Hunting for Easter

by Patti Richter

“There is no Easter Bunny!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Deck the Soul with Boughs of Forgiveness

by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio @DrMaryAnnDiorio

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will…give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins…”   Luke 1:76-77 NASB       

CHRISTMAS!  The word evokes many feelings, depending on our experiences. For some, Christmas is a happy time, filled with beautiful memories and joyful expectations. For others, Christmas is a depressing time, a season one wants “to get over with” as quickly as possible because of bad memories associated with this time of year.

Having ministered to people for many years, I have come to the conclusion that depressing memories at Christmas time are most often related to problems of refusing to forgive. Hurts from the past become more pronounced during the Christmas season, but the reason those hurts still affect us is that we have not let go of the bitterness associated with them. In short, we have not forgiven the people who have hurt us.

Why do most people have such a difficult time forgiving? I believe the main reason is that they do not understand what forgiveness really means. So, what is true forgiveness?

LET’S LOOK FIRST AT WHAT FORGIVENESS IS NOT:

  • Forgiveness is NOT letting someone off the hook.
  • Forgiveness is NOT condoning evil.
  • Forgiven is NOT being a doormat.
  • Forgiveness is NOT having to trust again the person who hurt us.
  • Forgiveness is NOT a feeling.
  • Forgiveness is NOT an option.

NOW LET’S LOOK AT WHAT FORGIVENESS IS:

  • Forgiveness IS taking the person who hurt us off of our hook and placing him on God’s hook, then praying that God will have mercy on him.
  • Forgiveness IS acknowledging that evil was done but choosing to bear the consequences of that evil without retaliation.
  • Forgiveness IS taking charge of our emotions.
  • Forgiveness IS setting boundaries with the person who hurt us, even refusing temporary or permanent interaction with that person, if necessary.  An example would be a wife who is being beaten by her husband.
  • Forgiveness IS a decision.
  • Forgiveness IS obedience to God’s commandment to forgive.

No matter how badly we have been hurt, we must choose to forgive. It’s the best thing we can do for our own well-being. Refusing to forgive is unhealthy for us. It chains us emotionally to the person who hurt us. Forgiveness breaks that chain and sets us free.

What better time is there than the Christmas season to forgive those who have hurt us? Paul wrote the Ephesians: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32 NASB). The very essence of Christmas is the truth that God forgave humanity through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Who are we not to forgive when God has forgiven us?

So this Christmas, let’s forgive! But not just forgive. Let’s ask those whom you have wronged to forgive you. As the Word of God tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV). As long as we are on this earth, it is never too late for the healing forgiveness brings.

May we all forge happy memories this Christmas as the power of forgiveness sets us free!

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Deck the Soul with Boughs of Forgiveness – @DrMaryAnnDiorio on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Marianne DiorioAbout the author: Dr. MaryAnn Diorio loves God, people, children, and dogs, in that order. She is passionate about story and its power to transform the human heart. Dr. MaryAnn, as she is affectionately called, writes compelling fiction that deals with the deepest issues of the human heart. She and her husband Dominic are the blessed parents of two wonderful daughters, a fantastic son-in-law, and five precious, rambunctious A Christmas Homecoming (Christmas Holiday Extravaganza) by [Diorio, MaryAnn]grandchildren. Find out more about MaryAnn at http://maryanndiorio.com/.

For a heartwarming, compelling story on the power of forgiveness, you may wish to read MaryAnn’s popular novella titled A Christmas Homecoming,  available in electronic format for your Kindle, Nook, or iPad.  To view the beautiful book trailer, click here.

Join the conversation: When has forgiveness set you free?

 

Cucumbers and Sin

by Crystal Bowman

The cucumbers in the produce case were extra-large and only 89 cents each. The length and weight of each cucumber varied, but since it didn’t affect the price, I searched for the biggest one I could find. It’s not that I’m greedy or stingy, I just like a good deal. And the bigger the cucumber, the better the deal.

I always check my receipt when I return home to make sure all my groceries were bagged and loaded properly, and that nothing was left behind. It was then that I noticed the mistake. The cashier had entered my over-sized cucumber as a zucchini squash, which almost tripled the price. It was an honest mistake, but it made my good deal a not-so-good deal after all. Since I live within walking distance to the store, I decided to stop in the next day, so they could correct the error. They did.

This all made me think about our sins. Our society tends to label sin as not so bad, bad, and really bad. We believe a little white lie is not as bad as stealing or murder. The consequences, of course, are more severe for the “big” sins, but in God’s eyes, all sin is sin.  And whether our sins are small, medium, or extra-large, the price He paid for our sins is the same. Jesus suffered and died a criminal’s death on the cross. He paid for our sins—no matter the size— with his shed blood.

It almost doesn’t seem fair that a criminal receives the same forgiveness as the law-abiding citizen. But Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to pay for all of the sin. Every single one. He’s about forgiving all who confess their sins and desire to become one of His followers. He paid the same price for the murderer’s sins as he did for mine.

Romans 3:23-24 (NIV) says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

It’s so easy to forget that, isn’t it? When we see the horrific acts of evil on the news and hear of school shootings and riots in the streets, we tend to forget that Jesus died for all people, not just the goody-two-shoes.

I live only 45 minutes from Parkland, Florida, where 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School died on Valentine’s Day 2018 at the hands of a lone shooter. I watched the news for hours, trying to process what was happening too close to home. The next day, when I went to my exercise class, it was the topic for discussion. While most people expressed their horror and sadness, one woman said to me, “I’m praying for the shooter. He needs Jesus too.”

Gulp! I swallowed hard with conviction and had to admit that the thought of praying for him never crossed my mind. But she was right. He needs Jesus too. We all need Jesus.

Romans 6:23 (NIV) says, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We deserve to be put to death for our sins, but Jesus took the death penalty for us. Salvation is free to us through faith in Jesus, because He paid the price—the same price—for all. I pray that I will always remember I am no better than anyone else, and that Jesus loves us all the same. This is the Gospel message we need to share with our children, grandchildren, friends, co-workers, neighbors—and people at the grocery store.

And the next time I’m at there and buy an over-sized cucumber, I’ll remember to tell the clerk it’s not a zucchini.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”                                                                                                                                                 Isaiah 1:18 NIV

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Cucumbers and Sin – insight from author Crystal Bowman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Crystal BowmanAbout the author: Crystal Bowman is an award winning, best-selling author of more than 100 books for children including Our Daily Bread for KidsM is for Mangerand Does God Take Naps? She is a mentor for MOPS and teaches at writers’ conferences. She is a contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine and writes lyrics for children’s piano music. Her latest release, co-authored with her daughter-in-law, is Mothers in Waiting, Healing and Hope for Those with Empty Arms. She lives in both Florida and Michigan (wherever the weather is best), and travels often to get hugs from her grandchildren.

Join the conversation: Who are the people that you forget to pray for?