Monday, January 30, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: How to restore your relationship with God

Back to Basics
A devotional by Heidy De La Cruz

Life has many seasons. Some are fast and busy, some are peaceful and quiet.

The season I have been in has been busy. So busy that I haven’t been consistent with my relationship with God. I’m not proud of this, but because I’m entering a new decade this year, I’ve decided to renew my relationship back with God. How? I’m taking it back to the basics!

Here are three ways I’m drawing closer to God this year and how you can too:

Way #1: Spending time with God. Towards the end of last year, I wasn’t spending as much time reading the Bible as I did in the past. I use the Bible app and I do Bible reading plans to read the whole Bible in 365 days. I love this because it doesn’t feel overwhelming, but I missed too many days. This year, I will read the Bible first thing in the morning. Another way I’m going to spend time with God is by praying and worshiping Him.

Remember, Jesus Christ also spent time with God. Mark 1:35 (NIV) says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

Way #2: Commit to paying your tithe to God faithfully. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV), “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Think of tithing as giving back to God. He provides everything we need, and we should bless others with what God provides. I will continue to tithe at my church, but I’ve also been donating to non-profit organizations. We have also donated clothes to those in need instead of selling them.

What are some ways you think you can tithe this year?

Way #3: Build a community with other believers. My church has small groups called “growth groups.” We meet once a week for fellowship. Again, towards the end of last year, I wasn’t attending regularly because other events kept coming up. But this year, I’m going to be intentional about not scheduling other events on the days we meet with the church group.

We are made for community. We need each other. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV), “Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a part of it.” We aren’t meant to do life alone. Having a community of believers in your life can help you when life’s challenges arise. They can pray for you and with you. They can support and encourage you.

If your relationship with God isn’t as strong or close as it used to be, I hope you include these three tips to draw you back closer to God this year.

Let’s Pray:
Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that whoever needs to draw closer to You this year, will be able to with the tips given today. I pray that their hearts are open to receiving You and that their minds are renewed as they draw closer to you. In Jesus’s Name we pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “If We Are The Body” (song) by Casting Crowns. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Heidy De La Cruz is daughter of Christ, a wife, and a mother.

She writes poetry and encouraging spiritual blog posts.

Heidy shares her faith and life in hopes of encouraging women. She hosts the podcast, "The American Dream in The Eye of Immigrants" where immigrants share their stories about moving to the United States of America.

Heidy holds a master's degree in Healthcare Administration and bachelor's degree in Psychology. She works as a Medical Coding Specialist.

In her free time she enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, watching movies, and spending time with her husband and two kids.

Connect with Heidy:

Friday, January 27, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: When God promises to give you something new

A Promise of Something New
A devotional written by Essie Faye Taylor

“Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.”—Isaiah 42:9 (KJV)

The minute I walked into my apartment the stench was unbearable.

I gasped for air as I pinched my nose between my finger and thumb. I squinted my eyes and made a whistling sound with my mouth. “What is that smell?”

I opened the door and windows to let in the fresh air. Then I quickly searched the house to locate the smell. I opened the refrigerator in search of spoiled food. Finally, I found the culprit. It was the trashcan. There was a bag of spoiled raw chicken in there.

The smell of old food permeated the entire house, making breathing unbearable. I have a question for you: What old thing in your life is stinking up your thinking or your perspective of life? Are you allowing old thoughts and hurts to hold you captive and prohibit you from experiencing the new blessings that the Lord promises?

In the text, the eagle-eye prophet Isaiah declares a message of victory. As the mouthpiece of God, he boldly speaks of new things to come. God declares through the prophet that old things have passed. I’d like to pause here because many times, we are stuck in the past.

We are fixated on negative past experiences of fear or failure. We are trapped in the grips of unforgiveness, past pain, or grief. Don’t get me wrong, your experiences and feelings are valid. What happened was unfair, and hurtful, and the pain is real. However, God promises healing for your past. He promises to give us something fresh and brand new. God is ready to forget the former things and admonishes us to forget in the sense of not dwelling on the past. He wants us to move forward into the new blessings He has for us.

The prophet (Isaiah) declares that old things are over, meaning they have passed. We no longer have to relive our past mistakes or bad choices. They have passed.

Here are five steps you can take to forget the past and move on with your life:

Step #1: Don’t dwell on the past. Instead, remember the lessons you’ve learned. Remember the pain, but don’t get stuck there.

Step #2: Heal day by day through various strategies: therapy, prayer, and journaling. Surround yourself with faith, hope, and love.

Step #3: Partner with God to turn from the old and embrace the new.

Step #4: Rid yourself of the “smell” of the old that permeates your thinking, perspective, and life experiences. Let go of the pain and forgive those who have hurt you.

Step #5: Remember, turning from the old and embracing the new takes a paradigm shift. It is worth renewing your mind in order to walk toward a new path and a new vision. Be kind to yourself.

Let’s Pray:

Heavenly Father, You know my secrets. You know the extent of my past—the good, bad, and ugly. You are acquainted with my pain and grief. You saw it all—you were there all the time with your love, grace, and mercy. Father, heal my broken places. 

Heal me from the old things: thoughts, ideas, painful experiences, relationships, etc. that would hinder my progress in life and in Your Kingdom. You also know my future. You know my end from my beginning. Help me to believe and embrace the new things that you promise. Give me a new perspective and renew my faith in myself, in others, and most importantly in You. 

Don’t allow my past to ruin my future. Heal me and I shall be healed. Thank you Father for hearing and answering me. 

In the Name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Just the Beginning” by Kurt Carr. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Essie Taylor is an author, educator, minister, youth advocate, recording artist, podcaster, and improviser. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Rockford College.

She is a veteran educator of Bilingual Education, English as a Second Language, and Spanish Language Acquisition with National Board Teacher Certification. She is an advocate of lifelong learning, language learning, and multiculturalism.

Essie is the CEO of KenMar Press, an author agency, and The Essie Faye Collection. Essie is the author of Finding the Love You Deserve: 30 Lessons in Self-Love & Acceptance, and Finding The Love Your Deserve: A 60-Day Healing Journal For Women of Faith.

She is deeply committed to motivating minorities, women, and youth to pursue God while chasing their dreams and carving out their life’s path. She loves God, people, and helping others.

Essie has been a Christian for nearly all of her 39 years. She was born again at 15 years old. She has been a bilingual worship leader and interpreter for 10+ years. By the grace of God, Essie helped to establish bilingual ministries at five churches in her young life. She is a survivor of domestic violence (verbal and emotional abuse) and marital abandonment in a prior marriage.

Essie is a Chicago native. She lives in Chicago with her husband Donald Taylor II.

Connect with Essie:

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: When you let Jesus Christ be more than a guest

Beyond the Foyer
A devotional by Tessa Huckstep

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” 
–Revelation 3:20 (KJV)

Sometimes, I do not invite my guests to go beyond the foyer of my home—especially guests I did not prepare for.

Maybe this means I have poor hospitality skills, but some people just choose the absolute worst times to come over for a visit. Once I hear them knocking on the front door, I take about five seconds to make sure I look somewhat presentable before answering the door and allowing them to step inside the foyer—but no further.

Why? Here are a few reasons: There are dishes piled high in the kitchen sink, along with orange juice that was just recently spilled. There are at least three loads of laundry in my living room. And if that is not bad enough, I haven’t even seen my dining room table in at least a week because of the clutter. All of the doors inside of my house are shut in order to hide the mess.

Everyone can relate to the above scenario to at least some extent. For a long time, this is exactly how my relationship with Jesus was. He was my Friend. I wanted Him to come into my heart and spend time with me. But I never let Him go beyond the foyer. I did not want Him to see my mess. Or worse, I did not want Him to reject me for my mess. If I allowed Jesus to go further into my heart, surely He would make me get rid of some things—He would tell me to throw away the clutter I had grown accustomed to.

Some days, I would work at cleaning the mess myself. I told myself that after everything looked good, then I would let Jesus in. Somehow, my efforts only made things worse, and the mess only grew. Then, I would hear Jesus knocking. I was tired, despondent, and desperate. I needed help. So, I opened the door.

Jesus was not surprised by the mess I was in. He just wanted me to stop hiding and start building my relationship with Him. After that, I opened all my doors. One by one, Jesus would knock, and I would open. It was hard at first, but it got easier when I realized that by surrendering my heart, I was inviting Jesus to be the Master of my heart—not just a guest.

This year, I am going to spend time with Jesus as He shows me the plans He has for my heart. What about you? Where does Jesus stand in your heart? Is He standing in the foyer as a guest, or is He the Master who is allowed to see, heal, and restore all parts of your heart?

You can trust Jesus with your heart. He longs to go beyond just a Friend you think about on the weekends. He wants to be the first person you think about when you wake up in the morning. He wants to have continuous conversations with you. He wants to be more than just a guest.

Jesus is knocking. Are you going to answer?

Let’s Pray:
Dear Lord, thank You for Your gracious acceptance and understanding. Please help us to open each door You knock on. Grant us the courage to open our hearts to You and be willing to make the changes You desire in order to grow in our relationship with You. Help us to surrender everything to You. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Movie of Reflection: “The Perfect Stranger”. It’s a story about a non-believing woman who is invited to dinner with Jesus Christ in person. Watch the movie trailer here on YouTube. You can also watch the full movie for free on YouTube via this link.

Author Bio: 

Tessa Huckstep grew up in rural Illinois. She was born to Christian parents and has known Jesus Christ personally since the age of five. 

Currently, Tessa is attending community college and majoring in elementary education. In the future, she plans to teach in the public school system, hoping to bring the love of God with her.

Tessa enjoys being active in her local church. She serves as a co-teacher for the two-to-five year old class where there is never a dull moment.

It is Tessa’s passion to be a girl after God’s own heart and through her studying of God’s Word, Tessa longs to draw closer to her Savior. Through her writing, she longs to take others with her on this journey of faith.

Tessa loves all things Regency, needlework, and dainty teacups of every size.

When she isn’t writing or studying for exams, she can be found in the kitchen with more flour in her hair and on the floor than in the bowl, though the mess is always half the fun!

Connect with Tessa:

Monday, January 23, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: Life lessons on the true meaning of "home"

Make Yourself at Home
A devotional by Sharon Musgrove

“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.” –John 15:9-10 (MSG)

Home is my happy place.

I’ve always been a homebody, preferring to stay in, comfortable and reading a good book, rather than going out and having what others call a good time. I’ve loved decorating the houses I’ve lived in, remodeling outdated rooms, and finding my design style over time. When I was pregnant, the nursery was my ultimate nesting focus.

I’ve been a homemaker for many years. Yet, all the energy I’ve spent in setting tables and fluffing throw pillows does not accurately reflect the “home” Jesus Christ speaks of in John 15. Here Christ says, “Make yourselves at home in my love.” This is not a material location with floors and walls, but a spiritual place of relationship. This shift in meaning from physical place to heart space intrigued me to look deeper at the essence of what it means to make a home.

This scripture begins with the attribute of love. Jesus says, “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me” (John 15:9). The center of God’s Kingdom is loving others. In fact, the very next verse in John 15 states this way of living as mandatory. It reads, “This is my command: Love one another the way that I loved you” (John 15:12 MSG; emphasis mine). Jesus lived out a sacrificial love, his priority being forgiveness of offense and unity in relationship.

Families don’t always prioritize this kind of love within the home. More commonly, being right is more important than being together. Hierarchal structures of head of household, and powerplay instead of teamwork, can create an atmosphere of jealousy, distrust, and sometimes violence. This does not reflect the heart of God. Nor is it following His example of how to love.

Christ reiterates that He kept His Father’s command. His habit of love was his habitat. And that’s the kind of homemaking he instructs us with—living a lifestyle of love for people. This mirrors our true home in Heaven.

Any house rule set by Jesus has a purpose that is meant for good. Jesus reveals to us in John 15:11 that his intent in making love mandatory is in spreading and growing joy. Let’s remember what Jesus says in John 15:11 (MSG): “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature.”

The worst years of my life were those when my family was not unified. There was no joy. Accusations flew and hateful statements were hastily made. Lines were drawn and barriers thickened. Home in those days was not a safe place. And no number of scented candles could mask the stink of our brokenness. It wasn’t until we could sacrifice pride and humbly share the hurts on our hearts, exchanging both apologies and forgiveness, that our house returned to being a home.

When my adult children return home these days, they kick off their shoes, dig through the refrigerator, and lay on the couch. Together we cuddle, tell stories, and enjoy each other’s company. This level of comfort and trust came through applying the love rule and is how we can now abide in a joy wholly mature.

It is only when we can say to others, “I’ve loved you the way my Heavenly Father has loved me", that we are making ourselves at home in Christ's love. In following his command, we build a home that is like God’s Home in Heaven.

This is the art of homemaking—joyfully living out love.

Let’s Pray:
Holy Father, Thank You for Your love. Thank You for the example and the sacrifice Jesus lived out for us to follow on earth. We thank You for inviting us into Your Kingdom. May we follow Your command to love others, that we might be at home in You. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Always Be My Home” (song) by Rachael Lampa. Listen to it here.

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 programs primarily served women in 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.

Identifying personally with the brokenness of the women she’s served, Sharon 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, divide their time between Oregon and Hawaii. They have two grown children.

Currently, Sharon is encouraging others via her inspirational blog, but prefers sharing face to face. Additionally, she is studying Christian fiction writing.

Connect with Sharon:

Friday, January 20, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: How to be content when you want more

Contentment in Circumstances
A devotional by Hannah Benson

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.”—1 Timothy 6:6-7 (ESV)

I don’t know about you, but it is so easy for me to look at someone else and feel envious of their good fortune or to think that they have it made. More followers on Instagram than me? They must feel great about themselves. Life with a better plan than I have? Makes me wish I was like them.

See the pattern and how easily it is to slip into envy and dissatisfaction about anything? And on and on the list goes.

But here’s the thing: I’ve been on both the receiving end of jealousy and the giving side. I’ve received jealously, but more often, I’ve given jealousy and been envious of people. I’ve been the one longing for what another has (this is called coveting. The Bible tells us not to do that in Exodus 20:17 when God gives the Israelites the Ten Commandments). We don’t always have to covet something physical, either. It could be popularity, the level of success they’ve achieved, or any number of things. The Bible also tells us in Romans 12:15 (ESV) that we are to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”. But it is so much easier to complain and wish that I had what they have instead of rejoicing with them that God has blessed them. It’s no fun being jealous of someone else and wishing for what isn’t yours!

I’ve also been on the side where I, sometimes, got what I wanted and achieved what I so desperately coveted. Once it was mine, I thought in disappointment, “This didn’t fulfill me like I thought it would.” An example of this is when I was a student in school, I longed for the day I would graduate. But I mistakenly believed that graduating would solve all my problems and that life would get easier. I looked to graduates and thought, “Wow, they have it made.” But chances are they probably didn’t. Now that I have been a graduate for almost two years, I’ve quickly learned that I was wrong because while being a high-school grad is wonderful, it doesn’t fulfill me like I thought it would.

The thing is that glamour is never as truly glamourous as it seems. Because of our sin nature, even if I got what I thought I wanted, it would never be enough, and I would always want more.

Contentment in our circumstances is a beautiful thing. Now, that’s not to say that if a situation is unhealthy that you should stay when you know you should get out. But it means being content when someone else gets the lead in the musical we wanted. It means being content even when it seems like others have so much more and are happier than you. Because chances are, their life isn’t as perfect as it appears.

Contentment really goes hand in hand with trusting God. When we trust that God will take care of us and that He knows best, we are content where we are and can cheer others on when they are showered with blessings. Being content and trusting God produces godliness in our lives.

When we come to realize that we have all we really need, then we gain such a joy that no amount of money, popularity, or success could ever buy.

Let’s Pray:
Dear Father God, I know that You are enough for me, and I thank You! Help me to live as if You are enough for me. Teach me how to stop coveting what belongs to someone else. Help me to rejoice with my friends even when I am tempted to long for what is theirs. I know You love me and have good plans for me too. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Satisfied” by Chris Tomlin. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Hannah Benson is a Jesus-follower who’s passionate about sharing the love of Christ with others.

From the time she could hold a pen, she was writing. But it wasn’t until she was sixteen that she began to seriously follow God’s calling to write a novel. Hannah is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and has at least four novels in the works. For the past five years, she has been involved with her local Biblical theater company. She wants to show others the love of Jesus through the creative arts.

When she’s not acting or working on her upcoming novel, you can find Hannah laughing with her siblings, cuddling her little fluffy dog, or reading books (usually historical fiction or fantasy stories). You can read more of Hannah’s writings on her blog or on her Instagram where she strives to write content that leaves others feeling encouraged.

Connect with Hannah:

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: When we think of God as our personal trainer

When God Is Your Personal Trainer
A devotional by Sarah Cole

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”–2 Peter 1:3-7 (NIV)

Change is possible, even for creatures of habit.

I am reminded of this every time I go to the gym–after buying memberships only to lose interest over the years, my mindset changed when I realized I was not only overweight, my knees were in terrible shape. When my orthopedic surgeon recommended knee replacement last year, he said patients with stronger legs have the best outcome. And now, after a year of hard work, prayer, and my trainer's support, I don't need surgery after all.

For most of us, a new year means it's time for a makeover. The possibilities are endless, and if we're not careful, we can try to make so many changes that we throw in the towel too soon.

What if making one change is the only one necessary?

I like to think of God as a personal trainer. While He cares about every need, spiritual fitness is His priority because our character, not our waistline, will help us make a difference in the world.

Asking God to help us build spiritual muscle seems counterintuitive, but only He knows what's up ahead this year and the inner qualities we need to cope with it. If we try to change everything ourselves, it's easy to burn out when life doesn't turn out as we hoped.

Making one change is hard enough; let's keep it simple this time.

As you think about this year, consider implementing one of the following options. The growth you see in yourself over the next several months simply by making one change may surprise you!

Here’s a short list of options: 
  1. Set one goal. Is there one goal you could reach that would make all the difference in how you approach life? Set yourself up for success by making it specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Chart your progress each week and reward yourself along the way.
  2. Choose one word. What do you need more of this year? Some examples are simplicity, trust, faith, acceptance, and hope. Let it guide you each day. Keep a journal and see how you grow in that area by the end of the year.
  3. Meditate on a Bible verse. Ask God to reveal a verse that best fits an area you need to improve, such as impatience or offense. Memorize it and apply it to situations as they come up.
Friend, whatever your choice, I'm confident this will be one of your best years yet, because if I've learned anything from working out at the gym, everything works out in the end.

Let's Pray:
Dear Father, thank You for building in me the character that makes me who I am today. Change is hard, but I look forward to seeing what You will do in my life this year. Give me the power to drop excess burdens and build my character so I can fulfill the calling You've designed for me. In Jesus's Name I pray. Amen.

Author Bio:

Sarah Cole’s interest in writing began in grade school when her poem was published in the local paper. As she got older, her mother’s chronic illness inspired her to design a line of greeting cards. Since then, she has written for her college newspaper and two community newspapers where she wrote restaurant reviews and articles for their “Best of” spread.

Her experience as an administrator in the marketing field gave her the opportunity to write ads for a local business journal.

After a 20-year detour and a three-year season of adversity, God reignited her passion to write. Two divine appointments later, the short story she wrote about her father appeared in the St. Paul Almanac, and a short story about Gigi (her Cocker Spaniel) was published in Guideposts (magazine) Mysterious Ways. She believes her adversity was worth the lessons God taught her.

Since 2022, Sarah’s devotionals have been published in The Secret Place by Judson Press, as well as David C. Cook’s Devotions and The Quiet Hour. To this day, she smiles, pinches herself and gives God all the glory.

When she’s not writing, Sarah enjoys watching cooking shows, designing cards and mugs, and taking day trips.

Connect with Sarah:

Monday, January 16, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: The Anchor

The Horizontal Tree
A devotional by Angela Anderson

“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” 
–Psalm 1:3 (NIV)

It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon when my family and I decided to take a scenic road trip to visit a relative. On the way to our destination, we passed a lot of rural areas with grassy fields, farmland, cows and horses grazing, and birds flying in formation. The blue skies were so picturesque, especially with the white puffy clouds that had the appearance of cartoon animals.

We had been driving for about an hour with another hour remaining to complete the trip. I dozed off a couple of times, but something caught my attention in one of the fields and I immediately woke up. It was a tree.

I always admire trees wherever I go. There is something about them that fascinates me.

Sometimes it is the height of the tree, or the colorful leaves. It could be the branches completely void of leaves, and sometimes it is the shape of the tree. In this case, none of those features drew my attention. Instead, it was the posture of the tree that raised my eyebrow. The tree was horizontal instead of vertical. It almost appeared to be a fallen tree, except it was not completely touching the ground.

At first glance, I thought the tree was dead, but when I examined it closely, there were green leaves all over the branches. The tree was thriving, even though it was not standing up.

How could this be? My eyes followed the bark from one end to the other, and then I realized that most of the roots of that large tree were completely submerged under the ground. The tree may have appeared lifeless, but that was not the case. The only reason it was able to produce green leaves is because its roots were firmly grounded in the dirt.

As we start this new year, it is important to consider where our roots are planted. Are we wasting time pursing distractions disguised as opportunities or are we investing our time in things that will make an impact and leave a legacy? Are our goals in alignment with the will of God, or have we already started down a path without asking His permission?

The only way for us to experience true happiness along with success in this life is if we are rooted and grounded in God. It is His promise to us when we make the choice to follow His direction. If we continually meditate on God’s Word (The Holy Bible) and obey it, we will prosper in our spiritual growth.

Moreover, the fruit that we bear will serve as a witness to God’s faithfulness.

Let’s Pray: Dear God, Thank You for Your promises. We ask that You guide us as we go through this life. We want to be rooted in You so that we can experience the abundant life that You want to freely give to us all. Help us to spend more time in Your Word and in Your presence. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.

Song of Reflection: “The Anchor Holds” by Ray Boltz. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Angela Anderson was born in Brooklyn (New York) and raised in New Jersey.

She started writing at an early age and realized in elementary school that it was both a strength and a passion. She continued writing through high school, college, and into adulthood.

Angela is the author of a devotional book titled Just When I Thought I Knew God, and she is currently working on another devotional book that will be introduced in 2023.

This is Angela's third year as a devotional writer for Alexis A. Goring’s “God is Love” blog. In 2021, Angela was a winner of a devotional writing contest where the entry is featured in a book published by Proverbs 31 Ministries. The book is titled, Hope When Your Heart is Heavy. The following year, another one of Angela’s devotionals was published in another publication from Proverbs 31 Ministries, called Living Unbroken.

Angela has a passion for inspiring and impacting others through her writing and speaking.

Angela is a Mom Life Coach. She empowers mothers who want to identify their God-given purpose and live it fully while taking care of their family. Angela develops mothers into mompreneurs by providing them with the necessary tools to be successful and fulfilled in life. These tools equip them to see their value, understand their importance, and reclaim their identity.

Angela has been married to the love of her life, Duane Anderson for 18 years. Together they have two sons: Thomas (age 10) and Ryan (age 5). Angela’s favorite pastime is journaling.

She treasures spending quality time with her family.

Connect with Angela:
Facebook (personal):
Facebook (Author page):
Angela offers free consultations for mothers who want to pursue their dream while taking care of their family. Schedule here:

Friday, January 13, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: Vision

To See the Lord
A devotional by Karen Marstaller

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”– Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)

Vision. We want to see things with our own eyes before we accept the truth. Even then, we are often quite skeptical about something that is hard to understand.

Other translations of the Bible offer the word revelation in place of the word vision. In modern days, the two words are closely related. We think of revelation as a personal message, while a vision is a personal image. Both ideas go hand-in-hand.

The sobering news is that when we stop seeing visions, or block revealed messages from the Lord, we begin to die a little inside. It’s a slow, painful loss of hope in God.

God’s Word (The Holy Bible), is full of instances where God reveals Himself to man. When we grow tired of hearing the world’s bleak news of the day, we can turn to our copy of God’s Word and stand beside the people who witnessed the very essence of God with their own eyes.

Starting in Genesis, God recorded Adam and Eve’s relationship with their Creator. Genesis 3 tells us that God walked in the Garden of Eden with them in the evening, but then they sinned, disobeyed His plan, and found themselves hiding from their God. He had shaped them both with His very own hands (Genesis 2) and had a personal interest in them. They walked and talked with Him in the Garden of Eden. What a joyful existence that must have been!

Then in Exodus 33:18-23, Moses, the great leader of God’s people, asked to see God’s glory. God agreed to his request with one exception: “You cannot see my face” (Exodus 33:20 ESV). What a far cry from the side-by-side relationship Adam and Eve used to enjoy! But God told Moses in Exodus 33:22 that as His glory passed by, God would hide Moses in the cleft of a rock, and protect him with His hand. In the very next verse (Exodus 33:23) God promised Moses that he could look at God’s back. What a holy God we see in this image! Moses, a simple human being, could not see God’s face and survive. But God graciously allowed him a brief glimpse of the God Moses followed, and Moses lived to tell about it.

Skipping ahead to the book of Isaiah who was a mighty prophet of God, we see a simple man who was given a most amazing vision from the Lord. Let’s read about it in Isaiah 6:1 (ESV): “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.”

Then Isaiah reports in Isaiah 6:5 (ESV): “…Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

From there we move to the very last book of the Bible, where we have the privilege to stand beside the Apostle John, as he shares the revelation given to him on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9 ESV). John, like Adam and Eve, had walked and talked with the Lord Jesus, learning from Him about the Heavenly Father. Here, in Revelation, John describes what he saw and heard in Heaven as he was led by the Holy Spirit (Revelation 1:10). And as we read John’s words that were inspired by God, we, too, fall to our knees at the holiness of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But Jesus who walked the earth so many years earlier, reached out His hand to His beloved disciple to raise him to his feet. He tells him, “Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17b-18 ESV).

Oh, to hear God’s voice and to see His face! Until that day when we reach our heavenly home, we have the privilege of standing in the shoes of those who have gone before us. All we have to do is open our Bible. We can soak in the blessed visions and revelations God has recorded. And whether we have been granted a personal vision or not, we can all bask in the holiness of our living God who has conquered death and who gives life to all who seek His face.

Let’s Pray:
Dear Lord, mighty God of Heaven and Earth, we worship You. Thank You for stirring us with visions and revelations about You and Your Son, Jesus Christ. It is in His Name that we bow to worship and to pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “He Hideth My Soul” (song) by BESY Choir. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Karen Marstaller is a retired high school teacher who spent most of her career challenging creative students to write. Her heart is for her readers. 

She writes to encourage them, to make them laugh, to show them that life is a beautiful journey, and regardless of their past, to show them that there is joy ahead if they will just keep looking.

Karen and her husband live in central Texas in a sweet little home that they completely remodeled. They enjoy spending time with their family, which includes seven precious grandchildren.

Most of all, Karen writes in obedience to the command to love your neighbor, to offer a cup of water to those who are dying of thirst, and to comfort others with the comfort she has received.

You can reach Karen by emailing her at this address:

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: Courage

Don’t Be Afraid

A devotional by Dr. Jessica B. Turner

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” 
—Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

Throughout my faith journey, I’ve realized that there are Bible verses that commonly serve as anchors to many. These words can be held onto when life gets a little rocky or brought out when you need an extra dose of courage to take the next step.

Deuteronomy 31:6 is one of those scriptures for me.

When I was preparing for my girls to start kindergarten, I chose these words as a reminder that not only is God always with me and there is nothing to be afraid of, but He is always with my children. This truth allowed me to walk in peace despite my rising anxiety surrounding this new chapter of uncertainty. It also allowed me to teach my girls of the power of God’s promises. While they may be scared about starting school, their God would always be by their side.

For years, I associated the commands of Deuteronomy 31:6 with big, scary action, whether that action was voluntary or not. Some of these actions for me included: Starting a podcast when I knew nothing about the process. Moving forward with having another child when the pain of loss was still fresh. These are just a few of the times where I revisited the promise of God’s presence providing the courage I needed to move forward.

But what if I was missing a piece of the picture because I always saw courage as this loud, adventurous move? What if courage was sometimes quiet? What if it could be associated with inaction?

Early on in December 2022, God revealed to me this alternate view of courage. I was meditating on the words I had read so many times: “Be strong and courageous.” During this quiet time with God, I began to see that “courage” can look very different depending on the season of life you are in. And in that moment, courage took on the shape of a quiet surrender instead of a flashy leap of faith. It meant pausing to sit with the Lord while holding on to His promises—both in His word and in my arms as I held my sweet baby boy.

Courage was an invitation to trust God with my provision, my influence, my talents…my everything!

In closing, I’m asking you the same question that God asked me while I was reading my journaling devotional: What might courage look like for you today?

Let’s Pray: Heavenly Father, thank You for being a constant source of support and companionship in my life! I can always count on You to be by my side no matter what I am facing. Lord, reveal to me what courage looks like to You in the season I am in. Is it to take the first step towards a dream You have placed inside me? Or is it to pause and simply be with You? Help me to trust in You for everything including desires that are simply paused for a season. I love You and I trust You. In Jesus’s Name, I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Trust In You” (song) by Lauren Daigle. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Dr. Jessica B. Turner is a wife, mom, and LSU graduate with a degree in veterinary medicine. 

After practicing small animal medicine for six years, she traded in her stethoscope to become an online wellness coach, motivational speaker, and writer with a passion for mental health advocacy. This major life change was sparked after Jessica struggled with postpartum depression soon after she birthed her twin girls.

Along with Jessica’s career change came the discovery of who Jesus Christ really is and how He was the missing piece for her to be able to move forward in past trauma that she had suppressed for decades. Jesus walked alongside Jessica as she underwent a transformation like none other.

God transformed Jessica’s life from a broken mom who struggled with depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and PTSD from witnessing an attempted suicide, to using her experiences to make her a powerful vessel for Him. To this day, God enables Jessica to touch the lives of others through her often unfiltered, yet inviting form of storytelling.

Throughout this process of refinement, Jessica has shared her life story with the world through her social media platforms, in-person events, blog posts, and podcasts. She values the gift of transparency and has discovered that what so many people need to know is that they are not alone. Jessica has walked in their shoes, and she wants the world to know that Jesus is walking with them as well.

Connect with Jessica:

Monday, January 9, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: The Harvest

The Work of the Laborers
A devotional by Aubrey Taylor

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” 
–Luke 10:2 (ESV)

On a recent trip to Germany, we stayed overnight in the home of a missionary couple living in one of Europe’s many wine growing regions. Renting their living space from a farmer who grows grapes for a co-op vintner has afforded this couple an opportunity to see the Bible’s agricultural metaphors come alive.

There is a special edition wine sold by the vintner for which the grapes must be hand-picked. Though the machine is far better at sorting out the unusable grapes from the good ones, the hand-picked edition is considered choice wine!

The Bible books of Psalm, Deuteronomy, and Jeremiah all tell us that God’s mighty hand and His outstretched arm do His work for Him. He clearly does not need us to do His work in the world, yet do we realize that He desires to use us?

Do we understand that our work is valuable to Him?

We need not to fear that our work is imperfect. God knows our frame. He looks at the heart behind our efforts, and perhaps it is there where He reminds us that the work is ultimately His. Yet He rejoices to partner with us in it.

My husband and I learned a lot about partnering together on this trip. He made high-level decisions such as taking three weeks off from work, spending time away from our children and investing money to seek God’s will for our lives. Meanwhile, he gave me free reign to go to the places I felt God had placed on my heart. Places that would appear in my writing. Places with church groups who were willing to meet and pray with us, and where we could mutually encourage one another. My husband drove over 2,000 miles in a country that is roughly the size of Montana while I navigated. Sometimes things went awry or didn’t work out, yet he didn’t berate me about it. We just picked up and continued, having learned something.

As I continued to turn the metaphor of the hand-picked grapes over in my mind, I was reminded of how my children will not eat grapes that look a little funny. I’ve selected these grapes from the bunch, washed them and put them on a plate. I know they are fine, however, my child refuses to eat them. How many people are there out there whose lives could become sweet wine, but we are afraid to reach out to them, like my kids refusing the grapes that look funny?

How convicted I am that so often, we try to mold people into what we believe they should look like as Christians, or reject them if they don’t fit that mold. There have been times when I felt it was my duty to tell a person how to live, rather than trusting the Holy Spirit to speak to and convict them. Of course, it is important that new believers receive discipleship, but have we been overbearing and careless, actually driving people away from God rather than toward Him?

Have we been driven away ourselves, attending church from week to week but never truly feeling like we measure up to the standard?

Have we been reluctant to enter into a ministry to which God has called us, simply because the people are too rough, or come from the proverbial other side of the tracks?

This is where the Lord’s work comes in. It is not the standard of other Christians we should be striving for. It is perhaps not even the standard that is held out by our teachers. Although we deeply respect them, they get it wrong sometimes too. God desires to commune with us personally through His Word, for He alone sets the standard. God’s Holy Spirit is able to show us where we have erred, and to lead us back to the correct path.

God loves those who have strayed, those who are so rough that we are afraid to look at or touch them. It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. If God has called us to minister in a place where there are many who are sick, He will equip and protect us to do so.

Let’s Pray:

Dear Lord Jesus,

Thank You for loving me as I am. Continue to make me more like You. I humbly ask You to open my heart further, so that I may consider where I might serve You in a way I haven’t thought of before. Help me love those whom I have been afraid to. Further, Lord, may it not be me alone. I pray for many laborers to be sent forth into Your vineyard throughout the world. I acknowledge that the work is ultimately Yours, but thank You that You have asked each of us to partner with You in that. We look forward to seeing Your work completed. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “I Will Go” (song) by Steve Green. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

The only child of a single parent, Aubrey Taylor filled her younger years by creating characters and writing stories. This ended around age sixteen when music, friends and part-time jobs began to fill her time. After that came college, work, marriage, and children.

It wasn’t until the world was beginning to come out of the COVID pandemic that God led her back to her love for writing, coupled with a passion she’d always had for history. It was time to start a new adventure! Her current long-term project is Gott Mit Uns, a German-perspective 20th century historical fiction series.

Aubrey lives in Upstate New York with her husband and three children. She’s busy keeping the home, caring for her family, doing research for and writing her books.

Aubrey enjoys music and is involved with the worship ministry at her church as well as a German choral group. She also plays gigs occasionally with friends as a singer and acoustic guitarist. After all that, she finds time to sketch, craft, and hike.

She is a lover of Jesus Christ, The Holy Bible, history, German culture, tea, and cats.

Aubrey has a special heart for those who struggle with severe anxiety, depression and PTSD.

Connect with Aubrey:

Friday, January 6, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: True peace and security comes from God

How to Overcome the World
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” –1 John 5:4-5 (ESV)

When I was growing up and living with my parents, saying grace at mealtimes, evening worship and going to church were essential parts of the family ritual. One of the hymns that was a staple in those moments was “Blessed Assurance”.

I did not fully comprehend being saved, at that time. I equated “Blessed Assurance” with security. I equated the ability to run fast and fight with a sense of personal and physical security. Those attributes did boost my confidence, but they did not bring the internal security that I anticipated. I was aiming at the wrong target and pursuing the wrong things.

While reading the Bible one morning, I stumbled into a text that gave me an epiphany. 1 John 5:4-5 (ESV) pierced my perspectives on peace, security and assurance. It reads, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

I remembered the confident assurance in Romans 8:37-39 that nothing could separate us from the love of God. I remembered the verse in Romans 10:9 (ESV) that says “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” 1 Corinthians 6:14 resonated through my being in a new way. “And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.” The inference is that God is with us no matter what. That was the blessed assurance!

No matter what happens around us, to us, for us or with us, we can overcome the world (Romans 12:21)! Overcoming adversities defines a victor. That means that our lusts, addictions, bad habits, challenges and flaws could be overcome. When we fall short of God’s ideal, but we have faith in Jesus Christ, God will restore, renew and strengthen us. Our weaknesses become steps to victory. Our failings insure humility in preparation for the exaltations of the sanctified life.

We are safe in our success and even in the darkest seasons of our lives. As we overcome the struggles, we will rise into new horizons of faith and performance. Victorious living is not limited to the eternity after the second coming. Victory is ours today! Overcoming challenges forges stronger faith. Do not shirk from the obstacles that you may face. God is with you, no matter what! Confront all of the obstacles in your life with faith that you will succeed.

Please embrace this new year confidently, no matter what happens. Plan to plow through it with the assurance that you can overcome any challenges and thrive. God is with you, no matter what! Affirm your sense of being with the assurance of salvation. Let that confidence ripple through your daily performance, no matter what!

Practice articulating the words confirming your belief in Jesus as the Son of God who is alive.

Stay hopeful. Practice optimism. Employ enthusiasm and grind toward your goals. Complete the degree. Finish that project. Take that leap of faith and grow through your quests, no matter what!

Let’s Pray: 

Dear God,
Thank You for authoring eternity and our roles within it.

As with the prophet Jeremiah, fulfill in our lifetimes the thoughts that You have for us. Give us assurance and confidence that You will never leave us nor forsake us. 

Sanctify the impetus within us to be more like You and do more of the things that You did. Grow our faith and trust in You. Help us to light the paths of others and lead them to You.

In Jesus’s Name I pray. 


Song of Reflection: “Blessed Assurance” (song) by CeCe Winans. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

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

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

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

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

You may connect with Chaplain Anderson via email at this address,

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Thankful Thursdays: Baby Christians

It’s Thursday and I’m thankful for new (“baby”) Christians!

They are so on fire for Jesus Christ and endeavor to spread the Gospel Truth, also known as “The Good News” with everyone they encounter. The pore over the pages of The Holy Bible and they are eager to tell the world about a Man named Jesus who saved their soul (John 3:16).

For about a year now, I’ve seen different cars with similar bumper stickers and window stickers that say something like, “New Driver. Please be patient.”

When I see that, I automatically think of spiritual parallel along the lines of “Baby Christian. Handle with care” or “New Believer. Please be patient.”

Why is it important to be patient with people who are new to believing in God and following Jesus Christ? Simply because they are still learning and “growing up” in their faith walk with God. And just as when you start anything new (a job, a book study, becoming a parent, etc.), you need to give yourself grace and room for error. Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Why? Because we’re all human which means we have flaws! We are not perfect.

Oftentimes, we either stand amazed at the passion baby Christians have for God or we are astounded when they make mistakes that more mature Christians would have avoided. This is why it’s important to be patient and help guide them back to the Bible. We need to help them survive their rocky road that happens after the new, exciting, fulfilling and invigorating feel of being a Christian fades away.

It's important to encourage baby Christians to keep drinking their “milk” but also prepare to start eating “meat” as they grow up in their relationship with God. Read more about this in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2.

Christians who are older and more seasoned by life should come along those new to the faith and share their wisdom in due time. We should make them aware of the pitfalls and remind them that there’s always hope because God is always there for us. The Bible says He will never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

We should encourage new Christians to keep the line of communication (prayer) between themselves and God open and remind them to keep talking to God even when He seems distant. The Bible says if we draw near to God, then He will draw near to us (James 4:8).

If you are reading this and you are a baby Christian, I want to encourage you to always go to God, no matter how you feel. He loves you with all of His Heart! When times feel dark and all hope seems lost, choose your faith over your feelings and keep moving forward in your faith journey with your Creator (God) because He is right there, by your side. He never left. Rest in Him. Abide in Him.

Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Keep trusting in Him. God didn’t bring you this far to leave you. He is with you every step of the way. Keep following His Son (Jesus Christ) all the way to Heaven.

Be encouraged by listening to this song by CeCe Winans, "He's Always There."

What are you thankful for this Thursday?


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

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: Allow God to guard and protect your mind

Your Mind Matters
A devotional by Casey Wayne

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”—Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

I sat in my car feeling defeated.

Tears fell down my cheeks as the sound of my kids filled the car.

I questioned why God led me here. I felt overwhelmed and ill-equipped to handle the life I have.

Giving up in exhaustion seems inevitable as the demands of marriage, motherhood and other obligations tell me I am not enough. Pulling myself together, I trudge through my day as best I can. By dinner time I feel even more behind on everything. Somehow it feels like I have done nothing today when in reality I know that is not true.

In the end it feels abundantly clear, my best is not good enough. I become painfully aware of this as I try to decide what, if anything, I want to attempt to accomplish in the hour or so left in my day. Something in my brain keeps telling me to just give up. It all feels like a losing battle and what is the point of it all anyway. After all, what difference am I making?

In moments like this, darkness is drawing us in. Satan would love nothing more than to draw our thoughts away from God’s light. Our mind is such a critical component in our daily lives. It dictates our mood, our words and actions. The daily thoughts of our mind become the front lines of spiritual warfare as we walk out our faith. The people of Biblical times were no different. Paul describes the Gentiles as living “hopelessly confused” with their minds in darkness, closed off from God. (Ephesians 4:17-18). Lies are the devil’s specialty, convincing us that what we have learned about our God and His promises are not true. He loves to steal our peace and hope found in Jesus Christ. When we feel overwhelmed, lost, and afraid, Satan feels empowered to use that for his purposes. Those of us in Christ know that God has something better for us.

In Ephesians, Paul provides a description of what it looks like to live in response to our salvation. As we turn from sin and strive to be more like Christ, he gives us the way to avoid deception. Ephesians 4:23-24 (NLT) says, “instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy”. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can transform our thoughts and keep them in line with what God has for us. Allowing God to transform our minds is an important part of offering our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). Jesus even makes it clear in the book of Matthew that we should always “love the Lord” with all our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37).

Consistently spending time in God’s Word and in prayer can help you fight this battle.

Reminding yourself of God’s faithfulness allows you to see the devil’s lies for what they are and takes away his power to wield them against you. Practice taking back those moments for God’s glory by resting in God’s promises when you discern that Satan is at work.

Pause and pray for God to give you strength and reminders of the hope you have in Christ.

As we build a relationship with our heavenly Father we develop an ability to keep a Gospel truth perspective. Your mind will be “renewed as you learn to know your Creator” (Colossians 3:10). 

Pray for God’s wisdom and discernment to see when the father of lies is attacking. Then you can take back your thoughts for the glory of God.

Let’s Pray:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the gift we have in Jesus Christ. We appreciate the hope and grace we receive through Him. Please give me the wisdom to see the moments where Satan is attacking my thoughts and trying to use them for his purposes. Give me the strength and hope to take back those moments for your glory. So that, in turn, my words and actions can reflect Your light into this dark and broken world. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Look What You’ve Done” by Tasha Layton. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Casey Wayne is a wife and mother of two children.

She enjoys time with her family doing simple things like movie nights and cooking together.

As a devotional writer, Casey strives to share her story with relatable honesty, showing how God is faithful throughout the big and small moments of life.

She has a heart for encouraging the faith walk of other moms, praying they gain a deeper connection with our Heavenly Father.

Her family lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.

Connect with Casey:

Monday, January 2, 2023

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

An Intentional Love
A devotional by Jessica Brodie

Have you ever created something you came to care about so much that it almost hurts?

As a writer, I fall in love with the characters I create. They become like family. I feel their pain, their joys, their fears and sorrows. It’s the same way with my kids. For those for you who are parents, this might be super obvious, but they feel like an extension of my body and soul. I’d literally walk through fire for them, take on every hurt or illness or agony for them, without question.

I just started reading through the Bible again, and that’s what strikes me about the start of Genesis—the intentionality and love with which God so clearly handcrafted the world and everything in it. Personally, I like to switch up the versions of the Bible I read just to get a different perspective, and the language in the New Living Translation feels like poetry as I reread the beautiful account of our Lord creating something out of simple nothingness.

“The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:2-3 NLT).

Can you imagine? Out of darkness suddenly came glorious, magnificent light! The Bible doesn’t tell us what this looked like, only that it was “good,” but I imagine a soft, soothing glow spreading across the dark waters, gradually growing stronger and stronger until it reaches a crescendo of pure and blissful brightness. I wonder how God felt. Did a new song of glee brim in His heart? Did He want to dance like a little kid, exuberant and carefree?

Then, the Bible tells us, God kept on creating. He created the sky the next day, and then the land the next, brimming with lush vegetation. Next came the stars and the sun and the moon, and then God “set these lights in the sky to light the earth, to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:17-18).

He created birds and livestock, wild animals and fish in the sea, then human beings, and these last ones, us, were extra-special. As the Bible tells us, humans God created “in his own image” (Genesis 1:27). Then he blessed it all, tasked us with stewardship over the earth and everything in it, and “rested from all his work” (Genesis 2:2).

What strikes me is the intention God had with all he created. He didn’t just create us, but created us in his own image. He didn’t just create and let it be, but He created and looked it over, reflecting on its “goodness.” That’s significant!

We—God’s people, God’s creation—are no happy accident but a magnificently handcrafted and intentional design set into motion by the Lord God Almighty. That’s love quite literally personified.

I think that’s why it is so important to remember what Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-40: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

In John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

If God loved us so much that He personally handcrafted the world, and humans in His very image, of course it should follow that the two greatest commandments are to love Him back and to love each other.

This year, we have a new opportunity, a fresh start, when it comes to love. Every one of us who professes to love God needs to take this seriously. This commandment to love Him and love each other is not a suggestion but an order. We are to love even our enemies, Jesus tells us…to love each other as ourselves, caring for our neighbor in the same way we would care for our own children or parents.

For that is how we love him, Jesus says: whatever we do for “one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

In the New Year 2023, can we do this? Can we take a moment every day to step outside of our own naturally selfish inclinations and look around to care for others in our midst, others we don’t even know? Can we smile at strangers, share our money and our food with our neighbors, and lend a hand just because we can?

That is my challenge this year. I hope you will join me. In the spirit of the One who created us all, let’s each of us recognize our shared community in the Lord and love extravagantly, generously, and freely in honor of that perfect love.

Song of Reflection:
“The Maker” by Chris August. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning journalist, author, blogger, editor, writing coach, and devotional writer with thousands of articles to her name.

Since 2010, she has served as the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, which has won 123 journalism awards during her tenure. She is the author of Feed My Sheep: A 40-Day Devotional to Develop a Heart for Hunger Ministry (2019) and More Like Jesus: A Devotional Journey (2018) and the editor of a number of other books from her newspaper’s Advocate Press, which she helped found in 2017.

She has won more than 100 writing awards and is a seasoned speaker and frequent contributor to,, and, among many others. She has a weekly faith blog at and is part of the team at Wholly Loved Ministries, with her work included in many of their devotionals and Bible studies.

Brodie holds a Master of Arts in English, and she graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in communications/print journalism from Florida International University. Born and raised in Miami, Brodie now lives in Lexington, South Carolina, just outside Columbia. She has also lived in Ohio and in the mountains of western North Carolina. She and her husband, Matt Brodie, have a blended family of four teenage children and stepchildren.

Brodie has written several novels and is actively seeking publication through her agent Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency. Her novel The Memory Garden won the 2018 Genesis contest for Contemporary Fiction from American Christian Fiction Writers, and her novel Tangled Roots won a third place Foundation Award in Contemporary Romance at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in 2019. She is finishing the third in the series, Hidden Seeds, now.

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