No Wrath, Ever

by Julie Zine Coleman

Journalist Lewis Hind once wrote of an epiphany about his father. Mr. Hind was a stern parent who administered discipline with an iron hand. Lewis respected his father, but even more, he feared him. One Sunday morning that all changed.

He was sitting in a church pew next to his father when the urge to sleep overtook him. Try as he might, young Lewis could not keep his eyes open. As he began to nod off, movement next to him startled him awake. His father raised him arm. Lewis flinched, sure his father meant to shake or strike him. Instead, Mr. Hind stretched his arm over the back of the pew and drew his young son close to his side, encouraging him to snuggle up and relax. In that moment, Lewis now understood that his father loved him.

Sometimes what we think we know as truth turns out to be dead wrong.

From early on, Jewish theology carried the idea that sickness was a result of sin. In the time of the patriarchs, a friend of Job demonstrated this in his judgment of Job’s troubles: “Remember now, whoever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed? According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it. By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger, they come to an end” (Job 4:7-9 NASB).

In Jesus’ day, the assumption persisted. His disciples questioned Jesus about one man’s blindness. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” (John 9:2 NASB). Obviously, if you were blind, you were experiencing the wrath of God for some grievous sin. Or so they thought.

Jesus knew otherwise. He corrected their false belief by telling them it was neither. “It was so the works of God might be displayed in him,” he said. (John 9:3b).

Mark tells the story in his gospel of a paralytic whose friends lowered him through a hole in the roof to be healed by Jesus. Jesus’ first words to him are puzzling. He said, “Your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5 NASB).

Wait…he came to be healed! What would “your sins are forgiven” have meant to that man?

For however long the man had been paralyzed, he had lived under the condemning stares of others, silently accusing him (or his parents) of committing some terrible sin, evidenced by his ailment. Worse, he had experienced the rejection and wrath of God himself. Or so he thought.

Jesus told him otherwise. He cleared away the man’s guilt with one statement: Your sins are forgiven. Upon hearing those words and their implication, the burden of despair fell off the man’s shoulders. He was spiritually healed.

Then, for good measure, Jesus commanded the paralytic to walk. And so he did. He picked up the mat on which he had so recently been carried and left the premises. With that physical healing, Jesus made his point. He was the Son of God. He had the authority to forgive sin. And this miracle proved it.

Have you ever wondered if your difficult circumstances are God’s punishment for your sin? That if you could be a better person, God wouldn’t be angry with you any more? Don’t buy into the lie. It’s bad theology.

Jesus bore the wrath of God for our sin on the cross. He endured God’s rejection and anger. If we believe in Christ, trusting him for our salvation, we will never be condemned for a single sin. Ever.

Jesus already paid the debt. God is not angry with you. True, sin makes him angry. But he placed that wrath for our sin on Jesus. As believers, we will never experience the wrath of God.

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9 NASB

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

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About the authorJulie 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 her new website JulieZineColeman.com and Facebook.

Many Christian women are torn between the church’s traditional teachings on gender roles and the liberty they experience in secular society. But what if the church’s conventional interpretations aren’t really biblical at all? Julie’s new book, On Purpose, is a careful study of the passages in the Bible often interpreted to limit women in the church, at home, or in the workplace. Each chapter reveals timeless biblical principles that actually teach freedom, not limitation.

Join the conversation: Have you ever mistakenly judged someone by the external?

Three Steps Ahead

by Doris Hoover

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (Luke 12:25 NIV) I know I can’t.

Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? (Luke 12:26) That’s a good question.

You’d think I’d learn, but at times, I still churn with worry. The Lord has to continually teach me the same lesson over and over.

God is always three steps ahead of me in His teaching. He knows how my mind works, so He teaches me lessons in advance. Then when my worry flares up, He reminds me of what He just taught me.

I write devotions, and I’ve learned that almost every devotional I write is first a lesson for me. I recently wrote about a tranquil sunset being God’s reminder that we can sleep without worry. The Creator of sunsets has the ability to attend to all the details of our concerns, so we can relax into a peaceful night’s rest.

Two nights after writing that message, I tossed and turned with anxiety until I recalled the devotion and the Scriptures about worry. The Lord had prepared that lesson in advance because He knew I’d need it.

My worries stemmed from a long-awaited prayer request. My husband and I had been searching for a small Class C motor coach. The kind we wanted was so scarce, that as soon as one appeared online, it sold immediately. We were giving up hope of ever finding one when God placed one in our path. It was parked directly across from our car in an event parking lot. We happened to be the first people to call about it. While we waited for the owner to arrive, several other people showed interest in it.

We didn’t have cash for a down payment. and it was Saturday of a holiday weekend. Banks wouldn’t open until Tuesday. We had to go to a local Publix supermarket and make four separate purchases in order to get enough cash back to seal the deal.

Then more complications arose. The seller was co-owner with her cousin, who was recently deceased. The seller couldn’t afford the loan payments on her own. But the title couldn’t be released until the loan was paid off. After consulting with numerous agencies, we realized the only way to move forward would be for us to pay the loan and wait until Motor Vehicle processed the clear title. That was the source of my anxiety.

But God was three steps ahead. Once we wired funds for the loan, our bank wrote a letter that DMV would accept. They gave us a temporary title which allowed us to take possession of the rig.

Not only was God three steps ahead in answering our prayers, He was three steps ahead in answering the seller’s prayer for financial relief. The transaction blessed both parties.

Are you worrying about a matter? I encourage you to trust God with your concerns. He is already three steps ahead.

Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 GNT)

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

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About the author: Doris Hoover lives in Florida, but she also spends time along the coast of Maine. Her passion is discovering God’s messages in nature and sharing them with others. You can visit Doris at captivatedbythecreator.com. 

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Doris’ book, Quiet Moments in The Villages, A Treasure Hunt Devotional invites you to step outside to discover the treasures God places around you. She leads you to beautiful places in her home town. Her poetic descriptions and beautiful photography draw you into moments that will stir your heart.

Join the conversation: How does God’s unrelenting grace impact your life?

The Soul-Magnet

by Sheri Schofield

There’s a rodent haven next to our mountain home. It is a huge pile of boulders that towers forty feet into the sky. Rats, mice, pikas, and squirrels call this huge tower home. I’ve noticed it is very well organized. It even has a bathroom for the community on one side of the tower. The squirrels living in the tower have black tails and are very territorial. In the mornings, one or two of them will climb up a tree and scold every bird or gray squirrel they see. Sometimes, a black-tailed squirrel from another boulder tower will scold back. The neighboring inhabitants scold even louder. I imagine they are saying, “This is MY house. I’m the boss here. Don’t come near my place…or else!”

(Sometimes I stand on the deck and make squirrel scolding noises right back at them. It drives them crazy!)

The gray squirrels live in more modest pile of boulders behind our house. They are gentle and curious. They rarely scold. I can talk to them, and they hesitantly listen for a while, then scamper away.

Two different types of squirrels—two different responses to life. Territorial versus gentle. Domineering versus friendly.

I’ve been reading the book of Judges. They had no ruler, no king. Therefore, each one did what was right in his own eyes. My, what contention! Some group was always battling another group, even in times of national peace. When they forgot God and worshipped Baal, He let invaders dominate them. He delivered Israel time after time, but they quickly forgot God.

In later days, they were not willing to let God be their King. They wanted a man. Even after God gave them a human king, it didn’t satisfy them. Jealousy drove Saul to hunt David. Jealousy and sin divided David’s household. Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines from the surrounding heathen nations. He built idols to their gods and participated in their evil worship. His later life was totally self-centered, though he began his life well. It resulted in a divided kingdom after he died.

Sin divided people back then. It divides us now. Peace can only exist where Jesus is King of our hearts, and we obey His command to love one another. Tertullian, a first century Christian, tells us the pagans would say this about Christians, “Behold, how they love one another!” It amazed them. The pagans didn’t have any such love, and what they saw among Christians was incredible. Christians were decidedly different!

Do we love one another today? Someone recently described a church this way to me. “They are the nicest, kindest people. But I don’t think the pastor is very deep, and nobody seems to connect the dots too seriously.”

This church has clearly understood Jesus’ command to love one another. They are not arguing among themselves. They are reaching out to others, showing kindness. They are not focused on divisive theology. I’d say they are deep. Very deep. For loving one another is the most miraculous quality of the church.

Once we have learned how to truly love one another, we are better able to understand the rest of Jesus’ teachings and the instructions of the apostles. Love is the foundation upon which we build. After we have learned to love other Christians, we will learn to love the lost. When we love the lost, we have great influence in leading them to Jesus. Few can resist God’s love. It is a soul-magnet.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing, (1 Corinthians 13:1,2 NIV).

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

About the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

FREE CHILDREN’S PROGRAM!
Sherri offers a free series of video lessons about Jesus and His salvation—for children ages 4 and up. It is available at her website www.sherischofield.com. In this video series, Walk-The-Talk Island, Sheri presents her award-winning book The Prince and the Plan, in 24 video lessons for your children, grandchildren and any others with whom you wish to share. In addition, Campfire provides devotions for children.

Join the conversation: In what ways do you show love to your fellow believers?

Saying Our “Thank You” Prayers

by Neva Bodin

We were out for a ride in beautiful mountain country in our new ATV. The gray-white blousy clouds sailed across the sky; the sun played peek-a-boo with us. The temperature was perfect.

Five minutes later, the fat clouds darkened, began holding hands, and shoving the sun behind them. We looked up as the wind increased and said, “We’re going to get wet!”

“Should we go back?” my husband asked.

“No, let’s keep going a bit,” I answered.

Within a couple of minutes the clouds got over their hostile attitude and parted. The sun sent a radiant smile down, and the blue sky widened. “Thank you, Lord,” I whispered.

There were now no clouds above us, but a raindrop kissed my forehead. Just one. And I knew where it came from.

I think there are many times God gives us a metaphorical kiss (that’s not wet). And busy with our thoughts or troubles, we don’t feel it.

I am sometimes good at, and other times lax at thanking God for His many blessings throughout my day. It’s good to remember. For when I make an effort to recognize all the little pats on the head, the caresses, the silent “well done”s He has sent my way, I acknowledge His presence.

I have watched parents stroke a child’s head, straighten a lock of hair on a small forehead, or reach down and pick a fearful child up, all while carrying on a conversation with someone else. Even while accomplishing another task, they are mindful of their child, no matter what they are doing at any given moment.

Our Father God is always mindful of us, willing to send us a joy or a sign that He’s thinking of us. Do we always recognize these gestures? I’m sure I don’t. “From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another” (John 1:16 NLT).

When a child says “thank you” for a gift or favor from a parent, it brings a broad smile to the parent’s face. Parents like to be acknowledged. And so does our Father God.

So I am thankful any time He blesses me with a “kiss.” I pray He helps me to recognize my many blessings and nudges me somehow if I forget to say thank you. I have already received many blessings: that the big bale of hay that flew off a truck one day on the highway landed beside my car and not on it, the presence I felt beside me when driving in fear on ice far from home, the time I coasted up to a gas pump on an empty tank while on a trip, the friend who called me or gave me a compliment at just the right moment when my heart was broken, and a thousand other heavenly touches.

Praise and thanksgiving are such important parts of prayers. I don’t want to forget them. While I look for material and concrete things to thank God for, I want to remember to thank Him for grace and forgiveness, the two most important things.

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him?” Matthew 7:11 NLT

About the author: Neva Boden writes to help us laugh, love, and understand life. She aspires to infuse readers with faith and hope, for that may be all that keeps us going at times. Publishing credits include The Gift of a Goat, Bitzy Bunny Gets a New Mama, Montana Free, and There’s a Circus in the Sky, (all available on Amazon or direct mail from the author), short stories, newsletters, poetry, and freelance articles. Facebook or Twitter.

Join the conversation: When was the last time you noticed a kiss from God?

Tourist Attraction – Sunrise and Sunset

by Elaine Helms

Far and wide they’ll come to a stop; they’ll stare in awe, in wonder. Dawn and dusk take turns calling, “Come and worship.” Psalm 65:8 MSG

After a break in school classes, teachers often give the assignment of writing about one’s favorite memories of that vacation. Where did you go? What did you see? How long was the line to get into your desired attraction? What was the highlight? Actually, as adults, we also often share with delight, our own experiences at places we have visited.

The more vacations we have enjoyed, the more I am convinced that no matter where we go, a big highlight is viewing either the sunrise or sunset from this or that point of view.  

For example, one time we stopped in the mountains at a rest stop to take a break. Noticing the crowd gathering behind the building and finding seats on the hillside, we asked what was going on. “This is a perfect location to catch the sunset over the mountains! If you have never seen it you must stay.” Convinced, we found a vacant spot and waited for the show. We talked with others about how amazing the handiwork of our God is. The view is always different; but you know it will be good . . . and worth the wait. It definitely was!

Another time while at a conference, I eagerly agreed to meet up with an enthusiastic group to see the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and worship God. It was worth losing some sleep not only to see the spectacular emerging of the big radiant ball, but also to worship its creator on the spot. Chills in the dark gave way to the warmth of the sun going up into the sky spreading ever brightening light. Although not naturally an early riser, I may try that again!

On one cruise, I wondered if there was concern of tipping the ship with so many on one side trying to find the perfect spot to see and photograph the sunset. Looking through our own and other people’s vacation photos, proves the point that God’s handiwork wins the prize in attracting onlookers taken in by the beauty. The photos may be from any part of the globe, but the shot of that landmark at sunrise or sunset has a glow no one can deny.

God provides these great opportunities to brag on Him and His creation – ongoing new images in the heavens declaring His glory. Think about being in an art gallery and seeing a work of art that draws you in. Most people want to know: who is the artist?

We know the Artist of sunrises and sunsets. So next time we are with a crowd waiting for a sunset; we can make sure other onlookers have a chance to meet the Artist Himself. The great thing is that the pure awe of the moment causes a natural and winsome exclamation of the glory of God in His handiwork.

As any artist enjoys seeing viewers of their work linger and study the piece, how our heavenly Father must smile when we stop and worship Him, the Creator of all that majesty and glory in the heavens – daily. Let’s get outside, and let the worship begin!

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

About the author: With her passion for God, humor, vulnerability and spiritual strength, Elaine Helms encourages audiences and readers to draw closer to God and live the abundant life Jesus came to give His followers. Prayer Coordinator for the Southern Baptist Convention for 10 years and for My Hope America with Billy Graham for two years, Elaine has 30 years of experience in church, national, and interdenominational prayer leadership. www.ChurchPrayerMinistries.org or erhelms@bellsouth.net

Prayer 101: What Every Intercessor Needs to Know

Prayer 101, What Every Intercessor Needs to Know, is a comprehensive guidebook for discovering how to pray as God intends. You’ll journey through Scripture, find inspiration in the stories of others, and learn simple and effective principles for prayer. An ideal resource for groups, Prayer 101 includes review questions for each chapter and a prayer ministry guide for churches eager to put prayer into action.

Join the conversation: When is the last time you stopped for a few minutes to enjoy God’s sunrise or sunset show?

The Big Reveal

by Rebecca Price Janney

Don’t you just love a good makeover story? You’ve probably watched many shows in which a couple buys a derelict house with a jungle-like yard because a team of experts promises to turn this nightmare into a dream home. The professionals go to work, relentlessly tearing down walls and ripping out cabinets. They load dumpsters, spackle, paint, roof, rebuild, and replant. At the end of the show, the couple stands before a huge “before” photo of their house, and when the makeover gurus slide the rolling billboard away, the husband and wife leap into the air, screaming and crying when their once dilapidated house is revealed to be the nicest on the block.

There are other shows in which individuals, who seem barely acquainted with a comb or brush and think wearing sweatpants to a wedding is appropriate, encounter fashion consultants who triage the woman’s wardrobe, casting most of it into a trash can. They take her shopping for clothes to complement her body type, then hair and makeup stylists go to work. In the end, they turn the woman around in a salon chair to reveal her new and incredibly beautiful self.

Even if we live in clean houses and our clothes/makeup don’t require an intervention, most of us know there’s a better us hidden under layers of lingering sin and distorted ideas about ourselves. Those things may have sabotaged our relationships or cut our potential short. We long to be free, to have Jesus toss out our personal rubbish.

As a matter of fact, Jesus has already begun to do that, to give us an amazing makeover. When we put our trust in Him to save us from our sins, we became God’s very own children, a new creation, and we started to bear the Family resemblance. This divine makeover doesn’t end in our lifetime, however. It is an ongoing-process that continues throughout our lives and will culminate with the Lord’s Second Coming. First John 3: 2 (ESV) says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” 

What exactly will we look like when our grand reveal happens? Many people believe our transformation results in us becoming angels. You hear it all the time; someone dies, and others say, “Heaven has gained a new angel.” This is a false idea, however, because Scripture shows us angels are a separate race of beings from humans.  

So, if we don’t become angels, what will we be like at the culmination of our heavenly makeovers? John, the author of this letter, didn’t speculate or try to describe this future condition. Just that we will be like Jesus. And what was He like? Perfect in every possible way, beautiful beyond anything we know here on earth. Flawless. Reflecting the glory of our awesome God.

For now, as we live on the expectant edge of eternity, the divine makeover process is underway. We can wait with eager longing for that grandest of all reveals, when Jesus rolls back the clouds and returns in all His splendor, and gazing upon Him, we will be completely, utterly transformed.

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

About the author: DR. REBECCA PRICE JANNEY is the author of twenty-five books, including her beloved Easton Series. Books three and four, Easton at the Crossroads and Easton at the Pass, captured 2019 and 2020 Golden Scroll Awards for Historical Novel of the Year, and the first book in her Morning in America Series, Morning Glory, took second place. Award-winning Sweet, Sweet Spirit: One Woman’s Spiritual Journey to the Asbury College Revival, is a compelling read for such a time as this. Her latest novel is Easton at Christmastide.

Rebecca began writing professionally at the age of fourteen, and by the following year, was covering the Philadelphia Phillies. She earned degrees in history from Lafayette College, Princeton Seminary, and Missio Seminary. Rebecca is a popular speaker at civic and patriotic organizations, historical societies, schools, libraries, churches, and synagogues, and appears regularly on radio as well as her podcast, “American Stories.” She resides with her husband, son, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley where her family has lived since the 1740s.

Join the conversation: What do you imagine our completed selves will be like at the second coming?

Let There Be Light

by Christina Rose

Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other  five were wise enough to take along extra oil. Matthew 25:1-4 NLT

The ten lovely bridesmaids were on their way to meet the bridegroom, but half of them were about to get lost in the dark. Only five were wise enough to carry extra oil for their lamps. When the bridegroom was delayed, the bridesmaids got sleepy and took a nap. They were awakened at midnight by a cry that the bridegroom had arrived. The wise bridesmaids arose to light their lamps with the extra oil they had carried, but the foolish bridesmaids had none. When they asked the wise ones for some of their oil, they were told to go buy their own.

But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, “Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!” But he called back, “Believe me, I don’t know you!” (Matthew 25:10-12 NLT).

None of us know the hour or day that Jesus will return, but until that time, if we walk in the light, he will recognize us as his own and open the door for us. In the book of John, Jesus tells us that he is the light of the world and whoever follows him will never walk in darkness. He came to this world so that the blind may see. He asks us to follow him, to walk in the light and help others do the same. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14 NLT).

I have an extensive collection of mini flashlights that I keep in pockets, handbags, gym bags and my car. I keep one with my Amplified Bible at the foot of my bed so that I’m prepared to explore the mysteries of the Bible in the middle of the night when my restless mind seeks answers. “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105 NLT).

Five years ago, I was called to leave my home in California, just as Abraham was called to leave his home and everything familiar so that God could change him. Sometimes we don’t want to leave those comfort zones, but it is often necessary to let go of our old ways that no longer serve us. The last five years have been full of challenges that severely tested my faith, but they have transformed me. I’ve landed in a large community of believers that have shown me amazing grace; where I once was blind, I now can see. When I walk into church the room and all the people are full of light. The light is so obvious to me that now, wherever I go, I notice others who shine.  “If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light” (Luke 11:36 NLT).

When we seek to walk in the light our days can be full of amazing grace, signs and wonders. We can inspire others to walk alongside us so that we can all shine like the sun for his glory. Like the bridesmaids on their way to meet the bridegroom, we must be willing and prepared.

For you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NLT

About the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer and speaker with the John Maxwell Team. She is a DAR whose patriot ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War.  Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story.  With her young family on the verge of falling apart, Christina appeals to heaven for hope and freedom just as her patriot ancestors did hundreds of years ago. She is a contributor to Arise to Peace Daily Devotional and a frequent blogger for Arise Daily Devos.

Join the conversation: How do you consciously walk in the light?

A Lament Is More than Sadness

by A.C. Williams

Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine. Luke 22:42 NLT

For Lani Forbes and Jane “Nightbirde” Marczewski

Do you ever lament how broken the world is? Ugh. Lament is such a medieval-sounding word. Bleak and gray and dreary like a novel by a Bronte sister. But what is a lament?

It’s a song of grief, isn’t it? It seems an appropriate response when the world is such a dark, broken, sorrowful place. Grief is our native tongue. Loss is our common bond. And it’s not even the hate and the violence that hurts the most sometimes. It’s the heartbreaking loss of loved ones taken too soon. Violence has a solution in some ways. Hate has a cure in some ways. Death by disease? All we can do with that is mourn.

There are no fingers to point. There is no blame to cast. Just a big gaping wound that pulses with pain every time something brushes up against it. 

In the month of February alone, I’ve seen cancer steal two godly women. They fought the good fight. They won their race. Both of them. Even their final days here were full of gratitude and praise. They used the gifts God had given them right up to the end and left a legacy (and a challenge) for all of us who remain.

But today isn’t a day for challenges. Today is a day for sadness. For letting ourselves feel the grief that comes when one of God’s children goes home (Ecclesiastes 3:4). 

Brokenness is worthy of lament. Have we even taken time to think what brokenness means? It means the world doesn’t work.

Our world can’t be fixed. No political leader, no religious movement, no earthly power can put our world back together again (Jeremiah 17:5). 

A lament is certainly worthy of grief, but it isn’t just about sadness. It’s not just about mourning. A lament is a heartfelt cry to God that both acknowledges the pain of loss and reaches toward Him in hope.

Lament leads to hope.

Do you ever think of Jesus’ words in Gethsemane? He was hurting. Sorrowful. Brokenhearted and so, so scared. You know He was. He had to be dreading what He knew was coming. He was God in skin, but He still had skin. 

Yet, He declared, “Not My will, but Yours” (Luke 22:42 NASB).

Loss and grief will come at us every moment of our lives, and the last thing we will want to do is face them.

Not my will, but Yours.

People will hurt us, let us down, betray us. We’ll feel lonely, abandoned, taken advantage of, and all we’ll want to do is give up.

Not my will, but Yours.

It wasn’t God’s will for our world to be torn apart, but that’s what happened. Now, in this world, old age and sickness and cancer will steal our loved ones. Hearts will break, families will collapse, friends will betray each other.

But Jesus overcame the world (John 16:33). He overcame death itself. And because He’s alive today, I know that my sisters (and brothers) are alive with Him. And that even in my sorrow and my grief, I can live with confident hope. I can cry and mourn and see the brokenness of the world around me, but I can pick myself up again and keep moving forward, too. Because my God does miracles with broken things. One day, soon I pray, nobody who knows Him will be broken anymore.

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 isn’t, her socks will never match. She likes her road trips with rock music, her superheroes with snark, and her blankets extra fuzzy, but her first love is stories and the authors who are passionate about telling them. Learn more about her book coaching services and follow her adventures on social media @free2bfearless.

Amy has a special offer for her Always Peachy Devotionals: Free for 7 days and then $5 a month. https://acwilliams.substack.com/arisedaily

Join the conversation:  Which of these guidelines from Colossians seems most important to you?

Red Alert

by Patti Richter

The voice of the Lord is over the waters…. –Psalm 29:3 ESV

A dark image flashed before me, waking me from a sound sleep at 2 a.m. I couldn’t ignore the internal alarm.

I left my sleeping husband, Jim, and went to our teenage son’s room. Wes was 7000 miles away from home, in China, for a semester of Mandarin language studies. The days had ticked by slowly for us, though peacefully—until this night. For the first time since he left, I climbed into his bed to pray.

Our adventurous, youngest child had visited China before with a group from our church. But this time, alone, he adjusted to classrooms with no heat in freezing temperatures and classes where neither the students nor the professor could speak any English.

When the weather began to moderate in late March, Wes felt secure enough in his surroundings to explore the city. He enjoyed using a wide-range camera with a large zoom lens he’d purchased for his trip.  Jim and I looked forward to our twice-a-day Skype calls with our son. But a 13-hour time difference meant our days and nights were reversed.

Before his return home, Wes asked us if he could travel to a city in Southeastern China that he previously visited with the church group. He had kept in touch with English-speaking students at a large university there, and his contacts would help him find a place to stay on campus.

Jim and I had misgivings about our son’s travel plan. However, with his housing arrangements assured, we agreed to let him go.

When Wes arrived in Xiamen, his expected accommodations were unavailable, so he stayed in a nearby hotel—alone.

He soon began meeting with college students at an “English Corner” group they attended to improve their language skills. Wes also enjoyed venturing out into the colorful port city with so many historic landmarks. He took a ferry boat to a small, pedestrian-only island where he could explore without road traffic. He walked along the island’s narrow brick streets past hundred-year-old buildings from China’s colonial days and climbed a rocky outcropping to capture panoramic images of the mainland.

Though he checked in with us daily, our son’s growing independence concerned us. We experienced peace by day, knowing he was sleeping. But we grew uneasy at night, knowing Wes would be sightseeing again. At bedtime, we prayed for him, and I specifically asked the Lord to wake me for any circumstance needing prayer.

So, the disturbing image that night put me on high alert. I propped two pillows against our son’s headboard and leaned back, trying not to panic. I believed the Lord woke me to pray, not to make me afraid. When peace returned, I fell asleep.

The familiar Skype-tone the next morning brought great relief! Wes sounded normal, with little to report until mentioning high winds that day.

The terrible image flashed before me again: my son in dark waters.

“Were you out in the wind?” I asked.

“Well, yes. I visited the island again. I hadn’t planned to go, or I would have asked you first. The ferry ride was rough.” 

“Did you stand at the rail?”

“Yes.”

“Were other people by the rail?”

“No. But it was fine.”

“Did you have your heavy camera around your neck?”

“Yes. I wanted to get better pictures this time.”

That’s when I told Wes about my prayer alert. And though he discounted the idea of any real danger, I believed God had spared us from a tragedy.

Days later, I watched my son stroll casually out of the airport customs area—safely home.

Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. Psalm 50:15 ESV

This article 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.

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: Have you ever been awakened by an urge to pray?

Odor or Aroma?

by Ava Pennington

My backyard finally smells good again.

For the past month, an odd odor has emanated from three trees and lingered around the outside of my house. Others across south Florida familiar with this smell have described it as a musky combination of sweet fragrance mixed with rotten eggs. Not a pleasant experience. But my neighbors and I tolerate the odor because of what we know will follow in late spring and summer.

Mangos. A bumper crop of mangos.

This annual occurrence started me thinking about odors and aromas. Scientists tell us that because of the way our brain processes scents, smells have the power to immediately trigger a detailed memory or even intense emotion.

Scents originate from a huge variety of sources. Those who study this discipline have attempted to organize them into seven primary categories:

  • Musky: for example, perfumes
  • Putrid: rotten eggs
  • Pungent: vinegar
  • Camphoraceous: mothballs
  • Ethereal: dry cleaning fluid
  • Floral: roses
  • Peppermint: candy

But what about people? I’m not referring to those whose hygiene practices are questionable. Rather, I’m thinking about the odor or aroma the Bible says we leave in various ways through our words and actions.

  • 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (ESV) reminds us that as followers of Christ, we spread the “fragrance” of the knowledge of Jesus everywhere. But that fragrance is not always well-received. The apostle Paul goes on to note “we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

Are you and I bold to share the gospel—the good news—of salvation with others, in the hope that it will be to them a fragrance of life?

  • Philippians 4:18 (ESV) tells us when we give of our resources to others, especially to further the work of the gospel, it’s a fragrant offering, not just to them, but also to God.

Are you and I generous in supporting and encouraging those who are doing Kingdom work?

  • Revelation 5:8 (ESV) reminds us our prayers are as fragrant incense that rises before God in heaven.

Do our prayers focus on a litany of petitions or do they rise up with the sweet fragrance of intimacy when we enter our heavenly Father’s throne room?

The musky odor of my mango trees in bloom is not odious to me because I know what it represents. May our lives transmit a sweet aroma to others in thought, word, and deed, as we represent our Savior!

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

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

About the author: Ava Pennington is an author, speaker, and Bible teacher. She’s also a freelance editor, a certified coach for writers and speakers, and she teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class. Ava is the author of Reflections on the Names of God: 180 Devotions to Know God More Fully (Revell Books, 2022), an abridged gift book edition of the one-year devotional, Daily Reflections on the Names of God. Three devotions for each name/attribute explore who God is, and how this changes us and our relationships. Visit her at www.AvaPennington.com to learn more.

Join the conversation: What kind of fragrance do you hope to leave behind?