Sunday, May 24, 2015

Money, Money, Money

By Andrea Merrell

I opened the ominous-looking letter from the IRS and the words jumped off the page and smacked me in the face: Proposed changes to your 2012 form 1040, amount due $6,030.

Yikes! Somehow there had been a mistake in our 2012 return. This resulted in an amended tax return, a small check to the government, and a payment plan that would stretch out for seventy-two months. It was like paying for a used car and not being able to drive it.

That in itself would have been bad enough, but the very same day we mailed the check to the IRS, another check was written for $600 for car repairs. A few days later, another $300 was required to fix our A/C. Then—as if we needed another emergency—my son informed me I had to get another computer … quickly. I watched as our money flew out the window.

Everything seems to happen at once. The old cliché is true: “When it rains, it pours.” Sometimes I feel like I’m in a torrential downpour with golf-ball-sized hail, but God is always there to shelter and protect me. He has proven time and again that He is my provider and constant source of supply. As a tither and giver, I have a covenant with Him and He has promised to supply everything I need. Nothing is too hard for Him and nothing catches Him by surprise.

If you find yourself in a hard place with a pressing financial need, trust in the Lord. When things look impossible, that’s when He works the best. He will always make a way.


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Monday, May 18, 2015

Where's the Joy

By Andrea Merrell

“There’s no bigger turnoff to non-Christians than a sour-faced, gloomy-gus Christian,” my pastor said. He was referring to the total and complete lack of joy that should be clearly evident in the life of every child of God.

His words made me think about how many people I’ve met over the years who fit into that category. Then, those thoughts caused me to delve a little deeper, and I wondered how many times I may have come across as a joy-less Christian myself.

We all have problems, and tough times are just that—tough. Yet, the Bible instructs us to rejoice—always—in all circumstances—no matter what. That’s a tall order until we realize joy is a gift from God. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and does not depend upon our surroundings the way happiness does.

I learned early-on that happiness is gauged by what goes on around me. Since situations and circumstances are in a constant state of change, so are emotions. It’s possible to be blissfully happy one minute and depressed the next. It’s like being on an emotional roller coaster.

The good news is this: we have a choice. Just like anything else in God’s kingdom (giving, serving, offering forgiveness, sharing the gospel) we can embrace God’s gifts and walk in them, regardless of the cares of this life. We can rejoice in the midst of chaos and adverse situations because of hope—Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Today, choose joy and shine the light on all those around you.

(Photos courtesy of


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Monday, May 11, 2015

Sufficient Grace

By Andrea Merrell

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power 
is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

Sometimes I think God is asking a little much.

Do all things without murmuring and disputings.

Seriously? No moaning, groaning, griping, or complaining—even when my life is upside down and I have so much on my plate? That’s a pretty tall order.

Great peace have they who love the law and nothing shall offend them.

Nothing? Seriously?

All things considered, no one had more reason to murmur, complain, and be offended than Paul. He was beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, and imprisoned. He was even given a messenger of Satan—a thorn in the flesh—to keep him humble. I don’t know about you, but those are all good reasons to gripe. So, how did Paul handle it?

Only with God’s grace.

When the Lord said, My grace is sufficient, that was enough for Paul. In fact, Paul said, Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Now that is the epitome of faith and trust.

Looking back over some traumatic events in my own life, I now see how God’s grace—and His grace alone—sustained me and brought me through the fires of adversity. When I was at my weakest, He poured His strength into me and kept me moving forward.

We sing about “Amazing Grace,” but do we ever really stop and think how truly amazing it is? Without it, we could never be saved. The absence of grace would be like going through the motions without God’s unmerited favor and His power working within us.

Grace … what a wonderful gift. Receive it today.

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Monday, May 4, 2015

A Lesson from Proverbs

By Andrea Merrell

The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, 
but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.
Proverbs 15:28 NIV

I think the fifteenth chapter of Proverbs was written just for me. I’ve studied it, memorized much of it, and tried to put its great wisdom into practice. But sometimes I fall short.

A gentle answer turns away wrath.

That verse is deeply ingrained in my heart, yet at times my words are harsh.

The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life.

Words that pour from my mouth are sometimes filled with death, not life. How can this be?

The lips of the wise spread knowledge.

Ouch! Then where does all that stupid stuff come from?

A hot-tempered (and angry) man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.

There are times I’m angry and don’t even know why. That’s when quarrels abound.

A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely (pleasant) word!

Again … ouch! Too many times my hasty, angry words are anything but pleasant. They cause me pain and regret—not joy.

So, what’s the answer to this dilemma? Verse 28 says: The heart of the righteous weighs its answers. In other words, he (or she) thinks before he speaks. He allows the Holy Spirit to filter his words before they pour out and pollute others.

The writer of Proverbs goes on to say that the person who refuses godly instruction despises his own soul. On the other hand, when we’re open to reproof, we gain wisdom, understanding, and humility. Therefore, this will be my daily prayer:

Lord, help me to give gentle answers 
and use pleasant words that never cause strife.
May my lips disperse knowledge and 
always bring me joy—not regret.
Keep me open to instruction and cause me to always think
about the impact of my words before I speak.


Monday, April 27, 2015

The S-O-N is Still Shining by Andrea Merrell

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 NIV

It was one of the dreariest days I had even seen. The sky was a solid mass of gray, the winds fierce, and there was a threat of thunderstorms. It was definitely a stay-inside-the-house-kind-of-a-day. Imagine my surprise when my husband came home and announced to me that he had been flying.

Pilots call it “flying in the soup.”  They depend on their instrument training and help from the control towers to get them through the soup until they rise above it.  When they do, guess what?  The sky is clear and the sun is still shining.  All is well.

The lesson for me was this:  No matter how bad things look around usno matter how dark and dismal our surroundings appear the sun is still shining . . . somewhere. A mighty force to be reckoned with, the sun cannot be hidden.  It will always break through and shine at one place or another.

It’s the same with the S-O-N.  

Even when the walls of our lives seem to be caving in and it appears we have fallen into a black abyss of failure, disappointment, and despair, the S-O-N is shining brightly, even though we cannot see the light.  We can try to do it on our own or, like the pilots, obey the instructions of One who knows how to get us above the soup.

Someone once said that when things look the darkest and most hopelesswhen it seems things are so bad they couldn’t possibly get any worse it means Satan has fired his best shot and he has nothing left in his arsenal.  It also means your answer, your victory, your miracle, is right around the corner; you just can’t see it yet.

If you’re in a dark place today–physically, financially, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually–there is hope and there is help.  Jesus, the S-O-N, is shining brightly and He’s ready to bathe you in the wondrous light of His glory, grace, and power.

Will you let Him shine on you?

(Photo courtesy of Laura Pontiggla.)