COUNT IT ALL JOY

The Apostle Paul was beaten, stoned, hungry, thirsty, shipwrecked, imprisoned, on and on. Each of these trials had nothing to do with a lack of faith, or righteousness, or sin in his life.

In fact, look at both Old and New Testament believers. Take a second glance at today’s news and at the lives of missionaries around the globe. God never promised our paths would be easy, but He did promise everything would work for our good and for His glory. That includes our suffering. He will turn ashes to beauty.

1 Peter 4:12-13 says, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;  but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”

You might ask, What’s so great about suffering? I echo your question! Why does it take the trying of our faith to produce fruit?

Let’s go back to the drawing board or, should I say, the field. It doesn’t take a trained eye to look at freshly mowed lawns, trimmed bushes, and pruned vines to see the benefits. What was once old and dead, is now aesthetically pleasing, with glorious blooms and room for new growth.

We need to look at ourselves from Heaven’s perspective. Pruned and ready to bear more fruit! Like gold, we are placed in the fire, so we more closely resemble the image of God (1 Peter 1:7). And because of God’s grace and love, we don’t go through the pruning, the pain, or the problems alone. He promised to always be with us (Matt. 28:20).

And, at the finish line, we’ll receive a crown and a mansion! Best of all, we’ll meet Jesus – the greatest joy of all!

By Amre Cortadino

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CROSS MY HEART

When it comes to TV shows, I have unique tastes. Korean dramas are my favorite for their romantic storylines. (Trust me. You get used to the subtitles.) And I love how sweet and often sappy this culture can be. Did you know even the 2018 winter Olympics in Pyeonchang featured some official merchandise with an affectionate little secret? Special gloves were designed in a dark blue color, but the thumb and index fingers were red. When you crossed the two red fingers in a V formation, it resembled a heart. In the country of South Korea, it’s a common show of endearment, and this adorable little gesture found its way into the games. Many television viewers around the world probably never knew when the athletes held their crossed fingers up to the camera it meant “I love you”.

Of course, God gave us the greatest example of love on Calvary, but what about the everyday valentines He sends us? A close parking space at the grocery store. A kind word from a colleague when we really needed it. An unexpected check in the mail. A gorgeous sunset that we zipped right past.

I wonder how many times I miss His message when I’m too busy worrying about tomorrow, or replaying what went wrong with today. God doesn’t always thunder. Oftentimes He whispers in that still small voice Elijah heard. But His love for us is unending. Better than any Korean drama or romance author could ever dream up. He’s our heroic knight who laid down His life to save us, but He’s also a gentle suitor—wooing our busy souls back to Him. I write this as an encouragement for all of us. Look for the finger hearts He’s sending our way. I promise they’re there!

(KOR/ENG) 2018 평창 마스코트 핑거하트 장갑 홍보 영상 | PyeongChang 2018 mascots-designed gloves for finger-heart – YouTube

By Guest Author Shannon Kent

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Shannon Kent’s new release, Valentine Decoy, is available on Amazon.

HIGH FIVES?

Imagine this: something as simple as a ‘high five’ has controversial origins. Did it begin as some form of a handshake? At one time, Magic Johnson said he was its originator. But women’s volleyball claims bragging rights for the up-top hand slap. Then, there are baseball players who contest they’d initiated this signature move.

What does it take?

Well, frankly, one hand and five fingers.

See the source image

What’s my point?

Glad you asked. The Bible mentions the number five a minimum of 300 times.

David picked up five stones.
There are five books of law in the Bible.
Of the ten commandments, the 1st five are about our relationship with God; the last five involve our relationships with others.
Deuteronomy is the 5th book of the Bible; its main theme is God’s covenant of love with Israel.
There were five types of offerings to God listed in the Old Testament.
The Holy Oil used to consecrate furniture in the tabernacle had five ingredients: myrrh, sweet cinnamon, sweet calamus, cassia, and olive oil.
The giant statue King Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream was composed of five materials.
Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves and two fish.

The 5th letter in the Hebrew alphabet, h or hei, is said to represent God’s grace and goodness; it is also the number signifying redemption that comes through the Messiah, Yeshua.

God never does anything without reason or value. When God created the birds and stocked the rivers and oceans on day five, He placed visual objects in the sky and in the waters to remind us of Him! Not what we made, but what He created for our enjoyment!

In John 1:16, God doubles down on His grace to us. “Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.”

Next time you high-five someone, take a look at your five digits. The ones God created—on purpose. For your good and for His glory. Then raise them up in praise to Him!

By Amre Cortadino

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ADVICE FROM AN OCTOGENARIAN

A friend sent me this along with a Christmas greeting.  I asked if I could repost it and he agreed but indicated the author is unknown. Hope you enjoy the humor and wisdom in these words.  🙂

“I asked a friend who has crossed 70 and headed into 80 what sort of changes he is feeling in himself? He sent me the following advice:
  1. After loving my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my children and my friends, I have now started loving myself.
  2. I have realized that I am not “Atlas”. The world does not rest on my shoulders.
  3. I have stopped bargaining with vegetable & fruit vendors. A few pennies more is not going to break me, but it might help the poor fellow save for his daughter’s school fees.
  4. I leave my waitress a big tip. The extra money might bring a smile to her face. She is toiling much harder for a living than I am.
  5. I stopped telling the elderly that they’ve already narrated that story many times. The story makes them walk down memory lane & relive their past.
  6. I have learned not to correct people even when I know they are wrong. The onus of making everyone perfect is not on me. Peace is more precious than perfection.
  7. I give compliments freely & generously. Compliments are a mood enhancer not only for the recipient, but also for me. And a small tip for the recipient of a compliment, never, NEVER turn it down, just say “Thank You.”
  8. I have learned not to bother about a crease or a spot on my shirt. Personality speaks louder than appearances.
  9. I walk away from people who don’t value me. They might not know my worth, but I do.
  10. I remain cool when someone plays dirty to outrun me in the rat race. I am not a rat & neither am I in any race.
  11. I am learning not to be embarrassed by my emotions. It’s my emotions that make me human.
  12. I have learned that it’s better to drop the ego than break a relationship. My ego will keep me aloof, but with relationships, I will never be alone.
  13. I have learned to live each day as if it’s the last. After all, it might be the last.
    I decided to share this for all my friends. Why do we have to wait to be 60 or 70 or 80, why can’t we practice this at any stage and age?”

Good perspective and a thought-provoking question to end this octogenarian’s advice. Because the author didn’t include his motivation for good or source of hope, allow me to share mine:

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them- he remains faithful forever. (Psalm 146:5-6, NIV)

Compiled by Amre Cortadino

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WAIT FOR WHAT?

Have you ever arrived early or on time for an appointment yet waited longer than expected? And then received no explanation for the delay? If yes, you can begin to understand Zacharias and Elisabeth’s dilemma.

Rumors circulated regarding their inability to conceive. Whisperers speculated about the sin or sins this couple had committed and perhaps persisted in. These naysayers didn’t have the benefit of reading what God said when He called Zacharias “righteous … walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6a, KJV). Folks based their blame on what they saw – a childless couple.

Since Zacharias and Elisabeth were “well stricken in years” (ouch!), the hope of having children had not only diminished, it lay crushed beneath their feet. Perhaps at this point in their lives, they no longer expected an answer to this prayer. They’d stopped asking for this blessing, this gift from the Lord. Why wait for something that won’t happen?

Sound familiar?

There’s a buzz phrase these days that has caught fire: but God. Yes! BUT GOD! Never early, never late, always right on time! Praise His Holy Name!

Not only is His timing perfect, He exceeds our expectations!

Would Zacharias and Elisabeth’s prayers have included, “and by the way, if you please, Lord, could our son be the forerunner and cousin of our Messiah?” Doubtful.

God’s word is replete with examples of many who grew old and tired, yet still waited for answers to their prayers. He not only answered but surpassed their requests:

What about Joseph who languished in prison for at least a decade? Waiting. Did God exceed his expectations? Yes! How else does a prisoner become second in command of a country?

How about David who likely spent his teens and twenties running and hiding while he waited for the fulfillment of God’s promise to him? Not only did he ascend to the throne, God calls David a man after His own heart!

Think of it! Not only did the Lord hear their first prayers, He heard their last!

Mind if I ask? Are you, like me, in the waiting room? Does it seem as if an inordinate amount of time has gone by, yet we’re still waiting? Is what we’re praying for worth the wait? Then, let’s continue to pray without ceasing.

Here’s a paraphrased version of Eph. 3:20-21 that I cling to: Forever, oh Lord, to You, because You have, You are, and You will do immeasurably more than all we could ever ask or imagine, according to Your power at work in us, be glory and honor forever and ever, Amen.

By Amre Cortadino

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TO WHOM ELSE?

Jesus gazed at the sparse crowd. “Everyone’s staying away.”

The exodus had started right after they challenged him. “Show us a sign. Our father Moses gave us bread in the wilderness.”

“The only sign you’re getting is from Jonah. He spent three days in the belly of a whale. If it’s bread you want, I am the bread of life.”

They scratched their heads and tried to catch him with words. As the argument heated up, the crowd thinned out.

Three days later, Jesus squinted at the twelve. “You guys leaving too?

Then glorious, motor-mouth Peter gave me one more reason to love him. “To whom else shall we go?”

Who else but Jesus? When he touched the hand of Peter’s mother-in-law, she got off her sick bed and made lunch for her gang of visitors. Then he said, “Throw your nets on the other side of the boat,” so Peter turned and hauled in fish until water sloshed over the gunnels. When Peter sank in the storm, he yelled, and Jesus yanked him up.

No one else. Only Jesus.

Speculation had it Jesus was John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or some other prophet.

“Forget them.” Businessman Peter cut through the chatter. “You’re the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” No one else.

Yes, Peter told the soldiers he’d never known “that man.” But then to whom else could he go? Regret. Bitter weeping.

When Mary cried, “They stole Jesus’ body,” John-boy won the race and peeked in, but gray-haired Peter lumbered up beside him, knees creaking, side shrieking.


He stared into the tomb. Was Jesus in there? He shouldered John aside. Where else would he go?

By guest author David Parks

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Dear Younger Self…

Dear Younger Self,

Much has happened in past decades. While busy raising children, building businesses, and caring for your parents, you had little time to focus on your own health, let alone the health of our country.

I know you regret not praying for our leaders and upholding the Judeo-Christian values that established our nation.
But can you now sit by in silence while a Christian minister includes a foreign, man-made god at the 117th United States Congress? While the name of Jesus is omitted at the conclusion of his “talk” and a mockery is made of the word Amen (so be it)?
Younger self, why didn’t you object when highly-paid representatives of the law dallied with gender politics and not the welfare of ‘we the people’? While children are murdered, while a blind eye serves the mentally ill, and while the streets fill with sex and drug traffic?
If not now, when will you remember that God is not mocked (Gal.6:7)? Though He had patience and sent warnings, His punishment in days of old for the same sins we Americans perpetrate – the murder of babies and the worship of pagan gods – came at a captivating price.
… many of you know I’m an aspiring author. This letter to my younger self may have caused career suicide. So be it. God’s word says He is for me, and therefore no one can be against me.
My Facebook friends number close to 900. Many are dear friends and classmates from NJ grammar and high school; CA neighbors and coworkers; VA neighbors; OR family and friends; ID neighbors, friends, and church-goers; and writing clubs locally and online.
If you choose to unfriend me, know that I love and respect you. You are and will always be in my heart – nothing will change that! Please know the Current Me will apply what Deitrich Bonhoeffer lived: to not speak is to speak; to not stand is to stand.
However, to the minister(s) who will dare to invoke the name of other gods in my house (the United States Congress) and/or other places where my forefathers toiled, fought, and died to lift high the name of the only Almighty God and preserve our nation’s freedom, you are on notice.
I will no longer abide invocation to any other name or prayer that does not close In Jesus Name. Amen
To the Anne Graham Lotzs, Priscilla Shirers, Franklin Grahams, Tony Perkins, Jack Hibbs, Charlie Kirks, Lee Strobels, Jonathan Kahns, Frank Tureks, Glenn Becks, Tony Evans, Kevin Sorbos, Kirk Camerons, and numerous American women and men of valor, preach it!
Cordially,
Erma Ullrey
(aka Amre Cortadino)

P.S. Though it is evening in America, your respectfully-submitted comments pro or con are welcome. Thank you. ❤

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TWAS THE WEEK AFTER CHRISTMAS…

Twas the week after Christmas, and all through the house,
Our spirits were lifted, our steps had a bounce.

Not the usual Christmas, our gathering small,
But the joy in our glad hearts could fill up a mall.

As we packed decorations, we had a bright thought,
We’d keep Christ in Christmas, not just things store-bought.

We’ll ring in the new year, grateful indeed,
To serve the dear Savior in both words and in deed.

Because Christmas is more than a date on a page,
It’s more than a Santa or plays on a stage.

Christmas reminds us of the birth of our Savior,
His sacrifice treasured more than gifts in a manger.

Throughout this new year, we’ll live with His love,
And worship Jesus, God’s plan from above.

The simple message of John 3:16 still rings clear and true. God’s abundant love compelled Him to give His one and only son so that when we believe we’ll have life everlasting!

By faith
Eternal
Life
Is
Easily
aVailable to
Everyone

Free!! To all who will believe (Romans 6:23).
God bless you and Happy 2021!!

By Amre Cortadino

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THE GREATEST SEARCH

The Gospel of Luke is the perfect book to read, especially in December. With just twenty-four chapters, one a day completes the entire book on Christmas Eve. Luke the physician expounds on the life of Christ in thoughtful, succinct prose. However, even a cursory glance reveals Luke is no bystander. He is a believer. He has lived what he penned.

In the opening chapters, Luke identifies people in search of God:
Angels prompted shepherds to search Bethlehem for baby Jesus;
Wise men saw the star and set out on a journey to find the promised king;
Though he failed, Herod unleashed his troops to hunt and kill the Christ child.

Skip ahead two thousand years. Do wise men still search for the Messiah? Yes, and through God’s design, the search still leads to Jesus.

To his agnostic surprise, Frank Turek became a Christian in his early 20s (https://crossexamined.org/dr-frank-turek/);
An atheist of Jewish heritage, Lee Strobel plunged into a journalistic investigation that led him to surrender his life to the Messiah at age 30 (https://leerstrobel.com/biography/);
And William Murry, pastor and son of atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, began living for Jesus at age 34 (https://fundamentalbaptistchristian.blogspot.com/2011/04/testimony-of-pastor-william-murray.html)

Throughout time, the search for Christ has led ordinary people to live extraordinary lives. Because when we search for Him with all our hearts and souls, we find Him. (Deuteronomy 4:29)

As we learn in Luke, Jesus came to seek us! Way back in Genesis, God began His pursuit:
He searched for Adam in the Garden of Eden;
He spoke to Moses from the burning bush;
He called Abram from his father’s house;
Jesus asked twelve fishermen to follow Him;
He summoned Zacchaeus the tax collector from his hiding place in a tree.

God’s search didn’t end with Jesus’ death on the cross. Far from it. Jesus rose from the dead. And because He lives, we’re offered eternal life! The baby in the manger came to sacrifice once and for all to blot out our sins. God’s pursuit of us, the greatest search, includes our rescue!

By Amre Cortadino

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THE BELLS LONGFELLOW HEARD

Penned from his own anguish, Longfellow’s faith emerged victorious. I pray that as we hear the Christmas bells, we acknowledge all the Lord has done for us. And from grateful hearts, we share His love with others.

May this story warm and stir your heart…

On Christmas Day in 1863 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow continued to grieve the death of his beloved second wife Fannie who had died two years prior when her housedress caught fire. Longfellow himself tried to extinguish those flames with his own body but Fannie did not survive the accident. Because of his burns, Longfellow couldn’t attend the funeral.

During the subsequent two years Henry’s oldest son would enlist in the Union army to fight in the Civil War. On December 1 of that year, Henry would receive a telegram that his son had been shot during a battle of the Mine Run campaign. The location of the exit wound from the bullet would put his son at risk of being paralyzed.

This widowed father of six exhibited deep concern for his children, his country, his very life while cannons thundered in the south. It’s hard to imagine exactly what he felt when he heard the bells tolling on that Christmas Day. We know this wasn’t Longfellow’s first epic poetic endeavor. But, at this time of year, maybe even especially this year, we can put aside the hurts and hardships, and glide above the layers of morass, and choose hope and faith – just as Longfellow had done.

Please enjoy his music and poem. God bless you.

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