CrossReads Weekly Devotional: Verse of the Day and Devotional 1/23/2023

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Verse of the Day

January 23rd, 2023

Scripture

Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. – Acts 2:22 NIV

Devotion

Jesus proclaimed to the people of His day that He was “the way and the truth and the life” and that this meant “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus proclaimed, in effect, that He was the Messiah, the “Holy One of God” (John 6:69), that had come to save His people. How did the people of Jesus’ day know that He was telling the truth? How did they know that Jesus was truly the one He said He was? The ones that believed Him knew by faith. By God’s grace they were given the faith to believe what He said (Ephesians 2:8).

The faith of the early believers, however, was grounded in more than just what Jesus said about Himself. It was also grounded in what Jesus did. As our verse for today says, God did miracles, wonders, and signs through Jesus. Jesus was accredited by God. That is, He was officially recognized by God to be the one He said He was by the miracles, wonders, and signs He performed. Even so, the gift of faith was still necessary. Not everyone who saw the miracles He performed believed in Him.

What about now? Jesus lived a long time ago. How do those of us who believe in Him know that He was who He said He was? We know in the same way the early believers knew. We know by faith. God has graciously given us the gift of faith and we have come to believe. We read what the Bible says about Jesus, we listen to sermons about Him, and we believe what we read and hear. Indeed, since none of us saw Jesus’ earthly ministry, we need even more faith. Jesus Himself said, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Like the early believers, however, our faith is grounded in more than just words. Miracles, wonders, and signs done in the name of Jesus, or prayed for in the name of Jesus, still happen among us all the time. We shouldn’t be surprised by this, for Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these” (John 14:12).

Jesus, in other words, is still being accredited by God right before our very eyes.

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The Truth about Lamp Lighting 1/20/2023

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by Staci Stallings

The Bible says that God’s Word is a lamp at my feet. My dad always said that God put the lamp at our feet and not on our head. That means we’re supposed to focus on the next step, not how we’re getting all the way down the tunnel.

I’ve thought about that lamp at my feet a lot in my lifetime because to be honest, I’ve had multiple moments when I honestly did not know how I was going to get through whatever it was that was happening. In the last three months, I’ve had three such major, extended events where the unknown wasn’t just scary, it was terrifying. Cortisol-producing, fight-or-flight-but-neither-will-help terrifying. Events when taking the next step was all you could do but even that was overwhelming.

There’s a weird paradox of life that I’m learning through all of this—we all have these kinds of moments and yet when you’re in one, you feel like no one else has ever been here before. We don’t talk about them, and even when we do, most of the time the event is in the past now and it has somehow been resolved (to our liking or not). But in the midst of the trauma, in the midst of the trouble and turmoil, it’s easier than not to feel completely and utterly alone.

As I’ve gotten a day or two perspective on the last major trauma to hit my life, I’m coming to understand something. Yes, God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet, but it’s those around us who are often the ones who light the lamp in the first place.

In the middle of an insane life situation, it’s possible for you to light your own lamp, but wow, is it helpful when others do too. Like the people who came to the hospital room with God’s Word in hand. They were a God-send—literally. Like the people at church and online who said they were praying, and we could feel it. Like the visitors who came and gave us hugs and a little bit of God-with-skin-on. They were all lamp-lighters, lighting the next step with God’s love and hope.
Then I realized that in the two trauma events prior to that in September and October, I was a lamp-lighter for those in trauma. Oh, it wasn’t easy. It took time, effort, willpower, and a LOT of prayer on my part to be there for them. I, too, needed lamp lighters around during that time. People to pray for me while I worked in the situations.

What I’m seeing is we are all called to be lamp lighters for each other, and this is a sacred calling.

As I’ve reflected over my stories with this new perspective, I’ve realized just how intricately life is woven. My current series is comprised of a thousand threads all woven painstakingly to create an understanding not just of the story but of how God works in the lives of real people.

It’s funny because it seems like every single first review on this series says the same thing:

“lots of repetition seem liked same thing over and over again… it dragged in places…”

Now, I get it. Readers like fast-paced, movement books. They like a story that lifts up like a plane, soars for a while, and then gently lands. The problem is, life isn’t like that, and I write real rather than “storybook.” Oh, I wish I wrote storybook. Unfortunately, I believe to be a lamp-lighter for others through my stories, it’s important to go step-by-step. Sometimes that makes a book seem “draggy” with “a lot of repetition.”

I know for me in my own life I would love it if I “got it” the first time through every lesson, but I don’t. Sometimes it takes more than one go-round. Sometimes it’s a long, slow process rather than light bulb moment after light bulb moment.

Right now, lamp-lighting in my books is slow going for me because of all the lamp-lighting I’m doing outside of writing. It wasn’t my intention to not be finished with Book 8 when Book 7 goes out. I wanted to be able to put Book 8 on preorder like I have all the others.

Alas, as much as I would love to be able to see down the tunnel and know that I could have Book 8 ready to go at the end of the preorder period, right now, the lamp at my feet says I need to hold off on putting Book 8 up. So that’s what I’m doing. Not my preferred step but it’s one I feel most at peace taking. There. How’s that for a winding, meandering confession of an overwhelmed lamp-lighter?

So, I’m curious, dear readers…. Who are some of your lamp-lighters? And who do you light lamps for? What’s your lamp-lighting journey been like? And have you ever had to take a step that you really wished could be different but you knew was the right one at the time? Tell me your lamp-lighting stories!

About the Author:

Staci StallingsA stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from. Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again. Every title is a new adventure! That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading. Although she lives in Amarillo, Texas and her main career right now is her family, Staci touches the lives of people across the globe with her various Internet and writing endeavors.

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CrossReads Book Spotlight: Only When I Dream 1/19/2023

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CrossReads Book Spotlight

Only When I Dream

A Contemporary New Adult Christian Romance Novel

(The Imagination Series Book 12)

by Staci Stallings

Only When I Dream

As the gang gets ready for LJ and Yoli’s wedding, past hurts and new dreams collide. Can the budding relationships hold strong, or will life with all of its challenges prove too much for the friends to overcome? Find out in The Imagination Series Finale you don’t want to miss!

Come along with these friends on this crazy ride called life.

Be inspired. Laugh a few laughs. Cry a few tears.

One thing’s for sure, you will never forget this emotionally-charged roller coaster ride filled with life, hopes, dreams, imagination, and most especially love.

ONLY WHEN I DREAM is Book 12 in The Imagination Series by USAToday Best-Selling Christian author, Staci Stallings. Fraught with the trials and turmoil of young love, The Imagination Series will give Christian romance readers the emotional ride of a lifetime. These young adults trying to figure out life and love will have you cheering, laughing, and crying as they traverse what it means to be friends and maybe even more.

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CrossReads Short Takes: The Prodigal Pastor & The Fighting Son 1/18/2023

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CrossReads Short Takes

The Prodigal Pastor

A Small Town Valentine’s Day Romance

by Janice Cole Hopkins

The Prodigal Pastor

Brooke Bennett had the best news ever. After years of trying, she and David were going to have a baby. She knew her husband would be just as thrilled as she was, and she prepared him a special celebratory supper, dressed up, and waited for him. However, he never came home. Later that night, she clutched a note she found on her pillow into a crumpled mess, not believing what he’d written. David was leaving her and the megachurch where he’d been the senior pastor. They’d hit some snags in their marriage, but something like this had never crossed her mind. David had always been the love of her life. What would she do now? The church wouldn’t allow her to remain in the parsonage for long.

Three months later David looked at the irate woman he’d left Brooke for and couldn’t believe his stupidity, couldn’t believe his sinfulness. He’d deserted his wife, his church, and his God for the selfish music director who had once stroked his ego. Valerie had already spent all his money from the bank accounts he’d cleaned out. Now, what was he going to do?

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The Fighting Son

(Flying People Series Book 3)

by Danny Mac

The Fighting Son

Having retired from the Special Forces to work retail security, Rod is certain of his past and confident in the future. That is, until the day he steps into his familiar cozy kitchen only to realize it’s not so cozy after all. Rod is sent plummeting into another dimension and he’s right back in action. But with the support of his high school sweetheart, surely he can take on anything. Beginning an extraordinary adventure, Rod retrieves the Sword of Justice from the Underworld – a sword that grants the bearer great power and abilities. But with the abilities come a great responsibility – that of protecting Earth and all life upon it. Now, Rod stands between the universe and total destruction. Can he secure his own fate—and that of everyone else while under such immense pressure? Or will he lose himself, his family, and the world in the process?

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Faith’s Checkbook: Rest is a Gift 1/17/2023

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“Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”   (Matthew I 1:28).

We who are saved find rest in Jesus. Those who are not saved will receive rest if they come to Him, for here He promises to “give” it. Nothing can be freer than a gift; let us gladly accept what He gladly gives. You are not to buy it, nor to borrow it, but to receive it as a gift. You labor under the lash of ambition, covetousness, lust, or anxiety: He will set you free from this iron bondage and give you rest. You are “laden,” yes, “heavy laden” with sin, fear, care, remorse, fear of death; but if you come to Him He will unload you. He carried the crushing mass of our sin that we might no longer carry it. He made Himself the great Burden-bearer, that every laden one might cease from bowing down under the enormous pressure.

Jesus gives rest. It is so. Will you believe it? Will you put it to the test? Will you do so at once? Come to Jesus by quitting every other hope, by thinking of Him, believing God’s testimony about Him, and trusting everything with Him. If you thus come to Him the rest which He wilt give you will be deep, safe, holy, and everlasting. He gives a rest which develops into heaven, and He gives it this day to all who come to Him.

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CrossReads Weekly Devotional: Gems From Pastor Jim 1/16/2023

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by Jim Hughes 

CrossPs. 34:17 The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our circumstances of life that God seems so far away. The more suffering we experience, the more doubts we have that God is near or hears us. When nothing seems to change, we begin to lose our grip on faith. We begin to listen to Satan’s suggestions that God has abandoned us or doesn’t care about us as we suffer.

When your faith begins to waver, remember this wonderful and powerful truth: ” The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.” The Lord hears the heart cry of His children. Even when we can’t even put into words what we are feeling, God hears us. He knows all about the thoughts and feelings we go through. He cuts through the pain and agony we may have and listens to our heart’s cries. He hears and rescues us from all our troubles.

Sometimes the answers we need are not evident to us. We don’t always know what needs to take place to free us from our circumstances. We don’t know what is best for us. We don’t know how to handle some of life’s struggles. But, the Lord knows exactly what we need and how to meet it. When we let Him have our difficulties, He makes a way out of them for us.

God never has and never will abandon His children. He is with them each step they take in life’s journey. He is with them during their darkest hours. He has a plan for each one and when we wait upon Him and trust Him, He fulfills His plan in us. His plan is always to bless. His plan is to always lead His children into a deeper relationship with Him. His plan is to use all of our life’s circumstances to make us holy, a people after His own heart.

About the Author:

Jim Hughes

Spending his formative years in Ft. Wayne, IN, Jim followed the love of his life to southeast Iowa where they married and have spent the majority of their lives. Jim has pastored several churches throughout his life and has worked many years in local factories to help support his family. The father of two married adult children and one son still at home, Jim is a first-time author.

C Through Marriage came into being through many years of pastoral and life experiences. The book first took on a life of its own over 20 years ago when I sought to address the much publicized moral failures of prominent leaders in the church. In the chapter on Chasity, I include the guideliness that I developed then to protect one’s self from such failures.

I am a firm believer in order to make sense out of life you have to use much common sense. We need to get back to the basics of what has worked for many, many generations. If is isn’t broke, why try to fix it? I strive to return to the basics of what really works in all my writings.

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This site contains Third Party Advertising, using online behavioral tracking technology. Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.
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The Psychology of Getting to Know Characters 1/13/2023

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by Staci Stallings

So, my blog this month stems from a couple of questions I got from my Facebook group, Staci’s FAN-tastic Readers,

The first comes from Christina Jay:

“Maybe not much of a question, and it’s something you’ve talked about a bit here but you have really dug deep into psychology with the Imagination Series and made some difficult concepts easier to understand. Have you studied psychology?”

The second comes from Kathy Gilbride:

“How do your characters tell you their story? Do you just know their personality and they take you where they want to go? Or do you already know what their story is before you start writing? I’d love to hear your process for writing a book!”

I thought I’d try to tackle both questions at the same time because there are a lot of overlaps in the answers to them.

Psychology was one of my first loves when I got old enough to start trying to figure people out. In fact, when I was a junior in high school, my plan was to study psychology in college. Then I got talked out of that and into teaching because others were afraid I wouldn’t be able to separate my heart from my work.

So, my love of psychology went temporarily into hibernation although I honestly think it never really went away. It actually just shifted for a time. I took psychology in college and loved it. Then I watched others who were in psychology as a field, and I realized there are many parts to the field of psychology that don’t mesh with who I am. For example, I don’t like the emphasis on diagnosing everything as a disorder. Are there genuine disorders? Sure. But by and large, I think that we all have issues and things we need to work on and through. Putting a label on everything is not my idea of productive.

However, the thing I never lost was my love of delving into who people are and what makes them tick. I love the ideas of backstory and process and learning and growth. I love to see how people tackle life (or not), how they choose what they choose and why. I love working through the process with them as they confront the consequences of their choices and learn lessons on a deep, deep level.

I think for me, one of the things that happened was that, along the way, I started looking at psychology through a spiritual lens. I read tons of books—some secular psychology, some spiritual. I saw the similarities and the gaps. I saw the inherent complements, so that questions that appear psychological are best answered in the spiritual.  As I read and wrote, I began to see patterns in my characters, and I began to truly understand them not as characters but as people with real problems.

This morphed into longer books with more in-depth story and character arcs. I had to up my game both in the learning realm and in the how to get to really know someone realm. So, to Kathy’s question, I think the answer is that I genuinely love to get to know people, characters included. Very rarely do I know “everything” about them when we start, and when I think I do, I’m often wrong. My characters often surprise me in the course of writing their stories.

In fact, I often get to know my characters just as you do—through spending time with them. I see them when they are with friends, with parents, and alone. I start to form understandings based on the time I spend with them in different environments and situations. I see the inherent inconsistencies of who they are alone vs. when they are with different people, and I start asking the questions I always ask, “Why are they doing this? What does this mean? How does this fit? What doesn’t fit, and why doesn’t it fit? What are they not telling me? What else could this mean?”

Basically, I get to know them as I write their story.

This is not a straightforward or clean process. Just like in real life, there are roadblocks and things that just don’t make sense… until they do.

Click the Cover to Read More about “Always”!

When I start to write a book (a first book in a series or standalone), very often I don’t know much of anything. I might know a name or ver basic plot of the story. Many of my stories have come out of dreams I’ve actually had and latched onto because the basics were fascinating to me. Then, I start somewhere, write and try to figure out what I don’t know.

Doing this has resulted in some very interesting twists and turns—like Jake in More Than This who turned out to be dyslexic 50 pages in, or Kalin in Lucky who refused to tell me what had happened in his backstory until page 350, or Taylor in the last of The Imagination Series, who eight books in STILL hasn’t revealed what’s driving her.

I think that is one thing I’ve learned is how closed some people really are. It’s like they have been hurt so badly that they’ve just closed down what is most them. A lot of times, they aren’t even being real with themselves much less anyone else.

What I’ve found is that the place people like this can find hope and healing is in the midst of God’s unconditional love. The point of psychology was supposed to give people a safe place to sort things out, and I hope and pray for many that actually happens. But, in my experience, all the talking around and around a problem will do nothing until you can trust enough to get to-the-bone honest about what’s really going on—maybe even about things you’ve never admitted to yourself. Most of the time, that takes the safety of God’s love to really get there.

So I guess that’s my answer to both questions. I’m called to psychology, but God saw fit to take me around another way. His way.

And I’m so glad He did because of the amount of healing I’ve seen Him accomplish through me and my writing.

Okay, InspyRomance readers, now it’s your turn. Do you have any burning questions you’d like to have answered? Ask away!

About the Author:

Staci StallingsA stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from. Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again. Every title is a new adventure! That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading. Although she lives in Amarillo, Texas and her main career right now is her family, Staci touches the lives of people across the globe with her various Internet and writing endeavors.

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CrossReads Book Spotlight: Mountain of Love and Danger 1/12/2023

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CrossReads Book Spotlight

CrossReads Book Spotlight

Mountain of Love and Danger

Jack’s Beanstalk Rescue

by Gail Pallotta

Mountain of Love and Danger

Jack Greenthumb finds romance in Fairwilde Kingdom—a different day—a different girl. Then a cruel mystery begins. Dad’s beaten, the family farm destroyed and Jack’s true love, Gwendolyn Bante, kidnapped. Jack’s undercover operation reveals Gwenie’s a captive atop a mountain accessible only by helicopter. Reaching her is a dangerous expedition even for a champion rock climber like Jack. However, a Greenthumb Acres employee plants a miraculous seed from Heaven for the rescue. Suspense mounts as Jack scales the perilous cliff to face a brute and a treacherous descent in this retelling of the fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk.

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CrossReads Short Takes: Truth and Honor & Cordelia’s Call 1/11/2023

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CrossReads Short Takes

Truth and Honor

(Light in the Empire)

by Carol Ashby

Truth and Honor

Is truth worth the price if it costs you everything?

For Tribune Glabrio, descended from three consuls of Rome and determined to be the fourth, commanding the troops policing Carthago appears ideal for hastening his political rise. Arriving from Rome with the secretly Christian Sartorus as his aide, Glabrio discovers the man he was to replace has vanished without a trace. Was the missing tribune too close to finding the counterfeiters Glabrio is now hunting? But no matter the cost, duty and honor require him to enforce Roman law.

Orphaned as a child and taken to live with her pagan grandfather, Martina met Jesus through her step-grandmother. Their faith was a well-kept secret, even from most of their family. With both grandparents now dead, her uncle helps Martina hide the faith he doesn’t share. But after a single dinner at her uncle’s, the new tribune is determined to get to know her. No matter what she does to discourage Glabrio, he won’t leave her alone. But if he discovers her faith, will it mean her death?

When Martina rescues Glabrio from the counterfeiter’s schemes, he learns the people who risked everything to save him share the faith that got his grandfather executed. Embracing that faith could cost him the future he planned on. As an officer of the empire, it’s his duty to reject it…but what if it’s true?

Dangerous times, difficult friendships, lives transformed by forgiveness and love

The Light in the Empire series of novels should delight lovers of Biblical fiction set in Roman times and lovers of ancient world historical fiction where world views collide.

Truth and Honor is the twelfth volume in the Light in the Empire series, which follows the interconnected lives of several Roman families during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian. Each can be read stand-alone. The novels of the series will take you around the Empire, from Germania and Britannia to Thracia, Dacia, Judaea, North Africa, and, of course, to Rome itself.

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Cordelia’s Call

The Suffrage Spinsters Book 7

by Joi Copeland

Cordelia's Call

Can Cordelia be open to love when she’s determined to make a way for herself without the help of a man?

Cordelia Smith grew up in an orphanage outside of Denver. For most of her life, she heard she was unworthy of love. Mrs. Finch’s constant reminder no one would love an orphan sent Cordelia on a path only taken by men: to write for the local newspaper. At the age of twenty-five, she must find a way to support herself while helping out at the orphanage in order to have a place to lay her head.

When Mrs. Finch catches wind of Cordelia’s job, she kicks her out of the only home she’s ever known to work on a ranch in Silver Springs. Cordelia doesn’t know what the town of Silver Springs is like, let alone how understanding they’d be if they knew she continued to write for the newspaper. Just how progressive toward women’s rights to work outside the home would her new town be, and how would she get to town to send off her articles?

Davey Harden’s intrigued by the new cook at the ranch he’s lived on most of his life. She’s got fire in those crisp blue eyes, and she has spunk. But he also realizes she’s hiding something, and until he knows she isn’t going to do his family harm, he’s determined to keep a close eye on her.

The more time he spends with Cordelia, the more he’s drawn to her. But she keeps him at arm’s length, and he doesn’t know why. Doubting his own self-worth, Davey must decide if love is worth the fight or if he should just give up and let Cordelia go.

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Faith’s Checkbook: Faith Sets the Bow 1/10/2023

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by C. H. Spurgeon

“And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud”   (Genesis 9:14).

Just now clouds are plentiful enough, but we are not afraid that the world will be destroyed by a deluge. We see the rainbow often enough to pre- vent our having any such fears. The covenant which the LORD made with Noah stands fast, and we have no doubts about it. Why, then, should we think that the clouds of’ trouble, which now darken our sky, will end in our destruction? Let us dismiss such groundless and dishonoring fears.

Faith always sees the bow of covenant promise whenever sense sees the cloud of affliction. God has a bow with which He might shoot out His arrows of destruction. But see, it is turned upward! It is a bow without an arrow or a string; it is a bow hung out for show, no longer used for war. It is a bow of many colors, expressing joy and delight, and not a bow blood-red with slaughter or black with anger. Let us be of good courage. Never does God so darken our sky as to leave His covenant without a witness, and even if He did, we would trust Him since He cannot change or lie or in any other way fail to keep His covenant of peace. Until the waters go over the earth again, we shall have no reason for doubting our God

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