Be Strong and Courageous by Bridget A. Thomas

Over the last few weeks I have been writing about faith. When I think of strong faith, one person that comes to mind is Joshua. After forty long years in the desert, the time finally came for the Israelites to take over the Promised Land. Moses had died and now Joshua was left in charge. God spoke to Joshua, encouraging him on what was ahead. There were three vital pieces of information in what God said which are still key for us today.

1 – God is with us. In Joshua 1:7, God said, “…I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And in Joshua 1:9, God said, “…the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” This is true for us as well. And it is so important for us to remember, no matter what we are facing. Knowing that our Heavenly Father is by our sides makes a world of difference in how we face each day. Whether it is a good day or a not-so-good day, we can have peace in our hearts when we remember Who is walking with us.

2 – The Bible is essential. The Lord told Joshua, “Be careful to obey all the law… do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:7-8) For us, reading our Bibles is one the single most important things we do. This is not something we should do once in awhile or when we feel like it. This is something we need to do every single day. Just like breathing. It is really THAT important.

3 – Be strong and courageous. God told Joshua three times to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6,7,9). If God said something three times, he probably wanted Joshua (and us) to pay attention. Whatever we are up against, we too can be strong and courageous. But having points one and two above will help us to be strong and courageous. We have to remember that God is with us and we have to spend time with Him daily. It would be difficult to be strong and courageous without those two factors.

Seeking God wholeheartedly, every single day, will point us in the right direction. This will help us to remember and walk out the three points above. I am so thankful that we have a Heavenly Father who cares for us so very much. He never leaves, and He is by our sides in whatever we are going through.

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Replacement Policy

“What do you mean my coverage has been denied?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Grey. It’s company policy. This is the third total replacement claim you have made in—what?—a year.”

“Well…”

“Precisely. The company can’t keep covering these losses.”

“But I need the replacement. It is vital for my work.”

“That may be, but that is your problem, not ours. I do not care what business or hobbies you pursue. Those things do not really matter to me. My only concern is protecting the interests of our company.”

“Do not take me for some conjuror of cheap tricks. I am not trying to rob you.”

“Of course not, Mr. Grey, but you must admit that these losses are at the least unusual. Wizards’ staffs are supposed to be the most powerful weapon in Middle Earth, and you have managed to destroy three of them. What are you doing with them anyway that you have destroyed so many?”

“Well, there were encounters with ring wraiths and orcs and other wizards…” Gandalf explained.

“But that is precisely my point. You habitually travel in high-risk zones, and that is why the company can no longer insure you against these losses. Wizards’ staffs are not cheap, you know. They don’t grow on trees.”

“But they are made of wood. They do grow on trees.”

“Technically, yes, but there is all that expensive additional remanufacturing work on them, the application of magic spells and so on. Maybe in future you should consider getting one made of cast iron or stainless steel.”

“But that would ruin the image…”

“I am not interested in your image, Mr. Grey, only in following our company’s policies.”

“Why do you keep calling me Mr. Grey? I am Gandalf the Grey, a renowned wizard, not a man named Gandalf Grey.”

“Gandalf Grey is what is on the policy, but it doesn’t really matter. Your coverage has still been denied. This destruction of insured property has become a nasty hobbit, and it can’t be allowed to continue.”

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Peace be Still… (by Hannah Alexander)

It has come to my attention that the novel I am writing at this time would work quite well as a novel dealing with the pandemic. It wasn’t begun that way, but it is about medical research. But honestly, I asked myself if it was something I’d want to read, and it is not. I don’t want to be reminded of the stress the whole world is enduring.

So instead I want to share my “whatsoever” thoughts and pictures. I hope you can see the pictures. To me they bring back memories of happier times, of tranquil days when the only worries I had were about stepping on the right part of the trail so I didn’t go hurtling into the lake, or the river, or onto my face.

Or too close to the moose.

Or into the roses.

Or anger the beavers.

I know I’ve said this before, but I have these words on a plaque to remind myself to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy. This is from Philippians 4:8. It’s one of my favorite passages, and now, especially, I need these words. I hope they help you, too.

 

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Who Would Know by Nancy J. Farrier

When I lived in California, I loved going for morning bike rides. There were certain routes I liked to ride and my usual distance was between twenty to twenty-five miles. This was time spent thinking about my story, or pondering a Bible study, or simply enjoying my time outside.

One morning, as I prepared to ride, I opened my cycling app, an app that tracked my route and collected my stats for me. When finished, I would upload the ride, which would show me my distance, speed, calories burned, etc. 

Many people used this popular exercise app. The top people on the app were those who dedicated whole portions of their day to working out. I rarely looked at their stats because I didn’t hope to make it that high on the roster.

As I headed out, I started my app and enjoyed the ride. The wind in my face. The fresh morning air. And, outside of town, the peace of the countryside. 

I returned home, having completed twenty-two miles – not in record time, but that didn’t bother me. After I put my bike away in the garage, I uploaded my ride and checked the stats. Lo and behold, I was number one above all others. I gasped. How could this be? 

That’s when I realized my mistake. While I had gone for a bike ride, I logged in on the app as being on the treadmill. All those miles zipping along at a slower speed for a cyclist were mighty fast for a treadmill runner. To the app, I appeared to have been doing some Olympic running and had gotten to the head of the exercise guru pack. 

A very heady moment indeed. But, also a lie. An accidental lie, but a lie nonetheless.

What to do? Who would really notice a nobody and her stats? I would sink back to obscurity the next day when I recorded my normal exercise routine. Did this mistake really matter?

Of course it mattered. If I left that workout as is, I would know, and God would know, even if no one else ever did. He knows every secret within me. I can’t hide from Him, and I shouldn’t want to. 

“Would not God search this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.” Psalm 44:21 (NKJV)

If I left the stats as they were, I would be lying and would become an abomination to the Lord. Whoa. That’s very scary. I would much rather strive to be a delight to Him, even at the cost of everything I am. 

Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, But those who deal truthfully are His delight.” 
Proverbs 12:22 (NKJV)

I am not a tech savvy person so it took me a little while to figure out how to change my workout from treadmill to cycling, but I did it. I was no longer on top of the pack and that was okay. I am not a top-of-the-pack sort of person anyway. I don’t exercise to receive glory. I exercise to care for this physical home God has given me. 

It isn’t just my physical being I need to care for though. I need to make sure my heart is lined up with God. I must understand what He wants for me to do in order to be content in my life, and to serve Him to the best of my ability.

 “I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes Forever, to the very end.” Psalm 119:112 (NKJV)

When I realized the mistake I made, I understood erasing the workout completely would be better than leaving misinformation for all to see. Maybe they wouldn’t have noticed. Maybe no one would ever had called me on that Olympic level workout. But, I’m called to a higher standard. I know what is required of me, and I intend to do what delights Him. 


He has shown you, O man, what is good;

And what does the LORD require of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8 (NKJV)

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Strong Faith is Selfless by Bridget A. Thomas

There are many Bible stories that I love. But in one particular case, there is a certain lady who is only mentioned in a handful of verses. However, she made an impact on me and I believe she is a great example for the faith series that we have been walking through these past few weeks. Her name is Jehosheba.

Let’s start with a little back story first. There was a man named Ahaziah who was king of Judah. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as did many of the kings we read about in the Old Testament. Long story short, he wound up getting killed. So his mother Athaliah proceeded to destroy the whole royal family.

I know this story doesn’t sound good so far. But this is where Jehosheba comes in. She was the sister of King Ahaziah, who had recently been killed. She did something amazing. It says in 2 Kings 11:2-3:

“But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed. He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the Lord for six years while Athaliah ruled the land.”

When the right time came, the priest crowned Joash as king. He was only seven years old at the time when he became king. And Athaliah was then killed.

I simply love what Jehosheba did in this story. She acted out of faith and not fear. Fear would have made her think only of her own survival. If she had been acting in fear, she would have fled and not gave Joash a second thought. This story illustrates that strong faith is selfless. Strong faith looks out for other people, helps them, and gives whatever they can. Strong faith doesn’t worry about the consequences in these situations because we know that God is our source and our provider.

As Christians, we are called to be selfless, just as Jesus was. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

This isn’t always an easy thing to do. We might get caught up in our own daily lives, and not take other people into consideration. But there are many Bible verses that talk about selflessness. Unfortunately, in today’s culture, many people have an “all about me” mentality. And sometimes this is rooted in fear. We look out for ourselves because we are afraid we will lose something when we give to others. But when we recognize that God is our source, we don’t have to fear.

So I hope this story helps you to press forward in your faith walk. Look for ways to be selfless in your daily life. Look for ways to help those in need. Look for ways to do something for someone else. You never know who you might make an impact on. And you will not only bless the people around you, but you will be blessed as well. When Jesus is your lifeline, you have the ability to help others in miraculous ways.

hanging lifesaver

Photo by Tobias Bjørkli on Pexels.com

 

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As Many as it Takes by Julie Arduini

As I’ve shared before, during this time at home I’ve been using a Bible in a year reading plan with a new Bible. I’ve nearly worn out a new set of highlighters and have been floored by revelations that were sitting there all along.

One a-ha moment was as I read about Moses on the mountain with the Lord crafting the Ten Commandments.

It’s not a new story to me, most likely not to you, either.

But what grabbed me was the fact that Moses made his way down that mountain, tablets in hand, to see the Israelites carving idols and just acting like plain fools. The tablets crash to the ground and all that work, now in pebbles.

It was then I received what I call the heavenly downloads. A gentle and loving nudge from the Lord that I can’t ignore.

Moses didn’t present his writings with the first draft either.

What’s that now?

Confession. I’m starting a new contemporary romance series called Surrendering Opinions. I’ve had this vision all mapped out in my head for years. It’s about a set of sextuplets who remain in the national spotlight because of tragedy. Now they are young adults navigating their own identity while trying to find a love that matched what their parents had. Each sibling gets their own book by birth order. The first is Jordyn Bell Collins in a title called Anchored.

And I have started this book once. Twice. Three. Four. I think at least five times. I’ve given up counting and I’m frankly scared to submit my new chapters to my critique group. This time, I sense I found the vibe and I’m excited. But I thought I’d be on the third book by now. And here I am starting all over.

It was the same with Entrusted, my first book. That idea came to me in the early 1990’s. I wrote it and shelved it because I had a paying job. Then marriage. Then kids. When I had that heavenly download that it was time to write for Him, that story was junk. I completed the Christian Writers Guild. I wrote freelance articles. Created weekly challenges to grow. I started submitting to my critique groups. There was a draft in third-person. Several in first-person, present tense. Then I used NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to start over. Finally, a draft I was proud of. Still, so many revisions and re-writes. I think from that first time when I was in my 20’s to publication in 2014, Entrusted was at least 14 attempts from start to finish.

That Moses reminder encouraged me to keep on keeping on. Moses turned around and scaled that mountain again. He chiseled out all the wisdom the Lord gave. And when he descended, those commandments guide us to this day, and Moses grew in his faith so much he glowed.

—Julie Arduini

My prayer is especially as I write romance, readers would relate to the characters and be encouraged by the transformation they take. That they would seek His face and surrender the things that keep them from living free in Him.

So this summer, I’m back to chiseling.

And I’m really excited about it.

***

Today I join other authors with May releases over at Christian & Sweet-n-Clean LAUNCHES talking about You’re Brilliant, playing games, and of course, offering surPRIZES. I’d love for you to stop by and say hello!

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Day 942 of Our Captivity

All right, not really.  It simply feels that way.  Lockdown isn’t that much different for me as a writer.  I’m generally a homebody — granted, the lack of Starbucks and easily-attainable espresso genuinely lowered my word count — but for the most part, lockdown is my normal.

For those of you extroverts out there, I’m truly feeling for you.  We aren’t meant to live life alone and the absence of family connection is devastating for many — especially those with loved ones who need medical care and they’re separated from them.

I’ve also seen the strain on at-home caregivers and parents who have been drafted into homeschooling.  This is not an easy time, but it’s clear that we have vastly underestimated our love of freedom and the chance to live our lives as we please.

As we start to come out of this extreme lockdown, I pray we never take for granted how wonderful it is to have a hug or look into the actual eyes of our loved ones and not their “Zoom meeting eyes.”  I hope this has been a time of reflection for us and we never take for granted the simple things — like a meal out with a server who brings your food without looking like you’re in the “Contagion” movie, or sending your kids off to school, or graduating with your peers, or getting married with your loved ones.

As we continue to wage this crazy battle, I hope that we can appreciate all that we have in the day-to-day.  May your family be healthy and safe.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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I read in the park to pass the days — which seem never-ending.

 

 

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IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS: A MEMORIAL DAY MESSAGE… by Vicki Hinze

Ignorance is not Bliss, a Memorial Day Message, Christians Read, Vicki Hinze

 

It’s Memorial Day.  A day when we honor those who fought and died on behalf of our nation to preserve its ideals and values, and our freedom.  A day when we honor them and their sacrifice.  Their families’ sacrifice. 

Bearing that in mind, this might seem like an odd post, but bear with me.  It is relevant and does those things, just not in the way you typically see it done.

Many hate politics and don’t want to hear about it.  I understand.  I really do.  But if you’ve been conscious of the impact of politics on your daily life only during this virus shut down, you have discovered (or rediscovered) the importance of not sitting on the sidelines but of engaging and exercising your rights, including the right to vote.

I am referencing national level politics but also state and local level politics.  During this national emergency, state and local leaders have deemed which businesses are essential and non-essential.  Some state and local leaders have determined liquor stores and abortion clinics essential and churches non-essential.  This “choosing” relates the direct impact on you and on me in very real and critical ways.

Ask yourself these questions:  When do most people turn to God and plead for help, for divine intervention?  When do those who rarely pray reach out to others to request prayer?  When do most people grasp that we are three-dimension human beings—physical, emotional and spiritual—and for balance, we must nurture and tend to all three?

In crises. 

Yet, religious leaders were prohibited from tending the spiritual needs of those in crisis.  Those who were not prohibited were substantially hindered.  We’ve all heard the reports of them being arrested for presiding at funerals.  For holding drive-in services.  For daring to open their church doors, so that those who wished to attend worship services could exercise their right to attend. 

Attacks on Christianity and some other religions have become all too commonplace, but this non-essential classification took the battle for the soul of the country and its citizens souls soaring to new heights.  People of faith have been left gape-jawed, and many have reacted with defiance.

Fortunately, our President stepped in and deemed churches essential.  He insisted that houses of worship be safely reopened immediately, or he would override the states’ orders.  While there is dispute among scholars on his authority to do so—we are a republic, and states’ rights not assigned in the Constitution are retained by the states—nothing, certainly not a virus—negates or overrides the rights of citizens set forth in the Constitution, which includes its amendments.  Namely, the Bill of Rights, which specifically cites the freedoms of religion, expression, assembly, and speech.  According to legal experts, in an honest court of law, fighting on behalf of the people, the president wins.

In an honest court.  Those who fought and died to retain rights for all Americans clearly understood that electing honest leaders and jurists was essential to retain rights and preserve freedom.

Initially, I heard many Christians complain that President Trump was a flawed man. For that reason, they would not vote.  But it serves us well to recall we are all flawed, and men like Moses and so many others from the Bible, were also flawed.  To remember that God chooses flawed men to fulfill His objectives. 

These days, from people of faith, I hear a lot of positive comments about our President and few complaints.  He has been steadfast in supporting faith and freedom.  Biblically, we know God works with His chosen, as He does with us all, to infuse the individuals He selects with what is needed when it is needed to fulfill his purposes.  The individuals chosen grow into those purposes. Those watching have seen this transition in the president take place.  It’s been a long time since I’ve heard anyone doubt that he has been a relentless warrior for faith.

Throughout our nation’s history, those who made the ultimate sacrifice grew into and understood the value of self-governance.  The benefits and the responsibilities, for one cannot be exercised without the other.  Which means they took very seriously the sanctity of the vote, recognizing it as one of the most serious responsibilities of every citizen and one of citizenship’s greatest privileges. 

Even today, most people in the world do not have a voice.  In this country, every citizen does, and that is due to those who sacrificed to see to it.  Our warriors knew that to have a voice—to vote—was important enough to forfeit their lives to protect.  To assure each citizen had a voice in the laws by which we collectively function as a society was worth fighting and dying for—literally.

Recently, there has been a big push for mail-in ballots for the upcoming election and for ballot harvesting.  A couple of states already have voting by mail-in ballots as their only way of voting.  And, while some say voter fraud is not an issue, it is.  For evidence of that, look to Judicial Watch and the legal cases it has been fighting for decades.

In a legal settlement in the State of California, over a million people were removed from the voter rolls—something politicians are very reluctant to do for obvious reasons.  Why?  Because the rolls were loaded with people who had moved out of state, voters who had died, or persons ineligible to vote.  

 

Nationwide, there were voters registered to addresses of residence that were empty lots, non-existent addresses, and also an abundant number of counties and precincts across the nation where in prior elections more votes were recorded than there were registered voters who resided in those counties and precincts.

Recently, there was a report that in California 445,000 people refused to serve on jury duty because they were not citizens—but they were registered to vote.  This report has been deemed false by one fact-checker of mixed reputation, however there have been a multitude of firsthand reports by those who are not citizens but have received jury-duty summons. 

In California, jury-duty summons are issued using two sources:  voter rolls and driver’s licenses.  Last election, videos taken at multiple polls on election day surfaced.  In some, identification was not being required to cast votes.  In others, driver’s licenses were being accepted as identification.  While a driver’s license is deemed acceptable ID in many places, can it be accepted in places where it does not authenticate citizenship?    

Think about that authentication, the jury-duty summons for non-citizens, in practical application terms.  Now, recognizing that every illegal vote dilutes every legal vote, imagine these challenges on a national scale.  Makes a case for supporting Voter ID, doesn’t it?

It also makes the vulnerability of citizens’ rights stark.  Some claim requiring Voter ID results in voter suppression.  Considering the things we do on a daily basis that require an ID, I don’t see the logic in that.  Go to a book-signing for a national figure, you must produce your ID.  Cash a check, check out a library book, sign up for assistance—all require an ID.  The list goes on and on.  It seems sensible, to preserve the integrity of the vote, we’d insist on Voter ID.

Some say these things don’t matter.  That there is little to no voter fraud.  That’s simply not true.  More voted in my county than are eligible to vote in my county.  Judicial Watch investigated and reported it.  In another county, we have watched the legal battle play out against the supervisor of elections.  She had a group of staff in her office behind closed doors create ballots for specific candidates.  Ballots found in trunks of cars.  In storerooms.  Suddenly manifest during recounts.  There are far too many instances like these across the land.

Right now, mail-in voting is a hot topic.  Specific to it:

In 2016, due to a medical issue, a dear friend requested a mail-in ballot.  She never received it, so on election day, she went to the polls to vote.  She was told she had already voted.  When she insisted she had not, that the requested ballot had never been received, she was permitted to vote a “provisional” ballot. 

Which ballot—the fraudulent one or the provisional ballot—was actually counted in the official report?  Who knows?  In the news, surfaced reports of mail-in ballots being stolen from mailboxes.  That sent a strong and clear message on mail-in ballots and the ease with which those votes can be manipulated.

That strong and clear message is amplified by glimpses we find in reports mostly about the upcoming election.  Take a look at the following:

  • US Post Office finds “three tubs” of absentee ballots for Wisconsin election in Chicago. (Chicago is in Illinois.) Source.
  • Voter fraud and its impact.  Source.
  • South Carolina. “election ballots reportedly found in Maryland this week.”
  • Democrats paid Pennsylvania Election Officials to Stuff Ballot Box. Source.
  • Nevada.  “Troves of ballots are lying around Nevada apartment complex…Postal workers are finding thousands of them just sitting in crates.” Source:

And lest you think this only happens in the US:

  • United Kingdom.  Man finds 83 ballots shipped to a single address in his apartment building. Source.

   

Every abuse of the vote is a slap in the face to all who have fought and died to protect it. To protect us.  Some say, cheating is the way it is. It has always been that way.  I say, we owe it to all those on whose shoulders we stand to develop a zero-tolerance for dishonesty and it’s time for us to change the way it’s always been.  People tend to perform at the standard expected.  Elevate the standard.  Insist on honest elections.

I am so sorry for the length of this, but I hope it provides some insight.  This nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and it has been the responsibility of each successive generation to maintain them.  We cannot meet our responsibility or honor those who sacrificed, if we do not engage. 

Those we memorialize today stood and met their fates for all of us.  They knew that freedom isn’t free and paid the ultimate price.  And they warned us explicitly that we are always only one generation away from losing it.

We best honor them by acknowledging all that has happened and not happened.  By receiving the wisdom they sacrificed to convey, for those we memorialize today have proven ignorance is not bliss.

With God’s help, may we never forget.

 c2020, Vicki Hinze

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A Worthy Sacrifice by Nancy J. Farrier

I grew up on a farm in the Midwest. One of my favorite days revolved around butchering time. Aunts, uncles, and cousins would descend on our farm. The kids played while the men took care of the killing and preparing the animals. It was a messy, smelly process that took plenty of time. The butchering, usually two or three steers, took most of a day, and everyone would be tired by the time they went home. 

The meat then had to hang in a cooler for a number of days when everyone would return and the work of cutting and packaging the meat began. This was hard work, but still fun. You visited with family, and with my family, there was usually a lot of joking and laughter throughout the day. Once again, another tiring but satisfying day.

In II Chronicles, we see Solomon building the temple for the Lord. For the first time, the Israelites would have a house to go to when they wanted to worship. A place to make sacrifices. 

For the consecration of the temple, Solomon made a huge feast, starting with the sacrifices to the Lord. Did he sacrifice the two or three animals that would take us all day to butcher? Not at all.


“Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the LORD. King Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty-two thousand bulls and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the people dedicated the house of God.” 2 Chronicles 7:4-5 (NKJV)

Every time I read this passage, I remember butchering day at home. I am astonished at the sheer number of animals sacrificed. I have no idea how many people were involved in the work but there had to be hundreds to be able to do a sacrifice of this magnitude.

There are a few things that stand out to me about Solomon’s sacrifices for the consecration of the temple. And there are some questions I must ask myself.

Abundance: I think we can all agree Solomon’s sacrifice was an abundance. I realize he was a wealthy king, but giving up thousands of bulls and thousands of sheep had to put a dent in his livestock. Am I willing to give with abundance to the Lord even when it hurts, or do I make excuses for hanging on to what I have? 

Joyful: Solomon gave with joy. He was excited to consecrate the temple and to dedicate these animals to the Lord. Not only did he sacrifice an abundance of livestock, he put on a full week of feasting for all the people who came. There is sacrifice there too in the amount of food, drink, and time involved. Am I willing to be joyful when sacrificing an abundance, even when it comes at a great cost? 

Shared: Solomon didn’t make sacrifices and consecrate the temple by himself even though building the temple had been his project. He invited the people to join him in the celebration. His whole focus was to honor God and worship Him with all he had. He wanted the people to share in this time of worship, to see the wonder of who God is. Do I share the joy of sacrifice with others, or do I just want to “do it myself” with a stomp of my foot like an indulgent two-year-old?

Humble: Solomon was humble in his dedication to God and his worship. He didn’t promote himself or brag about the cost to him. He simply pointed to God and His sovereignty. He didn’t demand the people pay homage to him, but encouraged them to seek the Lord. When I make a sacrifice to the Lord, do I expect praise for what I’ve done, or recognition? Am I trying to steal from God, when I should just be joyful to be in His service and in His presence?

Leviticus 22:17-25 talks about the sacrifice Aaron and his sons are to make to God. How the sheep or bull is to be perfect, without blemishes. They are to examine the sacrifice animal to make sure there are no imperfections. 

I believe Solomon’s sacrifice was a perfect one before the Lord and he has set an example there. I can’t give something cast off, or tarnished with greed or pride. I need to make sure my sacrifice is abundant, joyful, shared, and humble. As in those days on the farm, my giving to the Lord should be something I remember with joy in the Lord, not regret in what I gave up.

Photo by Sam Carter on Unsplash

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Strengthening Our Faith in the Good Times by Bridget A. Thomas

I am continuing to talk about faith as I have over the past several weeks. When I began this faith series several weeks ago, one thing I mentioned was that we can build our faith in good times. We don’t have to wait for difficulties to come our way before we start strengthening our faith.

One great biblical example that comes to mind has to do with Solomon. When Solomon became king he may have had some apprehension about the weight being put on his shoulders. But I imagine it was also an exciting time. Out of all of David’s sons Solomon had been chosen to be the next king. And there were many wonderful things on the horizon. He would have the task of building the temple for the Lord and he would be building a new palace for himself as well. So I imagine this was a happy time for Solomon.

The Bible tells us in 1 Kings 3:5 that the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” I imagine many people would have asked for worldly things such as riches, fame, possessions, a long life, or to rule over  many nations. But in 1 Kings 3:9, Solomon requests of God, “give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”

God was pleased that this is what Solomon had asked for. So God did grant Solomon’s wish, but He also gave Solomon wealth and honor. God says in 1 Kings 3:12-13, “I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.” Solomon definitely became the wisest person of his day and he wrote almost the entire book of Proverbs which contains much wisdom that we can all still turn to today.

What can we learn from this story about strengthening our faith?

Solomon’s request illustrated that he was not walking in fear. If he had been walking in fear he would have asked for something like good health, a long life, riches, or for everyone to like him. When we meet God in prayer, are our prayers threaded with fear or with faith?

Solomon knew that God was his source of wisdom and strength. This is vital for all Christians to remember, every day, in good times and in bad. God is our strength. God is our source. God is our provider. When we remember this, we can face whatever comes our way.

Also, what Solomon asked for would strengthen his faith all the more. It would help him grow closer to God. And we can do the same every day. We are so blessed to have the Bible, the living Word of God, at our fingertips. Spending time reading our Bibles every single day helps us to know God, to know His character, to know how loving He is, and to know how amazing He is. When we really get to know God, deep in our hearts, this will ultimately strengthen our faith. We will know, without a doubt, that our Heavenly Father is by our sides in anything and everything that we face.

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Of Better Homes and Gardens

It was a great relief to realize that out fears were unfounded. Having newly acquired a house—and with it yard responsibilities—my wife and I were apprehensive that we might not be able to keep our lawn and garden in the same immaculate condition that our more experienced neighbors maintained. Within a few weeks, however, we were pleasantly surprised. Not only did we have green grass growing in our yard just like our neighbors had in theirs, but somehow we had also managed to add a welcome blend of yellow—scattered through our yard were beautiful yellow flowers.

“Dandelions,” our neighbors told us knowingly.

Quite frankly, we were thrilled. While our grass was perhaps not as even or as thick as our neighbors’, none of our neighbors had nearly as many dandelions, and some had none at all. In fact, there was only one patch of grass in the neighborhood that had more dandelions than ours did—but we didn’t feel that should count because it was owned by the city.

The neighbors, however, did not seem nearly as thrilled as we were with our beautiful carpet of yellow. In fact, we soon concluded that our successful yard was becoming the envy of the neighborhood. Glancing through the windows, we would catch sight of neighbors staring over our picket fence with mournful expressions on their faces. And when the beautiful yellow flowers turned to lustrous balls of white down floating gently in the summer breeze, their envy reached absurd proportions. Some even hinted delicately that there were herbicides that would kill off excessive dandelion growth.

This was disturbing. Reluctantly, we agreed that if our gardening success was going to stand in the way of good relations with our new neighbors, then the dandelions would have to go.

We contacted one of the seed, feed, and weed places recommended by one of our neighbors and asked a representative if he could turn our lawn into a flat, monotonous green carpet like our neighbors’.

The company representative frowned, looking over our rich, flowing sea of dandelions, and observed that yes, it could be done, for a price that was slightly less than our mortgage payments.

This seemed a trifle expensive to us, but we concluded that, after all, good relations with our neighbors were important.

“There’s only one problem, though,” the representative continued. “You’ll have to keep the kids and animals off the lawn.” It seems that the herbicide that would rid the neighborhood of our dandelions would do the same with our two children, two dogs, and Siamese cat.

“For how long?” we asked.

“Only two weeks.”

“Two weeks?”

“Yes, for two weeks following each of our semi-monthly treatments.”

We concluded that those thick, uniform green lawns of our neighbors were only for people who sat in air-conditioned houses and looked at their lawns, not for people like us who actually used them.

“If only we could find an environmentally safe method of getting rid of dandelions,” I confided to a neighbor. “Do dandelions have any natural enemies?”

“Nuclear warheads?” he suggested after a pause.

I took his comment for sarcasm, but I didn’t give up, and eventually we did find a solution to our dilemma.

In the end, the problem that had exhausted the ingenuity of adults was resolved by the wisdom of children. Our daughters, then aged 7 and 3, showed us a natural, environmentally safe way to remove dandelions from our yard. One morning, they came running into the house, faces beaming, and proudly presented my wife with grubby bouquets of bright yellow dandelions.

After that, every morning, I would send our daughters out to pick big bouquets of dandelions, which they would proudly and lovingly present to their mother. Our lawn remained virtually free of dandelions. And every day our dining room table was graced with a vase full of these beautiful yellow flowers.

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A Search for Truth (from Hannah Alexander)

Rocky Road

The search for truth is a long, winding, rocky road. I’ve hiked this trail, and one needs sturdy hiking boots to avoid a broken–or at least sprained–ankle.  I have come to realize that for some of us, truth can be hard to find beneath a facade of a person’s believability.  Sometimes the voice that shouts the loudest is the one everyone tends to believe. I say truth shouldn’t have to shout.

I’ve realized that I’m more susceptible to lying lips than, say, a writing buddy who seems able to hear the truth behind those lies. I’ve always wanted to believe this is an honest, good-hearted world filled with love. A few harsh winters have helped me stop and take stock. The only place I’m totally safe is in the will of God. It takes time and silence and a listening ear to hear that will.

“An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” Proverbs 24:26

I read this on Facebook this morning from a friend back in Nebraska. It resonated for me, especially now, when so much seems covered in shadow. At the ripe old age of nobody’s business, I am beginning to learn the art, and the power, of silence. In that silence, perhaps truth can find a way.

I like the idea of saying nothing if you can’t say anything kind. But that’s changing. How about, “Say nothing unless you know it’s true.”

 

 

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Starting A New Project by Tara Randel

I’m getting ready to start a new series for Harlequin Heartwarming. As always, the prospect is exciting and daunting. So much goes into preparing to write a book; characterization, plot and conflict, the romance arc and setting, to name a few. Each step much be carefully planned so that the writing process goes smoothly (I’m chuckling as I type this) to create a cohesive finished product.

Since I started writing for Heartwarming, one of the biggest draws to my books has been the small town setting. What is it about small towns that appeals to readers? Is it the sense of community? Safety? Familiarity? Knowing all your neighbors and your neighbors knowing you?

Small towns can run the gamut. Think about some of the books you’ve read and picture a quaint town with historical buildings, coastal beaches, or a village nestled in the mountains. Even a busy city block can be a small town. We certainly don’t have a shortage of interesting locations to set our books.

All the books in my Business of Weddings series were set in the same coastal Florida town. The name of the town was fictional, which allowed me to create a place that was an amalgamation of all the best of the towns around my home. From the beach, to the downtown areas, to all the local wonders I live with every day in my state, I had plenty of stunning vistas to work with. By the time the series ended, the town had become almost like a character itself, a very unique place that the reader would want to visit.

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In my Meet Me At the Altar book series, I moved my small town experience north, to the mountains of north Georgia. We’ve been vacationing there for many years and it has to be my most favorite place on earth. Two of the books began the journey in the sleepy mountain town, and once I established the town and the people who reside there, I had to return. Thankfully, all the books I write in the next series will take place in this fictional town surrounded by picturesque views, rugged terrain, and the beauty of the region during the changing seasons. It’ll also mean I have to travel back to my favorite spot for research!

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Heartwarming books not only have special characters who touch our hearts, but the setting plays an important part of the story. I’m thankful to set my stories in such magical places.

Always The One  Available Now!

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www.tararandel.com

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author. Family values, a bit of mystery and of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. For more information about her books, visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TaraRandelBooks. Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter and receive a link to download a free digital book.

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Faith When Facing a Battle by Bridget A. Thomas

Over the past couple of weeks I have been talking about faith. Today I will focus on faith once again, in particular I want to discuss faith when facing a battle. Over the past several weeks everyone across the globe has been facing a battle called COVID-19. Even when we are not facing a pandemic we will still face different battles in our lives. Sometimes they deal with our health, other times they might deal with finances, or perhaps they might deal with relationships. It is important to keep in mind that as Christians, many of our battles come from the devil. So the principles that we apply to one battle, can also be used in another battle.

Today I want to take a close look at King Jehoshaphat. I am not going to cover every verse, so if you want to read the story for yourself, please see 2 Chronicles 20:1-30. King Jehoshaphat was one of the kings of Judah. In this story that we are going to cover, Judah was facing a battle. The Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat (v 1). As you can imagine, this “alarmed” Jehoshaphat (v 3). But he immediately took action. There are several key steps that Jehoshaphat took which we can learn from.

1 – Seek the Lord

Seeking the Lord is something we should do every day of our lives, in good times and in bad. And it is particularly vital when we are facing a battle. In the case of Jehoshaphat, the Bible tells us that he “resolved to inquire of the Lord” (v 3) and he gathered the people together “to seek help from the Lord” (v 4). And in verse 12 Jehoshaphat said to God, “our eyes are on you.” In our own battles, turning to the Lord first and foremost is essential. No matter what battle you might be facing, you can turn to the Lord in prayer.

2 – Recognize That God Is Your Strength

There will be many things in life that we cannot face on our own. But the good news is that we don’t have to! As Christians, we have the Lord by our side, every step of the way. Jehoshaphat knew this and he didn’t hesitate to rely on the source of his strength. In front of all the people, Jehoshaphat prayed and admitted that “power and might” were in God’s hands (v 6). When we are facing a battle, we can humbly confess to God that we need Him, that He is our provider, and that we cannot face this without Him.

3 – Remember God’s Promises

When we remember God’s promises, this reassures us that He won’t let us down. It reminds us that He will not leave us nor forsake us. This is exactly what Jehoshaphat did. As he prayed to the Lord in front of all the people, one thing he mentioned was that God promised to give the land they were in “forever to the descendants of Abraham” (v 7). Remembering this promise helped Jehoshaphat and the people to know that God would not let them down and would help them in the battle they were facing. The same is true for us. No matter what you might be facing today, I encourage you to find a Bible verse that resonates with your situation. Write it on an index card and carry it with you wherever you go. When you are feeling down about the battle you are in, read the Bible verse and remember that God is by your side.

4 – Recognize That the Battle Belongs to the Lord

As I mentioned earlier, many battles that we face in our lives will come from the enemy. We are told in Ephesians 6: 12 that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” In Jehoshaphat’s case, the Spirit of the Lord came on a man named Jahaziel. This man prophesied in front of all the people, encouraging them to not be afraid. But one especially interesting thing that the Lord said to the people through this man was “You will not have to fight this battle” (v 14-17). I think it would do us all good to remember this when we are up against a trying situation. The battle belongs to the Lord and we can trust Him to see us through.

5 – Sing the Lord’s Praises

This next point I absolutely love. Praising the Lord is so important in our daily lives, and especially key when facing a battle. As Jehoshaphat and his men headed towards battle, we read that Jehoshaphat “appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness” (v 21). We should do the same when we are facing something difficult. Praising God not only calms our fears, but it also reminds us of how awesome our God is.

Well, guess what happened next. The armies that were coming up against Jehoshaphat and Judah wound up killing each other. The men of Judah didn’t even have to fight at all, just as they were told. The Bible says that, “When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped” (v 24).

That story is simply amazing. But what is also amazing to me is the faith that Jehoshaphat displayed throughout this story. I think we all can learn from these principles and use them to face difficulties in our own lives as well. This will strengthen our faith and quiet our fears.

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God’s Writing the Story by Julie Arduini

Recently my husband texted me a picture. It was our daughter navigating her way through our front yard on the riding lawn mower.

Big deal, right?

YES!

It’s a celebration because it is yet another thing in the long list of what God has done to prove as He promised that this child is an overcomer.

For those who don’t know her story, she tested for congenital hypothyroidism at three weeks, but when we asked for results, we didn’t receive accurate results until eight weeks. A team sat us down and prepared us for mental retardation.

That alone was enough for this kid to deal with. Yet she nearly died at three months with more doctor error, had RSV at six nonths, was hospitalized at nine months for pneumonia, and around age 12, was diagnosed with Albrights hereditary osteodystrophy, AHO.

If tickets were being given out of no hope for normal, forget about it, and no chance, she would have been given the roll.

—Julie Arduini

We’re thankful because God has always had the first and last word when it comes to her, us, everything. In the womb He promised she was an overcomer and by golly, she is. She’s in high school, regular classes. Oh, wait. One class is actually a college course. Take that, naysayers.

She’s active in youth group and down to do just about any activity they ask. She’s in student council and an author of three books.

Victories! Victories everywhere!

But, I’ve had to reel my emotions in more than once. Because of AHO, her bones have fused and she is done growing. Where her friends continue to grow taller, she’s 4’9″. Because of the missing thyroid meds needed from birth, she struggles with processing/comprehension. It’s not immediately visible but she has to work twice as hard, especially in math and science.

And where in our state her peers were allowed to obtain their permit at 15 1/2, at nearly 17 that’s not the case for us.

Confession?

I’m relieved.

It’s hard.

People ask her if she’s driving and why not. She knows it’s not time, but for her rep, she’s allowed to blame me. The written part is hard for her. We weren’t sure if she was tall enough to even try. There are fast decisions as a driver she has to make, and she’s not able to at this time.

Will she get there? I think so. I’m scared to death about it. I don’t want it rushed, but I don’t want to operate out of fear. I’m as much a work in progress as anyone.

The lawnmower is hope. It tells my husband he might be teaching her behind the wheel just yet. It tells me yet again God is writing the story. Not me. Not doctors. Her Creator.

The picture reminds me that our victories look different. To the marathon winner, finishing a couch to 5k app might be no big deal. To the heart attack survivtor, it might mean the world. To finish an early reader might be no biggie, unless you have dyslexia. Making a pie? Sounds easy because my mom was there to guide me as I was growing up. Not everyone can say that.

What’s a victory that maybe you discounted that you should celebrate? Comment away!

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That daughter is Hannah and we just finished the last book in our series, You’re Brilliant. It releases May 22, or you can pre-order for Kindle.

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