Monday, July 15, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Sharing our faith in God with the youth is vital


Passing It On: Sharing our Faith Stories
A devotional by Joy Beless

“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”
—Psalm 78:4 (ESV)

All through the summer in the USA, families gather for weddings, graduations, and July 4th celebrations. Our adult children and grandchildren come together at our family’s ranch to celebrate Independence Day for the USA. None of us live in the same city. We gather our great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, then we all join in the fun! As we stand side-by-side in the kitchen, on the fishing dock or snuggle with the kids for a bedtime story, it’s a perfect time to share stories of faith.

I remember being a child standing next to my grandmother in the kitchen on the same family ranch, sipping a cold Dr. Pepper on a hot Texas summer afternoon and listening to my grandmother telling stories of faith. She told me about the faithfulness of God during the bleak war-time years, making dresses out of up-cycled fabric, and how God provided for my grandfather to work labor jobs that paid a dollar a day. I heard plenty of stories about taking other people in for a time and the common experience of having extra people around the meal table. No matter how much work needed to be done, on Sundays my grandparents stopped the task on hand, cleaned up and went to church with all of us.

My parents carried on the tradition of sharing their own stories of faith. My father’s conversion story after a near-death experience always held a captive audience. He was a leather-faced rancher who seemed bigger than life. Saturday nights, my mother could be found with her Bible in her lap preparing for Sunday School the next morning. In the good and the hard times, living out God’s Word was central to their life stories.

I feel the same urgency to not waste spontaneous opportunities to weave in stories of faith spoken of in Psalm 78 and remember the “glorious deeds of the Lord and his might and wonders” (Psalm 78:4 ESV). Where have I seen God at work in miraculous ways over the last several months? How have I sensed God’s presence in difficult times or in waiting for answered prayer? As we say bedtime prayers over our children’s and grandchildren’s concerns, what can I ask them to pray for me? How can I remind these sweet souls that God hears their prayers too?

Worship and singing hymns is yet another way of passing down our faith and giving the younger generation an anchor to hold on to in rough waters. I remember hearing my parents sing hymns as they went about their day. I want my grandchildren to also know the songs that we’ve sung for generations, such as “Blessed Assurance” by Fannie Crosby and Phoebe Knapp.

May our faith stories that fueled our faith, fuel the faith of future generations and inspire their young minds with curiosity that encourages them to seek God and know Him. In a time of anxious questioning of so much, may our family’s conversations invite an assurance of God’s love for each of us, especially for the younger generation. May that assurance bring hope to their lives and their own stories of trusting in God. May they have a desire to know God’s Word and believe it is as relevant for them as it was for their grandparents and great-grandparents.

When my grandchildren come to visit, I think I’ll pick up a can of Dr. Pepper and pour it over cold ice while I listen to the fizz. As we sip and laugh, I want to ask them how they’re doing. Perhaps I will share a story from my childhood with the hindsight of a Sovereign God who never fails.

Let’s Pray:
Father God, thank You that You are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I’m grateful that You love our children and grandchildren more than we do. Give us discernment and wisdom to share the truth about you through our faith stories. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Find Us Faithful” by Steve Green. Listen to it here.

~*~
Author Bio:

Joy Beless is a worshipper of God and lover of people. 


A practicing Spiritual Director, she is a speaker for retreats and conferences and facilitates guided solitude retreats at the family ranch in North Texas.

A seasoned worship leader and songwriter, she frequently weaves worship, God’s Word and spiritual practices together. She is a chapel provider for a shelter for the houseless and a certified Grief and Trauma Healing Facilitator. Serving at global retreats for Kingdom-minded women delights her soul.

She has written for Global Trellis and Missio Nexus. She connects God’s Word with the reality of our daily in all the ups and downs.

Joy is married to Roger. They live in Coppell (Texas). Joy is called "JoJo" by her nine adorable grandchildren. She enjoys the outdoors and encourages flowers to grow in the Texas heat.

~*~
Connect with Joy:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joy.beless
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/joy.beless/
Website: www.joybeless.org

Friday, July 12, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: How to let the joy of the Lord be your strength


Embracing Joy When It Seems Impossible
A devotional by Dr. LaVonda McCullough

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”—Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV)

Have you ever faced a setback or disappointment in your life?

The journey to joy can be long and complicated, but with time, effort, and patience, you will achieve it. We all seek true joy in our lives, yet sometimes it feels elusive. Joy and contentment stem from knowing our purpose and living it out. However, life’s challenges can obscure that sense of joy. I have learned that overcoming obstacles is essential to discovering true joy.

Facing emotional hurdles can be a challenge when looked at from a personal perspective. It is when we look from God’s point of view that we are able to encounter peace and put trust in God. Our complicated feelings are normal and shouldn’t be suppressed, but embraced while we cast our cares upon Jesus Christ knowing that He can and will help us navigate our paths.

Keeping the faith when our daughter faced health issues and the school accused me of poor parenting, tested my faith once again. This hurdle, although temporary, did not define my worth or ability to parent effectively, but it caused my faith to waver.
I cried, “Where are you God?” I vowed to remain focused on believing God for a miraculous healing of my daughter. I worked hard to maintain a positive outlook and stand strong. With this renewed faith, I soon began to recognize the difference between happiness and joy.

God changed the situation and restored her health. My daughter’s kidney failure was healed, and all bloodwork soon balanced. She returned to school with little disruption from the routine. This experience served as a witness to God’s healing power.

Understanding Joy

Joy isn't dictated by external circumstances; it’s a state of being that comes from within. Achieving joy involves transforming your mind. Learn to relax, avoid worrying about the future, and be kind to yourself. Realize that you are valuable and important. Forgive yourself for past mistakes, keep a gratitude journal, and focus on the good in your life.

Living a Joy-Filled Life

A joy-filled life is one of peace, positivity, and faith. If I had continued to focus on the numerous doctor’s appointments and the hours spent doing iron transfusions, my mind would have stayed in a negative state with hope for a future. However, when I started using affirmations from the Bible, it boosted my confidence and growth spiritually. While family, friends, and career can bring happiness, the peace of God surpasses all. Balancing these aspects of your life will improve your life.

Finding joy also involves knowing your true identity that is found in Jesus Christ. In difficult times, build your faith and trust in God. Trusting Him doesn’t mean you won’t face hardships, but it assures you that He is always with you. Don’t let your faith waver. Turn to God in prayer.

Be patient and gracious with yourself. Don’t give up when things get tough. The joy you seek is just beyond these obstacles. By persevering, you will find that joy is indeed attainable. Life is a journey. Take care of your health and practice self-care to withstand the emotional hurdles that come your way. Embrace joy, keep your faith, and know that you can overcome any challenge that life presents.

“The joy of the Lord is our strength” Bible promise is brought to fullness when we accept God’s provision of righteousness by grace that reunites us so we can enjoy His presence. Joy should be pursued at all costs in developing an intimate relationship with God. What appears on the surface and what we see with your visual eyes can be the enemy distracting us from God’s best in our life. If we hold fast to the truths that are given to us in the Bible, we will have strength that reaches the depths of or souls.

Let’s Pray: Gracious Lord, thank you for being a faithful God who never leaves nor forsakes us. I praise you for strengthening me when I feel weak. Please help me to focus on You and not allow distractions to remove Your peace. May the joy of salvation rule within my heart today and forever. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Joy of the Lord” (feat. Katie Torwalt, Dante Bowe & Naomi Raine) - Maverick City Music | TRIBL. Listen to it here.

~*~
Author Bio:

Dr. LaVonda McCullough is a Christian Life Coach, author, speaker and pastor who specializes in women empowerment with Christian-based approach. 


Since 2012, LaVonda has coached countless women into compete freedom, teaching them to enhance their spiritual practice. Through one-on-one Coaching, Bible Study, Prayer Walks and retreats (Joyful Journey RefresHER retreat) she teaches women how to reach the divine power within and discover their purpose.

With the foundation of her personal practice the discipline of a Daily Quiet Time, she works closely with those she coaches to develop their own intimate relationship with God. Always using a spirit-led approach, she focusing on the whole person: mind, body, and soul. LaVonda values providing a safe, loving and nurturing environment that allows those she works with to tap into the divine and commune with God themselves.

LaVonda has a deep understanding of healing through intimate relationship with God due to her personal experiences with shame, trauma, loss, and depression.

She is passionate about helping people find freedom and joy in their journey through the cultivation of spiritual practice.

Originally from North Carolina, LaVonda has traveled throughout Europe and Africa speaking about healing through the power of prayer. She has lived in Germany since 2012, where shares her life with her husband of 33 years.

LaVonda and her husband have three children.

~*~
Connect with LaVonda:
Website: https://www.lavondamccullough.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lavondamccullough/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lavondamcculloughauthor
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.de/joyfuljourneymi/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lavonda-mccullough

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Learning to focus on joy in when life is hard


Growing in the Cracks of Life
A devotional by Kathleen Rouser

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”—James 1:2-4 (WEB)

The presence of icicle pansies tends to brighten my day.

The delicate yellow, cream, and purple flowers are always lovely to see. They provide a pop of color in late fall, early spring, and sometimes through the summer. Even though they’re annuals, they’re hardy! Last year, about five icicle pansy plants had seeded themselves into the cracks of our patio.

I didn’t plant, fertilize or water them, but there they were popping up from hardpacked soil, between large slabs of concrete. The back of the house receives the morning and intense early afternoon sun. It’s exposed to the cold rain and wind. Yet, these little flowers flourished, even when they were stepped on or picked.

After a storm, I’d peek outside as I wondered about their fate. But when they dried, they perked right up, still beautiful. At some point, during the summer, I started giving them a drink each time I watered the potted flowers around them, and I marveled at how well they’d done without my help.

The first chapter of the Bible book of James reminds us that it’s the testing of our faith that produces patience and endurance, fruits that blossom with gaining spiritual maturity—much like beautiful flowers that grow well in the harshest circumstances. Testing puts our faith walk with God on the line.

Quite a few years ago, I had a tough time. It began with losing a very wanted baby through miscarriage, having to move my elderly mom away from me and closer to my sister, experiencing postpartum depression, being diagnosed with anemia, and feeling brokenhearted when my mother passed away. Soon after her death, I was diagnosed with chronic Epstein-Barr virus, which is like a prolonged mono, and my husband (Jack) fell off the roof of our house!

Completely worn out, I wasn’t sure how I’d ever take care of my husband while he recovered. The long road began with a month in the hospital for Jack, with surgeries and recovery from multiple head-to-toe fractures. While he was in a wheelchair for the next five months, learning to walk again, and then continuing rehab, God continued to intervene at every turn.

People from hundreds of miles away prayed for him and many friends also supplied us with delicious meals for us to eat until my kids missed my cooking enough to beg me to make my special recipes for them again. At the hospital, my husband chose thankfulness, despite the overwhelming pain. He even wrote thank you notes to the cafeteria staff at the hospital! We saw answered prayer and miracles almost every day. In the midst of the valley, God lifted us to the mountaintop and held us there in His arms.

We grew closer to the Lord and to each other. This fearful Christian (me), who hadn’t grown much spiritually in eighteen years, was forced to grow in my faith as tests and trials pressed in around me. For me, it was the beginning of a new stage of growth in my faith journey with Jesus Christ. I may not have chosen these trials, but God knew what He was doing as He allowed each one.

The end game God has in mind is to conform us to the image of His Son (Jesus), but will we choose to cooperate with Him? Romans 8:28-29 (WEB) says, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

I once read a book that challenged me to thank God for my trials. And I did so begrudgingly for more recent testing I’ve endured. Yet, that somehow set me free and allowed God to do a new work in me. There wasn’t instant joy by any means, but perhaps that’s what it means to “Count it all joy.” If I can look at each trial—big or small—as something that God wants to use for my good and His glory, then thankfulness and even joy may flourish.

Like the pansies in the cracks of the patio, we too can grow to be hardier and our roots deeper into our faith despite the hard circumstances around us.

Let’s Pray: Father in Heaven, help me to see that You lovingly allow the difficulties, whether big or little, into my life that I might shine brighter for You. Please give me a more thankful heart that leads to Your special kind of joy. Help me to conform into the image of Your Son. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Count It All Joy” by BeBe and CeCe Winans. Listen to it here.

~*~
Author Bio:

Kathleen Rouser is the award-winning author of Rumors and Promises, her first novel about the people of fictional Stone Creek, Michigan, and a multi-published author of historical Christian romance. She is a longtime member in good standing of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). 


Kathleen has loved making up stories since she was a little girl and wanted to be a writer before she could even read. She’s in the grip of God’s grace and is a fan of the three C’s: cats, coffee, and chocolate.

Kathleen is mother of three children. She is also a former homeschool instructor, mild-mannered dental assistant, and new Community Bible Study Children and Youth Director. Kathy lives in Michigan with her hero and husband of many years, and two sweet cats who found a home in their empty nest.

As an author, she is represented by Linda S. Glaz of the Linda S. Glaz Literary Agency.

~*~
Connect with Kathleen:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kerouser
Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/kathleenerouser
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KathleenRouser
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rouserkathy/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kerouser/_saved
Website: https://kathleenrouser.com
Mewe: https://mewe.com/i/kathleenrouser

Monday, July 8, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: A different way to view the trials we face in life


When We View Our Trials Through a Different Lens
A devotional by Aubrey Taylor

“You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you!”—Psalm 40:5 (ESV)

Here in the Western Hemisphere, it is common for a Christian to read Romans 8:28 and consider how it applies to their own life. Many of us would be surprised to realize that in other parts of the world, Christians read this promise through a very different lens. Romans 8:28 (NKJV) tells us that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

North American and European culture focuses heavily on the individual, yet there are many cultures that see everything in terms of the whole—family, community, and tribe. One might call these cultures collectivist. We often forget that the authors of the Bible lived in a collectivist culture too. This stands out in Psalm 40:5 (ESV), with King David’s use of the word us when he said, “You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us.”

This changes the way I read Romans 8:28. Perhaps when Paul says that God is working all things for the good of those who love Him, he means that God is working all things for the good of all who love Him.

From watching the lives of those who have gone before us in the faith, we know that good does not necessarily mean a favorable outcome in this life. In the past, there have been generations that have seen nothing but struggle. They died, and the promise was realized in another generation. Hebrews 11:35-40 tells us of the things believers have suffered throughout the ages. It helps to remember this part that says they “did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us” (Hebrews 11:39-40 ESV). Their suffering opened the way for future generations to believe, be saved, and encouraged through their trials.

Throughout the Biblical narrative, we can see the way all of Israel’s sufferings eventually led to the birth of Jesus Christ. Yet even this was during a time of the heavy-handed Roman occupation of Judea and the entire known world. Salvation from Rome did not come during Christ’s lifetime. After Jesus died, was resurrected three days later and ascended into Heaven, His Church on Earth began to grow and flourish. However, that resulted in Roman rule becoming more oppressive and persecution of Christians began. In this difficult time, God was not so much interested in the good of the individual, but the good of a far greater number of people—future generations that would believe in Him.

If you are suffering today, take heart. If you have had a loved one pass from this life without receiving what God has promised, don’t let your faith be shaken. Though God is certainly interested in our individual lives, our personal struggles, and our very tears (Psalm 56:8), these are not the only things He has in mind. Our suffering may be intended for something greater—the good of many.

Now with this in mind, would you join me in praying that God would help us to see our suffering through a different lens?

Let’s Pray:
Dear Lord Jesus, thank You that Your plan is being worked out in the most intricate and beautiful way. I know my story weaves in with countless others throughout time—even those that have not been written yet. When I suffer, please remind me that my struggles will be used for good in ways I do not even know. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Blessings” by Laura Story. 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!

Along with writing devotionals, Aubrey is the author of the German-perspective 20th Century Fiction series, Gott Mit Uns. She lives in Upstate New York with her husband and three children. When she’s not writing or taking care of her home and family, she enjoys singing and dancing with friends from a German choir and a Bavarian folk dancing group. She is also a lover of Jesus Christ, The Holy Bible, history, German culture, tea, and cats!

~*~
Connect with Aubrey:
Website: https://www.aubreytaylorbooks.com
Blog: https://www.aubreytaylorbooks.com/blog
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aubreytaylorbooks/
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aubtaybooks
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/aubreytaylorbooks/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21846520.Aubrey_Taylor
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/aubrey-taylor
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Aubrey-Taylor/author/B0973KWXV8

Friday, July 5, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: What to do when the storms of life assail you


When You Encounter Euroclydon

A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

“But not long after, a tempestuous headwind arose, called Euroclydon.”
—Acts 27:14 (NKJV)

There is a story in the New Testament book of Acts that tells of a storm called Euroclydon. In the Greek language, Euroclydon is a compound word joining “Euros”, meaning “East wind” and “kluzo” which according to Wikipedia, means “to billow” or I’d say to “surge, rage, or vigorously agitate”. This was what in modern terms is called a “Nor’easter” or a northeastern storm.

In this Bible story found in the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul was being transported by ship to Rome to be tried for treason and sedition. Because of his faith in Jesus Christ and his forceful preaching of the Kingdom of righteousness, he was considered to be a danger to the Roman empire.

There were 276 people aboard the ship. After being caught in the Euroclydon, they were adrift on the stormy sea for 14 days. Paul assured them that the storm would pass and they all would survive. Ultimately, the ship was wrecked and torn apart by the raging sea, but all aboard survived and were washed ashore on the island of Malta. I have been to Malta, and I have endured vicious storms at sea while stationed aboard U.S. Navy ships. Though tossed about and occasionally suffering damage from the waves that assaulted our ship, the storms eventually ended, and we always reached our next destinations.

The Bible story above is an object lesson for when storms rage into our lives. When they do, it disrupts normalcy, threatening our sanity, security and destiny. However, when we rest confidently in God’s plans and provisions for us, these storms will also pass. We will survive and ultimately thrive.

An equivalent concept in the Hebrew language is “Gam Zeh Ya’avor”, which means “this, too, shall pass”. This encouraging saying is meant to inspire optimism in the minds of people who are enduring the most trying situations. It encapsulates the paradoxes that we all endure while growing up and living life as an adult.

When we meet exceptionally bad, difficult and sad times, failure, betrayal or disappointment, it is then we must remember “This, too, shall pass.”

Just as night is followed by day and the crest of a billowing wave is followed by a trough, then another wave, this too shall pass. Remember: God will never put upon the believer more than you can bear, without providing a coping strategy (read about it in 1 Corinthians 10:13). As you go into today, whether you are on top of the world or groveling through one of life’s storms, take heart knowing that your past successes are preparation for future challenges and that your current challenges are rungs on the ladder of God ordained triumphs.

Keep your hope alive! Let optimism and confidence be like air in your lungs. They will create buoyancy and resilience that will allow you, like the people who accompanied Paul during the Euroclydon, to swim or cling to the debris of your former security until you reach the safe shores of a new reality.

Let’s Pray:
Dear God, in some way we are all sailing, floating, or struggling in the sea of your love and mercy. Deliver us all through the passing trials and storms of life, into the destiny that You have planned for us. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection:
“This Too Shall Pass” by Yolanda Adams. Listen to it here.

~*~
Author Bio:

Chaplain Anderson is the Director Emeritus of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries for the North American Division. In this role, he was the friend, advocate and gatekeeper for the profession of chaplaincy among Adventist pastors. 


His new mission is to specialize in personal and personnel development coaching.
He journeys with and guides clients, personal and corporate, as they define their goals and grow into their full potential.

His pastoral career began in the Allegheny East Conference where he was ordained.

Subsequently, he served in the Potomac Conference at the Sligo and Seabrook churches. His professional dream was to be a chaplain in the United States Navy. He got to live that dream and achieved the rank of Commander before retiring from Naval service in 2015 with 26 years of service.

Chaplain Anderson has earned four graduate degrees: He earned his Master of Divinity Degree was earned at the seminary at Andrews University. He earned a Master’s of Education from the University of Maryland and a Master’s in Sacred Theology from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C.

Chaplain Anderson and his wife Debra have been married for 41 years. They have two healthy, saved and well-adjusted adult children who picked good spouses and delivered four grandchildren.

Adventures through traveling, reading, praying, preaching, teaching and writing are the avenues of ministry and self-care that define his now and his destiny.

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

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Miracles can happen when you praise God


Power in Praise

A devotional by Mirachelle Canada

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”
—Psalm 150:6 (ESV)

In my early 20s, I didn’t fully comprehend the power of praise until I was in desperate need of God’s divine intervention on my behalf.

I was a new drama teacher on a three-year provisional teaching license, since I had been unable to pass the math section of The Praxis, the state teacher’s exam. Math and I have a love-hate relationship. I avoid it at all costs. Yet, I had been forced to take the math section three times because each time I missed the passing score by one point.

When I discovered the state had gone to a composite scoring system (combining scores for writing, reading, and math), I was elated. This meant I could take the reading section again and, by increasing my points, I could offset the math deficiency. I needed to score three points above my previous reading score to make it work.

For months, I studied the guides to The Praxis reading test. The night before the test, I knew I had done all I could do to be ready. One study guide even said not to study anything more the night before because the likelihood of absorbing anything new was low. So, I tried to relax, but my mind raced with worry. What if I didn’t get the extra points I need? I had run out of time to take the test again. This was my last shot.

Everything I tried to use as a distraction didn’t work. So, I opened my Bible and prayed. I went to the Book of Psalm and I found comfort in Psalm 18:6 (ESV), “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.”

Psalm 18 is King David’s address to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies. As I meditated on the Psalm, it hit me:

Whenever David had a problem, he prayed, worshipped, and then, he praised God. He praised God in every circumstance. In the highs, the lows, the sufferings, and yes, even the pain. He is our example of a true worshipper with a heart after God. So, I followed his example. I put on my praise and worship music and for several hours I sang, danced, wept, and praised my God.

The next morning I rose, refreshed and renewed, and took my final reading test. The rest was up to God. Weeks later, I got a notification that my scores were ready. During my lunch break I made the call. When I heard the score I couldn’t believe my ears. I had passed! Not with just three extra points, but seven above that!

Seven is God’s number of completion. I felt in my spirit that not only did He give me what I needed, but because I had taken the time to praise him despite the outcome, he honored his word in Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV), that says, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Don’t miss the most important part of those verses! He is able to do according to the power at work within us. What ignites His power within us is praise.

No matter what your situation, there is power to face it, endure it, overcome it, and change it through your praise. I guarantee it! I encourage you to take the leap of faith forward with praise. Praise Him through your tears, heartache, stress, or sorrow. As David declared in Psalm 150:6 (ESV), “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”

Praise is power. And God’s power will overcome for you! Praise the Lord!

Let’s Pray: Dear Lord, thank You for working on my behalf as I seek You in my need. I praise You with all that I have and all that I am. I praise You on the mountain and in the valley because You are worthy of all praise in every circumstance. There is no one like You, God. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.”

If you’re not sure how to praise, the song below is an excellent place to start.

Song of Reflection: “Psalm 150” by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. Listen to it here.

~*~
Author Bio:

Mirachelle Canada is a writer, playwright, screenwriter, and theatre director/producer currently residing in Northern Virginia. She earned her Master of Fine Arts in Script & Screenwriting from Regent University and is a member of Act One: Hollywood Film & Television Writing Program, ACFW, ACFW Virginia Chapter (Treasurer), The Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild, and Your Novel Blueprint. 


Mirachelle is passionate about awakening creativity and the gifts of God in everyone. Her first historical fiction novel is set during WWII, inspired by her time studying theatre education in London, England. She loves horses, cats, dogs, and all things peppermint!

~*~
Connect with Mirachelle:
Website: www.mirachellecanada.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mirachellecanada/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/miracan
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mirachellecanada/
Email: mirachelle@mirachellecanada.com

Monday, July 1, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Here's what Christianity is really about...


Is Christianity about Love?
A devotional by Jessica Brodie

“The worst thing about Christianity is the other Christians. They’re just so judgmental.”

Blatant criticism of my faith, like the sentence above, is something I see all the time on social media, and it’s getting worse. I’m quickly discovering how unpopular it is to be Christian. Many people assume Christians are “intolerant” and that we’re part of some cult with a distant or arrogant God who “lets bad things happen.” All of this is false, and it would be laughable if it weren’t so terrible.

Not that Christianity has ever been super popular. We were called uncool goody-goodies when I was a teen. But today, it’s different. It’s like the criticism has ramped up in new, wildly inaccurate ways. For some, our faith is synonymous with hate, which is the exact opposite of the truth.

The truth is that Christianity is rooted in love. Love is the very essence of God. But the world doesn’t seem to understand this right now. We need to change that. Love has God at its core. As scripture tells us, God “is love” (1 John 4:8 ESV). Love isn’t just being nice to other people. It’s also caring for them and showing mercy, listening and walking alongside another person so they do not feel alone.

But what do you do when the very notion of Christianity triggers a knee-jerk negative reaction in someone else? How can we counter the false messaging?

I think the best thing we can do is simply model the love of Jesus Christ. Jesus said people will know we his disciples if we have love for one another (John 13:35).

You can interpret that in a few ways. On one hand, maybe it means how we treat everyone, period. On the other, maybe it means by how we treat other Christians. I am not certain. But Jesus also said the most important commandment is to love God with all our heart and mind and soul, and second is to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). He emphasized love so much throughout his ministry that I interpret “others” as expansively as possible. I’d rather err on the side of love than exclusion.

Christian love is something the world really needs to see in obvious, extraordinary ways right now. We should never change our faith to please the world or cave to culture. But we need to remember the world is filled with a lot of lost people who need to know Jesus, even people who think they don’t want anything to do with Christianity. And Jesus said we are to go and make disciples of all nations, spreading the Gospel everywhere (Matthew 28:19-20).

Love is the best way we can do this. There are so many ways to love other people, and love doesn’t necessarily mean being nice and accepting. In explaining how to show our love for him, Jesus taught Peter that we are to feed his lambs and tend his sheep (John 21:15-19).

Here are a few ways that we can love others:


1. We can care for their basic needs
—food, water, shelter, healthcare, whether that is donating money to an organization that does these things or volunteering ourselves to actively feed, build or repair houses, or provide medical care.

2. We can make sure other people know that the table is open to them. God’s church is a welcome space for seekers and believers alike. Let people know your church is a safe place. They can come to Jesus better when they know they are wanted. Sometimes it might take a while for them to decide, but as the old-fashioned saying goes, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Kindness and love are far more attractive to people seeking and unsure. It doesn’t mean you need to water down the truth, but let God’s Word speak for itself. Do what Jesus did and point toward the Father and encourage people to draw closer to him. They will figure out on their own what that means.

3. We can listen to people. Spend time with them even if their views are completely different or seem wrong or even evil. Hear what they have to say. You don’t need to offer your opinion or advice unless it is requested. If someone can trust you enough to talk with you and share things with you, that is often a steppingstone for questions and, ultimately, changes of heart.

4. We can guard our words.
Be kind when you speak about other people. To use another old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Don’t gossip or spread stories or even talk too much about sin (that is, obey Jesus and don’t point fingers per Matthew 7:3-5). We all know sin is wrong. But when we talk too much about sin, it makes sin the focus when we all know God is most important. Jesus Christ is the only solution to sin. He’s the only one who can change someone’s heart. We are all lost without him.

These are just a few thoughts. Do you have others?

Together we can counter evil by spreading the message of love—the love that is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior—far and wide.

Let’s Pray: Lord, help me reflect your love in the world in my thoughts, actions, and words. Help me draw others to your saving grace by modeling your love so all can see. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection #1: “Love One Another” by Steve Green. Listen to it here.

Song of Reflection #2: “Each One Reach One” by Babbie Mason. Listen to it here.

~*~
Author Bio:

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. 


Last year, she released an Advent devotional for those seeking true closeness with God, which you can find at https://www.jessicabrodie.com/advent. Learn more about Jessica’s fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional and podcast. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.

Friday, June 28, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: God can heal, deliver and restore you


God Sees You and He Hears You
A devotional by Essie Faye Taylor

“Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.”
—2 Kings 20:5 (NIV)

Life is an adventure—to be honest, most days it can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. We can have extreme highs and extreme lows in the same year, month, week, or even the same day. God never promised that life would be easy.

He did, however, promise that He would be with us as we walk our life path. This looks like God walking with us through our personal trauma, such as a toxic relationship, abuse, divorce, a fractured relationship with our parents or addiction. God is there with us in the darkness, in the shadows, in the face of the pain and sorrow—He’s with us through it all! His presence is constant and calming. His promise to us found in Psalm 23:4 (NKJV) is, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

2 Kings chapter 20 opens by saying King Hezekiah was “sick and near death” (2 Kings 20:1 NKJV). Hezekiah was known as a good king who walked uprightly before God. Yet this righteous man is stricken with a terminal illness. Anyone reading this story in our current time era may question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

Trials and triumphs are part of the human experience. As believers in God, we are not exempt from the storms of life. However, we have hope in this life because God is always with us, and we have hope of eternal life because of Jesus Christ (John 3:16). But let’s get back to the Bible story. The prophet Isaiah was sent by God to King Hezekiah to tell him to set his house in order because he would die. After receiving such grave news, Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to God. He begged God to remember how He walked in truth and stayed loyal to God all his life. He wept before the Lord.

God was moved by Hezekiah’s prayer and the righteous life he lived. This led God to change His mind. He healed Hezekiah and extended the years of his life. The healing encounter in this Scripture assures us of God’s care for us today too.

God sees our situation and lifestyle. Nothing is hidden from our Sovereign and Omnipotent God. Scripture declares, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him" (2 Chronicles 16:9 NKJV). God had the record of Hezekiah’s life choices and uprightness before Him. His simple prayer of remembrance spoke volumes because of the life that he practiced before God. Our life speaks for us. Our choices steeped in biblical principles testify of God’s grace and goodness to the world. God honors His children. He is eager to show Himself strong and move on behalf of those who are loyal to Him. We see God changing His mind about Hezekiah’s death date because of his commitment to Him.

Our prayers, our tears, and our emotions matter to God–so much so that He is eager to answer and deliver us. Although your heart seems to be shattered into a thousand pieces, God is ready to heal your heart. Although you’re afraid of that recent diagnosis, our God is a Healer and He can restore your health. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one and the grief seems unsurmountable or unbearable. Put it in the Master’s Hand because He is the God of all comfort. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed by anxiety or depression or struggling with suicidal ideation. Nothing is too hard for our God to heal. Sometimes He doesn’t heal us while we are living on this Earth, but He will heal us completely in Heaven.

Nearly ten years ago, my youngest brother had a stroke while at his job. He was rushed to the hospital. My large family of believers gathered at the hospital and prayed for healing. In the next few days, my brother improved. Then suddenly he had an aneurysm and passed away. This saddened our hearts because we had prayed for his healing. But we need to remember that our God is Sovereign and He knows best. We rest in knowing that we will see him again in Heaven.

Call to Action:

1. Embrace the Sovereignty of God as you heal.

2. Trust God with your next knowing that He sees your situation, He hears your cries, and He can heal you in His perfect time.

3. Accept that healing from God comes in many forms. Healing can be immediate or gradual. It may look different for everyone.

4. Rest in God’s Sovereignty and know that you are safe with Him.

Let’s Pray:
Heavenly Father, You are sovereign. You know everything that is said and done in the dark and when no one else is around. You know the hidden and secret things. Nothing is hidden from You. Father God, You hear our prayers. You tell us to call You and You will answer us. You said that your ears are open to the cry of the righteous. Whatever we ask in prayer, if we believe it, we shall have it. We are asking for healing, Lord. We rest in Your sovereignty and Your promise to be with us at all times—good and bad. Help us to have faith that You will hear and answer our prayers. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Sovereign (Live)” by Chris Tomlin. Listen to it here.

~*~
Author Bio:

Essie Faye Taylor is a woman of faith. She’s a bilingual author, educator, speaker, psalmist, and interpreter. 


Essie is the author of the “Finding the Love You Deserve” series for women and teens. She is deeply committed to motivating minorities, women, and youth to heal themselves, love and accept themselves, and pursue God while chasing their dreams and carving out their life’s path.

Essie is a Chicago native where she lives with her husband Donald Taylor II.

~*~
Connect with Essie:
Website: www.essiefayetaylor.com
Amazon Author Page:
https://www.amazon.com/stores/Essie%20Faye%20Taylor/author/B09XF3TC22
Listen to Essie’s music at https://on.soundcloud.com/X6DeoRXra7YoKcC2A.
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_essie_faye/ 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/esther.tate.39
Read Essie’s YouVersion Devotion Plan here: http://bible.us/r/Abn

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: The Unfolding of God's Grand Narrative


Finding Direction in God's Grand Narrative
A devotional by Dr. Gladys Childs

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”—Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

Ever felt like you're drifting through life, lost at sea without a compass?

You're not alone. We've all hit those moments of “What am I even doing here?”

It's easy to get caught in the daily grind and lose sight of our purpose. But here's the exciting part—feeling directionless isn't a dead end; it's a signpost. It's that inner nudge pushing you to dig deeper and uncover the path God has uniquely crafted for you.

When we recognize that we are part of God's grand narrative, our perspective shifts. Instead of seeing our lives as isolated incidents, we view them as chapters in a much larger story. This understanding provides a sense of continuity and significance. The Bible is full of individuals whose lives had specific purposes within God's plan—like Moses, Esther, and Paul. Each of them understood their lives in the context of God's overarching story, which gave them direction and meaning.

This understanding transforms how we approach our daily lives. No matter how mundane, every task becomes an opportunity to participate in God's plan. Helping a neighbor, excelling in our work, or simply being present for our families takes on eternal significance when we see them as part of God's bigger picture. Our lives become a series of purposeful moments rather than random occurrences.

In a relationship with God, our values begin to align with His. Worldly measures of success—wealth, status, and power—lose their luster in the light of God's values where we prioritize love, service, humility, and integrity. Jesus Christ’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (found in the Bible book of Matthew, chapters 5-7) emphasize the blessedness of the meek, the merciful, and the peacemakers.

This shift in values profoundly impacts our decisions. We consider not just what benefits us but what glorifies God and serves others. This could mean choosing a career that aligns with our passions and talents to serve a greater good rather than one that offers a high salary. It could also mean making ethical decisions in business, prioritizing honesty and fairness over profit.

A relationship with God provides a secure foundation for our identity. Our achievements, failures, or the opinions of others do not define us. Instead, we are defined by God's love and His view of us. Psalm 139:13-14 speaks to this, where David acknowledges that God has intricately designed and known him from the beginning.

Understanding that we are God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), created for good works, helps us to embrace our unique roles in His Kingdom. Each person has specific gifts and talents, and our purpose is to use these gifts to glorify God and benefit others. This might involve acts of service, creative expression, leadership, or caregiving. The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) encourages us to use what we've been given wisely and diligently.

Experiencing Transformation


A relationship with God is transformative. As we draw closer to Him, we undergo personal growth and change. The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—begins manifesting in our lives. This growth not only benefits us but also positively impacts those around us.

Living in a relationship with God means our faith is not just a private matter but a public one. Our actions and attitudes testify to God's presence in our lives. This doesn't mean we have to be perfect, but we constantly seek to reflect God's love and grace in our interactions with others. Which can inspire and encourage those around us, drawing them towards their relationship with God.

Finding Peace and Assurance

One of the most profound benefits of a relationship with God is the peace from knowing we are walking in His purpose. This peace, described in Philippians 4:7 as surpassing all understanding, guards our hearts and minds. It helps us confidently navigate life's challenges and uncertainties, knowing that God is in control and has a plan for us.

Finally, a relationship with God assures us of an eternal purpose. We are not living for this world alone but for an eternal kingdom. This eternal perspective helps us endure hardships, remain steadfast in our faith, and live with hope. Knowing that our lives have everlasting significance provides a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment that nothing in this world can offer.

Reflect:

1. Have you felt directionless lately? How might recognizing God's grand narrative change your perspective?

2. What tasks or roles in your life can you start seeing as part of God's bigger picture?

3. In what ways can you align your values more closely with God's?

Let’s Pray: Lord, help me to see my life as part of Your grand narrative. Align my values with Yours and guide my decisions to glorify You and serve others. Let me find my identity in Your love and purpose in Your plan. Fill me with Your peace that surpasses all understanding as I walk in the good works You have prepared for me. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Glorious Unfolding” by Steven Curtis Chapman. Listen to it here.

~*~
Author Bio:

Dr. Gladys Childs is an author, speaker, religion professor, pastor's wife, and mom helping others be F.R.E.E. to Thrive© for the abundant life God has for them. She serves as Chaplain at Texas Wesleyan University and the Women’s Director at LifePoint Fellowship. She brings 25 years of experience and knowledge to her ministry. 


Gladys is frequently called authentic, witty, and candid as she shares her journey through life’s ups and downs. Her passion is meeting people at the intersection of faith and life’s difficulties. No stranger to heartache herself, she grew up in a non-church-going family with an alcoholic mother and is a trauma survivor.

Gladys holds a Ph.D. in Foundations of Education, a Master’s in Religious Education, a Master of Divinity, and a B.A. with a double major in Counseling and Psychology. Also, she is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church.

~*~
Connect with Gladys:
Website: https://www.gladyschilds.com/
Blog: https://www.gladyschilds.com/blog
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/drgladyschilds/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GladysAnnChilds
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GladysChilds
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gladyschildsauthor/

Monday, June 24, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Why we need to let Jesus Christ be our Anchor


Where is Your Anchor?
A devotional by Peg Arnold

“This certain hope of being saved is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls, connecting us with God himself behind the sacred curtains of heaven.”
—Hebrews 6:19 (TLB)

Throughout my childhood, my family spent most of our summer vacation on a spring-fed lake nestled in the wooded hills of northern Michigan.

Each day was filled with endless opportunities: hikes in the woods, fires in the fireplace, card games, hours in the water, and much more. My favorite activity as a teenage girl was sunbathing. Often, I would do this with a girlfriend, a sister, or a cousin on towels spread on the dock. Sometimes, we would swim to a raft and lie in the warm sun until we were dry. I’ll never forget the bravery it took to jump into the chilly water and swim to shore.

One day, with the sunlight shimmering on the lake like sparkling diamonds, my girlfriend and I decided to take her little sunfish sailboat out. We weren’t great sailors, but the wind was calm, so we figured the boat wouldn’t go far. We drifted aimlessly while basking in the sun, and the waves soon rocked us to sleep. How shocked we were when we opened our eyes and realized we had drifted far out of sight from our familiar shoreline!

We searched for the paddle to help guide us back to shore. Panic struck when no paddle was found, and we would need to raise the sail and navigate our way back. It took us quite a while to return home, making us understand the value of an anchor and a paddle.

Jesus Christ is referred to as an anchor. He is the source of our hope and strength in times of persecution and challenge. Jesus connects me to His power and direction. His anchor has a line providing some freedom of movement but always keeping me tethered to Him, even amid stormy seas. As my relationship grows with Christ, I become more aware of His presence and keenly sense His gentle pull when I begin to drift with the waves of distractions.

But just like the story I shared from my childhood, in my daily life as an adult, I am still vulnerable to drifting. Whether it is the winds of distractions pulling me away from tasks and relationships, the wandering thoughts sidetracking my prayer time, or the worry waves consuming my mind and causing panic and anxiety. During these times, I am much like that boat, drifting in the middle of the lake. An anchor secures me and keeps me centered on my purpose. It’s not meant to be a burden or weigh me down.

How do I keep this connection with God and not be weighed down by the world? How do I strengthen my awareness of Christ’s presence amidst the many distractions in my daily living? I’ve learned that reading devotions everyday help to center my mind and anchor my soul in God’s Word, but sometimes, I require more. Scripture encourages us to rest just like God rested on the seventh day after creating the world and all that is in it. Sabbath rest is important to help humankind stay healthy and anchored in God. I have found this concept of rest to be helpful.

Let’s return to my story about the time when me and my friend drifted far from shore. Here’s how the story ends: After the panic subsided, my girlfriend and I regrouped. She remembered putting the sail up with her dad, and we clumsily raised it as the boat rocked back and forth. We tried to catch the wind, but not being sailors, we did not understand the physics of tacking back and forth against the force of the breeze. We were burned and exhausted when we reached the shore but relieved to walk on solid ground. We definitely needed to rest!

Two lessons learned that day were the importance of being prepared for the unexpected and persevering when faced with a challenge. God promises that He will be there when we are unprepared or unsure. As our guide, He will help us find our way through difficulties by staying anchored to Him.

How do you connect with God’s hope and strength? Remember: He can be your anchor when you are drifting in the waves of distractions or tossing in the turbulence of the stormy seas.

Let’s Pray:

Dear Lord, I confess that I tend to do things by my own strength. I leave things undone, focus on the unimportant, and respond to urgent voices. Help me to place my hope and strength in You to avoid drifting to the aimless wind, be aware of Your presence, and be anchored to Your purpose and course. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

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

~*~
Author Bio:

Peg Arnold, Speaker/Author/Teacher is a Drama Queen for Jesus. 


Her vibrant, interactive, and soul-stirring messages encourage all to embrace their God-given value. As a mom, wife, nana, mentor, with a master’s in counseling, she connects on a personal basis by sharing her joys and challenges of many life experiences through her dramas, messages, and witness. Whether talking with a friend over coffee or addressing hundreds of people at a conference, her passion for equipping women is contagious.

She has published devotions on YouVersion and in the Upper Room. In addition, she has contributed to two Chicken Soup for the Soul books, three anthologies, numerous articles, and blogs. Her devotional, Devotions for the Distracted Heart, received a 2022 OASIS award.

Peg desires everyone to know that their story is important and has a purpose. She grew up in Michigan and raised her family in Maryland. Later in life, Peg and her husband relocated close to their family in Colorado.

~*~
Connect with Peg:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/arnoldpeg/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pegarnoldwow
Website: https://pegarnold.org/ Get some freebies when you visit!
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC51V_iWr0RfGAQvQnWVXEoA
Devotions for the Distracted Heart blog: https://pegarnold.wordpress.com/
YouVersion: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/22261-devotions-for-the-distracted-heart
Holiday YouVersion: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/28680-holiday-devotions-for-the-distracted-heart
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/wonderofwomen/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/peg-arnold-wow

Friday, June 21, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: God's opinion is the only one that matters

 


Work Unto the Lord

A devotional by Hannah Benson

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord, and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”—Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)

As a writer, I want everyone to love what I write. My hopes are that they will be touched, moved, pointed to Jesus Christ. But the reality is when I’m focused on pleasing people, then I’m focusing on the wrong thing.

As much as I hate to admit it, no matter how hard I try, there is always going to be someone who I can’t please. If my goal is to please mankind, then I’m going to work with a short-sighted mindset. My thoughts may range from “What does [this person] think of this?” to “Did I please [so-and-so]?”

And as a result, by trying to please everyone, I’m going to find myself dissatisfied because not everyone will be pleased. But the Bible says in Colossians 3:23 to “work heartily, as for the Lord, and not for men.”

We are called by God to fulfill His calling in our life. Sure, our work is meant to build His Kingdom and to encourage other believers, but we are not to focus on finding approval from anyone other than God. When a servant does the bidding of his master, he shouldn’t worry about what those around him think. He needs to be focused on obeying his master, regardless of what other people think.

I was reminded a while ago that even though Jesus was perfect, He didn’t please everyone either. In fact, He actually had people who hated Him and His work.

We can learn from Jesus because He focused on what His Father (God) thought of Him instead of what others thought of Him. If Christ had focused on the disapproval of a few, what might’ve happened to His ministry? Instead of focusing on people-pleasing, Jesus focused on doing the will of His Father, which allowed His ministry to grow into what God had ordained it to be.

I want to encourage you today with these words: Don’t focus on pleasing the crowd but instead, zero in on pleasing Your Creator (God). He alone has called you to good works and retains the right to define you.

It can be so tempting to compare ourselves to someone else, but the truth is, we’re not to compare our best to someone else’s best. God has gifted each of us with individual talents. In the realm of writing, for example, my style of writing may be different than yours, but God can use both of us to minister to people.

When we’re following the call of God and truly giving Him our best, then that’s enough. Even if it looks different from someone else’s best.

Sometimes when I’m sitting down to write, I struggle with wondering if it is “good enough” or if it will impact anyone. I’ve learned though that when I do my best and give the results to God, He’ll do the rest. Most often when my writing feels inadequate to me, God will send someone who shares with me the impact it had on their life. This reminds me that apart from God, my work is inadequate. Only God can give my work meaning and allow it to have an impact on people.

It's hard for me, but I’m slowly learning to trust God with the outcome and to remember to always work to please God, not mankind (2 Corinthians 5:9).

Let’s Pray:

Dear Father God, please forgive me for forgetting that Your opinion is the only One that matters! Forgive me for living a life to please others when I should be living to please You. Thank You that Your opinion is the only One that matters. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Proud” by Influence Music and Melody Noel. 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 follow God’s calling to pursue writing seriously. Hannah is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). In addition to fiction, she also writes devotionals and has been published on other websites. Her prayer is that her readers leave deeply encouraged and more in love with Jesus.

When not writing, Hannah also enjoys being involved with local theater companies, with a primary focus on Biblical theater. She wants to show the love of Jesus through the creative arts.

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:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/people/Hannah-Lynn-Writer/100073790792576/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hannahlbensonwrites/

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Finding peace when life throws curveballs


Life’s Curveballs Don’t Surprise God
A devotional by Sarah Cole

“Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”—John 16:31-33 (NIV)

Have you noticed that, as you age, you lose things more easily?

When I walk past the pile of orphaned earrings and socks lying on my dresser, it reminds me that I need to pay closer attention to what I’m doing. At least I haven't lost my mind! Sometimes, all it takes is missing earrings to send my anxiety through the roof. But earrings are replaceable compared to the losses that leave me broken, discouraged, and alone. In a perfect world, we’d never lose anything, and trials and tragedies wouldn’t destroy our lives. It would be like Heaven on Earth.

I desperately wish that were my story’s narrative, but then God wouldn’t get the glory when He becomes the hero of it, and I wouldn’t be who I am today. Maybe you know just what I mean.

Several years ago, I experienced three concussions each September for three years, the result of accidents I never saw coming. Migraines and vertigo kept me from driving, using my laptop, and sitting through my church’s worship service.

One day, I asked my friend to have a coffee because I was having a pity party and needed a listening ear. I’ll never forget what she said to me: “Why not you, Sarah?” Her words revealed a depth of character refined in the crucible of caregiving. Her husband was battling dementia, a curveball she couldn’t predict, yet God gave her the strength to live out her less-than-perfect story.

After a five-year recovery, God restored me. I now can drive for as long and as far as I want. I no longer get migraines or vertigo. And I’ve learned this: When life hits us out of nowhere, Jesus Christ saw the curveballs coming from a million miles away. We have hope because He promises to restore everything, if not while we are living on Earth, then when we are in Heaven. Instead of fixating on our pain, we can experience peace by fixing our eyes on Him.

Let’s Pray:


Dear Heavenly Father,

When life leaves me with more questions than answers, I’m reminded that You don’t allow something to happen without turning it around for my good and your glory. When nothing seems to go right, I’m grateful everything works out in Your perfect timing. Instead of dwelling on what I can’t fix, I will fix my eyes on the God who sees me and loves me. Thank You, God, that Your perfect plan is falling into place. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Take it to Jesus” by Anna Golden feat. Kari Jobe. Listen to it here.

~*~
Author Bio:

Sarah Cole’s interest in writing began in grade school when her poem was published in the local paper. 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 her cocker spaniel Gigi was published in Mysterious Ways by Guideposts. She believes her adversity was worth the lessons God taught her.

Sarah's devotionals have been published in David C. Cook’s The Quiet Hour and Devotions, The Secret Place by Judson Press, and Pray a Word a Day by Guideposts. Her short story will be featured in an upcoming book, Too Amazing For Coincidence, also to be published by Guideposts. To this day, Sarah smiles, pinches herself and gives God all the glory.

When she's not writing, she's enjoying her hobbies that include dog sitting, watching cooking shows and taking day trips.

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Connect with Sarah:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/smittyc65
Twitter: https://twitter.com/@SarahCo45835279
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarah.cole.52

Monday, June 17, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: How difficulties help us grow stronger


Don’t Deviate from the Difficult
A devotional by Sharon Musgrove

“Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.”
—James 1:2-4 (TLB)

When my son, John, was around eight months old, he was making strong headway toward being independently mobile by pulling himself up from sitting to standing. Not really crawling yet, still he was making progress. And then Zachary arrived.

Cousin Zachary was six months older than John and he was walking. In those weeks while Zachary stayed with us, John quit trying to crawl, devoting all his energy to becoming ambulatory. John was no longer content with his unhurried pace of development, suddenly a fire was lit to be upright.

But it turns out that crawling is beneficial to both muscular and psychological maturity. Skipping this stage is thought to inhibit full brain development. When we, like my young son, see someone succeeding at something we want for ourselves, we can be tempted to take the shortcut. However, bypassing the difficult route requires of us a couple things: deviation and double-down.

Deviation might look like shifting priorities, shirking responsibility, quitting current tasks, and avoiding accountability. It might mean breaking promises, or not being completely honest. Maybe deception...even if just self-deception.

Double-down is the extra energy required to get somewhere faster than normal. Symptoms could be longer work hours, skipping breaks, feeling driven, irritability, or feeling put-upon.

Achievements arrived by shortcut methods are typically short-lived because they lack the muscle of steadfastness to maintain the level of success attained. The shortcut is also short-sighted. Our maturity requires that we go through the challenges that build strength of character. While it’s human nature to choose the least painful routes or be tempted to skip ahead, the very process of falling down and getting back up develops the stability we need to withstand the next level of growth.

In his letter to fellow followers of Jesus Christ, James suggests that we can consider the hard way through life as the best way due to the amount of spiritual muscle we achieve along the way. Difficulties produce patience. And patience helps us endure through every future challenge. It’s a strength we take with us on the rest of our journey.

My little son John took many tumbles in his efforts to walk. At some point, though, he found himself on his hands and knees and realized he could crawl after all. He didn’t stay on all fours for long, but it was there that he got what he needed to advance toward his next adventure.

When we find ourselves knocked down, it’s best we be honest with ourselves about where we are and why. We are not completed yet. And there’s no shame in continuing to be a work-in-progress. Rather we can be happy about the opportunity to practice a while longer! Before we know it, a greater level of challenge will come and we will be glad God was developing such strength in us.

Let’s Pray:
Heavenly Father, You know what is best for us and You direct us to walk in the way we should go. Help us to remember that Your ways are higher (wiser) than our ways and that we do well to trust You...always. Thank You for walking along side us in our challenges. Thank You for not abandoning us...especially in our foolishness. Continue to guide our steps and to bless our spiritual muscles as we follow You. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection:
“Walk With You” by Michael Bethany. Listen to it here.

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Author Bio:

Sharon Musgrove 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 was 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 the great need for encouragement and connection. Within ministries served, Sharon has witnessed the transformative power of loving words spoken to the broken-hearted. Sharing God’s love and building cross-cultural communities has become her passion.

In her leisure time, Sharon enjoys nature, deep conversations, 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, writing devotionals for other websites, and is working on a nonfiction book titled The Whole-Of-Us: Putting Church Back Together.

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Connect with Sharon:
Email: sharon@sharonmusgrove.com
Website: Sharonmusgrove.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Sharon-Musgrove-Untethered-102208978041060
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sharonkmusgrove/

Friday, June 14, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Finding Faith and Joy in Every Season


Embracing Faith and Finding Joy in Every Season

A devotional by Dr. LaVonda McCullough

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand, you save me."–Psalm 138:7 (NIV)

Has your faith ever wavered?

Perhaps joy seems elusive, slipping through your fingers even though you long for the joy God promises. There have been days that I have felt the same way.

Building faith and discovering joy is a journey, one we embark on with small steps each day. Discovering joy with life's challenges is genuine and attainable. The Holy Bible assures us that joy is found in the presence of God, even during difficult times. Trusting in God's guidance, we find safety and comfort, no matter the challenges we face. Therefore, let’s celebrate the joy found in God's presence, confident that He is always with us, guiding and supporting us through every moment.

Through His boundless love and grace, we can experience joy in all circumstances. When I began to internalize these principles and let them transform me, I found peace. I learned how to connect my head knowledge with my heart. Joy could not be sustained if it was always based on my situation or circumstances.

It’s not always easy to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, or faithful in prayer, but embodying these qualities changes our lives profoundly. In tough times, building your faith and trust in God is crucial. Trusting God doesn’t mean you’ll never face difficulties, but it does mean He will always be with you. When your faith feels shaky, turn to God and seek His help.

There are many ways to strengthen your faith during challenging times. Here’s a shortlist:

1. Spend Time with God: Engage in reading the Bible, praying, and worshipping Him. This daily practice anchors your soul.

2. Serve Others: Acts of service are beautiful reminders of God's love and His call for us to help those in need.

3. Connect with a Faith Community:
Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who share your faith, drawing strength and encouragement from their support.

4. Gratitude: Become intentional to write down things you are grateful for daily.

If you're struggling to trust God, remember that He is always faithful. He loves you deeply and desires the best for you. Don’t give up on Him; keep seeking His will for your life. Trusting in God is essential for a fulfilling life. Hold on to your faith tightly, believing that God will carry you through any challenge.

In every moment, let us walk with faith, celebrate God's presence, and embrace the joy He offers, confident that He preserves our lives and guides us with His loving hand.

Let’s Pray: Father God, when my heart feels sad and my faith wavers, please grant me your peace. Help me to meditate on Your Word so that it is hidden in my heart, strengthening my faith. May I be an instrument of love that will point others to you and embrace the joy of my salvation. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection:
“Seasons (Live)” by Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers. Listen to it here.

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Author Bio:

Dr. LaVonda McCullough is a Christian Life Coach, author, speaker and pastor who specializes in women empowerment with Christian-based approach. 


Since 2012, LaVonda has coached countless women into compete freedom, teaching them to enhance their spiritual practice. Through one-on-one Coaching, Bible Study, Prayer Walks and retreats (Joyful Journey RefresHER retreat) she teaches women how to reach the divine power within and discover their purpose.

With the foundation of her personal practice the discipline of a Daily Quiet Time, she works closely with those she coaches to develop their own intimate relationship with God. Always using a spirit-led approach, she focusing on the whole person: mind, body, and soul. LaVonda values providing a safe, loving and nurturing environment that allows those she works with to tap into the divine and commune with God themselves.

LaVonda has a deep understanding of healing through intimate relationship with God due to her personal experiences with shame, trauma, loss, and depression.

She is passionate about helping people find freedom and joy in their journey through the cultivation of spiritual practice.

Originally from North Carolina, LaVonda has traveled throughout Europe and Africa speaking about healing through the power of prayer. She has lived in Germany since 2012, where shares her life with her husband of 33 years.

LaVonda and her husband have three children.

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Connect with LaVonda:
Website: https://www.lavondamccullough.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lavondamccullough/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lavondamcculloughauthor
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.de/joyfuljourneymi/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lavonda-mccullough