Through the Worst of Times

by Kathy Howard

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! Philippians 4:1, NIV

War shakes a man’s faith. Without a solid foundation and encouragement to stand firm, it can even shatter it completely.

Jean Grace Elliot may not have gone to war, but she served in the trenches alongside the young men she’d taught in Sunday School. Although a schoolteacher, then a principal, by trade, Jean’s lifelong passion was teaching the Bible. Each week, Jean faithfully taught boys—including her own three sons—how to love and follow Jesus Christ. As the years went by, the lads she discipled grew into teenagers, then young men.

When War World II broke out, Jean’s sons and several of “her boys” enlisted in the armed forces. These young men may have left Toronto to serve their country, but Jean did not leave them. She faithfully wrote letters to each of them, including one who was captured and sent to a concentration camp in Germany. Jean encouraged them to stand firm in Christ. She filled her letters with Scripture to bolster their faith. She prayed that their faith would not simply survive those desperate times, but that it would thrive.

Jean’s efforts bore fruit. Through the later years of her life, she received many thanks from those men for being a devoted teacher and encourager. Although Jean passed away in 1963 at the age of 77, her legacy of unshakeable faith lives on in her students, her own children, and their children.

Jean faithfully followed the example of the apostle Paul. In his letter to the persecuted believers in Philippi, Paul encouraged them to cling to Christ no matter the circumstances. Paul knew suffering, but he also knew the strength and comfort of Christ was more than sufficient. No matter the struggle, no matter the outcome on this earth, believers can experience unshakeable faith, even through the worst of times.

Father, when my family encounters trials, remind them of Your truth. You see them, You care, You are working, even in the midst of their worst of times. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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

About the author: Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate and richest coffee. She searches for cherished stories of faith that still impact hearts. And she digs deep into God’s Word, mining His eternal truths for herself and to share with others. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events.

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Kathy has a Masters of Christian Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary and is the author of 10 books, including the “Deep Rooted” devotional series and Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” (October 2021).  Kathy and her husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: Have family members that have gone before you left a legacy of faith? Please share!

The Whistle Stop

by Kathy Howard

A train whistle always stops Lloyd in his tracks. No matter where he is or what he’s doing, when he hears the whistle blow, Lloyd pauses to thank God. Sometimes, his prayer is a simple “Thank You, Lord.” Other times, he pauses longer to praise God and thank Him for specific acts of mercy and grace in his life.

The seed for Lloyd’s “gratitude prompt” was planted long ago during happy childhood days spent on his grandfather’s Arkansas farm. One of Lloyd’s strongest memories of that time was the sound of the logging train that regularly chugged across the property. Thankfulness filled those days. Thankfulness for his strong, gentle grandfather and his example of love and family. Lloyd naturally connected those feelings of gratitude with the sound of the train.

Now, decades later, there’s another train that cuts a path across Lloyd’s Wyoming ranch in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains. Everyone that visits the ranch hears the story of the train, its whistle, and the reminder it provides to stop and thank God. From family and friends to neighbors and the Wounded Warriors Lloyd often hosts, everyone pauses to thank God when the whistle blows.

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 1 Chronicles 16:8-9 ESV

After King David rescued the ark of the covenant from the Philistines, he brought it back to Jerusalem. As he entered the city, David encouraged the people of God to express their gratitude. He urged Israel to remember everything God had done and to thank Him for all His wondrous works. Like David, Lloyd knows that purposeful gratitude fosters a deeper awareness of God and greater joy in the heart of the worshipper.

God still deserves our praise and gratitude. We can follow David’s and Lloyd’s examples by not only stopping to thank God for His marvelous works and good blessings, but by also encouraging our loved ones to express gratitude to God. We could develop a “gratitude prompt” for our own family by identifying an everyday sight or sound as a reminder to thank God for His many gifts. We could also set a regular time for our family – perhaps around the dinner table – to share these “wondrous works” with each other.

Although thanking God is not hard, Lloyd knows how easy it is to forget. “People don’t take time to stop and thank God for all He’s done. We all need a little reminder.” Lloyd’s reminder is as faithful as the train.

This post is adapted from “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith,” Kathy Howard’s new, unique devotional that combines stories of faith with practical tips for spiritual legacy and helps for genealogy research.

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

About the author: Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate and richest coffee. She searches for cherished stories of faith that still impact hearts. And, she digs deep into God’s Word, mining His eternal truths for herself and to share with others. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She has a Masters of Christian Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

Kathy is the author of 10 books, including the “Deep Rooted” devotional series and “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” (October 2021).  Kathy and her husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org.

That’ll Leave a Mark

by Kathy Howard

Every family has those stories. The ones that begin with “remember when…” A couple of our family’s stories begin like this: “Remember when Sarah got stuck in a turnstile?” “Remember when we lost Sarah at Disney World?” Yes, many of our memorable family events feature our second daughter Sarah in a tight spot.

But we also have family stories that feature God’s activity in our lives. My favorite happened during the time we lived in Alberta, Canada. God began bringing adults to our church who had never attended a church and knew nothing about the Bible. With God’s leading, my husband and I started a Bible study for spiritual seekers. God used that group to bring dozens of adults to faith in Christ. Eventually, the ministry involved our whole church. For instance, members invited their neighbors who had spiritual questions, then joined them in the Bible study class.

As a permanent reminder of God’s work, we bought a print depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd who sought and found the one lost sheep. Our children know this God story well. And every time someone else asks about the picture, we happily tell it again.

That picture of Jesus is an example of a spiritual marker. Spiritual markers commemorate a great activity of God. Not only do they help those who experienced it personally remember it, but they also provide a way for their descendants to participate in these mighty works of God through the story.

God Himself established this principle of spiritual markers. For instance, when His people crossed the Jordan River on dry ground at flood stage, God directed them to set up memorial stones as a way to preserve and pass down this event of God’s glorious intervention. These solid, physical reminders also prompted questions from future generations who did not witness the miracle.

“When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over…”[ Joshua 4:21-23a ESV

You can do the same in your family. Memorialize a mighty work of God by connecting the story to a unique physical object. Then use this “spiritual marker” as an opportunity to tell the story over and over to your family and friends.

Sadly, memories can be so short. Spiritual markers not only strengthen memory, they provide a great opportunity to pass down the family God stories to the next generation. If you don’t tell your children what God has done in your life, who will?

This post is adapted from “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith,” Kathy Howard’s new, unique devotional that combines stories of faith with practical tips for spiritual legacy and helps for genealogy research.

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

About the author: Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate and richest coffee. She searches for cherished stories of faith that still impact hearts. And she digs deep into God’s Word, mining His eternal truths for herself and to share with others. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy 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 and is the author of 10 books, including theDeep Rooteddevotional series and Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” (October 2021).  Kathy and her husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: What God stories does your family have?

Are You Putting Limits on God?

by Kathy Howard

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high. I cannot attain to it. Psalm 139:6 NASB

I’ll call her Tracy. She attended a women’s study group I led for spiritual seekers. Tracy felt her spiritual need and was determined to fill it with something. She studied with us on Tuesday nights and with a Christian cult’s study group on Wednesday nights. Tracy heard biblical truth on Tuesdays, and on Wednesdays she heard distortions and false teaching. Every Wednesday the cult worked to cast doubt on the truth she’d heard the night before. I prayed for her, and I presented the truth of the Gospel over and over. In the end, Tracy rejected the truth of Christ and joined the cult.

Tracy took the wrong path because she underestimated the power of God. Since she couldn’t understand the triune nature of God, she rejected the full divinity of Jesus. Whatever she couldn’t understand, she wouldn’t accept. So instead, she chose to follow a god she could get her mind around. Wrong belief based on incorrect or insufficient knowledge of Scripture can be eternally dangerous.

Jesus pointed out this truth to a group of Sadducees that tried to trip Him up with a complicated question about marriage relationships in heaven (Mark 12:18-23). Ironically, the Sadducees rejected the resurrection because they didn’t see it in the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses).

After Jesus patiently explained that God doesn’t need marriage in heaven, He showed them how the Pentateuch supports the resurrection (Mark 12:24-27). They had strayed from the path of God’s truth because they lacked sufficient knowledge of both Scripture and God’s power.

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? Mark 12:24 ESV

They denied the resurrection because of their limited view of God. They didn’t believe Him powerful enough to raise the dead. Ironically, it would only be a matter of days until God gave them a tomb-busting demonstration. After suffering a brutal death on a Roman cross, Jesus would get up and walk out of His grave.

Like Tracy, the Sadducees’ eternal hope was restricted by their limited view of God. Their knowledge of God was restricted by their limited understanding of Scripture. At best, our own limited understanding will impede our spiritual growth and service. And at worst, a limited understanding of God may impact our eternity.

Why would we want to serve a “god” we can understand? That kind of god is no god at all. But, thankfully, our God is not hindered by our faulty understanding. He is not limited by our lack of knowledge. We serve a God who is all-powerful and transcendent. He spoke the heavens and earth into existence. He will accomplish what He determines to accomplish. He will fulfill every promise. Our hope in Him is sure and eternal.

I wouldn’t want to trust my eternal destiny to a god I could wrap up in a neat little box. Thankfully, God is so much bigger than our human minds can grasp. What about you? Is your view of God limited in any way?

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 in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. She 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 is most challenging to you in your understanding of God?

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).

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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?