God Chose the Thorns

by Shadia Hrichi

Have you ever received a gift you didn’t expect?

My best friend loves to cook, and her kitchen is filled with every gadget known to man. While I like to bake, my kitchen tools are basic. I have silverware, a few large metal spatulas and spoons, a set of knives, etc. It wasn’t about finances; I simply didn’t know I was missing anything.

One year, my friend bought me a rubber spatula and an egg separator. I looked at the rubber spatula and quickly pictured it as the perfect tool for spreading frosting! As for the egg separator, I had no clue what it was or why she bought it for me. The pitiful look on my face prompted my dear friend to explain its purpose. As it turns out, this tool was exactly what I didn’t know I needed most.

Valentine’s Day is that sweet time of year we expect our special someone to show his or her love with chocolate, flowers, or perhaps even diamonds. Why? Because at one time, someone decided these symbolize love, and the association has stuck ever since.

But what if you discovered there is Someone who chose to express His great love for you, not with flowers but with thorns?

Why thorns? The answer goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Something happened when mankind rebelled against God: “Cursed is the ground because of you…It will produce thorns and thistles for you” (Genesis 3:17-18 NIV).

Even worse, the relationship between God and man was severed, and mankind was banished from the garden altogether. But because of God’s boundless love for us, God had a plan to restore that relationship even before time began. His gift did not reflect our preconceived ideas of what love should look like. God’s gift to the world did not come in a brightly-wrapped package tied with a pretty red bow. We expected flowers, and when we didn’t get them, we reciprocated with betrayal, blood, and thorns.

“And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head” (Matthew 27:28-29 ESV).

Praise God that His gift of love does not conform to what our sinful nature seeks, but rather to what He knows our hearts needed the most: His grace and forgiveness. God sent His Son Jesus, who “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13 ESV).

We expected flowers, but God showed His great love for us with thorns, and I, for one, am eternally grateful.

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 Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: What do God’s forgiveness and grace mean to you?

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How to Experience the Power of Easter

by Debbie Wilson

Did you know that you can grow up in the church and miss the meaning of Easter? I know, because for many years, I did.

I started attending church nine months before I was born and could recite the historical facts of Good Friday and Easter. I even memorized John 3:16. But, somehow, I missed the personal ramifications of Easter.

That changed when a speaker at middle school camp spoke on the cross, and I realized God didn’t just love the world in general; He loved me. God so loved me that He gave His only Son, that if I would believe in Him, I would not perish but have everlasting life.

It crushed me to realize Jesus had to die for my sins. Yet, after processing what this meant, incredible joy welled up in me. I was clean. My sins were forgiven, and heaven was my destiny. I returned home higher than a helium balloon, singing the camp songs I’d learned. But my high didn’t last.

I was still the impatient person I’d always been. One thing did change. Before I gave my life to Christ, I thought I was a pretty good person. I lost my temper but reasoned I wouldn’t have if someone hadn’t provoked me. After I invited Christ into my life, my impatience bothered me.

Every night, I promised God, “Tomorrow, I’ll do better.” Yet, every day I failed. Knowing Jesus had paid the penalty for my sins comforted me. But I needed power for daily living.

In college, I joined a small group Bible study. The women in the group enjoyed the kind of relationship with God I lacked. They lived as if God was involved in their day-to-day lives. Even though I attended church and read my Bible, I didn’t view the Bible as relevant to my daily living.

My view of God grew as I got to know Jesus better, and the obstacles to trusting Him shrank. I realized my ability to trust the Bible was directly related to how I saw God.

A big God can

  • Communicate with His children.
  • Preserve the integrity of His Word.
  • Provide timeless truths.

I discovered why I hadn’t been able to control my temper. I’d been trying to live the Christian life in my own strength. I learned that only one person has ever successfully lived the Christian life, and He wanted to live through me. The power that raised Jesus from the dead on that first Easter is available to every child of God now.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know…his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephes. 1:18-20 NIV).

Easter is more than a historical fact or holiday; it is the source of hope and power for daily living. God created us to live by faith in His Son. We celebrate Easter every day we live by faith in the Son of God.

“The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20 NIV).

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

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

Debbie and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: What is most meaningful to you this Easter?

The Easter Lamb

by Fran Caffey Sandin

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! Revelation 5:12 ESV

Normally on Easter Sunday morning I arrive early at church to practice a rousing organ rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus. The year 2020 was very different as we watched our pastor online due to the Covid-19 virus lockdown. Now, in 2022 we will meet again together at church and rejoice that Christ the Lord is Risen. Hallelujah!

When I recently read about the Jewish sacrifices (Tamid), I found it both interesting and related to Easter. The Lord told Moses: “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight”(Exodus 29:38-39 ESV). Just think, a 24-hour sacrifice, every day.

Now imagine the temple in Jerusalem during the time of Christ. At 6 a.m. the priest entered the Lamb Chamber to inspect and select the one-year-old male lamb without blemish. At 9 a.m. the morning sacrifice began. The chief priest cut the lamb and sprinkled its blood on the altar as a covering for people’s sins, a temporary solution to an ongoing problem.

Then the priest placed the lamb on the fire, and its flesh ideally represented the people yielding their hearts and their wills in submission to God. Their daily worship service included reciting the Ten Commandments, reading from the Psalms and prophets, and music. Just imagine the sights and sounds, not to mention the smells, as all this took place.

One morning outside Jerusalem at a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was hung on a cross for crucifixion. His charge read THE KING OF THE JEWS. He was mocked, spat upon, and placed between two robbers (Matthew 27:29-30, 33, 37-38).

Then darkness fell over the whole land from noon until 3 p.m., when, with a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The heavy tapestry veil in the temple separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, where only the high priest was permitted to go, was torn from top to bottom (Exodus 27:33; Matthew 27:51). God was now personally accessible and desired fellowship with all mankind.

Meanwhile, back in the temple that day the sacrifice continued burning. At 3 p.m. the second lamb (called the twilight sacrifice because the Jewish day began in the evening) burned all night. It represented the purpose of staying close to God.

The word Tamid means continual, daily, perpetual, always, and forever. In those six hours, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Jesus became sin for all. His blood became a covering for every sin, every need, every moment, every problem, and every answer. He became the fulfillment of the Tamid.

Death and the grave could not hold him. Jesus arose! His resurrection occurred on the day of the Jewish Feast of First Fruits. Hallelujah!

Dear Heavenly Father, our hearts are overflowing with gratitude that You loved us so much You sent your only Son to sacrifice Himself and shed His own blood to cover our sins, to forgive our sins, and become our mediator to access Your throne of mercy. When we receive His gift of grace and forgiveness, He lives in our hearts today. To God be the glory! In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Information in this devotional has been summarized from two sources:

Michal E. Hunt. Jesus and the Mystery of the Tamid Sacrifice. Agape Bible Study (Fishers, IN: 2016)

Rabbi Jonathan Cahn. The Book of Mysteries (Frontline 2016)

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

About the author: Fran is a retired nurse, organist, mother, and grandmother living in Greenville, Texas. She has authored See You Later, Jeffrey, Touching the Clouds, and has contributed to thirty books. She and her husband, Jim, have traveled to many countries and states. Her latest book, HOPE on the Way, Devotions to Go— contains 52 devotionals for those who love to combine faith and adventure. HOPE on the Way was acknowledged for outstanding Christian Literature both in the Devotional and Christian Living sections by Joy and Company in Arlington, Texas. Visit Fran’s website at www.fransandin.com.

Join the conversation: What part of Easter inspired you most this year?

Embracing Spring

By Doris Hoover

When crocuses pop up through snow, they’re the first sign that the harsh conditions of winter are passing and a new season is arriving, a season of sweet smells and pastel colors. Daffodils, hyacinths and forsythia accompany a promise of spring.

While reading the last two chapters of Luke, I saw a stark contrast between the winter and spring seasons of life. Chapter twenty-three tells the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and death. It’s a chapter of cruel bitter winter conditions. Then chapter twenty-four tells of a season of rejoicing when Jesus rises from the dead. He bursts forth from the tomb in His spiritual form, bringing joy and hope to His grieving disciples.

During the harsh season, Jesus survives the cross by committing Himself to God’s care. After that season of pain and trials ends, He is laid in a tomb.  

Chapter twenty-four begins with these words, “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning…” On that day, God brings about a new season. The tortured body of Jesus was gone. He had risen from the grave. For His grieving followers, sadness was turned to joy, despair to hope. The resurrection of Christ ushered in a new season for all mankind.

In nature, spring only comes after the harsh conditions of winter pass. Life can be like that also. Jesus had to endure bitter trials before passing into His new season. Sometimes, we also must endure winter trials before entering a season filled with spring joy.

I experienced a long winter season. During that time, the Lord was my constant companion. He sheltered me and gave me comfort. He became my cherished friend who never left my side. All the while, He worked in my circumstances to bring about change. Like the crocus that emerges with a promise of spring, I saw promises of change popping up in my situation. I had committed myself to the Lord’s care during my winter season. In His perfect timing, the Lord brought about a new season in my life. My winter passed and spring arrived.

You’d think I’d rejoice and run out to embrace my spring season, but I didn’t. I hesitated to step away from my winter shelter. I was afraid I would lose the intimacy I had shared with the Lord while I leaned on Him for comfort. But Jesus gave me a gentle shove and told me to go embrace this new season.

I took a hesitant step into my new life, checking behind me for Jesus. But He wasn’t behind me—He was right beside me. He grabbed my hand and we leaped and twirled and laughed. As we sat down, breathless, I leaned against my best friend. I realized the closeness we shared during my difficult times was here in my new season of life.

Intimacy with the Lord is constant. It lies behind as cherished memories of God’s ever-present help during our trials; yet when the trials pass, the Lord remains close. We can confidently embrace our season of spring because the Lord stays beside us. He wants our lives to be filled with joy in every season of our lives. In Proverbs 3:4 we read there is a time for everything, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.

 Jesus is a constant friend who never leaves our sides. He holds us when we’re sad and celebrates with us when we rejoice. He’s the comfort in our winters and the joy in our springs.

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

About the author: Doris Hoover can be found somewhere between the Sunshine State of Florida and Sunrise County, Maine. Most likely, she’ll be outside collecting ideas for her writing. Her passion for God and her love of nature inspire the devotions she writes.

Doris is a mother of three and a grandmother of five. She and her husband Tim enjoy traveling and visiting family in their previous home state of NJ. Besides having devotions published online and in various compilations, Doris wrote a devotional book, Quiet Moments in The Villages, A Treasure Hunt Devotional. You can visit her website and blog at ANatureMoment.com.

Join the conversation: What season are you in right now?

A Culture of Temporary Relationships

by Jennifer Slattery

Is our culture creating the “walk-away kind”?

Granted, relationships have always been tough—to form and to keep, and sometimes we do need to sever unhealthy ties, especially if a particular person routinely steals our joy, effectiveness, or peace. But with all of the “toxic people” graphics I’ve seen in my social media feed the past few years, I worry we’ve learned to label every unpleasant interaction with imperfect people as poisonous. That we’ve found ways to justify remaining planted within our comfort zones surrounded by those who tell us what we want to hear.    

The other day, a friend shared recent interactions with her adult daughter. The two had issues to work through, false perceptions to correct, and misunderstandings to clear up. Initially, both parties appeared interested in seeking resolution and health, until my friend began setting boundaries and speaking truth regarding past issues. Having read the texts, I knew she’d chosen her words carefully and presented them with gentleness and love. In essence, she was inviting her daughter into something beautiful and whole. But to reach that place, they both needed the courage to be honest with themselves and with one another.

The latter comes much easier, doesn’t it? Admitting we’re broken and a bit of a mess, however, tends to prick some of our deepest insecurities and fears, primarily because few of us truly understand how to live anchored in grace. Unfortunately, most of us have had way too much experience with the converse. Living in our profoundly broken world among profoundly broken people, we’ve grown accustomed to others cutting us off, rather than inviting us close, when we fail to meet their expectations. This is especially true for those, like my friend’s daughter, who don’t know Jesus.

This should not, however, be true of you and I. Because here’s the thing—if responding to others with Christ-like love came easily, such interactions wouldn’t leave our watching world confounded. Yet, Jesus, the One who laid His life down so you and I might live, stated without any disclaimers, that others would know us by our love. True, healthy, honest, and growing love.

The type that takes work, humility, incredible bravery, and perseverance.

In Acts 2:1, the Bible says the first century Christ followers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (NIV).

This passage may read familiar to you. It did to me, only this morning one word I’d previously skimmed over grabbed my attention. These men and women devoted themselves to one another and grew together in Christ. Theirs weren’t casual interactions they engaged in when convenient or conversations felt comfortable. They remained steadfast and diligent, persevering with “intense effort” and at times “despite difficulty.”

No doubt there were many times when it would’ve been much easier to walk away. Just as it will be for us today.

We will often find it easier to:

  • Self-protect and isolate than to deepen our relationships and risk getting hurt.  
  • Feed our pride than to cultivate the humility necessary to break down barriers, resolve conflicts, and heal hurts.
  • Hide behind our well-rehearsed, cheery Sunday morning smiles and slogans rather than  allowing others to see our imperfections.
  • Attack rather than receive, defend rather than hear, and isolate rather than grow. 

But none of those behaviors will bring the relationship depth our souls crave. To the contrary. When we choose to live like the world, we tend to find ourselves in the same lonely and fearful places into which everyone else has fallen. We begin to experience the abundant life that Christ promised, however, when we push past the fears and sinful tendencies that keep us in bondage to boldly seek Jesus, His people, and His ways.

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2 NIV

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

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites.

Faith Over Fear (podcast) - Jennifer Slattery, Jodie Bailey and Shellie  Arnold | Listen Notes

In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.

Join the conversation: Do you have a relationship that has moved past the shallow into something deeper? What made the difference?

A “Cross” tic   Look at Calvary

by Cherrilynn Bisbano

“IT IS FINISHED!” Jesus cried when He hung on the cross.

“Mom what does this mean?” Michael, my then 10-year-old son asked as he pressed his cross between his fingers.

“Great question, I actually taught on the cross for a ladies event.”

“I bet it was an acrostic.” Michael giggles.

“Yes, it was.” I shared the acrostic with my son and now I desire to share it with you.

Please quiet yourself and allow God to speak to you through His Word about the

C.R.O.S.S.

C- Cancelled the Written Code

R- Redeemed Us

O- Obedience

S- Sufficient Sacrifice

S- Separated No More

C CANCELLED THE WRITTEN CODE

The written code is the Law and/or 10 Commandments. “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” Romans 7:6 (ESV).

R REDEEMED US

Redeem means to purchase back something that had been lost, by the payment of a ransom. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” Galatians 3:13 (ESV).

O OBEDIENCE OF CHRIST

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:8 (ESV).

S SUFFICIENT SACRIFICE OF CHRIST

“You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:8-10 (ESV)

S SEPARATED NO MORE FROM GOD

Separated means apart from, without. “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22 (ESV)

My son and I read the verses and prayed. We thanked Jesus for his obedience and praised God for the Holy Spirit living in us.

“I’ll never forget what Jesus did at the cross, Mom.” Michael said as he kissed his now favorite necklace.

Oh, the love that was expressed at the cross.  I will never fully comprehend it until I see my Savior face to face.  My desire is that every man experience the joy of knowing Jesus.

The Cross is a crossroad for every man.  You have to make a choice when you encounter the cross. If Jesus is calling you today, accept what Jesus did for you; do not spit in his face and walk away like some of the Roman soldiers. 

So, you already know Jesus; that is wonderful. Let the Holy Spirit refresh you as you bathe your mind in these Scriptures. May you be drawn ever so close to Christ.

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

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: What does the cross mean to you?

Why was Mary’s Gift so precious to Jesus?

by Shadia Hrichi

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For 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. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV

Have you ever lingered over a Scripture, trying to imagine what it would have been like to be there? One of the darkest hours in all of human history was the night of Jesus’ arrest. Picture the scene with me:

On a moonlit night at the garden of Gethsemane many years ago, blood, sweat, and tears poured forth from Jesus’ body as He prayed – but something else penetrated the veil of darkness that night: the sweet aroma of Mary’s perfume. . .

In Old Testament times, only two objects were placed behind the heavy curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the Temple: the ark of the covenant and the golden altar of incense (Exodus 40:5, Hebrews 9:4). The incense was burned only once a year on the Day of Atonement. This is when the nation would present a fragrant offering with their sacrifice, seeking God’s forgiveness for their sins.

In Mark 14, we read about Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Mary entered the room where Jesus was having dinner with his disciples. Breaking her alabaster jar of very expensive perfume and all cultural norms, Mary lovingly emptied the contents. She anointed Jesus’s head with the fragrant oil.

Mary’s act was far more than a kind gesture of respect and adoration. The gift was equivalent to a whole year’s salary and possibly tied to her hope for marriage—her hope for a future. It was often saved for a young woman’s wedding day when she would pour it on her husband as an act of devotion.

Mary gave Jesus the most precious thing she owned—with no hope of any return in this life. Yet only One noticed the value of her extravagant gift: Jesus. Where the disciples saw a fool, Jesus saw a worshiper. What the disciples called waste, Jesus received as a gift. Jesus saw Mary’s heart. He saw Behind the Seen. Jesus was so taken by her selfless act that He declared her actions would be proclaimed for all eternity (Mark 14:1-9).

The story doesn’t end there. Days later, Jesus fell to his knees as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. We cannot even imagine the torment of His soul knowing what awaited Him. Perhaps the fragrance of Mary’s sweet perfume lingered in the air around Him as He awaited His accusers. Hours later, Jesus is crucified … His blood, sweat, and tears intermingled with the faint aroma of Mary’s perfume.

The King, the Christ of God, who is the Sacrificial Lamb, had been anointed and then crowned with thorns as He presented His own life as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. At the moment of His death, the Temple curtain that veiled the Most Holy Place was torn from top to bottom; the barrier separating us from a holy God was removed forever. The One Who loves us so deeply was willing to pay for us with His Own Blood.

“ . . .Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2 ESV).

One sacrifice paid it all. Have you received God’s extravagant gift? He is Jesus, Christ the King, the Son of God.

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

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: Are there scents that bring something from your past to mind?

How Big is Your Cross

by Dana Peters-Colley

Crosses. Petite and silver. Earrings. Big and on necklaces. Gold. Pink. Blue. You can see them a mile away. I love crosses. Don’t you? Yet, have you ever thought about the size of the cross? The weight it represents to carry the cross?

I mean your cross.

As you know, the cross defines the sacrifice and the plan of return that God created. We were made in God’s image, but when Adam and Eve didn’t obey – Blam! Humankind was shattered.

Then, the cross. Two pieces of wood tied up to make a difference. Jesus our Savior carrying the cross under ridicule, torment and suffering. The cross remains a symbol of the ultimate sacrifice. His sacrifice and our rescue. But let’s look further. What did Jesus say to us about the cross?

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 KJV).

So, before our Lord completed His assignment, He told us to carry our crosses. We are called to carry our situations, our families, our struggles and no matter what it costs, to follow Him.

Now, let’s get to the size. What’s the size of your cross? He told us to carry it, remember? I’m going to share a personal story to help us consider this.

Recently, a woman asked me if I was happy in the church. She’d sat on the other side for months. Had ignored me at times. When she asked, I said yes, I’m doing good. I put so much effort into a smile that it was forced, you know those ear-to-ear grins. I pushed hard inside to show that it was all good.

As I walked away, I did some self-talk to work on smiling more. You know, one of those, ‘Just get happier, you need to smile more’ pep talks you give to yourself, because you want to have a teachable spirit. If someone’s bringing up something, you should surely receive and work on it, right?

But oh, what a lovely Lord we have. When I got to my car, He exposed it. I didn’t need to paste a smile on my face. I was just fine with all I was going through. I’m not going to unpack it – but it’s been serious. What I love about the Holy Spirit is that He knew and gave me the truth.  

I don’t think this woman realized the pressure she put on me to smile. Of course, I forgive her and pray for her. Yet, the Lord – it was a loving wow! God moment to show me that putting on a good face was not necessary. Jesus saw my cross. He sees yours, too. The struggles. The pain. The family. The friends. Whatever you carry on your cross, there He is beside you, cheering you on.

The cross. The surrender to follow our Savior in whatever He has next for us, whatever we have to walk through to get to the end and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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

About the author: Dana Peters-Colley is a creative who loves Jesus. She has been tucked away developing a brand of Christian parable books, faith-based fiction, and inspirational books as well as screenplays. Dana holds a B.A. in journalism, studied screenwriting at U.C.L.A., and is a former long-time Disney creative leader and producer. When the Lord got ahold of Dana everything marvelously changed. She is developing a heavenly-inspired brand line that brings stories to build family, inspire discovery, and teach kingdom ways. See danapeterscolley.com to connect to her spiritual blog and gaze at her adventures.

Do you have a friend you want to receive Jesus into their lives? Do you want to receive how much God loves and values you? Do you want to be empowered to do the impossible? Then, you have to know who you are! Treasure will take you into the realization of God’s love for you as you discover you are His treasure.

Join the conversation: What is on your cross?

Are You Trying to Straighten What God’s Made Crooked?

by Debbie Wilson

The book of Ecclesiastes contains some thought-provoking proverbs. What do you think the following from Ecclesiastes 7:13 (NLT) means?

“Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked?”

As one who values efficiency, this verse challenges me. It also helps me trust God when life doesn’t flow in a straight line—which is most of the time. Old Testament Joseph’s life provides a good example of the futility of trying to straighten God’s path.

The Lord gave Joseph two dreams predicting the amazing plan God had marked out for Joseph. What expectations would these divinely inspired dreams of Joseph’s family bowing before him have raised in teenaged Joseph? Surely God’s plan was bigger than anything Joseph could have imagined. But God’s plan included torturous twists and setbacks.

God moved Joseph from the position of Jacob’s beloved son

  • toa slave in Egypt
  • toa prisoner in Pharaoh’s jail

before

  • He made him second in command in Pharaoh’s palace
  • He gave him the double blessing traditionally given to the firstborn son

God’s plan was greater than Joseph could have pictured, and it came at a higher cost than Joseph could have imagined.

“Wait,” you say. “I thought sinful people caused Joseph’s pain. Surely you can’t say this was God’s plan for Joseph.”

Psalm 105 says God orchestrated Joseph’s steps.

“He [God] called for a famine on the land of Canaan,
    cutting off its food supply.
Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them—
    Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
They bruised his feet with fetters
    and placed his neck in an iron collar.

Until the time came to fulfill his dreams,[a]
    the Lord tested Joseph’s character.
Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free;
    the ruler of the nation opened his prison door.
Joseph was put in charge of all the king’s household;
    he became ruler over all the king’s possessions” (Psalm 105:16-21 NLT).

This was God’s path for Joseph. No human could have straightened it. Not Joseph, not his father Jacob.

Accept the way God does things. God’s ways are higher—better—than ours (Isaiah 55:9). Joseph’s years in prison and slavery weren’t a mistake. God used those experiences to take Joseph from a pampered son to a princely leader. Even Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered (Hebrews 5:8).

If Joseph spent time and energy ruminating over what he could have done differently, it would have been time wasted. Joseph couldn’t have straightened his path to reach God’s goal sooner. The path to glory includes pain and suffering (Romans 8:17).

I need this reminder. Life isn’t a straight line. Twists and setbacks are part of God’s perfect plan.

Has a challenge caused you to question your calling or God’s love? Have you tried to rescue your child from disappointment or shortcut your path to a goal? Take heart from Joseph and Jesus. The path to glory includes painful twists and setbacks.

But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Romans 8:17 NLT

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

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

Debbie and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Have you experienced twists or setbacks to what you thought to be God’s plan?

A Better Inheritance: The Lamp

by Patti Richter

No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV

My husband unloaded his treasure from the car and carried it downstairs. The large box held dismantled pieces of a crystal lamp that once adorned the homes of both his parents and grandparents. Jim hoped we could find a place for it in our home—some day. For now, his inheritance needed to wait in a corner of our basement.

Several years later, after we moved to a house with a spacious dining room, the box rested in a more hopeful corner. “The lamp will look great in here,” Jim said.

But the room already had a crystal chandelier. In fact, I could hardly walk by without admiring its delicate prisms. So I wasn’t so disappointed when Jim’s attempt to assemble the lamp was unsuccessful. Its sterling silver fittings had compressed from supporting heavy crystal sections for a half-century. Yet he was determined: “Maybe we can find a lamp repair shop.”

When a repair shop opened just down the road from our house with a small notice in the window that said, “We also do lamp repairs,” Jim loaded his big box into my SUV. The man behind the counter looked wide-eyed when he saw what I’d hauled in. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

Days later, I couldn’t wait for Jim to see the resurrected lamp. I set it on the dining room table and stood back for a better look. With afternoon light streaming in through the windows, the lamp’s thick prisms sparkled with colors of the rainbow. But I noticed something else. The chandelier hanging above it now looked inferior by comparison.

C. S. Lewis observed that we content ourselves with lesser things because we don’t know of better ones. “We are far too easily pleased,” he said.

I’d been in no hurry to see the inherited lamp because I had no idea of its beauty. Maybe it’s the same way with heaven. We are not anxious to go there if we’re clinging to this present world.

The last book of the Bible provides glimpses of some hidden things that await God’s people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” who’ve been redeemed by “the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 5:9, 12; ESV).

The city we’ve yet to behold is described as “pure gold, clear as glass . . . The foundations of the wall of the city . . . adorned with every kind of jewel . . . the twelve gates were twelve pearls . . .  and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass . . . And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:18, 19, 21, 23 ESV).

And all other lamps will be forgotten.

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. What is it about heaven that you are most excited about?