s life today. There is one person who not only made an impact but changed the world. His name is Jesus Christ.

While He was celebrated with people waving palm branches and shouts of “Hallelujah”, He was later rejected and sentenced to die on a cross. The cross is more than a classy piece of jewelry or souvenir. The meaning of the cross can be one of the most beautiful yet controversial symbols. Let me explain.

God’s plan for Jesus coming to Earth was to fulfill the prophetic word that had been spoken from way back in Scripture. It was part of His purpose for coming. Jesus made it clear to those who wanted to follow Him there was a price:

“If any of you wants to be my follower,
you must give up your own way,
take up your cross, and follow me.”
(Matthew 24:25 NLT)

Everyone has a cross. You have to take it up. You have to carry it. The cross may involve criticism of your faith. It may be a challenging situation that seems to be dragging on. Whatever it is, it will require you to “give up your own way.” The encouragement is, if you follow Christ you win.

Prior to this verse, Jesus told His disciples it would be necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem. He would be killed, but on the third day, He would rise from the dead. He would be lied about, but He would persevere. Jesus would be hung on a cross and submit to suffering because He knew this was the purpose for which He came.

The result is our faith in Him would be solidified because we would have full assurance in Him. He would suffer but He would survive. He would conquer the grave by doing what He said: He would rise again. Our faith would rise and be strengthened. You and I would become bold and courageous because we worship the true and living Christ!

That’s why we celebrate our risen Lord. That’s why we celebrate life because Jesus conquered death. Death was the one thing that Satan thought would silence His voice. We celebrate because He bore a crown of thorns on His head while on the very cross that He would conquer. We crown Him with our worship. We crown Him with our praise and we worship Him with our life. How do we do that? We do everything as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24). He will give us an inheritance as our reward.

I love watching sports, especially the Olympics. In the Greek games, they were literally “crowned” for achieving success. They trained hard and did not give up despite the pressure. Then they entered the competition and upon completing, they were crowned. We are told in Scripture many times about crowns that you receive as a result of completing your course. The Bible tells us in James 1:12 (ESV) that we will receive the crown of life. We have to do something though. We have to remain steadfast under trial and this is why: “for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

God loves us so much that He sent His only son to love us, teach us, heal us, invites us to have relationship with him. If you have received His invitation but sometimes you want to give up, I invite you to pray with me.

Let’s Pray: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son (Jesus Christ). Thank you for teaching me to stay focused on your promises and that I can overcome anything. Thank you for enduring the pain, dying and rising again for me. We celebrate and thank you for the gift of eternal life.

~*~
Author Bio:

Patricia Russell is a speaker, worship leader, author, certified life coach and songwriter.  


Her gifts have been shared internationally with audiences to encourage, empower and share life lessons through words and songs. She has sung on national television broadcasts and shared the stage with several respected speakers. Over her 30 years in ministry, she has been a featured artist in musical cantatas locally and the United States of America.

Patricia had the honour of leading worship at the kick-off event for the 2006 the “Just Give Me Jesus” Toronto Revival with Anne Graham Lotz who is the eldest daughter of Billy Graham, a well-known American evangelist.

Patricia serves in ministry along with her husband Rev. Wayne Russell. Together, they have served as guest hosts on a local early morning call in program called “Nite Lite Live” that formerly aired on the CTS Television Network. They have two adult children: Raquel and Benjamin.

Patricia has recorded two CD’s: “Lord I Trust You” and a live recording “Draw Me Nearer.” She is also an author. Her first book is titled Lord I Trust You: Words of Encouragement. It is meant to further encourage and share life lessons as a result of her cancer journey. She is a co-author of a #1 bestseller book titled Crushed Diamonds Still Sparkle, and she has compiled the recent #1 bestseller book titled Stronger Resilience.

~*~
Connect with Patricia:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/patrussellsings/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/patrussellsings
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/patrussellonline/
Email: patrussellsings@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Interview with Barb Roose about her new book "Breakthrough"


We have a special guest whose book, Breakthrough, releases today! Join me in wishing Barb Roose a "Happy BOOK birthday!" Read on for a proper introduction message and video before diving deep into a Q&A with the author. 

~*~
Introduction: Barb Roose is a speaker, author and host of Better Together Facebook Live Show. She is passionate about teaching women to live beautifully strong and courageous in spite of fear so they experience God's great adventure of faith and purpose. 

Breakthrough–A Women's Bible Study by Barb Roose Promotional Video


~*~
An Interview with Barb Roose about her book,
Breakthrough

For some, Christianity is a long list of rules to be followed, and it’s hard to be a “good Christian” because it always seems you’re breaking one of those rules. In Breakthrough: Finding Freedom in Christ, popular women’s conference speaker and author Barb Roose wants to help readers let go of the feeling they are not a “good enough” Christian and find freedom in Christ by studying Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

In this six-week study, Roose shows women that even the believers in the early church struggled to let go of rule-keeping and performance in order to embrace God’s free gift of grace. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul pours out his heart and faith to set them straight, addressing so many of the same questions and problems we still face today such as: Who has led you to believe you have to follow rules and “measure up”? Why do you think you have to be perfect for God? Does God only show up or love you when you “get it right”?

Read on for this pre-made Q & A with Barb Roose ...

Question (Q): You wrote the Breakthrough Bible study to celebrate God’s amazing grace and unconditional love, especially for Christians who are afraid that they have disappointed God or feel like they have to earn God’s favor or blessing. Did you struggle with this?

Answer (A): Oh yes! I grew up in a religious tradition of lovely people, but there were a lot of rules! While I heard about the gospel at an early age, I remember hearing more “dos” and “don’ts” from Christians around me than God’s love for me.

As a result of their influence and my own thinking, I spent decades judging myself as a Christian by how well I followed the “good” Christian rules such as never miss church, read the Bible every day, and others. Of course, there were seasons of life when I did miss church, I didn’t read the Bible, and I made mistakes. During those times in life, I feared that God was disappointed in me and I felt like a terrible Christian.

Years ago, I shifted my mindset. Instead of focusing on my performance, I decided to ruthlessly believe God’s promises about me and watch out for how He was working in my life. As I noticed where God was working in my life, I stopped feeling the pressure to earn His blessing and favor because I could already see Him giving them to me.

Q:
What is the spiritual breakthrough you hope readers will experience by diving into your new Bible study?

A: In a word: FREEDOM! I’m so excited about the opportunity for readers to experience the freedom that comes from knowing that our God is at work in us and that we don’t have to jump through hoops to earn His approval, love or favor. He’s already given it to us in every promise that He’s made to us!

While spiritual breakthrough isn’t a term in the Bible, it is reflected in God’s promise to change and transform us by renewing eternally us in Christ (Galatians 2:20). I’ve seen a lot of descriptions of spiritual breakthrough that put the responsibility for spiritual growth or freedom on human effort, but only God can rescue us from the prisons of our pain, our past and our problems. We might be able to push against the prison bars on our own, but only God can break us free!

In fact, one of the key features of the Breakthrough study is the weekly Spiritual Breakthrough Exercise with unique tools to identify where God is at work. It’s been so much fun listening to women celebrate seeing where God is at work and their confidence in knowing that God is transforming them, and they don’t have to try to make it happen on their own.

Q: We hear a lot about having freedom in Christ, but what does that actually mean for a Christian?

A: In the Breakthrough study, I define “freedom in Christ” as living free from fear and fully alive in God’s joy and purpose.

One of the most tangible examples for me is Jesus’ encounter with the immoral woman in Luke 7. While we don’t know where she came from or what she went through, we know that she cried enough tears at Jesus’ feet that she needed to use her hair to wipe them away. I can relate to that woman’s anguish at certain times in my life.

I love Jesus’ words to her, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” She didn’t say any or to do anything to earn Jesus’ forgiveness. He gives her peace just because she came humbly to his feet and Jesus set her free.

This is a powerful lesson for us, especially when we’ve got big regrets or the whispers from the pit of hell try to remind us of our mistakes. Jesus died to bring us freedom and we don’t have to earn it, only receive it and live in it.

Q: What are your six freedom principles?

A: As I studied Paul’s letter to the Galatian church, I created six Freedom Principles to capture the main themes of his letter. I pray that readers will use these principles as tools to apply to their lives when they feel like they need to do more to earn God’s love or blessing.

1. The gospel is based on God’s perfect promises, not our performance.

2. A relationship with God means that we receive from Him rather than follow rules for Him.

3. Your freedom in Christ cannot be shaken or taken away by anyone who chooses not to live like Christ.

4. Freedom in Christ is living free from fear and fully alive with joy and purpose.

5. Spiritual breakthrough is an ah-ha moment when we recognize that God is at work within us, receive what He’s doing, and respond to it.

6. You are God’s beautiful, loveable, capable daughter. You are confident in Christ and worthy of God’s best.

Q: Oftentimes we are hesitant to start the hard conversations about diversity at the risk of offending someone or making a situation worse. What are some ways we can start (and continue) discussions with the correct heart?

A: As part of Paul’s dialogue with the Galatian church, he emphasized that Christ came to break down the divisions between believers, but that doesn’t mean that God intends for us to ignore our differences. God intentionally created humans with differences in color and culture. In Galatians 5:13, Paul writes that we should use our freedom to serve one another in love.

The best way that we can love people who look differently than us is to love them through listening, especially when we don’t know them. Listening begins with inviting people who look differently than us to share their life stories. I like questions like, “Would you tell me about your life?” or “How did your family celebrate special holidays?” or “What’s been hard for you lately?”

When we’re willing to listen to others, it’s a demonstration of humility that we care and respect the other person and their story.

Q:
How can we be more supportive rather than judgmental Christians, especially with a friend that has fallen into sin?

A: This is such an important question! I’ve heard from so many hurting Christians who’ve walked away from the church because they made a mistake and Christians were quick to criticize.

We all make mistakes. All have sinned. Paul taught us that our role as believers is to gentle and humbly help those who’ve fallen. We’re not to add to someone’s guilt by telling them how badly they messed up and we’re gossip about them because Paul also taught in Galatians 6 that we’re all prone to faltering.

So, we gently and humbly help people when we follow in Jesus’ footsteps like he did with Zacchaeus the tax collector or the adulterous woman. First, we go to them, not avoid them. Then, we don’t shame them, but rather listen to their story. Finally, we affirm God’s truth and pray with them. We don’t have to save them or force them back on the right path again, that’s God’s job, but not ours.

Q: Can you give us some examples of legalism that hold us back from freedom?

A: In Breakthrough, I tell the story of my conversation with a lovely young believer who felt like she was a bad Christian because she saw other Christians who seemed to read their Bibles more and never miss church. She told me, “Well, I forget to read my Bible sometimes, and I still smoke. I feel like I’m disappointing God.”

My heart hurt for that young believer and so many other Christians who feel exactly like she does. Legalism wants us to believe that we have to earn God’s love and favor by reading our Bibles a certain number of times a week or never missing church. Legalism’s focus is on “what are we doing for God” and the problem is that when the focus is on us, we miss out on receiving what God wants to give us.

When we read our Bibles because we know that God’s truth gives us life, that’s freedom. But when we read our Bibles because we think that will make God happy, that’s legalism. When we go to church because the sermon and music focus us on Jesus’ love, that leads us to freedom. But, when we go to church because we think that God will punish us if we don’t, that’s legalism.

Q: There was a season of your life when, even though you were saved, you decided to disconnect from God because of religious rules. What made you decide to reconnect with God?

A: My mom explained the gospel to me when I was eight years old. I accepted Jesus as my Savior and was baptized when I was nine years old. I was so happy that Jesus saved me that I wanted to be a good Christian and make God happy. I had my list of religious “to-do” rules and worked hard to make God happy. I thought that following all the rules would make me more faithful to God, but I spent so much time in fear. I always wondered if I was doing enough for God and kept pushing myself to jump through those hoops, always trying to do more and do better.

When I got to college, I saw all the other students having fun. I wasn’t having fun while following all of the rules, so I decided to stop. The only problem was that when I abandoned my “good” Christian rules, I felt like I was abandoning what I called my faith.

When I eventually messed up my life so badly that there was nothing I could do to fix it, I experienced an ah-ha moment that changed my life. That moment was realizing that God’s love for me is based on His perfect promises, not my performance. This was when I finally understood the freedom that comes from God’s grace, not following religious rules.

Q: Where can participants access the videos that correspond with each week?

A: In response to the different ways that groups are meeting, I love that my publisher, Abingdon Women, has made a three video formats available: DVDs, digital download, and streaming media. There’s a solution for everyone!

Readers can order DVDs and access to digital downloads from cokesbury.com/barbroose or use the Amplify Media platform for streaming video access at amplifymedia.com.

If you’d like more information on those options, I recorded a video with my friend and fellow Abingdon Women author, Melissa Spoelstra that gives a demonstration of them all at barbroose.com/groupleaders.

~*~
Author Bio: 

Barb Roose is a speaker and author who is passionate about teaching women to live beautifully strong and courageous so that they experience God’s great adventure of faith and purpose for their lives. 

She is the author of five Bible studies including Breakthrough: Finding Freedom in Christ, Surrendered: Letting Go and Living Like Jesus, Joshua: Winning the Worry Battle, and three books including Surrendered: 40 Days to Help You Let Go and Live Like Jesus.

Barb lives in NW Ohio and is proud mother of three adult daughters. Whenever possible, Barb prefers to eat dessert first. Visit Barb’s online home at barbroose.com

~*~
Back cover copy for Barb's book, Breakthrough:

Let go of feeling like you are not a “good enough” Christian and find freedom in Christ by studying Paul’s letter to the Galatians in Breakthrough by Barb Roose. 


Have you ever felt that being a good Christian means you’ve got to follow a bunch of rules and measure up?

If so, you aren’t alone! In this six-week Bible study of Galatians, Barb Roose shows us that even the believers in the early church struggled to let go of rule-keeping and performance in order to embrace God’s free gift of grace.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul pours out his heart and faith to set them straight, addressing so many of the same questions and problems we still face today, such as…

- Who has led you to believe you have to follow rules to be right with God?
- Why do you think you have to try to be perfect for God?
- How do we stay free in Christ?

If you’ve ever struggled with these questions or felt trapped by rules or religion, this study will provide a path to discover your freedom in Christ.

Through this study women will learn to:

- Stop trying to measure up and embrace God’s grace
- Distinguish between lies and truth
- Embrace God’s promise of freedom

Components for this six-week Bible study, each available separately, include a Participant Workbook, a Leader Guide, and video sessions with six 25-minute segments (with closed captioning).

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Buy Barb's book on Amazon

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Connect with Barb:
Website: https://barbroose.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/barbararoose/
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Romantic Reads: To Love A Prince


Interview with Rachel Hauck about her book, 
To Love A Prince (True Blue Royal Book 1):

Alexis: What inspired you to start writing royal romance stories?

Rachel: I’ve been a fan of the British royal family since Prince Charles married Diana. After her death, we didn’t hear much about the Windsors in America. Then Prince William married Kate and I knew the “royals were back.” She was so poised and beautiful. After William and Kate’s wedding, I came up with my first royal wedding series.

Alexis: What is To Love A Prince about and how is it different from your previous royal romances?

Rachel: At the core, I think To Love A Prince is about second chances. It’s different from my other royal romance based on the journey of the characters’ themselves. They drive the story.

Alexis: Tell us about your story’s heroine Daffodil Caron. What does she look like/sound like/act like?

Rachel: Daffy is sweet, funny, artistic. She grew up with the princes from the House of Blue when her mother worked for the queen. But a secret separated them for almost twenty years. When we meet her, she’s living her best life. Or so she thinks. But love has other ideas.

Alexis: Describe the setting for this story. What makes it special to your main characters?

Rachel: Most of this story takes place in a small hamlet called Dalholm. It’s fun, quaint and beautiful. The hamlet is special to the prince because it’s the location of Hadsby Castle where he spent his childhood summers. Dalholm is also the place where Prince Gus and Daffodil discover their real purpose.

Alexis: Tell us about your story’s hero His Royal Highness (HRH) Prince Augustus. Describe his looks, personality and heart.

Rachel: He’s a very broken man when the story begins. But he’s lived through controversy throughout his life and knows how to survive. He’s very self-deprecating at the start.

Alexis: Is there anything about Daffodil that Prince Augustus does not like?

Rachel: There’s nothing he doesn’t like about her.

Alexis:
Why did the media used to label Prince Augustus as “Prince Pudgy” when he was a child? How did he feel about this cruel label? In what ways has he changed now that he is an adult?

Rachel: He’s never liked the moniker, but it’s made him stronger. I also think it made him empathetic to others who struggle. Being a prince didn’t shield him from pain and teasing.

Alexis: After going for such a long time without seeing each other, what happens to their head and heart when Prince Augustus and Daffodil reconnect? Give insight into their thoughts and feelings. 

Rachel: Prince Gus and Daffodil have a really great meet-cute on a beach. The thing I loved about the connection was she reminded him of who he really was and how important he was to the people of Lauchtenland. He reminded her of her childhood and of her dream to make a difference in the world.

Alexis: Give us a hint of how romantic love begins to bloom between Prince Augustus and Daffodil.

Rachel: Daffodil works for the Royal Trust and she’s sent on a mission to Hadsby Castle the same time as Prince Gus. From there, fun and love ensue.

Alexis: What threatens to destroy this new romance between old friends?

Rachel: Daffy has a secret about the queen and through no fault of her own, the news gets out.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about this story?

Rachel: I’d love for readers to be engrossed in a fun, romantic story that’s full of hope.

Alexis:
If you were Daffodil’s best friend, what would you say to her about her romantic relationship and everything that a woman will have to overcome when she decides to love a prince?

Rachel: She was born for it. It’s her destiny.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Rachel! Would you like to share closing comments?

Rachel: Thanks for having me! I’m honored!

~*~
Author Bio:

Rachel Hauck is an award winning, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. 


She is a double RITA finalist, and a Christy and Carol Award winner. Her book, Once Upon A Prince, first in the Royal Wedding Series, was filmed for an Original Hallmark movie. Three more of her titles are under film contract.

Rachel was awarded the prestigious Career Achievement Award for her body of original work by Romantic Times Book Reviews.

A retired member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Executive Board, she teaches workshops and leads worship at the annual conference. She is a past Mentor of The Year.

In the real world, she’s a wife, writer, worship leader and works out at the gym semi-enthusiastically.

A graduate of Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) with a degree in Journalism, she’s a former sorority girl and a devoted Ohio State football fan. Her bucket list is to stand on the sidelines with Ryan Day.

She lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery cat.

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Back cover blurb for To Love A Prince:

An enchanting new royal romance from NYT bestselling author Rachel Hauck. 


Daffodil Caron is not a princess, even though she once dreamed of being one. After all, she grew up as a playmate to royal princes, running through the halls of Perrigwynn Palace in the North Sea’s Lauchtenland. But the day she stumbled upon a royal secret, everything changed.

Flash forward eighteen years, and Daffy’s living a sweet, non-royal life. A skilled art curator for the Royal Trust, she has friends, a flat in the heart of the capital city, and a handsome, successful boyfriend. The last person on her mind is Gus, the prince she once called her best mate.

HRH Prince Augustus is no longer “Prince Pudgy,” as caricatured by the press—he’s charming and gorgeous, possessing a world-famous smile. But after he’s jilted at the altar, then dumped by his second fianceĆ©, the spare heir to Lauchtenland’s ancient House of Blue finds solace on a Florida beach.

A year as a regular bloke allows him to rethink his purpose. He’s half decided his calling is to pour pints at a tiki bar rather than serve his country and the Family.

But a wild Frisbee toss down the beach changes his destiny.

Despite his long hair and beard, Daffy recognizes her prince. She reminds Gus of his heritage and assures him that he’s needed in Lauchtenland.

When Daffy and Gus find themselves on assignment at Hadsby Castle in preparation for his brother’s wedding ball, their friendship blooms into affection.

Then secrets are exposed, and Gus must choose between his past hurts and his future hope. And Daffy must trust her heart to forever love a prince.

~*~
Buy Rachel’s book on Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, or Kobo

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Connect with Rachel:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rachelhauck
Twitter: www.twitter.com/rachelhauck
Instagram: www.instagram.com/rachelhauck
Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/rachelhauck
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/rachel-hauck

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Enter this book giveaway contest for your chance to WIN a copy of this book by filling out the entry form on the Rafflecopter widget below:

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Monday, April 5, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: How to tell if a person is a disciple of Jesus Christ


Can people tell I’m a Christian?
A devotional by Jessica Brodie

Maybe I’m wearing a Bible verse T-shirt and carry a cute travel mug with “I run on Jesus and coffee.” Maybe I clasp a cross around my neck, tuck a Bible into my work bag, and say things like “God bless you” or “I’ll pray for you.”

Is that enough? Is that how other people can tell I’m a Christian?

Sadly, no. It doesn’t matter what we wear or even the words that come out of our mouths. We can say the sweetest, kindest words, but nothing identifies us as a Jesus-follower other than one key thing.

Love.

At the Last Supper, the day before His crucifixion, Jesus was talking with His disciples about the importance of caring for each other. He’d washed their feet, exemplifying servant-leadership, and shared bread and wine with them, which he said represented His own body and blood, which would soon be sacrificed for them.

Then Jesus told them He wouldn’t be with them much longer. Therefore, He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV).

These words are profound: a commandment to love, just as Jesus loved us. We are to love with an all-encompassing, sacrificial love, a love that points to the Father first. This love Jesus speaks of isn’t just a feeling—He’s talking about love as an action. And how do we love others? We love them by caring for them, tending to their needs, feeding them.

In Matthew 25:35-36 (NIV), before the crucifixion, Jesus indicated how we are to love: with mercy. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

And in John 21, after His resurrection, Jesus gathered around a campfire on the bank of the river roasting fish they’d just caught and reiterated this. “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep’” (John 21:15-18 NIV).

If you love me, you’ll feed my sheep, Jesus says—you’ll take care of my sheep.

Who are Jesus’s sheep? All of us. Those who already believe in Jesus, who belong to God’s church, are His sheep…but so are those who don’t yet believe, but one day will. All are His sheep. All are valued. And all deserve love.

So if you want to wear a Scripture hoodie, great! If that cross tattoo helps you stay focused on your faith walk, go for it. But remember: nothing we wear or say indicates that we follow Christ—only the love we show others in His name.

How can you show others the love of Christ?

Let’s Pray: Lord, You know I’m a work in progress, and that I don’t always love my neighbors as myself. Help me to open my heart to people. Put compassion and love in my heart. Help me to see other people and their needs and have the strength, courage, and Spirit to step up and help them in Your name. Help me to showcase Your love in all I think, say, and do. In your precious name I pray, Amen.

*Note from Alexis: Jessica’s devotional today reminds me of this song “How Beautiful” performed by Twila Paris.

~*~
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 http://jessicabrodie.com.