Friday, July 28, 2017

Hidden from His Goodness

Hidden from His Goodness

a Devotion, by Lynne Tagawa

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and His truth endures to all generations.—Ps 100:5

Maybe you know someone whose child was born with a severe heart defect. Or a girlfriend whose marriage is in tatters. Maybe that someone is you. Has the goodness of God dimmed before your eyes? Or have you decided that God is, in fact, a liar?

I don’t think it’s good enough to make the observation that most children are born healthy. It’s not good enough to say that while your marriage may be shattered, at least you have your health. Or your 401(k).

In fact, I never really cared for the hymn, “Count Your Blessings.” It’s true that we should be thankful. That’s actually a command of God. But the idea of counting your blessings as a means of cheering yourself up sounds like positive thinking philosophy, not Christianity. We give thanks to a worthy God because of Who He is and what He has done. Thanksgiving is an act of worship, not a self-help strategy.

Millennia ago, a man named Job did everything right. He managed his property well. He raised his kids properly—and prayed for them all the time, which was especially necessary now that they were grown and out of the house. He worshiped God, and in the book of Job chapter one we find that God considered Job to be “righteous.”

Then God allows Satan to take it all away—we would say that tragedy strikes. Job’s sons and daughters are killed. His goods are stolen. Some weird sort of disease afflicts him, his wife loses any trust in God, and his so-called friends heap blame on him, telling him that it’s all because he sinned somehow.

Job is crushed. He wishes he could die. But instead of cursing God (his wife’s advice) he simply complains.  It’s as if he’s in a pitch-black room—but there’s a crack of light showing under a door, and he faces it. Clumsily, he turns to the only one Who has answers. Sandwiched in between his groaning we catch amazing glimpses of faith:

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God . . .Job 19:25-26

We all know the end of the story. After learning some huge lessons about the sovereignty of His Creator and his own unworthiness, Job is restored. But we still might come away with the question: is the God Who did this to Job really good?

Perhaps we confuse our own idea of what is “good” with the biblical definition. To us, we have “good” days and “bad” days. We define them by how well things go for us. It’s a totally self-centered definition.

Here’s God’s definition, found in Exodus 33:19, as the Lord speaks to Moses:

Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

In this passage we see the Lord revealing Himself in a special way to Moses. He speaks of His “goodness”—but the passage seems to focus on the majesty and sovereignty of God. How is this related?

In many passages of Scripture speaking of the goodness of God, we find his mercy mentioned. They are intimately connected. But what is mercy? Something deserved? No, of course not. Job learned that. After seeing the glory of God, he describes himself as “vile.” He realizes afresh that it’s all of mercy—and grace.

Moses was actually hidden in a cleft of a rock while God’s “goodness” passed before him, for his own protection. A full exposure would have killed him. Wow.

When “bad” things happen, it’s okay to feel bad, like Job. The fact that others suffered before us doesn’t mean we are to be stoic about it. They felt it. Christ felt it. But it’s also a time for worship. Even if all you can do is groan to God.

Lynne Tagawa is an educator, author, and editor. The author of Sam Houston’s Republic, she lives in Texas with her husband.

Website: Line Upon Line

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

UNDER FIRE: Behind the Story

Under Fire: The Story Behind the Story

by Linda Matchett

War always has a tremendous influence on people’s lives, and WWII was no exception. I grew up hearing stories about that time period from my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Most were too old to serve in combat, but they did their bit in a host of other ways. For example, my paternal grandfather worked for Shell Oil Company and was responsible for the gas ration stamps for Baltimore, Maryland, a city of nearly one million people. He had a particularly harrowing ordeal involving the police and a trunk full of boxed stamps. And even though my dad was a child during the war, he was also impacted in many ways.

As a former Human Resources professional, I am intrigued by the role women played during WWII, and the changes that occurred to society because women were no longer relegated to the home. They volunteered, took jobs, and started charitable organizations, in addition to running their households. Most compelling for me are the inroads women made into jobs previously commandeered by men.

As a result, when I decided to write my debut mystery, Under Fire, I wanted to use a protagonist whose career choice was unusual for a woman. Because she was an amateur sleuth, she needed to work in a profession that allowed her to follow clues wherever they led. I racked my brain to no avail. Then I happened past an exhibit about war correspondents at the Wright Museum of WWII where I am a volunteer docent. The display focused on Ernie Pyle, but included a small placard that said of the more than 1,600 certified reporters, only 127 of them were women. Eureka! My main character had a job.

Using a 1947 high school yearbook, I named her Ruth Brown. She is intelligent, curious, and tenacious-all necessary traits to being a journalist. Because of her position as a war correspondent, I was able to send her to England and Ireland where she experienced rationing, bombing raids, housing shortages, difficulties with public transportation, and black market schemes. In order to make Ruth realistic, I read countless memoirs, autobiographies, and newspaper articles by those 127 female correspondents. Their stories are one action-packed adventure after another, many of which are almost beyond belief. I homogenized many of their encounters and subjected Ruth to similar circumstances.

After creating my protagonist, I had to come up with a mystery for her to solve, and a study of the London police blotter gave me lots of cases from which to choose. I won’t give away any spoilers, but suffice it to say, the war plays a large part in the motive, as I discovered it often did in real life crimes at that time. It is my hope that Ruth will put a face on the war for readers, and that she will honor those women who served at home and abroad, in both big and small ways. Under Fire explores themes of God’s grace, forgiveness, and second chances and is available from eLectio Publishing: 

About Linda: Born in Baltimore, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry, Linda Shenton Matchett has lived in historical places most of her life-from Edison, New Jersey (named for the famed inventor of the lightbulb) and Washington, DC to Wolfeboro, New Hampshire (reputed to be the oldest summer resort in America).

A freelance writer for over ten years, her articles and devotionals have appeared in numerous print and online publications. A varied career has included stints as a crisis counselor, human resources professional, bed and breakfast owner, and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House, Snackbar, and Catering Manager for Brewster Academy, a boarding high school.

In her off hours, she can be found volunteering as a docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and as a Trustee for the Wolfeboro Public Library. She is active in her church where she serves as treasurer, usher, choir member, and Bible study leader.

Connect with Linda:

 A Note from Peg: This book releases TODAY, July 25, 2917. Use the link above to get your copy hot off the press! 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Surviving Guilt

Surviving Guilt

By Barbara M. Britton

I had heard about survivor’s guilt. Veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have discussed the guilt of being unscathed while their fellow soldiers died. Even on one of my favorite TV shows, Blue Bloods, the main character Danny Reagan has talked about his guilt coming home from war when his friends didn’t. I have never been to war. I’ve never fought a battle against a flesh and blood enemy, but I have battled the scary “C” word—Cancer. Where is the guilt in surviving cancer? It’s there when people you love succumb to this invasive illness.
Some of my favorite verses in Scripture are Philippians 4:6-7.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I took Paul’s advice and prayed often during my cancer surgeries and treatments. I truly felt stronger and at peace from all the prayers being said for me. And I am thankful that I am still enjoying life a year and a half after completing my surgeries and radiation treatment for breast cancer.

But I never thought I would feel guilty about surviving cancer until my sister-in-law lost her battle with ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed after I finished my radiation therapy and she died as I neared a year of life lived cancer free. We were almost the same age, so why wasn’t she healed? She was a strong Christian, so why did God take her home and leave me here? I struggled with these feelings and wondered if others thought about them too.

I remember being in a Bible study with a woman who had lost her son due to a car accident. She told us, “I never questioned God.” Wow! Not even once? She trusted God. The all-knowing, all-powerful, loving Creator. God doesn’t make mistakes. I believed all these things about God and now I had a chance to live them. Instead of questioning God, I told Him how I felt about my sister-in-law’s passing. I wasn’t questioning His awesomeness, but I was being honest about my pain.  I prayed, “Lord, I don’t understand, but I trust you.”

Instead of being angry about my sister-in-law’s passing, I lifted my family members up in prayer and helped them deal with their emotions as best I could. And instead of feeling guilty, I’m learning to be thankful for the time God has given me post-cancer.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1, we are told, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven:” Yes, even a time to be born and a time to die. We don’t have the time sheet. God is the keeper of this mystery. It is up to us to make the most of our lives and tell the people in our lives that we love them—every day. We also need to tell people about Jesus. Wouldn’t it be great if we started a revival in this land?

We serve a loving, powerful God. He wants what is best for us. Sometimes we won’t understand His actions. In those times, we need to share our feelings with God and those around us, but we don’t ever want to question God’s essence. Lingering questions will be answered in Glory.

So, today,

  • Thank God your eyes opened and your feet hit the bedroom floor
  • Pray for someone who is hurting
  • Tell your friends and family that you love them
  • Praise the Lord! In every situation
  • Praise Him for eternal life--cancer can’t take that away  
  • And for you ladies, don’t forget to schedule a yearly 3D mammogram. God gives us good medical detection too.
  • May the Lord bless you and keep you.

About Barb:
Barbara M. Britton lives in Wisconsin and writes Christian Fiction for teens and adults. She has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. 

Barb brings little known Bible characters to light in her Tribes of Israel series. You can find out about Barb’s books on her website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

A Bit About Barb's Latest Book: “Building Benjamin.”

Love Grows Where God Grafts the Tender Shoot.
Naomi desires to dance well enough to catch the eye of a wealthy landowner. Her father needs a substantial bride price due to the deaths of her brothers at the hands of the tribe of Benjamin. But when Benjamites raid the Ephraimite feast and capture young girls, Naomi is bound and carried from her home by Eliab, a troubled shepherd who needs a wife.

As Naomi awaits rescue, she finds Eliab has a strong faith in God and a just reason for abducting her. A reason that affects all the tribes of Israel. The future of the tribe of Benjamin hangs in the balance, but if Naomi follows her heart and stays with Eliab to rebuild his lineage, she must forfeit her family and become a traitor to her tribe.

You can purchase “Building Benjamin” on Amazon or B&N

Friday, July 14, 2017

Being Light to the World

How to Be the Light in a World of Darkness

a devotion from Sarah Ruut

“You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5, NIV

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16, NIV

The rain came down in sheets, and thunder rumbled loudly overhead. The lightning lit the water for brief glimpses, but not enough for the ship’s captain to make out the shore. Yet he knew they were getting close.
There, blinking in the distance through the storm, was a light. Unlike the lightning, this light was consistent and comforting. It was the lighthouse on the shore.

Just as the lighthouse brings comfort to sailors, guiding them safely away from the rocks that will destroy their ships, we are called to be the light to the world around us.

This life we live is fraught with danger. Our culture contains so many pitfalls and stumbling blocks. We are to be the light, to help others see the dangers they’re walking into. Hopefully, we can spare them the pain and difficulty of a crash.

But what does it actually look like to be the light?

When a loved one is choosing to walk in sin, do we sit quietly and pray for them? Praying for them is good, no doubt. But we need to be the light. We need to speak the truth in love to warn them of the dangers they are headed toward.

When friends invite us to join them in watching a movie that is dishonoring to the Lord, do we join in without a word because we want to build the relationship? Or do we gently point out the objectionable content (rocks on the shore) that we would prefer not to watch (run into)?

What about a worldview that is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches? Perhaps the idea of, “You do what’s good for you, and I’ll do what’s good for me.” Do we hold our tongues, or do we speak the truth in love?

What if speaking up and being a light costs us the relationship?

The Bible does say that, as much as it is up to us, we are to live at peace with those around us. We shouldn’t go around stirring up trouble. But that doesn’t negate the call to be a light.

Ultimately it comes down to presentation. Being a light doesn’t involve arguing to make a point. Just as a light simply is, we can stand with the truth, as an example, in love, without creating conflict. That doesn’t guarantee there won’t be conflict stirred by the other side, but we aren’t responsible for someone else’s behavior.

What if no one is watching?

The lighthouse light never goes out. In fact, the light keeper makes sure of that! In the same way, our light should never go out. Our behavior should be the same whether there are people watching us or not. Because the reality is, we never know when someone may be watching. We should always keep the light lit.

As you go about your day, may I challenge you to be a light? Your community needs you!

Lord, I thank You for the privilege and responsibility you’ve given us to be a light to those around us. I ask You to guide us as we seek to reflect You in our lives and to guide others safely to You.

~ ♦ ~ ♦ ~

About Sarah

Sarah Ruut is an avid reader of Christian fiction when she’s not busy homeschooling her four tweens and teens. She also runs two blogs where she hopes to connect with people right where they are. She loves sharing about books and their authors on her blog, Fiction, Faith, and Fun, where you’ll find reviews of Christian fiction, interviews with amazing authors, giveaways and more! 

She also offers encouragement for this Christian life at Breaking Ordinary

You can connect with Sarah on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Paradox of Suffering

The Paradox of Suffering

by Richard Spillman

In Romans 5:3 there is a statement that, to be honest, is difficult to handle. Paul says “we rejoice in our sufferings,” with the clear implication that we should all find joy in our pain. This might be easy to say before any suffering begins. It might be easy to understand once the suffering is over. But joy in the midst of suffering? I just don’t know. Perhaps it depends on the level of suffering?  Maybe there is a way to dull the pain so joy can emerge? What does God want from us when the pain runs so deep we can hardly breath?

These are questions that can’t be answered until you are actually overwhelmed with suffering. Only then can you begin to search for some spark of joy. Anyway that was how I came to find purpose in my suffering.

My mother trafficked me through most of my childhood. I was repeatedly raped as a child, exposed to things no child should see, had any sense of trust of anything or anybody shredded. It’s a pain I still carry with me after all these years. The fact that I survived, I'm told by my therapists, is a miracle. I should have ended up on drugs (never even tempted) or ended my life (sad to say tempted). I didn't because God protected me. You see He had a plan. I did pay a price - most of my childhood locked away in forgotten memories that will stay there (I hope and pray they stay locked away. My greatest fear is that I will remember), years of therapy, struggles at the brink of death. But all the while, God was there.

Now here is the most important part … and he has redeemed the experience. Giving me the grace to survive and have a relatively successful life might be enough but He had even grander plans. Today, I often can tell when someone has been sexually abused as a child. In those instances, and there have been many of them, when a door opens for me to share my story one-on-one with a victim the most frequent response I get is tears and a "I've never told anyone this but ..." Much to my continuing surprise, God somehow uses me to unblock lives that have struggled under the weight of an often unspoken horror. Those are the times I glimpse a purpose in suffering. Those are the times I find redemption for pain.

Given the chance to do it all over again would I choose this path? No. Do I thank God for the experience when He uses me to help others? Yes. Therein lies the paradox of suffering. One that I can't unravel but one that I have found peace living with. 

For me, the answer always lay in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." To become an instrument of God’s mercy and compassion – that is the key to joy in my own suffering.

God comforted me and continues to do so and my joy comes from the gift to comfort others who at one time lived in the depraved, distorted world of my youth.

So this is my prayer: Lord, mold me into an instrument of your mercy. Let me minister to the broken hearted. Let my pain melt into a river of compassion.

Richard Spillman is a retired Computer Scientist who typically writes Christian non-fiction (The Passion of Job and Do What Jesus Did both available on Amazon) as well as a Christian blog ( His latest passion, however, is Christian fiction. His first novel, Awakened, is waiting for a publisher to pick it up. He is represented by Jim Hart of Hartline Literary Agency. The story asks the question: “What if Lazarus didn’t die a second time?” He was led to write it after avoiding being kidnapped by ISIS in the Philippines, and then receiving death threats (to behead him in standard ISIS fashion) during the rest of his missionary service there. Besides the blog he is active on Twitter ( and Instagram ( where you can see pictures from his missionary travels around the world.