Fresh Starts and Failures

by Heather Norman Smith

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22- 23 ESV

The new year is a time of excitement—the thrill of what might be. At midnight, the ball drops, and the feeling of a fresh start surges, another chance, the gift of beginning again. January is the starting line, and the other months stretch ahead of us, waiting, like a just-discovered mountain path to be traversed. Most approach the new year with hope and expectation. We tighten our shoelaces, strap on the pack, take the walking stick in hand and set out with intention, determined to conquer the path ahead.

But what happens when the craving for sweets wins out on January 7, or you fall asleep before your daily prayer time on January 15? Maybe your fifteen minutes of exercise a day doesn’t last a week, or your resolution not to worry crashes and burns with one phone call before month’s end. Perhaps you’d promised yourself you’d be wise in your spending, but the new purse called out to you from the store window.

I was determined to read the Bible through in 2022, Genesis to Revelation. I was part of a great online community that encouraged me and reminded me. Each day, I was provided with the verses that I needed to read to accomplish the goal. It should have been easy. Still, I only kept at it until sometime in late March. (I didn’t stop reading the Bible completely, but I came nowhere close to finishing the entire thing in 2022.) 

Though the New Year is a great time to set goals, take heart—even when we fall short of our resolutions in 2023, every day is a chance for a fresh start. That New Year feeling can be ours every time we open our eyes in the morning. In Lamentations—a book filled with expressions of humiliation, suffering, and despair—it reads, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22, 23 ESV).

We don’t have to wait for a new year to begin again. His mercies are new every morning! He loves us despite our failures, and He grants us the mercy we need each and every day.  

May the Lord give us wisdom to set the right goals throughout the year. May He grant us holy ambitions and the resilience to get up and keep going when we stumble along the path.

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

About the author: Heather Norman Smith is an author of Christian Fiction set in her home state of North Carolina. Her goal is to entertain and encourage while illuminating the redemptive love of God. Learn more about her work

heathernormansmith.com and amazon.com/Heather-Norman-Smith/e/B07DWLCXYG.

Join the conversation: What goals do you have in this new year?

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Trust without Reservation

by Dagny Darnell

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV

I’ve never been a good swimmer. So when I attempted to save my four-year-old son after he’d come barreling down a slide into the deep end of a friend’s pool, it’s a miracle we both didn’t drown. In truth, we might have, if my friend hadn’t seen my peril and come to our rescue.

But what really sticks out to me about that whole harrowing adventure was my son’s reaction to it all. As we went under and came up, and I beat the water furiously with one arm, gasping and sputtering only to go under again and again, my son was completely relaxed. He never struggled or cried, only held onto my neck as he might have if we were walking in a park. Unlike me, he had absolutely no fear. It was as if he had never doubted for one minute that I, his faithful mother, would bring him safely to the pool’s edge.

Jesus said, “You will never get into God’s kingdom unless you enter it like a child” (Luke 18:17 CEV). Jesus is talking about humility here, but I also believe there is something else at play. The childlikeness God desires also speaks of trusting him from the heart, having total confidence that he will do what he said regardless of what circumstances arise.

It is all well and good to trust God when everyone is healthy, when all the bills are paid, and when the path ahead is strewn with sunshine and roses. But what happens when the promised trials come our way? What do we do at a layoff or a divorce or a child’s death? Do we cling to a faithful Father, or do we kick and scream in panic? Do we flounder out there in the middle of a turbulent ocean, or do we trust him to bring us to the other side? I’ve done both, and I can tell you, trusting is definitely the better route.

This heart-trust is already in every believer (don’t our hearts cry Abba, Father?). It’s called faith. When we yield to our faith, the holy, mighty God of the universe is well able to bring us across, above, and through anything that comes our way.

One wise minister said, “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation”—holding onto our Father’s neck instead of flailing in our own strength. When we invest our heart-trust in him, he will bring us safely to the other side come hell or high water.

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

About the author: Dagny Darnell is privileged to share God’s hope and peace with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women as a minister, musician, and mentor. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her family. Currently, she has one children’s picture book about spreading the love of the gospel called Shine, which is also available on Amazon.

Join the conversation: What is a characteristic of God that helps you to trust him with anything?

And Walk in Love

by Christina Rose

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2 NKJV

Jesus gently nudges us to walk the earth as he did, in a place of intimacy with God, knowing that He knows our needs, loves us unconditionally, and will always provide for us. Even though Jesus was often surrounded by those who often were anxious and fearful, He stayed calm. He refused to be pressured by people or circumstances. He gave his time selflessly by stopping to genuinely care, heal, and listen to others.

We live in a fast-paced world where we think we never have enough time. I was in this place five years ago, which severely challenged my health. I was called to leave California behind to slow down, spend time with family, and grow in faith. When I recently returned to California, I was unprepared for what had changed. After those years away, people and places looked so different. I discovered my faith walk had changed me as well. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

Now that I could see with new eyes, I realized some of my relationships needed mending; there were those I did not treat well and others I needed to forgive. Some of my past decisions had been made out of pride or insisting on doing everything my way. I had been living in a world where our looks and what we owned determined our worth. It was all a lie.

The past five years of leaving everything behind and learning to trust God for provision made me realize that Christ is our only firm foundation. All the rest can vanish in an instant. How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. James 14:14 NLT

One night I had a dream that I was at a big party. The room was full of people having an enjoyable time. A gentleman in the crowd kept smiling and waving at me. I thought, “I know him, but I can’t remember from where.” Finally at the end of the party as people were dispersing, he walked towards me and handed me a beautiful long stem red rose. I thought, “How does he know my name?” As he smiled at me, I looked in his eyes and saw the markers in his hands and realized, “Of course, it’s Jesus!”  I then knew He had always been waiting for me to notice him and give him my time. He never pressured or pushed me to see Him, he waited patiently for me to invite Him into my life.

My home church has welcomed me back warmly and now I never miss a service. Now that faith, friends and family are my foundation, I have found peace at last.

The world today may want us to race and stress, to over-plan our days and then be impatient with others, but when we walk in love as Jesus did, taking time to meet people’s needs, we encourage others to walk with us. Sometimes all it requires is slowing down to see people with the heart and mind of Christ. Love is our highest calling, as it leads us into His glorious light.

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

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

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 love people that God has put in your path?

Love on Autopilot

by Rhonda Rhea

… an even better way. 1 Corinthians 12:31 CSB

Confession time. Sometimes when I’m driving and realize I’m lost, I automatically turn down the radio. It’s not so I can hear the GPS. I turn down the radio even when there’s no GPS. Why do I do it? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe it’s so I can more clearly hear what “lost” sounds like. Of course, if I had to guess what lost sounds like, I’d guess it makes an I-should-pull-in-here-for-coffee sound. If I listen hard enough, I can hear extra whip.

Want to know what else I do without thinking? I’ll be looking in the fridge for something to eat, finding nothing. So, I close the fridge and move to the pantry. Nothing there either. Then—and I can’t explain why, but—I go back to the fridge. I open it up and study every shelf again. Like I think something new will have materialized while I was in the pantry. And if that’s not ridiculous enough, I then repeat the process. Why? Fridge, pantry. Fridge, pantry. I guess my subconscious thinks that if nothing magically appeared the first couple of times, surely somewhere between the fifth or sixth round, I’ll swing open the door and: TACO.

Oh, the things I do without thinking. I’m also a notorious knee-bouncer. And a pen-clicker. These basic fidgets are part of my no-thought default setting. It makes me wonder how many other things I do on autopilot.

I’m praying the Lord will grow me to a place where those things I do without thinking will have substance, meaning, blessing—lovein exactly the right volume. In 1 Corinthians, after Paul teaches about spiritual gifts, he ends chapter 12 with the teaser, “And I will show you an even better way” (v. 31 CSB).

GPS or no, I want to head that better way. The Amplified Bible expounds on that verse: “a still more excellent way [one of the choicest graces and the highest of them all: unselfish love].”

Paul launches next into a beautiful description of that unselfish love—the kind of love that, in and through Christ only, can happen as naturally as a bouncing knee or an unconscious pen-click.

Look at God’s “better way:”

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (CSB).

The ever-satisfying love we hunger for is not in the fridge. Not in the pantry. Not anywhere else. Only in Christ.

The very first verse in chapter 13 tells us that sacrificial love is vital. “If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (CSB). Loveless language? That’s exactly what lost sounds like. And I want to turn down that volume. Consciously.

Meanwhile, as I’m learning to love through Jesus—a little extra conscious of the think-y part—another confession: I’ll probably still pull in for that coffee. A little too conscious of the whippy part.

Lord, teach me to listen, search for—even hunger for—opportunities to purposefully love unselfishly, simply because I love You—all and only in You. May Your love be my default as I learn to sound more like You.

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:

One Last Petunia 

by Sandra Kay Chambers

I have one last petunia still growing in my flower boxes along my back porch railing. It doesn’t seem to realize it’s winter. It has survived several frosty mornings, below freezing nights and wind whipping around the corner of the porch. Two other flower boxes on my railing are more sheltered, but all the flowers in these have already died. They were all planted in good soil and grew beautifully during the bright, sunny days of summer. So I ponder: why does this one single flower continue to flourish?

Perhaps this flower has grown stronger because it has weathered the harsh wind and extreme temperatures and thus developed stronger roots. As Christians we, too, tend to grow deeper and stronger in our faith when we have to endure adversity, and experience God’s faithfulness in the process.

. . . We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)

Something else I noticed about my flower is that in spite of its vulnerability to the wind and cold, it is positioned to get the best sunlight—morning rays from the eastern sky. As Christians, we are able to endure the dark, cold nights of doubt, fear and trials only when we bask in the light of God’s promises and His continual faithfulness.

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12 NIV).

Even though I stopped watering the other planters long ago, the single thriving petunia does get rain showers that tend to drench that end of the porch. Likewise, in our Christian walk, it’s important that we continue to drink the Living Waters that Jesus promises to provide for us if we desire to keep growing.

. . . but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:14 NIV)

If you’re experiencing tough times in your life right now—take heart! Learn from my brave petunia. Adversity will make you stronger and God’s faithfulness enable you to keep blooming.  Just remember to bask in Jesus’ light and drink of His eternal water.

I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5 NASB

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

About the author: Helping Christians develop a creative and joyful prayer life is Sandra’s passion. She has served as Prayer Coordinator at two churches, leads small group Bible studies, speaks on the topic of  prayer, and teaches an online class at https://BeADisciple.com based on her book, Lord, It’s Boring in My Prayer Closet (How to Revitalize Your Prayer Life), available at Amazon athttps://a.co/iEkd8s0. You can follow Sandra on her author website at https://SandraKayChambers.com  and her prayer blog at https://PrayWaves.com.

Join the conversation: How has adversity made you stronger?

Unexpected Forgiveness                                                           

by Toni Campbell

I rounded the corner, approached the crosswalk, then saw movement out of the corner of my eye. A woman had just stepped into the roadway. I tapped my brakes, making a split-second assessment of the situation. Judging the distance between myself, the pedestrian, and a car behind me, I decided it was safest to proceed forward.

I glanced in the rear view and was surprised to see the other car follow me through the walkway. The pedestrian almost walked into it. Yet another backward glance and my heart sank at the sight of flashing lights.

“License, registration and insurance card please.”

“Can I ask what I did?”

“You went through the crosswalk with the pedestrian in it.”

“I saw her, and even tapped my brakes, but there was a car behind me. Can I ask why you didn’t pull them over instead?” I was trying to politely defend my actions.

“I felt you had the better field of vision.”

A protest of It’s not fair went through my mind, but I held my tongue. Instead, I prayed, Please God, let him come back with a warning. No such break. As he walked away, my eyes welled with tears at the cost of the fine: $230!

I thought about challenging the ticket, but I kept coming to the same conclusion. The judge might ask, “Was there a pedestrian in the crosswalk?” and “Did you drive through the crosswalk?” And I could only answer “yes.” By the letter of the law, I was guilty.

A few days later, I went to the payment website and saw something strange. When I plugged in my information, this popped up: “Fee: $0. Ticket addressed.”

As I dialed the court for clarification, I thought, Are you crazy? If it’s a clerical error, you’re alerting them to the mistake! But I informed the clerk about what I’d seen.

A few minutes later, she returned. “That’s correct. You owe nothing. The officer rescinded the ticket.”

“Really? I…I really am a good driver” I said weakly.

“Well, the officer must have decided not to pursue it,” she said.

The mercy and forgiveness extended to me was unexpected and undeserved. Likewise, God’s gift of forgiveness, offered freely through His Son, is undeserved. And His continued mercy to us is renewed each day.

By the letter of God’s law, we are guilty. We can try to compare our sins to the person behind us and think, I’m not as bad as they are! But we all fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and deserve to pay the penalty (Romans 6:23). We can try to blame our circumstances on the actions of others, but we are responsible for our own actions. We can even try to justify ourselves with, I’m really a good person. But we can never be perfect 100% of the time.

When we finally come to grips with the fact that we’re guilty and can’t escape the penalty for those sins on our own, God hears our tears of repentance. He exercises His mercy when we acknowledge that Jesus died to take on our guilt and act as the sacrifice for our sins. Then He rescinds our ticket to hell and grants us admission to heaven. It’s not a clerical error, oversight, or mistake. God deliberately decides not to pursue it.

I am forever grateful for the love and mercy extended to me so that the Book of Life reads, “Fee: $0. Ticket addressed.”

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

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

About the author: Toni Campbell is passionate about serving others and is employed full-time as the Benevolence Director at her church. She loves to share ideas through speaking engagements and her award-winning book: Jesus Has Left the Building, which is filled with ideas any church can adopt and adapt to impact their community for Christ. Visit tonicampbell.org to learn more!

Join the conversation: Have you ever been given unexpected forgiveness?

Teach Us to Pray

by Candy Arrington

Pray, then, in this way. Matthew 6:9 AMP

During the years Jesus was with his disciples, he equipped them with everything they needed to live an abundant life once he returned to his Father. In Jesus’ instructions on prayer, he taught his disciples to find a quiet, private place to be with the Father, and to present their needs to God in a straightforward, simple manner.

“And when you pray, do not go on and on, excessively and strangely like the outsiders; they think their verbosity will let them be heard by their deities. Do not be like them. Your prayers need not be labored or lengthy or grandiose—for your Father knows what you need before you ever ask Him” (Matthew 6:7-8 VOICE).

Jesus also reminded the disciples that although God already knows our needs, he wants us to talk to him and spend time with him. Prayer is a way to develop a deeper relationship with God.

Sometimes when I pray, my mind wanders. I start off focused, but midway through my prayer I start thinking about something else. Later I realize I stopped praying, started daydreaming, and never finished my conversation with God. How rude!

To help stay focused in prayer, I use the A.C.T.S. acrostic. It draws on elements of the model prayer Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew 6: 9-13.

ADORATION – Address God as Father. He wants to have a personal relationship with us, one in which we think of him as a loving father. Another word for adoration is praise. Praise God for who he is, for his power, and his purposes. Acknowledge his control and trust him to work things out for your good. As part of your adoration, read a Psalm aloud that names God’s good qualities, or spend time looking up some of the names of God and call Him by those names as you pray, such as Adonai, Yahweh Ro’i, El Shaddai.

CONFESSION – This is probably the hardest part of prayer but the most necessary. Sin can be a hindrance to our relationship with God. Until we admit the things in our lives that are out of step with God, he may withhold blessing. Be honest. You know what you’ve done wrong or when you’ve failed to obey. Admit your sin and ask for forgiveness. God will receive you with open arms.

THANKSGIVING – We have much for which to be thankful. Because Jesus provided a bridge to God by his death on the cross, we have fellowship with the Father. Prayer is a privilege. The opportunity to talk directly to God would not be possible without Jesus’ sacrifice. Start by thanking God for your salvation. Then think of other ways he’s blessed your life.

SUPPLICATION – This is a big word for requests. Tell God the needs in your life and ask him to work things out, even if the situation seems impossible. God is capable of more than our minds can imagine. Don’t forget to pray for others during this time. Notice the “asking” part of the prayer comes at the end—after praise, confession, and thanks. The first three set the context for what we request. We are able to ask in faith when we have reminded ourselves of who God is and how we have seen Him act in the past.  

Using the A.C.T.S. acrostic in prayer is a great tool to remind us that there is more to prayer than listing out our needs and wants.

If focusing while praying is still a problem, try writing your prayers in a private journal between you and God. Date entries, and don’t forget to later note the dates your prayers are answered, keeping a record of how God faithfully meets your needs.

Start today to give prayer a place of priority in your daily schedule. God will bless you for it.

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

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

Candy’s new book, Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Wellprovides insights on learning from and growing through a time of waiting.

Join the conversation: What do you do to keep focused in prayer?

Serve the List, or Enlist to Serve?

by Rhonda Rhea

Set your hearts on the Lord, and worship only Him. 1 Samuel 7:3 CSB

List-maker, list-maker, make me a list. But wait, make it for someone else, not me. Because I already have 8000 lists of my own, thanks. A family member told me the other day that my stacks upon stacks of lists make me look like an organized person. Then we laughed and laughed. Because we both know me.

I don’t make all these lists because I’m organized. I make them because I’m not. Those who know me know I make lists and lists, and lists of lists. In list form. (When it comes to this kind of devotion, I’m hoping to become a speciaLIST.)

How do I love my lists? Let me list the ways. Well, it’s all of them. All the ways of list loving. So anytime I misplace the list of the hour, I confess that my tendency is to go a little ballistic. Ba-LIST-ic? See what I did there?

Even aside from mine, there are so many types of lists. Wish lists and waiting lists. Short lists and shopping lists. Hit lists and honey-do lists. Backlists, blacklists, and bucket lists. And while you don’t want to make the injured list, you might be disappointed if you didn’t make the Christmas list. I could try to make a complete laundry list of all the different kinds of lists, but I think that’s probably unrea-LIST-ic.

Not only am I a list maniac, but I also tend to be a mania maniac. As in, my lists often have more to-do’s than any one person could ever possibly get to done.

Could I get real here? I have to force myself to examine my list regularly—daily, really—and to ask myself hard questions. Am I serving the list? Or am I serving the King? Have I put items on that list that are outside of His calling on my life? Have I said any yeses where I should’ve said no? Have I added manic and panic, and, by doing so, hindered service to my King?

Instead of serving a list, instead of bowing down to the expectations of others, and instead of bending to my own sometimes unreasonable expectations of myself, I want to take a knee before my King. I want to enlist in His service. It’s not so much about the listing. It’s so much more about the EN-listing.

In 1 Samuel 7:3, Samuel tells the people of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, get rid of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths that are among you, set your hearts on the Lord, and worship only Him” (CSB). He’s telling the people that if they’re genuinely and completely giving themselves to their God, what follows is getting rid of idols and anything else they might love more than the Lord.

The people followed Samuel’s leading, and God rewarded them with favor and His presence. When the Philistines attacked, God gave Israel victory: “So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israel’s territory again. The Lord’s hand was against the Philistines all of Samuel’s life” (1 Samuel 7:13 CSB).

PhiLISTines? Delisted. While there are blacklists and hit lists and various other naughty lists, how wonderful it is that we never have to find ourselves on God’s “subdued” list.

Father, help us remember—maybe even write down and remember—that we don’t serve a list. We serve You, our mighty God. That we don’t need to fret about meeting anyone’s expectations but Yours. May we daily bow before You, our King, and enlist in Your service, with whole hearts of dedication and worship.

This article 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: How do you keep focused on Jesus to avoid problems with your lists?

Investments

by Sheri Schofield

This morning I watched a sales pitch to invest in the stock market on the advice of a very knowledgeable expert. In the presentation, the advisor showed the side view of a brass bull’s face. It was part of the statue standing in front of the Stock Exchange. The words the advisor said were, “This is going to be a bull market.” He predicted it will be a time of great financial gain as certain innovations take off. We are facing retirement. We’d like to have financial security. Should we invest in the stock market?

It was tempting to invest. But that eye of that bull reminded me of ancient Israel’s worship of the golden bull calf. They believed that by worshipping Baal, they would gain financially.

My thoughts went to Mathew 6:19-2 (NLT), where Jesus said, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be.

It reminded me that our security is not in earthly things, but in God. There is no security in any other source. Our security is not in a paycheck. It is not in investments. It is in our Father who reigns over all the earth. My heart has been focused on missions for many years. The needs of those serving Jesus on the mission field can only be met as others give to their work.

I turned the ad off. It may have been sound financial advice…or not. I will never know, because my investments will continue to be in the kingdom of God, not the kingdoms of man. We will continue trusting our Father to supply all our needs, not the supposed coming bull market.

I refuse to be one who gravitates to the newspaper every morning to check on my investments. What thrills me is the emails I receive from missionaries who are experiencing miracles as they step out in faith for God’s kingdom on earth, though they struggle in many physical ways. Their eyes are on Jesus. That’s where my eyes must always be if I wish to receive his blessing. This is my team. I will trust our Captain.

What about our own needs? Paul wrote, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NLT).

Our God is the one true God. We may never be rich in earthly goods, but as long as we keep focused on Jesus, we will be rich in eternal rewards. That is enough for me to face the future with my chin up and my heart full of joy. God alone is my security. God alone is my strength.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble…”Be still, and know that I am God!” Psalm 46:1, 10 (NLT)

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

About the author: Sheri Schofield, award-winning author and Bible teacher, has added a new way to share faith in Jesus: Her latest book, Before You Find Me, is a contemporary romantic suspense featuring a strong Christian who faces a crisis that tests her courage. Tara, a freshman at West Texas A&M whose parents are dead, learns that her younger sister witnessed a murder. To protect her siblings, she must spirit them out of Texas before the murderer learns there was a witness to his act. Tara has one day in which to act. Can she do it? She remembers a family ranch in Montana…and Ben, the boy next-door, who captured her heart once. Will he still be there? Will he help her protect her family now? This book entertains while it presents godly responses to danger and struggles. Sometimes fiction can draw people closer to God when they will not be drawn by nonfiction. Before You Find Me is available at http://www.sherischofield.com.

Join the conversation: How will you make God your security?

Reset Your Mindset

by Nancy Kay Grace

The new year brings an opportunity to reset your mindset.

Recovering from holiday travel and a blast of cold weather made me want to hibernate. I struggled to get into a routine for the new year. Now that the holidays are over, what is there to look forward to? Is anything different about this year?

I knew I didn’t want my attitude to stay frozen in the bleakness of cold winter days, complaining about the news or and shivering about things I cannot control.

The only thing I can control is my mindset. The verse in Philippians 3:13-14 challenged my mind and heart: “But this one thing I do, forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on to the goal for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

  • Forgetting what is Behind

Forgetting what is behind keeps me from dwelling on the past. I can reflect on the successes and good memories of last year, and also recall the struggles and frustrations. But if I stay fixed on them, I become paralyzed and won’t go forward. In looking back over the last year, God’s faithfulness was evident, which encourages me for the future. Those experiences propel me into the next year with hope, trusting the Lord for whatever may come.

  • Straining TowardWhat is Ahead

Straining toward what is ahead is the image of an athlete crossing the finish line of a race. By planning realistic goals, I know what I am aiming toward. If I don’t write them down, I wander off track and accomplish nothing for the Lord. To keep on track, writing a list of my goals to keep in front of me is part of straining toward what is ahead. I see them every day, pray about them, and seek the Lord for strength and wisdom to accomplish them.

  • Pressing on to the Goal

Pressing on toward the goal is perhaps this the most challenging action—to keep going even when you feel like quitting, persisting through the hinderances no matter what. Pressing on requires resilience. It strengthens determination to overcome roadblocks.

Philippians 3:13-14 helped me reset my mindset for a fresh start, through forgetting what is behind, straining toward what is ahead, and determining to press on in spite of roadblocks.

Are you ready to reset your mindset for the new year?

Lord, as I go into the new year, help me lean into Your character. You are faithful. As I reflect on the past, let it be a springboard to catapult me to seek You and plan wisely. In Your strength, may I press on to do what You have called me to do, for Your glory. Amen.

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

About the author: Nancy Kay Grace is the speaker and award-winning author of The Grace Impact, a devotional about God’s grace. Her website, blog, and GraceNotes newsletter sign-up are found at www.nancykaygrace.com. As a cancer survivor, she writes about hope, perseverance, and God’s grace. Nancy enjoys hugs from grandchildren, playing worship songs on piano, hiking, and travel.

Join the conversation: Have you reset your mind since the beginning of the new year? What changes do you hope to make in your thinking?