{Day 24}: When Opportunity Knocks

Proverbs 31 Ministries Contest Winner Devotion

I learned about the contest a few days before the deadline, but knew right away I would enter. The biggest reason? FEEDBACK.

It’s not often a writer gets valuable feedback from an editor. So I’m told. The truth is, I don’t think I’ve ever submitted anything to a contest in my adult life. Shame on me.

Proverbs 31 Ministries, through COMPEL, their amazing writer’s training ministry, hoped to give each writer editorial feedback.

So when I opened the email during the middle of a school-at-home Wednesday, and it said ~ Angela, you won, as well as a couple paragraphs of positive feedback from the editor, I could not stop crying.

My kids sat there, confused.

Mom, what’s wrong?…But isn’t this a good thing, Mom?…I think this is a good thing!

This good thing is a blessing to me, and I’ve been praying it will bless others also. Click here to read my devotion, The Slavery of Striving.

Have a beautiful end-of-October weekend!

~Angela

{Day 23}: True Vine & Real Good Fruit

31 Days Jesus red letter words true vine good fruit

In the Old Testament, Israel was sometimes symbolized by a vine. As in Psalm 80, You brought a vine out of Egypt. You drove out the nations and planted it.

The vine produced both food (grapes, raisins) and wine for celebration. But the vine had the potential to produce a sweet harvest, or a rotten one.

Jesus speaks to His disciples in John chapter 15, hours before He was taken to the cross. He contrasts Himself with Israel, giving us the last of His I AM statements~

I am the True Vine, and my Father is the Gardener.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.

The Greek word for cuts off also means lifts up or redirects. Scholars believe the meaning here is that branches bearing NO fruit represent those who are not true believers. But some believe Jesus is saying His branches that bear no fruit have to be redirected, that something has to change, because His branches must bear fruit.

The word prunes comes from a Greek word which also means cleanses. Those branches which already do bear fruit will be cleansed by His Word to bear even more fruit. You get the feeling here, that we are here–we live–to bear fruit for the glory of God.

31 days Jesus red letter words true vine good fruit

Which begs the question, what does it mean to bear fruit to God’s glory?

Growing up, I thought the phrase bearing fruit meant one thing–leading people to Jesus. As in, getting them to want to pray THE PRAYER. That was the simple definition of bearing fruit I had heard. Talking through the way to salvation and praying with a person is absolutely bearing fruit…fruit that will last. But it’s not the entire definition.

Several New Testament passages compare the fruit of sin and death with godly fruit. The fruit of sin is most obviously, sin: idolatry, hatred, jealousy, fits of rage, sexual sin, selfish ambition, disunity, drunkenness, greed, and other behaviors motivated by the sinful nature. See Romans 7 and Galatians 5 to study this further.

The OT speaks of good fruit God desires, fruit like justice and righteousness.

In the NT, the Fruit of the Light consists of goodness, righteousness, and truth. (Ephesians 5:9)

The Fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5)

So then, how do we bear good fruit?

Let’s pick up there on Monday.

Tomorrow, I will share with you my contest-winning devotion from Proverbs 31 Ministries. See you then…

~AngelaProverbs 31 Ministries Contest Winner Devotion

{Day 22}: When Everything Is Awful

31 Days red letter words Jesus

Sometimes, things go from bad to worse and the bad news just keeps coming. Sometimes when it rains it pours.

Jesus’ disciples learned He would be leaving them. His leaving would be full of suffering.

“I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me…” John 7:33-34

One of their close-knit group would betray Jesus. Then Peter would disown Him before men.

To make matters worse, Satan wanted to test them. He would work hard to take them all down. To destroy them.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32

They would all scatter, leaving Jesus’ side when He needed them most.

“This very night you will all fall away on account of me…” Matthew 26:31

Soon, the Light would leave this world, and things were going to get worse for these men. They would be exposed and hated and persecuted. What a bitter pill to swallow. This wasn’t the coming kingdom they expected to see.

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me.

After all this bad news came like a blow, Jesus spoke to His closest disciples, His dearest friends. He observed how it felt to be in their shoes. He noticed the state of their disillusioned hearts.

Jesus knows “all our secret undiscovered sorrows, the wounds that bleed inwardly; He knows not only how we are afflicted, but how we stand affected under our afflictions, and how near they lie to our hearts…He knows our souls in adversity.” ~Matthew Henry

The remedy for their sorrows and discouragement? Trust in God, and trust in Jesus. It wasn’t cliche’, but it was truth.

31 Days Love Red Letter Words Jesus

He encouraged them that He’d go prepare for them and later return to bring them home, where they’d always stay with Him. He said, You know the way to the place where I am going. But they didn’t. They didn’t understand, so Jesus told them again. Here’s who I AM~

I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me. (John 14)

When your heart is troubled, and the blows add up, or one heavy blow shatters life as you know it…rely on Jesus. Cling to Him. He knows your heart, where it’s broken. Hold Him fast. He is the way to life.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord Himself, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-4

31 Days Love Red Letter Words Jesus

{Day 21}: Walking Dead

31 Days red letter words Jesus walking dead There’s no way to talk about LIFE without also talking about death.

But most people don’t really want to talk about death. Until it’s upon them, or upon someone they love. And then they want to know, what happens from here?

When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, Jesus wrestled with Death, and defined Himself, again, as the Life.

Lazarus fell sick, and his sisters sent word to their close friend, Jesus. They knew He held the power to heal Lazarus, and they expected He would do it.

But Jesus responded with a delay. He stayed put for a couple more days, saying this sickness would not end in death. Its purpose was to bring God glory.

Jesus knew things they didn’t know. He knew the ending to this story.

But then Lazarus died.

Jesus arrived at the house, and Lazarus’ sister, Martha,  came out to meet Him first. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Jesus responded,

I am the Resurrection and the Life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?  John 11:25-26

Evenso, Jesus was moved, and He wept. His spirit was troubled, which is also translated, angered. Here we see Jesus angry at the tyranny of Death–angry that Death has long ravaged and ruled over mankind. Wrestling with Death, He weeps over the tragic consequences of sin.

Just before He transcends the laws of this world and triumphs over Death.

Jesus orders the stone of the tomb rolled away. He confidently thanks the Father for granting His request. Then He calls Lazarus out of the grave, to life.

Wrapped in strips of linen, Lazarus walked out of the grave just like that, after having been there four days dead.

Take off the grave clothes.” Jesus called the man to life and then directed his friends to free him completely.

As the Resurrection and the Life, Jesus brings the spiritually dead to life again.

31 Days red letter words walking dead Jesus

If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

{Day 20}: The Lord is My Shepherd

31 Days fall red letter words Lord is my shepherd

YOU GUYS. This weekend, I found a button. I think it’s going to revolutionize blogging for me. Because I now know how to turn words another color!!!

I know, I know. This seems pretty elementary. I always meant to figure it out, and now that I’ve just happened upon a button, I don’t even have to. How fun! Too bad I didn’t figure this out before I started a series about RED LETTER WORDS. But here we go anyway…

Welcome back to {the new and improved and in-color series} 31 Days of Love in Red Letters. 

Is this month cruising by for you too? But what gorgeous fall weather we were blessed with this weekend! Truly a gift. I hope you were able to get out and enjoy it.

In the book of John, we find the fourth answer to this question ~ Jesus, Who are You?

Previously, He answered, I am the Bread of Life. I am the Light of the World. I am the Door.

Now, I am Good Shepherd.

I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.

John 10:11, 14

The people Jesus spoke to knew shepherds. Both shepherds who cared for flocks of sheep, and kings called shepherds, who led God’s people.

Unfortunately, they were used to false shepherds. Religious rulers, Pharisees, and chief priests ruled over them with an abundance of burdensome rules and harsh punishments. Long before that, kings ruled over the people of Israel, failing to obey God or respect the role He had given them.

31 Days red letter words Jesus fall the Lord is my shepherd

Jesus comes on the scene as a great contrast. He is the Good Shepherd. Who knows. Loves. Cares for. Guides. Protects. Feeds. Provides for His own.

He risked danger for them, the way a loving shepherd would do for his sheep. Ultimately, He died to pay all the penalty not only for them, but for all who would come after them. For any who would believe in Him and receive Him. For us!

Just before Jesus says He is the Good Shepherd, He tells them something about thieves. Thieves come only to steal, kill, and destroy. Like the false shepherds, and the evil one. These were not out to serve the people. They cared only for themselves.

In contrast, Jesus came to give a rich and satisfying life to His own. His main concern was for His sheep.

Like the old Psalm says, Jesus shepherds us still.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

~Psalm 23

31 Days Jesus The Lord is my shepherd red letter words fall

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:17

Thanks for joining me here today. Have an amazing Monday.

~Angela

{Day 17}: World Poverty Day

Welcome back to 31 Days of Love in Red Letters!

31 Days Jesus World Poverty Day

Today is World Poverty Day, and I want to encourage you to join the fight–and move forward with hope.

Maybe you’re already praying and supporting the fight against poverty, but sometimes you wonder if anything is getting better.

Maybe you’ve looked around and been overwhelmed by such great need.

Maybe it appears the problem is too big and the solution too small.

Maybe you think it’s not possible to defeat poverty. 

That’s a myth. We can do this. We can put an end to extreme poverty.

31 Days Jesus Red Letter Words World Poverty Day

The truth is, between 1990 and 2010, the number of people living in extreme poverty was cut in half.

The truth is, in one generation, the number of children dying before their 5th birthday was CUT IN HALF.

The truth is, AIDS is no longer a death sentence. New HIV infections are steadily declining. Diseases like Malaria and Measles are being defeated.

But there’s another side to the truth. Despite all this progress, 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty.

In his book, Hope Rising, Scott C. Todd says, “Extreme poverty does not have to exist. When Christians accept that fact and start living accordingly, we will find the solution is already within our reach.”

But more importantly, Jesus said to give generously. Not to those who can pay us back, but to those can never pay us back.

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” Luke 14:12-14

31 Days Jesus red letter words world poverty day

Please join us, to fight world poverty. Compassion International is an excellent place to start. We sponsor children through Compassion, and even had the blessing of meeting a few of them face-to-face in their home country last year.

We witnessed first-hand the important work of this organization. They are fulfilling a high calling, and seeing amazing results. We get to be a part of it, which is truly thrilling. Sponsor a child, and you will be blessed!

(Statistics above taken from Hope Rising.)

{Day 16}: The Door

31 Days Jesus gate

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.

All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.

They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”   John 10:7-9

Previously, in this series, we’ve spoken of other ways Jesus identified Himself–as the bread of life and the light of the world. Now we come to another of His “I AM” statements, where He tells us He is the gate. Some versions say, I am the Door.

Obviously, in this passage, we the people are the sheep. Does that make you squirm a little, too?

I have little personal experience with sheep, but I tend to think Ewww… Sheep are smelly, stubborn, stupid creatures, which follow blindly.

Then again, maybe we relate to sheep more than I thought.

One of the earliest Bible verses I learned was Isaiah 53:6~We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  

The thing is, Jesus knew exactly what was in a sheep. And a man. And a woman.

He was still willing to be the Door for us.

I heard a preacher tell a story about the sheepfold and the entry gate. There was one entrance into the fold, and there wasn’t typically a gate or door at the entrance. So the shepherds would lay there in the doorway to protect the sheep at night from intruders like wolves or from storms or maybe even night wandering…sheepwalking? Don’t quote me on that last part.

The shepherds became the door of the fold. By laying down there at the entryway. For their sheep.

Jesus does this for us. He provides for our needs. He protects us from the evil one. Yes, trials and suffering come whether we are His sheep who listen to His voice, or not. But the enemy will not overcome us or snatch us away from Him.

31 Days Jesus Door red letter words

As the Door, He’s not about trying to keep out the Black Sheep. He’s about sacrifice, about laying Himself down for us.

As the Door, He’s not about sheltering or withholding life. He opens the door, and we’re free to go out and then come back home.

May we always find ourselves at home in Christ.

But when we stray, 

May we quickly find our way to the Door,

The Open Door who welcomes wanderers home.

 

{Day 15}: Love Your Enemies

31 Days red letter words Jesus LoveWelcome back to 31 Days of Love in Red Letters.

I should admit, this is one of those weeks for me.

I think it’s called Post-Vacation Stress Disorder or something. It’s not pretty. I don’t know which end is up, basically. I’m still not sure which day we’re on. Laundry has taken over my upstairs hallway. It keeps multiplying.

I have so many little projects in the works, that some moments I have no idea where to even begin. This is a heavy week of school, because we missed a week when our co-op was in session. Now I remember why that was such a bad idea. :)

Something’s gotta give, so today, I’m keeping things here extra simple and just sharing a short passage.

Simple, except that these may be the hardest of Jesus’ words to follow in the whole Bible.

Jesus pretty much says:  You’ve heard from people, that you should love one way. But I’m telling you to love a very different way. The way your Father loves. Perfectly.

Read these words from Matthew 5~

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” 

So there you go. Love others, period. Even–or especially–those who do you wrong. Because your Father loves this way.

He actively loves those who love Him back, and those who don’t. He wants us to do the same.

Another place we find His love in red letters.

Wishing you all a happy hump-day! It is Wednesday, right?

~Angela

31 Days Love Red Letter Words Jesus

 

{Day 14}: Of Light

31 days red letter words Jesus light

When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

Do you ever read passages like this and think, but what does that mean to me, today? To us who believe?

In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)

Jesus is the “Light of the World” to me. I believe He is everything He says He is. But the bigger question? Is He my Life and my Light? 

31 Days red letter words Jesus light

When God rescued the Israelites from slavery, and brought them out of Egypt, He showed Himself as the light on their way, day by day.

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13:21-22

By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take. Nehemiah 9:12

The Lord went ahead of them, and yet His presence remained with them.

His light guided the way.

He told them when to move and when to stay.

He led them to the exact places He had for them to take.

In these ways, He was light and also the way to life for Israel.

In these ways, Jesus is our light, showing us His love and the way to life. Giving us His light. Making us light like Him.

May we live our days as children of light.

31 Days Love Red Letter Words Jesus

 

{Day 13}: Before Wheat Bellies & Grain Brains

31 DAYS JESUS RED LETTER WORDS WHEAT BELLIES GRAIN BRAINSHappy Monday morning, friends. Welcome back to 31 Days of Love in Red Letters.

I hope you’re ready to grab this week by the horns and do it up right. Me? Not so much. We vacationed at Disney World last week, with the kids. SO much fun.

But after the dozen-hour ride home this weekend, I’m coming down from my family-fun high. My Introversion is flaring up again. I’m afraid this week might grow its own horns, grab me against my will, and toss me around a bit. Just a hunch.

Before we jump into Scripture, let me ask you. Have you ever tried to cut bread out of your diet completely? And by bread, I mean crackers, tortillas, pitas, and other forms too. I’d guess nearly all of us have at some point. Bread has been written up and called out more times than I can count. In many opinions, bread and bread-related items are the great enemy of good nutrition and a healthy body.

It’s hard for us to give up though. As soon as you think you’re over it, somebody serves up warm pitas with fresh hummus at a family gathering, and Next Week flashes like neon lights inside your brain. You think, there’s always tomorrow. Because warm pitas. True story.

Nonetheless, other than for the love, it’s not a problem for us to stop eating bread. There are plenty of other even better options to fill our hunger.

It wasn’t that way in Jesus’ time though. They didn’t live in a food culture like ours, with overflowing marketplaces and restaurants beckoning on every corner. Food was not a hobby.

The people of Jesus’ day actually needed bread.

Obviously, they feasted. But not the modern Western way. Not all the time. They ate much less than we do, from what I gather. They went without sometimes too.

Jesus walked the earth before all the wheat bellies and grain brains. Bread was the most important part of their diet, and many existed on bread alone.  They knew how important it was and appreciated its value.

Bread gave life. Bread sustained. They considered it almost sacred, and knew who provided bread for them daily.

Remember manna, the bread from heaven? While the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, God provided manna every morning. While manna was a miracle from heaven,  it wasn’t the true bread of life.

In the 6th chapter of John, Jesus speaks with crowds who have followed him to the other side of the lake. They ask Him for a sign to help them believe and remind Him of manna. He tells them the Father has something much better than manna for them.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

A few verses later, Jesus again says, “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that comes down from heaven…” (verses 48-51)

Jesus is the most important staple of our lives. Needed daily. In abundance. For life.

Oh Lord, give us this day our daily bread…

 

To start from the beginning of this series, click here.

31 Days Love Red Letter Words Jesus