“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus …” Romans 3:23-24 (ESV)

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter celebration, even if it was on the quiet side due to social distancing. Our family usually celebrates with a huge dinner. One of the highlights is the Easter Egg hunt for the grandchildren where we all take great delight in cracking cascarones (confetti eggs) on each others’ heads. Even the adults get in on the fun, and if someone is a newbie—well, they get a double dose.

None of that happened this year. But Easter is the time of year Christians hear a lot about the term justification. Spiritually speaking, it has to do with how we stand before a holy God. A different definition, justifying margins, has to do with how the text of a document is aligned. As is often the case, the two definitions are linked.

We could say, justify has to do with how we line up with God. Are we straight with Him?

Certainly not by our own efforts. We’re only straight with God because of Christ’s sacrifice. Because of our sin, and there’s no one who hasn’t sinned, we’re not good enough to stand before a holy God.

Actually this flies in the face of secular thinking. Lots of folks want to believe that we’ll go to heaven if we’re good enough. But who decides “good enough”? You? Me?

The truth is, God’s standard is the final authority. And God says all have sinned.

Another popular lie is that passage to heaven is contingent on how big the sin is or how often we do it. But this faulty logic is more like wishful thinking in disguise. None of that matters to God.

God set the standard for sin, but He loved us so much, He made a way so we could be justified. We can line up and be straight with God for all eternity.

This is why we celebrate Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection. Jesus never sinned, and God allowed Him to be the perfect sacrifice. For us. So we could be justified before God. When God looks at us, He doesn’t see our sin, He only sees that Jesus took our place. He satisfied the law. What He did made everything line up. All we have to do is receive His gift.

Yes, I’m justified before God. It’s how God sees me and how I stand before Him.

But since the definition can get cumbersome, I have a shorter way to think of justification. Whenever I hear the term, my lips curve up in a smile.

Because of what Jesus did, it’s just as if I never sinned.  

Now that’s reason to celebrate!

Guest blog post by Mary Pat Johns


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The week began with perfect temperatures, a slight Mediterranean breeze, and palm branches cascading on a sunlight path, ushering Jesus’s triumphant ride into Jerusalem. Then, from the Passover feast to the crucifixion, an escalating storm unleashes, rewriting history and our very lives.

Look around the Passover table. Raised eyebrows and whispers question why Jesus washes their feet. In another surprising departure from tradition, Jesus passes one cup among the disciples. He says the wine represents His blood and the unleavened bread His body, but how is that possible? He’s sitting right there, isn’t He?

A chill skims the breeze on their walk into the Garden of Gethsemane, a place well known to Jesus and His disciples. The olive tree branches hang as eerie backdrops to soldiers accompanying a betrayer. A timeless foe creeps along the ground, rejoicing in the upgraded storm, scattering the disciples and dashing the hope of mankind.

The squall between Pilate and Herod halts with clean hands to clear the road for Jesus to Golgatha – the skull-shaped hill. And flogging stains their record for all eternity.

Simon attempts to pass through the area with his sons but is swept onto center stage, forced to carry the jagged, wooden cross. As gusts of wind whip around him, Simon looks into Jesus’s blood-stained face and sees His beaten body. The world slows, and the crowd and commotion blur as the Messiah’s love bathes him. No longer buried under the weight of the cross, Simon witnesses the innocence of the Lamb of God. His task completed, he and his boys remain at the foot of the cross.

Muscles bulge as a soldier wields his hammer, driving hand-forged spikes into the Creator’s hands and feet. Gale force winds echo excruciating pain, delivering blows to the hearts of disciples and Mary, the mother of Jesus. At the apex of the storm, darkness engulfs the land, the earth quakes, and the temple veil that has separated sinner from Savior splits.

Listen. The storm has passed. Love bursts through the horizon. The acrid aroma of Jesus’s blood mingles in the air with the sweet fragrance of forgiveness. The gates of hell cannot prevail and its captives are set free. See for yourself! The grave does not hold Him. He has risen! The Prince of Peace reigns eternal!

Jesus opens his nail-pierced hands to you and me. He offers the cup, His blood, and the bread, His body, a living sacrifice, and whispers “Peace, be still.”

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” (Matt. 28:5-6, NIV)

EASTER TREAT:  As a thank you for reading this post, please click on the following address. I promise this song will bless you!  🙂


By Amre Cortadino

To leave a comment, please click on the title above, Peace, be Still (Part 3), and scroll down.  Thank you!  🙂


We’ve entered an alternate universe where the TV show Monk is entirely relatable and toilet paper has enormous value. One news source says it’s inevitable – we’re all going to die, but the next says just wash your hands, keep them away from your face, and we’ll be fine.

A friend emailed about a possible tornado, and that night my husband and I experienced our first earthquake. As surreal as it sounds, we heard the earth groan.

Good to know raging storms are not new to our Lord. We can take comfort in the many Biblical examples showing how He quieted them.

Zacchaeus may have created his own storm. No one wants to pay taxes – not even then. But a tax collector for the Roman conquerors? Perhaps that’s why the crowd wouldn’t step aside for this short-statured man.

Did Zacchaeus wrong others? Maybe assess more taxes than he should and pocket the excess? Is that how he acquired his wealth? Let’s let him speak for himself. . .

Zacchaeus dresses the part. After all, he’s a wealthy, upper management government official. He enjoys his job and has a bright, secure future. His shingle says “Pay the Taxes or Else.” Who cares what storms it creates for others? He’s living the dream.

Then Jesus comes to Jericho. Since Zacchaeus can’t see Jesus over the crowd, he climbs a Sycamore tree. Why not? Think of it as a precursor to creative financing. He can conduct business from a high perch. These trees can grow 75’ to 100’ or taller. A Sycamore, known for providing shade with its six-inch leaves, also symbolizes hope and protection.

Did Zacchaeus climb in the tree only out of curiosity, or did he hope to hide from others? From the Lord?

Jesus jumps over these questions. He stops and calls Zacchaeus out of the tree, and the storm intensifies. Can you hear the thunder of whispers rumble through the crowd? Doesn’t He know who that man is? Why go to his house? Isn’t it just like Zacchaeus to hide in a tree?

Why did Zacchaeus offer to give away half of his possessions and pay back four times the amount he’d obtained by cheating? Maybe he was tired of his storm. He wanted to surrender. He wanted peace. Zacchaeus listens to Jesus. The only one who can restore calm in his life.

We can have peace in the most devastating storm because Jesus’s response remains the same.

Today, salvation has come to this house. (Luke 19:9a NIV)

By Amre Cortadino

To leave a comment, please click on the title above, PEACE, BE STILL (Part 2), and scroll down. Thank you!  🙂




Our world has changed significantly in the past few weeks. However, some things are true in any storm. Fear can overtake our common sense, but faith and prayer will see us through.

Our book club chose to read Ruth Graham’s wonderful book, Fear Not Tomorrow, God is Already There. I’m a fan! I am so thankful for her well-written, encouraging words of truth.  Funny how God brought this book into our lives “for such a time as this.”

While reading Ruth’s book, I listed all the storms Jesus calmed during His time on Earth and how they significantly changed the lives of those involved.

Consider the woman caught in adultery. In her day, adultery brought a storm of stones, but remember what happened to her? Jesus asked a simple question: who among you is without sin? Poof – the storm walked away with her accusers, and the woman was changed . . . her life completely altered by her Creator.

Jarius, a synagogue ruler, asked Jesus to calm a storm in his life. He needed Jesus to come heal his twelve-year-old daughter who was near death. Instead, on the way to Jarius’s house, another storm blew in.

A woman whose life was plagued by severe bleeding for twelve years believed if she touched Jesus, she’d be healed. Jesus stopped the procession to Jarius’s place and sought the person who had touched Him.

Didn’t He know who she was? Of course, He did! Maybe he drew her out from the crowd to acknowledge her existence and her faith. Since women were shunned and considered unclean during menstruation, we can speculate this woman couldn’t attend social gatherings for a dozen years. No doubt her friends were probably sick and tired of listening to her prolonged problem. When Jesus shone His spotlight on her, all that changed. Her faith and healing catapulted her into the public eye. Storm over.

In the meantime, Jarius’s storm escalated to a Category 5. His daughter died, but that didn’t deter his belief in Jesus. When Jesus entered the home, He dismissed the wailers and unbelievers, and raised the girl to life.

We’re experiencing a storm today – a nasty one – but stay tuned. Next week, during part two of Peace, Be Still, a short man will climb a tree and a squall will hit the Sea of Galilee. And Jesus will bring peace and hope into those storms, and ours too. Trust Him!

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt:19:26 NIV)

By Amre Cortadino

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My friend says that I am part of the sandwich generation. I have elderly parents that need help from time to time, and my children are young adults that still need a bit of guidance. I get “squeezed” from both sides of the bread. Add into my sandwich–keeping my faith nourished, a busy work schedule, family, bills, house cleaning, yard duties, and other assorted responsibilities–and the filling in my sandwich begins to get messy.

I was in the middle of a sandwich ooze when I went to a Lenten Coffee at church. Our speaker was a busy lady who hit the wall of busy-ness hard. She realized God didn’t make us to be superhuman. He made us to worship Him and go out into the world in His strength…not ours.

When our speaker read Psalm 103:13-14, I had an “Ah-Ha” moment.
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. “(NIV)

I had been trying to live life in my own strength, and when I was weary and life didn’t go as planned, I felt like a failure. What did I need to do when life went sideways, or sandwich toppings were laid on thick? I needed to seek God straightaway in prayer. Ask for God’s strength to get me through a busy schedule. Ask for His wisdom to know what took priority in my life. Ask for calmness of heart, so I wouldn’t sweat the small stuff that was beyond my control. I needed to “meet” God and put life into perspective.

I needed a reminder that I came from dust. I’m not Superwoman or Wonder Girl—except in the eyes of God who gave me life.

During this busy Lenten season, may we focus on Jesus and all that God has done for us. Jesus conquered death and gives us eternal life through His shed blood on the cross. We may have come from dust, but in Christ we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139: 14).

Guest blog by Barbara Britton

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We live at a time when tensions and fear run high. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) classifies the coronavirus as pandemic. In other words, the CDC believes this virus has spread across continents and possibly throughout the world. The U.S. has closed its borders to visitors from some foreign countries. Grocery stores can’t stock their shelves fast enough. The stock market recently has taken significant hits.

So what do we do?

Several years ago, before yoga, pilates, and the barre, the craze sweeping the health and fitness world had to do with core strength training—exercises to strengthen your midsection—your abdominal and back muscles. Why strengthen your core? A number of advocates say a stronger core promotes better balance and stability.

I suggest we go back to strengthening our core. That is, our core beliefs.

The Bible mentions the word fear approximately 500 times. On occasion its use describes the benefits of fearing (respecting, loving, trusting) God. Other times it encourages us not to fear but to place our trust in God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. (Prov.3:5 NLT)

We have no previous point of reference or historical data for the situation we’re currently facing. We can use good common-sense regarding hygiene (handwashing, covering a sneeze/cough, disinfecting surfaces), drinking water, and travel restrictions. However, there’s only one place our fears belong. Only one power alone can alleviate them.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  (Psalm 56:3 NIV)

David faced many fear-inducing situations, i.e., a bear, a lion, and a giant. So often he says he prayed and meditated on the Word of God. Consider this:

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:2 NIV)

The following words were penned long ago by someone God gave abundant opportunities to put aside his fear and strengthen his trust in Him. Moses wrote:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deut. 31:6 NIV)

It’s time to exercise our core beliefs. Do a search in the Bible for words of encouragement like trust, hope, or strength. I found one hundred references with the word strength without breaking a sweat (pardon the pun!). Another idea—listen to Christian songs with the word strength in them. Hint:  look up top ten Christian songs about strength on www.godtube.com.  May I suggest:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k47xB8eoT5g

Warning:  retaining our core beliefs may involve exercising facial muscles too. Smile. Not because we know what tomorrow holds, but we know who holds every one of our days, and we know He is faithful and just.

Blog post Amre Cortadino


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Heaven’s Standard Time

A friend and I chatted today about the time change this weekend. Just as different seasons affect some folks, resetting the clock does the same to others. Her husband is one of them. To spring ahead and fall behind presents a challenge for him.

Someday we’ll be on Heaven’s Standard Time! No clocks to change, just eternity to live! Isn’t that thrilling?


This whole time change debacle began years ago when Benjamin Franklin believed we were wasting light. In 1907, his notion of saving daylight caught on in England. The United States Congress saw its merits and instituted the Daylight Saving Time Act in 1918. The reason? To better utilize our resources – as Franklin had said.

Over the next several years, individual states adopted or repealed, honored or disavowed the act.

Then in 1966 Congress again passed legislation to permanently set standard time, giving individual states no choice in the matter. However, most of Arizona and Hawaii and some U.S. territories thumbed their noses at the law.

Would you believe? Even that law wasn’t the final be-all and end-all on this timely topic. In August 2005, the Energy Policy Act changed the particular Sunday and the month to observe saving our resources.

Thank God, His promises are based on His unchanging character, not convenience or any other factor.

The author of Hebrews packs the final chapter of the book with verses of encouragement. Here’s one of them:

Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Heb.13:8, NIV)

When everything around us is changing, even the time, we can stand firm on the fact that God never changes. He’s the same every time, every day, and every year. His love for us will remain always and forever.

Blog post by Amre Cortadino

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I read a post recently on proverbs31.org from January 7, 2020, “How to Amaze Jesus,” which put a new spark in my mind.

A centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant and said he knew Jesus could do it by just speaking the word. He knew Jesus didn’t need to come to his house, and the centurion didn’t feel he deserved for Jesus to come there.

And “Jesus was amazed.” (Matthew 8: 5-10 NIV)

God was amazed!

The writer of this post divided the amazement into three parts: the man’s humility, his selflessness, and his limitless faith in what Jesus could do.

That’s what I want to happen in my life. I want to amaze Jesus.

What can that look like in my writing?

Be humble. Any time I look at my writing and see something I really like, remember that it is a gift from God. It is by His hands writing the words along with mine. Talk about an amazing thought!

Be selfless. My goal is not to make money or to win the approval of others. My goal is to shine God’s love and hope into the lives of readers.

And have limitless faith?

This is tough, but it’s what I want to do. I want to open myself up to listen to the marvelous ideas and stories which God is able to give me.

I’ve been a Christian for a long time. None of these are new ideas for me.

But they’ve just lit a bright spark in me, and I have a God Who can keep them in the front of my mind.

Ephesians 3: 20-21 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”

Guest post by Kathy McKinsey


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Most mornings I sit in the living room with my cup of tea and spend time with God. I turn my phone on silent and make sure I won’t be interrupted. I keep a post-it note and pen close by to jot down inspirations after the meditation session. I close my eyes and focus on the Lord. While I draw in a deep breath, my mind drifts. During this time I feel God’s presence.

Then I begin to receive Divine revelation. Situations I didn’t realize were significant to me become apparent. Emotions I suppressed resurface. The Lord purges and percolates my whole being to reveal what’s truly important—from his point of view. I remember to send a card or an uplifting email to someone who needs it. As a writer, I receive downloads for sections of the book I am writing. I am honored and amazed that God provides me with insight. I just need to set aside time to be with him.

Spending a few minutes every morning with the Lord brings peace to my mind and soul. Christian meditation is beneficial to our overall well-being. So today, take a few minutes to meditate on the Lord.

I will meditate about your glory, splendor, majesty, and miracles. Psalm 145:5 (TLB)

Guest post by author Susan U. Neal


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As the sun made its appearance this morning, a song I hadn’t heard in years came to mind. I tried to remember the words . . . The sun shines bright on the old Kentucky home.

I left my Kentucky home in 2004 and moved farther south. The culture and people were not that different. The dialect was basically the same other than a few words here and there. Y’all quickly became part of my vocabulary instead of you all.

After living in East Tennessee for eleven years and embedding myself in the community, our family picked up and moved far north to Alaska. Being four thousand miles from the south meant everything was different. The weather, the food, and the dialect.

We have been here almost five years now, I have adapted to the culture. I eat differently, think differently, and live differently. Survival is at the forefront of my mind more than ever before. You don’t live in -60 temperatures without survival instincts kicking in.

According to my Alaskan friends, the one thing that hasn’t changed would be my southern accent.

It’s often they try to imitate me. Sometimes it comes out pretty good, other times not so much, but I laugh – thrilled at their attempt.

When my native friends occasionally sing or speak in their native tongue, I don’t always know what they’re saying but I think it’s beautiful.

Something I have found to be the same, wherever my journey has taken me, is the language of love. Love is universal and has the same characteristics wherever you are in the world. If I’m in a fly-in village far away from everything or in a bustling city, God’s love is present in a  warm embrace, spending time together, helping out a friend in need. Love is only a feeling until it is put into action. When we come together in unity and love we all speak the same language.

Guest post by Shelly Sulfridge


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