Monday, April 29, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Gratitude


Being Rich Toward God
A devotional by Voni Harris

“For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.” – Luke 12:23 (NIV)

The Parable of the Rich Man in Luke 12 is the story of the man so wealthy that he basically says, “I’ve got lots. I’ll build bigger storage sheds for all my wheat, and then eat, drink, and be merry.” God calls him a fool, for he is about to die that night.

Jesus Christ outright says this foolish Rich Man – and those of us like him – was being rich toward himself, not rich toward God (verse 21). In my opinion, being rich toward God means having your eyes on HIM and on HIS purpose for your life and the things HE has given you, which is why authentic gratitude is the key. The lack of Rich Man's gratitude is what hit me with this parable, and what I'm trying to communicate in this devotional. The Rich Man didn't thank God for his abundant harvest. He used it for his own benefit.

Wait, what? What does that even mean? The guy’s just trying to make plans for his huge wheat harvest. Duh, right? Wouldn’t you?

But think about this wealthy man in this parable. He had his eyes, not on God, not even on others, but on himself. His eyes were not even off himself enough to say “Thank you.” He didn’t make plans to build his business, hire more people. He didn’t care to make himself the John D. Rockefeller of the harvest. He was glad to relax and party off his profits. It reminds me of some of the modern-day wealthy kids who are no more than famous for being famous. The Rich Man didn’t care to build power and reputation for himself off his profit. Not even that, but no forging of a legacy, no impacting the world for good. Just eating, drinking, making merry.

He also didn’t look to make a donation to Wheat for the Homeless, if such an organization existed back in the time when Jesus told this story. The man didn’t dare share a little with his struggling cousin (if he had one). He didn’t think about ways to pass on his wealth to future generations. The storehouses that he wanted to build were his way of keeping what was his. Of course it was his. Rightfully so. However, his eyes were on himself and how all this wheat was going to allow him to be merry. He apparently couldn’t see the needs in the world around him.

Whatever you think of the Rockefellers won’t take away from the fact that they did good things for their country by creating railways that made a strong future for America. They created a strong, charitable foundation. But to the wealthy man in the parable, the purpose of the rich man’s harvest was him. He makes me think of someone with a stunning voice who sings only in the shower … if no one else is at home to hear and be blessed by their song.

It was Rich Man’s choice not to think of those around him, or to build a future of wealth for himself. It certainly was his choice to do whatever he wanted with his harvest. But his choice to build storehouses is what struck me hardest. He was not afflicted with simple, basic gratitude. There was not even a “thank you,” as he made his plans to keep it all for himself.

He didn't thank God for his abundant harvest. He used it for his own benefit.

Real gratitude is more than saying, “Thank you,” or writing a sweet “thank you” note. It goes far beyond that. It takes our eyes off ourselves and puts them on the Giver (God). That’s when we think about the future beyond ourselves, see the needs around us. That’s when we begin to care.

Rich Man did not, but do you have authentic gratitude?

His storehouses were so overflowing that they could easily have flowed to those around him, from donations to community building or in a will.

Are your eyes on yourself, hands clenched around what is yours? Or, does gratitude toward the Giver overflow your heart to those around you in need of Jesus, whatever God’s purpose? Are you living your life for God out of gratitude? Or for yourself?

In other words, as Jesus says in this parable, are you storing up for yourself, or are you being rich toward God? It’s food for thought, friends. Food for thought!

~*~
Author Bio:

Voni Harris writes from her family’s home on the rain forest island of Kodiak, Alaska.


A legal-eagle husband, a breathtaking daughter, an adventurous grandson, and two enthusiastic dogs all conspire to keep her from spending too much time at the computer.

She holds a Radio-TV degree from Drake University, and her short story “The Wedding” was published in Heart-Stirring Stories of Romance. 

Voni's novel Nothing Hidden won the 2013 ACFW’s First Impressions contest and the 2015 Daphne DuMaurier unpublished inspy suspense category. It was also a 2018 ACFW Genesis finalist.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Highlights


Highlight The Important Stuff!
A devotional by Heather Martin

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” –1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

When I was a student in college, I had a professor who we affectionately called “Shane the Man.” He was everything you’d imagine an old school player to be made of: He was full of phrases that included the word “jive.” He was tall, dark, handsome, well dressed for the 1970s, smelled good, and smooth talking. He taught the first Bible class I took and every day right after prayer, he’d begin with this phrase, “people forget, but paper remembers, so take notes, and highlight the important stuff.”

A few weeks ago, a popular rapper named Nipsey Hussle was shot and killed in Los Angeles, CA. I had never heard of him until the day he died. His death has shaken the entire world, but especially his community at large. He had a rough past that included him being apart of the notorious Crip gang of Los Angeles. In his music, he speaks about the harsh truths of the reality of growing up in a bad environment (drugs, crime, promiscuity, etc.).

However, it is so interesting that Nipsey had an awakening that caused him to turn his life around and invest his fame and fortune into a goal of making the world a better place.

He set out to change the lives of young people just like him by not only encouraging them to make good decisions, but creating physical spaces that would allow them to be in a positive environment.

If you listen to some of the lyrics to his music, you could easily judge him by his mistakes. But the way that the world is remembering him speaks to his true character: the good things he did, the highlights, the important stuff.

As I got to thinking about Nipsey and his life, I thought of the lives of Saul and David in The Holy Bible. When the people of Israel demanded a king, Saul was anointed by Samuel and God to be the first king of Israel. But Saul was disobedient to God and God rejected him as king. Then Samuel secretly anointed David to take Saul’s place. Saul was furious and was determined to kill David. 


The Bible book of Samuel tells the stories of how both David and Saul were incredibly flawed men. At different times in their lives they were murderers, idolaters, adulterers, liars, and did all kinds of wrong. However, even though all the bad they did was included in their stories, a stronger emphasis is placed on the highlights: the important stuff, the times they allowed God to lead them and the good that they did. 

Everyone has a past, or something that’s not so pleasant about them, and sometimes it can be easy for us to judge ourselves and other people by the bad stuff. The bad stuff can make you look at a person funny and expect the worst from them or yourself.

Today, I encourage you to look for the good in people and in yourself then highlight it because it’s the important stuff!

This is exactly how God looks at us: He looks beyond our faults and highlights the good in us.

Won’t you try to see the good and highlight the important stuff too?

~*~
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

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Thankful Thursdays: God’s Protection


It's Thursday and I'm thankful for God's Protection!

I thought of Psalm 91:11 (a verse in The Holy Bible) earlier this afternoon, when I saw what is becoming a familiar sight at one of my favorite town centers. 


When I drove into the town center earlier today, I saw for the second time this year, a squad of men and women dressed like secret service agents (people with “serious” no-nonsense looks on their faces who are dressed in Black slacks, Black blazers, white shirts, shiny black shoes and wearing ear pieces to communicate with each other). Just like the first time I saw them, they descended on the town center and set themselves up on the four corners surrounding the area in which a cupcake shop is central. They had the entire area covered. Each guarded a checkpoint. Each person looked serious as they surveyed their surroundings and if they had a weapon, it was concealed. 

I do not know who these secret service agents were guarding but I think the person may be a high-profile politician or government employee given the area that the town center is located. It’s only a few miles away from important places where people in power gather for business and work-related matters.

It’s the second time this year that I’ve seen this happen. But today was the first time that my mind drew a parallel and life lesson from this scenario.

Ready to hear it?

Here it is:
After today, I realized that just like those secret service agents guarded every corner of the area where their Very Important Person (VIP) was visiting, staying vigilant and ready to defend the VIP if needed, God sends His Angels from Heaven to guard us every single day, in every way!

The Bible says in, Psalm 91:11, “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.”

According to Belief Net (website), “This translates literally to mean that God will instruct His angels to watch over individuals. God will give each of His angels a purpose: to guard His children. Those who are faithful will be under the constant care of His angels.”

It’s comforting to know that God’s Angels are always watching over you and me, guarding us and delivering us from evil. They are stronger and smarter than the world’s best-trained secret service agents and unlike mere mortals like you and me, they will NEVER fail an assignment to cover us. They cannot be killed and they are very skilled at doing God’s will.

The Bible also says in Psalm 34:7, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them.”

According to Belief Net (website), “The angel of the Lord can mean any one of God’s angels. In this passage, it is noted that God would send His angels down to His true loyal children and rescue them from danger. His angels will lift us up and keep us from harm if we choose to trust in Him.”

Situations in life can be scary but you don’t need to be a VIP to be covered by God’s protection. God has promised to be with you wherever you go. He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). He’s holding you close in His Hand (Isaiah 41:13)
 and taking care of you from the moment He wakes you up in the morning (believe it or not, it’s not our alarm clock that wakes us up) to the moment you go to sleep for the night then His angels are on guard as you sleep! 

God’s protection over all of His children here on Earth is a 24/7/365 operation. He has unlimited resources to help us and deliver us from evil. All we need to do is trust Him to take care of us and obey Him. Remember, there are consequences to our sinful actions but God is merciful. He’s ready to forgive you of your sins if you ask Him. But then He expects you to turn away from your sins and seek Him. Life can be messy but God is with you in your mess. He will never give up on you! I’ve heard stories of how He’s protected people in the middle of their mess and rescued them from dangerous situations.

Point is:
If you believe in God, you’ve already got a protection squad in the form of His Heavenly Angels. You may not be able to see them but they are always with you. God’s Angels are here to help us make it through our journey here on Earth. Hebrews 1:4 (KJV) says, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”

So next time you’re in a situation that scares you, ask God to send His protection. Pray for His protection even when you cannot sense danger or think that everything is okay. Remember, God sees what we cannot see and He protects us more than we may think! So don’t only ask God for protection, thank Him for it!

Trust and believe that your Creator (GOD) loves you. He is there for you, sending His Angels to protect you and guard you in all your ways. Best of all, you don’t need an ear piece to communicate with God, He’s only prayer away and He knows what you need even before you pray!

Perhaps God’s Protection can be summed up in the words of Isaiah 65:24 (KJV) in which He says, “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.”

Isn’t God Awesome?

In closing, I’d like to share this song, “Angels Watching Over Me” by Virtue. You can listen it to here. God bless you, dear hearts! 

Always remember that you are loved and protected by your Maker (God)!

Love,

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Unity


Living in Unity
A devotional by Carrie Del Pizzo

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” Psalm 133 (NIV)

This Psalm sounds really nice to our American ears. I’ve heard oil was important two thousand years ago half way around the world. And I know it’s important to be nice to people. So, yes, I agree that this passage of Scripture is good.

Sometimes that’s how I approach God’s Word. I like it and it makes sense to me; therefore, I declare it good. (In case you were wondering, God does not need my approval.) But do I really understand what these verses are saying? Let’s look at the oil first.

In centuries past, olive oil had so many more uses beyond tasting great on pasta and bread. It was used as fuel for lamps, lubricant and moisturizer for the hair and skin, medication, and blessing in religious ceremonies.

Olive trees don’t start bearing olives and oil until they are five or six years old, and they don’t hit their real production stride until they are forty or fifty years old. The great news is that, on average, olive trees live about 500 years. So, in ancient times, having mature, fruit-bearing olive trees was a sign of wealth and guaranteed stability.

So how is living in unity compared to such a valuable commodity?

We all know people who worship differently than we do. I’m not talking about cults who go off the rails and leave God behind. I’m talking about people who genuinely love and worship the great big God of the whole wide universe, but they do it more loudly or more quietly than I do. People who dance in the aisles and people who sit on the hard pew. People who shout their praises to the sky and people who wash the floor with their tearful prayers.

We also know people who do some pretty dreadful things while wearing God’s name tag. Noisy groups have protested the funerals of a fallen soldiers. Famous ministers have had illicit affairs. And people with fish stickers on their bumpers have cut off other drivers. These are the things that make the rest of us look pretty bad.

Instead of criticizing each other for worshipping differently, or tearing down those whose sin is public, what if we all worked together to support each other, build each other up, and represent God’s love to a hurting world? I think that’s the pleasant oil and the dew of God’s blessing.

Today, I’m choosing to pray for the other churches in my city. The ones I don’t attend, but whose congregations love Jesus as much as I do. What about you? How can you choose to live in unity with God’s people today?

~*~
Author Bio:
In this world of texts, memes, and emojis, slowing down to truly communicate can feel like straining a muscle you haven’t exercised in far too long.

Seventeen years of business experience across a variety of industries has taught Carrie Del Pizzo the fine art of professional communications. Partnering with corporate executives and entry-level employees alike, she has written and edited major project proposals, direct marketing pieces, sensitive client communications, employee handbooks, and user manuals.

Carrie’s love of literature and story has led her to develop and exercise her fiction writing skills as well. Aside from her personal creative efforts, she also edits for self- and traditionally-published authors and enjoys writing short dramas for church presentation.

Carrie is a wife, mom of three Americans and host-mom to numerous exchange students. Italian-by-marriage means she loves to cook and eat. She lives in Spokane, WA, with her hilarious family, who keeps her in stitches and provides piles of material for great stories.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Road Trip


Anyone Ready for a Road Trip?
A devotional by Glynis Becker

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
 – Galatians 5:22-25 (NASB)

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” 
–James 1:3-4 (NASB)

Anyone who has lived in the Midwest knows that getting from one place to another often requires a long road trip. I’m sure this is probably true in other parts of the world as well, but it definitely feels like we Midwesterners have the corner on that market. In the fall of 2018, our daughter went off to a college northeast of where we live, and to visit her requires a five-hour-plus drive, which is a pretty short drive if you ask us locals.

We made an overnight trip there last weekend, and while my back hurt from sitting and I was bored looking out the window at one more dead corn field, I thought to myself how nice it would be to have a transporter like in Star Trek. One minute you’re here and the next minute you’re there. No long car rides, no legs falling asleep. Just the joy of being with the person you want to visit.

Then I suddenly recognized that the journey is part of the whole experience. If it didn’t take time to get from here to there, what might I miss out on?

The phrase “enjoying the ride” is not naturally in my vocabulary, but as I’ve gotten older, I realize how much we learn getting from point A to point B. I shouldn’t be in a hurry to dismiss the time spent “in-between.”

This probably isn’t a brand new thought for you, but it was good for me to have a reminder of several important things. The fact is, long journeys take patience. They take endurance and perseverance. If you are traveling with others, they take grace and kindness. They take wisdom and faith. They allow us to learn contentment and gratitude. In the end, we might even gain a good measure of peace from acquiring that batch of skills.

Funny, isn’t it, how those lessons look a lot like the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22 and the list that James wrote?

God rarely shows us a whole map. Sometimes we don’t even know exactly where we’re headed. But I love that no matter where we are going, He is already there. I love that He is with me while I’m traveling. And I love the thought that sometimes He will carry me when I’m too tired to continue on my own.

A journey starts with a step. Road trips can be fun. The journey through life will have many steps, a bit of fun, fellow travelers, and lessons to learn.

Let’s travel well, friends. And I promise I’ll wave and smile when we pass on the road.

My Prayer: Loving Father (God), thank You for being both the Way and the Guide. Forgive me when I am too focused on what I want and I miss out on what You have for me. Give me the wisdom and strength to help others as we journey together. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

~*~
Author Bio:
Glynis Becker writes devotions and inspirational fiction, hoping someday to have a published novel on her resume. 

She has co-written several screenplays, including the film Sinking Sand, available on DVD and digital streaming. 

Glynis, whose childhood was spent all over the country as an Air Force brat, has called South Dakota home for many years, along with her husband and two teenage children.

When she’s not writing or reading, she is watching more television than she should and crocheting. You can find her at www.glynisbecker.com.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: The Joy of God's Grace for His Children


A Bad Day at McDonald’s
A devotional by Victoria Bylin


“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 
–Matthew 7:1-2 (NIV)

How often have you heard this statement: “If a person is really a Christian, we’ll see evidence of it.” I’ve heard these words many times—in churches and on the radio, through social media, and out of the mouths of friends and fellow believers.

On one hand, I believe these words without question. When the Holy Spirit moves into our hearts, we change. Becoming a Christian is a little like picking up a lit stick of dynamite. Something is going to happen. At the same time, that explosion isn’t always pretty—at least that’s been true in my own life.

I’ll never forget a particularly embarrassing visit to McDonald’s. My oldest son was four years old, and he’d spent the day in pre-school while I was at work. Rather than go home (exhausted) and cook, I took him to the new McDonald’s with a play area. My son inhaled his Happy Meal and ran off to the hamster tubes and ball pit.

The clock in my head started to tick. Did I mention I was exhausted? I just wanted to go home, but those hamster tubes were one of his favorite things in the world. While I was bone tired and wanted quiet, my sweet son had spent the day following rules and being a good boy for his teachers, holding in every emotion that his four-year-old self had.

He needed to burn off some steam. I needed to lie down.

How long do I let him play? Five minutes? Ten minutes? After about ten, I did the mom thing and blew the whistle on his good time. He wasn’t happy about it. In fact, he threw the one and only tantrum of his preschool days.

I think of that now and cringe—not because of his behavior. I cringe because of mine. I didn’t lose it completely, but anger burned through me as I hauled him kicking and screaming to the car. That’s when it hit me. He needed to play as much as I needed quiet. Essentially, I’d given him cake and snatched it back before he finished it.

Anyone witnessing that scene at McDonald’s would have seen strife and anger—not the fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians:


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

My humanity leaked all over the place in that moment. I didn’t look at all like a Christian. But I was . . . a struggling Christian mom in need of grace and forgiveness.

Years later, I’m still sorry we didn’t stay until he’d had burned off the tension of his own day. But something else important happened. I saw my own failings and came to a deeper understanding of grace—both my own need for it and the need to extend it to others.

Anyone watching the incident at McDonald’s would have seen strife and struggle as I carried my son kicking and screaming to the car. I didn’t feel at all like a Christian—but I was. Period. Christ did the work of redemption for me. He paid the price for my sin and selfishness, and for that I am beyond grateful.

Christians don’t always look and act like Christians. I wish we did. But the good news is that we have a God who is far more consistent—a God who never fails to love us just as we are. 


~*~
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.

~*~
Connect with Victoria:
Website: https://www.victoriabylin.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Victoria.Bylin.Author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/VictoriaBylin
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/victoria-bylin
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/568102.Victoria_Bylin

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Thankful Thursdays: Lifelines

It’s Thursday and I’m thankful for lifelines!

According to Google, a lifeline is “a thing on which someone or something depends or which provides a means of escape from a difficult situation.”

God has placed people here on this earth to be there for us, people who we can turn to when we need help. For some, it may be your Mama or Papa. It may be your Grandma or Grandpa. It may be your Auntie or Uncle. It may be your cousin or closest friend. Sometimes, it may even be a professional counselor, therapist, psychiatrist or another licensed medical professional.

Did you know that as humans, we have a lifeline who will always be there for us? Professionals that you see face to face are limited to their office hours but God is available 24/7/365.

There’s a song by Mandisa called “Lifeline.” It is about how God is our greatest and most reliable lifeline. We can call on Him morning, noon and night. The Bible says that NOTHING can separate us from His love. 


Romans 8:38-39 (NIV) says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Now, this isn’t to discourage you from seeking professional help from another human who God placed on this Earth to help you. It’s okay to talk to Jesus AND a therapist (or another mental health professional).


I know that not everybody can afford to pay a professional to help you. So today, I’m including a list of resources that we have within the United States of America that can serve as your lifeline. I know that not all of y0u who read my blog live in America. I would encourage you to find resources within your home country that can be of service to you when you need help. But for those of you who live in the U.S.A. and need help, I hope that you will reach out to the trained professionals who operate the resources that I have listed below. Please note: A few of the resources I’ve listed are not free services but most on the list are free!

My prayer for you is that you won’t be afraid to seek help when you need it. If you’ve ever contemplated suicide, I’d caution you to NOT do it! Yes, it would end your pain but it would also end your hope, your future joy and everything that God wants to send into your life as a blessing. So please do NOT give up but do LOOK up to the One (GOD) who is ready and willing to help you through anything you’re going through! And if you feel like your prayers are not going past the ceiling and you need additional support, then reach out to the trained volunteers in the free services that I’ve listed below.

Please note:
I’ve copied and pasted the words from my Google search for each resource with the exception of K-LOVE (I wrote that description).


~*~
 Short List of Resources:

Resource “Crisis Text Line”: The free, 24/7, confidential text message service for people in crisis. Text HOME to 741741 in the United States.
Website - https://www.crisistextline.org

Resource “K-LOVE” Christian Radio: Reach out to the K-LOVE Pastors, Prayer Ministry and Care Team who want to listen to you and pray for you.
Website - http://www.klove.com/ministry/prayer/
*You should be able to submit a prayer request online even if you live outside of the U.S.A.

Resource “Better Help” (not a free service): Online Therapy with a Licensed Counselor. Available Anytime, Anywhere You Need It. The Time is Now to Put Yourself First. Don't Wait, Start Therapy Today! Therapy On Your Schedule. 100% Private Environment. Make a Positive Change. Get Happy, Start Therapy. Therapy From Your Couch.
Website - https://www.betterhelp.com

Resource “Faithful Counseling” (not a free service): Affordable, Professional Counseling from a Biblical Perspective. Unlimited Counseling. Counselors Available 24/7. Professionally Licensed. Readily Accessible. Therapy Anytime, Anywhere. Types: Depression Counseling, Marriage Counseling, Relationship Counseling…
Website - https://www.faithfulcounseling.com

Resource “National Suicide Prevention Lifeline”: We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
Website - http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Resource “Hope Line”: Offering caring non-judgmental listening and referrals in times of crisis. Suicide.
Website - https://www.hopeline-nc.org/

Resource “Lines for Life”: We are here 24/7 with free, confidential, and anonymous help! Our highly trained staff and volunteers provide immediate assistance, compassionate support, and resource referrals that can put you on a path to healing. Texting on the Lifeline, Alcohol & Drug Helpline and Military Helpline is available 8am – 11pm PST daily. We’ll reply as soon as we open back up. Please remember help on the phone is always available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Website - https://www.linesforlife.org


~*~
Closing Thoughts:

God loves you. Remember that. Reach out to Him. He’s only a prayer away and He’s more present in your life than you may think!

Be encouraged, friends.

Love,

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Our Hope


A Spring of Hope
A devotional by Christa MacDonald

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” 
–Romans 8:24-25 (NIV)

I garden in New England, so every season I have to start a goodly amount of my annuals indoors. I don’t have a potting shed or greenhouse, so the large front window becomes my staging area. I have trays of seedlings sitting in the sun, waiting for the warmer weather.

This weekend, I finally came to terms with my first failure of the year. I had to give up on my chilies. I had planted two varieties and patiently waited. And waited. Saturday made it one month since planting, and there was simply no way they were going to sprout. I think I know what I did wrong – not enough heat. I won’t make that mistake next year. For this year, I’ll just have to buy chilies from the nursery. Happily, my tomato seeds germinated just fine, and those seedlings are four-inches high and rising, something that delights me to no end.

There is nothing quite like gardening. Seeds go in the ground, or on the tray, or in the pot with great expectations or cautious hopes, and when the first shoots appear they bring joy with them. Spring is full of that particular kind of joy. Little green bits are popping up out of the ground everywhere. By the time May rolls around I’ll be setting out the veggies and the flowers, and a new phase of hope and expectation starts. I’ll be looking for flowers, and then fruit, with an eye to harvest-time.

Something about this particular kind of expectation reminds me of Christian hope. I think hope is one of the most difficult concepts in our faith. We often think of it like a wish or a desire we’re crossing our fingers that God will grant. Instead, hope is like that planted seed. We have an optimistic expectation because of Jesus. Hope in people and they will fail you. Hope in institutions and they will fail you. But hope in God and He will never fail you!

If you’re hoping that God gives you a million dollars, that’s not hope. Our hope rests in the truth that God is faithful. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

When we’re anxious, this is when we need to draw on this hope. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow but we know that God will provide. He may ask us to go through terrible trials, to struggle emotionally and financially, but He will be with us through it all. Nothing that we encounter in life can separate us from the love of God. Our hope is fixed and secure because Jesus Christ died (and rose again, completing the plan of salvation) so that we could live. We are able to have this security, this hope for eternity because Jesus paid the price for us. When we repent of our sins and place our faith in Him, we are redeemed.

When life is difficult, I try to remember how I feel when I see the first green shoots in spring. It’s the rainbow after the storm, a physical reminder of God’s promise to those who believe. I tuck that feeling in my heart, remembering my hope in God, the promise of salvation.

~*~
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, April 15, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Promises


Claiming the Promises of God
A devotional by Nanci Rubin

I wonder how the Biblical giants lived by such great faith? When I read the scriptures of overcoming faith, I wonder, can I do that? Is it possible? By faith, we receive. If it wasn’t possible, God wouldn’t have made such claims, as He does in Mark 9:23 (KJV) when Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

Scripture gives us a blueprint on how to do it. According to Matthew 21:21-22 (KJV), Jesus answered and said unto them, “Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing ye shall receive.”

Notice, He didn’t say you might receive, He said you shall receive.


Four Steps to Claim What God Promises

Step #1: Say It!

Positive or negative, it’s up to you. The woman in the Bible with the issue of blood could have said, “It’s no use for me to go to Jesus. I’ve suffered for twelve years.” But she spoke positively. According to Matthew 9:21 (KJV) she thought, “If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.”

Sometimes because of our unbelief and timidity we may have lost out on a blessing, a healing or a missed opportunity to witness. We should yield to the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit when He gives an unction for us to pray for a certain situation. We can have what we say as long as it lines up with God’s Word and we have faith to believe God for it.

The Bible says in Matthew 7:7-8 (KJV), “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

God is so ready to give us what we believe Him for. He delights in His children and loves to give us good gifts. He says in Matthew 7:11 (KJV), “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

Step #2: Do It!


Your action either defeats you or puts you over. Your action is really important. The Bible says that Jarius approached Jesus while his young daughter was at home near death. He was the ruler of the synagogue and had faith to believe Jesus could heal his daughter. Even when he was told his daughter was dead, he was proactive and exercised his faith. Read about this remarkable story in Mark 5:36-43 (KJV).

We read in the Bible where Jesus instructed those He healed to go and “do” something. Wash their eyes or get in a pool of water. The widow of Zarephath was to make the prophet a cake from the last bit of flour and the last oil in her cruse. Do you think her son would have been healed if she hadn’t done what the Lord led her to do? Read 1 Kings 17:8-24 (KJV) for the full story.

Step #3: Receive It!


The woman with the issue of blood felt in her body that she was healed of the plague. It is written in Matthew 9:22 (KJV) how Jesus turned and when He saw her, He said, “Daughter, be of good comfort, thy faith has made thee whole.” And the woman was made whole at that moment.

You can notice that the feeling and the healing followed the coming and doing. The woman said it first. She came for it second. Then she received, and felt in her body she was healed. There is no doubt in my mind that she told her family and friends all that the Lord had done. Wouldn’t you have? If I had suffered twelve years with a disorder, you bet I’d tell someone that I was supernaturally healed.

The Bible says that this woman had gone to many physicians, spent all that she had and was never better. God has provided everything we will ever need by the life and death of His son, Jesus. His sacrifice paved the way for us to be saved, healed and delivered. It is finished.

Step #4: Tell It!

There are many instances in the Bible where Jesus instructed the person healed to "Go and tell" or "Go and show" their healing to the priests. It’s important to testify to what the Lord has done. The Bible says in Revelation 12:11 (KJV), “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

We can speak a good confession and in so doing so we can write our own ticket with God. Our words frame our outcomes. The Bible confirms these steps for our success in every area of our lives as it is written in Psalm 45:1 (KJV): “My heart is inditing a good matter, I speak of the things which I have made touching the King, my tongue is the pen of ready writer.”

The Gadarene demoniac was healed when he saw Jesus afar off and ran toward Him and worshipped Him. According to Mark 5:19 (KJV), “Jesus suffered him not, but said unto him, 'Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.'”

I’m sure we have all experienced that adrenaline rush and good feeling after we’ve witnessed to someone about what God has done in our lives. The enemy hates for you to give God the Glory and Honor due Him. We must always “tell.” 


Again, how could we not? God is a good Father and He loves us beyond anything we can imagine. Remember He loves you just the way you are and He loves giving good gifts to His children.

~*~
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 and has placed it in her agent's capable hands. The rest is up to God.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Life Lessons


Pomegranates, Procrastination and Providence
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

Key Scripture: 1 Samuel 14:1-3 (NKJV)

There are three lessons to be learned from the story in 1 Samuel chapter 14.

This chapter tells a story of indolence, valor and responsive providence.

The backstory is that Saul, after his second year as king, had amassed an army of 3,000 men. He and his son Jonathan had conducted several successful combat operations against the Palestinians.

They were so successful that the Palestinians cobbled together an army designed to eradicate the Hebrews. Their army consisted of 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen and an unnumbered amount of foot soldiers. They were armed with swords, spears and other weapons of war.

The Hebrews did not have any ironsmiths among them. The Palestinians had prevented them from developing that skill set, lest they become armed and cause and insurrection. The Hebrews sharpened their axes, pitchforks and weapons that they had earned in previous engagements. They prepared to do battle but they knew that they were out matched.

Saul and all of Israel quivered in fear of the superior army of the Palestinians. People began to hide in the fields, caves, forests, hills and pits of the region. Some fled to bordering countries. Only six hundred soldiers stayed by to fight for Israel.

There was a custom in those times that before a battle, the priest would pray with the combatants. The priest would also meet them when they returned from battle. Samuel, the reigning prophet, had sent word that he would be there to pray and consecrate the soldiers in a week. He was late. In order to maintain the confidence of his soldiers, Saul usurped the prophetic role and offered the sacrifice himself.

Rather than to follow his hubristic usurpation of the prophetic role with the kingly responsibility to lead, he quavered under the pomegranate tree in the far suburbs of Gibeah.

In those days, a pomegranate tree was a symbol of opulence. The fruit symbolized fruitfulness because it is filled with a sweet, gelatinous substance surrounding seeds. A pomegranate is said to have 613 seeds. This mythically corresponds to the 613 commandments of the Torah.

So here was Saul, languishing from fear and procrastinating under the pomegranate tree. He knew that he was to engage in battle, but waited.

Lesson #1: When God gives a task, delayed obedience is disobedience.

Chapter 14 begins with the Prince Jonathan compelled by an unction from God to act in righteous independence. He was compelled to do what his father had not done. He acted upon the God given task at hand.

Lesson #2: Doing the right thing is a divine imperative that requires no committee.

Jonathan arises, rouses his armor bearer and tells him what plan the Lord has put on his heart. The armor bearer is knit to the heart of the prince and off they go on an unsanctioned, improbable, and virtually impossible mission, because they believed that God could deliver the Philistines through the hands of many or few.

The plan was to sneak down to a lower promontory where they would intentionally expose themselves to the enemy. Jonathan reasoned that if the Philistines, upon discovering them, say, “Stay where you are, we will come down to fight with you, they would stay.” But, if the response was, “Come up unto us,” then that is the sign that the Lord will deliver them into their hands. So Jonathan thought, “We will climb up the cliff side and engage them because in God’s strength, we can not fail!”

That is what happened. They climbed up the cliff and with inferior weapons, they overcame 20 men. The Philistines thought that they were under attack by a superior force and became afraid. God offered top cover to Jonathan and caused an earthquake. The Philistine army gave into fear. They fled the onslaught of Jonathan, attacking each other as they fled.

Lesson #3: When God gives guidance, success is guaranteed when the believer steps out on faith. Providence is the friend of the prepared. In the words of Ellen G. White from her book, Christ’s Object Lessons (page 333): “As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings.”

My Advice: Go into this day with the energy, enthusiasm and expectation of Jonathan. Do not be overcome by what I call “the pomegranate paralysis.”

Pursue the providence of your purpose and watch God open doors and escort you into the realization of your dreams. Proceed to achieve.

In closing, I’d like to share some of the lyrics from the song “Keep on Climbing” by the famous gospel music singer and minister, Wintley Phipps:

Just keep on climbing until you reach your goal/Just keep on striving, with all your heart and soul/All things are possible with God so don’t give in/He’ll move your mountains/He believes in your dreams!


~*~
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, April 11, 2019

Thankful Thursdays: Friendships, Healing and Hope

It’s Thursday and I’m thankful for friendships, healing and hope.

God has brought wonderful people in my life over the past decade who have become dear friends, mentors and prayer warriors for me. Through the ministry of my church home this past decade of membership, He’s restored me in every aspect of the word. But it hasn’t always been this easy for me.

I’m going to be a bit more open with this blog post in hopes of helping those who may need to hear what I have to say.

I struggled with friendships for most of my younger years. I was a shy and chubby child and though people could be nice to me, they also could be mean because of how I looked. I know what it’s like to be judged negatively based on appearance even before you say a word not just because of appearance but race too. There are people in this sin-ridden world who will not like you based solely on what category they think you fit in be it size, weight, race…the list goes on. But as an adult, I found hope and healing.

Growing up, it seemed like everyone had a best friend except me. Now, I don’t know how this works for guys but for girls, having a circle of close friends and a few best friends is crucial. I’d say it is part of our social development and a benchmark that we all want. I had friends but they were all in their own inner circles. So I got left out a lot but it was not their fault because they were just hanging out with the people who they felt close to. However, that pain created a void in my heart and I wondered if I would ever have a true best friend or an inner circle.

So with each new school year, I was on the lookout. Would we have a new student who wanted to be my best friend? Would things change? Would I be included in the closely bonded social circles that I envied?

But with each passing year, things remained the same. People liked me but I hadn’t managed to gain that close inner circle and the few times when I thought I did in high school and college, those friendships fell apart.

Looking back, I think that God played a role in having those friendships fail because He wanted me to seek Him first and be friends with Him and His Son (Jesus Christ) first because honestly, the truest friend that you and I will ever have is Jesus. He’s the ONLY friend who will never fail you, talk about you behind your back, make fun of you or hurt you. Best of all, once you’re friends with Jesus Christ, you’re friends for LIFE — not just during this temporary life here on Earth but for Heaven and throughout eternity. Jesus Christ is the Ultimate Best Friend and while it’s still nice to have best friends here on Earth, if you don’t have that but you have Jesus, you truly do have all that you need.


Now for the lessons I learned…

If you didn’t grow up with close friends, it’s not too late. You can still pray to God to bring positive, life-affirming people into your life who love Him and love you! The best advice I would give the younger me who was feeling left out socially, is to pray about your problems and ask God to bless you with good people who want to be your friend.

It didn’t dawn on me to pray to God about my heart’s desire for healthy, happy, genuine and close friendships until after my college years. I guess God was waiting for me to ask Him because that’s when He really started showering down the blessings of genuine friendships on me. He led me to a church home filled with members who embrace me, love me, pray for me and support me. He led me to a Christian writers’ organization filled with people who care about me, relate to me, encourage me in my journey as a writer and pray for me. God also brought kind people into my life through Christian, Bible-based ministries on social media.

So my point is, whether your problems are with friendships or romantic relationships or anything, go to God first. He is waiting for you to share the desires of your heart with Him and He is more than ready to bless you beyond your wildest dreams. Talk to Jesus like you would talk to the best friend that you want because He is your very best friend! If you’re lonely, pray about it then ask God for wisdom of who to reach out to. You’re never the only one who is going through something. Sometimes, even the people who you see surrounded by friends are on the inside, lonely.

Also, be kind. We all have issues. We’re all going through something. You never know the battle that someone is facing. So please, be kind to everyone, even if you don’t want to be his or her best friend. If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, like me then you know that it’s important to love God with all your heart, soul and mind AND to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). You are supposed to show care and concern for ALL humans and you’re supposed to point them to Jesus who is more than their friend, but the solution to ALL of their problems in life. Remember, He is our Savior.


My closing thoughts

So again, it’s Thursday and I’m thankful for friendships, healing and hope.

I pray that you will seek God first for everything in life, especially in your choices of friends. I pray that He will heal your heart and restore your hope in Him. Remember, with God, ALL things are possible (Matthew 19:26) and with Him, you are NEVER alone


God loves YOU with ALL of His divine heart and He thinks that you are worth dying for, that’s why He sent His Son Jesus Christ to save your life (John 3:16). Always remember how much you’re loved, treasured and valued by Him.

May God bless you and keep you.

Love,

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Rainbows


Rainbow Remembrances
A devotional by Sharon Musgrove

“And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.”” – Genesis 9:12-16 (RSV)

When I was a senior in high school, I took Physics. I was blessed to have a teacher who thoroughly enjoyed science and sought to share the understanding and joy of the laws of nature. In hindsight, the timing of that class, that teacher, and the struggles of that teen girl with her father, was like the pulling together of many ribbons to form a spectacular bow.

My father grew up in a house of boys and wanted boys of his own. Three girls were the gifts he received. Today I can have pity on my dad for not knowing what to do with all that estrogen, but that was not the emotion I had at the time. What my father did really well was pitching in and helping with school projects. Maybe he did it a little too well.

In Physics class, we were learning the Law of Refraction of Light and were asked to construct a poster-sized visual to demonstrate how white light disperses into a color spectrum when it passes through a new medium. In simpler terms, the assignment was to create an image that explained the science behind how rainbows are formed. To increase our excitement in the project, there was to be a contest and the winner would get an automatic 100 percent score on one test that term.

My dad was very excited about that project. He rented an artist’s spray gun and created the most authentic rainbow in the history of 12th grade science projects. I merely added to the poster, the mathematical equation in my neatest, black sharpie hand. Dad won, for his daughter, an “A” (grade) on the exam. All year long that poster was pinned to the front of the class, reminding me of what my father did for me.

Only the year passed. I graduated. The poster came down. Angry words and painful actions were exchanged between my father and me. Silence and distance grew between us. Enough years passed that my own children were nearing the age I had been when I was educated to the bending of light.

One rainy spring afternoon, I was driving through the valley when a rainbow appeared. In an instant, I remembered that rainbow painted poster. I pulled my car over and wept. In all of the years of not forgiving my father, I failed to remember the love of my dad. I’d only been keeping record of pain.

Centuries before, God the Father and man, His child, were separated by pain, anger and ugliness. In response, God intervened. He washed away that which was wicked and caused grief. Clouds carried a fresh medium to the sky in the form of rain. Light reached out to the rain and was not extinguished by it. The light touched rain and the light bent…curved in the tension…and became divided into something even more spectacular! God Himself, separated, and the parts became more spectacular! What a privilege to see in the physical Light divided into a spectrum of love! God saw that something was not good and He intervened. He changed the laws of nature to accommodate Himself!

Genesis 9:15 tells us that God looks at those rainbows too. Like a pinned poster, they are created for His remembrance as well as ours. To think that God and I can look on a rainbow together and be united in our love is truly a bow on a gift!

A rainbow from an aerial view is a full circle. Similarly, I’ve experienced the 360 degree, full-spectrum turning of relationship. I talked with my dad about the rainbow I saw that day and the reminder of the rainbow he painted for me, all those years ago. The relationship that had been moving apart, curved under a new tension, and has been returning to a place of unity all because God so loved the world.

~*~
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, April 9, 2019

Testimony Time: Peter's story about the American Dream and God

Today, I'm going to share a story with you about how God radically renewed a man name Peter. No, not the Bible character (Peter, follower of Jesus Christ) but a current-day character (Peter J. Wenzell of Georgia, U.S.A.) whose life was transformed by God's love.

Enjoy!

~*~

Peter J. Wenzell's story about how God transformed his life:

For the first 50 years of my life, I lived what some have described as a “charmed existence.” 

My formative years were filled with athletic success, as I played top-tier Jr. “A” and D-1 NCAA college ice hockey. These are leagues that are both very prestigious and are 1-step away from the NHL. As a player, you dream to play in at either level. The teams that I was drafted by were the Cornwall Royals, Detroit Jr. Wings, and I accepted an offer to play for the University of Michigan. Later years involved starting a small business from scratch that became very successful.

As my annual income increased to substantial levels, I was never one who had any problem whatsoever spending almost every penny of it on expensive material items like sleek sports cars and oversized luxury SUVs. Our main family home was in a high-end subdivision, in the “right” suburban Atlanta town. My beautiful wife Adele acquired an extensive wardrobe that filled to overflowing a large walk-in closet. The sheer volume of our kids’ toys, bikes, water skis, hockey equipment, and miscellaneous other sporting goods made it virtually impossible for us to park any of our cars in the garage.

I had successfully ticked most of the boxes necessary to achieve the American Dream. And yet, something was missing. To fill the emptiness, I turned more and more to alcohol. I knew I was steadily descending deeper into alcoholism. My excessive drinking was often accompanied by volatile, unjustified, angry outbursts directed at my wife and kids at home.

For years, I lived a shameful lie. Having at best a lukewarm faith in God, I attended church with my family once or twice a month, mainly out of a sense of obligation (I was what they call a “cradle Catholic”), or just to keep up appearances to help maintain the ruse.

Then the physical pain began. One day, I was unable to finish my daily six-mile run due to what I thought was a groin pull. But rather than getting better, the situation deteriorated so rapidly that between the ages of 50 and 51, I had five spinal-fusion surgeries and a hip replacement. Still, none of these highly invasive procedures resulted in even the slightest reduction in the severe, nearly debilitating, lower back pain that dominated every single second of my days.

Then, at a follow-up appointment with my doctor, the X-ray technician took an image of my upper rather than lower back, which revealed the real culprit of my agony — a spinal tumor. Nearly two painful years later, the tumor began to hemorrhage and I was scheduled for immediate surgery at the renowned Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

That surgery both saved my life and left me paralyzed.

As the surgeon broke the dire news to me, “Who I was” and my version of living the American Dream slowly dissolved right before my eyes. In that one gut-wrenching moment, I lost everything that defined me. After tasting the raw, genuinely fearful emotion of helplessness, I launched into a fit of rage, directed primarily at God. Why had He allowed everything in my life to be lost?

Over the subsequent days, I descended steadily ever deeper into depression and despair —sometimes to the point of contemplating suicide. In desperation, I decided to devote some of my newly acquired “spare time” to search for answers to life’s existential questions. My number one question was focused on finding out whether or not God and Jesus Christ were real. My gut feeling was they had long since been proven to be nothing more than ancient fairy tales or common mythologies. I naively believed that mainstream science – armed with the scientific method – had long since demolished the “god hypothesis” and the Christian worldview.

I spent months researching both sides of the issue, reading the arguments for scientific atheism as well as the works of Christian apologists. I also began to delve into the Bible, to see for myself what it had to say. It was a lengthy process, but through my research, I became convinced that science does not disprove the Christian notion of a purposeful, infinitely loving and supremely intelligent being. In fact, I found the theist’s arguments more well-reasoned and the facts in evidence more supportive of their premises.

I was beginning to believe that God really does exist and that He is who the Bible defines him to be and who Jesus Christ revealed Him to be.

Out of options, I decided to sweep together the shattered pieces of my broken life, and then I handed them off to God. But before I did, I wrote out and then formally confessed every sin I was directly responsible for and the negative impact it had on others. Almost instantly, I felt a lighter load, a freer, less chaotic sense of reality. A fresh start of understanding and forgiveness permeated the warm, glowing feeling of peace I was experiencing.

From there, it was as if I was gently lifted out of bed, caught up in the love of Someone or some Power so great and so pure it was something I had never associated with being part of a relationship with God. God, I discovered, was love! God is love!

My next move came more naturally than breathing the pristine air around me. I asked whether I might give myself to Him, as broken as I was. I told Him I could no longer bear the weight of all the sins, wrong living, purposefully hurtful actions, all the baggage that came with my alcoholism, the inability to accept my paralysis, and more.

The answer came immediately: “Is it not already lifted from you?” And indeed it had been!

So it was on bended knee (figuratively), I gave my life to Jesus Christ, devoting myself to serving Him in any way the indwelling Holy Spirit should guide me. I have woken up each day happy, and I go to bed each night with my inner void filled by the love and beautiful truth that comes to the broken, once saved.

Since that time, I have been hospitalized over 30 times due to various infections and other paralysis-related issues. My life as a paraplegic hasn’t been an easy one, but it was my suffering that caused me to seek God diligently. In return, He has given me a foretaste of Heaven, and I am now living in the warm, loving Light and peace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.



Pictured: Mr. Peter and Mrs. Adele Wenzell
~*~
Peter J. Wenzell’s Professional Bio:

(2013-Present):
Founder/Director of The Center for Quantum Consciousness & Digital Analytics (TCQCDA) in Cartersville, Georgia. (TCQCDA) is a research group which studies quantum mechanics and digital information’s role in creating our reality, specializing in QM’s role in consciousness and the digital simulation hypothesis.

(1996-2013): President/CEO of International Restaurant Management Corporation (IRMC) was a start-up firm for the management, design, and operation of branded franchised food courts, restaurants, bars, gift stores inside airports across the US.

(2000-2013): IRMC merges with MSE Branded Foods to expand its operations into airports. Sales grew to $18M per year.

(2010): Wenzell becomes paraplegic-chest down. This is the impetus to accept Christ and to conduct an extensive search for evidence of the Christian worldview he cherishes.

Present-Day: As a writer, Peter is a frequent contributor to Quora, and to various Christian blogs. Readers may email Peter at this address (pete.qcdia@gmail.com).

Monday, April 8, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Play your part in the orchestra of life


Playing My Part for God
A devotional by Amanda Wen

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” –Romans 12:4-5 (NIV)

Many authors have another job besides writing, and I’m no exception: I am a professional cellist. Both my degrees are in cello performance, and I’ve played in many different capacities throughout my career, most frequently in symphony orchestras.

An orchestra is a vast and complex machine, filled with countless moving parts. From the lush sonority of the strings to the booms and crashes of percussion, the blare of brass and the chirp of woodwinds, each instrument has its own tone color, its own part, and its own contribution to the overall piece of music. What’s more, each instrument’s role varies depending on the needs of a particular composition. Sometimes the full ninety-piece orchestra is playing at full volume, but it’s just one instrument playing as quietly as it can. Sometimes your section has the melody, but sometimes your role is to support another section or soloist.

Since an orchestra is so complicated, guidance is needed. This guidance comes in two forms: the music on the stand, and the conductor at the front. The music tells each musician what notes to play, when to play them, and what they should sound like, while the conductor guides the orchestra as a whole. He or she is responsible for the overall interpretation of the piece: what tempo to take, what character the music should have, which musical lines need to be emphasized and which can fade into the background. Although each musician in an orchestra is perfectly capable of coming up with their own individual interpretation, that’s not what orchestral playing is about. Instead, it’s about knowing your part, working together with everyone else on stage, and trusting the lead of your conductor.

As I sat in the cello section during a recent rehearsal, I couldn’t help but think of how similar this is to the Christian life. Just as each instrument has its own character and color, so do all of us have our own unique gifting and temperament. God has given each of us talents, skills, and spiritual gifts. He’s wired all of us exactly the way we need to be to accomplish exactly what He’s planned for us. Cymbals are meant to crash through the orchestra and highlight big moments. Flutes and oboes trill cheerfully atop the rest of the orchestra, brass provides a touch of the regal, bassoons illustrate an orchestra’s comic side, and strings serve as the orchestra’s soul. Each instrument has its own role, and it would be pointless of me to wish my cello sounded like a clarinet. Just as pointless as each of us wishing we had someone else’s gifts or part to play in God’s Kingdom.

And always, always, our job is to know our written score (God’s Word), follow our Conductor’s lead, and trust His plan for and interpretation of the piece, even when it might not agree with our own. Just as orchestral playing isn’t about the individual, but the whole, the Christian life isn’t about any one person. It’s about all of us working together, playing our individual part in God’s grand design. He’s the only one who can see the complete score. He knows the piece intimately, for He wrote it, and He knows exactly how He wants it to go.

Play your role. Know your part. Trust your conductor. In both orchestra and life, it’s the best way to make beautiful music.

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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.

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Connect with Amanda:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/authoramandawen
Twitter: www.twitter.com/authoramandawen
Instagram: www.instagram.com/authoramandawen
Website: www.amandawen.com