Categories
Encouragement

Discerning the Times

 

Sometimes it’s so hard to discern what’s going on in your life emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually. Something is off-kilter, but you just can’t put your hands on it. You’re not quite yourself. You’re edgy. You’re frustrated. You’re tense. Or your relationships aren’t quite right. You’re distant. Distracted. Touchy.

And then it hits you.

It’s been days since you’ve prayed or spent quality time with God. Or maybe you’ve gotten hooked on a television show or a novel that’s not good for your soul. Or perhaps you’ve been hanging out with a friend who loves to gossip or spew negativity or fear. Now what?

In today’s hyper politicized, fear-mongering, propaganda-driven world, Godly discernment is more important than ever! But how?

Learning to discern such things is a spiritual gift, and a discipline, that you can cultivate in your life. First Corinthians 2:10-14 talks about this gift. It’s the ability to judge between good and evil, and then it’s choosing to live in the light of God’s truth. That’s what makes the difference.

Discernment comes when you understand what God wants for you personally and for your relationships. But wisdom comes when you choose to obey His truth. Sometimes it’s choosing to spend more time in prayer or the word, more time together as a couple or family, and less time with unhealthy friends or listening to media. Sometimes it’s simply applying common sense to something. Other times it’s stepping back, observing a situation and praying, reading God’s word, and finding the truth in the matter.

“Do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion” (Proverbs 3:21).

In our personal lives, we need wisdom and understanding more than ever. Our culture has become so tainted with the “wisdom of this world” that it can become difficult to make daily decisions and choose well if we don’t have the plumb line of God’s truth to anchor us well.

In my latest novel, Devyn’s Dilemma, Devyn couldn’t discern who she was and how God loved her. Her past and her fears blinded her to the truth. She struggled to know God’s truth. She believed the lie.

Discerning between God’s truth and worldly wisdom isn’t always easy, but learning to discern wisely is the best way to strengthen your personal life and your marriage relationship spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. It’s a good way to go.

How have you learned to discern through the years? I’d love to know!

Susan G Mathis
Susan G Mathis
Devyn's Dilemma by Susan G Mathis
Devyn’s Dilemma by Susan G Mathis

Susan G. Mathis is vice-president of Christian Authors Network and an award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate New York. Her first two published books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series are Devyn’s Dilemma and Katelyn’s Choice. She’s working on book three. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are also available. Susan’s books have won numerous awards, including the Illumination Book Award, the American Fiction Award and the Indie Excellence Book Award. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Encouragement

God’s Hands…Our Safe Place

 

Today’s world is full of evil manifesting itself in violence around our nation and even the world. Paul tells Timothy that we are to flee from evil and everything Satan sets before us from his world of darkness. Satan’s words can fill our minds and hearts with such negative energy that we begin to believe the lies we tell ourselves.

How then can we be encouraged to stand for what is right and flee evil? When our hearts and minds are set on anything other than what God has planned for us, we cannot reach the full potential God has set out for us. He loves us so much and wants only the best for us. The best is not always easy to come by. When we seek the best and pursue righteousness and godliness, we will find difficulties and obstacles because Satan loves to see us stumble.

We keep our eyes focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. His hand will guide us down the right path. With faith and love, we can endure whatever it takes to help us reach our goals in life and fulfill His will for our lives. We will draw closer to Him and absorb His goodness. The harder we pursue Him, the closer we come to the goal.

Setbacks do come. That’s a part of life. We must have some failure along the way to truly appreciate the success when it comes.

Remember, we’ve placed ourselves in God’s hands, and there’s no safer place to be.

Martha Rogers
Martha Rogers
A Gift of Love by Martha Rogers
A Gift of Love 

Martha Rogers, a free-lance writer, was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009 and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston where they enjoy spending time with their grandchildren.  A former English and Home Economics teacher, Martha loves to cook and experiment with recipes and scrapbooking when she has time. She has written three series, Winds Across the Prairie, Seasons of the Heart, and The Homeward Journey. Book three in that series, Love Never Fails, released in November, 2014. Find Martha at:  www.marthawrogers.com

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Encouragement

Praying about the Small Things

The donut and webcam story…

by Molly Jebber

I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart at five years old. I learned early on that Jesus Christ may not say yes to everything we ask, but he cares about all our requests. And thank goodness, He doesn’t always say yes, because the Lord knows what’s best for me when I don’t.

I was a keynote speaker for the Southern California Christian Authors Conference recently. Due to the virus, the event was virtual. My webcam on my computer went out the day before the conference.

Wearing my mask, I went to six stores. All were sold out of webcams. Sales personnel said with everyone working at home, they couldn’t keep webcams in stock. I went to Walmart, which would be my last hope, thinking they’d be the first store people would go for everything. I sat in my car in the parking lot before going inside and prayed they’d have a webcam.

In the electronics department, a tall lanky man wearing his Walmart badge stood over the counter with a donut in his hand. “Want a bite of my donut?”

Laughing, I said, “No, but I would sure like a webcam.”

He threw his donut down, waved his arms, and told me to follow him to the camera area. I’d felt stressed at the other stores, but now I laughed and hurried behind him.

Lifting a small box, he said with a smile, “You’re getting the best webcam.”

It was easy to install and worked great. I thanked the Lord not only for providing the webcam but also for making me laugh.

From our biggest to smallest care, Jesus Christ wants to know about all of them. He knows the number of hairs on our head. He cares about every big and little thing in our lives. He’s our best friend, and He loves us.

Molly Jebber is a best-selling award-winning Amish Historical Romance author whose books have made the Publisher’s Weekly Best Ten List, media worldwide, and USA Today. She’s a national speaker for Women’s Christian Connection, a mentor to English students at Ohio State University and guest lecturer for many groups on writing, publishing, and marketing. She loves God, family, and friends, and she is grateful for her readers.

 

Categories
Encouragement

Worship While You Wait

 

Waiting is one of the most difficult of all the spiritual disciplines.

In our hurried, driven, fast-paced culture we have lost the art of waiting well. If there’s a long line at the grocery store or coffee shop, we sigh and wonder if it’s worth it. We use microwaves and Instant Pots. God, however, is in the waiting. He uses delay in our lives to sharpen us and set the stage for His future plans. We see this in the Psalmist David’s life.

David was well-acquainted with waiting. Many Bible scholars feel he waited at least seventeen years before the fulfillment of God’s promise to him that He would be King. We feel the struggle with David when he cries, out, “How long, Lord, Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:1-2).

How did David make peace with God and settle His soul? We find the answer at the end of Psalm 13 where David writes, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6).

I find tucked away in these verses three choices that David made as he waited:

  • He chose to trust.
  • He chose to rejoice in what God had promised.
  • He chose to praise.

Friend, waiting is a part of our spiritual journey. But as you choose to trust, rejoice and praise God, He will use the season of waiting in your life to bring about His perfect plan.

Becky Harling
Becky Harling

Becky Harling and her husband, Steve, are veteran church ministry leaders. Both certified by the John Maxwell team, the Harlings have a heart to see pastors and other ministry leaders grow their influence through incarnational listening.

 

Categories
Encouragement

Who’s Got Your Back?

 

A week ago at sunset there was a wall of flames approaching our little town here in the Sierra Valley: #LoyaltonFire.

More than 700 firefighters had battled it for three days before it headed down the mountain toward spent and dry meadows that bordered our town of 860. The same angry beast had jumped two state highways in other directions the day before—one of those eight lanes wide. Now it was headed our way.

Because I have prayer walked my town for the last twenty-two years, I have seen the hand of God answer one prayer after another for my friends and neighbors. I knew God would work through the firefighters who were taking a stand at the highway. However, because I also formerly worked as a reporter for a daily newspaper, I wanted to see for myself what was going on. So, well after dark I walked to the other end of town to see the firefight for myself.

Like a child who is exhausted but still resisting going to bed, the fire was still arguing but waning—no larger than three side-by-side homecoming bonfires. All would be well.

Later I learned of miracles: a ranch with a historic barn surrounded by flames…saved, and an entire hillside burned but friends’ barn, home, and 100 sheep…untouched.

Two days later I read, “For the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard” (Isaiah 52:12 ESV). God may intervene directly in our lives, but sometimes He uses dozer operators, firefighters, and even writers to effect His sovereign plan. In any case we can always know He does indeed doze a path for us. He’s always got your back.

Prayer Walk

Janet McHenry is a speaker and the author of twenty-four books—six of those on prayer, including the bestselling PrayerWalk and her newest, The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus. She and her rancher-husband Craig have raised four children in their little town in the Sierras, where she formerly taught English to every single high school junior and senior.

 

 

Categories
Encouragement

Finish the Race

 

The second annual 5K benefit to aid the building of a local homeless shelter had ended successfully with a whopping $25,000 raised.

Two walkers remained steadfast on the course. One had no original intention of walking; the other had every intention of completing the journey, no matter how long it took. That journey would take two hours.

With the assistance of crutches, college-student Erin began the race. Runners whizzed past and walkers trekked toward the goal. The distance widened between Erin and other participants. Born with cerebral palsy, Erin displayed the fortitude of one who is not used to giving up.

Angela wanted to support the event and registered as a volunteer. Posted near the first stretch of the race, she directed participants and waved encouragingly to those she knew.

Angela said, “When I saw Erin, I admired her determination and didn’t want her to walk alone.”

Leaving her post, Angela asked Erin if she could join her and, with water bottle in hand, one friend joined another on the journey.

“Her spirit was joyful the entire time,” Angela said of her friend. “She never complained. She was determined. It was inspirational for me.”

When the organizer of the event heard two walkers were still on the path, she returned to the location and waited at the finish line. Dee later said she was reminded of the verse in Acts 20:24. “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.”

Where are you today on your writing journey? Struggling to complete the task? Crossing the finish line with zeal? Supporting another writer on the trek?

Finish the race, with God’s help, and inspire others along the way.

Julie Lavender
Julie Lavender
365 Ways to Love Your Child by Julie Lavender
365 Ways to Love Your Child by Julie Lavender

Julie Lavender is a journalist, author, and former homeschooling mom of twenty-five years who holds a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education. She is married to her-high school and college sweetheart, David, a wildlife biologist, who’s spent the last thirty-seven years encouraging her to love and appreciate all of God’s creations. Julie’s parenting book, 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories, releases in October.

Categories
Encouragement

Winning the Battle   

 

Yes—you are in a battle.

You might see it. Maybe you don’t.

Perhaps your anger flares, you lose control, your heart is broken, or you feel isolated. The enemy is trying to gain a victory.

Reject defeat.

Through Christ you can win.

Purpose in your heart that God’s love will work in you to conquer doubt, fear, and distress.

Fight.

Keep fighting.

Don’t give up.

God will provide the power and strength. The right methods. Keep going back to him. Every minute if you have to.

From Him come understanding and knowledge. Our struggles aren’t merely with people we face daily, but against the forces of darkness arrayed against us at various levels.

Combat is divided into three areas: tactical, operational, and strategic.

Tactical battles are directly in front of us, easy to see. Examples include internal conflicts with yourself, family, friends, co-workers, or bosses.

Operational battles seem hazier, even a bit foggy. They are indirect engagements—perhaps people you influence like grandchildren, your adult children’s co-workers, church leadership, or organizations you support.

Strategic battles can be difficult to grasp or comprehend unless you refocus your brain. This final level is the big picture, where you’re one small part of a complex puzzle. Imagine regional or national levels.

Whatever level your battle occupies, take your broken heart to the Father. Lug your failures, conflicts, tears, sorrows and sadness into His presence. He’ll listen. Provide new perspective. Flood your heart with peace, joy, resolution, and understanding. He created the marvelous puzzle of life, each intricate piece and connection. The best solution to molding the pieces together comes from Him.

Start again. Be that renewed person in Christ. A Christian warrior. Fight the battle against darkness.

Lay down the old self, the mistakes, and the regrets.

Win.

Aaron M. Zook, Jr.
Aaron M. Zook, Jr.
The Isle of Intrigue by Aaron M. Zook, Jr.
The Isle of Intrigue

Aaron M. Zook, Jr. is a multiple-award-winning author and speaker. He’s thrilled thousands with his YA Christian mystery/adventure series about two inquisitive brothers and their dogs who solve one crisis after another around the world. Aaron is a retired U.S. Army Colonel and lives with his wife, Joyce, in Texas.

 

Categories
Encouragement

Let’s Be Salty!

 

Put yourself in the scene for a moment. You are sitting in a crowd staring longingly at Jesus. He has just said His followers should be glad when they are persecuted because they will receive a reward in heaven. Then he says, “…if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?”

Keep in mind being involved in a rebellion against Roman rule is no small thing. Many rebellions against the Romans have been squelched as the leader and followers are murdered.

In those moments, could we possibly have a sense of the magnitude of what Jesus knows will happen? No. We can’t see through the ages to understand Jesus’s teaching of the Gospel, the “good news,” is His sacrificial death for the forgiveness of sins and the restoration of the relationship between God and man. This wonderful message will spread throughout the whole world. The saltiness Jesus is referring to will reach every nation and develop a thirst for knowing God through His Messiah.

Jesus always purposefully crafts his words. His reference to salt is clear to his listeners. There are three basic purposes of salt at that time: thirst, preservation, and seasoning. Jesus teaches his followers to first, create spiritual thirst in others. Secondly, preserve godliness in culture. And thirdly, season their actions with godliness so their fruitful lives seem attractive—“tasty”—to others.

Knowing God is in charge of the result of our representation will comfort and strengthen us. Even when we represent Him well, we can’t force anyone to become spiritually thirsty, or culture be preserved, or our godly actions be attractive to others. God must work, even using us when we are persecuted. Thankfully, He graciously and generously wants to use us to be a part of His plan, no matter the result.

Kathy Collard Miller
Kathy Collard Miller

Kathy Collard Miller is the author of fifty-eight books and an international speaker. This devotional is adapted from her book God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature. Kathy loves to share with others about God’s perfect nature as the means of trusting Him more. Find her at www.KathyCollardMiller.com.
Facebook: www.facebook.com/KathyCollardMillerAuthor
Twitter: @KathyCMiller
Pinterest/Kathyspeak

Youtube: https://bit.ly/2SwiL03

Categories
Encouragement

With Thanksgiving

 

Anxiety is running high these days—riots in the streets, political confusion, and a silent virus  infecting the world. It’s enough to make anyone lose sleep. But Jesus reminds us to cast all our cares on him (1 Peter 5:7). He also invites us to ask for anything in His name (John 14:14), and He will grant it.

In a world that seems hopeless, Jesus is our hope. In a world that seems helpless, He is our helper. In a world of anxiety, He is our peace.

As I’m reading Bible verses and devotions to help me listen to God, I have been coming across many verses on thanking God. Thanking Him in all circumstances. Thanking Him in the midst of trials. And thanking Him as I bring my prayers and requests to Him.

I’m pretty faithful in bringing my “to-do” list to God. I’m never shy about asking God for what I need. But I am learning to add thanksgiving to those prayers. When I tell God what I need, or ask Him to resolve pressing issues, I add, “Thank You that You hear me. Thank You that You will answer. Thank You that Your timing is always right.”

Does this mean my prayers will be answered faster? No. It means that when I pray with thanksgiving, God replaces my anxiety with peace.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).

Crystal Bowman
Crystal Bowman
Mothers in Waiting by Crystal Bowman
Mothers in Waiting by Crystal Bowman

Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books for children and adults. She is a lyricist for children’s piano music, contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine, and presenter at writers’ conferences. Her newest book is releasing soon, I Love You to the Stars—When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembers.

 

Categories
Encouragement

Living in the Kingdom of Heaven

 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

Have you ever stared into space with nothing but your very own eyes and been in awe? Have you ever witnessed firsthand such a phenomenon as the Aurora Borealis? Or seen a shooting star?

Have you ever stood on a beach and marveled at the beauty of the ocean? Have you ever been astonished by power of the waves? The curiosity of its depths?

Have you ever stood on a mountainside and had your breath taken away by the valley below? To be high above the winding river and myriad of trees, knowing your view is nothing compared to vision of our Creator?

If you’re a follower of Jesus, then you must admit that God has quite the imagination. To think He spoke all this into existence and made all of it work harmoniously together, like an intricately exquisite timepiece, is beyond anything our finite minds can fully fathom.

When you view God and His Creation in the right light, with the right heart, and the right spirit, you soon realize just how poor in spirit you are. The Greek word poor in Matthew 5:3 means “one who crouches and cowers,” “beggarly,” “poor,” “deeply destitute.” The scene in Isaiah 6, where Isaiah gets commissioned by God, gives us a picture of how a person who is “poor in spirit” responds when faced with the majesty of the King of the Kingdom of Heaven.

You see, the first step to entering the kingdom of heaven is having a right understanding about ourselves by knowing and honoring the King of that kingdom (Isaiah 45:22-25). When we do that properly, then we can feel nothing but poor in spirit, which is not the final resting place of believers in Jesus, but the first step toward “kingdom living.” However, it is not a step that can be skipped. It is the crucial foundation.

The rest of the Beatitudes mark the progression of the believer’s life and faith when he or she does things God’s way, so that by the time the believer is living out each and every Beatitude, he or she will have become a true follower of Jesus. Jesus, in response to such heavenly living, says in verse 12, “Rejoice, and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The life of a believer. To stand in awe of the Almighty and follow Him unswervingly. When you are poor in spirit, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. That is when the kingdom of heaven gets real. Here and now. And for all eternity.

C. Kevin Thompson
C. Kevin Thompson
The Letters

Kevin Thompson is an ordained minister, and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge – A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, the first in a continuing series. His latest novel, The Letters, released in February 2020.

www.ckevinthompson.com/; blog: www.ckevinthompson.blogspot.com/; Facebook C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page; Twitter @CKevinThompson; Instagram ckevinthompson; Pinterest ckevinthompsonauthor; Goodreads C. Kevin Thompson; BookBub C. Kevin Thompson.