Friday, July 19, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Thoughts on why death is not the final chapter


Death is Not the Final Chapter
A devotional by Victoria Bylin

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
– 1 Corinthians 15:55 (KJV)

This devotional is dedicated to my Mom
Darlene Bylin McLeary
12/2/1933 – 7/21/2009

My husband and I recently spent a week with our grandchildren – twin girls about to turn five, and their two-year-old brother. As you might imagine, you never know what’s going to come out of someone’s mouth.

During an Amelia Bedelia bedtime story, one of the girls looked me very seriously in the eye. “Grandma, you’re just a little crunchy now. But you’re going to get a lot crunchy and then you’ll die.”

Great. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger says in Kindergarten Cop, “Thanks for the tip.”

I’ve told that story about dozen times now, and every time I have the same reaction. I laugh and then I choke up with bittersweet tears.

Death . . . no one wants to talk about it, or think even think about it—unless they’re getting “crunchy” and it’s staring them in the face. Yet this is where the rubber meets the road in Christianity. We don’t worship a prophet like Mohammed or an enlightened Buddha. We worship the all-powerful God who raised His Son, Jesus Christ, from the dead. As a result, those who believe in him will receive the gift of Heaven and eternal life.

May I be completely honest here? I believe in Heaven with everything in me, but I’m a little scared of death, the process of dying, and getting too crunchy to take care of myself.

I thank God for the words of Jesus in John 14:2 (KJV): “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

We also have the promise of Hebrews 11:1 (KJV): “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The resurrection of Christ is all the evidence we need of God’s love and power. Jesus Christ is Lord over all. He will never leave us or forsake us.

Those words comfort me. So does the experience of my mother’s passing. She was 75 years old when she lost her fight with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. COPD is a combination of emphysema, chronic bronchitis and pneumonia. It’s a long battle with a slow decline, and she fought it bravely for many years. When the end came, she was in the hospital, surrounded by family, comfortable, and at peace.

I’ll never forget her last breath. God’s grace rained down on us all through our tears, and love flooded through the hospital room. There have been a handful of times in my life where I’ve felt the tangible presence of God. This was one of them—the biggest one by far. I can only describe the moment as sacred.

My granddaughter is right. Someday I will die, but hopefully not too soon! While I am in the land of the living, I intend to live well and love people as best as I can. The hope of eternity gives us that desire and the strength to do it. 

Knowing that I’ll see my Mom, Dad, and other loved ones again makes that sacred passage all the more powerful. There will be no more suffering—only perfect peace. No one will be crunchy in Heaven, and that’s good news indeed.

~*~
Author Bio:
Victoria Bylin is the author of 18 traditionally published romances. Known for tackling difficult subjects with great compassion, she delights in stories that shine the spotlight of God’s love on ordinary men and women facing realistic challenges.

Writing has always been a part of Victoria’s life. As a child, she wrote hundreds of letters and scribbled in journals. As an adult, she worked as a freelance journalist and editor before taking on the challenge of fiction.

She had one goal when she started her first novel: to finish a book-length manuscript, good or bad. That first effort will never see the light of day, but it led to a second manuscript and a sale to Harlequin Historical. Since then, she has written westerns and contemporary romances for both mainstream and Christian publishers, with Together With You winning the 2016 Inspirational Readers Choice Award for Best Contemporary.

Writing is a joy and a challenge for Victoria, but faith, friends and family matter to her far more. She’s a wife, mom, proud grandmother, and a dog-mom to a wacky Jack Russell Terrier. Originally from California, she and her husband currently make their home in Lexington, Kentucky. 
When she’s not writing, Victoria enjoys long walks, travel, and dark chocolate. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Why we must love all of our neighbors


Love Your Neighbor
A devotional by Christa MacDonald


“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” 
– Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

I went back to Romans today as it’s one of my favorite books in the Bible and I wanted to read something uplifting. It can truly be a struggle to remain informed about what’s going on in the world around me but also stay in the right frame of mind. I’m not in charge of the world – God is – but there are times that I want to take charge and put things in order. As I am not president, or queen, or empress of anything, there’s not a lot I can do so I struggle to not become dismayed.

The Bible gives us the winning strategy. In Romans 12:21 (NIV) we’re told, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

How can we do that? The world is pretty evil, and we’re only human. The verse above gives us the answer, “…love your neighbor as yourself.” Every person we interact with in our lives is our neighbor. Your coworkers, your bank teller, your mechanic, the post office clerk who isn’t that nice, your children’s teachers…

You may be thinking, That’s impossible. Those people aren’t really my neighbor, I doubt that’s what this means. But remember how Jesus answered when asked “Who is my neighbor?” in Luke 10:29? He told the story of the Good Samaritan and then he told the man to “Go, and do likewise.” God has commanded us to love, and so we need to be careful about putting limits on whom we are willing to love.

What does loving someone as yourself look like? The verse above has an answer for us too – love does no harm. That might seem pretty simplistic. If you're taking the time out of your busy life to read this then I highly doubt that you're the type of person who would be looking for ways to intentionally hurt people, but remember the parable of the Good Samaritan. The standard is higher. When we see a need we must respond. Our love needs to be an active one.

God has called us to live counter to our culture’s selfishness. Prayerfully consider in what ways you could love the neighbors in your life.

Consider this: How is God calling you to serve and love the people that He has placed in your life? Figure it out and then get out there and love somebody!

~*~
Author Bio:

Christa MacDonald is a 2017 ACFW Carol Award finalist for contemporary Christian fiction.

A native New Englander, she was inspired by her travels through the north woods of Maine to write The Broken Trail, which would become the first in the Sweet River Redemption series published by Mountain Brook Ink.

Christa's writing focuses on the real-life challenges of the modern world, love’s sometimes crooked path, and the redemptive power of Grace.

When not working or writing Christa can be found ferrying her kids around, reading, or attempting something crafty.

She and her husband live with their three kids, two cats, and one dog along the coast of New 
England. Connect with Christa at www.christamacdonald.com.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: The Fear of the Lord and Intimacy with God


The Fear of the Lord
A devotional by Nanci Rubin


“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding.” –Proverbs 9:10 (KJV)

When I was baptized as a child, at the age of eight, church was a very different experience from today’s services.

We were assembled in a one-room country church with no air conditioning and we used the cardboard funeral parlor hand fans. Yes, when you see this depicted in a movie, we actually did use them. All the windows were opened, birds chirped and there was always anticipation for the Word of God from the pastor. Dinner on the grounds was the end to a perfect Sunday. We’d go home, take a nap and get ready to come back for the evening service.

Children remained with their parents for the sermon in church and we didn’t move about or talk. We were taught the fear of the Lord. And, it had nothing to do with physical or emotional fright as one would feel when threatened by an adversary. It was respect. God was revered.

We had respect for God, His house and everyone in the ministry. As a matter of fact, our generation was taught respect for all authority and we as children were taught to pray for our teachers, our family and our country. I am saddened that this concept has been abandoned along with the fear of the Lord. This is my perception and I am expressing what I see through my eyes. We need a little more conviction and a little less condemnation.

I’m not judging anyone’s heart when it comes to their faith in God, but according to the Bible, God made some very distinct rules governing His house and those He destined – pastors, teachers, prophets, evangelists and apostles – to perfect the saints and to do the work of the ministry. There were and still are qualifications regarding those in authority ministering God’s Word. It appears that in this 21st century, many things have become obsolete. Rules are ignored or bent to fit the need or the direction that man has destined for the church.

According to 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (KJV), “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

The church is not a building. We, the believers, are the church. But what are we bringing each time we gather? Would an unbeliever even feel they were in church?

Several years ago, John Bevere wrote a book, The Fear of the Lord: Discover the Key to Intimately Knowing God. In his book, he wrote, “Do you think the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is going to come into a place where He is not given due honor and reverence?”

I think that this is a question we probably should consider today. We have become so familiar with God perhaps even taking Him for granted. Do we truly welcome Him into our churches? Or, have our services become rote? The Bible says in Leviticus 10:3 (NASB), “Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.”

I have pastor friends who long for a mighty move of the Spirit of God and can’t understand why miracles aren’t happening in their churches. They do not see the casual behavior of their parishioners, the eating and drinking in church, cell phones in use and all manner of distractions. This is not the atmosphere for the miraculous. We have become de-sensitized to the things of God. We live in a highly technology-driven world and we are inundated with all manner of distraction.

We need to return to a true fear of the Lord. When we enter into God’s house (our church buildings), let’s do so with thanksgiving and let us dwell upon Him. Worship Him and give Him all the Praise.

I have been blessed to had experienced powerful moves of God and it had little to do with the size of the meeting. It had everything to do with those gathered being in one accord. We were not asking Father God for anything, but with hearts of worship we fell at His feet. In that atmosphere miracles occur. This, I believe, is what occurred in the Upper Room with the disciples.

If we as believers would humble ourselves and seek God’s heart, not only would our churches be more like the New Testament church, but our world would be a better place in which to live.

Let’s Pray: Father God, let us not forget how great You are. Let us enter into Your gates with thanksgiving and Your courts with praise. Return us to the former things and set aside anything that distracts us from You. In Jesus’s Holy Name we pray, Amen.

~*~
Author Bio:

Nanci is a poet and short story writer published in Cypress News, Family Times E-Zine, Free Verse and the Commonwealth of Poetry

She belongs to RWA, ACFW, and Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild where she’s enrolled in his novel writing program.

Nanci lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and cats, Romeo and Juliette, along with their newest member of the family, Roni who is a seven-month-old Goldendoodle.

Recently, Nanci completed her debut novel, A Betrayal in Cross Keys. It is an Amish romance that she has placed in her agent's capable hands. The rest is up to God.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Stories from real-life that show how prayer works!


Prayer Works!

A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson


“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”
– James 5:14-15 (NIV)

My parents taught me to pray when I was a child. The family rituals included prayer. It was a part of our daily rhythm: Grace before meals. Family prayer before we parted in the morning. We prayed in family worship. We prayed before eating dinner and before the television came on. As children, we said our individual prayers before climbing into bed.

Prayer, Bible stories and later, Bible studies, were woven into the fabric of my life.

I witnessed the transforming power of prayer in two pivotal moments of my life. I credit my son with teaching the power of Psalm 50:15 and a Pakistani woman for revealing the faith described in James 5:14-15.

I used to drive a red Toyota Celica. I loved that car. I tended to it well. Regular oil changes, precise detailing several times a year. One day, I was changing the brakes on all four wheels. The car was on jack stands. All four wheels were off of the vehicle, strategically placed for safety.

My son and his friend had come around to see what I was doing. I noticed a few minutes later that they were joyously throwing rocks at the tree in the front yard. When I had finished installing the brake pads and was ready to put the wheels on, it occurred to me that the boys had not been throwing rocks. They had thrown my lug nuts all over the yard, 20 of them.

Infuriated, I called him over. I heard myself yelling at him. I remember saying, “You better pray that you find every one of those lug nuts for my wheels or…”

A few minutes later, I was aghast when I saw my son and his friend kneeling on the porch praying that they could find each one of those “thingys that Daddy needs for his car.”

Chagrined, but now concerned for their concept of God, I knelt by the car and asked God to help them find each one as well. If they didn’t find them, they might lose faith in God and be afraid of me.

They found them all in a short span of time. When they brought me the last one, I said let’s thank Jesus for helping you to find them. We prayed. Then my son said words that I shall never forget. He said, “Daddy you seemed surprised that we found them. You always told me to pray when I was scared or when I needed something. I was scared that you would spank me and God answered my prayer. I knew that He would.”

The second transformational moment happened while I was the Pastor at my fourth church. My office phone rang. I picked it up and said, “This is Pastor Anderson. How may I help you today?” A woman with a thick accent said “Pastor, my son, five years old, is sick. He has a high fever and we need you to come and pray for him.” In retrospect, my answer was faithless. I said, “If he has a high fever you should bathe him in tepid water. If that does not work, please take him to the hospital.”

Her response was full of faith and a little impertinence. She said “Pastor, we are simply following the word of God, first, like we do in my home country. Will you come, or shall I call another pastor?” Chastised, I asked for the address.

Upon arrival, the child’s Aunt greeted me at the door. I asked where the child was. I wanted to pray quickly so that they could get him to the hospital. The aunt told me that it was their culture that when a new guest comes to the house, we must have tea and cookies. Frankly, I was incredulous, but, providentially, I understood and did not resist. Conversation, tea and a few cookies later, I again inquired about the child. By now the mother had emerged and said that he was sleeping but still hot. With urgency, I suggested that we pray for him now.

I was ushered into the room where the boy lay sweating and appeared unconscious rather than asleep. I was concerned. I touched him and knew that his fever was too high. I pulled out my vial of oil. I anointed him and prayed that God would break the fever and restore vitality to the child. I prayed that he would be mentally sound and able to move and breathe without difficulty. After I said “Amen,” his mother dabbed at his head with a moist towel.

I suggested that they take him to the nearest hospital. They demurred. Perhaps there were issues, financial or legal that precluded them going to the hospital. The mother said to me, “Pastor you must have some more tea and cookies before you go.” I understood that as a cultural imperative. So I obeyed her demand. A few minutes after I sat down for another cup of tea, the little boy came walking out of the bedroom. He looked normal and focused. His mother ran over to him and hugged him. She felt his head and chest and fell to her knees thanking God for healing her son.

After the ecstatic prayer, the little boy said that he was hungry. His mother brought him to the table and gave him some cookies. It was then that the little boy looked up at me. He said, “Are you the man who prayed for me?” I said, “Yes, I am.” He knelt beside me and said, “Thank you, Jesus, for sending your prophet to pray for me like Elijah did for that little boy in the Bible. Amen.”

Tears were in my eyes. This little boy and his family had faith superior to my own, at the time.

Prayer works! Try it! Practice it! See how it works!


Make prayer your first line of defense when life happens.

~*~
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 Columbia Union College (WAU) in Takoma Park, Maryland. 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.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Thankful Thursdays: Answered prayers after years of waiting on God

It’s Thursday and I’m thankful for answered prayers!

I don’t know where to begin with this blog post to tell my whole story and keep it under 1,000 words. Perhaps I will write a longer blog post sometime in the future but for today, I will keep this short and sweet.

Ya’ll, I have a testimony to share about how God answered my prayers!

My undergraduate degree is in Print Journalism. It’s always been my passion and skill set but after graduating from college and a magazine internship thereafter, it was increasingly difficult for me to land a full-time job with salary in my field of study…until this week!

Now here’s where my testimony gets long but I will try to keep it short, as promised…

After that magazine internship was over (they were not hiring full-time), God led me on a series of detours. First, I felt a strong pull from Him to get trained to become a teacher and help children. It was the same strong pull that I felt to pursue Journalism. So I obeyed and went into training in an alternative certification program that’s similar to Teach for America. However, that journey was an uphill battle and after two years of teaching, the door to having a career in Education closed.

So now that my Plan B (teaching) failed, what was I going to do?

But God had more in store! Only two months after He shut the door to teaching, He opened the door to working for a countywide newspaper! I still remember my first day on assignment. It was like the sun rising! I felt at peace, happy, productive and convinced that I was operating in my calling.

However, after half a decade of working for that newspaper, the company went through budget cuts, which meant that they had to lay off several reporters including me. So then began my search for a new job. At first, I was only looking in Journalism but then I figured that any job that paid the bills would do. So I expanded my career search but to no avail because I only landed short, temporary jobs like seasonal retail for the holidays.

Just when all hope seemed lost, God intervened. He led me to making a new friend, Kristina, who calls herself a “Writerpreneur” and set off a series of events that led me to where I am today!

Keeping it short: Kristina told me to download her FREE book and read it because of its job search related resources. So I did and in that book, there was a list of staffing agencies that represent people who are searching for jobs. The company works as an agent for the job seeker, sending job leads and working as a bridge between the client and the employer.

The agency that I reached out to, found a job placement for me immediately (literally five minutes after they interviewed me and decided to represent me). I accepted the remote job and worked on it for several months until that company decided that they want to promote within so though they replaced me with one of their in-house employees. Needless to say, I was disappointed but I chose to hold on to the fact that God has a plan. And it’s a good plan just like He promises in Jeremiah 29:11.

Let me tell you, when God moves miracles in motion, only He can take the credit because He opens doors that no man can shut.

Such was the case for me just last week (Monday, July 1 to be exact). The staffing agency called me and asked me if I’m interested in short assignment (only four days) working for a media organization that’s located in the city. I said, “Yes.” They said they would alert the employer. Then they called me less than an hour later saying that I got the job for those four days! My Mom keeps pointing out that they didn’t interview me for the job, they just hired me, so that’s a sign that God is orchestrating this behind the scenes.

Today was supposed to be my last day working for this media organization, because that’s what my agency signed me up to do.

But God had other plans! Longer story short, my supervisor called me into an empty office and told me that they want to hire me as a full-time employee! Of course, I accepted!

This whole experience reminds me of what my Grandma used to say, “God may not come when you want Him to, but He’s always on time!”

Trust me, this new job opportunity happened exactly on time! I cannot go into details and still keep this post under 1,000 words.

This is a testimony that was years in the making! I spent three full years without a new day job that provided sufficient and steady pay. My career journey has been filled with highs and lows, hopes and fears. But God knew what He was doing. He gave me the experiences I needed on those detours He sent me on to help me grow and arrive exactly where I need to be today!

I am so grateful that God is faithful!

So that is the abbreviated version of my work related testimony. Maybe one day, I’ll write a book about my journey. But for now, I’m enjoying this moment, appreciating this blessing and encouraging you to wait on the Lord.

Trust, the wait is worth it. So, whatever you’re waiting on God to do in your life, don’t give up or give in. Just trust Him! God’s timing is perfect. I can testify to that fact!

God bless you.

Love,

Alexis A. Goring
Founder of “God is Love” blog

P.S._ Listen to this song that’s encouraged me in my journey. It’s about taking everything – your worries, sorrows, joys and requests – to God in prayer! 


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: The Abundant Life from Jesus Christ


Living Abundantly
A devotional by Sharon Musgrove

“Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."” – Genesis 2:18 (ESV)

A couple of years ago, my husband and I made the decision to downsize our family home. Our eldest child was graduating high school with plans to head off to University while our youngest was only two years behind. The changes in our lives initiated conversations of future retirement and plans beyond raising babies. Our large home felt like a drain on our time and resources; a hindrance to our future. So, we moved.

The new house was full of character and charm with sufficient with room for our kids to come home. The yard, however, was the thing that sold me. It had been smartly divided into what we believed to be manageable sized zones. Of personal interest to me was the garden.

I’d always dreamed of gardening, but the previous home had been located on a heavily wooded hillside alive with hungry wildlife. My extreme reaction to poison oak made it a place of frustration rather than gardening success. This new home came fully fenced, sun kissed and pre-planted.

The seasons changed and eventually the growing season hit full force. I was in the garden almost daily, admiring the flowers and the buds that were sprouting everywhere. Everywhere. Everywhere! Each bed, it turned out, was absolutely loaded with bulbs that were healthily multiplying and spreading. And while the flowering bulbs were of slight concern, the raspberry bushes were revealing a workload.

As I begun the berry harvest, a panic grew inside me. I could see the magnitude of what was coming and I knew I hadn't the time or ability to pick all that would come. I became sick with feelings of inadequacy and failure. Familiar feelings. Did we not just leave a property that took too much?

Living in abundant blessing did not look or feel like what I had assumed it would. I’d thought it could be divided into zones and it would manage itself. I’d assumed that fruitful gardening was like bank accounts with their tidy rows of credits and debits. This extravagant harvest was not controllable, not manageable…at least not by me.

In the midst of this dark thinking, light poured onto a patch that had been shaded. Suddenly, these words flooded my mind: That which God was providing was far more than I had hoped or dreamed…Wait, what? That was scriptural! Next, another verse entered my mind…His plans are to prosper and not harm me (Jeremiah 29:11)! The Word covered my fear in love. Here I was with far more than I could handle and that was God’s intent. It was good, not harming, to have abundance!

God created Eden fruitful, supplying sustenance to all. He gave Adam a management position in gardening. God shows us in Genesis 2:18 that solidarity is not good, help is. Living abundantly is a team sport.

What makes a profusion of juicy sweets a blessing? Sharing. Sharing both the blessing and the workload. The thought of letting others come and pick was a relief to the burden of the chore. I could have my fill and not be overwhelmed. Others could have their fill and be equally blessed!

A paradigm shift occurred that day. What else was weighing me down because I thought I needed to do it all myself? Where else were overwhelming feelings paralyzing me? What made me feel like a failure? What else could follow this pattern of abundance?

As the pile of berries grew in my bucket, so too did a list of tasks I knew I needed help with. Calling on others for help was a blessing to them and not my failure. Giving work to others brought them purpose and value and a share in the abundant life.

Looking back on the move, I am grateful. I'm thoroughly enjoying all that gardening has been teaching me. If I had known before that excess is a gift, I suppose I would have been contented to stay on the larger property. This lesson, however, came with the garden.

Thank you, Lord, for the abundance You have shared!

~*~
Author Bio:

Sharon Musgrove is a self-proclaimed sociologist. The opportunities opened to her, over the years, have led her on a fascinating journey observing human behavior.

She has a diverse background in business, fitness and health industries. This background led her to a unique position writing curriculum and teaching for two private, Christ-based, residential recovery programs. Both recovery programs served women primarily from the homeless community.

Sharon has traveled multiple times to Kenya, serving on medical teams and teaching in the rural Maasai communities. She's been privileged to participate in Leadership camps for maturing young women. These annual camps have a mission of encouraging and empowering the impoverished, underprivileged, and often abused young Maasai girls.

Easily identifying personally with the brokenness of the women she's served, Sharon now sees all people as needing more encouragement regardless of cultural or socioeconomic status. Within these ministries, Sharon has witnessed the transformative power of loving words spoken to the broken-hearted. Sharing God’s love and witnessing its transformative power has become her passion.

In her leisure time, Sharon enjoys her garden, health food, travel, and a good story. She and her husband, Jeff, make their home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They have two grown children. Currently, Sharon is writing her first Christian historical fiction novel utilizing her study, experience, and understanding of self-destructive behaviors.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Interview with Joy K. Massenburge about "A Heart Surrendered" (book)

Join me in welcoming Joy K. Massenburge to the blog today!

She's a pastor's kid, pastor's wife, mother of children, and a talented author.

Today, she's here to talk about her new novel, A Heart Surrendered, that released yesterday!

She's also agreed to give away one copy of her book! Enter the book giveaway contest via the Rafflecopter widget toward the end of this blog post for your chance to win Joy's book.


This is the cover for Joy's book:


Isn't it lovely?

Learn more about Joy and her book in the author interview feature below...

~*~

Interview with Joy K. Massenburge about her book, 
A Heart Surrendered:

Alexis:
Why did you write this book?

Joy:
Have you ever been in a church service and saw that one person and asked, what’s their story? I’m a PK, a preacher’s kid, who’s spent her life people watching. I can’t help it. Being the romantic I am, I put people together in my head, answering the “What if’s.”

Alexis: What is the significance of your book title, A Heart Surrendered?

Joy: This romantic tale asks the same question Jesus asked of the rich young ruler. Would you forsake your treasures here on earth for all that I have promised you in heaven? Okay, that’s not verbatim, but you get the point. For Sharonda, it was the one memory she held dear and refused to see it as wrong. To release that one treasure would mean, we trust… we love… the one who asked for it more than anything. That’s the picture of a heart truly surrendered.

Alexis: Tell us about the heroine of your story, Sharonda Peterson. What is she like?

Joy: Sharonda is smart. A bit in rebellion so her snide remarks spoken under her breath can be funny. She is loyal to her parents, family, and church work even when she resents it.

Alexis:
Tell us about the hero of your story, Carl Ray Everhart. What is he like?

Joy: Carl Ray is a heartthrob who’s tired of the fast life he’s been living. Imagine confidence, swagger, and talent walking in the room. Total alpha male.

Alexis: Why does Sharonda think that finding comfort in Carl’s arms was a mistake?

Joy:
Because he left her behind to chase his real love, acting and singing. She’d given him her best, mistaking their one night to be more than it was.

Alexis: Why does Carl want to be an actor and singer?

Joy: Carl Ray, hadn’t always been the heartthrob. He started out the pimpled, skinny kid who had one thing he was good at. Singing in the school choir opened the door to acting. Sharonda was a friend when no one noticed him. Sharonda introduced him to her talented older brother and he helped launch Carl Ray’s career.

Alexis: Why does Sharonda want to focus only on church service and solitude rather than facing her pain?

Joy: Sharonda has accepted that the life she dreamed of will never be. She feels she owes God for the thing she did, so she’ll make up for it with church deeds. Then there are the health issues that threaten the peace in her home, so she takes on work to ease her parents’ burdens. Solitude is her safe place. Working hard has its reward and she’s too busy to feel her pain, or face her pitiful life.

Alexis:
What makes Carl want to leave the spotlight and his adoring female fans to pursue Sharonda’s heart?

Joy: Nearly losing his life, Carl Ray soon realizes none of those things fulfill the gaping hole in his life. He was alone at the hospital. He was alone during his recovery, except for a few nurses. All of his best memories were in Longview, Texas, with his church family…with Sharonda.

Alexis: What is it about Carl that Sharonda cannot forget, making him hard to resist?

Joy:
Carl had a way of making her feel she could do anything. He looked at her in a way that made her believe she was the only one in the room, transfixed by her beauty. He listened as if she said the most profound things. With him, even if only at that moment, she was special.

Alexis: Why is Carl drawn to Sharonda and willing to fight for her affection?

Joy:
In the beginning he is set on making his wrongs right. Championing her, he is reminded of the friendship he’s missed. Her pending engagement also helps him to realize he doesn’t want to see her with anyone else. Then there are his own abandonment issues that make Carl Ray want to fight for her as he wished his loved ones would have done for him.

Alexis:
If you were a professional counselor with Carl and Sharonda as your clients, what would you tell them to help them heal their wounds and trust each other again?

Joy: Healing begins within first. I would direct them to journal their questions to God.

1. God, why did you create me?

2. What is my purpose?

I’d assign scripture reading. Then I’d have them to list everything they feel God did not do in a, “I don’t trust you because…” format. I’d try anything to get the communication lines open again. Only God can heal. Once we’re healed, we can begin to trust and open up enough to share our true hearts with others.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about A Heart Surrendered?

Joy:
God is worth us surrendering all to Him. His plans for us are far greater than anything we hold dear. With that relationship in the proper place, we are able to love others and receive love.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Joy! 

~*~
Author Bio:
Joy K. Massenburge crafts contemporary love stories of pastors and their kids. She was born the sixth child of a pastor. She married a football player turned pastor…they raised pastor’s kids: a son and two daughters.

During the week, she works as an assistant to a CPA. She serves as American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW East Texas) chapter’s President. 

She is the audio voice of Beatrice “Mama B” Jackson in Michelle Stimpson’s Mama B Books series. 

When she is not writing or recording, she is speaking at retreats and conferences throughout the East Texas area.

~*~
Buy Joy’s book online via Amazon or Barnes and Noble

~*~
Connect with Joy:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJoyMassenburge/
Website: https://www.joykmassenburge.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/joymassenburge/

~*~
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:


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 8, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: On Loving Everyone, including the outcasts


Rescuing the Outcasts
A devotional by Amanda Wen

“The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel.” 
–Psalm 147:2 (ESV)

I had never heard such a squawking ruckus in all my life.

I was about twelve years old, biking with my family at a nearby park that summer evening. The shrieks and honks alerted us to the presence of a young Canadian goose, still covered with downy gray fluff, being chased away by a pack of hissing, flapping adult geese. The rejected gosling was running for his life, but it was clear he had no shot against the furious flock at his heels.

Fortunately for the little outcast, my dad stepped in. He chased off the adults, wrangled the gosling, quickly biked home to get our car, and brought him home with us for the night. The young goose—who we nicknamed Waddles—snuggled down for the night in a plastic bin, greeted the next dawn with enthusiastic peeping, and stole all our hearts.

We couldn’t keep him as a pet, though, much as we might have wanted to. So that day we called an acquaintance who ran a local wildlife rehabilitation facility. He retrieved the gosling, cared for him, and eventually gave the little guy a safe home with a new, welcoming family of Canadian geese.

That incident reminds me so much of Jesus. Throughout His time on earth, He rescued those the world had tossed aside. The blind and the deaf. The lame and the leprous. Women. Children. Members of ethnic groups He, as a Jew, was supposed to despise. Jesus welcomed them all with open arms and met them with the message that God loved them. He hadn’t forgotten them, and He offered them forgiveness from sin and a chance at a brand-new life. The woman who bled for twelve years. The man possessed by a legion of demons. The Samaritan woman at the well. The children the disciples wanted to chase away. All these outcasts—and countless more—came away from their encounters with Jesus forever changed.

But I also find that incident convicting. Do I, as someone whose life has been changed by Jesus, have the same heart for the outcast that He does? Do I look around in the midst of my busy life to reach out to those who, for whatever reason, don’t meet our society’s mold of “acceptable?” Do I share the same message of love, redemption, and the opportunity for forgiveness during my interactions with them?

Jesus rescued me when I was an outcast. A sinner, rebelling against Him. He met me when I had no hope and gave me a new life, a new purpose, and a new eternal destiny. 

As a child of God, I need to be intentional about seeing the outcast. The downtrodden. The ignored. Those our society—and even our churches—may deem “less than.”

And once I’ve found them, it is my joy—and my sacred responsibility—to share the same message of unconditional love and complete forgiveness that I have received, in hopes that these former outcasts will be brought into a similar life-changing encounter with Him.

~*~
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:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/authoramandawen
Twitter: www.twitter.com/authoramandawen
Instagram: www.instagram.com/authoramandawen
Website: www.amandawen.com

Friday, July 5, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: How to live by the fruit of The Holy Spirit


Living by The Spirit
A devotional by Mirachelle Canada


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” 
— Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

I love being a high school teacher, but sometimes the workdays can be arduous. Like parenting a child, educating one also comes with challenges. During one particular start of a school year, I was having a hard time maintaining the right attitude. I dreaded each morning and became sad. I loved my students; I just didn’t love supervising them, and every moment of needed correction irritated me.

I prayed for God’s guidance and intervention. How was going to make it through when I still had months to go? Was it time to change jobs? Was I no longer cut out to be a teacher if I didn’t have the right attitude? I also knew that among my colleagues I wasn’t the only one struggling with this problem.

I turned to the Lord for help and He took me to 1 Corinthians 6:17 (ESV), which says, “He who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” As I meditated deeper on the verse, God instructed me to approach each day through the power of His Spirit by first praying for and then enacting ways to show the fruit of His Spirit.

That next Monday, I started with love in heart and mind. I prayed to love my students unconditionally and sought out ways to show them I cared for them, whether through a genuine smile or a personal hello or asking how they were doing.

Tuesday, I went in prayed up with joy. I used every opportunity to show my enthusiasm and happiness for what they were doing and the fact they were there in my class. 

On Wednesday, I welcomed peace to guide us. If a conflict or issue arose, I was slow to react and remained as peaceful on the outside as I was on the inside. 

On Thursday, I relied on patience to help me with proper responses to guide my students through their own struggles. 

On Friday, I looked for every opportunity to show kindness to everyone I met. The results were incredible! I, along with all my students and even my colleagues, were notably happier people. The Spirit of the Lord had completely changed the atmosphere of my classroom!

The next week, I continued to welcome God’s Spirit through goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In the months that followed, if I or my students reverted to bad habits or attitudes, I took every opportunity to reestablish the right Spirit, just as David prayed in Psalm 51:10 (ESV), “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Each time it worked! God’s method became so effective that I now write one fruit of the Spirit to cover an entire week on my calendar.

Are you in a situation that needs divine intervention? I encourage you to begin praying to be guided by the fruits of the Spirit. Start with God’s love that unites with your faith and hope. He won’t use His fruit to change things just for you and your situation. Unity with Him is meant to bring us all together in “one heart and soul,” as He says in Acts 4:32 (ESV).

The fruit of His Spirit are boundless! The power of your partnership with His Spirit will permeate and affect those around you too, so they may also be blessed.

We serve an awesome God! To Him be all glory and praise! Amen.

~*~
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:
Website: www.mirachellecanada.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mirachellecanada/
Instagram: https://instagram.com/mirachelle77/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/miracan

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Thankful Thursdays: God's Light


It's Thursday and I'm thankful for God's Light in the darkness!

If I’m going to honest, a lot of real world situations have been weighing heavily on my heart lately. But true to how AWESOME God is, He returned the lyrics of a song to my mind. It’s a song that I haven’t heard since I was a child listening to WGTS 91.9 FM.

God often uses this method to encourage me. It usually goes like this: God breaks through the darkness with His Light by sending song lyrics into my mind, I look up the lyrics on YouTube and then listen to the song only to find out that its message is exactly what I needed to hear in that situation!

The song that God brought to my mind this morning is “Praise the Lord” and the video that I watched on YouTube featured a LIVE performance of the song by Russ Taff.

It truly encouraged my mind and reinfused HOPE into my heart as God's Light broke through the darkness. After listening to this song, I was reminded to focus on what truly matters (living for Jesus Christ and knowing that in the end, HE wins!). The song also reminded me to remember my true identity as a child of God. We are His creation. He loves us with ALL of His Heart and He has unlimited resources to help us through any and every trial that we may face here on Earth.

Life is easier to deal with when you have Jesus Christ in your life and rely on God. His power is greater than every force of evil. He is the Light in the darkness. There’s always hope when God is in the picture and the GOOD NEWS is that God is always in the picture!

I’d like to share the song with you too. Watch it via the video below:




God bless you, sweet friends.

Love,

Alexis A. Goring
Founder of "God is Love" blog

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Goodness


Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness
A devotional by Allison M. Wilson

Key Scripture: 
Galatians 5:22/Matthew 5:13/Matthew 3:10/Romans 3:12/James 2:10 (NASB)

We’ve talked about the first five fruit of the Spirit and how important it is for Christ’s love to fuel our joy, peace, patience, and kindness. Goodness is the next on the list.

We like to think that we are good at heart. We like to believe that good is in everyone. The Bible doesn’t hold that to be true. In ourselves, there is nothing good. 

Many people want to believe that there is good in every person, but we’re told in James 2:10 (NASB) that if you have broken even one of the Ten Commandments it is as if you have broken them all. Which of us can say we are without even one sin we have committed in our lives? Romans 3:23 (NASB) says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” If we do say we’ve never committed a sin, we just lied!

Where does any good come from, then? As with all good things, it can only be through the Spirit doing the work.

There are several different definitions for the word “good” in the Scriptures, based on the word used in the original language. In Matthew 5:13 (NASB), we see good is directly translated to mean, “to be strong, have power”. In Matthew 3:10 (NASB), good means, “beautiful, good”. And, in Romans 3:12 (NASB), we see it as, “goodness, excellence, uprightness” when Paul quotes, “…there is none who does good, there is not even one”. We read the word in the Bible and believe we know what it entails. But, having seen so many different ways to translate the word, do we really?

In Galatians 5:22 (NASB), it means “good”. The rich young ruler calls Christ, “Good Teacher,” to which Christ replies that only ONE is good. The same original word is used in Galatians. God is the definition of good. How does that get impacted by Paul’s statement that none are good, and yet we are filled with goodness when the fruit of the Spirit are being manifested in us? Only through the work of the Spirit in us and through us.

We rely too much on our own “goodness” rather than the empowered, and true, good, which is from the Holy Spirit. Our good will burns up as chaff, because it came from the flesh. Anything from the Spirit will be eternal, powerful, and have a ripple effect we may never even see.

The Spirit may, or may not, ask you to give to someone in need. It may be a work He is doing in that person through the trial that you will hinder if you step in. I’ve had that happen! He may, or may not, ask you to speak up when a friend is doing what you know to be against God in their lives as believers. He may tell you to stop associating with someone for a time while they are turning from Him. All of these are GOOD, if we are willing to allow God to be GOOD.

We don’t see the whole picture in our own lives, let alone in those of others around us. We think we know what God is up to, but we can’t even fathom all the levels He’s working on in any one situation. We must rely on Him as good if we are to trust Him with each of our steps. That is a work of the Spirit, alone, testifying in us about Who He is and who He is making us to be. Good, as God is good, is not the lowest form of “good, better, best” as we tend to look at things. It is best because it is the very definition of God. He is working to make us that way, too. Will you let Him?

Let’s Pray: Heavenly Daddy, we have such warped ideas of what is good. Show us the depths of good in You, from the trials to the blessings, and the trials, which You remind us, are blessings. We need to see Your goodness working through us on this dark world, but in ourselves just as much. We love You. In the precious name of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.

~*~
Author Bio:

A very early reader and lover of the written word, Allison M. Wilson has been writing since the age of 8 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:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/allisonmwilson
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amwilson

Monday, July 1, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: God's Glorious Love for Humankind


Safe in the glorious, perfect love of God
A devotional by Jessica Brodie


“The Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”
—Genesis 3:9 (CEB)

There is something about early morning that connects me in the deep, beautiful love I share with God.

A hush still envelops the world, and I hear only the birds twittering in the trees and the squirrels scavenging furiously for nuts, perhaps a few cars in the distance, but not enough to disturb. My house is quiet—the kids are drowsing in their beds. My husband is snoozing peacefully. Even my cat isn’t quite ready to move.


There’s a special magic in the air, and my heart and soul are still in dreamland, even if my body is in motion. I drink a glass of water and look out the window, marveling at creation and steeped in gratitude for all God has given us—given me. 


I brew coffee and think about the day, carrying God along for every step. He’s right there with me, and it feels so natural and right. We are close, still, before the day and its distractions threaten to drive a wedge between us, a wedge I’ll try to fight all day. But this early, there are no distractions yet. It’s just me and God, as it should be. As He intended.

We talk together in prayer, and I sit and read His Word, bathing in His presence. Thank you, God, is my refrain, sometimes spoken and sometimes thought. You, Lord, are everything.

Once in a while, I have a little extra time to go for a walk, and I lace up my sneakers and stride down the road to the lake and back again, a good two-mile loop before the heat of the day makes exercise unbearable. My connection stays with God all this time—I feel Him in every step, every breath, every beam of sunlight.

Sometimes it doesn’t happen like this. I oversleep, or I have so many things on my mind I crowd out such special time with my Creator. I read the Word, but my own thoughts and plans creep in, or my prayers feel rushed. The connection, on my end, is slippery. I have to work throughout the day to rein it in and stay close.

But I’ve learned over the years that this connection is critical to my love relationship with God. That’s “our time,” whether it comes in the early morning solitude or when I allow myself to fully relax and just be. And I strive as I grow in faith for “our time” to be “all the time,” with every breath and every thought.

I imagine that’s how it was in the first days, when God created Adam and Eve and they all lived in perfect harmony together (Genesis 2:4-25). They spoke together. They shared, loved, laughed, and talked. But then came the fall, when Adam and Eve broke God’s rule and ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and their relationship was forever changed. They were driven from the garden. Their sin had become an eternal wedge, only mended through God’s grace in the form of His son, Jesus.

I like to think of my morning time as if I’m back in the garden with the Lord, sharing creation in pure accord as He’d intended. And I think of the distractions of my day, the things I put before God (even though I don’t mean to!), as that wedge—the forbidden fruit I must avoid. I know I’m not in the garden, of course. I know only through Jesus can I fully connect with God.

Still, I read these lines in the Bible, and they resonate profoundly: “The Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:9 CEB).

Throughout my busy day, I hear God asking, “Where are you?” The question brings me back, and I remember exactly where I am: safe in the glorious, perfect love of God.

~*~
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/shiningthelight.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Celebrate List Promo Blast for The Certain Hope (book) by E.C. Jackson

Good day, reader friends!

Today, I'm featuring a promo blast for a book by E.C. Jackson. Her book is called The Certain Hope. Here is her book's front cover art:


Isn't the book cover lovely?

Here is the blurb for The Certain Hope:

Love at first sight. It’s every girl’s dream. But Tara Simpkins is finding out it’s not as easy as it seems. Is this truly the man God sent to be her husband, or is she just desperate to escape her loneliness?

The recent loss of both parents has left her reeling, and close friends don’t think she’s in any position to make major life decisions. She and her new-found love are convinced they can live happily ever after in the home of their dreams.

His family thinks he’s moving way too fast and might disappoint the kind-hearted woman he’s fallen head over heels for. And then there’s Leah. Leah is supposed to be part of his past, but what if she decides she’s his future?

Tara’s match made in Heaven may be over before it truly begins.

~*~
My Review of The Certain Hope:

When I signed up to read and review this book, I thought that it held a lot of promise. 

The cover art was nice and the blurb for the book was intriguing. However, after the first chapter, I slowly but surely lost interest in the story for several reasons.

The pace was too rushed. The hero and heroine were taking "love at first sight" to a whole new level with references to marriage and moving in together within the first few chapters. 

Then within almost every few pages, the characters were considering marrying each other and dropping hints. I know that in real-life, love at first sight happens but in this fiction story everything seemed too rushed for a relationship that was not fully developed. 

On a positive note, the characters were interesting and likable. But the plot needed to be more fully developed and the pacing needed to be adjusted. 

I cannot give this book more than three stars. But don't be deterred by my review. Just because I didn't really enjoy this story does not mean that you will not. Every reader has their own taste in books.

*I (Alexis A. Goring) received an ARC of “The Certain Hope" from Celebrate Lit. My opinions in this honest review are my own.

~*~
Author Bio:
E. C. Jackson began her writing career with the full-length play Pajama Party. 

For three and a half years she published the Confidence in Life newsletter for Alpha Production Ministries, in addition to writing tracts and devotionals.

Teaching a women’s Bible study at her church for eleven years naturally led to her current endeavor of writing inspirational romance novels and teen and young adult fiction. 

Her mission: spiritual maturity in the body of Christ through fiction.

~*~
Connect with E.C. Jackson:

~*~

Saturday, June 29, 2019

YOU are invited to Bible Boot Camp! It's FREE and available online.


The July 2019 edition of Bible Boot Camp starts on July 1 and continues every morning from 5:00 a.m. (EST) to 5:30 a.m. (EST) until July 31! 

These boot camp sessions are hosted by Pastor Paul Graham via
Full Circle Ministries. 

So "Wake up and stretch your spiritual muscles" every morning this July! 

Join the LIVE sessions here, http://live.fullcircleministries.com.



Friday, June 28, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Plants and the Master of Deception


The Hose, The Frog, And The Fern
A devotional by Heather Martin


"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes."
–Ephesians 6:11 (NIV)

I love plants!

My husband and I have planted some new things around our yard this summer like some beautiful hydrangeas, waxed leaf ligustrum trees, strawberries, herbs and tomatoes. 


Recently, we decided to hang gigantic Boston ferns from our covered porches.

The most needy of our new plants have proven to be the ferns! They require lots of water, almost every day or else you can quickly notice the leaves will begin to brown and shed. Every day, we do the work to climb in between the bushes that line the side of our house to turn on the hose and bring it up to the porch to water the ferns.

I am always on guard when I step between the bushes, being careful not to unexpectedly tread upon a snake or another creature! As I squeezed through the bushes this time was no different. I reached my hand in to turn on the water, and as I did, I came face to face with a frightened small green frog that was happily hiding behind the gutter that hangs right in front of the water spout.

Frightened, I jumped back as quickly as I could, leaving the hosepipe to do a spraying-water–everywhere-dance! I kept reasoning with myself that I was brave enough to go back in there and turn it off. As I peeked back in behind that gutter where the little frog was, he looked as scared as me and as if he were thinking, “Please don’t see me, please don’t see me.” Anyway, I petitioned my husband to come to the rescue and turn off the hose for me.

Sometimes, things aren’t really what they seem at first glance. Especially in nature! Every day, we probably come into contact with animals and insects that are made to camouflage and so we never see just how close we are to them. Thank goodness it was only a frog, but this little frog got me to thinking about how sneaky Satan is.

Satan is always trying to disguise himself, to camouflage himself into our lives in hopes that we don’t recognize him. He would love for us to believe that he doesn’t even exist!

Just like that little green frog, Satan blends into our lives through our every day activities such as social media, music, TV shows, recreation, food, etc. and he says, “Please don’t see me, please don’t see me.” He is the master of deception and seeks to take over our lives in even subtle ways. It is his aim to permeate every area single area of our lives, through every single sense. And everyone is free game for him.

But there is hope for us because with God’s help, we cannot be deceived!

Here is a short list of ways in which you can identify where Satan might be camouflaging himself in your life:

#1: Shine a light.

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” –Psalm 119:105 (NIV). Spend some time reading God's Word (The Holy Bible) every day.

#2: Guard yourself.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” –1 Peter 5:8 (NIV). Pay attention and be aware of people, situations or things that make you feel far from God.

#3: Pray.

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” –Jeremiah 29:12 (NIV). Just like I had to call for my husband to rescue me, we can call on God anytime because He is waiting to help us.

So as you go through your day, know that Satan is looking to blend into your surroundings to cause fear, self-doubt, and to cause you to fall. But be encouraged and ask for God’s protection, it will surround you on every side.

~*~
Author Bio:
Heather Martin was born the last of six siblings in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was raised by an amazing single mother (Rebecca Trotter) and was taught at an early age to love God and how to sing! 

She graduated from Oakwood University with a Bachelors Degree in Language Arts Education and later received a Master’s Degree in Education from Kaplan University.

Shortly after graduating she followed God’s call to minister. She joined the Stellar, Dove, and Grammy-nominated gospel group Virtue, which was founded by her two older sisters Ebony Holland and Karima Kibble several years prior. Virtue has used their talents to spread the love of God across the world! They have recorded 7 studio albums and have been the recipients of numerous awards.

God has not only blessed Heather professionally, but personally. She met her husband, Dr. Colin Martin, and they have been married for 14 years. They have four children: Colin Jr. 11, Harper 10, Clark, 7, and Charleston 5. In 2016 Heather started an online blog and vegan and allergen-friendly cooking channel called “Chef Mommy.” Heather (Chef Mommy) has cooked with numerous celebrities and top chefs to spread the news of healthy cooking and lifestyle.

In addition to this busy schedule, Heather enjoys, running, reading, writing and spending time with her family.

~*~
Connect with Heather:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherTMartin
Instagram for Heather: https://www.instagram.com/thechefmommy/
Instagram for Virtue (Heather’s singing group): https://www.instagram.com/virtuegirls
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/chefmommyhm