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Encouragement

A Wheel Secret

 

The secret things belong to the Lord our God… (Deuteronomy 29:29 NIV).

The oddly-fashioned wheel bug is a type of assassin bug. An assassin bug preys upon and attacks a wide variety of insects and other arthropods in a rather gruesome manner, using its front legs and proboscis. The bug injects the critter-turned-lunch with enzymes that not only paralyze it but also dissolve the life-giving organs. The wheel bug then slurps up the liquefied insides. Yum, right? Uh, not hardly! Kinda icky, actually! Yet, the true bug is considered beneficial because it preys on pest insects.

The wheel bug gets its name from the crest on top of the thorax, shaped like a wheel. Interestingly, though, biologists don’t seem to know just exactly why the cog-shape is part of the bug’s anatomy. The wheel bug is the only insect in the United States with such a crest, but no consensus on the crest’s purpose exists.

That aspect of the wheel bug makes me smile and appreciate God’s creativity even more. Did God give it a wheel just to make us ponder? Does it have a purpose that God’s kept secret all this time? Did He like the idea of pointed, teeth-like knobs protruding from the top of the bug?

I love the lessons God teaches me through His creations, but I’m also okay with not knowing things. I think there’s much He wants us to know, but I believe there are some things we won’t know this side of heaven.

And maybe a wheel-shaped crest on top of a bug happens to be one of those unknowns!

Julie Lavender used to be afraid of most insects and creepy-crawly things until she fell for that cute high-school boy who loved all of God’s creations, the one who eventually became an entomologist for the US Navy. Most bugs and critters still terrify her, but now she appreciates their beauty and purposes in the natural world and is quite fascinated by them! She is the author of the newly-released 365 Ways To Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments Into Lasting Memories.

 

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Encouragement Ministry

Compassion Fatigue

Compassion Fatigue By Janet Holm McHenry

compassion fatigue is real
Compassion fatigue is real.

The Lord is a refuge to his people. –Joel 3:16 (ESV)

From a recent training for local teachers on social-emotional learning I learned a new term: compassion fatigue.
As teachers have doubled up duties to teach both in an in-person setting and in a distance learning model, they have also encountered countless cases of students and parents and peers in emotional distress, while also trying to manage their own families’ needs and their own.

Compassion fatigue is real. I have experienced this often over the last 22 years as I’ve prayer-walked the streets of my community and been a pivot point for various prayer groups. Their burdens become mine—and sometimes I simply feel overwhelmed.

When tremendous needs from many I love recently came from several directions, I found myself on the couch, exhausted one day. “What’s wrong with me?” I asked my husband.

“You’re taking on too much,” he quickly answered. And my husband is almost never quick to answer.

I imagine the prophets felt this compassion fatigue. God called them to speak his words to the people, who had strayed from following the Lord and who would not listen to the warnings God spoke through the prophets.
What must have kept them going was God’s call on their lives, as well as his words to them.

Reading the Bible daily is also what keeps me going during this challenging season. It also keeps me praying for many right now suffering from loss of loved ones, fires, floods, illness, straying children, unemployment, and depression.
Daily I run to the place where my compassion fatigue is always lifted: God’s Word. He never disappoints.

About the author: Janet McHenry is a speaker and author of 24 books—six of those on prayer, including the bestselling PrayerWalk and her newest, The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus. She would love to connect with you: https://www.janetmchenry.com.

Categories
Encouragement

Who Are We?

 

On the first day of a class I was teaching on how gender is expressed in the home, church, and society, I thought through the material I planned to cover. And honestly, I feared that some of what I’d prepared was too elementary for seminary students. Did they really need to hear again that both male and female were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27)?

Yet despite my doubts, I determined to cover even the basics. So, as I taught, I repeated what I assumed they all knew. But sure enough, a woman sitting on the front row sat stunned.

“Are you saying I myself am made in the image of God—without having to be married?” she asked.

I’m not saying that. Genesis says so.”

She turned to face all her classmates. “Did you know that?” she exclaimed.

They all nodded.

She looked back at me and burst into the tears of joy. She did not have to marry to fully image God. Nor did she have to bear children to ultimately image Him.

In the days that followed, this student changed her focus from seeking a husband to equipping herself for ministry.   

 At the time of our creation in the Garden, humans bore God’s image perfectly—simply by being. Today that image is marred but not erased (see James 3:9). We bear God’s image by virtue of being His creations. But we are also called and predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. And what is that image like? It’s embodying love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23).

Sanctified Sexuality: Valuing Sex in an Oversexed World, by Sandra Glahn & Gary Barnes
Sanctified Sexuality

Dr. Sandra Glahn is professor of Media Arts and Worship at Dallas Theological Seminary. Her most recent book is a collaboration with 25 experts on marriage, divorce, same-sex attraction, gender dysphoria, and more, titled Sanctified Sexuality: Valuing Sex in an Oversexed World. Excerpt adapted from Sanctified Sexuality.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.