The Christmas Visitors

by Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott

For many of us, a part of Christmas is in entertaining visitors. As empty-nesters, my husband and I are excitedly looking forward to a houseful this year, as our one left in college is home, our working sons will be together, and our daughter and her family are flying in. Other relatives will join us as well for what undoubtedly will be an exuberant celebration.

But what of the visitors to Christ that first Christmas? Contrary to one popular Christmas carol, the Scriptures do not tell us of the visit of a little drummer boy at the manger. They do speak of shepherds as the first actual witnesses of the birth of the Christ child.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them… (and) said to them, ‘…I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord… You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger…’ So it was… that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass…” (Luke 2:8-17 NKJ).

Some time later, the young family received more visitors. Kings from the east visited Jesus, bringing gifts for Him. Matthew Henry’s commentary tells us that these wise men “are here called Magoi—Magicians… philosophers and their priests… men of the east… (also called) kings…” The Bible bears out the details of their visit:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him…’ Then Herod… sent them to Bethlehem… And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And… they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:1-11 NKJ).

I know why we are being visited by our Christmas guests this year; they are related to us in some way, but why did shepherds and kings visit Jesus? The relationship is clear. The shepherds would know a lamb when they saw one, and there in the manger lay the Lamb of God (see John 1:29 and 36). Kings would recognize a king when they saw one, and there in that house, although a young Child, was the One they had searched for, the One who was not only “born King of the Jews,” but who was King of Kings (see I Timothy 6:15).

Revelation 17:12-14 sums up the logical reason for a visit to Jesus from shepherds and kings. These verses say that ten kings will receive authority for one hour and “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings…” (NKJ).

As we celebrate Christmas with our visitors, let’s keep in mind those visitors who came to see Jesus during that first Christmas season and remember that Jesus is the Lamb who is King.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: “Live significantly!” That’s the inspiring message of Sharon Norris Elliott, award-winning author, editor, agent, engaging speaker, and licensed minister. Author of 12 books, and associated with several prestigious organizations such as AWSA, ACE, and HSBN.tv, Sharon is also co-director of the WCCW conference. She is founder/CEO of AuthorizeMe® Consulting, Coaching, & Editing Firm and Literary Agency. www.AuthorizeMe.net

Sharon’s latest release, A Woman God Can Bless, walks through the house of your life with you and Jesus. This book will help you ease open the doors of old patterns of behavior, ingrained habits, and accepted dispositions with which you’ve grown accustomed. Within these pages you will find gentle prompts that will help you let the Lord remodel those closed rooms by redesigning your thinking and behavior to line up with His will for how you should then live.

Join the conversation: What visitors do you expect this Christmas?

Happy Birthday Jesus!

by Kathy Howard

A few years ago, while speaking at a ladies’ Christmas event, something unexpected happened. I had planned to read portions of the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke. But as I began to read from my open Bible, I discovered I did not need it. The words flowed from memory – KJV style.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  Luke 2:4-5 KJV

But I’ve never purposefully worked to memorize those sections of Scripture. The passages were imbedded in my heart simply because my father read them to our family every Christmas Eve. It was part of our family tradition. My dad desired to keep our hearts and minds on the real meaning of Christmas. To keep Jesus at the center. He felt the same way about Easter, Thanksgiving, and every other holiday. While he enjoyed the cultural aspects of these celebrations, he always honored God first and encouraged us to do the same.

As our own children grew, my husband and I worked to carry on that legacy. For instance, when our kids were old enough to understand, I began baking a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Eve. We even had candles and sang “Happy Birthday.” It was a simple, but effective way to help our children remember why we celebrate Christmas. Like the magi, we worshipped Jesus.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 KJV

Jesus is also the reason for all the other celebrations in Scripture. On one level, the Old Testament feasts celebrate God’s physical provision and miraculous deliverance. But ultimately, they all point to the coming Savior and His provision of eternal life.

As each holiday and family celebration approaches, we can find creative ways to keep Jesus central. For instance, for Christmas, make a birthday cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. For Thanksgiving, print psalms that express gratitude to God and ask different family members to take turns reading them at the dinner table.

As our families enjoy holidays and other special events, let’s intentionally point them to Jesus. Let’s make Him the center of our days and the center of our families. Whatever else we may celebrate, let’s acknowledge Jesus first. He gives us every reason to celebrate. Jesus is every reason to celebrate.

**This post is adapted from Kathy’s new book, “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith.”

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate and richest coffee. She searches for cherished stories of faith that still impact hearts. And, she digs deep into God’s Word, mining His eternal truths for herself and to share with others. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She has a Masters of Christian Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 10 books, including the “Deep Rooted” devotional series and “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” (October 2021).  Kathy and her husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org.

Goodwill Toward Men

by Ronda Wells

When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 19:9-10 NLT

Growing up, nearly all my clothes came from Goodwill, which actually started in my home city of Indianapolis. While Mom worked as a full-time registered nurse, Dad went back to college on the G.I. Bill to get a degree in education. Things remained tight money-wise until he got a regular job as a teacher. That big old house we moved to in the suburbs had come the cheapest but turned out to be a regular money pit.

Mom had a knack for finding the good stuff or things that didn’t look so worn or out-of-date. Other girls arrived at junior high school in the latest fashions. They were all nice girls who just happened to be in wealthier families—but I was still embarrassed at times and dismayed by our limited circumstances. One day in ninth-grade English, a popular young female teacher made all the difference in my attitude by complimenting my outfit and commenting on how I always wore “such cute clothes.”

After I married and had kids, God showered an abundance of blessings on our family, far beyond what we needed. In second grade, our daughter Sarah broke the zipper to her brand-new winter coat. I could have just replaced the zipper since I’m a seamstress, but that would’ve taken time I didn’t have. I could have taken it to a local tailor, but then Sarah would’ve been without a coat for two weeks. So we just bought Sarah a new one and donated her old coat to Goodwill. A week later Sarah ran in after school.

“Mom, a little girl at school was wearing my old coat!”

Not long after, I volunteered for one of Sarah’s school events and spotted that little girl running across the playground in a familiar pretty coat with a broken zipper. I realized what we had done was to leave something that could be gleaned. Out of God’s generosity toward us, another child received a blessing. A coat, albeit with a zipper that didn’t work.

In the Old Testament, Ruth, a young Moabite widow, in faith followed her mother-in-law Naomi to the land of Israel. Back then, with no male to financially support her tiny family, Ruth had to glean wheat from a rich man’s field to get enough grain to make bread to feed herself and Naomi. That wealthy man Boaz turned out to be a kinsman and a bachelor. In the end, Ruth married him, and in doing so, became the ancestress of another child born into low circumstances many centuries later—the greatest blessing and gift of all, Jesus Christ.

In this season of remembering the birth of Jesus, give freely and generously to others. Remember though, when you can afford to, leave “gleanings” for those in less fortunate circumstances.

“Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14 KJV

About the Author: Doctor by day, writer by night—Dr. Ronda Wells is an award-winning author who has written inspirational fiction for over twenty-five years. She has helped numerous other Christian writers with creating authentic medical scenes for their books. A lifelong Hoosier, Ronda is a wife, mother and grandmother who lives in Mooresville, Indiana and loves to travel. She writes stories that illustrate extraordinary faith among the conflicts of ordinary life. Her contemporary inspirational novel Harvest of Hope is currently under consideration with a publisher. Visit her website to read a bonus chapter at www.rondawellsbooks.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever benefitted from “gleaning”?

We’re a Bunch of Misfits

by Susan K. Stewart

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 ESV

In the sea of children’s Christmas shows with the likes of Rudolph, Frosty, and the Grinch, the tale of Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey never seems to make it to the must-see list of children’s Christmas movies.

The story is simple: Nestor is different—he has unusually long ears, even for a donkey. As an oddling, Nestor is teased and ultimately rejected. Even his owner throws him out of the stable, leaving him to die in a snowstorm. Eventually, through a series of miraculous events, Nester becomes the donkey that Mary rides on to Bethlehem.

The Bible is full of misfits: those who don’t quite belong. David, the boy who was too small for Saul’s army. Rahab was a prostitute. Deborah, a woman who chosen by God to be a judge. Zacchaeus, a short tax collector. Each of these oddballs had a purpose in God’s plan and was used by God in unique ways.

Is it their uniqueness that makes them better suited for God’s work? I think God uses the misfits, because they don’t fit in.

Here’s the thing: Each of us relates to being a misfit. I doubt there are many readers who are thinking, “That’s not me. I’m not the odd one out.” We all can relate to the long-eared donkey. We all can relate to rejection. We all think we aren’t of much value to God’s kingdom.

We all think we’re Nestor.

David became king. Rahab was an ancestor of Jesus. Deborah led an army to victory over an oppressor (unheard of in her culture). Zaccheaus, a reviled sinner, hosted a party for Jesus. Even children were seen as little value. When parents began bringing their children to Jesus, the disciples shooed them away. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me … for to such belong the kingdom of heaven” (Mark 10:14 ESV).

Let’s face it. In the culture that Jesus was born into, his birth was surrounded by rumor and tales of infidelity. Conceived out of wedlock, he, too, may have been considered a misfit. We do know that ultimately he was rejected by nearly all.

God uses the misfits, the ugly ducklings, to further his kingdom. Things like our standing in society, the size of our bank accounts, or the brand name of our clothes. He doesn’t care about extra-long ears, either. What he cares about is us. He has a purpose for us. It may not be to carry the mother of the Savior, but he wants to use us to build his kingdom.

We actually don’t know if Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem, even though tradition says she did. We do know the first announcement of the birth went not to accepted society, but the outcasts—shepherds. God used these dirty, smelly men who lived in the fields to spread his message of joy and peace—the arrival of the Messiah (Luke 2:8-10).

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, we should put aside our visions of a perfect holiday with a balanced Christmas tree and golden turkey for dinner. Look at the misfits around us—look at ourselves. Have a misfit holiday with Jesus at the center.

Lord Jesus, thank you for the misfits you bring to our lives. Thank you for teaching us you have a plan for us misfits to further your kingdom.

(Adapted from Donkey Devos: Listen When God Speaks copyright 2021)

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Susan K. Stewart didn’t expect to become a “donkey whisper.” One day God put her in a herd of donkeys, and it was love at first bray. Susan and her husband Bob live in Central Texas with their three dogs, three cats, numerous chickens, and inspiring donkeys. They have three children and six outstanding grandchildren. Susan’s book, Formatting e-Books for Writers, was originally released in March 2016 and received an AWSA Silver Scroll Merit Award (2016). Susan’s other books include Science in the Kitchen and Preschool: At What Cost?

Her devotional, Donkey Devos: Listen When God Speaks, was released in July 2021.She has been a guest writer for Upgrade with Dawn (Dawn Wilson), Homeschool with Heart, and ChristineLindsey.org. Susan’s passion is to inspire readers with practical, real-world solutions and a few donkey stories.

Join the conversation: Do you feel like you are a misfit? How has God made you uniquely able to serve him?

The Christmas Feels and the Christmas Fills

by Rhonda Rhea

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot

That Christmas feeling. All year long. Because Christmas movies. All. Year. Long.

I have a high threshold for these things. I watch them all. So when Christmas rolls around for real, I get excited. Christmas movies—at Christmas!

I’ve seen enough of them to know that to experience the season well, you have to fill it with the proper Christmas components. Christmas cookie-baking (spoiler alert: the secret ingredient is love), decorating the tree while singing loud carols (possibly falling off a ladder), ice-skating, brushing something off someone’s face, and of course, making snow angels. We don’t always get a good Christmas snow outside of the movies. For the record, dirt angels are not the same. And Christmas laundry could also become a thing.

I had a little trouble last year. Not with the dirt angels, but with the tree-decorating/ loud singing part. A dozen extra packages of tinsel and too many extra-loud choruses of “Joy to the World” and I got the worst sore throat. Pretty sure I had tinselitis.

There’s a different kind of loud message around this time of year though. It’s both loud and subtle—and not funny. It’s a message to fill the season. Fill it with stuff. Fill it with busy and merch and different kinds of hustle and bustle—and the fullest lists. Lists on lists on lists. Fill it with chaos and stress and nary a silent night, much less sleep in heavenly peace.

I’ll tell you exactly what I do not want my season filled with. Regret. That’s what happens when we let our focus drift to the wrong fillings. There’s a beautiful filling that happens, however—as weird as it sounds—in the proper emptiness. An appreciation of Christmas, and life itself, blossoms as we fill life with…sacrifice. Fill it with surrender.

As we surrender to Jesus, life is filled with purpose. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25 CSB).

I can fill up with the temporary—money, fame, success, power—whatever this world might offer. Gaining it all. Losing myself. The ultimate regret. But surrendering to the Lord, holding nothing back, opens the door to full life. Joyful. And joy-full.

We were never meant to fill ourselves with joy. We weren’t built to wrangle purpose out of our existence. Trying it leads to joylessness—and regrets on regrets on regrets. 

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King.”

Jesus came to bring joy to this world, fully knowing what it would cost Him. What a glorious example of sacrifice. He set aside heaven and His rights as God-King, trading them for suffering—and all for the joy of closeness with us.

We can trust that when He asks us to abandon all and follow Him, He does it with our good in mind. If we let go and grab on to Him, we will always find that His plans for us are bigger and better than anything we could’ve dreamed up. This is a King I can follow without reservation.

That thought fills my heart with singing. Year-round. Though from here on out, I might do the actual singing (with a bit more reservation).

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

rhonda rhea

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

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Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation: How do you keep yourself from regret at Christmas?

Cast Your Sin into the River of God’s Forgiveness

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9 ESV

I’ve never forgotten meeting a woman (I’ll call Carrie) at a women’s retreat where I was speaking. I had shared at the Friday evening session how God delivered me from being a child abuser. During Saturday afternoon free time, I enjoyed visiting individually with many of the women. Carrie came into my room looking fearful. After this attractive thirty-something woman sat down, I asked what was on her heart.

“Kathy, when I heard you share about being a child abuser, I knew you were the one I could talk to.” Carrie looked down and her face turned pale.

I waited.

“You see, I’ve done something as bad as that, and I haven’t been able to tell anyone. But when I heard you, I figured you were the one.”

She glanced up at me quickly and then again averted her eyes. Taking a deep breath, she whispered, “I had an affair with my husband’s best friend.” After pausing, she rushed on. “My husband has forgiven me, but I cannot seem to really believe God can forgive me. I keep asking Him to forgive me. I tell Him over and over again that I’m sorry, but I never feel forgiven.”

I expressed my appreciation for Carrie’s willingness to be vulnerable, and we talked for a few minutes about forgiveness being a decision, not a feeling. Soon, it was as if a burden had been removed from her shoulders. She could look me straight in the eye, and she sat up taller. Confessing her sin to someone else seemed to relieve her of her pain.

We prayed together, and I took her through a process of asking God to forgive her and help her to receive God’s forgiveness. I sensed God was working an incredible healing in her heart.

When the next woman knocked at my door to indicate Carrie’s time had concluded, she gave me a quick hug, snatched up her Bible and cup of tea, and hurried out the door smiling. After the evening session, she thrust a piece of paper into my hand. “Thanks,” she whispered. Later in my room, I read what Carrie had written.

“Kathy, after speaking with you, I went down to the river to pray. I told God that for the last time I was going to ask for His forgiveness, and then let it go. Then I did a sort of ceremony. I took the cup of tea I was drinking and said, ‘Jesus, this tea represents my sin, and this river represents you.’ Then I threw the rest of my tea into the river. And you know what I noticed? The tea was immediately washed away. There wasn’t a trace of it anywhere. Isn’t Jesus wonderful?”

I was thrilled to read about Carrie’s new-found freedom from guilt.

If you are holding yourself captive because you cannot receive God’s forgiveness for some past sin, God wants you to know that you can drop your sin into the river of His forgiveness and grace. His love is sufficient, and He guarantees the stain will be washed away because of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. He wants you to have confidence that nothing can prevent His forgiveness from applying to you.

This book is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Kathy Collard Miller loves to share with others the many ways God shows His love for them. She is an internationally traveled speaker and an award-winning author of 58 books, including Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory. She and her high school sweetheart, Larry, have been married over 50 years and often write and speak together. They are parents of two, grandparents of two, and live in Boise, Idaho. Visit her at www.KathyCollardMiller.com

Join the conversation: Have you struggled to forgive yourself even when knowing God has forgiven you?

Healing Takes Hope

by Robin Currie

[He] implored Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live.” Mark 5:23 NASB

“These things just take time,” the surgeon told me. “Come back in six months.”

Six more months of balancing medication, physical therapy, back braces. Six more months of working, studying, raising kids and writing – things I loved – but always working around unrelenting pain. I woke up many mornings praying, “Let the pain be gone today!” But it never was.

Six months turned into two and then five years, then a decade. A new surgeon, new hope, new fear. With a week to go before that second back surgery, I could no longer pray. “What if…”

I reached out to faithful friends and confessed I needed help. I did not have words or even coherent thoughts. And having asked for help, I found myself quietly accepting whatever the outcome. Upheld by their prayers I just relaxed into the arms of God.

 And six months later I head the amazing words: “This surgery was successful. With a few limits, you can now lead a normal life.”

I cried all the way home.

Recovery from physical, mental or spiritual distress seems to take forever. How do Jesus’ acts of healing speak to our life challenges? In Mark 5:21-43, Jesus seems to be multitasking! He is on his way to heal a twelve-year old girl, and gets stopped to heal a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years.  There are a couple of things revealed about Jesus in these healings.

First, Jesus does things that were defined by the religious establishment as wrong. Touching a sick woman or a dead person made Jesus unfit to enter the Temple in Jerusalem until he had been cleared by the priests.

But Jesus is not made unclean by these acts of compassion. Rather, His touch makes the one he touched whole again.

Second, the purpose of the acts on Jesus’ part was not to convince anyone he is Son of God or gain disciples to follow him. These were acts of pure, selfless compassion. Both miracles simply restore a person to life by the touch of Jesus.

We do not know what the woman and the girl did with the lives Jesus gave back them. We hear nothing more of them in the Bible. Before he healed them, the lives of these women seemed over, but now they have just begun. Their personal stories were a testimony to the power of Jesus’ love. They lived no longer defined by disease but known to be healed by the miracle of Jesus’ touch.

Like those women, we are not required to pay back anything, but to live our lives healed. We have been set free from guilt and shame. We are healed of pointless anger and grudges against hurts that happened long ago. We are healed of all that separates us from God and other people. We are healed to share our stories of hope with others.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Rev. Dr. Robin Currie learned story sharing by reading the parables of Jesus. She perfected story telling techniques by sitting on the floor, in children’s sermons and library story times. Robin has sold 1.7 M copies of her 30 Bible storybooks and writes stories to read and read again!

Join the conversation: How has Jesus healed you since you came to know him?

The Only Celebrity Who Matters

by A.C. Williams

Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice? No, for all the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket. They are nothing more than dust on the scales. He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand. Isaiah 40:14-15 NLT

Do you know any celebrities? I’ve met a handful of famous authors, but for the most part, I just watch celebrity interviews on YouTube like everyone else. 

I follow a few actors on social media who I truly believe are the real deal. They live out a true, authentic faith, and from what those around them say, their faith has had an impact. They are great people. 

When I hear about someone who is great, I like to spread the word. Watch this movie. It’s great. Read this book. It’s great. Listen to this speaker. He’s great.

When you encounter greatness, don’t you feel the need to share it with others?

So… when was the last time you told someone how great God is?

I’m asking myself, too. Because I’ll be the first one to help promote a book or an entertaining movie, but when it comes to shouting about God’s greatness, I often get really quiet.

I don’t like conflict. I don’t enjoy rocking the boat. So I generally avoid topics that can potentially cause a stir. And God is really good at causing a stir (Luke 12:51). 

I won’t hesitate to tell someone I just met about the great book I just finished. But can I tell that same person that God put air in my lungs this morning, gave me taste buds to enjoy my coffee, legs to walk around and marvel at the beautiful autumn weather? Can I tell that person that God made the sun, the moon, the stars, caused the birds to sing and wind to blow (Isaiah 40:26)? That He keeps the Earth spinning like He keeps my heart beating, and that He cares about them both (Psalm 8:3-8)? 

You guys. God is great. He’s the only one who truly is. I apply the term too liberally. Only God deserves it (Mark 10:18).

Do you ever stop to think about His greatness? Do you ever take time to tell Him, to acknowledge how great He is? Do you ever marvel at His endless creativity, His unconventional sense of humor, and His relentless love? 

I don’t. Not as often as I should. And that’s got to change. As the times grow darker and the end draws near, the louder we need to be about His greatness. That doesn’t mean we should be obnoxious. But we also shouldn’t cower like trembling, fragile flowers. 

Christians, we are daughters and sons of God. He has redeemed us. He has given us a new life, a new hope, and an everlasting future. He knew my worth before I knew my name, and He’d already decided to do whatever it took to save me (Isaiah 53:10). 

God is great. In Him, I have all I need, and He wants a big family. That’s the thing about great people. They’re always looking for folks they want to bless. The doors to God’s house are wide open, and He wants everyone to experience the peace and joy that we can only find in Him. 

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if she isn’t, her socks won’t match. She has authored eight novels, two novellas, three devotional books, and more flash fiction than you can shake a stick at. A senior partner at the award-winning Uncommon Universes Press, she is passionate about stories and the authors who write them. Learn more about her book coaching and follow her adventures online at www.amycwilliams.com.

Join the conversation: In what ways is God great to you?

The Trouble with Trouble

by Terri Gillespie

When my troubling thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations comfort my soul. Psalm 94:19 TLV

Okay, I admit it. I’m a closet Trekkie. Now, I don’t have Vulcan ears or anything. Yet. Growing up with the original Star Trek was delicious, it fed my vivid imagination.

One of my favorite episodes of the original Star Trek show was, The Trouble with Tribbles. If you’re one of a handful of souls in this world who have not watched the 1960s’ series, here’s a brief recap.

To protect a space station with a vital grain shipment, Capt. Kirk must deal with Federation bureaucrats, Klingons [they’re bad guys], and a peddler who sells furry, purring, hungry little creatures as pets.

The fuzzy pets are called Tribbles and seem to have a calming effect on the crew—but the creatures hate the Klingons. Tribbles physiology is such that once they eat, they reproduce. It doesn’t take long before the ship is overrun with these furballs.

Just in case you haven’t watched the show and might want to—it’s free on YouTube—I won’t spoil the end. Most likely, the writer of this fun episode and I live in our heads. It’s helpful as an author but can be detrimental to my emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Do you know what I mean?

Today’s verse defines me a little too accurately. If left unchecked, my troubling thoughts will multiply like the Tribbles. Sometimes, I will talk out a concern and discover it isn’t as bad as I first thought. Other times, I’ll try to ignore it only to have it resurface unexpectedly and cause me to stumble.

The most effective way to keep my troubling thoughts from growing and mutating inside my mind and imagination is to simply seek His counsel. His comfort.

I say it’s simple, but it’s anything but easy. Why? Probably because we think we can or should be able to figure out everything. Our trouble may seem small and manageable. We might even think, this isn’t our problem, someone else should deal with it.

The more we “feed” the problem with our own solutions, or pass the blame to others, the more problems we will create, until one day, what could have been resolved simply has now overrun our thoughts and emotions. The more emotions, the more offense builds.

A few weeks ago, troubles had multiplied in my mind. My peace was gone, thereby shortening the fuse to my anger, which caused blowups nearly every day. Finally, I came across Psalm 94:19 and realized, “I’m feeding these troubles and they’re reproducing like Tribbles.” Which made me laugh. The first time in days. I was overdue to seek my Heavenly Father.

Did that resolve everything? Nah. But it did trim back the excess troubles that weren’t real. Without all my emotions, I could hear the LORD better and work through the problem.

So, should we go to our Heavenly Father for every little thing? Maybe. Little troubles can multiply quickly without His wisdom and discernment.

Besides, with our Father, coming to Him is no Tribble at all.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA)..

About the author: Award-winning author and speaker, Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, messages, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus.

Terri’s newly released book, Sweet Rivalry, is the story of twins separated by a troubled mother. One twin is lovingly raised by her grandmother who owns a small-town bakery. The other sister is raised by an addict mother. They discover one another through a televised baking competition. But will rivalry break them apart? The third and final book in the Hair Mavens series, Really Bad Hair Day, is a whirlwind of changes for the mavens—marriage, love, danger, loss, and redemption. The Hair Mavens series is a modern-day Ruth and Naomi story set in a hair salon.

Join the conversation: With what little things are you struggling today?

New Every Morning

by Sheri Schofield

Make me an altar from stones that are uncut and have not been shaped with iron tools. Joshua 8:31 NLT

“Tim! Drew said his first sentence today!” I exclaimed, as I welcomed my husband home from work.

“What did he say?”

“He said, ‘I wub you, Mommy!’” For a first sentence, that was delightful.

Have you noticed how enthusiastic new Christians can be? God must enjoy them immensely. They are so full of excitement and eager to obey him. It warms my heart and fills me with joy to see this new life taking shape in them, too! Just as I treasured every step my children too, every new word they learned, every hug and every smile, so I enjoy those first steps new believers take.

I have some friends who came to Jesus as a young married couple. They read the New Testament like they were on their first safari, noticing every new thing, delighting in each of the Lord’s commands. They came across the story of John baptizing Jesus. At first, John didn’t want to do it because he felt Jesus should be baptizing him instead. But Jesus told him, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires,” (Matthew 3:15 NLT).

“Oh! We need to be baptized!” my friends concluded. They didn’t know how baptisms were done by churches. All they knew was that John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. So, they filled their bathtub with water and baptized each other.

Spiritually, they sprouted like seeds in the springtime, flourishing and obeying all they read in the Bible. They read that they were supposed to become part of a group of believers, so they joined our church. What a joy it was to get to know them! They were unshaped by the church culture, willing to let God teach them, eager to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading; willing to be conformed to the life Jesus presented in the Bible.

They were like the stones of the memorial Israel built after crossing the Jordan River—unshaped by the tools of man. Their hearts were sculpted by the Holy Spirit. They were new creations. Paul wrote, “He (Jesus) died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view…This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun” (2 Corinthians 5:15-17 NLT).

Our new lives in Jesus must be built on one thing: God’s love. We love God. We love each other. We reach out in love to those who do not know God. Yes, God told the Israelites what His love looks like in Exodus 20. There God spelled out how to show our love for him and for each other.

But the Israelites didn’t get it. They became judgmental of each other’s behavior instead of loving. Knowing this, Jesus made it clear. He simplified the instructions. “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-36 NLT).

Do not let the world—the hands of others—shape us. Like fresh, new believers, let us allow the Holy Spirit to shape us. Let our love for Him be new every morning.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22,23 NLT

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

sheri schofield

About the author: Award-winning author, illustrator, and Bible teacher Sheri Schofield ministers to children and their families through her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids. After serving Jesus through children’s ministries and personal evangelism for many years, she understands how to communicate God’s plan of salvation clearly to those who are seeking God.

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Her first book on salvation, The Prince and the Plan, was designed specifically for children. But during COVID, Sheri sensed the need to also provide help for adults. Her new book for adults, God? Where Are You?, tells tells who God is, how we became separated from him, and what he is doing to bring us back to himself through Jesus. At the end of each chapter is a section called “Food For Thought”, which answers questions many unbelievers have, such as—If God is good, why do terrible things happen?—Is anyone too “bad” for God to want to rescue them from sin? This biblically based book is short and easy to read. 

Join the conversation: Are there things in you that have resulted from the world’s influence? Attitudes or actions, that are not from the Holy Spirit? How can you tell?