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22 Ways to Bless Others (& Yourself) This Christmas

God blesses me so that I can overflow some of those blessings onto others (2 Corinthians 9:8-11). Caring for others and a love for the people around you will enrich both the receiving and the giving and therefore make your Christmas holiday even greater. Many people gathered around Mary and Joseph on that first Christmas as the Good News began to spread.

1. Tell strangers Merry Christmas. Don’t worry about whether they celebrate it or not. Most people will say something pleasant back when you give a sincere greeting of any kind. If someone does respond in an unfriendly way, simply say, “Oh, I’m sorry. I hope you have a good day,” then shake their rejection from your feet. It’s not about you.

2. Take cookies to a shut-in. Or go to a nursing home with lots of cookies for many shut-ins. Think about the times when you have been sick and stuck in the house for a few days. Remember the loneliness, restlessness, and agitation. Multiple that by 100 to get a feel for how someone that hasn’t left their house in months or years may feel. Encourage those that don’t have the everyday freedoms that you have.

3. Make a few packages for the homeless. Be creative and put many things in each package. Granola bars, cheese and cracker packages, bottles of filtered water, toothbrush, toothpaste, spoon, fork, napkins, tissues, hand sanitizer, moisturizing lotion, socks, deodorant, a note pad and pen, a book, etc. Think of items that just might give them a feeling of normalcy in their lives.

4. Leave something for the UPS guy and/or mailman along with a note that says that you appreciate all their hard work. If you go to your hairdresser and they are gobsmacked with extra holiday bookings, consider getting them something special too. The holidays can bring a huge volume to many businesses and this volume can feel like a burden to employees.

5. Stop worrying over whether somebody will like their present. You can’t control what they think. You can only buy something that you think is a nice present and leave it there. Most people will love the thought that is behind “any” gift.

6. Remember that thoughtful gifts of the heart can mean more than simply spending money. A picture of a beloved memory in an inexpensive simple frame may be seen by the person every day well beyond Christmas.

7. Consider giving a handwritten coupon that the person can redeem with you later for a lunch or dinner, a cup of coffee, etc. Be sure to stress that you’re looking forward to having a face-to-face conversation with them. A gift of your time can be one of the best gifts of all.

8. Pay attention to people going through rough times (at Christmas time, rough times seem to be magnified). Offering a listening ear is often the most important thing to do. Give people extra care when they experience something tragic during the holidays or when it’s an anniversary of something tragic.

9. Pay attention to people that live alone and may not have plans for the Christmas day. Consider inviting them to be a part of your celebration. Stress that you would really enjoy their company, so they don’t feel like you’re just offering them charity.

10. Make a little time to go on Facebook on Christmas day. Of course, I don’t mean to spend all day staring at a screen instead of the people around you. Just a little time to see if any of your online friends are having a difficult day. Sometimes people do reach out for help on social media. Pay attention. There are real people behind those posts.

11. Don’t compare your Christmas experience with other people. Just because their Christmas season seems extraordinary doesn’t mean that yours is not. Look around at things in your own life that are really great that you may be taking for granted.

12. Count your blessings. Use the time at the end of the year to list everything you’re grateful for as well as any achievements that you reached in the past year. Don’t just see what you lack. Gratitude will bring contentment.

13. Watch It’s a Wonderful Life on television with a loved one or two or more. Then tell each one how they have affected your life. Tell them about the treasured memories that you have about them. Remind people that everyone’s life is full of wonder and everyone is important to others.

14. Write an email or letter to people that have affected your life in a positive way. You may not see them physically much anymore, but you can still appreciate all of the times that you were with them. A written letter that the person can save telling them how much they mean to you could be their favorite gift ever.

15. Start a new tradition. Anything that you and your family enjoy doing together can become a new tradition. Reading a book out loud. Watching a beloved Christmas movie or show. Fixing a specific meal. Going out for breakfast. Going to an ice skating rink. Taking a walk in the park. A family football game in the yard. It doesn’t matter if it’s a unique or commonplace activity—both can be fun.

16. Take moments to simply relax. Sit by a roaring fire or in front of the lit Christmas tree. Have a cup of cocoa. Cuddle with a warm blanket. And dwell on the beauty of the season. It’s not all about hustle and bustle—some moments can be warm and peaceful if we allow them to be.

17. If you see someone else rushing around like a mad person, do one or two of their to-do list items for them so they can take a moment to sit and relax. They may not take you up on it, but your offering may mean a lot. And, they just might take you up on it. Everybody needs a break and some help now and then.

18. Pick up a fiction book that you’re interested in and read it over the holiday break. Reading, in general, has a different effect on your brain than simply watching movies—it’s active. And, reading stories helps you to see other people’s perspectives and leads to living more compassionately and openly.

19. Think back at your past Christmas memories. Relish the good ones and forgive any bad ones. Not everyone has good memories at Christmastime. If you survived a bad situation, think about that survival instead of the memory itself. Then, meditate on ways that you can help someone in a similar situation.

20. Pray for people around the world. The soldier that is far from home. The persecuted Christian that is simply trying to remember the details of the Christmas story because their bible has been confiscated. The orphan that simply wants a mommy or a daddy. The refugee looking for a warm shelter to lay their head. There really are bigger problems than worrying about whether your turkey will come out moist.

21. Read Luke Chapter 1 & 2 in its entirety and be blessed with the beginning of God’s redemption story. He came to earth to redeem you! That’s what Christmas is really all about!

22. Use your imagination and your giftings to come up with even more ways to bless others and then continue to do them throughout the coming year. You’ll never regret a single act of kindness.

 

 

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Thanksgiving Week Day 3

Let Christ’s richness fill your life. Share your wisdom. Sing psalms, hymns, & songs with a thankful heart. Represent the Lord by always giving thanks.

 

 

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. ~ Colossians 3:16-17 NLT

 

 

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September 2017 New Book Releases

September 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.


Contemporary Romance:

Planting Hope by Brenda S. Anderson — Jess Beaumont is trying to get her separated parents together again by restoring the family cabin gardens that helped them fall in love. Luke Harrison inherited his Gran’s candy store, but would rather have a Vice President position in his family’s land development business—a sure sign of his father’s approval. To get the promotion, he must acquire the land on both sides of his store within five months, including the Beaumont cabin. As Luke gets to know Jess, he realizes buying the Beaumont cabin and land will nip their blossoming romance in the bud. Even worse, it could end her parents’ marriage. But if he doesn’t succeed, he could be trading his corner office for the candy store counter…for good. Is their romance doomed? Or could the classic combination of chocolate and flowers solve everything? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

An Amish Christmas Love by Amy Clipston, Kelly Irvin, Ruth Reid, and Beth Wiseman — Fall in love this Christmas to the gentle pace of Amish courtship. In Winter Kisses by Beth Wiseman, six lonely hearts find healing in the Stoltzfus homestead basement while waiting out a Christmas Eve storm. In The Christmas Cat by Amy Clipston, a group of young people and a forbidden house cat bring reminders of love and hope to a grieving widow at Christmas. In Snow Angels by Kelly Irvin, A young woman’s prayer for a Christmas proposal is delayed by the appearance of her potential groom’s first love, whom me met on his rumspringa. In Home for Christmas by Ruth Reid, an Englisch woman thinks she’s breaking into the house her aenti left to her, only to discover she’s trespassing upon an Amish widower and his young daughter, whose quiet way of life tempts her to stay. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Magnolia Storms by Janet W. Ferguson –Maggie Marovich lost her father to Hurricane Katrina, so she’s dedicated her life to meteorology and plans never to return to the Mississippi Coast or the ship pilot she once loved—until a family crisis sends her running headlong into a storm. (Contemporary, Independently Published)

The Christmas Admirer by Laura V. Hilton — Susanna’s left with three options: one, go with Daed to his new home with a new mom; two, stay in Jamesport, Missouri, as an old maid; or, three, the best yet, flush out her mysterious secret admirer. But how could she be with anyone else when her heart is still with Benaiah? (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House)

Finding Love in Friday Harbor, Washington by Annette Irby — Professor Mikaela Rhoades has a plan: she’ll encourage her students’ marine biology research through an exclusive program while helping an old family friend’s whale touring business stay afloat. The challenge is the tour captain is her first love and ex-fiancé. Mikaela longs to help his family in the wake of his father’s death, but she’s keeping secrets. Captain Hunter Cahill has taken over the family touring business after his father’s death. Unfortunately, he’s drowning in grief and accumulated debt. To make matters more difficult, he’d promised his father to pursue Mikaela if she ever returned to the island single. But what will it cost him to spend the summer romancing Mikaela? (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Returning Home by Toni Shiloh — Jo Ellen Baker is shocked to find out that the boy who teased her mercilessly throughout high school, has returned to their hometown of Freedom Lake, and he’s missing a leg. When his mother asks her to renovate their carriage house to give him a place to gain his independence back, she wants to say no. But one look at him brings a rush of forgotten feelings. Evan Carter can’t believe he has to return home and live with his parents. Every hope and dream he ever had dissipated in a car crash that cost him his leg. Stuck in a wheelchair, he’s forced to reexamine his relationship with God and the local carpenter, Jo Ellen Baker. Will renovating his home open the door for a mended relationship, or are some wounds too deep to heal from? (Contemporary, Independently Published)

All This Time by Melissa Tagg — Ten years ago, Bear McKinley gave up everything—his freedom and his reputation—for his mess of a family. But after years of distance and too many attempts at starting over, he finally has a new life doing noble work in Brazil . . . until his past catches up to him. Raegan Walker is happy working a slew of part-time jobs, still living in her childhood bedroom and rarely venturing from her hometown. At least, that’s what she tells everyone . . . and herself. But she can’t help wondering what might’ve happened if she hadn’t abandoned her art so many years ago—and if Bear McKinley had never left. When Bear returns and she’s commissioned for a painting that just might revive her artistic ambition all in one week, it’s time to finally reach for more. But doing so means facing the fears that have held her back all this time, including admitting the secret she’s kept from Bear and her family. With her dream and her heart on the line, how much will Raegan have to risk to finally chase her happy ending? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Home All Along by Beth Wiseman — Charlotte has made a home for herself in Amish Country with Daniel. But unforeseen events rock their fragile world and may move them even further away from the life they long for. Charlotte, an Englisher, is living in Amish Country, and fallen in love with an Amish man. But just when she is considering a permanent conversion to the Amish way of life, her world crashes around her. An unexpected death and a mysterious visitor unsettle Charlotte, and she begins to question her faith and her choices. Will Charlotte and Daniel’s relationship succumb to the many pressures around them, or will their faith and community help them become strong enough to build a life together? (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)


General Contemporary:


Mercy Triumphs by Jana Kelley — Mia, an American Christian, has lived in Sudan so long that persecution, harassment, and danger have become commonplace for her. Her tough outer shell threatens to harden her heart while her newly Christian friends, Halimah and Rania, former Muslims, are forced to live in exile outside Sudan. All three quickly discover that escaping danger in one place only means facing even greater challenges elsewhere. As God’s mercy becomes evident in their lives, they must choose whether or not to offer mercy to those who don’t deserve it. Based on real-life events, Mercy Triumphs reveals some of the struggles Christians face when living under Islamic law. (General from New Hope Publishers)

Life in Chapel Springs by Ane Mulligan — Is it a midlife pregnancy or … cancer? Claire will keep her secret until she’s sure but it isn’t easy. Neither is trying to buy a home pregnancy test without anyone finding out. Between her twins double wedding, the caterer cancelling, a looming nationwide art tour and her health, Claire s life is upside down. Meanwhile, shy Lacey Dawson faces the emotional effects of traumatic injuries requiring facial reconstruction, and rumors of gold in Chapel Springs have greedy investors clamoring to buy all the homes in town and mine the gold. Will life in Chapel Springs ever be the same? (General from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)


Historical:

A Conspiracy of Breath by Latayne C. Scott — What would it have been like to be a woman, a Gentile, and someone onto whom the Holy Breath moved – to produce what became the mysterious Epistle to the Hebrews in the Bible? (Historical from TSU Press [Trinity Southwest University])

Queen of Sheba by Jill Eileen Smith — King Solomon meets his equal in the Queen of Sheba and does his best to give her everything she seeks to find, but will he be able to give her the deepest longing of her heart? (Historical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing)

Historical Romance:

These Healing Hills by Ann H. Gabhart — When life takes an unexpected turn, Francine Howard finds work in the mountains as a midwife where healing and love await her. (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing)

12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep — Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation and is promised a sum of five hundred pounds if she will remain a guest at Bleakly Manor for the duration of a twelve-day Christmas celebration. Then she learns Benjamin Lane, who left her at the altar, is also in attendance. Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whomever stole his honor. Torn between money, revenge, and love, will Clara and Ben last the full twelve days at Bleakly Manor and learn what matters most at Christmas? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


Mystery:

When the Bishop Needs and Alibi by Vannetta Chapman — Amish bishop Henry Lapp eagerly awaits the annual arrival of 20,000 sandhill cranes to the San Luis Valley of Colorado. But his visit to the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge reveals more than just a miracle of God’s creation. Hidden among the bulrushes and cattails is the deceased body of a young woman. As the local authorities attempt to unravel the mystery, Henry feels God’s calling to use his extraordinary talent to aid in the investigation. His ability to draw from memory in photographic detail could help solve this puzzling case. Henry’s closest friend, Emma Fisher, has always urged him to embrace his gift. As their relationship deepens, Henry realizes his involvement could put him and those he loves in the direct path of a killer, one who is willing to do anything to cover up a brutal crime, including framing the bishop. (Mystery from Harvest House)

The House Next Door by Susan Page Davis — As Jennifer’s due date approaches, Harvey decides to invest in real estate, unaware of the terror this will cause his family. A hidden cupboard isn’t so bad—in fact, it’s almost fun to try to solve the little mystery inside it. But will any of their loved ones want to live next door after they learn what’s in the basement? (Mystery, Independently Published)

Solve by Christmas by Amber Schamel — Detective Jasper Hollock thought he wanted nothing more than a real case. But when the man who raised him stands on the brink of suicide and mysterious incidents sabotage the factory, Jasper has 24 days to unravel the malicious plot and convince his employer that life is worth living. (Mystery, Independently Published)


Romantic Suspense:

Justice Buried by Patricia Bradley — A security specialist is accused of murder and must clear her name or her career is over, but her investigation draws her into the path of a killer, and she finds herself fighting for her life. When a man from her past is called in to investigate, she may find that he’s the biggest security threat yet . . . to her heart. (Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing)

Rescued Hearts by Hope Toler Dougherty — An innocent bike ride leads to a hostage situation, jeopardizing an undercover mission and two stubborn hearts. (Romantic Suspense from Mantle Rock Publishing)

Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan — A female attorney hires a former Army Ranger turned private investigator to help research an alleged pharmaceutical cover-up. As the case deepens, both hearts and lives become endangered. It appears someone is willing to risk everything–even murder–to keep the case from going to trial. (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Uncharted Hope by Keely Brooke Keith
Sophia Ashton must prove herself in her new job while researching the gray leaf medicine and dealing with her toxic family. (Romantic Suspense from Edenbrooke Press)


Thriller/Suspense:

Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig — Perhaps the only person as skilled as Cole “Tox” Russell is Alec King, a rogue Special Forces operator who vanished months ago. Now he’s back, and he’s out for justice. Furious with orders that got his men killed, he intends to make those responsible pay. And he insists Tox join him, believing they are the same breed of soldier. Afraid his old friend could be right, Tox battles a growing darkness within himself as he and his team are forced into another deadly encounter with antiquity. It appears Alec is harnessing the power of a mysterious artifact, a crown that history has linked to some of the worst slaughters in humanity. Racing to stop Alec before his vengeance is unleashed, Tox must fight the monster without becoming one. (Military Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Witness Protection by Carol Kinsey — After four years in witness protection, Ty Westgate’s identity has been exposed – with the help of a struggling nurse, the ex-lawyer with a new faith must work to unravel the truth behind his adversaries before he’s silenced permanently. (Thriller/Suspense, Independently Published)

 

 

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God is Light

sunshine

God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all.

 

 

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Are You Doing Just What You Have to Do?

Are You Doing Just What You Have to Do?

Or Do You Want More?

 

I sometimes find it hard to make my own decisions. When friends are figuring out something to do, I usually just go along with the popular opinion. I may not really be in the mood for Mexican food but I go along anyway even though I might have a taste for Chinese food. In one sense, it’s actually okay because I do like Mexican food and I like the company so I still have a great time. If I don’t make a decision in a case like this, it doesn’t really hurt anything. After all, it’s just food and the company is the same regardless of what we eat.

But in another sense, I may not be sharing my opinions with others as much as I should if I’m often simply going along with the flow of the conversation. Sharing opinions and ideas add even more flavor to relationships. Sometimes it’s a good idea to start a conversation as well as just following one.

Somewhere along the line, I learned to blend in and not make waves. I took the phrase it’s better to be seen and not heard to heart. The result is that I’ve spent a lot of my life being reactive–not proactive.

 

Do not rob yourself or others of what you have to offer. ~ Patsy Clairmont

 

Reactive living means that I am responding because of a stimulus or responding to keep something from happening. Even when I go the extra mile for a job that I’m in, I’m still being more reactive because I’m doing it to keep my job. There’s another stimulus causing me to go that extra mile.

Proactive living, on the other hand, is creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding. It’s when you step out and do something because you want to do it for you or you want to do it to help others. Nothing is making me do those things. I’m being proactive in doing those things.

However, since no one is making you do those things, sometimes they don’t get done. Various reasons and excuses constantly get in the way. Basically, proactive living means doing more than you have to.

Reactive living involves going to work, doing a good job at work, running errands, doing daily inevitable chores, feeding a family, spending time with family and friends, going to church, etc., etc. It seems the list of have-to’s goes on forever.

Proactive living involves:

 

  • Doing things even though I’m tired from all of the reactive activities.

 

  • Walking to a neighbor’s house because I know they are ailing just to ask how they are in person.

 

  • Working on some form of art because, not only do I love it, but other people may enjoy the finished product as well.

 

  • Pausing what I’m doing for a few minutes or longer when a family member is in need of help or encouragement.

 

  • Working out so I will have more energy for my ordinary and extraordinary duties.

 

  • Stopping to say a prayer when I see or hear about an accident or tragedy and, if I’m able, physically helping as well.

 

Often, it’s the Holy Spirit nudging me when I’m provoked to do more than the minimum needed. And, I’m always better off when I listen and obey.

In scripture, I’m told to let my good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise my heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16). Proactive living brings glory to God. It’s not all about me.

The bible also tells me that I am the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). Proactive living brings flavor to the people of the world.

Since being more proactive will help shine light and spread the flavor of salt to the world, it will also help me avoid an unfortunate way of life—being a lukewarm Christian. No Christian is meant to be tepid. Lukewarm living does nothing help other people and will make the Lord want to spit me out of his mouth (Revelation 3:15-16).

It’s a constant battle for me to do everything that I’m supposed to do and then keep on going and do all of the extra things too. I’m not going to be perfect all of the time and that’s okay as long as I keep on trying and never give up.


The have-to’s in life (reactive living) sustain and maintain life. The extras or the get-to’s in life (proactive living) make that life much more enjoyable.


With God’s help, I can move from reactive living to proactive living and do it on a regular basis even when I’m tired.

What do you put off regularly that you know you should do in order to help other people and bring God glory? Why don’t you do one little piece of that today?

 

Proactive

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Fun Monday Post

If you set a trap for others, you will get caught in it yourself. If you roll a boulder down on others, it will crush you instead. ~ Proverbs 26:27

 

I never realized how biblical the classic Coyote/Roadrunner cartoons were. But they clearly depict that when you scheme to do bad things to others, you’ll be crushed by your own efforts.

 

I hope this moment lightens up your Monday…

 

 

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Healthy Tuesday ~ Which door would you choose?

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Immediately

(Based on Matthew 14:24-31)

 

The disciples were in a boat trying to fight off a fierce storm in the wee hours of the morning. Jesus came to them, as he comes to us, to help. In this case, he came to them unusually by walking on the water toward them. Jesus doesn’t always come to us in the way we are expecting. The disciples were already scared because of the storm and now, they must have thought that their eyes were playing tricks on them. Jesus, out in the middle of the sea, was walking on the water!

Immediately, Jesus knew what they were thinking and told them not to be afraid. He had come to help them. In the same way, Jesus knows when we are afraid and need help. We don’t even have to vocalize it. He can hear our spirit crying.

Immediately, Peter called out to Jesus. He wanted to know if the apparition he was seeing really was the Lord. We too shouldn’t be afraid to pose questions to Jesus or even voice our doubts. When we do, Jesus simply answers, as he did with Peter. Peter knew that if it was indeed Jesus then maybe he could walk on the water toward him. This must have been true because Jesus said, “Yes, come.” Our trust in the Lord can even lead to defying the odds.

Immediately, Peter stepped out of the boat and actually walked on the water toward Jesus. With God, anything is possible. However, defying the odds is only possible when we keep our eyes on the Lord and keep trusting in Him to get us through. After the brief moment of Peter walking on the water, he made the mistake of looking around him at the wind and waves. Jesus no longer captivated him; he was terrified of his circumstances and began to sink.

Immediately, Jesus lifted Peter up out of the roiling water. The Lord is always there to save us when we’re in trouble. Then, when we’re safely out of harm’s way, he may speak to us about our small faith giving way to our doubts.

The Lord is immediately there when we need him so, in turn, our trust and obedience needs to be immediately there for him. However, this is a life-long learning process, so don’t feel guilty or ashamed when sinking becomes your reality. Just thank God for getting you out of trouble and learn another lesson.

What area do you need to doubt less and keep your eyes on Jesus more?

 

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The Push & Pull of the Holy Spirit

 

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 15:13

 

The ultimate purpose of the Holy Spirit is to fill our hearts with God’s love on a very personal level. Since love covers a multitude of things, the Holy Spirit also strengthens us in our weaknesses. We fall short in so many ways. We really need Him.

Some people, like me, have a quiet and soft demeanor. I need the Holy Spirit to give me a push most of the time. I’m more likely to hold back and say nothing out of timidity but the Holy Spirit pushes me to step out.

Other people have a bolder demeanor. They need the Holy Spirit to pull them back most of the time. They’re more likely to speak out before they have assessed a situation but the Holy Spirit pulls on them to hold them still.

The Holy Spirit benefits both types of people and helps all in living a life of goodness that includes peace and joy.

 

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Unworthiness

 

When I see how great and loving God is, I am overwhelmed by Him. I am even more overwhelmed by the idea that I am supposed to emulate Him. I am so frail and flawed, I don’t feel worthy of even a fraction of imitating God. However, in Isaiah 6:5-8, God answered Isaiah’s feelings of insecurity and unworthiness like this: A seraphim touched Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal and guilt was removed and sins were forgiven. And Isaiah was a changed person. His response was no longer, “I am unworthy,” it was now, “Here I am. Send me.”

Like Isaiah, my guilt has also been removed and my sins have been forgiven. Everything that makes me feel unworthy and unfit for the Lord’s service is gone. Everything—guilt, shame, and even fear. Because of my Lord Jesus Christ, I can be sent. I can help His cause. I am free to serve Him. I’ve been set free from the feeling of unworthiness.

Lord, Help me to remember that You have set me free from guilt, shame, and fear. You did the hard work of setting me free. All that I have to do is remember that daily. Amen.

 

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