Patting Ourselves on the Back

by Nan Corbitt Allen

I’m preparing to substitute teach a Sunday-school class, and the lesson is from 1 Kings 18 and 19. I’ll admit that it isn’t one I learned as a child, though it is a great Bible story with a profound lesson.

Elijah was a prophet and one of God’s favorites, it seems. Elijah, apparently, was also highly revered by the Israelites throughout their long history since he was the topic of conversation many years later in both Old and New Testament times. Some even thought that Jesus was Elijah coming down from heaven. Yet, Elijah himself showed up in a heavenly body at the Transfiguration—he and Moses joined Jesus on the mountain.

In the time of the ancient kings of Israel, many had started worshipping a pagan god—Baal. In chapter 18 of 1 Kings, Elijah is incensed over their idolatry and sets out to prove that Yahweh is the one true God. He instructs the prophets of Baal to build an altar to their god and offer a burnt sacrifice without benefit of external fire.

The idolaters cannot get Baal to light their altar, no matter how hard they beg. Therefore, their demonstration shows that Baal is not the Living God. When Elijah offers the same kind of sacrifice to Yahweh, he has it doused with water—three times. And God answers, sending down fire from heaven that consumes the sacrifice, the wood, stones, and dust around it, and even the water in the trench, proving that He is in control.

What a spectacle that must have been! Many Israelites switched teams after the show-down, going back to worshipping the one true God. Elijah’s mission was accomplished.

However, in chapter 19, after that incredible display of God’s power and Elijah’s faith, Queen Jezebel (a faithful worshipper of Baal) vows to kill Elijah because he not only made a mockery of Baal’s power but had the prophets of this false god slaughtered. Interestingly, Elijah fears this woman so much that he runs and hides—like a Rottweiler cowering to a Chihuahua. Elijah whines to God that he’s the only one left in Israel who is faithful (which isn’t true), and he wants to give up.

What had happened to Elijah’s faith? From revered representative of God to a scaredy cat? The story ends well, but only when God challenges Elijah to listen for His “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12 NKJV).

What can we learn from this story of Elijah? After a victory, the highs are often followed with lows. Why is this? Perhaps, in Elijah’s case, success had fostered a sense of pride, and he began to take his importance and power too seriously. Perhaps he was looking for another high, and when it didn’t happen, he sank so low that he even asked God to let him die.

Success can sometimes be more damaging to our lives than failure. Let’s be careful to recognize that our successes are only due to God’s providence and power.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 (ESV)

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

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books. Nan and Dennis retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

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Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with the highs and lows? Why do you think that is?

The Aches, the Pain, and the Coming Glory

by Kathy Howard

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. Romans 8:22 NASB

You know you’re getting old when just simply bending over elicits an automatic groan. My list of bodily aches, pains, and scars grows longer each year. The most recent sign of high mileage on my body is a small tear in my right rotator cuff. Thankfully, the doctor believes I can avoid surgery with physical therapy. But I’m definitely feeling the wear and tear of many decades of living.

Like our physical bodies, the world and everything in it suffers death, decay, and corruption. Sin has left its mark everywhere. God’s creation groans under the weight of it, eagerly longing for the full consummation of God’s great salvation. On that day, when God glorifies His children, He will also set creation free from its bondage. But until then, we wait.

The phrase “the now and the not yet” is often used to describe our current state of salvation. In this life, we experience forgiveness, reconciliation with God, the power to live godly lives, and more. Yet, we still wait for the full realization of our salvation. We wait for the end of suffering and the resurrection and glorification of our physical bodies. But we won’t receive it all until Jesus returns. Salvation already belongs to us, but we don’t yet hold it all in our hands.

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).

In Romans 8, Paul contrasted our present suffering with our future glory to show the now and not yet. Now, we share in Christ’s sufferings, later we will share in His glory (Romans 8:17). Yes, God allows trials in the lives of His children, but He does not waste them. God works through them for His purposes. Like heat refines precious metals, God shapes us to look more and more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). But this transformation will not be complete until Jesus returns.

On that day, believers who have died will be “raised in glory” and those still living will be transformed in the “twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:43, 51-54). Our resurrected bodies will be transformed into the imperishable, immortal likeness of Jesus’ heavenly body. It is then that we will experience the full consummation of our adoption as God’s children. We will finally hold all the blessings of our salvation.

In the meantime, we wait, and we groan. But we also hope. We live in the now and the not yet. The seen and the unseen—what we experience in the present and hope for in the future. As we look forward and contemplate our glorious future with Christ, we see our present difficulties in their proper perspective.

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” 2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT

This post is adapted from Kathy’s soon-to-be-released devotional “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Romans,” coming October 2022 from Bold Vision Books.

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

About the author: Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate, richest coffee, and cherished stories of faith. She also digs deep into Scripture, mining God’s eternal truths. Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education and has taught the Bible for more than 30 years in a wide variety of venues. Kathy is the author of 11 books, including “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” and the “meaty” devotional series “Deep Rooted.” Kathy and her husband live in north Texas. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Find free discipleship resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Deep Rooted: Growing Through the Book of Acts: A 50-Day Devotional Journey by [Kathy Howard]

Here’s more about “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Acts”: Pack your bags and join Kathy Howard for the journey of a lifetime. You’ll experience the powerful arrival of the Holy Spirit, witness the birth of the church, and walk the dusty roads alongside those first missionaries as they boldly share the Gospel of Jesus with the world. 

Join the conversation:  What do you look forward to the most in eternity?

Are Generational Curses Biblical, and Do They Exist Today?

by Shadia Hrichi

The concept of generational curses originates in a handful of passages in the Old Testament. With one exception, these were written during the time of Moses and are specific to the nation of Israel. The passages often accompanied God’s warnings of ‘blessings’ for obedience and ‘curses’ for disobedience.

All but one of the passages appear in Exodus, Deuteronomy, or Numbers. One example is Deuteronomy 5:9-10 (ESV): “For I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

The passages all evolve around the sin of idolatry and rebellion against God. We see one other occurrence in Jeremiah. Here, the prophet is praying to the Lord and recounting these words in because Israel has once again rebelled against God. As a result, the people about to be taken captive by Babylon.

In short, the context of all of these verses:

  • surround the nation of Israel
  • involve the sin of idolatry
  • relate to the nation’s rebellion against God

It is this rebellion against God that would pass down to future generations. There would be consequences in the later generations because the people would be prone to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors and follow their example. That’s the curse; that’s the danger. Unless they repented.

At the same time, God was quick to forgive when His people cried out to Him in honest repentance. That’s God’s heart. Over and again God, in His mercy, delivered His people from judgment. Therefore, while it’s true that in Old Testament times, there was a risk of generational curse, it was limited to the nation of Israel and it was specifically in regards to the sin of idolatry and rebellion against God.

Over time, the concept of a generational curse twisted into the idea that current sins can be somehow blamed on a curse that took place within prior generations. This is wrong on several accounts. The first, I already mentioned: generational curses were specific to Israel and to their relationship with God. Further, the curse could be broken when the nation cried out to God in repentance.

For Christians today, the moment we are born again, we have been delivered from all sins – past, present, and future. This is because the price has been paid by the blood of our Lord. It does not mean that you and I will never commit sin or that we never have struggles. But because the Holy Spirit lives in us, the Bible teaches that we can actually choose not to sin (Romans 6:6). Even more, if we confess our sins, God is faithful to cleanse us and forgive us (1 John 1:9).

Of course, as we well know, family patterns of dysfunction, including addictions, certainly do exist. However, we want to be careful not to confuse these with a “curse” in the true, biblical sense of the word. God alone (whether directly or through his agents, such as a prophet) has the power and authority to invoke a “curse” on a person or people. It is important to keep this distinction in mind when referring to “generational curses” in order to avoid confusion or cause someone else to stumble.

In short, the belief that some past generational curse committed by some ancestor long ago must be called out and ‘denounced’ in order for us to be set free has absolutely no biblical support. In fact, Scripture teaches in Galatians chapter 3 that Christ became a curse for us when He went to the Cross. And if you belong to Him, when God looks at you, He sees His Son Jesus Christ.

What did Jesus say in His last breath? “It is finished.” And as a result, all the powers of darkness were forever defeated. Friend, there is no curse, generational or otherwise, that the power of the Cross has not already overcome.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 NIV

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

About the author: Shadia is a passionate Bible teacher, author and speaker who has a heart for seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. She holds a master’s in biblical and theological studies from Western Seminary and is author of several books and Bible studies, including LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues Me.

Join the conversation: Have you feared a generational curse has been passed down to you?

Discontinued

by DiAnn Mills

Last Friday evening, dear friends invited my husband and me to dinner. We had a great time; we always do. The food and conversation lasted long into the evening.

I complimented the hostess on her beautiful dishes. She told me the pattern was called Rosenthal and the collection came from Germany. Her mother had given them to her, but one plate had been broken, and, unfortunately, the pattern had been discontinued and could not be replaced. While I was admiring the various fragile pieces, the word “discontinued” stayed fixed in my mind.

How sad when the pressures of life cause us to label our faith as discontinued. Other descriptors crossed my mind like antiquated, obsolete, unnecessary, and joke. Those words dishonor our faith and cut to my heart, profaning the precious blood of Jesus shed on the cross for our sins. Imagine how God feels when we replace His Truth with an ungodly worldview.

Let’s be honest and admit that sometimes, when we encounter insurmountable problems and face brokenness, we don’t believe God can or will respond to our needs. When we fail to embrace His ways and look to the world for a better solution, we are turning our backs on the only true solution. The world offers merely a shoddy substitution to the wisdom of God.

My dear sisters, I encourage you to trust our God who holds us securely in the palm of His hand. His ways are true power, not discontinued, antiquated, obsolete, unnecessary, or a joke. His mercies “are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV), and He longs for the world’s inhabitants to have faith in His Word.

The Bible tells us God hears our prayers and cares about our trials and misfortunes. He always answers our prayers, and while we wait, His love comforts and strengthens us. He doesn’t discontinue us. Neither do we want to exchange our faith for something the world has to offer. So, don’t let the trials of today discontinue your faith. God is in the business of continuing His love and provision.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11 ESV

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

About the author: DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn teaches writing all over the country. Connect here: http://www.DiAnnMills.com

Join the conversation: What worldly ‘wisdom’ have you been foolish enough to follow in the past?

Thin Skin

by Ronda Wells

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:11-12 NASB

Do you have thin skin? Metaphorical or literal? I have both.

Even though I try to avoid scraping my hand or arm on a shelf or drawer edge, with just the slightest bump I get nasty reddish splotches that seem to take forever to heal. Hmm, those are called senile purpura that come with aging. So many tell-tale bruises, yet I don’t feel old. My husband jokes I need side air bags. After a bad trip & fall last summer, I think he’s right.

Emotionally thin skin affects me as well. Perhaps like me, you had two loving parents who meant well but were highly critical. Maybe you’ve suffered some of these criticisms and perhaps more:

 Stand up straight!  Don’t slump in your chair, you’ll get a hunchback. Your foot turns in. Walk straighter. If you overeat, you’ll get fat.

If you grow up in that environment, you become sensitized to criticism and develop an overreaction to any form of perceived slight. Blood pressure rises, headaches start. Your jaw cramps with anger. I must “count to ten” to avoid making an immediate snarky reply.

Our current reigning culture has made a false god out of criticizing anything and everything that doesn’t go along with or agree with what they think. Doesn’t matter if it’s considered sinful by the majority of Christians or not. You must go along or be punished! This hypercritical and hypocritical overreaction to someone else’ perceived past sins is destroying lives right and left.

God tells us how to respond to criticism in Proverbs 15:1. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” NASB

Not my usual first impulse when I’m attacked. Condemnation is easy to find online. Outright viciousness, especially towards Christians, is prevalent in social media.

Insults from others are slings of the devil that leave invisible scars on our hearts no matter the source or form. Our protection is to use the full armor of God. Armor is heavy, but it’s designed to protect. Fighting in armor takes discipline and years of training. Young squires and knights started out with only a helmet and a dull wooden sword as they learned how to defend themselves in battle.

One Christian counselor recommends performing an actual visualization. Close your eyes and pretend you are sliding on that metal helmet to protect your thoughts, don the breastplate of righteousness to shield your heart, slide on the shoes of salvation to carry Jesus to others, and lift that mighty two-edged sword of the Word (Jesus) – not to cleave someone’s skull—but to patiently lift others up, compliment and instruct with your gentle spirit based in a knowledge of Scripture.

The more we respond with humor, kindness and “turning the other cheek” as Christ suggests, the more arguments we may win or at least end quickly. One troll suggested on social media that I was a fool. My response?

“That may be true, but at least I’m a God-fearing one.” The troll did not respond further.

Always remember our battle isn’t just the one we see. A much greater invisible war is taking place all around us, one that at times we can only glimpse. Jesus and His angels are fighting Satan and all his minions on our behalf! But if you’re bathed in the blood of the Cross, remember that battle has been won for eternity.

Victory has already been achieved.

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

About the author: Doctor by day, writer by night—Dr. Ronda Wells is an award-winning author who has written inspirational romance and romantic suspense for over twenty-five years. She has helped numerous Christian writers with creating authentic medical scenes for their books. Her column, Novel Malpractice, can be read at Killer Nashville Magazine.

A lifelong Hoosier and preacher’s kid, Ronda is a wife, mother and grandmother who lives in Indiana and loves to travel. She writes to illustrate extraordinary faith among the conflicts of ordinary life.

Read a bonus chapter of her contemporary romance, Harvest of Hope, at www.rondawellsbooks.com.

Join the conversation: How do you deal with personal attacks or attacks on your ministry?

Run! Don’t Walk!

by Terri Gillespie

The Name of ADONAI [the LORD] is a strong tower. The righteous one runs into it and is set safely up high. Proverbs 18:10 TLV

When hubby, our daughter, and I lived in the Seattle area, my folks came out for a visit. My dad who was a serious workaholic, took a whole week off to visit. Which was a miracle in of itself.

Showing mom and dad around the area was a treat, but one of the highlights was having brunch at the Space Needle. The food was divine. The views from our table equally as magnificent. And since the restaurant part of the Space Needle rotated, we had multiple vistas to enjoy with our delicious food.

However, what was the most profound moment for all of us was going outside to the observation deck. The perspective was very different. Yes, we still saw the beauty of Puget Sound and the sky, but we could look down. Toy-like people and buildings and amusement park rides were below us.

The air seemed fresher—definitely more invigorating. The winds blew my daughter’s waist-length hair straight up in the air. I can’t speak for the rest of the group, but it felt safe high above whatever was going on down below. Peaceful—even with the mighty winds.

In today’s verse in Proverbs, I love the image of our Heavenly Father being a strong tower. For a long time, I assumed the optimal time to run to the tower was when things were really bad. My “enemies” were advancing upon me. I needed to hide.

Actually, things don’t have to be bad before we hightail it to Him. To climb that tall tower.

Yes, we have a choice to run to the LORD at the first sight or sign of danger, fear, anger, need, want, loneliness, longing, temptation, desire, destruction — well, you get the idea. But we also can run to that tower to simply get a fresh perspective on life—our Father’s perspective. To be with Him.

We can separate ourselves in His quiet sanctuary and call on Him, or we can try to figure out problems with our relationships, work, children, etc., on our own based on our limited understanding—what is in our purview.

The world always looks different from a higher viewpoint, most certainly our Creator’s perspective. At that height, we see both the beauty of His Creation and the panorama of His opportunities for our life. We can leave the tower refreshed and with purpose. Or, just leave renewed.

So, when we encounter a problem or challenge, run — don’t walk — to our Father who is in heaven. Our strong, high, beautiful tower. Or just run to His “tower” to be closer to Him.

Dear precious and mighty Father, sometimes we forget we don’t have to figure everything out on our own. We jump into the fray around us, when we could be coming to You, our strong tower. Help us to come to You first when decisions and troubles arise, so we don’t have to run when things are really bad. And, remind us that we can run to You just because. Thank You. We love You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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

About the author: Award-winning author and speaker, Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, messages, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, because of His Son Jesus. Her newest novel, Sweet Rivalry, released in October. https://authorterrigillespie.com/terri-gillespie-books/sweet-rivalry/

Sweet Rivalry is the story of twins separated by a troubled mother. One twin is lovingly raised by her grandmother who owns a small-town bakery. The other sister is raised by an addict mother. They discover one another through a televised baking competition. But will rivalry break them apart again?

Join the conversation: When is the last time you went to “the high tower”?

All That Glitters…Is Never Going Away

by Rhonda Rhea

Has it happened to you? You get that one greeting card with glitter on it—that one card—and next thing you know, your entire living room is a sparkle-palooza.

 Granted, I’m the kind of person who enjoys a good sparkle. Shiny makes me happy. But when I got one of those sparkly cards the other day, there was a sudden, panicked realization that there was more glitter in my living room than was ever on that card. I tried to brush it off, but it refused to be brushed. I vacuumed it. Then vacuumed some more. Still…glitter.

There’s a fear when dealing with glitter—the fear that you will never escape it. Ever. If it’s on your face? Accept that it’s a part of you now. Learn to live this way. Oh, and pass out sunshades to all your friends. They must learn to live with it too.

You’ll also need those shades as protective eyewear. A friend of mine went to her ophthalmologist when her eye felt persistently scratchy for a week. What’s that gleam in your eye? You guessed it. Greeting card glitter. She had to have a little glitterectomy. I asked her if instead of seeing her eye doctor, she should’ve gone to a cardiologist. Get it? Card-iologist?

Really though, how is it that what starts as one sparkly greeting card seems to produce enough glitter to cover that card and eleventy-dozen others? It’s just about more than I can handle.

Then again, what can I really handle? The popular Christian maxim, “God won’t give us more than we can handle” is one we tend to mail out like the trustiest proverb in the prettiest greeting card. But let’s think that one through. Because really, friends, everything is more than we can handle. In our own strength, we have nothing to shine.

First Corinthians 10:13 is often the backup text for thinking we won’t face more than we can bear. “But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it” (CSB). The passage’s context, however, is not adversity. It’s temptation. It’s not about the Father delivering us from tough challenges. It’s about the Father giving us strength to say no to sin.

There is strength for resisting temptation as we depend on Him. And Paul tells us as well that there is grace for every difficulty. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 CSB).

Embracing His all-sufficient strength and grace when we’re struggling is a way for us to shine. Shining when shining doesn’t seem possible.

Our God is able to take the weakest sparkle and illuminate it with the glory-brilliance of Christ—all across our home, our neighborhood, and our city. Sometimes our world. We’re talking about a shine that never fades. Never goes away. Sparkle-palooza, indeed.

Oh, that we may ever learn to live this way.

Still though, a little side note to new first grade Sunday School teachers: there is glitter in your future. All over your Sunday School future. All over your Sunday School classroom. All over you. And it will never leave. I say, lean into it and shine!

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

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

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

Join the conversation: What are some of the little things that distract you from obedience?

Promises in Difficult Seasons

by Marcia Clarke

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29 NKJV

I am no stranger to difficult seasons. I have ridden high tides in my life but also low ones that left me feeling empty and broken. I have faced valleys that challenge me to question God and wonder when the season will end.

The truth is, we all face difficult seasons in our lives that leave us feeling we are the only one with trials, pain, and suffering. We all experience the feeling-alone syndrome that seems as if no one cares.

I have found that no matter how anchored in God, there were moments I felt as if I was drowning without a straw to cling to. But no matter how I felt, my saving grace has always been to trust in God. There is comfort in the Word of God and hope in leaning on him for answers to life’s trials.

My first experience with searching for a place of refuge in a challenging season was in my early twenties, when I began working as a personal-care attendant. While this job allowed me the means to pay my bills, I didn’t find my work desirable. At that time of life, in that small secluded community with very little activity, I spent many days feeling resentment as to why I took on such a task, and pondering the question, “What has God called me to do?” Turning to the word of God was my only solace in finding my way through that situation.

Jesus is our burden bearer, and his desire for us is to lighten our cares in this life (Matthew 11:29-30). He is our stronghold, and we can find rest in him no matter what we may be facing.

Through peaks and valleys, we can rely on Jesus. An illness may hold us bound, a death will leave us in sorrow or despair, or a financial circumstance will weigh us down with worry. The Bible tells us that even as we walk through hard times God is with us (Joshua 1:9). He promises to never leave us during hard times. He will be with us forevermore.

The Bible tells us to think on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy, (Philippians 4:8). Throughout my difficult season, I remained anchored in the word of God, and he gave me the courage to persevere and look at the brighter side of life.

Let the praise of your heart be louder than any despair, anxiety, or depression that may overtake you. When you fix your eyes on the master, then your circumstance will be small compared to the revelation that will bring about a breakthrough. An overflow of hope will keep you on the treadmill of life.  

Trust in God to take you through difficult circumstances. Rely on him and allow Scriptures to show you the love of God. “His compassions fail not. They are “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22, 23 NKJV).

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NKJV

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

About the author: Marcia Clarke writes daily encouragement for meditation and spiritual enrichment. Her greatest passion is helping people through difficult seasons by writing practical devotions at her daily blog, Today Is Sacred. She is the author of Journey to Abundance and her latest prayer book, Thirty Days of Grace.

Join the conversation: How has God shown His faithfulness to you in a season of testing?

Wisdom In Witnessing

by Cherrilynn Bisbano

And then he told them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.’ Mark 16:15-16 NLT

I thought it was my responsibility to save people.

“If a house was burning you would run in and save the person—you have to tell everyone about Jesus, or they will go to Hell.” – Evangelist

I believed what I was told, so I walked around in fear—invading the privacy of anyone who came near. I memorized the Bible verses from the Romans Road to salvation, so I’d always be ready.

My friends and I  knocked on complete stranger’s doors to impart our wisdom if they let us. My nose still hurts from all the doors slammed in my face.

My friend Karen and I looked for people to witness to one Halloween night. We were in Karen’s car as we approached a group of teens trick or treating.

“Do you know Jesus?” we said.

“I do, but I don’t know you!” One boy responded as he walked away with all but one teen.

“If you were to die tonight, would you go to Heaven?” Karen asked the remaining girl.

Her eyes widened, and her scream echoed throughout the neighborhood as she ran.

We were so scared, we drove off and hid in a parking lot for over an hour. We heard sirens in the distance and thought the cops were after us.

What were we thinking approaching teens on Halloween? That girl probably thought we were going to kill her. Our exuberance overshadowed wisdom.

I had to rethink my witnessing approach.

But I did not want anyone to be condemned, so I had to tell them. Right?

I forgot God’s number one commandment.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mathew 22:37-38 ESV).

My witnessing tactics were the opposite of love. In fact, I often felt prideful and kept a count of people I approached.

I repented and asked God for wisdom.

Paul the Apostle states:  “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service” (1Corinthians 3:6-9 NIV)

Peace replaced my fear. We are co-workers with Christ. We have the honor and privilege to serve and join Him in expanding the Kingdom.

I’ve since found a balance. I listen to the Spirit—He guides me to those who need a word of encouragement, and the Romans Road Bible verses are still etched on my heart for those ready to receive the free gift of eternal life.

God does command us to tell others about Jesus, however, people will not go to hell because we don’t witness to them—we just lose the joy and reward of being used by God to further His kingdom.

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

About the author: Cherrilynn Bisbano is an award-winning writer in both fiction and non-fiction. She is a coach, ghostwriter, editor, and speaker. She is honored to be a member of AWSA.You can find her published in several online magazines and blogs along with books.  Her latest book, Shine Don’t Whine, released in October 2020. Cherrilynn proudly served in the Navy and Air National Guard. She lives with her son, Michael, Jr., and husband of 22 years. Cherrilynn loves Christ, Chocolate, coffee, and Cats. You will often find her on the beach sea glass hunting.

Join the conversation: Have you ever witnessed out of fear?

Out Into the Light  

by Julie Zine Coleman

She had never seen him before that day. She saw by his clothing he was a Jew. As she moved toward the well, he startled her by striking up a conversation, requesting she give him a drink with the jug she carried. “You are asking me, a Samaritan woman, to give you a drink?” she blurted out, astonished by his willingness to converse with her.

“If you knew who I was,” he told her, “You would be asking me for living water. Everyone who drinks the water I’m offering will never be thirsty again.” 

“Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty, and not have to travel all the way here to draw water anymore,” she said.

“Go,” he said. “Call your husband and come here.” She quickly informed him that his assumption about her marital status was mistaken. “It’s true you have no husband at present,” he agreed. “For you have had five husbands, and the man you are living with now is not your husband.”

Her mouth dropped open at his startling revelation. How could he know so much about her? And why so abruptly bring up her sordid history when thus far he had seemed only intent on kindness? (See John 4 for the whole conversation.)

We, too, might puzzle at Jesus’ blunt and seemingly confrontational words. We can best understand them in context. He was offering her living water. Bringing her sin out into the open would begin an honest relationship with God that would truly quench her thirsty soul.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me…” David prayed (Psalm 139:23-4 NASB). Our sin can keep us from intimacy with God, even after we are saved. Taking a good, honest look at ourselves can be a revealing exercise. But the Bible does not instruct us to do so alone. We are to take the Lord with us on our internal journey.

Examining ourselves in the light of God’s holiness will reveal the darkness within. Involving Him will also help us to avoid despair. His unconditional forgiveness will only foster a deeper knowledge of His grace and hope.  

It is not a comfortable process. Reality can be painful to view and even more painful to confess. Yet like a physical infection, only when sin is brought into the open can healing begin. Just like what Jesus did for the woman at the well.

After months of freezing temperatures here in Maryland, we were finally blessed early this spring with a few days of balmy breezes. Snow quickly disappeared as the temperatures soared into the sixties. But I noticed, as my dog and I walked one early morning, that patches of snow and ice still remained where evergreen trees shaded the ground, preventing the sun from doing its magic. Winter’s icy grip remained where the sun failed to reach.

When we allow sin to remain hidden in our hearts, we deny ourselves the healing touch of God in those cold, hard places. Confession is good for the soul. It is time to rid ourselves of our shameful secrets and bring them out into the light and warmth of the saving grace of God.

“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” Proverbs 28: 13 NASB

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

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300

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: What sin are you protecting from coming into the light?