Guest Blog

When You Are Feeling Gray

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By Denise Loock | January 25, 2019

The skies are gray today. Snow flurries blur the landscape outside the window. Temperatures hover in the mid-teens. The cold creeps through the soles of my shoes and my wool socks—the price I pay for working at my desk, which sits on the floor above our house’s crawl space.

A winter chill blows through my soul too. Financial concerns, family issues, work problems—their icy flakes drift through my mind, blurring my perspective, my focus.

Help, Lord.

Almost immediately a verse comes to mind, one I learned as a child: “In the world,  you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NKJV). Jesus spoke those words to his disciples the night before his crucifixion. I repeat them—once, twice, three times.

How right you were, Lord. In this world, we have tribulation. People I love receive cancer diagnoses. Others get laid off at work. People I don’t know die in terror attacks, drive-by shootings, home invasions, and car accidents. Thousands of refugees flee their war-ravaged homelands. Floodwaters swamp homes and lives. Fires consume buildings and livelihoods. Oh yes, in this world we have tribulation.

Fortunately, our compassionate Savior didn’t leave his disciples in that troubling frame of mind. He added, “But be of good cheer.”

A half-smile pulls at the corner of my mouth. There’s always a “but” with you, Lord. Hours away from an excruciating death yourself—a horrifying event that would bring devastating grief and bewilderment to your disciples—you looked them straight in the eye and said, “Be of good cheer.”

Was there a twinkle in Jesus’s eye when he said it? He knew the grief that would overwhelm his beloved followers, but he also knew the joy that would follow three days later.

“Be of good cheer” is an old-fashioned expression. Most modern Bible translations use “take courage” or “take heart.” It’s not a matter of putting on our happy-face mask to hide our grief-ravaged soul. The word cheer is related to the Greek words for boldness, confidence, and hope. We might use encourage or edify. In essence, Jesus was saying, “Don’t allow tribulation of any kind to dismay or defeat you. I’m more powerful than all of it—even death—so you can remain full of confidence, hope, and peace no matter what happens.”

How do we reach and stand firm on that solid ground? We cling to these truths God gave us in the Bible:

• Our destination is heaven (Revelation 2:7).
• We will live forever with God (Revelation 2:11).
• Jesus will provide delectable, satisfying spiritual food to sustain us (Revelation 2:17).
• Jesus will give us a new name, reflective of who we are in Christ (Revelation 2:17).
• Jesus will give us whatever authority and power we need (Revelation 3:5).
• Jesus will proudly list our accomplishments one day (Revelation 3:5).
• We will reign with Jesus (Revelation 3:21).
• We will lack nothing in heaven (Revelation 3:21).

Gray days will come. But we can prevent them from overcoming us. We belong to the Overcomer. Listen to his words: “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace” (John 16:33 MSG).

So be of good cheer, sister. You are an overcomer too.

Next Step: Read the passages from Revelation listed above. Which one is most impactful? Write it on a sticky note or index card and memorize it.

For more inspiration and encouragement visit Denise at

How Unanswered Prayer Became A Christmas Miracle

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By Debbie W. Wilson | December 24, 2018

What if I told you unanswered prayer can be a sign of God’s favor? You might argue that since biblical days many have taught the opposite: if you’re still sick or God has closed your womb, then you’ve fallen from grace.

What if I told you the Bible shows the reverse can be true?

In the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, one line spoken by Elizabeth, after she became pregnant, speaks volumes, “‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people’” (Luke 1:25 NIV).

The Jews believed Elizabeth’s barrenness represented God’s punishment for some hidden wrong. For decades, Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron and a priest’s wife, felt disgraced among her people.

From our perspective, we know that wasn’t the case. Their unanswered prayer wasn’t because of God’s displeasure. It was a sign of His special favor.

The Bible says that Zechariah and Elizabeth were both “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old” (Luke 1:6-7 NIV).

In their culture, those two verses didn’t fit together. If you were righteous in God’s sight, you weren’t barren. But Elizabeth was righteous—and childless.

What people saw as a disgrace, in reality, represented God’s special favor. God had not overlooked Elizabeth. He had chosen her for a special honor. He wanted her to raise the forerunner of the long-awaited Messiah!

When the angel told Zechariah that God had answered his prayer, I imagine Zechariah scratched his head. What prayer? Since they were both very old, I’m sure they hadn’t prayed for a child in ages! Listen to the angel’s words:

“But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13-17 NIV).

Wow! If God had appeared to Elizabeth when she was young and contrasted her plan with His, which one do you think she would have chosen? Would she have chosen to fulfill her friends and family’s expectations by having an ordinary child at the expected age? Or would she have chosen to be a part of the miracle of Christmas? Would she have chosen to be the mother of John the Baptist whom Jesus described: “among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11 NIV)?

Perhaps God has not answered your prayer the way you wanted. From the perspective of time, we can see God’s plan for Elizabeth was better than her own. Will you trust Him with your desires too?

When we walk with God and our circumstances indicate God has turned a deaf ear to our prayers, let’s remember Elizabeth. God’s answer to Elizabeth’s prayer is one more reason to trust Him with unanswered prayer.


The Greatest Gift Ever Received

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Amy Bryant | December 23, 2018

Christmas Eve is almost here. It’s a time to be thankful for the most needed, most costly, most sought after (whether we realize it or not), and most precious gift…. His name is Jesus.


I’m sitting here by my lit tree gazing at my decorated mantle with a warm fire going. Cozy sounding isn’t it? From my chair, when I look to the right I’m eye level with one of my favorite ornaments. It’s a handmade one I’ve had for 18 years, but represents 23 years of friendship with one of my oldest and dearest friends Audrey. (Oh the stories she could tell!) Picture a round, shiny, red ball with sparkly beads clustered all around the top. On the side in silver paint pen she wrote Luke 2:19 (But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.) The gift tag is still on it with the message, “it is my greatest prayer that you ponder who Jesus is.” What a great prayer and challenge to me. Audrey is younger, but has encouraged, taught, and challenged me from day one. (You never know who God will use to mentor you in life!)


Sometimes the holidays can challenge even the strongest of hearts—awkward family situations, aching loneliness seems to intensify in a season like this, or the last month of the year is such a busy whirlwind we can’t remember what we did yesterday much less slow down to ponder Jesus. Why do you think that is? Why in a season where we should celebrate Him most, do we slow down to ponder and treasure Him the least? I think it’s because the enemy knows Jesus is the only answer to each one of our fears, longings, or heartaches—so of course, he strives to busy and distract us from the true Prince of Peace.


There have been times in my life that were so dark and my heart was so heavy, that honestly, I had no energy for bible study or a heart receptive to a sermon. In those seasons, I’ve found that the only thing I can do is ponder Jesus…His nature: the way He lived, the way He loved with action, the way He spoke truth in love, the way He comforted the hurting, the way He challenged the hard of heart, the way He forgave, the way He healed the sick, the way He treated the “least of these”, the way He trusted His Father and kept the covenant of God. It’s hard to ponder all that Jesus did and not taste a little hope. (Taste and see that the Lord is good! Psalms 34:8)


So today and this entire season my objective is simple…I’m going to ponder Jesus. What accounts from scripture about Him come to mind? What is one (or some) of my favorite things about Him? What would He say to me if we sat down for a cup of coffee and how would He say it? Whatever the answer to these questions are for you don’t keep them to yourself!


And just like every child around the world that can’t stop thinking about that one gift on their Christmas list with great anticipation…may we never stop pondering and treasuring our Gift. His name is Jesus.

Christmas Tradition

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By Kolleen Lucariello | December 22, 2018

“I’m considering making a change to our Christmas pajama tradition.” As the words tumbled out of my mouth, the slight shake of her head informed me of her thoughts before she uttered, “Mom, don’t mess with our family traditions.” As one who delights in tradition—I’d love nothing more than to leave it alone—however, as comfortable as I may be with our family traditions, there are going to be moments when they must be messed with.


Pat and I found it necessary to mess with tradition the year his work schedule forced us to remain home for Christmas. While Pat and I allowed our thoughts to dwell on what we knew we were missing with extended family in our hometown, our kids were thrilled to be home. They didn’t miss our annual dash from house-to-house. After a much-needed attitude adjustment, Pat and I realized that joy could be found in creating new traditions if we refused to get crabby when old ones were messed with.


After years of driving, we decided it was time to spend our Christmas’ with the kids in our home. This change made it possible for us to attend the Christmas Eve services at our church. After service, we’d follow friends to their home for a night of snacks, games, and a comical Christmas letter from Santa, penned by our oldest son, to their youngest daughter. When we arrived home, Christmas pajamas were waiting under the tree for us from a sneaky elf that somehow managed to slip away from the shop without too much grief from the other elves. We’d shuffle the kids off to bed, fill stockings, and place gifts under the tree in preparation for Christmas morning, which would arrive in just a few hours. Some of our kids’ favorite memories of Christmas came because we allowed tradition to get messed with.


It can be easy to cozy up to tradition. We found ourselves faced with more transitions as our children married, grandchildren were added, and the schedules of many needed to be considered just to get the family together. Whew! It wasn’t easy, and I’ve had a few, I-don’t-like-messing-with-tradition moments. However, in the midst of my “moment,” I’ve also discovered that tradition without flexibility becomes nothing more than stringent regulations of expectations. This creates tension, and frustration during what should be a season of hope, joy, and peace. Who wants that? “Not I,” says Mother Hen.


Back in the day, the religious leaders were challenged by Jesus’ seeming lack of respect for tradition. At one point asking Him, “Why do your disciples ignore the traditions of our elders?” Jesus’ response gives me a reason to pause and check my own heart. “Why do you ignore the commandment of God because of your tradition” (Matthew 15:1-3)? Ouch. The motto of, we’ve always done it this way, can push back hard against any offender trying to mess with tradition. If tradition causes me to ignore the commandment to love others, well, it might be time to reconsider the meaning of Christmas. When that happens, I become intentional about finding my way to the grace place. Here I can remind myself we are not celebrating tradition on Christmas Day; we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.


Perhaps you find yourself struggling during a season of transition and change. I pray you are able to offer grace, and flexibility, as you weave your way through every single moment. Don’t forget the angel’s announcement was, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10). Don’t lose your joy for the sake of tradition. Merry Christmas.



Celebrate His Goodness

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By Denise Loock | December 21, 2019

“They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 145:7

The creak of the door signaled Zechariah’s arrival. He’d been serving at the temple for two weeks. But he hadn’t called out a greeting. Was something wrong? Elizabeth hurried to welcome her husband.

“So glad you’re home,” she said. He smiled and opened his arms to embrace her. His grip seemed stronger, his kiss longer than usual.

As she stepped back, Zechariah pulled a small scroll from the sash of his tunic and handed it to her. Her heart pounded as she read the message. An angel had appeared to Zechariah in the temple … Elizabeth was going to have a child.

“What?” she cried. “But how…?”

Tears glistened as his grin broadened. He pointed heavenward, then lowered his hand, and tapped the scroll.

She read more—his inability to speak, the name to give their … son. She lifted her head and met his gaze. “Oh, Zechariah, after all these years … a son!”

She spoke the name, then its meaning: “John. Jehovah is gracious.”

Oh, yes, God had been gracious. A son. The gift they’d wanted so long.

Truly, Jehovah was a God of wonders.


Five months passed. Excitement built as the baby grew inside her. Some days Elizabeth couldn’t stop crying; on others, she couldn’t stop laughing. Soon after she first felt John move, she received word that her cousin, Mary of Nazareth, was coming for a visit. “News, unbelievable news to share,” the message said.

Elizabeth rubbed her belly. And I have news for you, dear cousin.

A few days later, Elizabeth was mending one of Zechariah’s linen ephods when a voice called out, “Elizabeth, where are you?”

When she stood, John jumped so forcefully that Elizabeth almost fell. Her breathing leveled just as Mary entered the room.

The cousins embraced. Pulling back, Elizabeth studied Mary’s radiant face.

In a flash, God revealed the miraculous news to Elizabeth. Mary’s pregnancy. The identity of the baby she carried. “God has blessed you above all women, Elizabeth said. “You will give birth to the Messiah we’ve awaited so long!”

The story of the angel Gabriel’s visit tumbled from Mary in a rush of words and gestures as the cousins walked to the table, pulled out the chairs, and sat.

Elizabeth listened first with awe, then with understanding. God hadn’t been punishing her or Zechariah through her barrenness. He’d been waiting for the opportune time to give them a son, the one who’d prepare the way for the Messiah. Mary had to be born, grow up, become engaged to Joseph.

At the perfect moment, God’s eternal plan intersected with their lives. How could He bless her in such a miraculous way after all the harsh words she’d unloaded on Him over the years? What kind of God is that patient, that gracious? Only Jehovah.

Elizabeth placed her hand on Mary’s. She wanted to pass on to Mary the gift of affirmation, purpose, and peace God had given her. They gazed at each other for a minute, maybe two—lost in the holy wonder of God’s gifts.

Tightening her grip on Mary’s hand, Elizabeth said, “God will surely bless you for believing what He has promised!”

“I’m overwhelmed by His goodness, stunned by His grace.” Mary wiped a tear from her cheek. “Praise His holy name.”


As Mary and Elizabeth relished God’s gracious gifts, may we also share the gift of His goodness with others this Christmas season. God loves us. He sent His son to redeem us. He can do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine. His timing is perfect.

Celebrate His goodness.

Next Step: Read Luke 1:5–56. In what ways were Mary and Elizabeth a gift to each other? How can you follow their example this week?

Do You Need A Little Solomon Time Of Peace and Quiet?

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By Nicole Newson | November 15, 2018

I just want some peace and quiet. I’ve been known to say this phrase frequently but it feels like an unrealistic request at times especially with small children at home. When I think about what peace and quiet would look like for me I think I just really want to be left alone just for a little bit (away from all responsibilities and people) so I can just think or maybe not even think at all.


I was reading about Solomon the other day and came across this passage in the Bible.

Behold, a son will be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from his enemies on every side; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet in Israel in his days. 1 Chronicles 22:9.


I randomly thought instantly, I desperately need some Solomon time in my life. Although Solomon had his share of messy drama in his full life story, I would love to be considered a “man” (woman) of rest! It’s really only quiet in my home before or after bedtime and when the kids are at school… Yes, that’s pretty much it and I understand that it’s the season I am in with kids at home.


However if I’m completely honest with myself, it’s not always the kids that steal from my peace and quiet. I’m a constant participant in the noise around me. You know TV, music, meetings, social media, talking, texting, and the list goes on. None of which are bad things, but when nothing gets done in decent proportions it can most definitely disrupt the peace of your home, heart, and/or your mind.


Yes, I said it more times than not, I AM the cause of disruption to the peace and quiet I desperately desire. I don’t know if it is mom guilt, spouse guilt, friend guilt, or even work guilt that causes me to feel like I always have to be doing something. I’ve caught myself even eating standing up because I’m a master multitasker, and surely in between bites of food I can do one daughter’s hair for school and give my nephew a spelling quiz.


If you are anything like me, you can understand the desire to just quiet your mind. Maybe you have a new job, a promotion with more responsibilities, or just got married. Maybe you moved to a new city and are in the midst of getting situated. Maybe you have a newborn at home and want some much-needed sleep. Maybe you are in school and have a lot on your plate. I’m guessing at any stage in life we all could use some time of peace and quiet.


Personally, my best ideas, feelings of gratitude and closeness to God come to me when I’m quiet. When I make time to be alone. Right now as I write this I’m sitting under a pavilion outside by myself at a church across the street from my kids’ school. I’m probably trespassing but it looked so serene and quiet. I’m surrounded by grass, benches, and wooden porch swings. For what I desire right now sure beats my normal sitting spot in Starbucks hearing people complain about extra whip or caramel in their drinks. 😉


I know that I can hear best from God when the noise around me is quieted and I can give Him my full attention. This alone time is hard to come by for me, but just know that even when things don’t feel very peaceful in your lives that God ultimately wants to be that peace for us. He didn’t promise that our lives would be easy or calm, because peace is not the absence of trouble, but He did promise that the peace He gives the world cannot give. He can give us peace of mind and heart.


Visit Nicole at and Twitter @Idowediditsdone

Proof Is In The Possession

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Recently our friend Bob, an Assistant District Attorney, told us about a woman who sat before him after she had been caught driving without her license. I was surprised to learn there are many, as in many people, who are caught doing this on a regular basis. As a rule-following-stay-clear-from-trouble gal, I would not be able to handle the stress of knowing I was breaking the law. But apparently, some manage just fine.


Until they are caught. When that happens, they approach the Assistant DA’s office hoping for leniency, as was the case of this twenty-something-year-old woman. Bob said he gives the same instruction to every person who finds themselves in this situation; however, most disregard his offer, and hope they don’t get caught again.


To receive help with her ticket she would need to complete three steps. When she had finished every step on the list, she needed proof to show him she’d done all that he’d asked. These were his instructions:

  1. Get her permit,
  2. Take her three-hour safety course,
  3. Pass her drivers test.


Bob told us it’s rare for anyone to complete the checklist. So when she walked out the door, he doubted she would return. But, if she chose to continue driving without her license, and was caught again she would face the possibility of fines for her present violations—with the addition of new ones. She also could lose the suspension of her driving privileges in the State of New York altogether.


However, one day she did return. When he asked her, “have you been here before?” She replied, “yes,” and handed him the proof she’d done everything he’d asked her to do. After looking through the documents, which confirmed she had completed the list, he asked her, “How do you feel after doing this?” With a huge smile on her face, she replied, “AWESOME!!!”


She no longer needed to fear every time she got behind the wheel of a car and drove illegally. Worry did not need to consume her each time she passed a police car. (Unless of course, she was speeding!) She’d been driving for years without a license, and now she held in her possession the proof needed for her legal right to drive.

Imagine the freedom she felt as the weight of lawlessness was lifted from her.

There was no doubt she was guilty of breaking the law, and there’s no doubt we are guilty of breaking God’s law. Yet, she experienced freedom with every check mark because Bob provided her with a course of action. Likewise, God has provided all of mankind The Way to be released from the guilt of sin.


There’s no way around it—the Bible says we all have sinned and fall short of His glory (Romans 2:23). There is a penalty that must be paid for sin. That’s where Jesus stepped in; He paid the penalty and those who accept what Jesus did on the cross have been released from its bondage. “Yet through his powerful declaration of acquittal, God freely gives away his righteousness. His gift of love and favor now cascades over us, all because Jesus, the Anointed One, has liberated us from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin!” (Romans 3:24, TPT).


Freedom is found when we “…repent [change your inner self–your old way of thinking, regret past sins] and return [to God–seek His purpose for your life], so that your sins may be wiped away [blotted out, completely erased], so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord [restoring you like a cool wind on a hot day]” (Acts 3:19 AMP)


In this season of Thanksgiving, allow God to change your identity—one letter at a time—as you offer gratitude to Jesus for your salvation.  He’s all the proof you need.




Visit Kolleen’s website for more inspiration and encouragement:

Kolleen is the author of the devotional book, The ABC’s of Who God Says I Am. available on





An Outrageous Prayer

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By Denise Loock | November 7, 2018

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24


The prayer seemed reckless, irresponsible, even presumptuous. And yet it reflected the servant’s absolute dependence on God: “O Lord, God of my master Abraham … when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,” and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac” (Genesis 24:12–14).


In obedience to Abraham, the unnamed servant had traveled 500 miles to find a wife for Isaac. As evening approached, he stood near the well at Haran. Both he and the ten camels loaded with supplies needed water.


The town well was a logical place to find out where Abraham’s relatives lived. Members of every household in the area came to the well to get water. Knowing that many would arrive, the servant asked God for a specific sign: when he asked a girl for a drink, she’d offer to provide water for the camels also.


Giving a stranger a drink was common courtesy, but satisfying the thirst of ten camels would be like serving water to a thousand strangers. A camel can drink 25–40 gallons of water. In other words, the servant’s prayer request was audacious—“ marked by spirited fearless daring.”[i]


But God answered the servant’s request and gave Rebekah the perseverance to draw water for the camels “until they [had] finished drinking” (Genesis 24:19). She then invited him to spend the night at her family’s home (v. 24). After her family learned what had occurred, both her father, Bethuel, and older brother Laban agreed that “this is from the Lord” (v. 50).

Mountain-Moving Faith

The servant’s prayer illustrates the kind of mountain-moving faith Jesus talked about in Mark 11:23–24: “If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.” That’s a daring prayer!


But where would most of our prayers fall on the cautious-audacious scale? Mine would register far too near the cautious side. And that’s convicting. You and I worship the same Almighty God that Abraham and his servant worshiped, but do our prayers reflect our confidence in our heavenly Father’s unlimited power?

God’s Promise

God doesn’t always answer our prayers as quickly or as miraculously as he answered the servant’s. But prayers that come from humble, dependent hearts please and honor him. He may not answer our prayers the way we think he should; however, he has promised to bless those who put their trust in him. Psalm 37:5 assures us, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.”

Do you trust him enough to pray an audacious prayer?

Next Step:

Read Genesis 24. In addition to his prayer, how else did the servant demonstrate faith? How did Abraham and Isaac, as well as Rebekah and her family, demonstrate faith?

[i] “Audacious,” Merriam-Webster,


Just Forgive

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By Nicole Newson | November 1, 2018

Why is the act of forgiveness so testing? Has it been easier for you at times to ask for forgiveness, rather than shell it our generously? …Guilty here! Forgiveness is not always as easy as it sounds.


As a kid, I had some tough experiences, one of which included being sexually abused for over six years. Although I don’t have any ill wishes for the man who abused me, I don’t know that I’ve ever fully had this feeling of forgiveness towards him.


What happened to me doesn’t affect my life anywhere near what it used to. I’m not bitter and I barely think about it unless I’m being transparent with others and it can possibly help someone out, yet I wonder what would forgiveness look like for me in this situation?


I have a sibling who doesn’t talk to the majority of our family anymore. As much as his behavior makes him super hard to be around, I really do miss him. I’ve put up a wall to protect me and my family from the hurt he causes when we put our guards down. What would forgiveness look like for me in this situation?


There is a very interesting parable in the Bible about an unforgiving slave in Matthew 18:21-34. At the start, Peter comes to Jesus and asks, “ Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus responds, “I tell you not as many as seven, but seventy times seven.” OUCH!! Clearly, I have not forgiven my brother nor anyone else seventy times seven as of yet!


So what exactly is forgiveness and what is It not? When you forgive you consciously release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. Forgiveness, however, does not mean that you forget, condone, or excuse those offenses.


My four year old will occasionally do something to her sibling that she knows is mean or unfair and before I can get the words out of my mouth to scold her behavior she will say quickly, “Sorry, sorry, sorry, I’m sorry!” Of course, it usually doesn’t sound very genuine, more of an “I don’t want to get in trouble,” sort of apology.


Even if someone gives you some half sorry apology or even no apology at all, we must realize that we don’t forgive for the other person. We forgive because as Christians it is what God commands that we do. When we don’t forgive we carry a burden that is unnecessary to carry. God who forgives us unconditionally AND constantly if we are honest with ourselves.


The above parable continues with a slave who owed his master money (6,000 denarii) but had no way to pay it. The master was about to take all that he had to pay for the debt, which included his whole family, but after the slave pleaded he had compassion for him. The master released him from his whole debt. Following being forgiven of his loan, this slave proceeds to choke out another slave who owed him just 100 denarii that couldn’t pay him AND had him thrown in jail. In the end, the first slave’s Master got wind of what had transpired, had him thrown in jail and tortured until he could pay his original money back.


As silly as that slave sounds, it is a great reminder to not attempt to hold people to a higher standard than we would hold ourselves. What would the world look like today if we forgave nearly as much as we needed to be forgiven?

Game Changers

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By Kolleen Lucariello | October 30, 2018

Our family has always enjoyed playing games. Our children grew up with family game nights as we gathered around the table with a board game or card game. Video games weren’t off limits, either. Family time still includes game time.


However, there is one game I’ve never liked to play with them, or anyone for that matter—people games. It can be easy to partake of this game, and also difficult to recognize when it begins; we often don’t even realize how long we’ve played it. You can be sure of this: the effects of the game are easily felt. We can also be sure some people have become experts at the game.


My mother-in-law enjoyed playing the card game Hearts with her family. The people game involves people hearts. I imagine we all feel we’ve had heart messed with at one time or another. Giving our heart away to someone who is just playing the people game can land a crushing blow to the strongest of humans. Do you make promises you never intend to keep? Say one thing, yet do another? Do you lead people to believe your intentions are honest when in reality they are less than honorable? One strategy of the people game includes shuffling through people until we find someone we can manipulate, control and use to our advantage.


I can’t speak for you, but I don’t want to be a pawn in the people game, and I find myself weary of spectating as others are hurt by strategies put into practice by those who seem to delight in the game. Want out of the game? It’s going to take a new response approach to be removed—something that will be an effective game changer.


Merriam-Webster defines a game changer as “a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way.” Or in the words of my husband, something happens to change the momentum of the game. We witness game changers when an incredible play causes one team to come from behind and take the lead.


Such as the moment God sent Jesus to defeat sin on the cross; this was His incredible play. In the midst of The Law and legalism, Jesus became the newly introduced element or factor that changed existing situations and activity in a significant way. Israel would never be the same. He became their salvation; He became ours, too. Jesus was a Game Changer.


I often receive a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit, which reminds me He enables me to change the way I play the game. When pressed I don’t need to respond like I used to.

He makes it possible to:

Offer grace instead of revenge (Leviticus 19:18),

Forgive rather than hold that grudge (Matthew 6:15),

Pick up the towel you decided to throw in (Philippians 3:13-15),

Seek the wisdom of a counselor (Proverbs 15:22),

Seek to understand instead of demanding to be understood (James 1:19),

Let go of our right to be right (Colossians 3:12),

Find the courage to try again (Psalm 31:24),

Stop the insult for insult, hurt for hurt, and dig for dig (1 Peter 3:9).

Drop the matter before the quarrel breaks out (Proverbs 17:14).


We become game changers when we unselfishly love and seek the best for one another, just as He commanded us (1 John 3:23‬). The moment we decide we don’t need to fall apart in our circumstances—and determine to find the best in everyone—we change the game‬‬‬‬‬ (1 Corinthians 13:7‬ AMP‬). ‬‬‬‬‬When we accept vengeance is the Lord’s and leave it in His capable hands to decide, we are game changers (Romans 12:19). ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬


God wants to change our identity—one letter at a time—and the process begins when we become mindful of how we play people game.



G-Game Changer

Visit Kolleen’s website for more inspiration and encouragement:

Kolleen is the author of the devotional book, The ABC’s of Who God Says I Am. available on








Mismanaged Blessings

By Guest BlogNo Comments

By Denise Loock | October 25, 2018

Has the joyous answer to a prayer ever led you to heartache you never imagined possible?

Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah, loved his wife Rebekah. But she was barren. After twenty years of disappointment and many prayers, God opened Rebekah’s womb (Genesis 25:21). Imagine their joy when they discovered that God had finally answered their prayers.


However, when the twins were born, the atmosphere in the home changed drastically. Isaac doted on Esau, the son who loved to roam the countryside and hunt. Rebekah loved Jacob, the son who hovered around the house, learning to cook and tend the flocks. No set of twins could have been more different than these brothers were.


As Isaac and Rebekah’s love for their favorite sons increased, the harmony in the home decreased. When we enter their home in Genesis 26, it is a cauldron of deception and animosity—just the sort of chaotic environment in which Satan does his best work.


Rebekah knew Jacob was God’s chosen heir. Before the boys were born, God told her that “the older would serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). But her misapplication of the truth God had revealed to her wreaked havoc in the family. She may have been sincere in her desire to help Jacob, but she was sincerely wrong.


Rebekah first sought significance and happiness through her marriage. When that didn’t fill the hole in her soul, she scooped motherhood into the gaping pit. Then she tried manipulation and control. But the hole seemed bottomless. Whatever she shoveled into it was swallowed by the unhappiness she experienced.


I wonder if Rebekah ever realized her mistake. Nothing and no one can ever satisfy the longing in our soul except God. Anything and anyone we shove into what theologian Blaise Pascal called the “God-shaped vacuum” in our soul is bound to be mangled in the process. Significance comes not from who we are, what we do, or what we have; significance comes from knowing Whose we are and from aligning our desires with his will for our lives.


God answered Isaac and Rebekah’s prayers for children. Yet neither of them could have imagined all the turmoil and trouble that would come from their mishandling of God’s will for their lives and the lives of their sons.


I invest a lot of time in asking God to answer my prayers. Maybe you do too. And we may even remember to thank him for answering those prayers. But are we as faithful in asking him to help us manage the blessings he gives in ways that consistently glorify him? Do we daily bring our plans, our loved ones, our work life, and out ministry opportunities to him and seek his guidance?


Oh, Lord, help us to not only thank you for answered prayer but also commit ourselves to honoring you in the way we manage the blessings you provide. Amen.


Next Step: Read Genesis 25:19–34 and Genesis 27:1–46. Consider all the ways Isaac and Rebecca mismanaged the blessings of parenthood. Ask God to help you manage the blessings of family, work, and ministry in ways that honor him.


An Open Letter To My 7th Grade Son

By Guest Blog2 Comments

by Amy Bryant | October 23, 2018

because middle school is tough…

I recently completed homeschooling my oldest child. After much prayer, he is now gratefully attending a wonderful school. I often find when the Lord is doing something in my kiddos’ lives, He’s using their situation to teach me as well. Probably none of the people reading this blog are middle schoolers, but I felt compelled to share with you parts of a journal entry I wrote to my first born on the eve of his 7th-grade year. Sometimes we all feel like a middle schooler with insecurities, fears, and emotions that we can’t explain…I pray the Lord will use it to speak to your heart…


August 14, 2018

You’re ready…I think I’m ready.

You’re excited…I’m excited and then in a split second, I’m almost sick.

In case I left some things out over the past seven homeschool years…in case I forgot to tell you, my beloved boy, there are things I want you to know…

  1. Middle school is tough. Not because you can’t do hard things—but a lot of factors are piling on at once. Your body/brain hasn’t fully developed yet and because it still is; your brain, hormones, and emotions will be all over the place… all while your academic expectations ramp up like never before. One day, something said to you might make you laugh and the next make you furious with hot tears in your eyes without knowing why. As your mom, it’s part of my job to not freak out. I will be here for you no matter what. I will listen, comfort, cook your favorites, stay away or stay close. Humbleness is beautiful. Middle school years will humble you and if you let the Lord do it in the right way—it will grow you into a strong, confident, and godly young man.
  2. You are different. God made only one of you. God gave you specific traits, skills, weaknesses, talents, desires, dislikes, and interests. Guess what?! This is true of everyone on this planet. What’s crazy about this time in your life is how much you want to be seen by others, but simultaneously are desperate not to stand out or be different. (Actually, that may be a lifetime thing because your mom still struggles with that from time to time as an adult!) I pray for a keen awareness of self—that you know where your strengths and weaknesses lie so that you will see where God is at work and join Him. I pray He will use you as a blessing and iron (Proverbs 27:17) to others and that He will use others (and circumstances) to bless and refine you. Either way, God is chiseling away at your heart and making you more like Him and that will always be an answer to prayer!
  3. Girls…because I’m a girl and you’re not, this makes me the expert…so listen!
    • Be kind. Any girl you like is also your sister in Christ or has potential to be. Think before you joke, think before you act, think before you text…just think…”Is this treating her with kindness?” It’s the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance. (Romans 2:4) I guess the lesson here is, kindness is powerful.
    • Say I’m sorry—Because I know you won’t always get it right. Own your mistakes and say you’re sorry. When a man does that, it shows such strength. Also, when you do ask for forgiveness be sincere and serious. Don’t do it with a smile or joke. That will undo your apology and make the situation worse because now she can’t trust you. I’ve said that after homeschooling all this time I may have missed some academics, but I definitely taught you all how to apologize because I had to DAILY. You will always have “opportunities” to blow it and when you do—nothing moves your heart closer to the freedom and healing in Christ-like admitting your mistake and asking forgiveness. (This is a foundational truth in your relationship with the Lord, but it also applies to all your relationships.)
  4. Friendships…A true friend is indeed hard to find. I pray the Lord blesses you with a couple of life-long true friends to journey with…because being alone is the first thing God named “not good”. (Genesis 2:18) Stasi Eldridge says it beautifully, “A good friend loves you when you are hilarious and when you are hurting. A true friend loves you when you are being kind and when you are [angry]…A friend sees who you are meant to be and beckons you to rise to the higher version of yourself. Friendship is a high and holy thing and a two-way street. Friendships are also messy. They are not for the faint of heart.” I pray you not only have true friends but will be a true friend. When you experience the life-giving freedom of community that Jesus teaches; you’ll find it worth the work and worth the mess. True friends aren’t afraid to get dirty with you or because of you.
  5. Purpose…you have one purpose with your life son…to glorify God alone. (All the things that make you, you—activities you’re involved in, thoughts you think, words you say, etc.) If your life is about God’s glory, then get to know Him! Hide your heart in His word daily and I promise you won’t live to glorify God out of duty but love for Him. The cool part is, the more you get to know Jesus, the more you begin to truly know yourself and who God created you to be. This life…it’s all for Him and about Him. I pray you always live the bigger story of the gospel —not just the physical one right in front of you. I pray His name and His renown would be the desire of your heart always. (Isaiah 26:8)


I’ve made you read long enough. In the end beloved…love God, love people.