Saturday, November 30, 2019

12 Days of Christmas Book Giveaways: The Introduction for this NEW series!

Dearest Blog Readers,

I'm excited to share my NEW blog series with you as we celebrate this glorious Christmas holiday season!

The series is called "12 Days of Christmas Book Giveaways."

Visit my “God is Love” blog every day from this December 1 through December 12 to discover a NEW giveaway featuring my author friends and their holiday books!

This is your chance to WIN wonderful Christmas stories by some of the most talented, bestselling Christian authors in the world! 

Please note: This giveaway is only for e-books that can be downloaded to the winners’ Kindle device. If you do not have a Kindle device, but you do have a smartphone, you can download the Kindle app for free and use it on your phone.

Merry Christmas, dear friends!

God bless you.


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

Friday, November 29, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Feelings

All The Feels
A devotional by Kristy Horine

Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
— Luke 1:39-45 (NKJV)

Sometimes, my excitement just gets all out of control. 

My body parts flail around. My feet bounce off the ground. I laugh too loudly. I use too many words in a sentence, and the words I do use are so jammed up it’s hard to tell where one word ends and the next one begins. I smile so broadly that my cheeks hurt for days. In times of extreme joy, anyone within a football field’s length of me will know about it.

This extreme excitement can happen at any time. I receive notification about someone wanting to publish my work, I get excited. My adult child applies for her dream job and scores the position, I get excited. All my hens lay perfect eggs, I get excited. The five-year-old uses her manners without me reminding her to, I get excited. I read a verse I’ve read a hundred times before and the Spirit gives me some new takeaway, I get excited.

Usually, after the initial excitement dies down, the doubt steamrolls in. Thoughts filter into my heart, like maybe good news accidentally came to me. Feelings of unworthiness loom large. Or, circumstances douse my excitement when I receive five rejections for every one acceptance.

As I read through Old Testament in The Holy Bible, I find that a lot of the people I call my Bible heroes often felt the same way. They vacillated between joy and grief, awe and conviction, excitement and doubt. Prophets, priests and kings were all driven to their knees by the presence of Almighty God. In many ways, the stories of God’s relationships with the ancients resembled the best and worst roller coaster rides ever imagined.

And then, in what scholars call the Intertestamental Period – the four hundred years between Malachi and the Gospels (books in The Holy Bible) – silence.


Four hundred years is quite a long time with nothing happening which is exciting enough to write home about!

Perhaps that is the reason for so much emotional action in our passage. The angel Gabriel delivers the message to Mary that she will carry the long awaited Messiah within her womb in Luke 1. The roller coaster of emotions begins. In these six verses, each emotion is accompanied by action.

· Mary hastened and believed.

· Elizabeth was filled and humbled.

· An unborn baby leaped for joy.

God With Us – Emmanuel, Himself – was coming! God ordained it. Prophets foretold it. Angels proclaimed it. Mary believed it. Elizabeth accepted it.

And what about me? Or, you?

In this season of silence between Thanksgiving and Christmas, how will we prepare our hearts to receive anew the gift of the Christ child?

Why not try on a little of each emotion? Consider the joy and the grief, the awe and the conviction, the excitement and the doubt, the belief and the humility. Take a few moments each day to meditate on His Holy Word (The Holy Bible).

Here’s a list of Bible verses for you to start meditating on:

· Joy – Luke 2:10-11 and Hebrews 12:1-2

· Grief – Isaiah 53:4-6 and 2 Corinthians 7:10

· Awe – Psalm 65:8 and Exodus 15:11

· Conviction – 1 John 1:9 and Romans 8:1-2

· Excitement–Psalm 28:7 and Romans 15:13

· Doubt – 2 Corinthians 13:5 and Romans 8:38-39

· Belief – Mark 9:23-24

· Humility – Philippians 2:1-11

Yes, my arms will still flail around, my feet wildly bounce, my laugh will be too loud and my words will run on and on … but that’s how it is in the midst of all the feels. All the wonderful, life-giving feels that come with the advent of Jesus Christ.

Let’s Pray: Father God, refresh my spirit, cleanse me from iniquity, may all my excitement, all my joy, all my belief, be found in You. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Author Bio:

Kristy Horine is a Kentucky writer, freelance journalist by trade and creative by God’s grace.

She writes a little bit of everything including poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. Her professional and creative work has been published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies in Kentucky and beyond.

Kristy founded 3rd Letter Christian Writers in Lexington, Kentucky in 2015. Read more of her work at

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: What Jesus Christ Gave Up to Save Your Soul

He Gave Up Everything
A devotional by Carrie Del Pizzo

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
 – 2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV)

He had it all. As God, Jesus Christ had a whole lot more than just a cool chair in the throne room. Heaven is described as having streets of gold and continual bright light radiating from God. Jesus had ultimate power that created the universe and brought down nations. Crowds of angels sang his praises without stopping. Best of all, he was with his Dad all day, every day.

And then one day, he gave it all up. Instead of being the Son of God, he became the son of a blue-collar carpenter and an average Jewish girl. Instead of gold streets and perfect light, he was born in a barn in the dark of night. Instead of ultimate power, he became a helpless baby. Instead songs of worship, he faced angry critics and crowds shouting for his death. And worst of all, he left his Dad’s house, suffered a beating that would kill any other man, and hung on a cross as his Dad actually turned his back.

Why would he do that? Why would he endure the depths of poverty and degradation and pain and shame when he could have said, “Forget this. I’m out.” He could have hopped off the cross and called down an angel army to obliterate the human race. Why did he give up everything? So he could hang out with you.

Because of our dirty sin, we can’t be near God, but He still loves us. If He wanted to continue to have a relationship with the children He loves, He had to make a way for us to enter his presence. Jesus gave up his riches and power and comfort to clean off our sin and hand deliver our invitation to his house. He’s having a big party that will last forever and wants all of us to come celebrate with Him. We get to enjoy the gold streets, bright light, angel choirs, and the presence of our loving God because the Son was willing to leave it all behind.

That’s how much he loves you and me.

Let’s thank Jesus today for enduring dirt and darkness and pain so that we can join the eternal party at his house and know his boundless love.

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, Wash., with her hilarious family who keep her in stitches and provides piles of material for great stories.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Puzzles

Puzzles and Procrastination
A devotional by Glynis Becker

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” –Philippians 2:6-8 (NIV)

Last week I should have been writing.

I needed to get words down on paper for a project I was working on, but often at times like that I become a master of procrastination. (Please tell me I’m not alone in this!) I ended up doing a whole bunch of other ridiculous things in place of what I should have been doing. Some of these were things that needed to get done — like clearing the stack of papers cluttering a bookshelf and cleaning the shower — but others were absolutely not important at all, including “fixing” the Rubik’s cube that’s been sitting in my home, messed up for at least six months.

I risk aging myself with this next statement: this is an original Rubik’s cube I’ve had since I was a teenager. I’ll also risk letting you in on another secret: I’ve never solved it without help.

My bachelor’s degree is in mechanical engineering. I am by nature a problem solver. I love puzzles of all kinds. Jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, logic puzzles. But I only love them if I know I can solve them. I like a challenge, but I don’t like to be frustrated. If I think there is no way I can solve a puzzle, then I’m out.

The exception to this for me is the Rubik’s cube. I’m absolutely comfortable knowing that I need help to fix it. I’m okay with pulling out a book or opening up a website to have someone show me the steps to get that cube back to its previously perfect state. I also know that there are people out there solving the thing in way less than a minute and I can’t do it in days. I’m okay with that.

Since I’ve been trying to fix it on my own since the mid-80s, I’m thinking at this point, it’s probably not going to happen. So, it has become a lesson in humility for me.

What an important lesson to learn in life. Humility in our day-to-day interaction with people makes us so much more compassionate with them and keeps us open-minded. We can’t learn anything new or truly listen to another person if we are so wrapped in our own pride that we think we already know it all.

Humility is a big part of our faith as well. If we realize what our place is in the world and in God’s story, we better position ourselves to be used by God to bring the kingdom, unhindered by the need to take credit for the good that happens. We can point to Jesus and honestly say, “You don’t need me. You need Him!”

Jesus is the ultimate example of humility. He is God in all power and strength and glory. Yet He became a baby with all an infant’s frailties and dependencies. Jesus needed someone to feed Him and teach Him to walk. But His humility resulted in the ultimate sacrifice at the cross that led to salvation for all of us.

“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” – Hebrews 2:9 (NIV)

If Jesus can humble Himself like that, then each day I need to make sure I am humbling myself in a similar way. I think I’ll put that Rubik’s cube somewhere so I can see it often. Whether it’s messed up or perfect, it’s a reminder to me that only in following the direction of Christ, can my life be best used for Him.

Let’s Pray: Father God, give me direction today. Show me the steps to take, even if it’s just one, to follow You more closely in humility, grace, and love. Thank you for your gift of Jesus and the example of humility. I love you. In Jesus’ 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

Friday, November 22, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Healing

Fix The Leak: Let God Heal All Your Inner Damages
A devotional by Heather Martin

It was a perfect evening in our home, well as perfect as it could get.

We ate dinner on time, gave the kids baths, had worship, and even had time for a bedtime story. My husband and I could finally have some time to ourselves, so we turned the lights off in our younger kid’s bedroom and tiptoed out into the hallway to breathe a sigh of relief that they had finally gone to sleep, but what was that noise? It sounded like running water!

What could that possibly be? I ran downstairs to see if someone had left a faucet running downstairs in the kitchen only to peek into the breakfast room and find water literally pouring from the ceiling! In full panic mode, I yelled to my husband that we had a flood going on and we got to the bottom of it quickly. It was coming from our guest room toilet on the floor above that was overflowing. Turns out, someone had stopped up the toilet (with toys), flushed it and left it. I ran downstairs to the basement to see if all was well there and found that the room directly below the breakfast room had also flooded! What are the chances? Now we had floors of water damage!

In a panic we quickly figured out how to turn off the water to the house and called a plumber. By the time the plumbers arrived, we were able to stop the water and get most of it mopped up. We called our insurance company and found out that although the outward floors and walls were dry, in order to completely fix the damage, we had to address the water damage behind the walls. To restore things and repair the damage, we had to tear down walls to completely remove all water damage and insure the integrity of our foundation. For the next 6 weeks, because of the water damage, we had open ceilings, exposed wood frames, and dryers blowing on three floors of our house.

Finally, after the floorboards and wall frames were completely dry we had new dry wall, new carpet, and tile installed. The finished product was actually better and more to our taste than these areas of our house before the leak. Ha!

We all have some sort of damage from our childhood, past relationships, self-doubt, and past sins. Instead of addressing the inner damage and root cause, we often fix up the outside with nice clothes, and things, and sometimes force ourselves to smile and act as if there is nothing wrong, all the while we are so hurt and damaged on the inside. 

Here are a few verses that we can say to ask God to heal us from the inside out, say these aloud each day and ask God to help you deal with the damage on the inside:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” – Psalms 51:10-12 (KJV)

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
– Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

“Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.” – Jeremiah 17:14 (NIV)

Only God can take us through the process of fixing our inner damages.

Let Him in today.

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 Bachelor's 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:
Instagram for Heather:
Instagram for Virtue (Heather’s singing group):

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: The Way

The Narrow Gate

A devotional by Christa MacDonald

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” — Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)

As Christians we’re called to live a life that the world doesn’t understand.

In fact, it’s pretty radical when you think about it. While ‘normal’ humans keep count of someone’s sins, Christians are called to forgive seventy times seven. Jesus instructs us to love those that hate us and to endure persecution in His name. We’re to love justice and mercy and walk humbly with our God.

Fame and fortune are the world’s goals, but God tells us to seek Him and be content with what we’re given. Marriage is seen as something that you can abandon when it doesn’t work for you. God teaches us that it’s sacred, and to be broken only in extreme circumstances. Our culture promotes youth and beauty but we know from the Bible that they are fleeting and nothing to worship. Movies, books, and television tell us it’s good to be a billionaire; God tells us that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. The Christian walk is drastically different than the ways of the world.

In the verse above, Matthew warns us that the road to true faith in Jesus Christ is a narrow one. The path we walk is not for the many; it’s for the few. That’s hard to hear. I know I don’t want anyone to perish, or even to walk in this world without Jesus. Sadly, in a culture that still has its Christian roots, the message gets muddied. You or people who you know my argue, “But my neighbor is a great guy, he celebrates Christmas, he’s a conservative…” And to that argument, I would say, “Well, that’s nice, but that has nothing to do with a saving faith in Jesus Christ! If being a nice, Christmas-honoring conservative was the criteria, the way would be wide.”

This reminds me of what Matthew (a book in the Bible) says later in Chapter 7, verses 22 and 23: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

How could people be evildoers if they were promoting Jesus? Because they were promoting a weak, watered-down, bereft-of-Spirit version of Jesus.

Maybe it’s the ‘genie’ view of God, where they’ve reduced Him to a granter of wishes, or maybe the “Jesus-bro” idea where Jesus is your friend, winking at your sins, ever-ready to forgive, but never requiring repentance. All of these creations are evil because they lead souls on a comfortable, wide path to damnation. When we see this pseudo-gospel being preached, we need to call it out for what it is — evil — and not dismiss it as harmless fluff.

We’re coming up on the Christmas season, one of my most favorite times of year. I love the decorations, the baking, the music and light. It’s also a perfect time to share the true gospel (of Jesus Christ)!

Don’t let yourself get caught up in the Christmas culture wars defending the trappings of Christmas (most of which have pagan origins anyway), but instead use this season to share the gift of God’s Grace and His Good News.

Help those on the wide road find their way off of it. Help them separate the truth from the tinsel.

A great way to do this is with a simple conversation starter, such as: “Say, did you know that the Christmas story is actually true?”

Now is the time for God’s light to shine brightly and lead souls to the narrow gate.

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

Monday, November 18, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Born Again

Born Again
A devotional by Nanci Rubin

“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” – John 3:7 (KJV)

If you read and study The Holy Bible, you may be familiar with this verse in the book of John where Jesus is talking to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews and explaining to him about how to be saved.

Jesus answered and said unto him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3 (KJV)

Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to Jesus at night inquiring how one could be born again. It’s interesting that he came at night so his friends wouldn’t know or see his interest in the teachings of Jesus. He marveled at Jesus saying he must be born again to get into Heaven. Not understanding, Nicodemus looked at this experience as a physical one, asking how one could return to their mother’s womb and be born again? He didn’t understand Jesus meant a spiritual re-birth.

Unlike the Sadducees, who generally held to have rejected any existence after death, the sources vary on the beliefs of the Pharisees on the afterlife. According to the New Testament, the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead. See what is written in Acts 23:8 (KJV) in regard to the Sadducees and their belief: “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.”

What is the born-again experience, this new life in Christ?

The new birth is, then, a sovereign act of God by His Spirit in which the believer is cleansed from sin and given spiritual birth into God's household. It renews the believer's intellect, sensibility, and will to enable that person to enter the kingdom of God. To break it down further, it is belief in the Cross, the redeeming Blood of Jesus and accepting the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, born of a virgin, came as Man and God to bring us to His Father.

Jesus Christ lived, died, resurrected and is coming again to establish His sovereignty forever. When we accept Him, we are born-again. But, until we do, we are on the outside looking in. God is long suffering and will gently draw us by His Spirit unto Himself. Sometimes this can take years for some people. However, God is patient with us because He wants us all to be saved in His Kingdom!

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV)

“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you.” 
– 2 Peter 3:15 (KJV)

Le’ts read 1 Timothy 1:16 where the Apostle Paul is talking to Timothy about the dangers of false doctrines.

“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” – 1 Timothy 1:16 (KJV)

I am grateful for God’s patience toward us. And I am especially grateful for His longsuffering with me. I had the idea that I needed to clean up my act before I could come to Jesus. I wasted so many years when I could have been serving my King by wrong-thinking. Many accept this deception and lie of the enemy of our souls. 

However, it is important to realize that if we could save ourselves, we wouldn’t need Jesus. We come to Him just as we are and He will do the transformation, the cleansing to form us into new creations in Him. Matthew’s gospel says the following:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
 – Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)

I love this verse, Matthew 11:28, because it was the first one God gave me when I was born-again. It lets me know I can come to my Father when the burdens of life weigh me down. He’s always there and He’s my ever-present help no matter what the situation.

Paul in the above verses in Timothy warned against false doctrines. We have many in our world today. One I’m sure you’ve heard is, “all roads lead to God.” Indeed, there are many roads, many gods, many doctrines but unless they point to Jesus Christ, then you’ve taken a detour.

Jesus saith unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” – John 14:6 (KJV)

And here it is, how to be born-again.

I can only pray that you accept His way and settle the age-old question of how to be born-again. Christ wants all to come to repentance and join Him in eternity!

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, November 15, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: A lesson on persistence taught by a cardinal (bird)

About Cardinals & Persistence

A devotional by Victoria Bylin

I’m trying to decide if the cardinal that taps constantly at my window is a good role model or a pest. Is his persistence a sign of strong character, or is he just plain old stubborn?

A little bit of background here … Our house backs to a tree line full of gold finches, Carolina wrens, robins, and cardinals. The birds are beautiful, but in the spring, the male cardinals compete for territory. One particular bird claimed the small tree outside of our den. When he sees his reflection in the window, he thinks it’s another cardinal and tries to chase it off. This has been going on since last May, and he’s hit the window about ten thousand times now.

We’ve tried everything to get him to stop: pulling the blinds, opening the blinds, hanging up dangling ribbons, non-reflective stickers, etc. But nothing works. This bird is unstoppable!

After weeks of being annoyed by the on-and-off tapping, I’ve come to admire him. His goal might not be Biblical, but his behavior models a powerful parable from Luke 11:5-8 (NIV):

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

Shameless persistence … My cardinal friend models that behavior perfectly. I admire him for it, and am challenged to be more consistent in my prayer life, serving others, and all the things we want to do as Christians that sometimes fall by the wayside.

Mr. Cardinal is an excellent role model in that regard, but frankly, he’s knocking on the wrong door (or window in this case). My husband and I don’t have the power to give him what he needs. All his effort is most likely giving him a sore beak. He reminds me of myself here, pushing hard at something in my own strength instead of leaning fully on God.

I’m so grateful that as human beings, we worship a God who does have the power to move mightily in our lives. Read about His promise in Luke 11:9-10 (NIV):

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Not only is Mr. Cardinal a role model for commitment, he’s also part of God’s beautiful creation.

So here’s to knocking on the right door, loving God, and living for Him with persistence.

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:

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: A Pearl

The Pearl of Great Value
A devotional by Sharon Musgrove

There have been opportunities over the years to “dress for the occasion.”

Despite my preference for the Pacific Northwest’s casual wear, certain occasions call for dressing up. Some events say, “show me the value of this time.” A wedding is a prime example.

On my wedding day, great care went into dressing for the occasion. Every detail, from flowers and gown, to the jewelry worn, had been thoughtfully and painstakingly selected to be elegant and classic. Pearls were that final touch: A strand of pearls around my neck and single studs at my ears.

Pearls elevate any attire. Their simple elegance adds class and sophistication without being flashy or attention seeking. They are inherently feminine and soft. The beauty in a pearl is an asset to any occasion.

The Bible shares two parables about hidden treasure and a pearl. They are subtitled in the English Standard Version, “The Parable of the Hidden Treasure” and “The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value.” 

Jesus tells these stories explaining that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure (Matthew 13:44) and the Kingdom of Heaven is like a pearl merchant who finds a pearl of great value (Matthew 13:45). It’s confusing that the Kingdom would be like both the treasure and the merchant valuing the treasure. How does that work?

In the parable of the hidden treasure, Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44 ESV)

And in the parable of the Pearl he states, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45 ESV)

Both parables say that the value of the treasure found is so great that the one finding it would sacrifice everything. That’s some valuable pearl! Maybe that is the point and stopping there is sufficient, but my question of the two Kingdom likenesses remains. Could there be more treasure hidden in these verses? 

I’m repeatedly drawn to verse 45 … “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant”… a person. 

This parable tells of the value of a person above all else! All the years of Sunday school lessons would lead this pupil to raise her hand and exclaim, “Jesus! The answer to the question is Jesus!” Yes, he is an excellent answer! Jesus. He is both man and treasure! 

When we find Jesus, we want to change our lifestyle. We willingly give up our wants and desires. We sacrifice our life for Him. That looks very much like what Matthew 13:44 is saying.

Plugging the answer “Jesus” into Matthew 13:45, Jesus as the merchant, something different happens. It is Jesus who sacrifices everything to obtain the treasure! Then what … or dare I ask … who is the treasure? Who is the pearl?

My heart races and eyes grow wide. Me! You! Us! We are the pearl of great value to the merchant, Jesus, who sought and sacrificed! 

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)

Do we know our great value?

Pearls are unique in their value. They are a natural gem that cannot be improved upon by man’s efforts. They take years to form. Yet this oddly created treasure brings class and elegance to its owner.

Jesus says I’m a treasure of highest value. More often I don’t feel like it. But I know that the transformative power of Jesus Christ makes me valuable. Because of that, He is my treasure.

My mind returns to those pearls I donned on my wedding day. Perhaps it’s the characteristics of humility and honesty that are befitting a bride.

I wear those pearls often these days. It’s as if everyday says, “Today is Holy, dress accordingly.” Every day is an opportunity to don the love of Christ. 

When I wear the pearls, I’m reminded of Jesus’ life sacrifice for me. 

I want to be that pearl of great value.

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.

Monday, November 11, 2019

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

Be Like Bezalel
A devotional by Amanda Wen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s pretty awesome to think about.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Amanda:

Sunday, November 10, 2019

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

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

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


My Review:

Before Christmas is a book with a lot of heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Book

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

About the Author

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

More from Bill

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

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

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

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

Blog Stops

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


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