SCATTERED

My daughters are young mothers with five little girls between them. Recently, both of them deleted their Facebook accounts. They decided to “social distance” from “social media” and detach from the divisive diversions of mass culture. My youngest daughter described social media as making her feel scattered.

That resonated with me. My life, like yours, has been interrupted by a pandemic. Yet, with an abundance of alone time, I too am more scattered than ever. You think it would be the opposite. But a quick glance at social media often turns into a lost hour or two, and most the time it makes my blood pressure rise. And honestly, I’ve let it fracture my writing and quiet time.

Multiple studies link heavy social media usage with an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. The list of mental health issues caused by living under the stress of Covid-19 reads the same. Many of us are having a really difficult time right now, and we seem to compound it by getting sucked into the noise the world is making.

Now, more than ever in our lifetime, we need to be diligent, and awake to the difference between information and wisdom.

Zechariah tells us: Smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered. I believe that is what is happening. The enemy is working overtime devising devious ways to smite our Shepherd. Satan is creating so much noise, from anarchist mobs, to constant attacks on conservative values, and even silly divisions over our right to wear a mask or not.

All distractions designed to scatter us from our Savior.

Luke 24 teaches about two disciples of Jesus who walked to a village called Emmaus three days after the crucifixion. Cleopas, and his unnamed companion, with sand crunching under their sandals, conversed and reasoned together. They were so preoccupied, so scattered by current events, that when a stranger asked to walk with them, they didn’t recognize Jesus in their midst.

Conversely, Mary Magdalene watched Jesus die. She stood firm afterward while all other followers scattered. This steadfast expectation of what was to come showed her unwavering, devout discernment. She remained at the tomb, received the first visit from our risen Lord, and gave the other followers the good news. She stayed focused on the Shepherd, even when all seemed lost.

We have to show our own devout discernment more now than ever. We need to identify what scatters us, and realize its only tricksy noise the enemy is making. He’s trying to scatter us, make us betray our beliefs, and forget that we have a Shepherd that will lead us through it all.

I love this beautiful reminder by Helen Lemmel:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Guest post by author KD Holmberg

https://www.kdholmberg.com/
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THE GIFT OF FAITH

Last night I opened my bible and found myself at Hebrews 11. I’ve read and heard this taught on many times, “The Heroes of Faith” chapter.

Verse 6: And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

How can we obtain this necessary faith? I believe it is a gift from God.

Verse7A: By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.

Noah lived in a world so wicked, God determined to destroy everyone but Noah and his family. It had never rained on the earth before, but Noah believed that there would come a flood and built the ark as God directed. How could he have had such faith?

God takes our spark of faith, weak though it may be,  and grows it.

Matthew 12:20: A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.

Hebrews 11:11: And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.

Beginning in Genesis16, we read that both Abraham and Sarah laughed when God said they would have children in their old age. They even used another woman, Hagar, to bear a son to Abraham, because they didn’t believe at first that God would fulfill his promise. But in this chapter, they are counted among the heroes of faith because God gifted their spark of faith and increased it.

In Psalm 51, David begged for forgiveness, and expressed faith that God would restore him: Verses 11-12: Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Thank you, Lord, for honoring our attempts at faith and growing us stronger.

by guest author Kathy McKinsey

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A SECOND LOOK

‘Friends always show their love. What are relatives for if not to share trouble?” (Proverbs 17:17).

Sometimes we need to give a friend a second look.

Jimmy and I were three years old. He came to my house every day because my mother took care of him to help pay the bills.

We dug holes in the sand and ran through the grass and told each other our secrets. I loved telling Jimmy my secrets because they made him laugh. But one day I spoke when his back was turned, and he didn’t pay attention. So I told him again. When I still got nothing back, I yelled at him. Then I screamed.

After many tries, I realized Jimmy did not hear me or anything else.

Jimmy could not hear.

I dashed into the kitchen and grabbed my mother’s knees.

“Mommy! Jimmy can’t hear! Jimmy can’t hear!”

I buried my face in her skirt and shook her knees with my sobs. “Jimmy can’t hear, Mommy! Mommy? Jimmy can’t hear!”

A few months later, we moved to Michigan, and Jimmy stayed in Wisconsin. I never saw him again.

At 78, I’m almost as deaf as Jimmy was when we were three.

I wonder where Jimmy digs holes in the sand, who shares his secrets.

And I wonder how well do I know the friend who laughs beside me.

by guest author David Parks

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SEASONS OF THE SOUL

Ever wonder why the author of Ecclesiastes wrote. . .“to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven?” (Ecc. 3:1, KJV) What had he experienced that provoked such thought?

The author goes on to ponder the highs and lows and futility of life. After a significantly pessimistic conversation, light dawns. He recognizes God. God—the giver of life. The just judge.

Sometimes we glide through seasons with effortless grace. Thank God for each! Yet the seasons that draw us closer to God usually don’t  come from smooth sailing. They’re borne from times of desperation, loss, or tragedy. In those times, we question God. Much like the author of Ecclesiastes. Where is He while we’re in the “waiting room?” When we feel our prayers go unanswered. Our plans are derailed. While we’re sitting on the sidelines struggling, holding our breaths, and waiting it out.

The beauty of a song forged by heartache sometimes lies masked behind the strength of its title. It is Well with my Soul is one such song.

Horatio G. Spafford’s life surged from one heart-wrenching season into another. After losing a fortune in the Chicago fire of 1871, he and his wife planned a much-needed family vacation to England. No wonder he wrote the lyrics with such an encouraging title.

Not hardly. . .

While he concluded urgent business, his wife and their four daughters set out across the Atlantic.

Sometime after his family departed, Horatio received a telegram from his wife. A tragic shipwreck claimed the lives of his four girls.

One account asserts that as the ship carrying Horatio to England neared the place where his daughters perished, the lyrics to this song welled inside him. He didn’t give in to a season of despair. Instead, he gave us a song in the night. A song of victory.

Imagine such faith!

From this point, we’d prefer to think Horatio’s life went on in an idyllic manner. Heaped with blessings he couldn’t contain. . .

Several years later, his three-year-old son died of scarlet fever. Financial loss compounded unbearable grief. Then the community of believers Horatio worshipped with turned their backs on him.

What did Horatio do in this season?

He pressed closer to the Lord, initiating prayer meetings in his home. In fact, he and his wife were dubbed “the Overcomers.” He then established an American colony in Jerusalem, adopted a boy there, and by the time Horatio died of malaria, he was loved and respected by the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish community.

From seasons of suffering, Horatio proved that with firm faith in the Lord, It is Well with My Soul.

By Amre Cortadino

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REMEMBER THE INVITATION

When my hubby and I arrived at a “by invitation only” outdoor wedding years ago, he patted his pockets in vain. In our hurry to attend the ceremony, we’d left the invitation at home. Violin music drifted toward us through the wrought iron fence while we watched guests chatting and tuxedoed wait-staff circling with gleaming silver trays of hors d’oeuvres. Once my husband related that his sister was the bride, and his father was summoned, we breathed easy—a bit embarrassed but grateful to join the celebration.

After building the temple in Jerusalem, Solomon gathers the people of Israel for a celebration and prays to the Lord. He prophetically instructs his people on what to do when wronged, defeated by the enemy, and drought, famines, or plagues come. Then he outlines sins that separate us from God—and what to do about each of those.

At the end of his prayer, his tone changes and he addresses the Lord God Almighty. This is what Solomon asks:

Now arise, Lord God, and come to Your resting place, you and the ark of Your might. May Your priests, Lord God, be clothed with salvation, may Your faithful people rejoice in Your goodness. Lord God, do not reject Your anointed one. Remember the great love promised to David Your servant. (2 Chronicles 6:41-42, NIV)

Please don’t miss this. Solomon asks God to :

  • Come into the home he’d built
  • Clothe the priests with salvation
  • Let the faithful rejoice in God’s goodness
  • Approve of Solomon
  • Remember His great love toward his father David

When was the last time we welcomed the Lord into our country, our church, our town, our neighborhood, our homes?

Have we prayed for our pastors, missionaries, leaders, heads of household?

Rejoiced in God’s goodness rather than bemoaning our circumstances?

Realized the need/asked for His blessings on us?

Reminded God of His great love toward His people through the generations?

Look what happens next!

When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the offering and sacrifices, and . . . listen to this . . . the glory of the Lord filled the temple!

Want to see God’s glory? Want it to fill not only the place where we worship but our very lives?

Through His shed blood, Jesus extends the invitation and calls for a response. Let’s do what Solomon did so long ago – invite God in.

By Amre Cortadino

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CAPABLE

Does the name Obed-Edom sound familiar?

First Chronicles records genealogies. Lots of them. And every once in a while, an amazing nugget of truth pops up. This one would make Indiana Jones eat his heart out!

Obed-Edom was first mentioned in 2 Samuel. Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark of the Covenant and God displayed his wrath against him. Yet, Obed-Edom stored the Ark in his home for three months and God blessed him and his family.

Ever wonder why God seemingly blesses some folks and not others? Let’s be honest – ever wonder why God blesses them and not us? Aren’t we just as deserving, faithful in our walk with the Lord, and every bit as humble? After all, how much would it hurt if the limelight occasionally shone on us?

Maybe those thoughts hummed through Uzzah’s mind when he felt he needed to prevent the Ark from toppling.

That’s when everyone ran and hid. Everyone but Obed-Edom. He opened his front door and hollered, “Sure, bring it on in.”

Imagine what the neighbors thought! For Sale By Owner signs popped up everywhere.

God knew Obed-Edom was the right curator for the Ark, the symbol of His presence. He blessed Obed-Edom with eight sons and numerous grandsons. In fact, his sixty-two heirs became temple gatekeepers. The Bible says “…they and their sons and their relatives were capable men with the strength to do the work…” (1 Chronicles 26:8, NIV)

God knows our hearts. David asked God in Psalm 139 to search his heart.

When God looks inside us, will He find us grumbling, seeking the praise of men, or capable of serving with the strength that only comes from joy in Him?

Written by Amre Cortadino

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STARS and STRIPES FOREVER

An interesting story exists regarding William Driver, whose early years were less than stellar. In fact, he ran away from home instead of going to Sunday School. However, at age twenty-one, he was promoted to captain of a ship bound for the South Pacific. His mother and wife made him a flag, which he proudly hoisted on the mast. At the sight of his flag unfurling in the breeze, he exclaimed, “Old Glory.” Captain Driver served his country well, and his words became an affectionate nickname for our flag.

On July 4th, many Americans enjoy picnics in the park, family barbecues, fireworks, and display flags to commemorate our independence from England. The people of the United States of America have endured many hardships—wars, diseases, natural disasters, financial and economic downturns, civil unrest, and terrorism—to name a few. In recent years, our flag, a symbol of freedom, has come under attack.

Our founding fathers envisioned a country based on “liberty and justice for all,” a detail incorporated in our Pledge of Allegiance.

The colors and symbols carry the same meaning from the first to the current flag. The brilliant field of blue represents justice and perseverance. Fifty stars, one for each state of the union, gleam as bright as those in the heavens, placed by God’s design. Thirteen bold red stripes symbolize valor and courage, honoring the original colonies.

America’s flag stands for the hope of a new nation—perseverance, innocence, and purity—and the promise of justice and freedom.

Have we as a nation achieved the ideal of “One Nation Under God?” Not by a long shot. Wrapped in human frailty, we miss the mark.

But the God who created the vast blue skies, who secured the twinkling stars in the heavens, and who sent His son to bear our stripes, beckons. If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV)

God bless America, and may we ever remain the land of the free and the home of the brave.

By Amre Cortadino

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ONLY BELIEVE

“Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.” (Luke 8:50, 52-53, NIV)

Jesus had just healed a demon-possessed man in Gerasenes, an occasion that should have been marked with great celebration. Instead, the people of that region “were overcome with fear” and asked Jesus to leave! (Luke 8:37, NIV)

Fast forward and Jesus is now in Jairius’s home. This synagogue ruler’s daughter was gravely ill and died while Jesus was en route. Wouldn’t you think that when Jesus explained the girl was just sleeping, the crowd would have rejoiced?

These Galilean’s had a similar reaction to the Gerasenes. But this time, instead of Jesus leaving, he sent the mockers away.

So, why would Jesus need to tell Jairius not to be afraid? After all, Jairius himself asked Jesus to come heal his daughter. He was there when the woman with a twelve-year long blood disorder was healed. He saw Jesus’s healing power. Didn’t he?

Though accounts vary, the Bible mentions “fear” more than 300 times. Then, as well as now, fear plays a major role in our lives. Fear inhibits our ability to believe. Until Jairius believed Jesus, his daughter continued to sleep.

Notice what Jesus said . . . “she will be healed.” He didn’t say maybe, might, let’s hope. His words demonstrated that fear and belief oppose each other. He punctuated the promise of healing—if we’ll just believe.

Put yourself in Jairius’s shoes. If seeing is believing, his only, beloved child looked lifeless. Looking at our own situations today, things look impossible. Hopeless. No wonder the Bible addresses fear so many times. We need supernatural strength.

God can heal our lands. He can heal our homes. He can heal our minds. He can  heal our bodies. He can heal our finances.

Can we just believe?

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:25, NIV)

Like this verse, the chorus below emphasizes the power of God. When we only believe.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Only+Believe+Chorus&FORM=VDMHRS

By Amre Cortadino

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THE PLEASURE OF THE KING

“I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:38,  NIV)

Jesus said this about his cousin, John the Baptist. Within days, John’s head would be sawed from his body.

For the pleasure of a king. A man who lived to gratify himself.

Our King is like no other king!

You and I will enter Heaven’s gates, we’ll glimpse Jesus and fall to our knees, and cast our crowns at His feet. And worship. Worship the One who set us free. Worship the One who paid the price. Worship the only One worthy to be praised.

For all eternity we will worship the Lamb of God who traded a palace for a manger, who suffered humiliation and pain like no other.

For the pleasure of the cross. And who will stand with arms wide open to welcome rescued sinners.

Lyrics to a popular song says, ”You didn’t want heaven without us”—a truth this side of Heaven none of us can fully grasp. Unconditional, selfless love isn’t modeled for us in our world today, so how could we know the depths of what God’s love did for us? But we can accept, believe, and live our lives each day…

For the pleasure of our King.

Below is a link to, “I Can Only Imagine,” a song that beautifully captures some of our thoughts about Heaven. I pray you’ll worship King Jesus as you enjoy the music.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=i+can+only+imagine&docid=608008420731912957&mid=B4A10ACFE804D786CAFFB4A10ACFE804D786CAFF&view=detail&FORM=VIRE

By Amre Cortadino

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THE SOUL OF AMERICA

These are the times that try men’s souls. This quote comes from The American Crisis, a collection of articles written by Thomas Paine in an effort to encourage the American Revolutionary Army. America has gone through a number of crises and, during these times, history records Americans asking for divine help.

Americans observed a National Day of Prayer on May 7, 2020. Again on May 26, 2020, Anne Graham Lotz invited American women to pray for one hour. And while we are thankful for these nationwide calls to prayer, we can “come boldly before the throne of Grace” any day, time, or place, seek the Lord, and ask for His help on behalf of our country, our leaders, our souls.

May this prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi humble our hearts and turn to Him.

By Amre Cortadino

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