Guest Post by James Watkins: Why? Why? Why?

A three-year-old’s favorite word is why.

“Johnny, hold my hand while we cross the street.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want you to run out in front of a car.”

“Why?”

“Because if a car hits you, you’ll be hurt or killed.”

“Why?”

“Because if it’s a contest between a thirty-five-pound boy and an SUV, the three-ton vehicle is going to win every time.”

“Why?”

“Because the laws of physics state that mass plus momentum equals—Just take my hand, Johnnie!”

And on it goes—right into adulthood!

Why didn’t God heal my friend?

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why do I still have acne at 60?

But like the popular game show, Jeopardy, the answers are often in the form of a question.

 

What can I know?

I can know the truth of Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (NIV).

For instance, our group health insurance had very few maternity benefits, but had great “major medical” coverage. At the birth of our first child, my wife had complications and spent five days in Intensive Care. But, because the birth was now “major medical,” every penny of our daughter’s birth was covered. Sitting in ICU for five days waiting to know if my wife was going live or die was not good, but it did work for good.

However, it took me nearly thirty years to realize that Romans 8:28’s “purpose” is revealed in the following—and usually ignored—verse:

. . . to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. . . .

I may never know the answer to why, but I can know what is the purpose to which God is working all for our good. To be like Jesus! If you look for it, you’ll find throughout the New Testament. For instance:

 

And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18b, author’s emphasis).

 

How can I grow?

Jesus promises . . .

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (John 15:1, 4-5 NLT).

Our spiritual lives depend on this intimate connection with Christ. His life flows into and through us causing us to become organically one with his character. That connection is strengthened through prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers. And suffering!

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NLT, author’s emphasis).

When I think back to my “successful” years—award-winning author and editor, world-traveling conference speaker, denominational executive, and co-pastor of a growing church—I certainly didn’t resemble the Christ I was trying to follow. It has only been during my “failure” years—years between book contracts, estranged relationships, being voted out of a church, and having to borrow money to make a living writing and speaking—that I have come to derive my self-identity and self-worth from simply being a loved child of God.

Who can I show?

Finally, 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 has become one of my favorite passages in encouraging me while I’m going through terrible times:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer (NLT).

I now believe that God is more than willing to answer those questions and how they relate to living a life conformed to the image of His Son. Even why I still suffer from acne!

From God, I Don’t Understand, Copyright 2017, 2019 James N. Watkins. Available at Amazon.

Jim is an award-winning author of over 20 books and 2,000 articles, who has spoken across the United States and overseas. He has served as an editor and editorial director at Wesleyan Publishing House, an editor with the American Bible Society, taught writing at Taylor University for 15 years, and has guest-lectured at Liberty, Regent and other universities. He is currently writing and speaking full-time as well as consulting in book development. His most important roles, however, are being a child of God, husband, dad and “papaw.”

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

Guest Blogger Debra Butterfield: Are You Fully Convinced?

What does it mean to be fully convinced—of anything?

It means to be absolutely certain, have no doubts, that something will be accomplished.

Are you fully convinced the sun will set tonight? I’d say so. You probably didn’t even give it a thought, otherwise, you’d be in a panic.

Stop and think about what being certain of something does for you.

You have no doubts. You have confidence in its occurrence. You have peace.

Are you fully convinced you’ll overcome any tough situation that might come your way?

Your certainty may have vanished before you finished reading that sentence.

When I landed in a hospital bed for six days back in December 2017, I came face to face with my anemic faith in God. I lacked any kind of certainty—beyond my salvation—in God’s Word. It was time for that to end!

I am a soldier. I had a soldier mindset before I joined the Marine Corps, and my time in the service fine-tuned that mindset. Now I am a soldier in the Lord’s army. Often when God teaches me something new, He does it through military analogies.

When Marines go into battle, they know they are not fighting alone. Every Marine in their unit is fighting alongside them. Additionally, they know they have the fire power of US tanks, warships, missiles, fighter jets, and bombers to back them up.

And when they fight, they fight intent on winning.

In Jesus’ day, Roman soldiers were told to come home a winner or don’t come home at all! They went into battle determined and convinced they would win.

We can enter any situation being fully convinced we’ll win!

“How?” you ask.

By knowing what the Bible has to say. But we can’t read a Scripture just once and be fully convinced. We must know that we know that we know. That’s what being convinced is.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8 NKJV, emphasis added)

To be fully convinced we must know what God’s Word says and spend time renewing our mind in that truth.

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2 NKJV). The New Living Translation puts it this way, “but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

We are the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 12:27)

God’s power dwells in us. (Eph. 3:19-20)

Is there any power greater than God?

No!

Can God lie?

No!

Has He made promises?

Yes! And in Him all His promises are yes and amen (1 Cor. 1:20). If He failed to keep His promises, He would be a liar and would be breaking His covenant with Jesus.

We are not alone in our battles. God is always with us. And we are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).

Meditate on God’s Word so you can become fully convinced.

“I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me” (Psalm 16:8 NLT).

*What do you need to be fully convinced of today?

Debra Butterfield’s newest book is Unshakable Faith: Living Strong in the Kingdom of God, a Bible study designed to help readers leave their doubts behind and live a bold, confident life for God. She writes a blog for writers at DebraLButterfield.com, and is the editorial director of CrossRiver Media Group, LLC, a publishing house. You may also find Debra on Facebook and Twitter.

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early August. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

Guest Blogger Jane M. Tucker: Praise Ye the Lord! In Celebration of Hymns

When I spend my daily time with the Lord, I like to incorporate sacred music in my worship. Sometimes I look up a current-day worship song on YouTube, but I find the very act of picking up my phone distracts me from my purpose. More often, I turn to an old hymnal for inspiration.

Many hymns, such as “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and “Be Thou My Vision”, anchor my faith in its deep childhood roots. I sing these hymns, and I’m once again standing with the congregation while organ music swells around us, repeating the same words our ancestors once sang. I sing those beloved old tunes boldly to the Lord, my unremarkable voice reverberating in my empty living room.

I don’t always sing from my hymnal. Sometimes I run across an unfamiliar hymn, whose tune I can’t decipher without help. On those days I content myself with reading the verses aloud. Many a hymn started life as a heart-stirring poem before it was ever set to music. Consider the fourth verse of “O Worship the King”:

“Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender! How firm to the end!
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.”

Are you looking for inspiration for your personal worship times? Consider dusting off your old hymnal (or buying one second-hand—they’re cheap these days). Hymns are a treasure trove of faith-filled thoughts.

May the hymns of the past bless your worship time today!

“O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.”
Psalm 95:1 NASB

*Do you have a favorite hymn or worship song? Won’t you share it with me in the comments?

Here are a few hymn titles to start with:

“Come Thou Almighty King”
“Crown Him with Many Crowns”
“When Morning Gilds the Skies”
“Holy, Holy, Holy”
“Amazing Love”
“Christ the Solid Rock”
“Praise Ye the Lord, The Almighty”

*Photo by Michael Maasen on Unsplash

Jane M. Tucker is a lifelong writer and reader with a deep love for the art of storytelling. Her Midwestern roots inspire the stories she tells, both in her books and on two blogs: Postcards from the Heartland, and Midwest Almanac. Jane is the author of the Lottie Braun series, about an Iowa girl with a big gift for music, and the sister she loves with all her heart. Lottie’s Gift and Lottie’s Hope are available at Amazon.com and Crossrivermedia.com.


Follow Jane on social media:

Website: JaneMTucker.com
Facebook: Jane M. Tucker Author
Twitter: @JaneMTuckerAuth
Instagram: JaneMTucker

From Cheryl:

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early May. One lucky subscriber will receive a $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and my Wedding Inspiration cards check out my Books/My Work page.

Guest Blogger Julie Gillies: Let’s Choose Brave


I’d like to welcome writer friend and author Julie Gillies to my blog today as she shares an excerpt adapted from her recently released book From Hot Mess to Blessed. I’ve already read the book and it’s filled with biblical wisdom, encouragement, and hope. I pray Julie’s words bless you today!

Let’s Choose Brave

Bravery has ripple effects. We rarely consider this (at least I don’t) because we’re so caught up in the everyday and the here and now. Life’s daily battles are intense, and sometimes it’s all we can do to remain focused and keep plowing forward. Yet our courageous choices act as a gleaming machete, slicing a path through the thick jungle of fear that entangles and trips.

Choosing brave helps us fully believe and embrace and pursue God’s promises while inspiring those around us and making a way for those behind us.

A key component in learning to embrace bravery is praying brave prayers—prayers that focus less on avoiding fear or keeping fear away from us and more on courage and confidence and holy mettle. Though we might not always feel fearless, by praying for specific qualities from Scripture, we can fear less.

– Instead of praying that fear will be far from us, we can pray for strong, bold, and very courageous hearts (see Joshua 1:9) when fear comes near.

– Instead of asking God to remove all the sources of fear in our lives, we can pray for His grace to run toward the big, scary things with great courage (see 1 Samuel 17:48).

– Instead of praying that fear will leave us alone, we can pray that when we are afraid, we will have confidence and put our reliance on God (see Psalm 56:3).

– Instead of asking God for all fear in our lives to vanish, we can pray that His peace that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus—and supersede all fear (see Philippians 4:6-7).

– Instead of feeling alone and fearful, we can pray to consistently remember God is with us, and we don’t have to fear. King David declared, “The Lᴏʀᴅ is for me, so I will have no fear” (Psalm 118:6 ɴʟᴛ).

I think I need to write the above verse on a Sticky Note and attach it to my forehead. If I had it my way, I’d never wrestle with fear again. It would be completely and permanently eradicated from my life (Can I get an amen?). But this side of eternity, I don’t know how realistic that goal is. I think we will all have times when we must battle fear, but it is always for a purpose.

Facing down fear teaches us how to engage the enemy, to fight, to stand, and to prevail. So be beautifully clothed in His mighty strength and the holy dignity He lavishly provides. Laugh without a care, free from fear’s taunts and digs. I see us—hot messes though we may yet be—laughing beautiful, musical laughs, heads tossed back, and hearts lifted toward heaven because we have nothing to fear.

This is an adapted excerpt from the book, “From Hot Mess to Blessed: Hope to Propel Your Soul and the Promises that Change Everything”, Harvest House Publishers 2017. Used with permission.

*Question from Cheryl: What situation in your life is God calling you to choose brave for today?

Julie K. Gillies is the author of From Hot Mess to Blessed: Hope to Propel Your Soul and the Promises that Change Everything and the devotional, Prayers for a Woman’s Soul. Healed from a traumatic childhood, Julie’s message helps women pray, know, and believe God’s Word. Julie is the joyful wife of Keith, mom of two soldiers and one civilian, and Grammy of four. She loves bicycling , any day without humidity, and hanging out with the entire family at home, especially on days when her house is clean. Find FREE resources and connect with Julie at www.JulieGillies.com .

*Photos courtesy of author.

Guest Post: The Pruner’s Knife

I’m thrilled to share a guest post by my dad, Duane Hoy, today. He is eighty-three years young and has known the Lord since age twelve. May his insightful words and message bless you in a special way today!

The Pruner’s Knife

As I sit at my breakfast table and look out the sliding glass doors, I’m able to look a few feet beyond my patio and see my new young Royal Star magnolia.

It is not to be confused with other large varieties of magnolia trees. It is more naturally a bush but can be trained to grow more like a tree by cutting all but the strongest trunk and letting it grow like a small tree. It’s a very early bloomer being covered with snowy pure white blooms, this spring starting in mid-February.

My landscaper planted mine a year ago in the spring after I spotted it at a nursery in west Tulsa on the other side of the Arkansas River.

My heart was immediately set on getting one for my backyard, fulfilling a very long-held desire. I enjoyed three wonderful weeks of glistening snow-white blooms this last spring.

I am so wonderfully reminded of a beautiful individual who had a small to medium size Royal Star magnolia in his backyard.

Bro. John Howard and his wife Grace lived in a small block house on N. Grand in Pittsburg, KS, where our young family had moved in the early 1960s.

After thirty years of missionary service in India, Bro. John and Grace came back home to Pittsburg. He never owned a car but walked his routes in  Pittsburg, still being a missionary for another thirty years.

A very kind and gentle man, he would walk to our house way out on the north end of town to pay a short visit and pray for us and especially our four little girls—that they would develop into the godly women they are today. Then I would drive him back home. Needless to say, he was indelibly printed on my heart in a forever way.

As I observed my magnolia a few weeks after its blooming, I noticed the new growth was coming out in more of a horizontal direction. As it is yet only four to four and one half feet tall, I wanted it to grow in an upward direction, so I took the sharpest blade on my knife and made several studied cuts, removing the end growths on some limbs, hoping for the best. Some weeks later here in mid-June with plenty of rain, quite a bit of new growth is flourishing. Sure enough it is reaching in an upward direction.

This caused me to reflect on my own life and maybe you too have experienced some difficult circumstances, ones that might cause us to wince and cry out in pain.

Could it be that our master gardener is seeking some upward growth in our lives, reaching up to Him?

“‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener . . . every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.’” John 15:1-2 NIV

How has God used his pruner’s knife in your life lately?

The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*My photo