Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Wisdom

Gaining Wisdom Through Repetition

A devotional by Heidy De La Cruz

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
—Matthew 7:24-25 (NIV)

Have you ever read a book or a Bible study several times because the content was so captivating?

I did the Bible study “Create in Me a Heart of Wisdom” by (in)courage ministries twice because it was that good! And I’ll probably read through it again multiple times because there is wisdom in this study, practical steps to gain wisdom, and reminders that God is our ultimate source of wisdom.

Through this study, I’ve learned two important facts: not everyone is wise and not everyone will gain wisdom. However, if put into practice, like habits, timing, and repetition, everyone who wishes to be wise can gain wisdom. In week five of this study, the writer (Melissa Zaldivar) talks about how wisdom is learned through practice.

Zaldivar wrote, “I learned that a habit is built when we commit to doing the same thing more than once. When it comes to wisdom, we don’t only have to consider or apply it one time. No, we have the chance to really build that muscle by continually turning to Jesus and asking Him what’s best.”

When I read that, it hit me hard because I recently experienced health issues with my son, and I must admit I didn’t turn to God first for answers. It wasn’t until the situation was becoming desperate that I turned to God and prayed for wisdom and guidance. That, my friends, should have been my first step. That’s wisdom. That needs to become a habit for me and for all of us.

Think about the last time you went through hardship. Did you seek God first for guidance and answers? If not, this is a habit that needs to be built, and it’s done with practice and with time. Part of wisdom is knowing that we must run to God first with every inconvenience. Yes, He places people in our lives to guide us and provide advice, but in the end, we need to discern and ask Him if that advice is Godly or not.

After running to God, asking for guidance, and asking for prayers from people in my circle, things started to take a turn. The light was starting to show at the end of the tunnel, but in the middle of the darkness, it was hard. God didn’t promise we wouldn’t go through hardships, but He promised to be there with us. The wisdom I gained in this situation is that I need to create the habit of going to God first with everything. It was something I forgot.

So today, I am giving you this reminder to go to God first. Go to Him for everything and anything. Let’s make it a habit to have a continuous conversation with Him throughout our day. Go to Him first, especially for the hard stuff. He has the answer for it all.

Let's Pray: Lord, I pray for whoever is reading this and may be in the middle of something hard. Remind them to go to You first. I pray that everyone reading this devotional today will gain the wisdom and the habit of going to God first whenever challenges come up and whenever an answer is needed. Thank you, God, for the challenges we go through, as they make us stronger and provide wisdom. Remind us that we cannot do anything without You but we can do everything with you. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Perfect Wisdom of Our God” by Keith & Kristyn Getty. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Heidy De La Cruz is a published writer/author and podcaster. She writes the weekly newsletter “Into My Thoughts” on Substack where she shares personal development content, life experiences with life lessons, and faith-based encouragement posts.

Heidy is the host of “The American Dream in The Eyes of Immigrants Podcast” where immigrants share their stories about moving to the United States. She is also a podcast coach and helps those who desire to host their own show launch.

Heidy holds a master’s degree in healthcare administration and a bachelor's degree in Psychology. She works as a Medical Coding Analyst.

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

Connect with Heidy:

Monday, January 29, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: How to truly appreciate the gift of today

The Gift of Today
A devotional be Kayla de Jong

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
–Psalm 118:24 (ESV)

I know God blesses me each day more than I can possibly thank Him for. This is true even on my hardest days. I am blessed more than I deserve! I admit I do not give God all the rightful glory when I finally do take a moment to look beyond the negatives in life and relish in the positive.

Fear has been a sin I have been working with God on overcoming my entire life. Maybe you call it something different: anxiety, worry, dread, distractedness, panic, unease. No matter what fancy name you give it, it’s still fear and God calls us to not let it consume us. I know I’m not the only person who struggles with fear. Based on the many instructions in the Bible to not fear, it seems like fear has been a struggle for most of humanity’s existence.

Fear has many consequences, not the least of which is the inability to be present with others and with God. If I am worrying about past mistakes or dreading future uncertainties, then I am not surrendering to God and asking Him how I can serve Him. I am not able to give my attention to the hurting people around me. News flash: Every single person on this Earth is hurting in some way. Every single person needs someone to be present with them, whether that means giving a hug and sharing a prayer or listening to burdens being unloaded or giving Biblical advice.

Fear is actually a selfish, arrogant way of thinking we know better than God and that we have to figure out all our problems without His help. Maybe we subconsciously think He won’t help us with our problems because they are too embarrassing or insignificant. The next time a fearful thought pops into your mind, remind yourself that God views fear as sin and choose to be present with Him. Start thanking Him for every blessing, great and small.

I’ve heard it said that in order to break a bad habit, you must start a good habit to replace it. My encouragement to you (and myself), is to break the cycle of fear by being present with at least one person each day. Cast aside all worrisome thoughts and invest in someone spiritually. By and by, your anxieties will dim in comparison to the love and compassion you feel for others and the joy that comes from fellowship. That being said, also strive to cut out of your life anything that causes you to distrust God: certain TV shows or movies, songs, books, podcasts, social media. Maybe you will be able to handle those things after you have grown spiritually, but right now, view them as the stumbling blocks that they are.

May we each be reminded daily that our problems are small compared to our blessings. And may God show us how to bless others with our blessings and be there for others as Jesus Christ would. Let’s make this a daily goal! If you are like me, you want practical advice. So here ya go:

Tip #1: Start a prayer journal that is only used for thanking God, instead of all the things you want to ask God to do for you.

Tip #2: Ask someone a specific way you can pray for them and then do it! Whether it’s a phone call or in person, say that prayer out loud so that the other person can hear you blessing them.

Tip #3: Offer to hug or lend a listening ear—or both—to someone who seems depressed.

Remember: You don’t have to be a Bible scholar or perfect person to offer a comforting Scripture to someone who is having doubts or questions. Perhaps consider purchasing a devotional for that person and offer to read it together.

In closing, consider this quote by Bill Keane: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

Just imagine how much better the world would be if we all started being more present with each other and with God! I believe people would feel more loved, more seen, more heard, more empathetic, and more grateful, among other things. When we take time to appreciate this gift from God called “today”, we also have the opportunity to help others and impact the world in a positive way!

Let’s Pray:

Dear Lord,

Help me to be present today by being thankful in every moment—even the hard ones—and give You the glory You deserve. Thank You for helping me through my fearful, sinful ways and molding me into a grateful servant who is present with the people around me. Deliver me from negative thoughts and help me to focus on the good You’ve blessed me with in this life on Earth. 

In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song for Reflection: “Thank You” by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Hi! I’m Kayla de Jong! 

I’ve lived in Indiana my whole life and was blessed to have been raised in a Christian household. I have an associate degree in library science and have worked in various libraries for over six years. I love reading and writing!

I have mostly written poems, some of which were published in the compiled works of a local writers guild. I am in the middle of seeking a new career. I would love to be an author, artist, or journalist. But most of all, I would love to be a stay-at-home mom someday.

Connect with Kayla:

Friday, January 26, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: How to be healed according to God's Word

Healing Solutions and Healing Community
A devotional by Essie Faye Taylor

“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”
—James 5:14-15 (ESV)

Ever since I could remember, I’ve believed in the healing power of prayer in my faith community. As a child, if I scraped my knee or had a “boo-boo”, I remember running to my dad or mom and asking them to pray for my healing. Somehow I always believed that healing resided in community prayer and it made hurtful things better. I believed the truth of God’s Word and I acted in faith to receive His promise of healing.

Today I challenge you to do the same. I challenge you to fight through the doubt. I admonish you to not be moved by what you see, but to instead be moved by what you can’t see: faith. The faith of a child is so pure. Children can give and receive so readily because they haven’t yet experienced the hurt and disappointment of life’s trials that most adults have. As a result, most adults are guarded. We doubt the truth of God’s promise of healing, repair, restoration, and recovery. But God’s healing solutions within the faith community are certain.

In James 5:14-15, the author (James) provides several healing solutions to illness within the faith community. He recommends that people who are ill go to a church elder for a healing. It is important to engage in intergenerational fellowship. Some healing can only come with the help of a healthy relationship with a safe and respected elder. Elders carry wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and experience. All of these gifts provide safety and recovery.

James continues by saying that the elders will anoint the ill person with oil and pray over him or her. The oil represents a blessing or covering. Many elders provide oversight for those under their care. They have foresight and insight regarding life’s circumstances. The elder’s prayer represents agreement and intercession to God.

The Holy Bible says if we touch and agree on anything, it shall be done (Matthew 18:19). There is power in agreement that unlocks blessings that are certain. When there is intergenerational agreement, much can be accomplished within each person and within the community. The elders are to bless the younger generation. This act facilitates healing for the mind, body, and soul. As the elder and the ill person partner with God in obedience to His Word, healing is released. The prayer of faith saves the sick and the Lord raises him or her up. Additionally, if the sick person has sinned, they are forgiven.

Call to Action:

1. Acknowledge the healing solutions within your Bible-based faith community. There is safety, health, wealth, and wisdom in your faith community.

2. Access the power of intergenerational relationships. Scripture tells the older to teach the younger. God called the young because they are strong. He called the old because they are wise and they know the way. We need each other. (1 John 2:14)

3. Receive God’s healing solutions by activating your faith, believing God’s Word, obeying the Word of God.

4. Remember, healing belongs to God’s children. (Mark 7:27)

Let’s Pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, You are the Lord our God who heals us. By the stripes of Jesus Christ we are healed. You sent your Word and healed the sick and delivered them from destruction. Heal us and we shall be healed! We praise Your Holy Name, Jesus! Increase our faith in Your Word. We believe, but help our unbelief. Help us to walk by faith, even when our circumstances seem hopeless. Help us access your healing solutions within our faith community. We thank You for it. In the mighty Name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Broken But I'm Healed” by Byron Cage. 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:
Amazon Author Page:
Listen to Essie’s music at
Instagram: on Instagram
Read Essie’s YouVersion Devotion Plan here:

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Prayer has transformative power for me and you

Unveiling the Purpose in Prayer
A devotional by Gladys Childs

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”
—Ephesians 3:14-16 (ESV)

It's easy to get caught up in the daily grind. The world bombards us with challenges, uncertainties, and the constant pursuit of success. We might find ourselves overwhelmed, grappling with unseen battles that threaten to weigh down our spirits. Our hearts cry out during these moments for strength, purpose, and resilience.

Enter the transformative power of prayer. Ephesians 3:16 (ESV) reminds us to pray for strength: “that according to the riches of his glory, he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” This verse invites us to tap into a source of strength beyond ourselves. Our hearts become vessels for God's power to work wonders when anchored in prayer.

Imagine your heart as a garden. This garden may face droughts, storms, and the wear and tear of everyday challenges. The worldly perspective might encourage us to fortify the garden with external defenses, attempting to shield it from the harsh elements. However, the biblical counterpoint in Ephesians 3:16 invites us to a different approach: a transformation from within.

This is not about building external walls or barriers, but nurturing something more profound and resilient within us. It's a subtle yet profound shift, moving from a mindset of mere survival to thriving, even in the face of adversity. With all this in mind, let us look at how this transformation from within can occur by focusing on six points from my heart to yours.

Point #1: Beyond Surface-Level Strength
Prayer is not merely a tool for surface-level strength. It goes beyond a temporary boost to face the day; it's an invitation to the Creator of humankind to tend to the garden of our hearts. The prayerful heart seeks to withstand challenges and bloom and flourish amid them.

Point #2: Shaping Character and Virtue
As we pray for strength from the Holy Spirit, our inner being undergoes a metamorphosis. The weeds of doubt, fear, and insecurity are uprooted, allowing into us the seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as detailed in Galatians 5:22–23. Our character transforms into a reflection of God's attributes when we have the Fruit of the Spirit within us.

Point #3: Aligning with God's Purpose

The purpose of prayer isn't just to make us feel good or powerful; it's to align our hearts with God's purpose for our lives. Our prayers become conversations with the Master Gardener, allowing Him to prune away what hinders our growth and nurture the fruits that contribute to His grand design.

Point #4: Impacting the World Around Us
A heart strengthened through prayer doesn't operate in isolation. Like a river flowing from a mountain, the mighty heart shapes the landscape around it. Our transformed hearts become conduits of God's love, impacting our relationships, communities, and spheres of influence. The world witnesses the beauty of a heart surrendered to divine cultivation.

Point #5: Embracing Resilience and Purpose
Prayer equips us with a resilience that surpasses worldly understanding. It's not a guarantee that challenges won't come, but a promise that we won't face them alone. The powerful heart, rooted in prayer, embraces challenges as opportunities for growth, weaving purpose into every twist and turn of life's journey.

Point #6: Surrendering to the Master Gardener
Ultimately, the reflective journey of prayer involves surrender. It's about entrusting the garden of our hearts to the Master Gardener, who knows the perfect seasons for growth, pruning, and blooming. In surrender, we acknowledge that true power comes not from our efforts alone but from yielding to the divine transformation process.

As you reflect on the transformative power of prayer, envision your heart as a thriving garden tended to by the hands of the Creator. May this reflection inspire you to approach prayer not as a duty but as a sacred dialogue that shapes your heart into a powerful force for God's glory.

Let’s Pray:

Dear Lord, we come before You with open hearts, ready to receive the strength and power only You can provide. Amid life's struggles, we seek a powerful heart that beats in rhythm with Your love and purpose. Strengthen us, Lord, with the light of your Holy Spirit, infusing our inner beings with resilience, courage, and unwavering faith. May our prayers be more than petitions; may they be conversations that transform us from the inside out. Let our hearts beat with the purpose You have designed for us, shaping our lives into testimonies of Your grace and power. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song for Reflection: “The Garden” (Acoustic) by Kari Jobe. Listen to it here.

Recommended Reading: The Garden Within: Where the War with Your Emotions Ends and Your Most Powerful Life Begins (book) by Dr. Anita Phillips. Visit the author’s website for more information. Here’s the link,

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:

Monday, January 22, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Why you should store your treasures in Heaven

Where is Your Treasure?
A devotional by Peg Arnold

“Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”—Matthew 6:19-21 NLT

Early one freezing winter morning, we were on our way to the Denver airport taking my brother and his wife to catch a 7 a.m. flight. On the way there we reminisced about the wonderful memories made on their first visit to our new home. Suddenly, another vehicle crashed into our car. We shook in our seats as the right side of our car swung up, then veered and hit the cement construction barrier wall on the left. We feared we would flip over as our car was dangerously balanced on the two right wheels and continued to move forward.

My husband skillfully maneuvered the vehicle to the shoulder. We all spoke at once: “Is everyone okay?” “What just happened?” “A car came out of nowhere and hit us.” “Look at the passenger window!”

Shattered glass covered the dashboard and front seat. We breathed a sigh of relief as we realized we were not hurt nor dead, saying, “Thank you, Lord, we are okay!”

Despite being shaken up, I quickly dialed 911 to report the incident. My brother, however, scheduled an Uber to pick them up at the accident location. The next few hours were a flurry of activity. The Uber driver arrived before the policeman! We shivered outside as we talked with police, EMTs, firefighters, tow truck drivers, and insurance agents as the traffic on the busy highway flew by. Finally, we headed home crammed into the back seat of a truck cab, with our demolished car on the rear bed.

Once home, I wandered about aimlessly and finally cuddled in a blanket. I shared the harrowing experiences with family and friends, reliving the situation as a bad dream. Yet, as I looked at the pictures of the demolished car that hit us, God gently calmed my nerves, soothed my mind, and revealed new perspectives. First, I praised Him for protecting us. Despite the extreme damage to the cars, the personal injuries were minimal. God safeguarded all involved, even though the accident occurred on a dark, busy highway.

Did you ever wake up with plans only to have a sudden crash derail everything? Life precariously balances on two wheels, and you hang on, uncertain of what the next step will bring. In these moments, when our world turns upside down, it's not our strength but the comfort and hope of God that sustains us.

Unfortunately, this situation isn’t over for us because we still have the inconvenience of no car to drive, the insurance paperwork to complete, doctor's appointments to keep, and the cost of vehicle repairs or replacement. This all takes time, and there are many emotions to process when we experience unexpected traumatic events that destroy our material things.

Through this ordeal, God brought a familiar scripture to mind. It is not one I would have considered in this situation but it proves true. Matthew 6:19-21 (NLT) says, “Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

This message warns us not to fret about material things but to focus on God's kingdom first. Sometimes, this is difficult when those items are critical to your lifestyle and impact your finances. But I think it is God's reminder to prioritize our relationship with Him and value the fragility of life.

Where is my treasure after experiencing this unexpected event? My heart desires to nurture my relationship with God and others while lifting praises for His provision. I often don't get it right, but I am grateful for God's wisdom, guidance, and patience as I learn these life lessons.

Let’s Pray:

Dear Lord, 

When we encounter a situation that unexpectedly and precariously flips our lives, help us cling to Your promises. You are t he strength that sustains us, the comfort that supports us, and our hope for the future. Help us not give in to worries and anxiousness about material inconveniences each day. But instead, focus on the treasures of connection with You and others. 

In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Angels” by Amy Grant. 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:
Website: Get some freebies when you visit!
Devotions for the Distracted Heart blog:
Holiday YouVersion:

Friday, January 19, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Why we should always count our blessings

Counting My Blessings
A devotional by Hannah Benson

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”—Philippians 4:11 (ESV)

These words were penned by the Apostle Paul as a letter to the other apostles in Philippi, during his imprisonment for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Physically, Paul was likely very much in need, yet he wrote, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

It might be hard to imagine anyone content in prison. But Paul, by the grace of God, found reason to rejoice! Such as when, during a different imprisonment as chronicled in the book of Acts, Paul and his friend Silas shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the jailer. How many of us would think of singing hymns and sharing the Gospel while in jail like they did during that time?

Maybe you are not in a physical prison, but is there an area of your life where you might find yourself experiencing discontentment. Maybe you compare your financial status to your co-worker or your relationship status to those younger than you.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve found myself wrestling with discontentment. But discontentment only steals my joy. When I’m so focused on what I don’t have rather than what I do, I’m not grateful for the gifts that God has given me.

If you read my devotionals that I wrote last year, you may remember that my Mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer earlier in 2023. Even during such a frightening time, we had so much to be grateful for: the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, brothers and sisters in Christ who rallied around us, the right doctors whom God provided to perform various surgeries at the right time. Yes, all of us—including our Mom—were thankful for the painful ovarian cyst even though it had left her immobile for months. Why?

Because it preceded the discovery of cancer. Without the pain it caused, we wouldn’t have known she had cancer until it was too late. After walking through cancer as a family, I truly believe there is there nothing we could go through where we cannot find God (Psalm 139:8). Romans 8:38-39 (ESV) says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That alone is reason enough to rejoice and be grateful!

If Paul could be content within the walls of a prison and have a heart filled with gratitude knowing nothing can separate him from the love of Christ, then perhaps we too can learn to be content no matter what we’re facing.

Let’s Pray:
Dear Father God, I know that the boundary lines for me have fallen in pleasant places (Psalm 16:6). Please help me to be content and trust You. Please help me keep counting my blessings and finding reason to be thankful no matter what circumstances I may find myself in. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Counting My Blessings” by Seph Schleuter. 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:

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Celebrating Jesus Christ after Christmas is over

Keeping the Christ of Christmas in Our Hearts
A devotional by Cyndi Staudt

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”—Colossians 3:16 (NIV)

Decorations begin to make their descent, lights dim, schedules free, excitement wanes and things settle back into a more regular rhythm. If we’re honest, it can feel downright depressing to realize the sparkle and celebration of the Christmas season and anticipation of the new year are gone and we have 364 days till we encounter it again.

Countless posts pop up on social media surveying the acceptable time to take down decorations as if searching for someone to grant them permission to leave them up just a little longer. Radio stations have resumed their regularly scheduled programming, replacing the familiar melodies of Christmas carols, strains of "Silent Night", and pondering “Mary Did You Know?” Store shelves are lined with products for the upcoming holidays: red and pink hearts for Valentine’s Day in February, green shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day in March, and in some stores, colorful eggs and bunnies for Easter in April!

It makes me wonder…have we compartmentalized Christmas to a day or few weeks in December or a cameo appearance in July? Are we being intentional about making Jesus Christ “the reason for the season” but not letting Him be Lord in our everyday lives? As we move away from December 25 and step over the threshold of a new year, are we intimately aware that Immanuel (“God with us”) is not just the baby in the manger but He is actually with us always, every day in every year? Do we remember that the birth of Jesus is just the beginning of His rescue mission here on Earth?

God has always desired to be with us. From the first moments with humankind’s First Parents (Adam and Eve) in the Garden of Eden, to the first Christmas when Jesus made His debut in the manger located in Bethlehem. God has always been about fellowship with His children. When Adam and Eve chose to sin over obeying God, an act that threatened to permanently separate humans from their Creator, He immediately set in motion a plan to win us back. When our sin separated us from Him, Jesus came to Earth to be here with us (John 3:16-17).

But that is not the end of the story! It’s what Jesus did after His arrival on Earth that secured our salvation and a promised home in Heaven when Jesus returns to take us there. The miracle of the virgin birth was followed by a myriad of miracles carried out by Jesus during His earthly ministry, culminating in the resurrection that fulfilled countless prophecies. All of these are worth celebrating and great reasons to focus on Jesus all year long, not just at Christmastime.

So how do we prevent losing the wonder and awe of the Christmas season after the decorative lights have dimmed, the nativity scenes have been stored away, and the trees have been taken down? We spend time in God’s Word (The Holy Bible) regularly. We speak to Him in prayer continuously. We remember that the birth of Jesus, while miraculous, is anticlimactic if He had never made it to the Cross, was laid in the tomb, or rose again on the third day. The excitement that builds during Advent doesn’t reach its peak with the birth of Jesus. On the contrary, that signals He is just getting started. It simply sets in motion the earthly journey of our Jesus to fulfill His rescue mission for us.

So this year, amidst the setting of resolutions and choosing a word of the year, let’s not forget to keep Jesus at the forefront of our minds and a priority in our daily activities. As the calendar continues its march forward let’s allow our minds to rest not solely on the baby in the manger but on the risen Christ and everything in between. Let’s remember what it took to win us back, the sacrifice He made, and the price He paid. You see, Jesus is “God with us” from the cradle to the cross, from everlasting to everlasting. He is the reason for every season. Salvation could not have happened had He not incarnated in humble circumstances and chose to stay on that Cross until His work was finished. And that’s worth celebrating every day!

Let’s Pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, Holy God: Thank you for being Immanuel, God with us, at Christmas and all year long. As our hearts reflect on Jesus Christ’s incarnation at Christmas, help us remember that He didn’t stay in the manger. Remind us that His life on Earth was for a specific purpose: to secure our salvation so we could spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Help us keep Jesus the number one priority in our lives every day of the year, immersing ourselves in His Holy Presence and perfect peace. In Jesus’s Name we pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Day After Christmas” by Matthew West. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Cyndi Staudt, founder of Walking the Walk Ministries, is a Kingdom-focused writer, speaker, and coach, passionate about helping women worldwide awaken their hearts to see their God-given purpose and thrive in their walk with Christ.

With a desire to cultivate a craving for God's Word, her writing is saturated with faith and hope to stir your soul to connect with God in deeper, more intimate ways.

Through her writing, speaking, and coaching she hopes to ignite your eagerness to pursue God passionately, invite your heart to experience God’s love personally, and inspire you to live your life “souled” out to the One whose love has no limits.

Cyndi lives in Central Florida with her two kitties and is a Jesus-loving, adventure enthusiast devoted to living her life for Jesus until the day she is living with Him.

Connect with Cyndi:

Monday, January 15, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Life lessons on how we can love our neighbors

Loving Our Neighbor
A devotional by Joy Beless

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”–Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

The small room lined with pews is stirring with singing that comes from deep within the soul.

Eyes closed, hands keeping time, I begin the first song of worship and follow the Holy Spirit throughout the hour. Tears flow and often they are mine. No apologies. No cover-up. I am redeemed by the blood and the love of Jesus Christ and join in with the praises of my Sisters–in–Christ. Throughout following hour, I lead the women and children through songs of praise, prayer and reflections of scripture. The conversation is rich, honest and a fresh perspective from women who depend on the faithfulness of the Lord every minute of every day. The shelter for houseless women and their children is a refuge that I enter into with deep respect and humility.

Leading chapel at the shelter is the highlight of my week. Every Thursday morning, I make a 30-minute commute to be with my “neighbors”.

Almost 20 years ago, I nervously asked to volunteer at the shelter. Not knowing what to expect, I trusted the Holy Spirit’s leading and jumped in—sharing the love and hope of Jesus with the women and children who live there. I cannot begin to share all the ways I’ve experienced God’s blessings through this experience. With no facade or pretense to cover our need for Jesus, I am humbled to stand beside the women, many of whom, have a deep intimate relationship with Jesus. That is all they have. I love these people like Jesus loves us.

Let’s read what Mark 12:28-31 says concerning love: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

This is the internal love relationship we have with God. But then Jesus told us to turn that same love outward to our neighbors. When I make God the center of everything I am, then the choice to love my neighbor will flow from that same deep well of love.

Who is my neighbor? For sure it is the person living “next door” but can also be the person in the next cubicle in my workplace, the student sitting beside me or even the difficult people who cross my path throughout the day. Sometimes, loving my neighbor requires me to advocate for those who are marginalized and need a kind word or a “cup of water” (Matthew 10:42).

Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist minister and leader in the civil rights movement in the 1950’s, also emphasized loving God and putting our love into action by loving our neighbor. Today, in the United States of America, many people honor his legacy by acts of service in their communities. While an important step, Jesus encourages us to not make it a once–a–year activity, but a lifestyle of loving him by loving others.

Surprisingly, when I step outside of my comfort zone and engage with neighbors who are different than myself, I open the door for God’s blessings to not only flow through me but to me. As I give, I receive in unexpected ways. I imagine Jesus with a wink in his eye, as I begin to understand how this is also a part of experiencing his love more deeply.

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11). We can know scripture from an early age about God’s love for us. However, when we are transformed by his love, the knowledge turns into action and we have a deep desire for others to know how much they are loved by God and ultimately by us. Today is a great day to love our neighbor!

Let’s Pray: Oh Jesus, how I long to experience your love more deeply as I follow You. Thank You for teaching me not only how to love You more, but to love others from the overflow of that same love. Give me your eyes to see others as You see them and give me discernment to know how best to love them. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song for Reflection: “Love God Love People” by Danny Gokey. 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:

Friday, January 12, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Trusting our Faithful God in the storms of life

Trusting Amidst the Storm: Embracing God’s Faithfulness in Chaos
A devotional by Dr. LaVonda McCullough 

“When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”—Mark 4:39-40 (NLT)

Have you ever found yourself surrounded by turmoil, feeling as if God had forsaken you?

I certainly have. There are moments when all I could do was wear a smile to mask my tears. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, we are not always shielded from life’s trials and tribulations. However, when our connection with God is intimate, we can lean on His unwavering faithfulness.

Jesus had dedicated time to minister to His disciples and the masses. Now, he sought a moment of rest. He had been imparting His teachings, making this a practical examination of their faith.

Did Jesus anticipate the storm? Yes! This was an opportunity to put their faith to the test. Trusting God and having faith are intertwined. After hearing God’s Word and the Good News about Christ, the intention is to increase our faith (Romans 10:17).

Hearing the Word alone is inadequate; it must be accompanied by action. We need to put it into practice on a daily basis. This is one reason why trials are permitted in our lives. Trials don’t emerge due to God’s abandonment or our disobedience and sin. Instead, they forge a testimony that can inspire those in our sphere of influence.

Friends, in the storms of life, you can rely on Jesus.

I confronted a storm in my own life as I witnessed my daughter endure three weeks of paralysis on the left side of her face. Out of nowhere, she woke up one morning, her face paralyzed as if struck by a stroke. My heart ached as I observed droplets of saliva streaming down her face and I saw my daughter’s crushed spirit.

Challenging situations like these cause us to ask, “God, where are You in this storm?”

The Holy Bible shows us that Jonah faced a storm owing to his disobedience, while the disciples encountered theirs through obedience to the Lord. I was confused and began to blame myself for what had happened. My own struggles with obedience and surrender made me feel alone despite being an “all-in” to serving Christ. Though I knew God was with me intellectually, connecting this knowledge with my heart and trusting Him was a challenge. This was a test of trust, an opportunity to bolster my faith journey. It was evident that this was where actions spoke louder than words, and I could choose to praise my way through the chaos.

You may ask, “But, how did you do that, LaVonda, and how can I do that too?”

Perhaps you’ve experienced the chaos of a life crammed with responsibilities: work and church commitments, volunteering, shuttling children to sporting events, and of course being a loving, supportive spouse. Going through the motions of “knowing God’s Word” with a checklist, yet failing to internalize and embrace it was an issue I needed to correct.

The disciples were aware of the promises to reach the other side. It wasn’t a promise of an uneventful trip, but an assurance of arrival. God’s promises are unwavering, but if we lose sight of Jesus in the process of our doing, our faith weakens.

It was imperative that I return to a daily quiet time with God and have fellowship, seeking His guidance and direction, bringing my needs before Him, so that I can bear good spiritual fruit as His disciple. Just like Jesus was always by the side of His disciples, He is always by our side too! Therefore, we need not to fear. Jesus stood by me through every challenge, erasing any need for fear. My perspective had to shift, embracing the promises while understanding God’s character.

As I studied God’s might and His power to perform miracles, this encouraged me to believe in a miracle in my own life and in my daughter’s life. This would require a mindset change. God can handle any situation and can heal any ailment. And He did! Complete restoration unfolded unexpectedly one Sunday afternoon during our church service. Out of the blue, we witnessed a miracle, catapulting our faith to new heights. Our hope, faith, and trust in God reached new dimensions, demonstrating His ability to transform chaos into serenity in our lives.

Are you ready to embrace God’s character and invite peace into your life?

Let’s Pray:
Heavenly Father, Thank You for your faithfulness and your healing power. You heal all our diseases and meet every need. You are a God of love, restoration, and reconciliation. We are grateful. We praise You for turning chaos into calamity and increasing our faith in You. Each trial has strengthened us where we are weak. We express gratitude for moulding us into your likeness. We love You, Lord. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song for Reflection: “Praise You in This Storm” by Casting Crowns. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

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:

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Finding Contentment Amidst Commercialism

Where To Find Contentment

A devotional by Sharon Musgrove

“I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”–Philippians 4:11-13 (MSG)

Contentedness is illusive in our culture. Everywhere we turn we are confronted with advertising that tells us that we need something more to make us happy in our lives. Even when we think we’re good, commercialism tells us we are not.

When the Apostle Paul wrote the above words to the Christians in Philippi, he was in prison for being an evangelist. It was a time of physical discomfort and great need for himself and his friend Timothy. Yet when Paul received a care package from the church, he responded by saying he is content.

My friend Josy is an amazing person who models for me the contented life. Born in rural Kenya, she knew poverty. Her family lived without running water or power in a home with dirt floors. Food was scarce while hunger was prevalent. To better her life for herself and her family, Josy married. But her husband was abusive. Going from bad to worse, she gave birth to a son with a serious heart defect. People believed her to be cursed and suggested she leave her baby in the wilderness to die.

But Josy believed in Jesus Christ and thought the advice given to her was wrong, as did an American medical missionary who connected them with a heart surgeon in the United States. Through a series of kindhearted gifts, Josy’s son received the necessary surgery to correct the defect and set the boy up to thrive.

The love and compassion that Josy received inspired her. She decided to leave the abusive marriage and move to the United States where she could become a person who gives in return. Josy’s American Dream looks much different than those of us born here. Rather than amassing stuff for herself, she gives to others. She and her son live in a small apartment and have often struggled to make ends meet. Despite the everyday difficulties, Josy has paid for a home for her mother in Kenya and began a nonprofit for Maasai children with disabilities.

Josy’s story illustrates Paul’s sentiments through her pursuit of showing love to others. Her desire mirrors God’s desire to see hurting people loved and cared for. This testimony reminds me of what the Bible says in Philippians 4:13 (MSG): “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”

Each of us is influenced one way or another—by the ads telling us what will make us happy or by the One (God) who gives us the recipe for lifelong contentedness. We get to choose.

Let’s Pray: Heavenly Father, Thank You for loving us so deeply and caring for our needs so well. Your holy scriptures help us to understand just how You have designed us to love and live for others and not just pursuing our own wants. You show us the contentedness in living aligned this way. We thank You for the examples in the lives of others and ask for Your help in centering our lives on what You desire. In Jesus’s Name we pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “The Mission” by Steve Green. Listen to it here.

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.

Connect with Sharon:

Monday, January 8, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: Perspective

Looking to the Interests of Others
A devotional by Aubrey Taylor

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
—Philippians 2:4 (ESV)

A new year has begun! A time when we re-evaluate our priorities and set goals which we hope will carry us through the next 12 months, making us better people than we were last year.

One of the goals I have prayerfully chosen for my family is to make a concerted effort to look more to the interests and needs of others, and not simply our own. I would love to say that our family has plans to get involved in service projects or go out and help the needy, but I’m afraid that the greater challenge is to learn to serve those within our own household.

Without singling him out, I will share the example I shared recently with my eldest son: I know that he would much rather be bent over his desk working on his model cars than putting away the dishes, but does he realize that this chore not only helps me, but helps the whole family? When he gets his work done, I can get my tasks done more quickly and efficiently—tasks such as cooking everyone’s dinner or packing everyone’s lunches. Furthermore, I can then sit down with the rest of the family and watch a movie, rather than doing dishes while they enjoy time together.

I know that it is especially difficult for children to see from a perspective other than their own, but I wonder how often I myself focus on my own desires and perceived needs. Because I struggle with chronic illness, it can be easy to use that as an excuse to avoid getting down on the floor and playing with my six year old. It would be much easier to sit in the chair, sip my tea and watch him play, but I’m starting to think that this year I need to search my heart and ask myself if it would really be that difficult to get down on the floor and make a little boy happy for just a couple of minutes.

To take this train of thought a little further, my husband and I recently prayed over the word complacent.
Merriam-Webster online defines it this way: “marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” When we are complacent, we believe things will never change, and we believe we don’t need to. Yet the world around us is constantly changing, and God wants us to be growing continually into people who are ready to face whatever lies ahead. This is not a time to focus on our own interests, it is a time to be aware of what He’s doing, ready to stand in His strength and proclaim His goodness to a world that is increasingly desperate.

Has God shown you something to focus on in the year ahead? Something you can improve in order to make you a little bit more like Jesus?

Let’s Pray: Dear Jesus, I pray that You will help me to see where I have been looking too much too my own interests, and perhaps even closed my heart off to the needs of others, as well as to what You might want to do in my life. Search my heart and show me if I have become complacent. This year, help me to be open and ready to do Your work, to become more like You, as well as the person You want me to be. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Just Like You Jesus” by CeCe Winans. 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:
Amazon Author Page:

Friday, January 5, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: How to "fail forward" in the New Year 2024

Failing Forward in 2024

A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

“The LORD upholds all who are falling down and raises up all who are bowed down.”
—Psalms 145:14 (ESV)

It is that time of the year when many of us make covenants with God, friends and family to lose weight, save money, do things differently and achieve specific objectives. Optimistically, we plunge into the new year determined to keep our promises. We have done this successfully for decades.

Without this thrust for better habits and new experiences, we would never advance in life. Ambition is a good thing. It drives us academically, professionally and spiritually. I am writing today to encourage you, in advance, to audit your progress and plan to alter your course if during your monthly or quarterly audits you find that your progress has stalled or your attempts have failed.

“Failing forward” is the principle that failures are necessary lessons in the art of success. Failures merely inform us of what did not work. They do not preclude future success. Failures are clarion calls to do differently on your next attempt.

Failing forward requires that you commit to missional resilience. Remember the statement, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”? Courage to try again and again, if necessary, is the key to failing forward. I have been disappointed, disheartened and occasionally ashamed, when I have experienced failure, especially when I could not deny that the failure was due to my lack of discipline. I was re-enthused when reminded by this text that divinity transforms the failures of those who humbly fail and spiritually try again, just as light eliminates darkness.

When failure finds you this year, don’t let it crush you. Find strength by humbly refocusing your efforts with spiritual lenses. The crushing blow of failure can become a stepping stone or a springboard. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and novelist Tom Clancy have been quoted saying something to the effect of, “it takes ten years to become an overnight success”.

Books do not write themselves. Business plans require research and formulation. Twenty pounds don’t just melt away. Saving $50,000 is not magical. Every enterprise requires methodical execution. Failed execution does not invalidate your ideas and goals.

As you enter into the New Year 2024, memorize this verse. Let it propel, enthuse, comfort and guide you. Know that when you fly high in pursuit of your dreams, if the bottom falls out, God is your parachute. When you try again—and you should—know that God will exalt your humble efforts. This year, fail forward with grace.

Let’s Pray: Thank You, dear God, for a new year. Whatever happens to and with us this year, we know that it happens in your presence. Give us confidence to march ahead daily and to pursue the purpose for which you gave us life. Through ups and downs, fits and starts, please catch us when we fall, renew us when we fail and restore Your image within us so that we can fail forward into Your providences. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Just the Beginning” by Kurt Carr. 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,

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: A special kind of fruit we need for all seasons

Fruit for All Seasons
A devotional by Mirachelle Canada

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

We have much to be thankful for! Among the greatest gifts from God to enjoy in this new season are the fruits of the Spirit. Most of us can list them by heart. Perhaps those that immediately come to mind are love, joy, and peace from the festive close of last year.

Love, joy, and peace seem to be the ones people grasp and receive with quickness. The next few—patience, kindness, and goodness—tend to take a little more work. I find my patience is tested daily. Especially in traffic. We welcome kindness from God, but must chose to extend it others. It’s not easy to be kind to someone who is mean or abusive. And goodness, though we look for it in God, takes our commitment to overcome our flesh and temptations of sin.

The last three fruits—faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—are the ones people tend to focus on the least and take for granted as fruits from the Spirit. What do you think of when someone says “faithfulness”? A popular response is “God is faithful.” What about your faithfulness? Faithfulness as a fruit of the Spirit means maintaining our faith in God, moving forward on our walk with Him, and keeping our commitment to Him. Faith must be consumed and exercised at all times. That is why, with the Spirit’s fruit offering, we can be “faith-full.”

Gentleness seems less required in our daily walk. That doesn’t make it a less meaningful fruit. It is most used with the innocent or frail, like children, animals, and the elderly. It can also be used in a crisis situation when a calm and gentle voice can soothe a hurting or tortured soul. Gentleness is a fruit that Jesus Christ displayed the most among those who needed healing. Jesus carrying a lamb on His shoulders is the picture I most imagine when I think of His gentleness.

Last of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control and it is the fruit most overlooked. Why? Because most of us think we have control of our lives, as shown by our daily habits. We plan, we decide, and we do without even thinking that our ability to do so comes from the Spirit. Our ability to exercise self-control comes from Him. We can’t control ourselves or our circumstances without His help. Self-control must be received from Him and we must rely on Him to maintain it in us. What a relief. We aren’t responsible for staying in control of ourselves, God’s Holy Spirit is. How well the effect of the self-control fruit depends on our willingness to depend on Him.

If you feel you are lacking in one fruit or not partaking enough of another, the best way to remedy this is to ask the Holy Spirit for more of them. Ask Him to show you ways to exercise and maintain the fruits. When I felt lacking in the fruits, I took over a week to pray over them each specifically, highlighting one per day. Daily, I meditated on it, searched for its repetition in the Bible, and offered it back to God to produce and do more with in my daily walk with Him. I can assure you it’s not a one time, one week, one year commitment. It takes a lifetime

But the more we seek out and live by the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the more we are blessed and in turn can bless others with them. They are gifts that will never stop giving life and power to your purpose.

Let’s Pray: Dear God, thank You for all the fruits of Your Spirit. Help me to receive and consume each of Your fruits. Highlight those in me that I need to partake more of so that I can be better equipped to be Your hands, feet, eyes, and ears to the world in need. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Seasons” by Hillsong Worship. 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:

Monday, January 1, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: The world will know us by the way we love others

Focus on Love
A devotional by Jessica Brodie

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Keep the main thing the main thing?”

I try to do that, and perhaps we all do. But some days, it can be so difficult!

The other day I was at the grocery store for one item specifically: ketchup. Normally, I shop with a list so I buy what I need, not what I want, and also because I get distracted. But that day, I tried to keep it simple and decided I didn’t need a list. Surely I’d remember the ketchup, plus two other things I remembered as I was walking inside.

You can probably guess what happened: Three items turned into ten as I browsed the shelves, and when I left the store, can you imagine what I forgot? The ketchup!

Of course, forgetting ketchup is a minor inconvenience. What’s worse is when we forget the important things.

Every week, Christians around the world gather to worship the Lord and hear God’s Word so we can grow in knowledge and become spiritually mature. But what happens the rest of the week?

Think about the road rage and aggressive driving on our streets, the TV shows we watch, the music we listen to, the way we treat people in our homes and workplaces, the gossiping and the constant worries and the lies and the worldly concerns that fill our minds and our hearts until they drown out the one thing that’s supposed to set us apart: Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Or maybe this looks different for you—maybe you’re immersed all week long in matters of faith. You listen to Christian music on the radio, read the Bible every morning, work hard, volunteer at church or at a soup kitchen, and gather regularly with other believers…Only you’re so busy working and gathering and doing that there’s no place left over for the Holy Spirit to move.

All the spots are taken.

Jesus Christ said the world will know we are Christians by our love for one another (John 13:35). In Matthew 22:37-40, when asked by church leaders what is the greatest commandment in all of God’s law, again He pointed to love: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (NIV).

And that’s not all Jesus said about love. He also said:

Love your enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).

Love with mercy and extravagance (Luke 10:25-37).

Love with sacrifice (John 15:9-17).

Love with obedience and holy unity (John 14:15-21).

And yet look at us, those of us who call ourselves Christians. Can others see that love in us? Can they see it in our words and our actions, our mercy and our unity? Denominations are fighting each other over what Jesus would do or say. Christian people are pointing fingers at sin, forgetting the proverbial log in their own eye (Matthew 7:3-5). What is all of this doing to draw other lost sheep into God’s flock?


As 2024 begins, a lot of people are selecting words for the year, themes of purpose or self-growth they need to embrace. Courage. Peace. Hope. These are all good things. But as someone who goes to the store for ketchup only to forget it with all the other distractions, I know the word I need to choose this year. My word is love.

The apostle John tells us, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16). He adds, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

This year, let’s keep the main thing the main thing. Let’s focus on what Jesus said was most important: love.

Let’s Pray: Father God, you are love. You sent your son to save us out of your vast love, and he told us love was the most important thing we should focus on—love for you and love for others. Help me not be distracted by worldly concerns or selfish desires or even hard work but instead to keep my focus on you, on love, now and forever. Amen.

Song of Reflection: "Know Us By Our Love" by Moriah. 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. Her latest book is Preparing Our Hearts: An Advent Devotional to Draw Closer to God at Christmas.

She has won more than 100 writing awards. Jessica 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. Jessica also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.

Jessica holds a Master of Arts in English. She graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in communications/print journalism from Florida International University. Born and raised in Miami, Jessica 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.

Jessica 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 (ACFW), 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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