Friday, January 18, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: A Word

A New Word for a New Year

A devotional by Victoria Bylin

“[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
~1 Corinthians 13:7 (NASB)

We’re at the beginning of a new year, and I’ve been thinking about a resolution I didn’t make. Typically, I chose a word to ponder as the cold winter days turned into warm summer nights, then into the crisp afternoons of Autumn. In the past, those words have been a beacon to me, a way to focus on growing closer to God, seeking Him in the midst of storms, or simply worshipping in the good times.

So why didn’t I choose one this year? Frankly, I’m wondering why, and if I should pick one now. Here are some of my favorites from the past:

Rejoice came straight from Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!” This verse taught me about rejoicing when times are tough. I had no idea it would be a challenging word, but it was. My father-in-law was in the throes of Alzheimer’s that year, and there were difficult decisions regarding his care. His long, slow decline tore our hearts to pieces, but there was also great love throughout his life. Those memories sustain us now.

Worship was my word for 2013. It’s a contraction of worth + ship, and I took it as a challenge to worship God beyond singing in church on Sunday morning. What is His love worth to me? How can I share it with others? Again, I discovered a doubled-edged sword. There were days when worship came easily, and days when it revealed how self-focused I can be. What sustained me, good or bad, was the awareness of God’s love for all his children—including me.

Door isn’t the word I expected for 2017, and it didn’t play out the way I hoped. A door slammed shut when my publisher turned down a new proposal. I waited a year for a door to open at another publisher, but after several false starts, it slammed shut. Disappointing, yes. But during that long stretch of time, I was aware of all the doors Christ has opened and closed in my life, both joyful and disappointing, and always done in love.

In 2018, I chose the word Dig with the intention of digging deep and seeking God’s will for my writing. I dug all right, and ended up in a hole. Again, not the end I imagined! That hole turned out to be a grave where my old dreams died, but it was also the birth place for new ones. Somehow God’s love pierced that dark time and brought me back into the light.

Aha! I see a trend . . . My word for 2019 is right in front of me.

That word is Love.

I can’t think of greater word—or a greater challenge—but I’m confident that God’s grace is sufficient for whatever challenges arise in the coming year.

Author Bio:
Victoria Bylin is the author of 18 traditionally published romances. Known for tackling difficult subjects with great compassion, she delights in stories that shine the spotlight of God’s love on ordinary men and women facing realistic challenges.

Writing has always been a part of Victoria’s life. As a child, she wrote hundreds of letters and scribbled in journals. As an adult, she worked as a freelance journalist and editor before taking on the challenge of fiction.

She had one goal when she started her first novel: to finish a book-length manuscript, good or bad. That first effort will never see the light of day, but it led to a second manuscript and a sale to Harlequin Historical. Since then, she has written westerns and contemporary romances for both mainstream and Christian publishers, with Together With You winning the 2016 Inspirational Readers Choice Award for Best Contemporary.

Writing is a joy and a challenge for Victoria, but faith, friends and family matter to her far more. She’s a wife, mom, proud grandmother, and a dog-mom to a wacky Jack Russell Terrier. Originally from California, she and her husband currently make their home in Lexington, Kentucky. When she’s not writing, Victoria enjoys long walks, travel, and dark chocolate.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Why we need to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ

Lift Your Eyes
A devotional by Christa MacDonald

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” ~2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

For those of us who came to the faith early in life, this verse can be challenging. For us, that moment when we truly believed (our conversion) may have come when we were too young to understand the power of Grace and the nature of sin. Often we were young enough that our sin seemed simple, conquerable, an old coat we could take off that day and leave behind. We assumed being new would be easy, automatic, effortless.

By the time we are mature Christians we understand that sin is more like a thread that is woven into the fabric of our souls than it is a coat. When we believe, Christ takes hold of that thread and we are unraveled and begin to be stitched together again, something far better, incomparable. That process will not be complete this side of heaven, but the work begins the moment we believe and place our faith in Jesus. We’ve been justified; we are being sanctified.

But there are times we can feel like it’s not happening at all, that we’re making the same old mistakes, fighting the same old sins. My early life as a Christian was filled with this sense of being half-done, as if my salvation didn’t take. I kept thinking there was something else I needed to do, a class I had to take, a mission that I could go on, a mountaintop I could climb and then have some transcendental experience that would make me finally feel like I really was a new person, a real Christian.

Nothing I did made a difference. It took years until I understood that I had all the wrong ideas about God’s Grace. It’s given, not earned through our goodness, because we are incapable of being good on our own. Jesus Christ does indeed meet us where we are. And we are sinners. Every last one of us and we will struggle with our natures until our last breath, but what is different, what is new, is that we do not struggle in vain. Jesus has a hold of that thread. He has redeemed us and His Grace covers us.

Sometimes it may feel like you’re walking in the same circle, the same patterns of behavior, the same old ways. Look up. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Lift your focus from yourself to Him. There’s the new path, there’s the way to be that new creature.

You may have heard this before, but it’s the best advice when mired in self-doubt: Don’t think less of yourself, think of yourself less.

When we turn inward to find a solution that’s when we run into trouble, that’s when we return to what we were, not what we were meant to be. Lift your eyes, focus on Jesus – His word, His teaching, His will – and be the new creation He has made you.

Author Bio:
Christa MacDonald is a 2017 ACFW Carol Award finalist for contemporary Christian fiction.

A native New Englander, she was inspired by her travels through the north woods of Maine to write The Broken Trail, which would become the first in the Sweet River Redemption series published by Mountain Brook Ink.

Christa's writing focuses on the real-life challenges of the modern world; love’s sometimes crooked path, and the redemptive power of Grace.

When not working or writing Christa can be found ferrying her kids around, reading, or attempting something crafty.  

She and her husband live with their three kids, two cats, and one dog along the coast of New England.  Connect with Christa at

Monday, January 14, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: God's Strength is Perfect and He is Enough

Motherhood, Plans and Perfect Strength
A devotional by Amanda Wen

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” ~2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

My whole life, I’ve been able to do pretty much anything I set my mind to. Good grades, musical achievements, college scholarships, you name it. Studying, preparing, practicing, and Doing All The Right Things, combined with the natural talents God gave me, meant I could usually meet the lofty goals I set for myself.

And then, ten years ago this month, I became a mom.

Motherhood was radically different from anything this overachieving Type A control freak had ever experienced. The All-Natural Drug-Free Peaceful Birthing Experience I’d planned ended in a medically necessary C-section. My plan to nurse exclusively ran up against the dual roadblocks of low milk supply from me and a less-than-ideal latch from my darling son. My vision of rocking a contented sleeping baby was dashed against the rocky reality of colic. Despite all my hard work, preparation, and Doing All The Right Things, nothing turned out the way I expected.

But even worse for this hormonal, postpartum mama? The discovery that I do not have a natural talent for mothering. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my newborn son more than anything. But that zing that comes from when God’s gifting perfectly intersects with His calling on your life? That didn’t happen for me. All those things that seemed to come naturally to other mothers, things like rocking and playing and soothing and comforting, those things I thought were intuitive for all mothers? Many of those were the exact opposite for me.

However—and this was something I didn’t realize until years later—that was okay. Because God was with me. He was guiding me even when I couldn’t see it or feel it. And, as 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, His strength was being made perfect in my weakness.

God kept me going during all those sleepless nights. He provided strength and endurance when my son wouldn’t stop crying. He provided my caring, supportive, patient, and incredibly laid-back husband. He sent a passel of friends to stop in with meals, advice, an extra pair of hands, and a listening ear. And, after six months or so, He provided a way for us to move to my hometown to be closer to family, a decision for which I’ve been grateful countless times for countless reasons.

For the last ten years, my number one fear has been that I won’t be a good enough mom. But I’ve recently realized that, on my own, I’m not a good enough mom. I never was, and I never will be. But, again, that is okay. Because I have God. And He is enough.

Philippians 4:13 is a very popular verse, but I think it can be misinterpreted. Sometimes we want to make it a rubber stamp, a catch-all for following our hearts and chasing our dreams and assuming Jesus will enable us to do it all. But the verse in context is actually about contentment. About how, even when Paul was at his wits’ end and things weren’t going as he planned and he was dealing with the mysterious thorn in his side that God refused to remove, he had peace. Joy. He’d learned the secret of being okay whether he had everything or nothing, when things were awesome and when they weren’t: he could endure because God was with him. Making perfect his weaknesses and filling in the gaps with His strength. Enabling Paul to fulfill God’s plan, not his own.

He does that with us, too.

So now, ten years down the road, I’m grateful motherhood didn’t come naturally to me. Not being able to do it on my own forced me—in the best possible way—to become totally dependent on God for the ability to care for my children. Ten years ago—and every day since—he’s come through for me. His strength has been made perfect in my weakness.

What areas of your life don’t come naturally to you? I’d love to hear about them in the comments, and to pray for God’s supernatural strength to be evident in your situation. 

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

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

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

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

Connect with Amanda:

Friday, January 11, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Suffering

Who Needs Enemies When You Have Friends Like Eliphaz?
A devotional by Kristy Horine

“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place – Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him." ~Job 2:11 (NKJV) 

Job understood the truth of this title.

This Old Testament man’s life was good. His kids were all grown up and doing good things, home life was sweet, business endeavors were flooding his accounts with incredible ROIs … then, he lost everything in a day. As if that weren’t enough, his entire body erupted with boils “from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.” (Job 2:7 NKJV)

For Job, what remained included a wife who encouraged him to curse God and die, and three friends who came and stirred up the ashes of his dreams with hot, accusing breath.

On an infinitely smaller scale, I share Job’s feelings of loss and despair. Every time I’m disappointed as a hope is doused. Every time I receive a rejection letter for the writing. Every time one of my ministry ideas is shot down. Every time a reasonable expectation is unmet, I see a tinge of the darkness.

I’m guessing you might see it, too.

By chapter 22 in Job, I’m counting down how much more I have to read. I mean, how long can this go on? I feel the sting of Eliphaz’s words in 
Job 22:5-11 (NKJV) where he said: “Is not your wickedness great, and your iniquity without end? For you have taken pledges from your brother for no reason, and stripped the naked of their clothing. You have not given the weary water to drink, and you have withheld bread from the hungry. But the mighty man possessed the land, and the honorable man dwelt in it. You have sent widows away empty, and the strength of the fatherless was crushed. Therefore snares are all around you, and sudden fear troubles you, or darkness so that you cannot see; and an abundance of water covers you.”
Job, man, you are drowning in wickedness. 
There must be something wrong with you. 

I somehow believed the words Eliphaz said.

With the edges of the darkness closing in, I could see Job stripping people buck naked, withholding water and food, ignoring the widows and crushing the fatherless.

I believed the false accusations. In the span of 22 chapters – 517 verses – I forgot what God said about Job. Let's read Job 1:8
 (NKJV) where the Lord said to Satan: “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

In the midst of your darkness and ashes, in the mire of a multitude of jagged-edged voices, have you forgotten what God says about you? Have you forgotten how deep and high and wide is His love for you?

Scripture tells us:

· For those who repent and believe, they will be saved (Acts 16:31).

· For those who are in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1).

· For those who are called according to His purpose, He works things out for good

(Romans 8:28).

· For those who are free in the Son are free indeed (John 8:36).

Precious friends, Eliphaz doesn’t know Jack and he doesn’t know God and what the Lord Almighty has said about you.

Push a stick into those ashes and find a little coal there. While you are hurting still, and trying to figure out a way to heal both from what is real and from what is imagined, focus on the thing that glows. It will give you enough light to make it through the night. 

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

She writes a little bit of everything including poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. 

Her professional and creative work has been published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies in Kentucky and beyond. She is the founder of 3rd Letter Christian Writers in Lexington, Kentucky and is a contributing blogger at

Kristy makes her life in Bourbon County with her husband and is mother to four children. Read more of her work at, and or follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Refreshed

A Refreshing New River
A devotional by Sharon Musgrove

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. The wild animals in the field will thank me, the jackals and owls too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my people can be refreshed.” 
 ~Isaiah 43:19-20 (NLT)

Recently, my husband and I drove south, down the I-5 corridor, through Northern California. We were taking the trip to witness my Grandfather’s entombment. The landscape was dry, rocky riverbeds laid open, and trees reached long arms in search of water. Despite the winter season, the terrain cried of its recent forest fires. I had been made aware of the drought and wild fires through the National news. However, driving through this territory, in the tracks of death and grief, I felt akin to a dry riverbed and an outstretched tree. My heart was cracked and brittle from parched hours of watching a precious life go. My eyes were seeing in this landscape what my heart was grieving. God used this trip to help me see more fully His love.

God does not leave His children in a wasteland. His heart is for renewal of life! Scripture repeats this beating of God’s heart like the hospital monitor I had spent so many hours watching. The Israelites entered the promised land (Joshua 24:28), Job’s fortunes were restored (Job 42:10), and Jesus came that we might have a life of freedom, good pastures and abundance (John 10:9-10). The constant, familiar beating comforts, but change sets off alarms throwing me into a fear that keeps me staring at death rather than trusting God and His renewal process.

For my Grandfather, the changes in his heart rhythms were indications of something new. For months he had been praying for his life to come to an end because that life had become his dry wasteland. I heard him say repeatedly, “I am ready to go,” yet our last conversation was over “one regret.” That regret kept my Grandfather’s eyes fixed on the wasteland and tethered to his life. His eyes, like that of the jackal or owl were staring at empty burrows and dry riverbeds for life.

It was here, along the California freeway, that I too found a choice in where I cast my eyes. I could stare long at regret and loss and choose to live in desolation and sadness, or I could look to something new. Now following the Interstate northbound, we headed home. Having turned, this same pathway now revealed something new…snow in the mountains! Little did I know that while I was traveling in the desert, my eyes downcast, God was preparing refreshment on the high hills. God's magnificent nature was doing what it thrives on doing…renewal! I could see it! He had already begun storing up the waters that would refresh this dry and thirsty land!

In an instant I felt refreshed! My heart swelled with joy and my spirit knew hope renewed! The compass on my outlook on Grandfather's life had been reset to true north. My eyes were no longer downcast nor my grieving heart. My Grandfather had lived a lifetime with Jesus and was now resting in peace with the hope of eternity. The California landscape might have to continue to be as patient as an old man living a challenging life, but I know I can access the refreshment today.

Author Bio: 
Sharon Musgrove is a self-proclaimed sociologist. The opportunities opened to her, over the years, have led her on a fascinating journey observing human behavior. 

She has a diverse background in business, fitness and health industries. This background led her to a unique position writing curriculum and teaching for two private, Christ-based, residential recovery programs. Both recovery programs served women primarily from the homeless community. 

Sharon has traveled multiple times to Kenya, serving on medical teams and teaching in the rural Maasai communities. She's been privileged to participate in Leadership camps for maturing young women. These annual camps have a mission of encouraging and empowering the impoverished, underprivileged, and often abused young Maasai girls.

Easily identifying personally with the brokenness of the women she's served, Sharon now sees all people as needing more encouragement regardless of cultural or socioeconomic status. Within these ministries, Sharon has witnessed the transformative power of loving words spoken to the broken-hearted. Sharing God’s love and witnessing its transformative power has become her passion.

In her leisure time, Sharon enjoys her garden, health food, travel and a good story. She and her husband, Jeff, make their home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They have two grown children. Currently, Sharon is writing her first Christian historical fiction novel utilizing her study, experience, and understanding of self-destructive behaviors.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Kindness

Loving God by loving my guy
A devotional by Jessica Brodie

I have a cute little game I play with my husband, only I’ve never actually told him about this.

Every day, I try to out-do him in kindnesses. You know, those small things that make everyday life go more smoothly: I empty the dishwasher. If the gas tank is low and I know we’ll be trading cars tomorrow, I fill up the gas tank. I tell him he is hands-down the most handsome guy in the world (he totally is).

The basic theory is that I try to one-up him in generous love. After all, I’ve figured out that when I win, he wins.

What’s been really neat about this unspoken game is that he does nice stuff back for me and tries to out-do me in generous love and little kindnesses.

It's a win-win circle.

One thing that is so great about a God-centered marriage is that we know love is one of the Lord’s top two commandments, and one huge way I can love God is by loving my husband.

And there are so many ways to love him! I can love him with my words, with my service, with my time. I can love him with honor and respect, just like he loves me with honor and respect. I can love him by loving his family (that’s super-easy, because they are incredible). I’m a busy woman. I work full-time running a Christian newspaper, I’m a wife, I’m the mom and stepmom of four kids, I’m active at church and in my small group, and I’m an author, blogger, freelance editor, and writing coach. I might scrimp on doing my hair (love me some ponytails). I might not vacuum as often as I’d like.

But one thing I don’t scrimp on: loving my guy.

The apostle Paul had some helpful things to say about a God-centered marriage and a godly life. He urged us to “submit to each other out of respect for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21, CEB). Submit means yield, surrender, capitulate. It echoes what Jesus himself taught us in the Gospel of Matthew, that if someone slaps you on the right cheek, “You must turn the left cheek to them as well” (Matthew 5:39). If they take your shirt, “Let them have your coat too” (Matthew 5:40). If they make you go one mile, “Go with them two” (Matthew 5:41).

Out-do each other in generosity. Yield. Love. Surrender. Model wild, extravagant sacrifice.

Model the example of Jesus.

This works in a God-centered marriage. My husband loves me and honors me, too. He doesn’t hurt me physically or emotionally. He wants what’s best for me. I do the same for him. It’s a two-way street.

Whether you are married or not, try my Out-Do in Kindness Game in your own life. Try it with strangers (pay for someone’s meal in a drive-thru or their toll on the turnpike). Try it in your home. Try it at church. Hold the door for people. Let someone else go first.

When others win, we all win.

We’re all in this together.

Author Bio:
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 ACFW Genesis Award for her as-yet-unpublished novel, The Memory Garden.

She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism.

Learn more about her fiction and read her blog at

Friday, January 4, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Prepare for Battle by Wearing the Armor of God

The Full Armor of God
A devotional by Mirachelle Canada

“Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” ~Ephesians 6:13 (NIV)

Growing up on military bases I often encountered Marines performing their morning physical training. Sometimes at the end of a session there were trainees who looked defeated. As an adult, I realized they had to train so hard to be fit for battle, on any terrain and on any given day. As members in the army of God, we are given tools and armor to train for the day when evil comes. We are assured that day will come, and the Word commands us to put on the full armor of God to order to stand.

Why must we put on the Helmet of Salvation?

The mind is the enemy's number one battleground. If he can shut us down mentally everything else usually follows suit. Yet, the Lord’s salvation promises us victory over sin and the grave. Let us not forget the awesome covering of His salvation! First from our head, then down to...

The Breastplate of Righteousness

The breastplate wraps around the body to guard the heart, but there are areas where it can come lose, exposing our hearts. We must careful to check our breastplate by His righteousness, to ensure we are not open to an attack that can pierce the heart. Our breastplate must be check daily that it is in the right position for our protection.

We must gird ourselves in the Belt of Truth.

A belt holds things up and keeps things together. It is also adjustable, which means we can adjust it in the midst of battle. If it is too loose it may slip and fall, or become a distraction, which is not the intention of truth. It must be pulled tight so that it functions properly. Sometimes, when we hold the truth too tight, we must expand it to include more truth to move more freely. Thus, truth stays secure around us to hold us up and help us fight effectively.

Next, we lift up the Shield of Faith.

Our shield extinguishes the enemy’s flaming arrows. Holding it up requires us to move when God tells us to move it. The essence of faith is things we cannot see, and also in what direction they are coming. Our shield is meant to protect us, but we must rely on God’s leading to remain protected. He sees what we cannot see, and we must have faith enough to trust His voice to defend us in darkness, confusion, and the overwhelming moments of the battle.

In our right hand is the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word.

This massive sword has the ability to defeat the enemy with one blow. A small, light sword will wound, but it is not effective in one swing. Many complain about the weight of their sword because they are weak in the Word and do not practice carrying it, which renders the only weapon they need ineffective. Practicing with our sword enables us to pierce the darkness and cut down any foe.

To stay grounded in battle, we must stand in the Readiness of Peace.

A warrior standing in peace is not quick to run into battle. Each step is strategic because it is leading to one goal – the establishment of God’s kingdom. Being ready for peace also means laying down the burden of battle when the time is right. In seeking His peace, we find rest so that we will be able to fight again tomorrow.

Lastly, God calls us to Pray in the Spirit with all kinds of prayers and requests.

This means allowing His spirit to control what we say and praying according to God’s Word. The enemy flees from God’s warriors because of the power of the Holy Spirit within us. By praying for and claiming the fruits of the Holy Spirit, we proclaim to the enemy that we are mighty warriors of God, and this reminds him that he has already been defeated by our Savior and faithful defender! The Prince of Peace. Our Blessed Redeemer. The Lord God Almighty. The one by whom we stand.

God wants us to be ready for battle. The good news is He’s already won the victory! 


Author Bio:
Mirachelle Canada is a writer, playwright, screenwriter, and theatre director/producer from Northern Virginia, where she teaches television production at her high school alma mater. She spent some time learning and developing her talents in Hollywood as an art director and production assistant on various TV shows. 

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, American Fiction Christian Writers, American Fiction Writers Virginia Chapter, The Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild, and Your Novel Blueprint. Mirachelle is passionate about awakening creativity and the gifts of God in everyone. 

She is currently working on her first historical fiction novel set during WWII, inspired by her time studying theatre education in London, England. 

In her spare time, she also writes and directs Christmas and Easter passion plays, and sings in the choir and praise & worship team at Christ Chapel Assembles of God in Woodbridge, VA.

Connect with Mirachelle: