Following Directions

by Janet Holm McHenry

I had a fun unit I did with my students when I was teaching them to write technical language. First, I created relevance for the unit by bringing in appliance and auto instruction manuals. Then I stood in front of the class with peanut butter, jelly, bread, a bread board, a knife, and a plate.

“Tell me how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” 

An eager student would raise his hand. “First, put the peanut butter on the bread.” So I’d pick up the jar of peanut butter and set it on top of the loaf of bread. I was following his directions exactly, right? 

The student—and the class—quickly got the importance of being specific with directions and giving and following them exactly.

Moses started out that way. When God told him to strike the rock at Rephidim to produce water, he did just that. And water flowed out (Exodus 17:1-7). But perhaps his hearing wasn’t so good after forty years of wandering in the desert. The people were still rebellious, and he was an old man, weary of leading. “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me,” he said (Numbers 11:14 NIV).

Later, when the people again complained about lack of water, Moses and Aaron went to the Tent of Meeting, fell facedown, and found God’s glory again to guide them. “‘Take the staff,’ the Lord God said, ‘and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. SPEAK [emphasis added] to that rock before their eyes, and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink’” (Numbers 20:8 NIV). 

For whatever reason, Moses raised his arm and STRUCK the rock twice, instead of speaking to it. While Moses did not follow the Lord’s instructions, the Lord gushed water out of that rock. God is merciful, isn’t He? But Moses would pay a price for not following God’s specific directions. He would never see the Promised Land. Joshua would lead the younger generation there instead. 

It seems a harsh punishment. Moses had been faithful. He had previously followed the Lord’s instructions. He had stood before Pharaoh over and over, risking his life to ask that the king allow the Israelites to leave. He had used his staff to part the Red Sea waters and to bring about water for the thirsty people. He had dealt with the people’s unending complaints and led them through the desert. Hey, I’ve taken kids on walking tours; it’s not easy leading even just a couple dozen! 

Water. We need just enough. Not too much or we suffer flooding or icy slick roads or snow past our windows. Not enough and we suffer thirst and possible death. Moses faithfully led the people through waters and to waters so they could experience the rich abundance of watered pasture for their flocks and themselves.

Perhaps he was dry–his will all used up. Perhaps he was too old. Perhaps he was too weary. Perhaps he was just not the right man to lead millions of people into already inhabited lands of people who would not be happy about being displaced. Following directions exactly would have been the most important job requirement for leading those thirsty hordes. 

I struggle some days with listening and following. I’m weary. I’m aging. I just want to get there, you know? That Promised Land . . . whatever that looks like here on earth. And then other days I take an honest look at my life and give thanks for God’s graceful, life-nourishing Spirit rain that has faithfully quenched my thirst all these years. And I give thanks because . . . I’m already there.

Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descent like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. Deuteronomy 32:2 NIV

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

About the author: Janet McHenry has been called the Prayerwalking Lady, because she has been prayerwalking her small town for more than 22 years. The author of 24 books, including the bestselling PrayerWalk, she is the creator of the online masterclass Prayer School, which can be found through her website. She and her rancher husband Craig live in the Sierra Valley in northern California, where they raised their four children.

Join the conversation: What supplies refreshment for you when you are in a dry and thirsty place?

Timing Is Everything

by Sheri Schofield

“Tim, the snow has drifted over our driveway. I’m not sure how bad it is down in the meadow, but I may need you to plow the road ahead of me,” I reported via cell phone on my way to church. Tim, who cannot be around others because of his health issues right now, stood by while I tried to negotiate the road into town. A couple minutes later I called to say, “Well, I’m stuck in a snowdrift down past the creek. I need some help.” I never made it to church that day.

Sometimes we face roadblocks in life. We may want to do a ministry for the Lord, but others won’t cooperate, or facilities are not available, or a pandemic hits and the way is blocked. We reach a standstill. It can be frustrating!

Reading Acts and the letters written by the Apostles, I find they had some expectations that seemed to be delayed, too. They all thought Jesus would return to earth as King during their lifetimes. But He didn’t. Down through the ages, the great hope of the church has been the imminent return of Christ. Every generation seemed to believe He would return quickly. Yet, here we are, still hoping, still watching and waiting. We seem to be stuck.

What’s the deal? Why hasn’t Jesus returned yet? The Apostle Peter wrote this: “Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come—they will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?’ But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:3, 4, 8, 9, NIV).

What is God’s perspective in this? I think He sees things differently than we do. If Jesus had returned to earth in the Apostles’ generation, imagine how few of earth’s people would be in heaven. But in over two thousand years, countless millions have come to know Christ. If Jesus had returned earlier, you and I would not even have been born!

But God saw our generation from eternity past. He loved us. He wanted us to be part of His family. He’s planning a huge party in heaven when we all arrive—a great banquet—a reunion lasting seven years!

God promised Adam and Eve a Savior. Then He waited four thousand years before sending Jesus! Let us not be impatient! Sure, we all want to see Jesus return in our lifetime. But God’s family is not yet complete. There remain others He wants in His kingdom.

While we wait, let’s work toward reaching as many people as possible for Jesus. One day, the last child will join the family. Only then will the Father send His Son back to earth. Stay prepared! Trust God’s timing! We never know when that last child will join God’s family. What a great day that will be!

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NIV).


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

sheri schofield

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

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

Join the conversation: To what do you look forward to the most when Jesus returns?

GRACE

by Susie Crosby

  noun: mercy, pardon, approval; special favor

Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace and more grace. Isaiah 30:19 MSG

Grace is a hard concept for me. I need it so desperately. This undeserved favor, this washing away of my mistakes and failures, this loving welcome into the open arms of Jesus. This generous gift of God–pure and simple and free–is supposed to be anything but hard to receive, yet I can struggle with it.

I try to earn it. I try to understand it. I try to explain it. I ask why? Why does God give me this unconditional love when I don’t deserve it? And how? How can He possibly see me as innocent and clean despite my stains of selfishness and failure?

God teaches me over and over that I get his grace because of WHO HE IS… 

-not because of anything I do or don’t do

-not because of how loving or how critical my heart has felt

-not because of how well or how poorly I perform

-not because of how obedient or how self-serving my choices have been

And he reminds me that grace doesn’t have to be earned, understood, or explained by me.30:19

It is free, undeserved. A gift.

Ahhh. But I don’t do well with those. If someone gives me something, I have a hard time accepting it. I scramble. Something in return–quick! A gift for them, a note of thanks, a favor. I can barely handle it. But that isn’t why people give me gifts, is it? To make me run around and try to earn them?

It certainly isn’t the reason that God gives. The only thing God wants me to do with his precious grace is to humbly receive it. 

“When you come before me, whoever gave you the idea of acting like this, running here and there, doing this and that–All this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?” Isaiah 1:12 MSG

But I feel like I should do something. Run here and there, strive hard, criticize myself…maybe these might make me feel like I could possibly earn it a little bit?

Nope. He reminds me again. That isn’t how grace is given. It is an absolutely free and completely undeserved gift from his loving, forgiving, good, and generous heart.  

All I can do is thank him.

All I can do is be still and accept this gift that he is offering without trying to pay him back.

All I can do is cry to him for help.

As I open my heart and trust His, He will do all the work. Grace will flow in overwhelming abundance. More and more will pour over me, around me, into me. So much grace, that all I can do is laugh (or cry) in relief and rest in this waterfall of love and joy and freedom.  

This is all he wants in return.

My heart…open to His.

Open your heart to His greater-than-expected gift of grace. Cry to Him for help as you struggle to receive it, to believe it. He is pouring out his forgiveness, His love, His joy to wash over you and draw you close. And He will keep it coming. More and more for the rest of your life.

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

susie crosby

About the author: Susie is a grateful mom of two (almost) grown boys who currently live and go to school in Honolulu, Hawaii. She and her husband live in a seaside town in the Puget Sound region called Mukilteo. They love to hike and kayak, they are huge Seattle sports fans, and they mostly love hanging out at home with their little dog Koko. Susie teaches P.E., Art, Technology, and Music at an all-kindergarten school which keeps her busy full time. Her passion and joy is sharing encouraging words with the people she loves. She is an active blogger and speaker, and she is the author of Just One Word: 90 Devotions to Invite Jesus In. She is always on the lookout for fun coffee shops, inspiring books, remote beaches, and farmers’ markets. Connect with Susie at www.susiecrosby.com.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with grace?

The Gift of Words

by Shirley Brosius

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 BSB

After taking in mail for a friend while she vacationed, she sent me a gift—six small LED flashlights. How practical, I thought, as I distributed them throughout our home. When I called to thank her, she said, “You know why I got you those flashlights, don’t you?” She explained that once, when our power had failed and I was caught without a light, I told her I was going to have my husband put flashlights in every room of the house. She wanted to furnish those lights. My friend remembered my words months after I had spoken . . . and forgotten . . . them.

Our words—whether delightful or derogatory—impact others. They plant seeds. And their words affect us. I still remember the words of a patient pastor to always read the Bible in context when I, as a new Christian, visited him with questions about Bible passages. I still remember the words of teachers who told me I could go to college to become a teacher even though I lacked finances.

A woman once approached me at a church bazaar to tell me how much it meant to her when, 40 years earlier, I invited her to serve on her high school yearbook staff. She said she would never have had the confidence to join had I not encouraged her. It turned out to be such a positive experience for her. Truth be told, she was doing me, as yearbook advisor, a favor. She was an excellent student, and I knew she would be an asset to the staff. But little did I know how insecure she felt.

The words we hear may bless our lives, but I also hear the cruel words of teasing classmates echo across the decades. They knocked down my self-esteem and made me feel bad about getting good grades and having a lanky body.

An older sister often joked that my legs were my redeeming feature. I suppose she meant it as a compliment, but it made me wonder what was wrong with the rest of me. Why did the rest of my body need redemption?

In his letter, James warned of the destruction words could cause: “See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tone is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and set on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell” (James 3:5-6 NASB). Just a few misplaced words have potential to change a life, for better or worse.  

We dole out words on a daily basis—to children, spouses, coworkers, friends and even store clerks. We communicate through emails, text messages, phone calls and face-to-face conversations. Do we think about the messages we send through the words we choose? Do we realize that we plant seeds or sow weeds with our words?

What words do we allow to enter our minds? Do the characters we watch on television show grace or do they promote crudeness and rudeness in relationships? Do our children learn words of disrespect for authority by the shows we allow them to watch? Even game show hosts may promote sarcasm and disdain for the inept.

As they say, “garbage in/garbage out.” We need to watch not only our own words but the words of others to evaluate how they affect us and our families. Do they make you doubt your uniqueness as a person made in the image of God?

Go out today and encourage someone to use their God-given abilities to step up to the plate, whatever that plate may be. Mind your words because others mind them as well. Plant seeds and block weeds from growing in your garden of relationships.

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

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About the author: An author and speaker from Millersburg, Pennsylvania, Shirley Brosius has written Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories about Women Who Made a Difference and coauthored Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides. She speaks at women’s events throughout the east as a member of Friends of the Heart, three women who share God’s love through messages, skits and song. Shirley has a daughter waiting in heaven, and she enjoys passing on inspirational thoughts and books to two married sons and five grandchildren.

Join the conversation: What impacts have the words of others had on your life?

Hold the Fort

by Nan Corbitt Allen

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 NIV

Did you ever build a fort as a kid? Sure you did. Everybody did. Sometimes it was with your bed covers after you were supposed to be asleep. Sometimes it was a crude combination of various materials in the family room. It might have been a simple canvas pup tent in the back yard. Or maybe you built a real structure with hammer, nails and wood. A friend built my young sons a solid structure on stilts that had a sign on the outside that read: No Girls Allowed.

Probably everybody has built a fort of some kind. But why? Why are we compelled to create a fortress? A barricade? A refuge? Are we trying to keep someone or something out—or something in? Is it built for the feeling of being hidden? The answers vary depending on the circumstances.

Several years ago, on a trip to England, our family visited Dover Castle which rises high above the white cliffs over the English Channel. Though it was built as a royal residence in the 11th century, it became a citadel that protected the owner from foreign invasion. It was a sentry’s lookout, too, for hundreds of years, and it was even used by Winston Churchill to assess the battles that took place on the channel during WWII. Through the ages, it was utilized to watch for an approaching enemy, in order to make ready for a defense.

One modern fortress that comes to mind is at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It’s not just a military base, but where our country stores 9.2 million pounds of gold. Through the years, priceless documents, like the original versions of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address, were kept there for periods of time. The fortress gave protection of things inside that are perceived to be valuable.

Another fortress is the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado, that once served as the center for the United States Space Command and NORAD. Its purpose was to hide military testing techniques and top-secret findings.

All of these fortresses serve different purposes: watchtowers, safe houses, and concealment areas. I think we are created with a need to seek refuge—from storms, from illness, from harm. A safe haven against the chaos of life.

Martin Luther, the great leader of the Reformation and songwriter, wrote these words in 1529.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing
Our Helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate
On earth is not his equal.

The language is, of course, archaic to us. Remember that the lyrics were written originally in German (Luther’s mother tongue) and then transliterated to English. But look at the first line of the text.

“Bulwark” means a hedge of protection, a wall of earth (a levee) against a flood, a fortification. It is also a nautical term. It refers to a solid wall around the main deck of a ship for the protection of persons or objects on the deck. Though the word does not necessarily “sing” well in modern terms, it alludes to the enormous strength of our God to hold us near and protect what is precious to Him. That’s why the 46th psalm calls God our refuge.

The Message translates the first 3 verses of that psalm this way:

God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in sea storm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains.

Take refuge inside a fortress, but not with bed sheets, castles, or bunkers. God’s hand is the only safe place to hide, to assess the enemy’s approach, and to preserve you, a truly valuable child of God.


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.

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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.

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: Where do you take refuge?

Hunting for Easter

by Patti Richter

“There is no Easter Bunny!”

I lowered my head in disappointment after an older friend informed five-year-old me that Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny were made-up figures for children. I needed to grow up.

At least my belief in God remained safely anchored to religious tradition. As a child I enjoyed the spiritual nurture and foundation our church provided. But my faith was something like a cellophane-wrapped basket of candy eggs—unopened. I hadn’t yet tasted the goodness of God.  

Eventually I outgrew Easter baskets and became too teen-smart to accept religious tenets at face-value. Though faith offered some motivation for good behavior and a sprinkle of hope for life after death, I wondered if religion was all a ruse. Doubts entered my wide-open mind and vacant heart, and I became vulnerable to the most attractive suitor—the world.

Wanting God on my own terms, I resisted the notion that I needed to be “saved,” as one perceptive classmate suggested. Wasn’t I good enough for God? And isn’t goodness all that He requires?

Though I could not yet see my need for redemption, something kept me hunting for Easter. As a high-school senior, I bought a paperback New Testament and began reading the Gospel of Matthew with great interest—until school activities waylaid my progress. In college the next year, I joined a Bible study, and my hard-shelled defense began to crack.

The stone rolled away for me when I finally heard and agreed with the apostle Paul’s words, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV). In confessing myself a sinner, I found the Savior.

I’ve enjoyed a long spiritual journey to discover the riches of God in Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3 NIV). But, like a selfish child, I tend to keep my basket of blessings to myself instead of sharing with others.

At Easter, churches typically welcome a greater number of worshipers, including spiritual seekers. Will I go out of my way to greet those who seem out of their comfort zone? Some visitors may be off-putting by their too worldly or wayward appearance. I’ll need to remember that I was once lost, and that believers may have viewed me as hard to approach.

Thankfully, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV). He “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4 NIV). Like an earthly parent who points a confused child in the direction of the prize egg, God, in his mercy, has shown us the way to himself.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. –Romans 5:8 NIV


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

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

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

Join the conversation: Where are you in your spiritual journey?

Sealed

by Donna Nabors

So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard. Matthew 27:66 NKJV

My driver’s license is due to renew this year, 2021, but I received a notice at the end of 2019 that I needed to have it renewed early.

There is a new Federal ID Act requiring a gold star which makes your license compliant for federal identification purposes, like flying. The last time I flew was in 2019, and the year 2020 didn’t turn out to be conducive to either getting a new one or flying. The decision I must now make is: do I wait until my license expires this summer or do it now? Do I need that gold seal of approval for federal identification?

Many documents require seals: birth certificates, marriage certificates, and death certificates. The seal marks the document as official. When Jesus died on the cross, the chief priests and Pharisees were aware of His claim to rise again after three days. They didn’t believe Him, but to prevent rumors, they asked Pilate to secure the tomb, so no one could steal the body. Pilate provided a guard and told them to make it as secure as they knew how. 

Matthew says they sealed the stone and set the guard. The chief priest most likely had his seal of authority set on the stone. He was declaring Jesus officially dead. Who would dare to question the authority it represented?

The same thing happened when Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. They laid a stone over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet. God sent angels to save Daniel within a den marked with a man’s seal.

On Resurrection Sunday, God again sent angels to make null and void a man’s seal declaring Jesus dead. The angels rolled the stone away from the tomb where Jesus lay, and He walked out.

It’s in this nullified seal of man that Christ’s resurrection gives us our seal. To seal is to set a mark on something. When we are sealed, God sets His mark on us with the Holy Spirit. The authority of man, even a chief priest or a king, can be broken; but the authority of God cannot.

Ephesians 1:13 (NKJV) says we are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

Ephesians 4:30 (NKJV) says we are “sealed unto the day of redemption.”

Ranchers brand their cattle to mark those that belong to them, and God marks us, seals us, showing we belong to Him. We are sealed unto the day of redemption. Our redemption will be our resurrection when Jesus breaks man’s seal of death for good.

Don’t wait until your life’s expiration date. Be sure you are trusting in Christ and His resurrection for the Holy Spirit’s seal now.

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

Donna Nabors Headshot

About the author: Donna Nabors is a wife, mom, grandma, and follower of Christ focused on filling her spiritual jewelry box. Through disappointments in life, she shares that the treasures from God’s Word are where we find the strength to stand. Donna lives in Texas, and her hobbies include antique shopping and organizing. She often jokes that her life is in an Excel spreadsheet. You can find more about Donna at donnanabors.com.

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Donna’s book: Pearls: 5 Essentials for a Richer Prayer Life, outlines five elements that can lead to a richer prayer life. It focuses on how Jesus’ words, “It is better to give than to receive,” relate to prayer. Pearls demonstrates how giving to God through prayer draws you into a closer relationship with Him.

Join the conversation: Have you been sealed with the Holy Spirit?

Resurrection Victory

by Julie Zine Coleman

O Death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?… Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:55, 57 NASB
 
Once only inhabited by a small Japanese civilian community of sulfur miners and sugar farmers, the island of Iwo Jima became a stronghold of pivotal importance in World War II. As the war progressed, Japan evacuated its citizens from the island and prepared for the inevitable Allied forces invasion. A huge number of bunkers, hidden artillery, and an amazing eleven miles of tunnels were in place by 1944. Twenty-one thousand soldiers were at the ready when Allied forces began firing on Iwo Jima.
 
On the fourth day of the battle, the first objective was captured: Mount Suribachi. Five marines and a Navy corpsman were photographed raising the American flag at its summit. That moment is now immortalized in the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington, VA.
 
Once the high ground was secure, the invasion slowly moved northward. Very heavy fighting continued as Allied forces eventually took the airfields and remainder of the island. The Japanese fighters considered surrender dishonorable and most tenaciously fought to the death. A month into the invasion, 300 Japanese soldiers launched a last-ditch effort counterattack. The casualties were heavy on both sides, but the next day, the island was officially declared secured by the Allies.

Even so, over 3,000 Japanese troops remained in the island’s maze of caves and tunnels. More American lives were lost as they worked their way through the tunnel system routing those Japanese that refused to surrender. The battle may have been won, but the enemy continued to fight, determined to take as many with them in their demise as possible.

Yesterday on Easter Sunday we celebrated the greatest victory the world has ever witnessed. The Son of God, after three days in the grave, rose from the dead. No longer are we under condemnation for our sin. It was dealt with, paid for, and cast from us as far as the east is from the west. The victory is already ours because Christ has already won. “When you were dead in your transgressions,” Paul wrote, “He made you alive together with Him . . . having canceled out the certificate of debt . . . having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-15 NASB). Sin no longer holds us slave in its power.
 
The enemy has also been soundly defeated. Satan’s future final demise is already recorded in the Bible, when he is cast into the lake of fire to suffer torment for eternity (Revelation 20:10). The war is over.
 
Yet while victory has been recorded with indelible ink, the skirmishes still go on. While we were given new life at our salvation, we still struggle against our old sinful nature which relentlessly demands satisfaction, and we fight the enemy ever-tempting us to sin. As Paul wrote the Galatians, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Galatians 5:17 NASB) The war may be over, but the fighting continues on.
 
These skirmishes are a part of the life God expects us to live. In fact, He carefully equips His soldiers to fight the good fight. Satan may have lost the war, but he is deadly serious about taking as many down with him as possible before the last nail is driven into his coffin. So we have been issued a belt of truth (a great thing when you are up against the Father of Lies!), a breastplate of righteousness, and shoes bearing the gospel message in which to stand firm. Our shield is one of faith, which can deflect every fiery dart of doubt and accusation the enemy can launch at us. Our head is protected by the helmet of our salvation. And last but not least, the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, contains all the knowledge we need to win each skirmish, which mostly, after all, takes place in the mind.
 
We may even lose some of these skirmishes, especially when we attempt to fight in our own strength. But it is important to remember in those moments of depressing defeat: the war’s victor has already been determined. The Good Guy won. Our hope is not in the circumstances of this world. It is in the future God has prepared for us, “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4 NASB). Nothing that happens to us on earth will impact the surety of our salvation. The battle belongs to the Lord.

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

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

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What has been the most meaningful to you this Easter Sunday?

You Just Can’t Keep This Good News to Yourself

by Kathy Howard

“He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.” Mark 16:6 ESV

When I was a child, our church always held a sunrise service on Easter. When it was still dark, Mom dressed me in my frilly new dress and Mary Janes. Then we traveled the two blocks to church to sit in metal folding chairs in the parking lot. I can still feel the cold metal on the back of my bare legs and see my white shoes and short lacy socks hovering above the asphalt. The rows of chairs faced east so we could watch the sun rise as we worshipped. Thus, the name “Sunrise Service…”

One hymn in particular stands out in my memory. As the sun began to make its appearance, we sang the first short verse of “Low in the Grave He Lay” so somberly it sounded like a death dirge. Low in the grave He lay – Jesus my Savior. Waiting the coming day – Jesus my Lord… Then we hit the chorus with vigor and joy: Up from the grave He arose! With a mighty triumph o’er His foes!

Even as a young girl, in that song I sensed the flow of the grief of the crucifixion into the joy of the resurrection. Grief and loss surprised by the miraculous. This is what the women who followed Jesus experienced more than two thousand Easters ago.

The women had been waiting since Friday evening to go to Jesus. The Law prevented them from anointing His body on the Sabbath, so they were forced to wait. But when the sun set on Saturday evening, they purchased the needed spices. They were prepared. Then, as soon as it was possible, as the sun lifted above the eastern horizon on Sunday morning, the women walked to the tomb.

Grief shrouded that journey. Perhaps their legs even felt heavy with loss. They believed their hope for salvation lay dead. But the tomb was open. And the angel’s announcement offered an end to their mourning. “And he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him’” (Mark 16:6 ESV).

The joy of Easter pushed out the grief of Good Friday. After the women recovered from the shock, they carried this Good News to the disciples. He has risen! This glorious declaration, first spoken by an angel on that first Easter Sunday, is still joyfully proclaimed by believers today. He has risen! He has risen indeed!

Without the resurrection, the Gospel is not complete. The resurrection of Jesus proves that His death was sufficient to provide forgiveness of sins. The resurrection proves that Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be. The resurrection defeated sin and death and assures us that one day His followers will also rise to spend eternity with Christ.

What will you do with the news of Christ’s resurrection? Will you reject the hope of an eternity with Jesus? Or, will you receive it joyfully and share this life-changing truth with others?

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

About the author: A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught the Bible in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. Kathy, who has a Masters of Religious Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary, is a devotional and Bible study author. She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her husband live near family in the Dallas/Ft Worth. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs.

Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy’s new 40-day devotional book, Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark, is available now!

Join the conversation: Have you had a chance to share the good news lately?

The Sacrificial Leaf


 by Lori Wildenberg

It would be easy to miss the small number of yellow leaves scattered among all the green leaves in the mangrove. But our captain made certain to point them out.

My daughter, Courtney, and I were on an Eco-Cruise while on a family vacation in the Florida Keys. Our boat launched from the north side of Islamorada. This Key is situated between the Everglades National Park and the deep blue waters of the Florida Strait. The Atlantic was to our south, while the gulf waters lapped the north shore.

The saline or brackish water near the shoreline is home to the mangrove forests, a type of tropical or subtropical vegetation. Mangroves, along with sea grass beds and coral reefs, create a system that keeps the coastal zones healthy while providing habitat for a variety of species.

The green mangrove forests look like shrubs on stilts. They randomly and plentifully pop out of the water. By design, they support each other.  Their tangled dense roots allow the trees to hold firm to the muddy soil during the daily rise and fall of the tides.  

A variety of birds like brown pelicans, blue herons, and great egrets nest in among the mangrove forest. Many other species of birds depend on the mangroves for their seasonal migration. The mangrove system provides shelter to a wide range of living creatures from deer to honey bees.

The forests stabilize the shoreline, prevent erosion, protect the land, filter nutrients and pollutants from storm water, and reduce the chances of flooding. Our boat hugged the shoreline and slid through the narrow channels created by the mangroves.  We moved effortlessly through the backcountry shallow waters and pockets of mini-islands created by mangrove trees and shrubs.

While cruising the bay, we saw lots of tropical birds, plants, and a few crabs. The intricate and strong root system was the first thing I noticed about the mangroves. However, the thing that made the biggest impact was the smallest thing we saw, the thing our Captain pointed out. “Notice the yellow leaves. They have a specific and special purpose. There is one yellow leaf on each tree. These leaves are an integral part of each mangrove tree’s salt filtration system.”

According to our guide, this leaf soaks up the salt water the plant’s roots take in. This absorption allows the tree to survive, even thrive. That one leaf makes the difference between life and death of the mangrove tree. Its sole purpose is to take on the salt and die so the rest of the tree can live.

It is appropriately called the sacrificial leaf.

God often uses nature to reflect His glory and to draw us to Himself. The Lord wants to be known and wants us to know His son. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20 NIV).

I have shared the story of the sacrificial leaf many times since Courtney and I took that Eco Cruise. I thank God for the sacrifice His Son made for me while he hung on a tree. Jesus sucked up all my salty sin so I could live.

Jesus, like the sacrificial leaf, sacrificed his life for me, my family, and for you. He died for me; I will live for Him.

Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 NIV

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

About the author: Helping families create connections that last a lifetime is Lori Wildenberg’s passion. Lori, wife, mom of 4 plus 3 more, and Mimi, shares her stories of failures and successes to encourage and equip parents. The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connectionsis Lori’s fifth and most recently published book. As a national speaker and licensed parent and family educator, she leads the Moms Together Facebook group and co-hosts the Moms Together Podcast. For more information or to connect with Lori go to www.loriwildenberg.com .

Join the conversation: What does the sacrifice of Jesus mean to you?