Time to Rip Off the Bandage

by Kathy Howard

My grandkids love bandages. It seems that every time they come to our house, somebody needs one. So, I keep “kid” ones on hand. Bright colors. Their favorite characters. Most of the time, their little scrapes and bumps really don’t need a bandage. But it makes them feel better for a little while. Bandages don’t heal. They merely cover the wound until healing can take place.

The Old Covenant was a bandage. Sin was the gaping wound. The law, the tabernacle, the sacrificial system: none of it could bring real healing. It was all simply a place holder, waiting for God’s perfect timing to bring true and complete healing for sin. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross was the once-for-all, eternal cure.

When Jesus took His last breath on the cross, something significant happened. The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. This ornate, linen curtain blocked the way into the Holy of Holies. That innermost sanctum of the temple that housed the Ark of the Covenant, the very symbol of God’s presence with His people. No one could enter the Holy of Holies into the presence of God except the high priest; and he could only enter once a year on the Day of Atonement.

On this day, the high priest first sacrificed a bull on the altar and sprinkled its blood in the Holy of Holies to atone for his own sins. Then, he sacrificed a goat and took its blood into the Holy of Holies, into the presence of God, to atone for the sins of the people. These ceremonies had to be repeated again and again. Year after year. Because the blood of bulls and goats could not cleanse sin or purify the conscience of the people (Hebrews 9:13-14).

These sacrifices were just a bandage. They simply covered our wound of sin. Jesus was God’s plan of salvation all along. Before creation (1 Peter 1:19-20) God saw our need for a Savior and determined that His Son would pay the price. The blood of bulls and goats is not sufficient. Only the blood of the unblemished Lamb of God can provide eternal forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:14).

When our sinless high priest died, He carried His perfect cleansing blood into the presence of God to atone for our sins. When His body was broken on the cross, the barrier between sinful man and our holy God was torn in two. To dramatically mark this victory, God ripped the veil that blocked the way into His presence.

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Mark 15:37-38, ESV

In his book “The Pursuit of God,” A.W. Tozer reflected on the temple veil. “Ransomed men need no longer pause in fear to enter the Holy of Holies. God wills that we should push on into His presence and live our whole life there. This is to be known to us in conscious experience. It is more than a doctrine to be held; it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day.”

God invites those who trust in Christ’s sacrifice for salvation to enter the Holy of Holies. To step through the curtain of Christ’s precious body and draw close to our holy God (Hebrews 10:19-22). Won’t you come?

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

About the author: A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. With more than 30 years of experience, she has taught in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. Kathy has a Masters of Christian Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 10 books, including the new “meaty” devotional Deep-Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark. She writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. She also connects with women at Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Join the conversation: What difference does that torn curtain make in your life?

When Your Name Means Broken

by Cherrilynn Bisbano

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)

“CHINGALING!” Laura and Zoila shouted as a vase crashed to the floor. They saw me standing in the doorway of their white stucco home. Saturdays were high dusting days for this mother and daughter team, and I had startled them.

I’d come to say goodbye.  It was time for me to leave Honduras and return to Rhode Island.

I worked in Guinope for three months assisting at the local medical clinic. When I first arrived, many people could not pronounce my name, Cherrilynn (Sherry Lynn). As hard as they tried, they could not pronounce the “SH”;  it always sounded like “CHI”.   

So my name became Chingaling. I grew to love it.

Unbeknownst to everyone in Guinope when I arrived, my heart was broken and my body ached.  I could not leave my emotional baggage at the airport. So I dragged it down dirt roads, through the hospital at Tegucigalpa, and rested it by my bed at night. My wounds from childhood abuse screamed to be healed, and they would not stop just because I was in a foreign land.

 I was good at hiding fear, and depression. However, the Lord was at work in this quiet mountainside village. There was no escape. His loving hand desired to touch my wounds and mend them, but I needed to let go of my broken identity and accept God’s healing. I had many long talks with God as I walked through the dusty streets of Guinope (emotional baggage in tow).  As I responded to His love, the weight of despair dissipated and I loosened my grip on the handle of my emotional baggage.

As my friends turned to stare at the glass shattered on the floor, they repeated: Chingaling!” 

“Are you that happy to see me?” I said.

 “No, I mean yes.” Laura and Zoila looked at each other with delight. “Chingaling!” they shouted and began to laugh a full belly laugh.

“What’s so funny?” I began to laugh with them.

They stepped off the chairs, avoiding the glass.

“Chingaling,” Laura said as she pointed to the broken glass on the floor. Laura spoke fluent English. “The Spanish word for the sound of glass as it crashes to the floor is chingaling.”

I hugged them both, and we laughed as we cleaned up the glass.

As I swept the broken glass into the dustpan, the Holy Spirit impressed these words upon my heart: Chingaling, I am sweeping up the broken pieces of your heart.  I will mend them together for my joy and purpose. Trust me.

I left Guinope with a renewed hope, knowing God would use the story of healing from my brokenness to lead others to Him.

Jesus endured excruciating physical and emotional pain as he hung on the cross.  He understands brokenness. He knew the outcome of his crucifixion—reconciliation with the Father. He became broken, so that He could empathize with His followers who were in the same condition (Hebrews 4:15-16).

But He was also broken that we might be healed and made whole. “He bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV).

Do you feel shattered, like there are too many broken pieces to repair? Trust God to heal you.

This resurrection season, will you join me and thank Jesus for identifying with our brokenness?  Let’s praise Him for His ultimate sacrifice that brings reconciliation and healing.

About the author: Cherrilynn Bisbano is an award-winning writer and speaker. As a certified Christian Life Coach Minister, and Ordained Minister, she aims to share the love of Christ wherever God leads. Cherrilynn is a speaker with Women Speakers. She contributes to the Blue Ridge Writers blog, is published in four compilations books, and her book Shine Don’t Whine released in 2020. Cherrilynn served in the military for twenty years, earning the John Levitow Military leadership award. She lives with her 19-year-old son Michael, Jr., and her husband of 22 years, Michael. She fondly calls them her M&M’s.

Join the conversation: Has God healed you from brokenness?

All Aboard!

by Shirley Brosius

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven … and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NIV

Preparing for a trip excites me. To celebrate our 40th wedding anniversaries, another couple joined my husband and I for a cruise to Nova Scotia. For weeks, we discussed what to wear, what land excursions we might take, and how to avoid seasickness. As the date of departure for my first cruise approached, I got butterflies. But I focused on the destination and didn’t worry about what I left behind.

Perhaps that should be our attitude, as we approach our trip to heaven. After all, that’s really the trip of a lifetime, better than any cruise or vacation. It’s all been paid for by our Savior on Good Friday. And our passports are stamped by His resurrection on Easter Sunday.

If we lived in Old Testament times, we would slay a lamb and paint its blood over our doors at this time of year in remembrance of that first Passover. During the Egyptian plagues, the Israelites were protected from the death of their first born by the blood of that slain lamb (read Exodus 12:1-12). Until the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, the Jews practiced animal sacrifices. The blood of animals “covered” their sins but did not eradicate them.

But once Christ died, animal sacrifices were no longer required from those who believe. Our sins are erased, and we are made righteous by the blood of The Lamb. Our way to heaven is paid, so we can prepare for it with all the excitement we feel for earthly excursions.

Yes, it’s natural not to want to leave planet Earth. We lead good lives. We enjoy family, friends, food, and nice homes. We say God is good, all the time. And we mean it. Well . . . He is just as good when He calls us home.

Every birthday brings me closer to that trip. Closer to death. But closer to the resurrection as well. Paul says absent from the body is present with the Lord, referring to our spirits. And when Christ returns, Paul tells us, the dead in Christ shall rise first. These crippled, hurting, broken bodies will rise from the grave and be united with Christ in the air. If we’re still alive when He returns, we will be caught up with them.

So what preparation do we need to make? For starters, we want to make sure we feel comfortable meeting God. If we don’t, we can talk to a pastor or another Christian who can assure us through Scripture that in Christ our sins are forgiven. We need only recognize Him as our Savior. That is our trip insurance. Without Him to plead our case, we will be separated from God forever. We don’t know exactly what hell will be like, but we certainly don’t want to find out.

Once we’ve settled the spiritual issue, we can write out what measures we want others to take when the date of our departure draws near. We might jot down how we want to be treated (Hmmm . . . I like easy listening music and warm bed buddy wraps) and any final wishes regarding a sendoff (services, burial, cremation, etc.). Most importantly, I can assure my family that they need not grieve for me, because I will be on the trip of a lifetime!

Easter means far more than a new spring outfit and going to church, far more than egg hunts and marshmallow chicks. Easter means I will live forever in the Presence of my Savior!

Happy Resurrection Sunday! And BonVoyage!

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

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About the author: Shirley Brosius lives in Millersburg, Pennsylvania. She authored Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories about Women Who Made a Difference and coauthored Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides. She and her husband Bill have two married sons and a daughter waiting in heaven. Shirley has fond girlhood memories of dressing up in new Easter outfits complete with hats and gloves. These days she enjoys keeping up with five young adult grandchildren.

You can find out more about Shirley at www.shirleybrosius.blogspot.comwww.shirleybrosius.com, or www.friendsoftheheart.us.

Join the conversation: How does knowing heaven awaits you affect your here and now?

His Terms, Not Ours

by Julie Zine Coleman

“It is a fundamental principle in the life and walk of faith that we must always be prepared for the unexpected when we are dealing with God.”      D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The stream of pilgrims entering the city had been steady for several days. It was time for Passover, and every male living within fifteen miles of the city was required to come to celebrate in Jerusalem. One particular group of travelers stood apart from the rest.

As they ascended into town from the Mount of Olives, some of the men began to spread their coats or freshly cut palm branches on the road before them. The object of their tribute came into view, astride a donkey. As He neared the city gate, the surrounding crowd began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” This was obviously no ordinary pilgrim.

The scene was reminiscent of another historical triumphal entry. Antiochus, King of Syria, had desecrated the Temple by offering swine flesh to Zeus at the altar of God. After the battle in which Antiochus was soundly defeated, the victorious Simon Maccabaeus was welcomed into Jerusalem with shouts of joy and branches of palm trees. Now, 150 years later, history seemed to replay itself as Jesus rode into the city. Waving palm branches and shouts of acclamation announced the arrival of another conquering hero.

The crowd believed that Jesus had come to oust their enemies and lead them to political independence. Their expectations were reflected in the very words they shouted. “Hosanna” literally means “save now!” It was a conqueror’s welcome they gave Jesus, but they did not comprehend the kind of conqueror He came to be.  He would score victory over an oppressor, but the oppressor was not Rome. It was the death-grip of sin. He came on His terms, not theirs.

Days later, the crowd was shouting at Jesus again. But this time the words were vastly different: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” He had failed to meet their expectations. And so they rejected Him as their Messiah.

Has God ever failed to meet your expectations? In the two years my mother was dying, I had expectations of God. I would not suffer grief like most people. I had the Lord in my life. I assumed He would be there for me and hold me close and shield me through the process. So I cried out to Him in anticipation, waiting for Him to reveal Himself to me and fill me with peace.

It was like shouting into the wind. I got nothing.

His silence shook my faith to its very foundation. Where was God? This was the hardest trial I had ever encountered. Why was He silent when I so desperately needed Him?

I was hurting so badly I could hardly see straight. I wanted out from the pain. But God had plans for my pain. He would use it to mold me more closely into the image of Christ. I would learn to identify with Him by going through the process of grief and suffering. Most importantly, I would experience a deeper intimacy with Him as I learned to lean on and trust Him on a whole new level. He proved Himself faithful through the crisis. But He came to me on His terms, not mine.

When God seems to let you down, it’s time to look at why you are disappointed. Maybe it’s time to adjust your expectations.

The crowd on Palm Sunday those many centuries ago was looking for a temporary fix. They wanted peace and an easier life. God had something bigger and far better in mind for them. What He would accomplish over the next few days had eternal implications. They would be given a chance of peace with Him, a cure for their sin, and a hope for an eternity in heaven. His goals were far superior to any the crowd could have imagined.

We are limited in our understanding of God’s plan for us. We go for the temporary fix quite often, begging for relief from our temporary discomfort or pain. But He has higher goals for us than that. He will use the pain to accomplish what will afford eternal benefit. His terms are superior to ours. And we can trust Him to deliver far greater things than we can even know to ask.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”       2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NASB  

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

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About the author: Julie Zine Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or crafting. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Did you know Arise Daily has a book that just released? Arise to Peace is a compilation of devotionals from 72 well-loved authors in the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Julie Coleman served as General Editor for the project. Order your copy today!

Join the conversation: How has God surprised you with better than you could have imagined?

Taste the Green!

by Kelly Wilson Mize

When I was younger, thinner, and a lot more energetic, I used to tumble. I learned in a gym, but my favorite place to put my skills into practice was a large, open area of thick, green grass. Still to this day, when I see a big green space, it calls out to me. I long to feel the freedom of reckless abandon that I once felt, when I was physically able to run and flip across the expanse.

Usually around this time of year, when the grass starts to turn green and the flowers burst into full-color, our lives too, begin to burst with renewed activity. With upcoming summer vacations, graduations, weddings, and summer planning–spring can often be chaotic and stressful, even with the aesthetic magnificence that is being reborn all around us.

But these last couple of years, the beginning of spring has been different–an unprecedented time, as we have often heard it called. Some of us have longed for the return of busy social schedules, and have mourned the loss of meaningful ceremonies that have been re-scheduled virtually, or postponed indefinitely. Most of us will remember this strange, uncertain pandemic experience for the rest of our lives. But there have been some positives too. With quarantines and social distancing, many of us have taken time to enjoy the outdoors, to fully digest the awakening spring colors and the peace and healing they can bring.

I have always been a devoted fan of chlorophyll. The sight of vivid green leaves and grass in springtime is so welcome to me after a long winter filled with dark skies and a world nearly void of color. The color green lies in between yellow and blue on the spectrum of visible light. Its hue is a mixture of the light of the sun, and the color of the bluest sky: God’s perfection. I can see the green of spring with my eyes, inhale its scent, and almost feel it in my soul. The season awakens senses that have been dormant for months. It offers a glimpse of new life, but also signifies the comforting return of an old friend. There is a green so vivid, I can almost taste it.

It’s not surprising that David refers to the color green in one of his most beloved songs of praise. Most of us have found restoration in those “green pastures” at one time or another. There is peace, strength, courage and comfort when we allow ourselves to submit to the only One who could make the grass green. The colors of springtime help strengthen our faith in an amazing Creator, and in the hope of growth and renewal that only He can offer.

As spring approaches, let go of the fear and uneasiness of the last year and remember that our skilled Shepherd is in control of every pasture. Take a few minutes to connect with Him in the perfect green meadow that was created just for you.

Be still.

Be renewed.

Be strengthened.

Be courageous.

Be led.

Be protected.

Be comforted.

Feast on His peace.

And this year, more than ever before,

Fully taste the green!

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.

You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23 NLT

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

About the author: Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother of two young adults, and former educator with a master’s degree in education. In 20 years as a published writer, she he has composed numerous articles, interviews, curriculum projects, and devotions, and has contributed to eight traditionally published books. Credits include LifeWay, Bethany House, Guideposts, (in)courage, and others. 

Join the conversation: What does the beginning of spring mean to you?

Improving Our Trust-in-God Quotient

by Patti Richter

She was unstoppable and courageous. At least her pink shirt said so. But my granddaughter’s sudden wailing revealed something else. She was rigid with fear after my sharp-toothed terrier rejected her affection.

When seven-year-old Molly suffered two wounds and received a few stiches for each, I gained a reminder about trusting my old dog. I had another refresher as well: not to trust myself. I had let my guard down.

That little accident was costly and disruptive since my visiting daughter and grandchildren missed their flight home that day. But we weren’t the only casualties in town—all fifty treatment rooms at the hospital’s ER were filled.

While God grants us a measure of physical strength, intellect, wealth, and influence, along with supportive families, friends, churches, and communities, any of these can fail us—sometimes in a moment. Like all created things, people are subject to evil, injury, loss, and reversal, besides the natural course of decay.

Our self-empowerment-loving culture plies us with assurances that we can accomplish whatever we aspire to—the power lies within us. While this idea is partially true, God’s Word adds wisdom: “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong . . . time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 ESV).

Sometimes we’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time, like the eighteen people who had climbed a tower on the day it collapsed. Jesus spoke of the awful event to instruct his followers that those who suffer calamities are no worse than others, warning that all of us sin sufficiently to merit punishment and that, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4, 5 ESV).

Those who love God are not immune to suffering and loss, and it’s human to respond to pain with howling. The writer of Psalm 73 confessed, “When my soul was embittered . . . I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless . . . you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel” (vss. 21 – 24 ESV).

The author C.S. Lewis observed, “Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is.” An accident or incident that wrecks our plans can trigger any tendency toward anger and the need to blame someone. Such emotions reveal a faith issue: Why did God allow it to happen? Sudden misfortune may leave us sullen or depressed, which speaks to our trust level, saying, Either God doesn’t care about me or else he can’t fix this.

While we know to trust in God above all else, it may help us to undergo a test now and then to prove whether our head knowledge has spread to our deeper fibers. An actual driving test exposes weaknesses unseen in the written exam we passed after some reading. Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts” (ESV).

Any poor “test” results can help us improve our trust-in-God quotient, as we learn to no longer trust in ourselves. This will yield a better outcome after our next round of trouble, which will come as surely “as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7 ESV). Difficult circumstances, if we let them drive us toward God, allow us to experience his abiding presence. Then we’ll be courageous for the right reason.

In me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 ESV

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

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.

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Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: What tests have improved your ability to trust God?

Selah Serenity

by Pam Farrel

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. Psalm 42:7 NIV

I love strolling the beach, because the waves beating rhythmically against the shore reminds me of the faithfulness of God. I love pushing pause to think in a deeper, soul-refreshing way about Him. The Psalmist calls these valuable moments, Selah, expressing a pause to ponder, a rest note in the melody of life.

In today’s uncertain days, we need to cultivate these Selah moments. Ever feel like you are drowning in bad news? Tough times are coming at you like a torrential down pour?; Negativity making you feel like you are caught in a riptide? That is exactly how the author of Psalm 42 felt.

Life is Hard

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

Deep calls to deep is a reference to all the water in the world—and reminds us that God’s hand of mercy is holding back! In other words, things could be worse! We can thank God for what He is protecting us from. The roar of your waterfalls references the power of water to keep us down and under– those times we feel like circumstances threaten to drown us. During a particularly stressful year in our life, my prayer was, “Help God! I can’t breathe!” Been there too?

All your waves and breakers have swept over me is a word picture of being caught in the crushing and crashing waves hitting the shore. Swept over me is both a cry for rescue and the comfort of knowing eventually the waves will sweep past us. This verse gives us hope!

God is Good

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.

Here is a two-part solution for getting out of the waves and out from under the blows of the downpouring life waterfalls.

Pray expectantly, Pray believing that the Lord is directing and dispatching his steadfast love to you. Believing that even when life is bad, God is good brings a heavenly perspective. If you continue to read Psalm 42 and 43, you will see a repeating statement:

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God

This reinforces that in the many times we feel downcast, depressed, discouraged, disturbed and even desperate, when we put our hope in God, and praise Him, we will gain inner strength and ability to stand firm.

My definition of hope means to wait patiently and expectantly for God to show up and show off in your life for your good and God’s glory. But how do we hope expectantly?

Praise repeatedlyDuring the day, I thank God for His traits and attributes and for being with me. At night, when times are tough, I go to sleep with praise songs, hymns, and the audio Bible playing. When I accumulate praises of God during the day (in my Selah journal), then add in songs of praise as I fall to sleep, it moves me little by little. My paradigm shifts, and I can envision the difficulties being used by God to better me or my life. If I keep praising, I move even further away from the desperation, and the spray of the waterfall becomes a mist of refreshment, because I am I anticipating how He will  “work all things together for my good” (Rom. 8:28). Charles Spurgeon captured this sentiment: “I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages.”

Find a quiet place near water: a fountain, a pool, a lake, the ocean, or your own bubble bath— a Selah setting to pause, ponder and praise the goodness of God.

This article first appeared in Just Between Us magazine for Women.

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

About the author: Pam Farrel is the author of 50+ books and the co-author (with Jean Jones and Karla Dornacher) of the Discovering the Bible series of creative Bible studies (Harvest House Publishers). She and her husband, Bill, make their home on a boat docked in Southern California. To download your Selah in the Psalms Creative Guide and other resources, go to www. Love-Wise.com.

Join the conversation: Have you experienced the crushing waves of disappointment and despair? How did it work out for you?


Accepting and Utilizing Your Gift

by Candy Arrington

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 NLT

Have you ever encountered someone who was hesitant to receive gifts? In my lifetime, I’ve known a few people who didn’t want to be given gifts. Initially, I thought being given a gift embarrassed them in some way, but later determined it was because they didn’t want to be obligated to the giver, feeling they had to repay in kind.

Years ago, my husband and I participated in an in-depth Bible study that included a spiritual gifts inventory. Not only did we each do a personal assessment, the group members also assessed each other. When I tallied my scores, and the highest was in the category of prophecy, I was upset. I was even more upset when everyone in the group also scored me in the prophecy category. When I heard the results, I looked around the room and said, “But I don’t want to be a prophet!”

The leader replied, “But you are. That is your gift. Receive it.”

Historically, prophets were unpopular. In Scripture, prophets were ostracized, criticized, and sometimes killed for delivering God-given messages.

Why couldn’t my spiritual gift be something happy and heartwarming like hospitality or mercy? Why was I given the un-fun, unwanted gift of prophecy?

At the time I took the inventory, I didn’t fully understand what the gift of prophecy meant. I envisioned standing in a group of people delivering messages about the future that no one wanted to hear. I didn’t realize God had other ways of using me to speak His messages.

Several years after I learned my gift, our group re-gathered for a retreat. Early the second morning, God woke me. Words swirled in my head, forming phrases. I got up and could hardly get my notebook and pen in hand fast enough to capture the sentences that were pouring from my mind.

Later, when I shared what I had written with the group, many asked for a copy of my words. That weekend, I began to realize how God planned to use my spiritual gift. I wasn’t supposed to forecast the future. Rather, I was called to write God-given words of hope, encouragement, and help for readers, right now.

Like me, perhaps you’ve been hesitant to use your spiritual gift. Maybe you don’t like your gift or feel uncomfortable accepting and implementing it. Don’t worry. The gift God gave you is uniquely designed for you. If you’re willing to accept it, God will equip you to utilize your gift for your benefit, the church’s benefit, and for his glory.

Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be use in the service of others. So use your gift well. 1 Peter 4:10 CEV


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

Candy Arrington

About the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: What is your calling?

Altar Envy

by Terri Gillespie

When you make for Me an altar of stones, do not build it from cut stone, for if you use a tool on it, you will have profaned it. Exodus 20:25 TLV

The familiar funky cloud of envy settled on me, despite my pasted-on smile and enthusiastic congratulations. That old adage to “fake it until you make it” was not working. Once again, I was left behind while others moved forward in success and triumph and breakthroughs.

What if I followed their passions? What if I adapted my “stones”—my gifts—to be more like those I admired? Trim my “stones” to replicate their altars. Perhaps then God would see and bless my offerings as He had theirs.

The children of Israel had escaped the bondage of slavery after 400 years. Those who were grateful wanted to find ways to show that gratitude to their Redeemer. While Moses, Aaron, and the tribe of Levi were managing the building of the Tabernacle and all its implements of sacrifice and worship (Exodus 25ff), the people could build their own altars for their offerings.

In the verse before, God tells His people that He is content with an earthen altar:

You are to make an altar of earth for Me, and there you will sacrifice your burnt offerings, your fellowship offerings—your sheep and your cattle. In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you. Exodus 20:24 TLV

The children of Israel did not have to make a fancy altar to show their gratitude and be right with God, but if they wanted to, then just find some rocks—of which there were plenty in the Sinai—and assemble the altar.

Guess what? That meant Shlomo’s altar would look different than Uri’s or Judah’s—each altar would be unique.

Our “altars”—the place we give our offerings to the Lord, will all be distinctively different from others. Whatever our gifts, they are individually formed by God—which means our offerings will be distinctly different from others.

What are our offerings? For writers it can be the devotionals we post on social media, or novels and books helping others live faithfully, or letters to the editor. For artists it can be paintings, drawings, handcrafts, or sculptures. For lyricists and musicians, songs that edify and worship and praise our God. The offerings of teachers, parents, grandparents . . . You get the idea.

Our pasts, our challenges, our testimonies are part of the composite of each and every stone. Therefore, our gifts will always be different than those of someone else. That’s the beauty of how God sees us and how we fit into the Greater Altar as one Body.

It was only within the last few years that I realized the “stones” God provided for my altar were the stones He wanted me to use. He oversees my gifts and watches for my offerings in love.

The altar will look however it is going to look, based on the stones He provides for us. We are not to try to make it look “nicer” or more like another’s altar. That corrupts our offerings. Whatever He has provided for us, He wants us to use those stones to give our offerings to Him.

Not sure what your stones are? Know that you—your earthly being—is a good enough altar for our Heavenly Father. He loves the sweet surrender of our hearts as the greatest offering—our worship, praise, and gratitude.

Eventually, you will notice the stones. Gather them and build the altar that is exclusively yours. Then, give the Lord your offerings. Everyone’s altar is beautiful.

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

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

Join the conversation: What does your altar look like?

Fear No Evil

by Sheri Schofield

Snow and ice covered Montana. It was 40 degrees below zero when my plane took off and headed for Texas two years ago this March. From there, our mission team traveled by van into the Sierra Madres of Mexico. Only a few months earlier, the cartel had killed a large number of American women and children on the other side of the mountains from our destination. It was not a safe time to be traveling in that region.

Toward the end of that week, the pastors and I led seminars for the Mexican pastors and their wives in Pena Blanca, a small town. While I taught the wives a class on multisensory teaching, our pastors conducted educational classes for the Mexican pastors.

That Friday, as I was teaching, I heard a big boom followed by what sounded like fireworks. A few blocks away, La Lenia drug cartel had blown up a state trooper car containing three troopers. The “fireworks” were machine guns. The battle raged back and forth between other troopers and La Linea cartel throughout the day, sometimes coming as close as a block away from us.

When the noise became too loud, I would pause until it passed. There were adobe walls between the battle and us, but it was still dangerous. However, I did not feel afraid. I had a strong sense the Lord was with us.

Saturday night, our pastor asked for volunteers to go with him on Sunday to a church located on the other side of La Linea’s territory, where Sinaloa cartel operated. I knew we would be stopped by the cartel on one or both sides of the line. Only two young men reluctantly volunteered. Neither of them knew Spanish, nor did my pastor. I did not volunteer that night, though I did speak some Spanish. I wanted to pray about it first and find out what God wanted. Sure enough, God said, “Go with them.”

I did. Our trip to the next town was uneventful. But on our way back, we were stopped by about fifteen machine-gun toting cartel members. They wanted to know who we were and where we were going.

Pastor simply said, “No Espanol. Iglesia?” (“No Spanish. Church?”) I remained silent. If needed, I was available, but I would wait to be asked. The cartel checked the VIN on our car then let us go.

At no time was I even a tiny bit afraid. Why?

First, I have been face-to-face with death a few times, and I found that Jesus was there. Live or die, to be with Jesus is to be at peace.

Second, I knew that God had sent me on this mission trip to help those Mexican church leaders. Being in the center of His will is always the best place to be.

David knew this same peace. He wrote about it in Psalm 23:4. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (KJV).

The times in which we are living are filled with anxiety and fear as we battle a pandemic and job losses. As I write, a record-breaking snowstorm has hit the United States, creating more stress. Isolation. Loneliness. Fear. Financial insecurity. These are the enemies we face—Satan’s cartel.

How do we cope? We don’t look at the enemy—We look at Jesus. He is with us. We can trust Him completely.

Whatever else God is doing, He is certainly getting our nation’s attention. Maybe He will send revival! Wouldn’t that be a great outcome?

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1 NIV

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

sheri schofield

About the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator. She was named Arise Daily Writer of the Year in 2020, and Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Sheri also writes devotions for children at her website: www.sherischofield.com in “Campfire”, and is in the process of developing a children’s program on her YouTube site. Questions welcomed!

Read Sheri and her husband’s amazing story in One Step Ahead of the Devil: A Powerful Love Story. Thrust into national politics because of her husband’s work, Lissa McCloud struggles to save the life of the man she loves from those who are bent on his destruction. Based on true events, the reader is taken deep into the heart of national politics –all the way to Congress and the President of the United States.

Join the conversation: Have you had to trust the Lord in a dangerous situation?