Make a Fist

by Cherrilynn Bisbano

I probably looked crazy talking to myself. 

I drove to Rhode Island from New Hampshire to speak at a ladies’ retreat. I usually practice my teaching while driving, and God gives me deeper insight and great analogies as I do.

The teaching for that weekend was “Shining for Jesus in this Dark World.” I practiced the portion, “How God Sees us after salvation.”

Goose bumps covered my body when God reminded me of these words of Jesus and gave me a visual image in my head: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28 ESV). With my eyes still on the road, I held one hand to the side and made a fist.

Why don’t you try it? Picture your hand as the loving sacrificial hand of Christ. Make a fist. Imagine that, as a believer, you are in His hand.

What do you see?  Only your hand.

When God looks at Christ’s hand, He does not see us; He only sees the scar on His wrist left by the nail piercing. His beloved, innocent Son endured the most intense physical, emotional, and spiritual pain to bridge the gap between separation and salvation. 

As I continued to look at my fist, I bellowed the words that Christ cried from the cross. The words that echoed throughout heaven and now in my heart: “It is finished!” (John 19:30 ESV).

I almost drove off the road with awe and excitement. My mind filled with joy, adoration, and thanksgiving as I considered how He paid for my sin at the cross, and the scar was there to prove it. What a glorious picture. Thank you, Jesus.

I sobbed, knowing I was in the protection of Christ’s hand. It was difficult to drive and cry at the same time since I wanted to throw my hands up in praise and worship to my King. Of course, I did not; it would have caused a pileup on 95 South, and my destination awaited.

I delivered the message and used this amazing word picture, and the ladies cried with me.  We rejoiced in knowing we are in His hand, secure. Nothing can get to us. God only sees the righteousness of Christ, not our sin.

We are held captive by His love, grace and mercy. So, when you feel inadequate, unloved, or guilty, remember, IT IS FINISHED! Freedom is close at hand! Rejoice and make a fist!

In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. Ephesians 1:7 ESV                   

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

About the author: Cherrilynn Bisbano is an award-winning writer in both fiction and non-fiction. She is a coach, ghostwriter, editor, and speaker. She is honored to be a member of AWSA.You can find her published in several online magazines and blogs along with books.  Her latest book, Shine Don’t Whine, released in October 2020. Cherrilynn proudly served in the Navy and Air National Guard. She lives with her son, Michael, Jr., and husband of 22 years. Cherrilynn loves Christ, Chocolate, coffee, and Cats. You will often find her on the beach sea glass hunting.

Join the conversation. What part of your salvation gives you goosebumps?

               

A People With No Word For Love

by Sheri Schofield

Nine hours south of El Paso, Texas is a canyon deeper and larger than our Grand Canyon. It is called the Copper Canyon. Tourists take train rides around it and marvel at the native runners who race the trains. They are the Tarahumara, the world’s greatest long-distance runners.

Twelve years ago, I traveled south to work among them for a few days. The man who took us there, Tomas Bencomo, was a pastor in Juarez, Mexico. One day the government of Mexico had sent out a plea to the people: “Please help the native tribes, or they will become extinct within ten years.”

Tomas had driven down to the canyon. He looked out over the vast gorge three thousand feet below and wondered, “If my son were lost down there in those gorges, would I not do everything I could to find him? I would do anything, search through every branch of the canyon, for as long as it took! The Tarahumara are lost from God. He loves them and is searching for them. I will do all that I can to find them and bring them to God.”

At first, he took a team from his church to the canyon, plus some mules. They loaded the mules with food and began the dangerous trip into the canyon, walking on eyebrow trails down the sheer cliffs. One mule didn’t make it. He fell into the depths.

After several hours, the team reached the bottom of the canyon. Tomas called to the Tarahumara, who were in hiding. But none came out to meet him. So the team unloaded the mules and left the food before heading back up the dangerous cliffs.

Gradually, the Tarahumara came to trust Tomas. They took the food back to the caves in which they lived. They didn’t trust outsiders, for they had been tricked before. But as time passed, they learned to trust Tomas and his teams.

On one trip, Tomas saw the skeleton of a child alongside the trail. When he reached the bottom of the canyon, he mentioned it to a native man, who knew some Spanish. The man shook his head and said, “The mountains are covered with the bones of children.”

Each year, there was a starving time among the Tarahumara when the food ran low. The parents had to choose which children to feed. The others died. They had no other option. There wasn’t enough food. The mortality rate among the children was 50%.

There was no word in their language for “love.” But they felt the pain of loss in what they called the Valley of Death.

With so many orphaned, starving and abandoned children in the canyon, Tomas decided to build a boarding school for them. Canadian and American churches helped, hauling the materials down those dangerous cliffs on their backs and on mules. Once the school was built, Tomas asked for volunteers to oversee the work there.

A twenty-two year old woman named Sandra went into the canyon to serve. Tomas supplied food, and Sandra and a native helper prepared it. They had thirty-six children the first year. They have over a hundred children now, and the Mexican government sends teachers.

Many of the Tarahumara children are named “Tomas” or “Sandra,” for the two leaders who have become precious to the natives. Those two have made it possible for the Tarahumara to survive during the starving times without losing their children. They have demonstrated God’s love. The gospel has swept through the canyon, transforming lives because of that love.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. John 4:10-11 NIV

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

sheri schofield

About the author: Sheri Schofield is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

FREE CHILDREN’S PROGRAM! Author/Children’s Bible teacher, Sheri Schofield, offers a free series of video lessons about Jesus and His salvation—for children ages 4 and up. It is available at her website www.sherischofield.com. In this video series, Walk-The-Talk Island, Sheri presents her award-winning book The Prince and the Plan, in 24 video lessons for your children, grandchildren and any others with whom you wish to share. In addition, Campfire provides devotions for children.

Join the Conversation: Have you ever won someone over to Jesus with love?

5-Step Strategy for Godly Living

by A.C. Williams

In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. (Colossians 3:11 NLT)

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a Christian Life Checklist? Imagine knowing for sure that the choices you’re making are in line with God’s Will! All you’d have to do is check them off the list.

Don’t change jobs. Check!

Don’t eat that cheesecake. Check!

Take your umbrella with you when you go on your walk. Check!

There’s a reason the Lord doesn’t get that specific with us, obviously. Everyone’s situation is different, and He never wants us to turn off our brains. But the more we get to know Him through studying His word, the better we can understand the strategies He has given us that guide us to make choices that align with His purpose for our lives.

It’s not a checklist, per se, but it is an awesome strategy to use when you’re making decisions. And the best part? Because Christ is alive in each of us, He’ll help us every step of the way.

5-Step Strategy for Godly Living (Colossians 3:12-17)

Imitate Christ’s attitude (v 12-13)

Most everyone has a hero who influenced the choices they’ve made. I certainly do. While having earthly heroes is perfectly fine, it’s good to remember that any human being you admire is still inherently flawed. The only person in your life who will never fail is Jesus, so basing your life after the way Jesus lived will never let you down.

Whatever choice you’re facing, try to make it the way Jesus would have. Is your choice merciful? Humble? Patient? Judge your life’s choices by that measure before you compare it to any human role model.

Let Love guide your life (v 14)

In spite of what our culture believes, Love isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice we have to make daily in how we relate to everyone around us. Sometimes Love doesn’t feel good at all.

Biblical love, the 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love, is something that should be an essential part of every believer’s life, but it’s impossible to do without Jesus’ help.

Let peace rule in your heart (v 15)

Peace is something we all strive for, isn’t it? But peace isn’t just the absence of conflict. It’s calm confidence in spite of conflict. We can have peace no matter what situation we’re in because we can stand on Christ in confidence.

Share God’s Word (v 16)

The best way to get more familiar with God’s Word is to talk about it with others who love it. Share what you know. Ask questions. Read a daily devotional (like this one!) and engage in conversation about it. God’s Word is our source for wisdom, and when we are filled with God’s Wisdom, we can be confident in our next right step.

Live as Christ’s representative (v 17)

No matter who you are, no matter what you’re doing or where you’re doing, if you know Jesus, you are His representative to the world. Your world could be your neighborhood, your workplace, or even your own home. We always say “be Jesus,” but do we take that seriously? How would our lives change if we imagined that Jesus was by our side every step of the way? Newsflash, friends. He already is.

Following Jesus is a journey that takes us all a lifetime. None of us get it right all the time, but that’s why we have each other. Let’s support each other and encourage each other as we run after Jesus with everything we have!

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

About the author: A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if isn’t, her socks will never match. She likes her road trips with rock music, her superheroes with snark, and her blankets extra fuzzy, but her first love is stories and the authors who are passionate about telling them. Learn more about her book coaching services and follow her adventures on social media @free2bfearless.

Amy has a special offer for her Always Peachy Devotionals: Free for 7 days and then $5 a month. https://acwilliams.substack.com/arisedaily

Join the conversation:  Which of these guidelines from Colossians seems most important to you?

Auspicious Beginnings: When Love and Faith Converge

by Patti Richter

For I know the plans I have for you . . . plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

My parents didn’t like my plan to attend the big University, three hours from our home in central Arkansas. My mother had heard wild stories and gave me one stipulation: Apply for a room in a non-freshman dorm.

It helped that my older sister lived near campus with her husband, a senior engineering student. They had even arranged a date for me on the Sunday of my arrival since the dorm café served no evening meal on that day.

I also had a long-time friend, Carol, for a roommate. In less than 20 minutes, we unpacked our metal trunks and created a hip atmosphere with matching bedspreads in bold-print Indian madras. Then we headed out to the hallway to join a group of returning students—mostly sophomores and juniors.

“Is Jan, the girl from St. Louis, coming back?” someone asked. “I haven’t seen her,” another girl replied, “but I wonder if she still dates Jim.”

A ringing wall phone interrupted the conversation. The phone in my room!

A classmate of my brother-in-law was calling to introduce himself and say he would meet me at the dorm entrance at six o’clock. I soon left Carol to fend for herself.

My blind date, Mike, and I walked several blocks to a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant to meet another couple, “both from St. Louis,” he said. That city again.

As we walked toward the couple who sat waiting for us, I noticed their contrasting appearances: her perfectly styled blonde hair; his muscular build and golden-brown skin. Then Mike introduced me to Jim and his girlfriend, Jan. Those names again!

Within a couple of weeks, Jan became friends with Carol, who attended a class with her. So, it wasn’t unusual when Jim came by our room one day in search of Jan. That’s when he noticed a Living New Testament on my shelf and asked me a direct question: “Have you read your Bible?”

I’d read only a bit of the modern translation I purchased on impulse nine months earlier. During that Christmas break in my senior year of high school, I marveled over the first few chapters of the Gospel of Matthew. However, my busy final semester soon disrupted the work of God’s Word in my heart.  

Jim had made a profession of faith in Christ a year earlier, and now he invited Carol and me to join him and Jan in attending an off-campus Bible study he heard about. The backseat of his brown Ford Galaxy 500 had ample room for us to ride along.

In late October, surrounded by my new fellowship group of students and adult sponsors, I stood in a cold swimming pool, confessed myself a sinner, and asked Jesus to be my Savior. This new relationship would become the greatest love story of my life. However, the Lord had a companion plan for me as well!

The spring semester brought changes when neither Jan nor Carol could return to school. This required my awkward transition to the front passenger seat of Jim’s car for the weekly study. He and I gradually grew comfortable enough to stop for coffee and conversation afterward.

As time passed, Jim and I became sure that coffee and conversation together for the rest of our lives would be a great plan—God’s plan for us. But this did not mean everything fell easily into place.

The Lord used that special season of my life to grow my fledgling trust in him. I learned the hard way a few times that his ways are not the same as mine. They are so much better.

So are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9 NIV

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

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

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

Join the conversation: Do you have a faith and romance story?

So Much for Good Intentions

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

“There is no more powerful motivation for holiness than loving God in response to the revelation of his redeeming character and eternal promises.” Bryan Chapell, Christ Centered Preaching

How are you at keeping resolutions? I am the world’s worst. Mind you, I am full of good intentions. I will keep a cleaner and more organized home. I will lose weight. I will get serious about an exercise program. At the start, keeping a resolution is a breeze. Why did I live like I did before turning over this new leaf? Life is so much better this way! I will never go back. Sometimes I even try to convert others to my cause. How could they not follow in my steps? This way is infinitely better.

But it’s not long before I begin to wobble. This is too hard. I miss the convenience of doing things the old way. It wasn’t so bad before. And before long I have fallen back into my old ways once again.

Living for Jesus can fall along similar lines. We read or hear something that convicts us. So we resolve to act on that conviction. We will be more diligent about reading our Bible. Pray more. Get control of our tongue.

But soon the enthusiasm wanes. The high priorities of yesterday diminish in light of the new urgencies of today. And the resolution dies a quiet death.

Where can we find motivation that will last longer than our good intentions?

Guilt is usually my chief motivation, a powerful force in my life. I attempt to change something because I foolishly think that God will somehow love me more if I can get a handle on this thing in my life. This, of course, is a very faulty assumption. He knew every selfish act I would commit before I was even born. But He chose to love me anyway. My relationship with God is based on grace. So trying to earn love or acceptance from God really is flawed thinking.

In the end, anyway, guilt fails to produce a lasting result. As soon as I have worked long enough at change to ease my guilty conscience, the motivation is at an end. And I regress.

But what if, instead, I acted in response to the unconditional love and grace God has lavished on me? Donald Miller, in Blue Like Jazz, suggested that if an ordinarily lazy man were to fall in love, he could swim the English Channel for the sake of his beloved. Love is a huge motivator.

Our greatest incentive for change comes as a response to the grace and love the Father has already poured out on us. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…that those who live should no longer lives for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV). The greater our understanding of who God is and what He has done for us, the greater our motivation to love and serve him in return.

So rather than focus on my behavior and what I need to accomplish, I will choose to focus on the God that I serve. I will focus on His great love for me and on His perfect character. And my behaviors and attitudes, the ones which so desperately need to change, will suddenly be revealed for the dark, damaging habits they are, inappropriately existing in a life which has already been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.

The stronger my love for Him, the stronger my motivation. Less of me, more of Him.

“For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for he Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” Romans 14:7-8 NASB

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Finding motivation to fuel good intentions – @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

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Join the conversation: What have you resolved to do in the coming year?

Freedom in a Christmas Carol

by Cherrilynn Bisbano

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” Isaiah 61:1 (NKJV)

For twenty-five years I sang O Holy Night without understanding the words. Now that I am a precious child of God, the carol brings life and hope to my soul.  My favorite line in the song: “Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name, all oppression shall cease.”

The realization Jesus entered the world to break every chain still humbles me. I was in chains. Chains of self-doubt, worry and unbalanced expectations. I saw myself as unlovable, worthless, and I strived for perfection.

But through years of studying the Word, I understand the freedom found in Christ alone.

As we celebrate His birth, will you join me and compare my favorite verse of “O Holy Night” with Scripture? Take time to meditate on each Scripture below. I don’t want to tell you what to feel. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your soul.

Chains Shall He break

“He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.” Psalm 107:14 (NIV)

“I am your servant, LORD… you have freed me from my chains.” Psalm 116:16 (NIV)

For the slave is our brother

“… but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant (slave), and coming in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:7 (NKJV)

“For He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source, which is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Hebrews 2:11 (ESV)

And in His name, all oppression shall cease

“Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.” Deuteronomy 26:7 ESV

“From oppression and violence, He redeems their life.”  Psalm 72:14 (ESV)

Jesus quoted the prophecy from Isaiah, closed the book, and declared, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:21 (NKJV)

I envision people walking out of jail cells with no shackles, leaping for joy at their newfound freedom. Their heads lifted high to greet the sun. Hearts that once craved love now possess complete acceptance in Christ, the embodiment of Love. I’m in that crowd of people.

He is the chain breaker who heals the wounded, and releases the captives from the bondage of sin. We are now free to love one another as equals and joint heirs in Christ.

I know most people won’t listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. However, will you join me and sing this verse all year, especially when feelings of darkness try to rob our joy and extinguish the light of God’s love.

 May our hearts rejoice, and may we fall on our knees in reverent worship to the One who gave our soul worth.

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

Shine Don't Whine

About the author: Cherrilynn Bisbano is an award-winning writer in both fiction and non-fiction. She is a coach, ghostwriter, editor, and speaker. You can find her published in several online magazines and blogs along with books.  Her latest book, Shine Don’t Whine, released in October 2020. Cherrilynn proudly served in the Navy and Air National Guard. She lives with her son, Michael, Jr., and husband of 22 years. Cherrilynn loves Christ, Chocolate, coffee, and Cats. You will often find her on the beach sea glass hunting.

Join the conversation: How has a Christmas carol changed your perspective on God? Please share!

Loving God, Loving Others

by Christina Rose

“Just then a religious scholar stood before Jesus in order to test his doctrines. He posed this question: “Teacher, what requirement must I fulfill if I want to live forever in heaven?” Jesus replied, “What do you read in the Law? How do you understand it?” The religious scholar answered, “It states, ‘You must love the Lord God with all your heart, all your passion, all your energy, and your every thought. And you must love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Jesus said, “That is correct. Now go and do exactly that and you will live.” Wanting to justify himself, he questioned Jesus further, saying, “What do you mean by ‘my neighbor?’ Luke 10:25-29 TPT

The Pharisee lawyer tried to trap Jesus with the question, “What do you mean by ‘my neighbor?’” thinking he would trip him up and make himself look good. Jesus saw it coming and he responded with The Parable of the Good Samaritan. He told the story of a man who traveled from Jerusalem to Jericho who was attacked by robbers and left for dead.

Both a priest and Levite who were traveling down the road passed by, ignoring him. But the third man, a Samaritan, took pity on him and bandaged his wounds. He put the man on his donkey and brought him to an inn, giving the innkeeper money to look after the injured man and promised to return for him. Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him. ”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:36-37 NIV).

We lived in a wonderful neighborhood full of young families and retirees. The park and playground were always full of happy kids playing and laughing. And then there was Rose.  Rose was a retired schoolteacher who lived alone across the street. She had lived in the neighborhood for many years and often took walks to visit her old friends and check on the young families.

One day as we were leaving the house, Ashley groaned, “Mom how does she do it? She must peek behind her curtains all day waiting for us to come out of the house. Now I’ll be late for practice again!”  It seemed every time we opened our door, she opened hers and headed across the street to talk to us. As she moved very slowly with her arthritic feet and was in the early stages of dementia, it required great patience to make her understand that we were on our way to somewhere and couldn’t be late.

One year early in November, she shared she had already bought our Christmas gifts. I gulped. We always had a quiet Christmas with our little family, and it had never occurred to me to invite Rose. She could be loud, bossy, cantankerous and frankly, a lot of work. I didn’t know how to tell her she wasn’t welcome on Christmas day, so I invited her. She then asked me what she could bring for Thanksgiving, so I caved and invited her for Thanksgiving, too.

This began years of inviting Rose over for holidays which could be challenging at times, but even more challenging would have been knowing that she was sitting across the street alone.  One year after dinner, she looked at me with tears in her eyes, and said, “I wish you were my mother.”  She was old enough to be my mother, but in that moment my heart melted. There was just a little lonely girl inside that cranky old lady who had lost her mother at a young age. My compassion increased in that moment, as I realized how much Jesus wanted me to love my neighbor Rose, which we did until she passed away a few years later.

Over the years I found many neighbors who needed someone to care. My firefighter neighbor was standing in his driveway one morning, sobbing. His wife of many years had just died, and he didn’t know how he would live without her. Another friend was standing in her front yard in shock. Her husband had unexpectedly died of a sudden heart attack. Sandy worked the night shift and needed to borrow milk and diapers at five am.

We were born to love and help one another.  Reaching out to neighbors with gestures of love glorifies the Father and honors his son Jesus, who died to give us eternal peace.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35 NLT)

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

About the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer and speaker certified by the John Maxwell Team of Leadership.  She is a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. She is a world traveler, surfer, foodie, cappuccino loving chocoholic and a devoted mom to kids and dogs and auntie to many nieces and nephews who live around the world.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story. With her young family on the verge of falling apart, Christina finds herself in a desperate situation with no resources other than herself.  After appealing to heaven, the Lord takes her on a journey of awakening and miraculous empowerment. That power is available to us all, especially those who need hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: Have you been blessed by loving a neighbor? Please share!

New Every Morning

by Sheri Schofield

Make me an altar from stones that are uncut and have not been shaped with iron tools. Joshua 8:31 NLT

“Tim! Drew said his first sentence today!” I exclaimed, as I welcomed my husband home from work.

“What did he say?”

“He said, ‘I wub you, Mommy!’” For a first sentence, that was delightful.

Have you noticed how enthusiastic new Christians can be? God must enjoy them immensely. They are so full of excitement and eager to obey him. It warms my heart and fills me with joy to see this new life taking shape in them, too! Just as I treasured every step my children too, every new word they learned, every hug and every smile, so I enjoy those first steps new believers take.

I have some friends who came to Jesus as a young married couple. They read the New Testament like they were on their first safari, noticing every new thing, delighting in each of the Lord’s commands. They came across the story of John baptizing Jesus. At first, John didn’t want to do it because he felt Jesus should be baptizing him instead. But Jesus told him, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires,” (Matthew 3:15 NLT).

“Oh! We need to be baptized!” my friends concluded. They didn’t know how baptisms were done by churches. All they knew was that John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. So, they filled their bathtub with water and baptized each other.

Spiritually, they sprouted like seeds in the springtime, flourishing and obeying all they read in the Bible. They read that they were supposed to become part of a group of believers, so they joined our church. What a joy it was to get to know them! They were unshaped by the church culture, willing to let God teach them, eager to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading; willing to be conformed to the life Jesus presented in the Bible.

They were like the stones of the memorial Israel built after crossing the Jordan River—unshaped by the tools of man. Their hearts were sculpted by the Holy Spirit. They were new creations. Paul wrote, “He (Jesus) died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view…This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun” (2 Corinthians 5:15-17 NLT).

Our new lives in Jesus must be built on one thing: God’s love. We love God. We love each other. We reach out in love to those who do not know God. Yes, God told the Israelites what His love looks like in Exodus 20. There God spelled out how to show our love for him and for each other.

But the Israelites didn’t get it. They became judgmental of each other’s behavior instead of loving. Knowing this, Jesus made it clear. He simplified the instructions. “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-36 NLT).

Do not let the world—the hands of others—shape us. Like fresh, new believers, let us allow the Holy Spirit to shape us. Let our love for Him be new every morning.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22,23 NLT

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

sheri schofield

About the author: Award-winning author, illustrator, and Bible teacher Sheri Schofield ministers to children and their families through her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids. After serving Jesus through children’s ministries and personal evangelism for many years, she understands how to communicate God’s plan of salvation clearly to those who are seeking God.

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Her first book on salvation, The Prince and the Plan, was designed specifically for children. But during COVID, Sheri sensed the need to also provide help for adults. Her new book for adults, God? Where Are You?, tells tells who God is, how we became separated from him, and what he is doing to bring us back to himself through Jesus. At the end of each chapter is a section called “Food For Thought”, which answers questions many unbelievers have, such as—If God is good, why do terrible things happen?—Is anyone too “bad” for God to want to rescue them from sin? This biblically based book is short and easy to read. 

Join the conversation: Are there things in you that have resulted from the world’s influence? Attitudes or actions, that are not from the Holy Spirit? How can you tell?

Really? Boundaries?

by Terri Gillespie

Now this I pray, that your love might overflow still more and more in knowledge and depth of discernment, in order to approve what is excellent—so that in the Day of Messiah you may be sincere and blameless . . . Philippians 1:9-10, TLV

If you hear the sound of knocking and you can’t identify its source, then it’s probably me, banging my head against the wall. Because it happened again.

I meant well. She needed help and no one else seemed to want to help. Little did I know, there was a reason for that.

So, I jumped in and helped. Then I helped again. And again. And again. The more I helped, the more the need seemed to flourish. Was I actually feeding the need?

Wait. Was I being taken advantage of?

As I sat at my mentor’s kitchen table, head in my hands, that revelation was confirmed. Why hadn’t anyone warned me? Perhaps, she said, because I did not ask.

I write a lot of blogs on the importance of love. As children of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. I refer to this passage a lot. This is a balanced and wise approach to love.

For the past few months, I have focused on the importance of love. How we are to respond in love when others behave badly, especially these days where division and chaos have separated family and friends and communities—and well, let’s face it—our nation.

But I have also discussed boundaries. If the apostle Paul were here today, he might use the term boundary to the Philippians. Qualifying only the love that came with the understanding of thousands of years’ worth of understanding and living wisdom.

When we employ the tools of wisdom, which include discernment and knowledge to our expressions of love, we do not accept sin. We understand that we must forgive, as our Father forgives us.

Our pursuit of reconciliation may mean pulling away from someone because continued contact is harmful to us or our loved ones — maybe even to them.

“Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has demanded to sift you all like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22: 31-32 TLV

Sometimes God must sift a soul. As difficult as it is to watch, we must allow them to experience the full weight of their sinful heart for them to be set free. Interfering with God’s process with an uninformed expression of love, is not only detrimental to that person’s process, but also prideful. You know what it is like? It is like saying, “Okay God, I’ll take care of this situation now. Clearly You don’t know what You’re doing.”

Like Peter’s betrayal and Paul’s persecution of the believers, we may need to love from afar via forgiveness and prayer. Love with knowledge and discernment so that we aren’t guilty of interfering with God’s purpose for that soul. And should the day arrive that reconciliation is possible, we will be ready to offer the love that ministers healing.

If you find you have been knocking your head against a wall in frustration over helping others, seek the Lord. Perhaps a little wisdom needs to be applied with that love.

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

About the author: Award-winning author and beloved speaker Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus. Her newest novel, Sweet Rivalry, releases later this year. 

Join the conversation: Do you struggle to set boundaries in relationships?

Positives, Peoples, and Purses

by Rhonda Rhea

Let’s just get it out there. Most guys don’t understand purses. I’m not being ugly about it. We’re different. And that’s okay. So before starting one more dialogue about my purse, let me go ahead and answer the standard purse questions I get from my husband: Yes, I need it. Yes, I need it at this event, whatever “this” event is. And yes, I need all the things that are in it. All of them. Yes, I do know it’s heavy. Yes, it has pretty much dislocated my right shoulder, that’s why I’m now hauling it on my left one.

Even after that first round of questions, there’s still almost always one more: “How do you ever find anything in there?” The answer is, I don’t. That’s why I put in two of everything. Except for pens. In the case of pens, I put in 4,000.

Before anyone even asks, I should probably also point out that “purse chocolate” is a thing. My husband now understands this: All purses should have chocolate. Don’t touch it.

They are wildly bizarre and eclectic and sometimes beautiful and often difficult to maneuver through. Purses.

Also people.

As intense as my need is for every item in my purse, so much greater is my need for people. Not just because I’m a people-person. It’s true, I’m an extrovert. But there isn’t a one of us who doesn’t need people. God made it so.

The fact that we need people doesn’t negate another fact: people can be messier than a winter purse. I’m not trying to be ugly here either. We’re different. And that’s ultimately okay. It often brings to light our inability to love others well. That’s also okay. We have an indwelling God who will take care of it for us. Every time we’ll allow it, He will love others through us. Even the messiest, most negative person you can think of. Love. It’s positively delightful what can happen in and through a person who surrenders all.

Paul said, “And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11, CSB).

Any growing love or knowledge or discernment happens through Him. Any superior, fruitful, and righteous behavior that happens in any relationship—and in any aspect of our lives—“comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.”

Never mind their messiness or their shoulder-slumping baggage. Let me love them. Love them through me, Lord Jesus.

With every wildly bizarre and beautiful and difficult person I encounter, I’m asking the Lord to sort out their negatives and make me a positive. Not just because I need to connect with them, though I do. But because there’s glory and praise to God when those connections are Holy Spirit-empowered. And it simply doesn’t get more positive than that.

On the lighter side of the positives and negatives, I feel I should point out that there is also pepper spray in my purse. I’m not saying I keep it in there in case someone tries to take my purse chocolate. But I’m also not, NOT saying that.


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

rhonda rhea

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation: Has love and grace made a difference in your relationships?