Friday, January 30, 2015

Nourished by Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph

With humor, honesty and faith, Becky Johnson and her daughter Rachel Randolph determine to tackle the stuff that is stressing them out, once and for all. From interviews with friends and lots of research, they came up with The Ten Most Common Stressors That Mess with a Woman’s Mind: daily challenges that routinely steal her sense of peace and joy. Together Becky and Rachel cook up a plan to live a less depleted and more nourished life. Opposites in many ways, mom and daughter share their successes and failures as they make peace with their imperfect bodies, create living spaces they love, get wiser in their relationships, tame jam-packed schedules, settle into God’s love, and more. In short, they stumble and journey together toward a life that better nourishes them – body, mind, soul and spirit.

My Review:

Okay, ladies, have you ever felt yourself wondering if this is all there is to life?  Between jobs, housework, errands, kids and catering to everyone's needs but your own, you feel stressed, frustrated and ready to call it quits.  You long to feel refreshed, revived and renewed, but peace and joy seem to be on non-speaking terms with you.  If this describes you, I urge you to grab a copy of Nourished.  With delightful charm and witty anecdotes, this mother-daughter team flings open the door to life's major stressors and provides helpful hints on how to enjoy, rather than endure, life's journey.

Even though I did not agree with everything in the book (particularly some of the suggested reading material and the numerous references to alcohol consumption), I walked away from this guide with innovative ideas on how to organize my home one step at a time, how to learn to love myself again (jiggles, gray hairs and all), how to weed through and revamp existing relationships plus make new ones and most importantly, how to nourish my mind and soul.  While many of the ideas implemented a "common-sense approach," I found myself looking at some and saying, "That's so simple.  Why didn't I think of that?"

Overall, each chapter gave me a new zeal for life and motivated me to make the necessary changes to better nourish my mind and body.  After reading Nourished, I feel compelled to look at life in a new way.  No longer do I choose to see life with the frame of mind of "Is this all there is?"  But rather, I long to meet each new day with the question, "What wonderful things do you have for me to accomplish today, Lord?"  And with these suggestions as a guide, I finally feel like I have a fighting chance!

The Giveaway:

You probably know how this works by now, but just in case, here we go.  If you would like to win a free copy of Nourished, please send me an e-mail at Dana@DanaRongione.com.  Be sure to include your full name and mailing address.  A winner will be chosen at random next Wednesday, 2-4-15.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I Don't Have To Explain Myself To You

Yesterday, in the midst of my other errands, I needed to stop by the bank to find out what was up with a recent deposit I had made.  For some reason, the mobile deposit had been returned, and I was charged a return fee on top of it.  Thankfully, they were very gracious and helped me figure out what happened.  In the end, they cashed the checked for me and reimbursed the fee to my account.  Praise the Lord!

"While you're here, would you like us to make sure all of your account information is up to date?" the kind man said.  "We try to do that at the beginning of each year." 

I knew I had groceries in the car and more errands to run, but I figured the process wouldn't take long, so I said, "Sure."  If only I had known what I was getting myself into. 

The entire affair started off simply enough.  Name.  Account number.  Date of birth.  Phone number.  E-mail address.  (Most of this information, by the way, was horribly out of date. I guess I haven't done this "first of the year" process in some time.)  Then, came the details of a more personal nature, as the representative was trying to see if we qualified for a home loan through their bank.

Him:  "How much is your combined annual income?" 

Me:  "You wouldn't believe me if I told you, although you are staring at the contents of my bank account, so maybe you would believe me."

Him:  "What would you say you owed in total debt, including your mortgage?"

Me:  "Far more than you could ever dream, unfortunately.  Please don't make me think about it."

Him:  "It says here you're self-employed.  What do you do?"

Me:  "I'm a writer. . . I write books and blogs and stuff."  (eloquent, huh?)

Him:  "And where is your husband employed?"

Me:  "The Clean Force Company.  It's a carpet cleaning company."

Him:  "Does he like it there?"

Me (growing extremely uncomfortable):  "It's a job.  He does what he has to do so that I can do what the Lord has called me to do."  (Let's face it, how many people actually enjoy cleaning carpets?)

By this time, I felt like I needed to explain myself, our financial situation and so much more.  I exploded into a discussion of past medical expenses and job losses, emergency circumstances and following the Lord's will.  Though the man said nothing negative, I felt as if I were being judged. . . and sentenced--"Loser!"  Instead of leaving the bank feeling happy about resolving the issue with the deposit, I instead felt discouraged and depressed.  And get this, the entire event took place less than two hours after speaking to someone who expressed gratitude for the encouragement I offered each day on my blog, especially the post on doubt.  Coincidence?  I think not!

As I drove to my next stop, striving to hold back the tears of frustration and disappointment, I decided what I needed most was to have a little talk with Jesus.  I poured out every ounce of despair and disgust at the situation I currently faced.  I explained my frustration over our financial state, ready and willing to admit that I have not been as good of a steward over my finances as I should have been.  I expressed my negative feelings about how I always feel I have to explain myself and the reason I work for pennies to those who I feel are wondering why I don't get a real job and pay off some debts.  I talked for a long while, then when my strength was gone, I sat still and listened to hear what God would say to me.

It took a while, but all evening long, my e-mail inbox filled with letters of thanks and encouragement.  Friends and readers thanking me for a particular blog post that brought comfort to them.  A dear friend who is currently listening through my Names of God audio series and had to stop long enough to send me an e-mail letting me know how much she was enjoying them and that she's making a point to take notes as she listens.  A fellow writer who thanked me for some recent help I'd given her and ended her e-mail by saying that she was thanking God for me all day.  Gratitude.  Encouragement.  Pleas to keep doing what I'm doing.  One right after another!

Now, you may be thinking, "That's not God speaking.  That's other people."  Well, yes and no.  I believe God was speaking through those people, and this is what I heard.  "Yes, Dana, I know it's hard, but you're right where I want you to be for the time being.  I am using you in ways you can't even imagine, so don't ever doubt whether or not you're making a difference.  I know the financial gains are lousy, but that's not really what this is all about, is it?  You don't need to explain yourself to anyone because they don't have the right to judge.  I am the Judge, and I know that you're doing the very thing I told you to do.  So, don't worry about what others may think or say.  Their opinions don't matter.  Mine does.  Continue to live out your life in a way that is pleasing to me, and I'll take care of the rest."

I heard all of that?  Yes, I did, but even more importantly, I felt it.  And with that answer, a great peace settled over me.    I don't have to explain what I do.  Good grief, I don't even understand it myself sometimes.  How in the world could I possibly explain it to you?  But it doesn't matter because God has reminded me that if someone has a problem with my following His will in this way, I can simply tell them to take it up with my Boss.  And I'll leave the explaining to Him. 

That'll show 'em to mind their own business, huh?

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;  Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. - Ephesians 6:5-8

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

But I've Already Done That!

This post has been rolling around in the back of mind for a couple of years now, but I've never felt like the Lord would give me the freedom to write it.  I don't know why.  I can't explain it.  So, I've left it on the back burner, and honestly, I had forgotten about it. . . until this morning.  Out of the blue, the thought hit me and hard on its heels was the impression that this was the topic for this morning's post. I don't know who this is for today or why God chose this particular time to allow me to post these thoughts, but I don't need to know.  I need only obey, so that's what I'm going to do.

Have you ever heard a song, sermon or testimony where the person was describing a situation to which you could relate all too well?  Perhaps it was a story of darkness and despair.  Maybe the person was describing a time when they had lost all hope and joy in life.  Whatever the case, you were listening and nodding your head, thinking Oh, yes, this is me and, at the same time, hoping that the person was about to reveal his/her secret to setting things right.

And typically, they do, but the answer was not that for which you were hoping.  Come to find out, this "life struggle" took place before salvation, and once the person came to know the Lord, everything turned out fine.  Immediately, your heart is crushed, and for several reasons.  On the one hand, you're happy for the individual who came to know the Lord, but on the other hand, you're confused and dismayed.  Is everything supposed to be hunky dory once you're saved?  Do problems cease to exist?  Does the presence of the Holy Spirit in your heart negate the fact that life is full of trouble?  And if the answer to those questions is yes, then are you really saved at all?  Because that has certainly not been the case for you.

I've been there, dear friend.  So desperate for an answer to my problem that I was crushed when it was revealed that the answer was salvation.  "But I've already done that," I've argued.  I'm saved.  I know I am.  I'm living my life day after day, trying to serve God to the best of my ability.  So, why am I not experiencing this sunshine and rainbows of which others are speaking?  Well, to answer that, let me be blunt.  They don't experience sunshine and rainbows every day either.  Sure there are good days, but there are bad days too.  And it's imperative that we realize that the presence of bad days does not serve as an indicator that we are not saved and partakers of the joy of the Lord.

My favorite Bible verse is John 16:33, and one of the reasons I love it so is because Jesus tells it like it is.  He doesn't try to sugarcoat the truth to make it easier to swallow.  He simply states the facts.  One problem and one solution.   These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. 

Did you catch that?  Jesus is saying this so that we might have peace.  So, how does telling us that we're going to have troubles give us peace?  Well, for one, we know they're coming, so they shouldn't catch us off guard.  Two, we can be assured that He knows they're coming, so we can trust that He'll see us through.  And lastly, we can have peace because Jesus' statement didn't end there.  He didn't simply state the problem, but He went on to give us the solution.  Yes, there will be problems, but it's no big deal because He has overcome the world.  In other words, He's got it under control.  Keep in mind that Jesus was talking to believers at this point in time, so we have it on His authority that we can be saved and still have troubles.

The solution to the biggest of life's problems for the unsaved is salvation.  After all, without Jesus, they have nothing.  But if you are already saved and are still searching for the answer to life's distresses, I would like to direct you back to Jesus' statement.  Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.  Don't panic.  Don't worry.  Don't stress over it.  God is looking on, and He knows exactly what you're going through.  He is with you and will give you strength to overcome.  Don't lose heart.  Don't lose faith.  And don't question a decision that you made long ago.  Trials do not indicate a lack of salvation.  On the contrary, more often than not, they verify that God is at work in your life and the devil is fighting against that work.  So don't view the hard times as a curse but rather as a blessing.  God is working, so you can rest in His embrace and be at peace.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Would You Please Pass the Grace?

Sunday evenings, after church, anyone who wants to stay is invited to gather together in the fellowship building and share a meal.  It's usually something simple, consisting of miscellaneous items we have brought.  Sandwiches, pizza and soups are common menu items at such gatherings.

Last Sunday afternoon, however, I was at a loss at what to take.  I didn't have the time or energy to fix a soup.  I didn't have the supplies for sandwiches.  Scrounging through my pantry, I emerged with a pack of seasoned rice.  My thought was to cut up the leftover pork chops, toss them, along with the flavored rice, into the crock pot, add some water and broth and create a soup of sorts.  When Jason saw my plan, he immediately began to help, adding his own offerings to the mix.  All afternoon, the two of us added little things to the soup--a can of black beans, a can of diced tomatoes, a few seasonings here and there.  After a while, it began to smell good. . .really good!!!!

But as we tasted our hodgepodge concoction, we both agreed that something was missing.  Unfortunately, neither of us could figure out what.  Jason perused the various seasonings on the rack as I once again scrounged through the pantry and then the refrigerator.  After several minutes, Jason decided to add a splash of lemon juice to the mix, and you know what?  That was it!  That was the missing ingredient!  Who would have thought that a tiny splash of lemon juice would turn an okay soup into a culinary masterpiece?  (Okay, maybe it wasn't that good, but it was very tasty.  The worst part was trying to answer the question, "Hey, what kind of soup is that?"  Um, well. . .)

Some days I take a big bite out of life and realize that something's missing.  Everything is okay, but something is not quite right.  And as it was with the soup, it is often tricky to figure out what the missing ingredient is.  But, I've been doing a lot of praying and soul-searching lately, and God has revealed to me an ingredient that is often missed in various parts of my life.  No, it's not lemon juice.  It's something much sweeter.  My missing ingredient is grace.

Understand that I'm not saying grace is missing from my life because I haven't received any.  That's not it at all.  It's not the receiving that is lacking, but rather the extending of grace.  In my Gung ho approach to conquer each day and its many tasks, I often fail to take the time to step outside of my own little zone and look for opportunities to extend grace to others.  Then, of course, there are times when the opportunities are right in front of me, but my selfishness and pride talk me into offering sarcasm, bitterness or moodiness instead.  And suddenly, life doesn't taste just right.  Things aren't what I know they should be.  And I have no one to blame but myself.

Now that I've finally figured out the missing ingredient, I have begun paying attention to what's going on outside my own little world.  I have started looking for opportunities to extend grace to others.  When that little voice within me begins to grumble about someone else's actions or attitudes, I am learning to silence it by remembering how many times I've received grace and  by realizing that God would have me to pass on what I've received.  And you know what?  Life is tasting sweeter each day.  Do I still have problems?  You bet I do.  Are some days still difficult?  Absolutely.   But as odd as it sounds, it seems that the more grace I give out the more I have for myself.  And each day seems to taste a little better than the day before.

All that from a simple dash of grace!  Who would have thought?

Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. - Colossians 4:6

Friday, January 23, 2015

Team Us: Marriage Together by Ashleigh Slater

When a couple promises "I do," they agree to more than just a shared last name, a joint bank account, and no more dateless nights. This husband and wife duo forms a new team. "Life together" becomes their mantra. Nothing can come between them. At least, that's the plan. But then real life sets in. With it come disappointments and frustrations. If the couple isn't intentional in their day-to-day interactions, that once enthusiastic "we" can slowly revert to "you" and "me." Before long, the couple's left wondering what happened to their team spirit. Team Us: Marriage Together offers couples practical ways to cultivate and strengthen unity in their marriages. Author Ashleigh Slater shares from her own marriage as she presents couples with realistic ideas on how to foster cooperation, deepen commitment, and exercise grace on a daily basis.

My Review:

I'm fairly picky about marriage books.  Generally, I either love or hate them.  Some tend to focus so much on the intimacy of the marriage that they leave out the practical side of things.  Others do the exact opposite.  I'm happy to say that Team Us does a wonderful job of balancing the two sides of marriage:  the intimate side and the day-to-day practicality side. And while the book didn't really provide me with any new information or "aha" moments, it did serve to remind me of several areas that I could use improvement in, as well as areas in which I have grown lax over the years.

I think what I admired most about the book was Ashleigh's straightforward, down-to-earth tone.  She didn't come across as some high and mighty marriage counselor that had all the answers.  Instead, she approached the subject from the viewpoint of "Hey, I'm right here with you in the midst of this chaotic thing called marriage. Let's work together and see if we can't figure out how to make it everything God intended for it to be."  With real life examples and witty humor, Ashleigh takes you by the hand on a tour through her marriage, pointing out along the way what worked and what didn't.  It's is a refreshingly honest approach to what can often be a delicate topic--how to make a Christian marriage work.

Being roughly the same age as I am, Ashleigh used many examples that brought back childhood memories.  Her references to the old show "Full House," as well as the movie, "The Princess Bride" brought a smile to my face as I could totally relate to the point she was trying to make.  I could also  relate to some of the difficult situations she discussed, including what she terms "the weeping years."  In a nutshell, the book and the real-life examples contained within serve as proof that marriages can grow through even some of the darkest adversities, whether it be job loss or the death of a loved one.  It won't be easy, and there are no quick fixes or instant formulas.  But with a true faith in God and the choice to love one another no matter what, every marriage can be a success.

Whether you've been married for six months or sixty years, this book is a valuable guide to having and keeping a happy marriage, and I highly recommend it.

The Giveaway:

If you'd like to receive a free copy of Ashleigh Slater's book, Team Us: Marriage Together, send me an e-mail at Dana@DanaRongione.com.  Be sure to include your name and mailing address.  A winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, January 28th.  The giveaway is only open to those in the United States and Canada, sorry!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How Much Can You Hold?

As I've mentioned before, I love hot tea.  Chamomile, yum!  Mint, delicious!  Lemon, wow!  Ginger, oh my!  Honey, tasty.  Then, of course, there's the combination of all of the above.  Throw in some green tea or white tea or both, and you have quite a tasty blend.  During the cold months, I throw a bunch of tea bags in my coffee pot (which is used only for tea), and brew tea by the pot.  I won't tell you how many pots I drink in a single day.

Knowing my love of tea, my dear, sweet husband gave me a thoughtful gift at Christmas.  He presented me with a variety of Guayusa teas (my favorite) and two humongous tea cups.  I'm talking, each cup holds nearly a third of a pot of tea.  Oh, yeah!!!!  I love this because it means fewer trips back and forth to the kitchen to refill my cup.  Seriously, there's nothing worse than sitting at my computer, deep into the thought process of my current writing project, and reaching out to an empty cup.  Oh, the horror!!!!  As you can imagine, I have truly been enjoying my over-sized cups, even if they do present the side effect of extra trips to the bathroom.  Fortunately, my office is right next to the bathroom, so, no problem there.

As I drained one of my ginormous cups the other day, I found myself wishing that it still held more.  Evidently, I prefer super-super-sized cups!  (Maybe I ought to start drinking from the pot itself. Hmm!)  Anyway, as I thought on this, I realized that I have the same wish for my heart--I wish it held more.  More love.  More compassion.  More goodness.  More kindness.  More faith.  If only there were a way to super-size my heart, I thought, but on the very heels of that thought, I realized that I don't need to. 

What I need is not an enlargement of my heart but a serious cleaning of it.  You see, the reason my heart won't hold any more love or compassion or goodness is because it's too full of other things like pride, selfishness and bitterness.  These things are taking up room that could be occupied by things that are much better for me and for everyone around me.  And you know what?  They have to go!  There isn't enough room for both the fruits of self and the fruits of the Spirit.  Something has to be cast out, and there is no question in my mind as to what that is.  I need more room.  I may not be able to change the size of my heart (although according to Psalm 119:32, the Lord can), but I can certainly make more room for the things that are important.

Like my tea cup, my heart, even when filled to capacity, will still need to be refilled time and time again.  But once cleaned, each filling will provide me with enough love, kindness, faith, etc. to live and to share.  The extra will be available to pass on to my fellow man, just the way God intended.  And when I feel empty, I know that a thorough filling is only a prayer away.

I wonder today, how big is your heart?  How full is it?  Is there any room for the things of God?  Or do you, too, need a thorough cleaning?  To say that running out of hot tea is a horror may be an exaggeration on my part (possibly), but to run out of room for the fruits of the Spirit is truly a cause for dismay.  They are a necessity for our Christian walk, and without them, we cannot possibly live the lives that God has called us to live.  So, I ask you, how much of the things of God can you hold?

***Note:  As I was typing this post, Jason came in and started reading over my shoulder. (It was like Mrs. Carper's typing class all over again. Yikes!)  Anyway, he laughed at my comment about the horror of running out of tea, then promptly went to the kitchen to refill my over-sized tea cup.  What a husband!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What Kind of Servant Are You?

The way I see it, there are two kinds of servants.  The first is best defined by an online dictionary as a person who performs duties for others."  This is typically the definition that comes to our minds when we think of a servant--someone who performs duties for others.  In this respect, the lord of the house issues a list of tasks that the servant must complete during a specific period of time.  Then, the lord goes about his business and leaves the servant to accomplish the duties that were set forth.  Occasionally, the lord will stop in to check on the progress of the servant, but it is very rare that the lord would "lower himself" in any way to actually help or work alongside the servant.  The relationship is simple.  The lord gives the orders.  The servant follows them.

This is not the kind of servant the Lord calls us to be.  You see, the Lord doesn't want us to simply work for Him.  He wants us to work with Him.  He does not give us order and then expect us to perform those tasks on our own.  He knows we can't.  In fact, He tells us as much in John 15:5 when He says, I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.  Nothing!  Without Christ, we simply cannot follow out the orders of our Lord.  And it makes sense that the Lord would not ask us to do something that He knows we can't do.

A servant of the Lord is not one who performs duties for others; he is one that performs duties with God.  Or to put it even better, a servant of the Lord is one who allows the Lord to work through him.  He is a tool for the Master's use--nothing more, nothing less.  Yes, he has tasks that he has been called to do, but in contrast to the first definition of a servant, the Lord doesn't give us duties to perform and then leave us alone to do them.  If He's called us to do them that means He's prepared to do them through us.  He doesn't go about His own business and leave us to figure out how to do what He's called us to do, yet so many times we act as if that's exactly what He's done.

So often, in our desire to "serve" the Lord, we adhere to that first definition of "servant."  We get our marching orders, then go off to battle with our own weapons and in our own strength.  And we wonder why we fail and grow weary.  We can't figure out why the tasks God has called us to seem so impossible.  After all, we're trying to obey.  We're trying to serve.  But alas, we have a warped sense of what it means to serve God.

I have no idea what God has called you to do.  I do know, however, that He does not expect you to accomplish any task on your own.  He desires to work through you each and every day to accomplish His work.  As His servant, you are to abide in Him, surrender your will to His and allow His desires to become your desires.  You are a glove, designed for the Master's hand.  Alone you have no strength and little usefulness, but when you allow the Master to place His hand within your willing vessel, His great work can be done.  That's what it means to be a servant of God.  Please don't feel you need to simply get your orders and run with them.  That's not what God wants.  He wants to work within you and alongside you in each and every way.

So I ask you, what kind of servant are you?


And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. - Mark 16:20 (emphasis mine)

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Case of Mistaken Identity

As I pulled into a parking space at the grocery store this morning, I immediately heard a deep, menacing bark.  Being a dog-lover, I turned to see if I could spot the protective pooch, but what I saw was not the sight that I was expecting.  In the van a couple of spaces down, a tiny runt of a dog stood on his hind legs in the passenger seat, his nose pressed to the window.  I closed my eyes and shook my head, thinking that something had to be wrong with my eyes, but in that instant, I heard the bark again.  My eyes snapped open, and I spied that same little runt of a dog.

By this time, my mind was swirling.  I knew that there was no way that deep, ferocious bark could have been coming from that weeny of a dog.  I mean, I've seen some big dogs with wimpy barks, but this just wasn't possible.  As I contemplated what was going on, the barking started again, and sure enough, the little dog in the van was moving his mouth in a barking motion.  Only it wasn't in sync with the actual sound of the barking.  Confused to a new level, I looked around a bit more and suddenly understood what was going on.  I had failed to see the giant German shepherd that was being walked along the grass strip of the parking lot.  Evidently, the German shepherd had spied the little dog, too, and was wanting to get a hold of it (tasty treat, maybe?).  The little dog was simply barking in response to the bigger dog, but because the little dog was enclosed in the vehicle, his pitiful little bark couldn't be heard.

Finally, things made sense, and I could exit the car and go into the store, assured that I wasn't losing my mind.  I did get a good laugh from the event. . . and a good lesson.

There are a lot of voices in this world.  Voices that give direction.  Voices that comfort and console.  Voices that convict and voices that set at ease.  And somewhere, in the midst of all that noise and all that confusion is the voice of Jesus.  The voice that we should know and recognize.  The voice that we should heed.  But sometimes, I feel just like I did this morning.  My ears are telling me one thing but my eyes are telling me something else.  My ears told me that the sound I heard was coming from a large dog.  There was no doubt about it. . . until I spotted the little dog.  Suddenly, I became less sure of what I knew to be true, and I was encompassed by doubt and confusion.

That's exactly where Satan wants us to be--paralyzed by doubt and confusion.  You see, as I sat in my car this morning, despite being in a hurry to wrap up my errands for the day, I was mesmerized by the conflict between my ears and my eyes.  And in that state, I couldn't do anything else.  Everything else faded away as I focused on trying to figure out what was going on, striving to sort truth and error.  All the while, my tasks were going undone, and that's right where Satan wants us.  He desires for us to be confused, so dependent on what these little eyes see that we are willing to forsake the truth that we know deep down in our hearts.  That's why the Bible teaches us to live by faith.

Sometimes what we hear the Lord saying won't mesh with what these human eyes see.  God says, "I will supply all your needs," but your eyes are staring at this month's bank statement, and it's not pretty. God says, "This is for your good," but from where you're standing, the situation looks anything but good.  God says, "I love you so much," but your earthly eyes see a circumstance that surely He wouldn't allow to happen to one He loves.  Our ears hear His promises, but our eyes see evidence to the contrary.  Which one is to be trusted?

Actually, neither.  It wasn't my ear this morning that I needed to believe.  It was my heart.  As I mentioned, I knew in my heart that the bark was from a large dog.  I've been around enough dogs to know.  That's why it's not enough to simply know or hear God's promises.  We must believe them with all our heart.  Then, when the eye is telling us one thing, we can check with our heart to determine the truth of the situation.  If the evidence of the eye is contrary to the evidence of the heart, well, then you have your answer.

I'm reminded of the old children's song, "Oh, be careful, little eyes, what you see."  And while that is wonderful advice, I'd like to add to it, "Oh, be careful, little eyes, what you believe."  It certainly would save us a lot of confusion!

Ssh, did you hear something?

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. - Hebrews 11:1

Friday, January 16, 2015

What Is Preventing You From Reaching Jesus?

Wednesday night, the message at church was about Zaccheus.  It was a good message, and the preacher brought out some wonderful points.  As I sat down to do my daily Bible reading this morning, the very first passage was Luke 19, the chapter about Zaccheus.  With goosebumps, I completed my Bible reading and opened up my devotional book.  Guess who?  Yep, there was Zaccheus again.  I commented to Jason, "Okay, this is downright freaky!"  To which he responded, "Or maybe you just get spooked easily."  Well, in all honesty, I do get spooked easily, but that's not what this was about this morning.  I wasn't spooked.  I was at attention.  God doesn't waste words, and I was sure that there was something within the story of Zaccheus that God wanted me to see.

And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.  And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. - Luke 19:1-3

Despite his being a "bad guy," Zaccheus had an honest desire to see Jesus.  No doubt, he had heard the tales of this great Teacher who performed miracles and forgave sins.  And even though he was rich, Zaccheus knew that something was missing. . .and that something was Jesus.  Unfortunately, there were a couple of things preventing him from reaching his goal--Jesus.

1) The people -- The passage tells us that he sought to see Jesus but couldn't because of the number of people in the way.  To use the word "crowd" would be an understatement.  There were people everywhere, and everyone wanted to get close to Jesus.  

Sometimes, people can prevent us from reaching Jesus as well.  It could be that the people of the world are preventing us from reaching out by convincing us that life is too good to get saved.  Or perhaps, it's our love for someone that reaches beyond the limits of what is good and sets that person up as a god in our eyes.  Or maybe, people in general have let us down, and because of our track record of disappointment, we're afraid to reach out and trust that Jesus might be different.  Yes, people can certainly get in the way of our reaching Jesus.

2) The predicament -- The problem with the people was bad enough, but on top of that, poor Zaccheus was short.  Now, you tall people may not understand this, but take it from those of us who are vertically-challenged, it's tough being short.  No matter where we sit in the theater, the person in front of us always blocks our view.  We miss out on so many things because we simply can't see.  And the Bible says that a man can't add to his stature, so, like Zaccheus, we're stuck with a situation that we simply can't do anything about.

We've all been there, haven't we?  We know what needs to be done, but we don't have the time, tools, energy or financial means to see it through.  And sometimes, those predicaments that should drive us into the arms of our Father are the very things that prevent us from reaching out to Him.  We're distracted.  We're frustrated.  And in the midst of our troubles, that's all we can see.  Not only are we not reaching out to Christ, but we've completely lost sight of Him.

In times like this, we need to pull "a Zaccheus" and rise above the circumstances.  Think about it.  Zaccheus could have given up and gone home.  He had tried and failed.  Well, that's life, right?  Wrong!  Trying and failing are part of the process of life, but it shouldn't end there.  What's the old saying, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!"  There's wisdom in that old cliche.  

Zaccheus had determined in his heart that, one way or another, he was going to get to Jesus.  He wasn't distracted by the people or the predicament.  He was wise enough, in this moment of determination, to look past the problems and look for a solution.  And he spotted one--a tree.  Don't you imagine it was quite a sight to see a well-dressed, grown man climbing a tree?  But Zaccheus didn't care.  He needed something more than the people's approval.  He needed a Savior!  

And so do we.  So, I ask you today, what is preventing you from reaching Jesus?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Business Versus Ministry

Most of the time I am perfectly content to sit in my office and write my little heart out.  Fiction, non-fiction, devotionals--it doesn't matter.  As long as the Lord is in it, I want to write it.  I love the process of writing.  While it is hard work that demands an enormous amount of concentration, it is also relaxing for me.  It is an outlet through which I can vent my joys and frustrations, my dreams and my failures, my creativity and my drawbacks.  To have the privilege of calling that process my "job" is outstanding. . . most of the time.

You see, when I start thinking of my writing as a job, discontentment begins to grow.  A job provides an income.  A business produces customers.  My last "paycheck" was in the amount of 50 cents and the one before that was even less.  (And no, I'm not making that up!)  As for customers, sure, I sell a few books here and there, typically when a new product comes out.  But otherwise, I can assure you that buyers are not knocking down my door.

With the discontentment growing by leaps and bounds, I fall back into my default way of thinking--how can I fix this?  My mind scurries about, plotting and scheming about new promotional methods and how to better schedule my time so that I can devote more of it to marketing.  After all, if people don't know about my products, they can't know to buy them, right?  It makes sense to me.  It seems like a logical train of thought, yet all the while, something within me is extremely unsettled.  It's as if an alarm is going off inside my brain, but with all the hustle and bustle of creating my new plan, I don't have the time to pay it any attention.

I'm happy to say that I must be getting better because when that same discouragement set in this morning, I caught it before I had time to create my master plan to change my life.  The Lord allowed me to notice that alarm, and when I did, I stopped my thoughts in their tracks and reminded myself, "No, I'm not going to do that.  I'm not even going to start down that road because I know it will only lead to more frustration and discouragement when things don't work out the way I plan.  Besides, I know what God wants me to do, and this is not it.  In order to bring about my own plan, I have to disregard the plan of my Heavenly Father.  Am I willing to do this?"

Absolutely not!  I don't want to forsake God's plan for my life.  The truth is that I'm easily swayed by testimonials of the little-known author who went from making 50 cents a month to $50,000 each month.  I'm attracted to the e-mails that flood my inbox--e-mails promising to make me more money with less work.  I'm mesmerized by the possibility of Jason being able to stay home or work a part-time job because my "job" takes care of all our financial responsibilities.  But the fact of the matter is that I don't have a job; I have a ministry.

A ministry doesn't necessarily make money.  A ministry doesn't typically gain customers.  A ministry doesn't provoke popularity or fame.  The word "ministry" comes from the Greek word, diakoneo, which means "to serve."  So, a ministry is a service, nothing more.  There are no guarantees of wealth or success.  There are no promises that the work will be noticed or appreciated.  But that does not make the service any less valuable in the eyes of the Lord.  No one else may notice your service, but I guarantee you He does.  There may not be much in the way of monetary compensation, but the Lord has other ways of rewarding His faithful servants.

When I keep these things in mind, I'm much less likely to become discouraged or overwhelmed with the feelings that I need to "help God help me."  When I realize that I don't have a job but a ministry, I stop mourning over the pitiful paychecks and start looking for more ways to serve.

I don't know what kind of service or ministry you're in today, but I'm here to remind you that any work done for the Lord is precious.  It doesn't matter if no one else sees or appreciates what you do.  It only matters that you are faithful in the work to which the Lord has called you.  I know it's difficult, and I understand that sometimes the rewards just don't seem worth it.  But we must remember that most of our rewards are on hold.  We will receive them when we finally make it Home.  And until then, we have to trust that the Father is paying attention and keeping track of our faithful service.  It helps to remind ourselves daily that this is not a job; it's a ministry.  Not a business, but a service.  Then, all that's left is to serve to the best of our ability and leave the results in God's hands.  He won't let us down!


 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. - John 12:26

Monday, January 12, 2015

Battling for Control

The theme of today's post is not much different than several of my most recent posts, but since the Lord seems to really be impressing it upon me, I feel it is what He would have me share with you.

I enjoy a good sci-fi show every now and then, except when they deal with time travel (don't even get me started--my brain, my poor brain).  Anyway, I enjoy the space scenarios, the impossible situations, and of course, the alien encounters.  In a recent episode of my current sci-fi show, two crew members were de-materialized and transported onto an enemy ship where they were to remain in their de-materialized state until the ship rendezvoused with its hive ship.  Fortunately, the good guys were able to shoot down the ship before it got away.  Unfortunately, the two crew members were still stored as simple "patterns" inside the ship.

Of course, this is where the first real dilemma takes place.  The broken ship has only enough power left to extract one of the crew members and re-materialize him/her into the proper form.  The team leader, unable to determine which pattern is which, is forced to choose one of the two crew members to save.  The first crewman is restored to his rightful form and just the person to determine how to free the second crew member, who is a woman officer.

This is where dilemma number two comes into play.  What no one realizes until a little later is that more than just one crew member was restored.  While only one body re-materialized, both consciousnesses (the male officer, as well as the female officer) were transferred into the one body.  As you can imagine, the remainder of the episode was a comical play by play of each consciousness fighting for control of the one body.  It was a hoot!

Now, you're probably saying, "Um, that's great, Dana, but what does this have to do with devotions or the Bible or God?  You are going somewhere with this, right?"

Hang in there.  I do have a point. 

The tug-of-war between the two consciousnesses caused a great strain on both the mind and body of each character (well, it was only one body, but you get my meaning, right?).  In the end, the doctor determined that the only way either one of them would survive would be for one of them to let go.  Someone had to completely give up control, which meant that he/she would eventually fade away completely.  Unless one of them was willing to give up control, they would both die.

This scenario reminded me of my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  You see, I, too, have a battle raging within me.  A virtual tug-of-war takes place daily between my flesh and my spirit, each fighting for control of my words, my thoughts and my actions.  Just as with the characters in the show, this constant battle for control is exhausting in both mind and body.  And just as in the show, there is only one remedy--someone has to completely give up control. I think it's pretty obvious who that "someone" is, right? 

And you know what?  This flesh will eventually fade away no matter who currently has control, so why not surrender it now?  Why not make this life easier?  Why do we choose to face the same daily battles when we could avoid them by making a single choice each morning?  Before we even rise from bed, our prayer should be, "Lord, thank you for another day.  I surrender to you everything that I am and everything that I have to do with as you see fit.  Lord, please keep me in your will so that I don't get in your way.  You have control.  I'm all Yours."

In case you're wondering, the extracted crewman, who was a brilliant scientist, figured out a way to extract the female's body from the alien ship and return her consciousness to her body.  Other than needing a good bit of privacy for a while, both crew members were just fine. . . and they lived happily ever after.

And so can we, but only by giving up control of our lives.  It's a scary thing to do, but God has proven time and time again that He knows what He's doing.  Trust Him.  Surrender your life.  And for all those "Frozen" fans out there, let it go, let it go!

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. - Galatians 5:17

Friday, January 9, 2015

Yes, Lord, Lead Me!

I would like to share with you a powerful paragraph I came across yesterday.  I've heard, read and seen many messages and devotions about following the Lord, but this particular point of view struck me, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.  Take a look: 

Suppose you had to cross a field full of land mines.  A person who knows exactly where every one of them is buried offers to take you through it.  Would you say to him, "I don't want you to tell me what to do.  I don't want you to impose your ways on me"?  I don't know about you, but I would stay as close to that person as I could.  I certainly would not go wandering off.  His directions to me would preserve my life.  He would say, "Don't go that way, because that way will kill you.  Go this way and you will live." -- An Excerpt from Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King

Wow!  I've honestly never thought about it in that light, but that's exactly what the Christian walk can be likened to.  Our lives are full of land mines, and God is the only One who knows exactly where each of those mines is.  He is the only One who can guide us safely through, but that means we must follow exactly in His footsteps, following His every direction.  When we do, we arrive safely at our destination.  When we don't, well, let's just say things get messy.

God is not trying to run our lives because of some "ruler complex."  He is not attempting to take away our free will.  He is trying to get us safely through life's mine fields.  That's all!  So why do we get in such a huffy about God having His way?  Why do we insist on following our own paths and directions?  We don't even know where we're going, let alone how many land mines are in our paths.  Why, oh, why would we ever want to argue with our Guide?  He knows the way; we don't!  He knows the location of the mines; we don't!  He knows exactly what's in our future; we don't!

God has been dealing with me a lot the past few weeks about yielding complete control of my life to Him.  He has been reminding me of my need and ability to trust Him.  And then, when I came across the above quote in my reading yesterday, it was as if I could finally see and understand.  I can trust Jesus with whatever my life may hold.  He is my Guide, and He is working all things for my good.  I need not be afraid, for as long as I'm following in His footsteps, I can take each step with strength and confidence.  And with my mind free from worry and doubt, I can finally fully concentrate on the tasks He has called me to do.

You are never walking alone, my friend, but I ask you:  Who is doing the leading?

Man's goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way? - Proverbs 20:24


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Vital Differences in Bible Translations

And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. - Genesis 22:8 KJV

What a beautiful verse and a magnificent display of faith.  On his way to sacrifice his own Son according to God's command, Abraham is not deterred by Isaac's question, "Father, where is the lamb for the sacrifice?"  While I'm certain Abraham had no idea what God was going to do, He was certain that God was going to do something.  God had made Him a promise, and Abraham knew that God was true to His Word.

The thing about this verse is that it loses much of it meaning when translated in various versions of the Bible.  Now, please understand, I'm not saying that if you don't use the KJV, you're unsaved and on your way to hell.  I don't believe that.  I do believe, however, that certain translations of the Bible are more accurate than others and that you owe it to yourself to study it out and determine which translation is best for you.

That being said, let me give you a few examples of the different ways this verse has been translated and how those various translations change the very meaning of the verse.  For this purpose, we will focus on the phrase, "God will provide himself a lamb."  And God did provide himself a lamb on the cross of Calvary.  He took our place so that our sins could be paid for and we could be granted entrance to Heaven.  God provided Himself as the lamb.  Now, let's look at some other translations.

Many versions, like the AMP, the ERV, the GNT and the HCSB, use a variation of "God Himself will provide a lamb."  That has a completely different meaning than what we saw previously.  It simply means that God will personally provide a lamb, not that God will provide a lamb in the form of His person.  Do you see the difference?

Other versions, like the CEB, the TLB and the MSG, comment "God will see to it."  Well, that could mean just about anything.  And while I'm certain Abraham didn't know what God was doing, I'm equally certain that God did, and He was the author of this passage.  Yes, God would see to it, but it's imperative that He explain how, for salvation is pictured in this very story.

And several other versions, such as the ESV, the MEV and the NASB, use the phrase, "God will provide for himself a lamb."  Again, this is a very different statement.  The first is saying that God will be the sacrifice.  The second simply states that God will provide a sacrifice.  One indicates the depth of the Father's love for us while the other indicates only His provision.

Again, I am not criticizing any particular Bible or anyone's use of another version of the Bible.  What version you use is between you and the Lord.  I am, however, warning you that not all versions are created equal, and the differences go far beyond this single phrase.  That said, I urge you to study it out for yourself.  Find the differences between the various versions, and ask yourself, "How does this difference affect the passage?"  Not only will you gain a better understanding of the Word, but you may also discover truths that had been hidden within a faulty translation.

As you've seen from the example in this post, a single word, or even the placement of that word, can greatly impact the message and meaning of the verse.  Study carefully.  I assure you, you won't be sorry.

 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Movie Review: The Identical

I recently signed on with a company who offers me free products in exchange for an honest review here on my blog.  The first product I agreed to review was a Christian film entitled The Identical.  The story follows the life of Ryan Wade, a young man who was separated from his parents and identical twin as a baby and raised as a P.K. (preacher's kid) in a small town in the middle of nowhere.  Despite his father's desire for him to follow in his footsteps and become a preacher, Ryan has his own dreams but struggles to find the balance between pursuing his personal goals and pleasing his father.  The story details Ryan's path from uncertainty in his calling to peace and contentment in finally discovering his true passion in life.

I truly enjoyed the movie.  It had a touch of everything:  romance, adventure, drama and much more.  There was even a touch of comedy thrown in here and there to keep the story upbeat.  While watching, I really felt for Ryan who wanted to pursue his musical career but felt trapped by his obligation to be what his father wanted him to be.  It broke my heart to see someone cut off from the very passion that drives him.  That being said, I was very happy with how everything turned out.  It was truly a good wholesome story.

Another thing about the movie that impacted me is the spiritual lessons sprinkled in throughout the story line.  If one is paying attention, he can glean some serious insight into the Christian walk.  Probably my favorite statement was where Reverend Wade told Ryan, "You have to stop trying to figure everything out.  That's God's job.  Your job is to just be what God made you to be."  I needed to hear that!

On the negative side, I hesitate to call this a Christian movie for two reasons.  First off, I feel some Christians would be offended by the music throughout the film.  Though raised in church, Ryan Wade's dream of music was not one of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  The music was clean, and in that, it didn't bother me, but for others, it may cause offense.  Second, I can recall at least one cuss word in the film.  I don't remember if there were more or not, but I distinctly remember one toward the end because it caught me off guard.  Again, I have learned to mostly tune out such language, so while it bothered me that the cursing was there, it wouldn't keep me from watching the movie.  However, I feel it is imperative for me to mention this aspect of the movie, particularly for parents who may not want their children exposed to such language.  To be honest, I was disappointed that the film makers felt the cussing was a necessary part of the story.  It would have been just as good (or better, in my opinion) if they had left it out.

In summary, I would definitely recommend this movie as long as you keep in mind the two things I mentioned.  If you are not offended by some 50's music and at least one cuss word, I think you'll enjoy the message of the story. 

With that in mind, I am giving away one DVD copy of the movie The Identical.  To be included in the giveaway, simply e-mail me at Dana@DanaRongione.com with your name and address.  The winner will be selected this Friday, 1-9-15. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

I Will Give You Rest

Have you ever been really ill?  I'm not talking about sick; I'm talking about angry.  Angry beyond words.  Angry to the point that you're ready to pull your hair out.  Angry enough to yell at anyone who has the audacity to look at or speak to you.  That kind of angry.  Please say "yes."  Don't tell me I'm the only one.  And, please don't tell me that I'm the only one who gets upset over the dumbest things.

For example, last night I completely lost my cool.  You see, for three weeks now I've been trying to get to bed earlier.  I am not a night owl.  I need my sleep, and I need plenty of it.  So, I like to be in bed by 10:00 at the latest.  Unfortunately, with all the hustle and bustle of the last few weeks, I've been doing good to get in bed by 11:30.  But last night, I made plans.  I informed Jason of my decision.  I made all the necessary arrangements to make sure that I could be in bed by 9:30 at the latest.  And it worked. . . sort of.

Around 9:15, I stumbled to bed, eager to finally get a good night's sleep.  After turning on my soft music and turning out the light, I crawled into my warm bed and snuggled in for some serious sleep.  Within just a couple of minutes, I realized that the television in the living room was loud.  Too loud, in fact, for me to tune it out.  So, I rose from my comfortable spot and closed the bedroom door.  Ahh, peace and quiet.

I dozed off rather quickly but had only been asleep for about an hour and a half when Tippy came plodding into the bedroom.  Evidently, she was ready for bed too.  Jason followed her in and placed her in her new little bed.  He then left the room.  For the next half hour, I listened to Tippy lick her paws, her tail, her bed and her blanket.  I tried to drown out the noise, but it was too much.  I tried popping her on the bottom and even the head to get her to stop her incessant licking, but no, she was in one of her stubborn moods.  (Little did she know, so was I!)

I marched into the living room and declared to Jason that if he was going to stay up all night I was going to bring Tippy back out into the living room with him.  He could keep an eye on her and listen to her incessant grooming.  Bless his patient little heart!  Sensing the frustration and fatigue in my tone, he turned everything off and came to bed with me.  By that time, Tippy had worn herself out and nearly fallen asleep.  Figures!  So, instead of sleeping from 9:30 until 7:00 this morning, I finally drifted off somewhere around midnight, tense and frustrated beyond belief.  And guess what?  Now I'm tired and groggy. . . and perhaps a bit moody.

It's on days like this, however, that I cling to Jesus' promise in Matthew 11:28:  Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  All ye that labour and are heavy laden.  That's me, and that's you.  Jesus is speaking to us, and in this one simple verse, He assures us that if we will come to Him, He will give us rest.  Rest, so that we won't be ill at the world.  Rest, so that we can accomplish His will each day.  Rest, so that we can find peace in this journey that is called life.  Rest, so that we don't strangle our poor little stubborn dogs when it seems their will is stronger than our own.  Rest--what a refreshing thought.  What a privilege!

I don't know about you, but I could sure use some of that rest today.  And tomorrow.  And the next day, I'm sure.  So you know what that means?  It means that every day I need to go to Jesus.  And not just go to Him, but abide with Him all day, every day.  To dwell in His presence.  To rest in the shadow of His wings.  For as long as I'm there, I will have rest.  No anger.  No frustration.  No moodiness.  Only perfect peace and rest.  Oh, yes, that's what I long for.

Now, where did I put that pillow?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Questions for the New Year

As I face the beginning of another new year, I, like many others, find myself faced with many questions.  What do I want to accomplish this year?  Should I make resolutions or not?  Looking back over 2014, what were the most memorable moments?  Good questions.  Well, at least, these are good questions, but I must be honest with you.  Not all the questions that passed through my mind today were "good questions."  Just to give you a glimpse into my warped brain, here are a few thoughts that meandered through my mind today:

Should I finally tear down the Christmas tree and other decorations, or should I wait another day. . .or week. . . or month?

If there are dust bunnies hanging from my ceiling, are they technically called dust bunnies, or are they more like dust bats?

Why do most companies treat you better and offer you better deals as a new customer than they do if you're a customer of twenty years?

Is it really odd that my entire fireplace mantle is decorated with snowmen?  I mean, seriously, it's not like they're real snowmen or anything!

Why isn't there a Goldilocks temperature?  I'm either too hot or too cold.  What's the deal with that?

Scary, huh?  As you can see, my brain is one place where you never want to wander.  It can be downright bizarre!  And at this point, you're probably wondering where in the world I'm going with this and how I can possibly turn this into some form of devotion.  Don't worry.  I was just wondering the same thing.  Just kidding!

My point is that as I pondered these questions (both the good and the bizarre) this morning, my mind was drawn to an age-old question.  No, not the chicken and the egg, but rather an intrigue that we can find in the book of Romans.

For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. . . For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. (Romans 7:15,19)

While Paul uttered it as a statement, I can't tell you the number of times I've used it as a question.  "Why do I do the things I don't want to do?  Why don't I do the things I do want to do?  What is wrong with me?"  Have you ever been there?  You know the right thing to do, and that's exactly what you want to do.  In fact, it's even what you intend to do, but at the last minute, you find yourself doing the exact opposite.  What in the world?  We know what's right and what's wrong, so why do we find ourselves doing the very things we know we shouldn't and not doing the things we know we should?

In a word, the answer is "flesh."  While our souls and spirits are saved (at least I hope yours is), this old flesh is not.  And it is that very same flesh that leads us down the paths of sin.  That is not to say that we have no choice in the matter or that we have an excuse to sin.  What it means is that we must surrender our flesh to the Lord and yield to His will day in and day out.  Only then will we have the power to overcome the temptations of the flesh.  It is through Christ and His strength alone.

So, if I may, I'd like to leave you with one last question.  Have you yielded your life to Christ today?  I assure you, it's the only chance we have against the flesh.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

According To Your Faith

 And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou son of David, have mercy on us. And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.  And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. - Matthew 9:27-30

Have you ever put yourself in the place of a particular Bible character?  If so, did the story remain pretty much the same?  Probably not, huh?  For example, in the story above, if I had been one of those blind men, the story would have probably gone something like this:

"And when Jesus was come into the house, Dana came to him: and Jesus saith unto her, Believe ye that I am able to do this? She said unto him, 'Yes, Lord.  Well, that is, I want to believe, but I'm not sure I really do.  I mean, after all you are God, the Creator, the Almighty.  There really isn't anything you can't do, but this is a big deal here, and I'm just not really sure that I completely believe that you can heal me.  I want you to, and I think you can, but I'm not sure that you will.  Does that answer your question?'  Then touched he her eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. And her eyes were not opened because she was healed according to her faith, which was sadly lacking. So she stumbled away in darkness and sadness."

Wow!  Not exactly an encouraging tale, is it?  Yet it is how too many of us live our lives.  Believing, yet not believing.  Wanting to live by faith, but instead living in constant fear and doubt.  Knowing God, yet never really allowing the truth of His divine nature to sink in.  It makes me wonder how many wonderful things I've missed out on in life because I was dealt with according to my faith, which is far from what it should be.  How about you?

I'm not one for making new year's resolutions (probably because I have a hard time keeping them), but if I were going to make one this year, it would be this:  I am resolved to not miss out on any more blessings because of my lack of faith.   Enough is enough!  My fear and doubt are getting me nowhere, except possibly to an early grave.  It's time to stop fretting and start trusting.  It's time to take God at His Word and to leave every facet of my life in His hands.  It's time to get to know God better than I've ever known Him before.  It's time for me to be able to answer, "Yes, Lord, I believe" and truly mean it.

Again, I'm not overly fond of resolutions, but I can think of no better way to start off the new year than with the goal of increasing my faith.  What about you?  What are your goals for the new year?