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?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Are You a Jesus Fanatic?

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

My friend Jan was the ultimate high school football fanatic. When her son Clint played for the Midland High Bulldogs, she held back nothing. She even had purple highlights in her hair in honor of the Dawgs.

During Clint’s senior year, the Bulldogs got into the playoffs, so I invited myself along to a game. The kickoff was at noon. Jan arrived at the stadium at 9:45 am to get seats in the lower section on the 50-yard line. She suggested I bring ear plugs in case the cheering, jugs full of rocks, and cow bells got to be too much for my delicate ears. But Jan forgot to warn me to wear my most comfortable shoes. Bulldog parents do not sit down during the game except for time outs and half-time.

The Bulldogs’ parents are fanatics by definition. A fanatic is a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics (or West Texas football). These Bulldog fanatics are not ashamed of their Dawgs.

Their enthusiasm shows in their actions, their speech, and their attire. During that game I saw painted faces, purple shoes, purple sun glasses, and purple purses. Their attitudes and actions clearly show their love for their sons and their devotion to the team. They willingly travel great distances and sit out in inclement weather to show their support.

That experience got me thinking. I should be that enthusiastic about Jesus. Jesus calls us to be fanatical about Him: to have an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm and zeal for our Lord.

“Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels” (Luke 9:23-26, NLT).

If no one ever calls me a fanatic then I’m not following Jesus like I should be. True Christianity necessitates fanaticism. I love the apostle Paul’s example. He was definitely a Jesus fanatic. He lived full out for Jesus and held nothing back. “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8a, NLT). “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better” (Philippians 1:21, NLT).

Sounds just a bit crazy doesn’t it? Paul loved Jesus and he wanted everyone to know. I long to love Jesus so much that everyone thinks I’m a bit crazy too.

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Are You a Jesus Fanatic? – insight & 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: Are you a Jesus fanatic? Are you willing to be a fool for Christ? Let’s talk about what this should look like in our lives.

Doggin’ Sin

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

…Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.                                                                                                                                                        Genesis 4:7 NASB

One day, the Boys treed a squirrel. I came outside to find two of the smaller limbs of our large cottonwood tree hanging against the trunk, the obvious result of the bigger boy trying to get to the furry rodent. (By the way, “the Boys” is our collective name for Boone and Remi. Boone – Boy #1 – is an 80-pound yellow lab, and Remi – Boy #2—is an energetic, 11 pound rescue pup. The two are great friends.)

While I stood there trying to decide what to do, the squirrel leaped to the ground and took off across the back yard with Boone in hot pursuit. The squirrel jumped into the globe willow near the back fence and hustled to the upper branches.

When Boone reared up on the small tree he reached halfway to where the squirrel sat. The squirrel barked; Boone barked and howled; Remi yipped and circled; and several neighborhood dogs even joined the chorus.

Something had to be done before my willow tree became a casualty of war. I put Remi in the house. Then I dragged Boone by the collar to the patio and held him there to give the enemy a chance to escape.

After several minutes, the squirrel inched down the trunk of the willow and jumped to the ground. Unfortunately, at that moment I lost my grip on Boone and off he went to catch his prey. The squirrel climbed the 6-foot wooden fence and scurried along the top. But instead of leaping over it to safety, it hopped into one of two small Bradford Pear trees in the corner flower bed.

Focused on his mission, Boone thundered into the flower bed plowing over small shrubs as he went. The squirrel taunted him, hopping from one pear tree to the other and back again, Boon doggin’ his every step. The trees whipped from one side to the other as the chase continued, while I desperately tried to catch and hold the dog.

The wicked squirrel could have easily escaped, but instead, it hit the ground and took off back toward the house with Boone in hot pursuit. When the squirrel reached the cottonwood tree, back up it went, and we were right back to where we started.

Thankfully, my then-teen son arrived home about that time. Mark put Boone in the house and got rid of the trespasser. With the evil rodent gone, the Boys could go back outside without being tormented. However, for the rest of the evening, Boone sat under the cottonwood, looking up into its branches. Just in case.

I wish I was as determined about keeping sin out of my life as Boone is about keeping squirrels out of the yard. Sin is serious, and can often lead to destruction. Getting rid of sin can require extreme measures. Jesus said “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Matthew 5:30 NIV). Jesus used hyperbole to emphasize the danger of allowing sin in our lives. We must cut it out of our lives. And we must guard ourselves from new temptations.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:4 NIV). On the night He was betrayed, Jesus told the disciples to diligently protect themselves from temptation. Sin will torment us if we don’t constantly and carefully guard our hearts and minds.

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Insight on “Doggin’ Sin” from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout 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: What sin do you need to “dog” today? What temptation requires a little extra guard duty?

Do You Ever Throw a Fit with God?

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

Because those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.  Hebrews 12:6 NIV

I love watching my daughters parent my grandchildren. They’re both wonderful mothers – loving, kind, and patient. But of course, challenges pop up constantly, and they both regularly text me for advice or just to share something funny or frustrating.

One day, our oldest daughter Kelley had a particularly bad day with one-year-old Micah. Like children are prone to do, he had thrown multiple fits throughout the day whenever something didn’t go his way. And not just a pouty face and a few tears. These were lay down on the floor, kick your legs, and bellow kind of fits.

For fun, she sent me a list of some things that set him off.

Things she stopped him from doing:

  • Grabbing the handle of the pot on the stove
  • Pulling electrical cords out of the sockets
  • Shutting a door with his fingers in the hinges
  • Digging in the trash can
  • Pulling the lamp off the table
  • Licking the bottom of Dad’s shoes
  • Sucking on the acorn he found in the yard
  • Tearing a page out of her Bible

Things he did and then didn’t like:

  • Pulled the stopper out of the tub and lost all the water
  • Crawled under the ottoman and got stuck

Things she did he didn’t like:

  • Shut the fridge door
  • Shut the dishwasher
  • Made him ride in his car seat

Even though Kelley acted completely in Micah’s best interest or to prevent unneeded destruction, he rebelled. Kelley sighed; I laughed. (Nanas can do that.) But Kelley handled it all well. Micah eventually learned that this kind of behavior is not productive.

When we were toddlers, most of us eventually learned that tantrums and fits were not acceptable behavior. Most of our parents did not fall for that kind of manipulation. We never allowed our children to manipulate us like that. So why do we still sometimes try it with God?

  • God, if you’ll do this for me here, then I’ll obey you in that.
  • If you’ll let me get away with this one time, I won’t ever do it again.
  • I can’t believe you aren’t going to let me have that!

  God is the perfect, ultimate parent. He only acts in love toward us and for our good.

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that me may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:10-11, NIV

Whether God withholds something we want, stops something we’re doing, or does something we don’t like, we can fully trust that it’s for our good. Even if it seems painful at the time.

God is working for our spiritual health and eternal welfare. Yet sometimes we end up on the floor, kicking our legs, and throwing a fit. Wait… maybe that’s just me?

TWEETABLE
Do You Ever Throw a Fit with God? – @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout 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: Don’t leave me hanging! Tell us about a time you threw a fit with God!

A Scary Prayer

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

Some years ago, I attended a three-day conference for Christian speakers. The sessions covered things like techniques and presentation styles, how to do outlines, and how to engage your audience. Every afternoon, we broke into small groups to practice what we were learning. We evaluated our peers on delivery, personality, body language, and more.

On the final day of the conference, we delivered our most important presentation. Not only did our group leader evaluate us, but the founder of the training organization also popped into various groups at different times. I wasn’t overly nervous, but when my turn came, SHE walked in the room and sat down. My speaking ability would be evaluated by my peers, my group leader, and the very experienced founder of the organization.

I felt exposed and vulnerable. What would SHE think? What flaw would she spot? What weakness would she discern? As it turned out, she was very encouraging and helpful. But she couldn’t see everything about me. She didn’t know my insecurities, my failings, or my motivations.

What about you? Have you ever been evaluated? Maybe it was in a speech class, piano recital, or a yearly job performance review. We’ve all faced an evaluation at some point. But we don’t usually ask for it. We don’t often initiate the scrutiny.

But that’s exactly what the psalmist David did. And it wasn’t just some other lowly human he invited to take a really close look. Nope. David asked God Almighty, the One who knows all and sees all, to thoroughly examine his heart and mind.

That sounds super scary to me. I know God knows it all already, but to purposefully make myself so incredibly vulnerable… That’s like one of those dreams where you walk into a room full of people only to discover you wore your birthday suit.

But here’s the thing. God is totally faithful. Completely trustworthy. He wants only the best for us. He desires for us to grow into our full potential so we can be useful and effective for His good purposes. That requires spiritual refinement, transformation, and growth. It requires getting rid of all our junk and replacing it with Jesus.

This prayer, modeled by David, expresses a willingness to be laid completely bare before the Father. To invite His examination and scrutiny of our inner self. Every thought in our minds. Every inclination of our hearts. Every motivation. Every passion.

But if we are going to trust anyone with our lives, with ourselves, shouldn’t it be God? He already knows us better than we know ourselves. Let’s allow Him to have His way. Scary, yes. But also glorious and miraculous. Search me O God.

TWEETABLE
A Scary Prayer – encouragement and insight from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout 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: Have you ever prayed this prayer? Does the thought scare you a little?