Monday, February 20, 2017

Time for a Praise Break

By Andrea Merrell

To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Isaiah 61:3 NLT

Everyone needs a break from time to time. Whether it’s a coffee break, a brisk walk, or a few minutes for a power nap, taking time to rest, regroup, and refocus is vital to our mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

But what about our spiritual needs?

God promises to replace our heavy hearts with a garment of praise. I’ve found that when darkness seems to surround me, invading my soul and pulling me into a pit of despair, it’s time to offer up a sacrifice of praise. When I do, God always comes on the scene and drives away the clouds of doom and gloom.

The Bible is filled with admonitions to praise the Lord—no matter how bleak out circumstances may appear. Giving thanks to our Creator and worshiping His holy name will restore our peace, our joy, and our purpose. Praise takes the focus off our problems and places it on the One who can turn every situation around, solve every problem, and restore us to our rightful place in His kingdom. He is ready, willing, and more than able to come to our rescue.

If you’re struggling today and your life is out of kilter, maybe it’s time for a praise break.

(Photos courtesy of Miles/tiverylucky.)


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Monday, February 13, 2017

Call It What It Is

 By Andrea Merrell

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us 
our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 NKJV

The necessary room. The water closet. The head. The John. The potty. Why can’t we just call it what it is—the bathroom.

It’s funny how we come up with cutsie little names for just about everything. Sometimes people don’t have a clue what we’re talking about.

In Christian circles, there’s another word we try to skirt around. We call it a shortcoming. A weakness. An issue. A problem. Baggage. We might even call it backsliding. But we need to call it what it is—sin.

The word sin tends to intimidate a lot of Christians. If we’re not careful, we can put on a fa├žade and try to appear holy and righteous … without sin. Heaven forbid that someone should know we’re not perfect.

There was only one sinless being, and that was Jesus. He came to earth, lived among men, died a cruel death, and went back to heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father. The Bible tells us Jesus faced every temptation common to mortal man, yet He never sinned. As He experienced these temptations, He knew our human flesh would never be able to live as He lived. That’s why—through His sacrifice—He made provision for us to receive forgiveness with no limit. He said if we would confess, He would forgive. It’s that simple.

There’s something called a “duck test” that has been around for centuries. It says “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck … then it probably is a duck.” When others look at us, they just might be doing a “sin test.” When we look like the world, talk like the world, think like the world, and act like the world … it’s time to take inventory.

If there’s unconfessed sin in your life, call it what it is. Then take it to the Father and ask for forgiveness. He’s waiting with arms wide open.

(Photos courtesy of Miles.)


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Monday, February 6, 2017

Nobody's Perfect

By Andrea Merrell

Perfectionism is hard to overcome. I know from experience; it’s something I’ve struggled with most of my life.

With low self-esteem and a desire to please people, I constantly tried to live up to the expectations of those around me—or at least my interpretation of their expectations. As soon as I felt I had finally achieved the standards and hit the target set by others, boom! Their expectations and standards changed. And there I was … back to square one.

Not a pleasant way to live life, but it’s a repetitive cycle that’s nearly impossible to break out of, at least until we recognize the problem and look to Jesus as our only standard.

Pleasing people only brings temporary happiness. Pleasing God brings lasting joy and the ultimate fulfillment. God doesn’t look for perfection. He looks for a heart that is fully devoted and committed to Him.

This is what we’re instructed to do in Romans 12:1-2:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you (MSG).

Do everything you do as unto the Lord, and don’t worry about what other people think. The truth is nobody’s perfect … well, nobody but Him.

(Photos courtesy of


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Monday, January 23, 2017

Open Your Mouth and Say Aah

By Andrea Merrell

Going to the doctor is never a pleasant experience, especially when he tells you to open your mouth and say aah while pressing down with that little wooden paddle. I have a very quick and sensitive gag reflex, so this is one part of an exam I’d like to skip.

The purpose of this procedure always puzzled me until I found out a medical professional can gain a lot of valuable information about what’s going on in our body by examining the tongue.

Just like the tongue can tell much about our physical health, it can also give us a clear indication of our spiritual health. James 3:6 (NLT) calls the tongue a flame of fire … a whole world of wickedness. Verses 7-10 go on to say, People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish,  but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right.

Whenever I focus on what’s coming out of my mouth, I find out what’s in my heart. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says, Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Luke 6:45 tells us the mouth speaks whatever the heart is full of.

Sometimes when I think my heart is pure and filled with good things, my mouth betrays me. When that happens, I’m busted. All my excuses fall flat, and I know it’s time for a check-up.

What about you? Is your mouth in sync with your heart? Is your tongue causing you a problem? If so, maybe it’s time to come before the Lord, open your mouth, and say aah.

(Photos courtesy of


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Monday, January 16, 2017

No More Pretense

By Andrea Merrell

No one likes a hypocrite, a phony.

But aren’t we all hypocrites to some degree? Author Bob Gass says, “It’s not your shortcomings that make you a hypocrite, it’s hiding them and pretending you don’t have any.”

We all need acceptance and approval. An occasional pat on the back.  A hearty attagirl or attaboy. The problem comes when—in our desire to look good and impress—we live a life of pretense, hiding our faults and weaknesses so others will think we’ve got it all together. This unhealthy lifestyle can become addictive to the point where we completely lose sight of who we really are.

As Christians, we can’t be swayed by what’s popular or keep up with the Jones family. Listen to what The Message says in Ephesians 4:17-25:

And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.
But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.
 What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.

God wants His children to live authentic, transparent lives so He can work through us to touch hurting people. Trying to be something or someone we were never created to be will cause us to live lives of frustration and discouragement. Knowing the truth—and knowing who we are in Christ—will set us free to be exactly who God created us to be.

We're all imperfect people, but God loves us just the way we are.

(Photos courtesy of and Stuart Miles.)