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?

Time to Rip Off the Bandage

by Kathy Howard

My grandkids love bandages. It seems that every time they come to our house, somebody needs one. So, I keep “kid” ones on hand. Bright colors. Their favorite characters. Most of the time, their little scrapes and bumps really don’t need a bandage. But it makes them feel better for a little while. Bandages don’t heal. They merely cover the wound until healing can take place.

The Old Covenant was a bandage. Sin was the gaping wound. The law, the tabernacle, the sacrificial system: none of it could bring real healing. It was all simply a place holder, waiting for God’s perfect timing to bring true and complete healing for sin. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross was the once-for-all, eternal cure.

When Jesus took His last breath on the cross, something significant happened. The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. This ornate, linen curtain blocked the way into the Holy of Holies. That innermost sanctum of the temple that housed the Ark of the Covenant, the very symbol of God’s presence with His people. No one could enter the Holy of Holies into the presence of God except the high priest; and he could only enter once a year on the Day of Atonement.

On this day, the high priest first sacrificed a bull on the altar and sprinkled its blood in the Holy of Holies to atone for his own sins. Then, he sacrificed a goat and took its blood into the Holy of Holies, into the presence of God, to atone for the sins of the people. These ceremonies had to be repeated again and again. Year after year. Because the blood of bulls and goats could not cleanse sin or purify the conscience of the people (Hebrews 9:13-14).

These sacrifices were just a bandage. They simply covered our wound of sin. Jesus was God’s plan of salvation all along. Before creation (1 Peter 1:19-20) God saw our need for a Savior and determined that His Son would pay the price. The blood of bulls and goats is not sufficient. Only the blood of the unblemished Lamb of God can provide eternal forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:14).

When our sinless high priest died, He carried His perfect cleansing blood into the presence of God to atone for our sins. When His body was broken on the cross, the barrier between sinful man and our holy God was torn in two. To dramatically mark this victory, God ripped the veil that blocked the way into His presence.

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Mark 15:37-38, ESV

In his book “The Pursuit of God,” A.W. Tozer reflected on the temple veil. “Ransomed men need no longer pause in fear to enter the Holy of Holies. God wills that we should push on into His presence and live our whole life there. This is to be known to us in conscious experience. It is more than a doctrine to be held; it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day.”

God invites those who trust in Christ’s sacrifice for salvation to enter the Holy of Holies. To step through the curtain of Christ’s precious body and draw close to our holy God (Hebrews 10:19-22). Won’t you come?

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, she has taught in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. Kathy has a Masters of Christian Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 10 books, including the new “meaty” devotional Deep-Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark. She writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. She also connects with women at Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Join the conversation: What difference does that torn curtain make in your life?

Calming the Storms in Your Life

by Kathy Howard

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39 ESV

The forces of nature regularly demonstrate their power in our world. Tornadoes topple high rises like a toddler flattens block towers. Tsunamis sweep over cities, burying them beneath the waves. Mankind is powerless against the funnel cloud and the rushing ocean. But there is One who has power over all these forces and more.

One night on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus gave His disciples a glimpse of His kingly glory by demonstrating His power over the natural world. After a long day of teaching, Jesus needed rest. As soon as the boat pushed away from the shore, Jesus laid His head on the cushion reserved for guests and quickly feel asleep. (See Mark 4:1-21 for the full story.)

Away from the safety of the shore, a storm hit with fury. As the boat filled with water, even the experienced fishermen feared for their lives. But Jesus slept on. To the disciples it seemed as though Jesus did not care. But the big storm was an opportunity for Jesus to reveal something about Himself they did not yet know.

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39 ESV

Only the Lord of all creation (Colossians 1:16-17) could calm the storm with a word. Only the God of the universe could speak peace to the tumultuous waves and still the whipping wind. “Peace! Be still!” The winds and the waves obeyed Him. Immediately the howling wind was silent. The thrashing sea became like glass.

Anyone would be afraid in a similar situation. Yet, after Jesus commanded the storm to cease, He asked the disciples why they feared, why they failed to trust Him to care for them.

The disciples had heard Jesus’ authoritative teaching. They had seen Him heal broken and diseased bodies. But they had not seen power on this level. Trembling with fear and awe, they looked at each other. They thought they knew this man, but Jesus blew away their assumptions during the violent storm. What else did they not know about Jesus? This One who had authority over nature?

Storms of difficulty often hit our lives too. They rush in, often popping up quickly like that storm on the Sea of Galilee. We have little power to stop them.

When trouble comes, we may react much like the disciples in the storm. Fear may rise. Doubt about God’s concern for us may push in. And though He rarely works in the way we might expect, He will always work for our ultimate spiritual good and His own glory.

Every trial is an opportunity for God to teach us more about Himself, to reveal Himself to us in a new way. Each difficulty and struggle open the door for God to display His power in our lives. Trust Him to do what only He can do. He sees. He cares. And He is able.

This post was adapted from Kathy Howard’s new devotional book “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark.”

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 book, Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark, is available now!

Join the conversation: What have you learned about God in a storm?

Finding Success in Total Dependence

by Kathy Howard

This post is adapted from Kathy Howard’s new devotional “Deep-Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark.”

I’ve experienced plenty of failure in my lifetime. You probably have, too. We are imperfect people living in a broken world. Much of my failure has resulted from refusing to admit when I needed help, pridefully overestimating my own ability. And have you noticed? Simple defeat isn’t bad enough; failure always seems to draw a crowd. Why is that? Seriously, where are all those looky-loos when we succeed?

The ninth chapter of Mark’s Gospel records a big fail for some of Jesus’ disciples. When Jesus and His three closest disciples descended from the mount of transfiguration (in Mark 9:2-13), the fallout of failure welcomed them. An eager crowd and a desperate father with a sick, demon-possessed son looked on as the other nine frustrated disciples argued with some opportunistic scribes. The scene quickly dampened the spiritual high of the mountain-top experience.

Maybe this scene feels familiar. You returned after a peaceful time of rest or some special time with the Lord and walked into a storm at home. Chaos chewed up calm. Discord displaced peace. This is what Jesus encountered.

The nine disciples had tried to heal the boy and failed. But, why? With the authority of Jesus, they had exorcised demons during their recent mission trip (Mark 6:13). So why did they fail now? The passage indicates not only insufficient faith, but also misplaced faith.

When they were alone, Jesus blamed a lack of prayer (Mark 9:29). Prayer fosters dependence on God and His power. Lack of prayer reveals an attitude of self-sufficiency. Perhaps their past “success” had fostered pride, which caused them to battle the demon under their own power. And they lost the fight.

In contrast, the father was helpless, and he knew it. Although he confessed weak faith, he humbly asked Jesus to strengthen it, to ease his doubts. The father brought everything to Jesus. He brought his sick son. He brought his hopelessness. He bought his fledgling faith. He even brought his doubts.

But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:22b-24 ESV

Jesus encouraged the father to embrace faith. “All things are possible for one who believes” (vs 23). “Possible” does not mean that we can dictate God’s work through our “faith.” Just because God can do something doesn’t mean He will. It does means that God is able. Our desire for an outcome, no matter how much we believe, will not override God’s plans and purposes. But, we can rest in the truth that God’s work does not depend on the size of our faith, but on His power and grace.

Faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). We can either weaken it by independence and self-reliance or we can strengthen it through use. Let’s ask God for opportunities to build our faith. And when they come, may we exercise dependence on the One who is always able. 

Have you been trying to undertake some ministry or work for God under your own strength? If so, confess your independence to God and submit to total dependence on Him.

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: Do you struggle to remain dependent on God?

Some Good News for Christmas

by Kathy Howard

When I was a girl, every Christmas Eve my father would read the biblical account of that first Christmas from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. I can still hear those familiar words in my Dad’s sweet voice – King James style. Matthew records the angel’s visit to Joseph and the journey of the wise men from the east. Luke tells of Gabriel’s amazing message for Mary, the birth of our Savior, and the dramatic announcement to shepherds in a field outside of Bethlehem.

But did you know that the Gospel of Mark has its own version of the Christmas story? But unlike his long-winded gospel brothers, the fast-moving Mark gets straight to the main point – Jesus came to earth, and it was really excellent news for everyone.

This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. Mark 1:1 NLT

I think we all could use a little good news right about now. Bad news abounds. Most days it’s all we hear. Stories of death, disaster, and deceit flow from every corner of the globe. Bad news often dominates our personal lives, too. Loss, grief, illness, financial difficulties, relationship struggles, and more weigh heavy on our hearts and minds. Maybe even today you simply long to hear some good news for a change.

Like us, the Jews in the first century longed for some good news. Rome, the dominate world power, held Israel under its mighty thumb. The deliverance God had promised long ago still tarried. Where was their long-awaited Messiah?

Then finally, a new message, a spark of hope. People flocked to the wilderness, responding to John the Baptist’s call for repentance (see Mark 1:1-20). But John was not the good news, he was merely a messenger.

John’s life and ministry fulfilled prophecy. He was the messenger prophesied by Malachi (Malachi 3:1) and the wilderness voice foretold by Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3). Like the angels would announce the good news of Christ’s birth to the shepherds outside Bethlehem on that first Christmas, John also declared the good news of Christ, calling people to repentance, preparing their hearts for the Savior’s arrival.

Then Jesus burst on the scene and the long wait ended. God the Son had finally arrived. Good news indeed!

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15, ESV

The first sentence of the Gospel of Mark announced to readers then and now that Jesus Christ is the good news – or “gospel” – for which we’ve been waiting. The Greek word translated as gospel referred to a glad announcement that heralded great benefit for the hearers.

Christ died for sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day, defeating sin, death, and the grave. His presence fills us with grace and strength for today. The Gospel also birthed the church, changed the world, and continues to propel us towards God’s full and final purposes.

Yes, bad news still makes headlines. But for those who belong to Jesus, His Gospel decidedly trumps any bad news the world can deliver. The Gospel of Christ. Life conquers death. Hope pushes out despair. Joy overwhelms grief. Truly the best news ever.

This article was 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.

Her new 40-day devotional book, Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark, is available now! Want to experience regular spiritual nourishment from the Bible, but not sure how to start? Deep Rooted, a 40-day devotional journey through the life and ministry of Jesus, will show you how to interact with and apply Scripture, not just read it. Finally, a daily devotional with some meat on its bones!

Join the conversation: What good news brings you joy this holiday season?

Slippery Slopes

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.   Proverbs 4:23 NIV

I did it to myself. I chose the wrong path. I saw the sign with the little black diamond and thought I could handle it. After all, I reasoned, I’m a decent skier. (If you aren’t laughing yet, you should be.) After just a few yards, I realized I had made a terribly dangerous decision. The hard-packed snow felt slick as ice. If I fell, I wouldn’t stop until I hit bottom. I envisioned my body lying broken and bleeding at the bottom of this precipitous slope. So, I did the only thing I could. I carefully – and prayerfully – began to sidestep back up to the top of the run. I didn’t care what people around me thought. My life was at stake!

Sadly, I don’t always ski smart and safe. Once, I was skiing on a wide, well-groomed trail that ran right under one of the chair lifts. The level of difficulty matched my skill, and I felt confident in my ability. I could see the people still on the lift watching the skiers below. My confidence turned into pride, and I began to show off. I let my guard down. Just a little, but a little was enough. The next thing I knew I was falling. Skis over head over skis, tumbling down the slope, directly under all those watching skiers on the lift above. Yes, pride does indeed go before a fall.

Sin in our lives is like that black diamond ski run – a slippery, dangerous slope. Sometimes all it takes is one small compromise to put us on a wrong path. The author of Hebrews used the term “drift away” to help us understand this truth. “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1, ESV). The image of drifting portrays a shifting from the intended course. Picture a ship drifting off course in strong currents or wind. Even a small fraction off course can cause a ship to miss the harbor.

The threat of sin in a Christian’s life also requires constant awareness of the Spirit’s leading and purposeful effort to follow. If we let down our guard for a moment we could fall, like I did on that nicely groomed ski trail.

If we aren’t actively pursuing holiness, we are in danger of drifting off course. If we aren’t purposefully and continually choosing to reject the sinful ways of the world and follow Christ, we are at risk of falling.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11). We must carefully guard our hearts and minds because the world constantly clamors for our attention and devotion.

No compromise. Careful attention. If we don’t, we just may end up at the bottom of the slope.

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

TWEETABLE
Slippery Slopes – encouragement on #FollowingGod from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy Howard

About the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest. Kathy’s latest book, “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents” combines Scripture, biblical insight, personal experience, reflection questions, and prayer prompts to provide spiritual and practical encouragement to those caring for aging or ill parents.

Join the conversation: How do you guard your heart?

Unique Perspective

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

When we lived in Alberta, many friends and family from the southern United States visited us. It probably had more to do with the beautiful Canadian Rockies and the great city of Calgary than spending time with the Howards, but we enjoyed every minute.

These visits often required me to do a little “interpreting” and even “interceding.” I helped Americans figure out their Canadian currency. I converted from metric measure to US measurement and back again. I explained that toboggans are sleds and toques are hats. I played interpreter for a Canadian dry cleaner and one of my very southern speaking visitors. And I even put a very egocentric American teenager in her place for mocking a Canadian teenager’s use of the French term “serviette” in referring to a napkin. (Canada has two official languages – English and French.)

I had a unique perspective. As an American who grew up in the south, I understood the “language,” the culture, and the customs. And, since I had lived in Canada for a number of years, I also had a good grasp of the culture and customs of our northern neighbors. I could appreciate both sides. I had been north of the border long enough to teach the Americans what they didn’t know. And since I am an American, I could also gently put one in their place when necessary. I made the perfect American/Canadian intercessor.

Jesus Christ is our perfect intercessor with God. He has a unique perspective. Jesus is fully God and fully man. Although divine, Jesus had the full scope of human experience. He suffered through the trials and hardships of this life. He experienced everything from head colds and skinned knees to loss and betrayal. He knows both the pain and joys of humanity.

But our Savior is also God. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and eternal. He not only knows our needs, He has the capacity to meet them. Jesus not only understands our emotions, He is able to comfort our hearts. He not only experienced the same temptations we do; Jesus can also extend the strength we need to resist them.

Only Jesus is qualified to be the Intercessor we need with the Father. He is our perfect High Priest. In the 4th chapter of Hebrews, the author reflects on the uniqueness of Jesus’ position and the benefit to us:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16, ESV

Our perfect High Priest intercedes with the Father for us. He has prepared the way for us to draw near, to enter the very presence of God. Let us step in with boldness and wonder.

TWEETABLE
Unique Perspective – thoughts on Jesus as our Intercessor from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest. Kathy’s latest book, “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents” combines Scripture, biblical insight, personal experience, reflection questions, and prayer prompts to provide spiritual and practical encouragement to those caring for aging or ill parents.

Join the conversation: How does knowing Jesus has gone before us in temptation and trial affect your relationship with Him?

Stand Together or Fall Alone

by Kathy Howard KathyHHoward

Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV

Last week, Hurricane Laura blew through my home state of Louisiana and my adopted state of Texas. As I write this, our son and daughter-in-law, who live in north Louisiana, are coming onto on a week without power. My husband just got home today from an exhausting week of cleanup. First, he spent a couple of days with our son helping there. Then he spent a few days at our fishing camp on the Texas-Louisiana border where we lost a tree.

Dozens of trees grow on that property, mostly pine, but a few hardwoods. Unfortunately, Laura’s winds toppled a large, beautiful red oak. Unlike most of the other trees there, the oak was unsheltered, sitting alone in an open space. It was just no match for a hurricane. Thankfully, it narrowly missed our small fishing cabin.

That lone oak got me thinking about the giant redwoods of California. These giant trees of the western United States are some of the largest trees known to man. Amazingly, they have relatively shallow root systems. Their enormous weight is supported, in part, by the interlocking of its roots with those around it. A single redwood is vulnerable in extreme weather, but with the support of the surrounding trees, it can withstand a great deal.

Christians need interlocking roots like the giant redwoods. God never intends for Christians to be like the lone oak, attempting to follow Jesus on our own. When God saves us, He saves into His family. God’s design is for each Christian to be a vital, active part of a local church.

Ironically, during all the storms of 2020, when we’ve needed each other the most, we’ve been forced into isolation. Don’t get me wrong. I’m so grateful for technology and the ability we have to do virtual church and meet in virtual groups. But it can never and should never replace real life, face-to-face church. This is why the author of Hebrews reminded his readers of the importance of coming together as a local church body:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV).

With everything going on, it’s tempting to settle for virtual church for the long-term. But let us not settle. The consequences of neglecting the real-life body of believers far outweigh the ease of doing church at home.* We need support, encouragement, accountability, and fellowship. We need face-to-face human interaction. We need to serve and be served.

Oh yes, the Day is closer than ever before. Let’s come together in love. Let’s be the church.

* This assumes your church is open and following safety guidelines, and your health is not compromised.

TWEETABLE
Stand Together or Fall Alone – encouragement from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy Howard

About the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest. Kathy’s latest book, “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents” combines Scripture, biblical insight, personal experience, reflection questions, and prayer prompts to provide spiritual and practical encouragement to those caring for aging or ill parents.

Join the conversation: How has Covid 19 and its isolation affected you this past summer?

 

Martha and a Pile of Avocados

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Psalm 107:28-29 NASB

As I pushed my cart through the produce section, the avocados caught my eye. I had only picked up a couple to inspect when it started. One, then two of the lovely green fruit began to roll from the top of the high pile. (Yes, an avocado is technically a fruit. I checked!)

By the time three of them had hit the floor, I knew I must take drastic action to prevent disaster. With arms open wide, I blocked the shifting pile with the top half of my body. With one arm and my torso keeping the avocados from falling, I repositioned key pieces with my free hand until the moving stopped.

Hoping the other shoppers hadn’t seen me laying on top of the avocados, I backed away carefully and casually moved on to the lettuce. But soon I heard a shriek and turned to look back. A surprised young woman stood next to what was left of the avocado pile with dozens of pesky green fruit rolling around her feet. Undoubtedly the person who stocked the avocados had gotten a little carried away. He or she had put way too many avocados on the pile. The fallout was inevitable!

Sometimes our lives are like that pile of avocados. We keep adding items to our lives and calendars until we have to stand on tip toe to put another thing on top: jobs, activities, sports, lessons, ministry work, friends, family, leisure.

We can’t possibly give enough attention to the really important things of life, because we are constantly chasing after the urgent things rolling off the pile. If we aren’t careful, the entire tower will shift and collapse leaving us standing in a gooey pile of guacamole.

Often, most of the “avocados” are good things. But trying to juggle too many avocados will derail the abundant life Christ wants to give us. Martha, the New Testament hostess, is a well-known example.

When Jesus visited Martha and Mary, Martha hurried around with meal prep and household chores while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His teaching. Martha was flustered and upset.

“But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it’” (Luke 10:41-42a, NLT).

Jesus’ loving rebuke was designed to help Martha escape the tyranny of the urgent and discover the life of peace, joy, and purpose He offers.

Is your pile so full of good things that you can’t enjoy the most important? If you’re missing out on the best Jesus wants to give you, take control. Ask God to show you want should stay and what needs to go. Let go of the less important and embrace the best.

TWEETABLE
Martha and a Pile of Avocados – encouragement when life gets out of control from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest.

Kathy’s latest book, “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents” combines Scripture, biblical insight, personal experience, reflection questions, and prayer prompts to provide spiritual and practical encouragement to those caring for aging or ill parents.

Join the conversation: When is the last time you reevaluated your highest priorities in your life? Are you ruled by the tyranny of the urgent?

The Birds, the Beast, and an Empty Nest

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. Matthew 10:29-30 NLT

Four baby barn swallows peered over the edge of the mud nest on a wall in a corner of our patio, eagerly waiting for their mother to return with breakfast. I had a really good view of the feathered family from my bedroom window. “This is going to be great,” I thought. “I can watch them grow, learn to fly, and leave the nest.” Like my own empty nest, the experience would be bittersweet, but exciting.

Then I remembered the beast. Our ninety-pound yellow lab dominates the back yard. Did the baby birds have a chance against a dog that pulls trees up by the roots? Maybe it would be better for the babies to never leave the nest. The mama bird could continue to feed them. Of course, the daddy bird would have to build an addition to the nest…

Two days later I stood at the bedroom window again. One baby clung to the edge of the nest and one was perched beside it on a brick that jutted out from the wall. It was time for flying lessons! Mother Swallow called to them from atop a blade of the patio ceiling fan about five feet away.

The beast lay on his side by the back door seemingly unaware of the unfolding drama. The baby on the brick hopped off into space, untested wings flapping. He dipped low, coming within eighteen inches of the ground. I held my breath. The beast slept on. Then the baby’s wings caught air, and he awkwardly joined his mother on the fan blade. Whew! One down, three to go.

Within a few days, all four baby birds had successfully learned to fly. At first they only flew to the ceiling fan, then back to the nest. As the days went by, they became a little more adventurous, visiting the roof and the large tree beyond the patio. Then one day they were gone. The nest stayed empty. Their mother had done her job, and they were on their own.

All three of our babies have tried their wings and left the nest. Even now, I worry about what could happen to them outside the nest. Will they watch out for those “big yellow labs?”

Now more than ever, this world is filled with things we could worry about. Most of which we have absolutely no control over. But the glorious thing is, I know someone who has full control, absolute sovereignty. The Creator is still and forever on His throne.

As Jesus reminded us in Matthew, nothing happens to a single sparrow without God’s knowledge. If He cares that much for a sparrow, how much more does He care for my children? For yours? They are worth more than many sparrows.

Summer is a time of transition. It’s filled with transitions like graduations and children planning to leave the nest. Give your worry to God and cling to His promises. Then watch from the fan blade with squawks of encouragement.

TWEETABLE
The Birds, the Beast, and an Empty Nest – encouragement from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy Howard

About the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. She encourages women to get into God’s Word for themselves in order to build an unshakable faith that will stand firm through all the trials of life. 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. She has a Masters in Religious Education and a certificate in Women’s Ministry from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 8 books and Bible studies, including “Lavish Grace” and “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents.” She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her “mostly retired” husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and three dogs – one of them on purpose. She provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy also connects with women at FacebookPinterest, and Instagram.

Join the conversation: Is there a transition going on in your life? How are you doing with it?