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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dealing with Disappointment

Probably the most disappointed character in the Bible was John the Baptist. This man spent his entire life paving the way for Christ. He taught. He baptized. He pointed souls to the Lamb of God. From the time he was in the womb, he couldn't wait to tell others about the Savior. But when times became tough, John began to doubt. And then that doubt led to a growing disappointment. Listen to the words he spoke from his jail cell. Now when John heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? John was beginning to wonder if his whole life had been in vain.

If you read on in the story, you'll notice that Jesus was not offended by John's question. You see, many people will tell you that it is a sin to be disappointed. That's not so. The sin lies in how you handle that disappointment. For example, if you allow that disappointment to cause you to grow bitter, that is a sin. Instead, allow disappointment to cause you to grow better.

When you feel disappointment leading you to ask, "Why, Lord?" turn that question into "What now, Lord?" We don't know where disappointment will lead or how God will use it in our lives. However, we do know that God has our best interest at heart. We know He has a plan, and sometimes that plan involves disappointment. Does that make it any easier to face? In a lot of ways, no, it doesn't. But there is peace in knowing that God is in control of our lives, both the good and the bad. It's good to know that when we face disappointment, we can go to Him, and He will help bear our burdens.

-Excerpt from The Deadly Darts of the Devil by Dana Rongione

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's Truly For Your Good

I'm not sure if I'll be able to get through this post without tears or not. As I type this, Mitch is once again at the vet after having undergone another surgery on his paw. The attempt to remove his stitches resulted in a hemorrhaging blood vessel which had to be repaired. At this point, I have no idea what kind of recovery time we're looking at, and frankly, I'm not sure if my heart can bear to think about it. All I know is that my faith is growing weak, and I'm finding it more difficult to find peace in the midst of the storm.

Nevertheless, as I thought about what to post today, I was reminded of a thought that has struck me several times over the past few weeks. Each time we've had to wrap Mitch's paw or administer medication, or place that confounded cone back on his head, I've looked him in the eye and assured him that he was not being punished but that we were doing these things for his own good. Each time I said those words, I felt a nudge in my heart as if God were saying the same to me. "Dana, I know this is hard, but you're not being punished. Believe me when I tell you that this is for your own good. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it's unpleasant. Yes, I know you don't understand. But trust me. I have your best interest at heart."

Before he left for work, Jason looked me in the eye and said, "Spend some time with God today, and find peace." All morning long, I've been asking myself, "How do I find peace? Where do I find peace?" I was struck with the memory of the Sunday School lesson I taught on Sunday morning. It was on being sheltered in the promises of God. That is where I can find peace. That is where I can find strength to carry on. Christian author Sheila Walsh says it best: "Jesus is the eternal place of promise, the place where a miracle can happen--because for every problem, there is a promise."

I won't say this is going to be easy because I know better. But I know it is possible, and I'm not alone. God's taking care of me, even if it's in ways I don't understand. The best thing for me to do is to trust in Him and place the entire situation in His hands. He can certainly handle it better than I can!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Whiny and Ungrateful

Throughout the past few weeks of dealing with Mitch's injury, one thing has fascinated me: the dog never complains. On the day he sliced his foot open, he licked at the injury, but never whimpered or whined. He only threw a fit when he realized he was without his mommy and daddy at the vet. Since he's been recovering, never a whimper or whine, despite the number of times the wound has been opened and bleeding and the number of times we've had to wrap and unwrap it. He's not thrilled with the process, mind you, but overall, he just hasn't complained. The only sound of discomfort he made was on the day I brought him home from the vet. He moaned a few times and then vomited up his anesthetic. Those moans were completely understandable.

The sad part is that I've whined and complained far more than he has. I've moaned. I've cried. I've fretted. I've sulked. And I'm not even the one with the injury! Oh, the lessons I could learn from Mitch. Somehow, in his life, he's learned to be strong. No matter what befalls him, he just makes the best of what he has. Why can't I do the same? Why do life's ripples rock my boat so severely? Why can't I be like Mitch, taking life as it comes and doing the best I can with it?

God has been so good to me, yet I find myself unsatisfied with his many blessings. I find myself wanting more out of life. Unfortunately, it often takes one of life's storms (like the one I'm in) to remind me how good my life truly is. As I type this post (with one hand since my other is tucked securely beneath Mitch), I long for my "old" life back, the life that I was complaining about just a few weeks ago. It's amazing how much a storm can change our perspective. This one has certainly opened my eyes to how whiny and ungrateful I've been.

I'm reminded of the song, "Sometimes It Takes a Storm." I hate to think that Mitch has had to suffer this terrible injury so that God could point out and correct my attitude, but I must admit that it's a very real possibility. I believe God will do what it takes to get our attention. Not out of spite, mind you, but out of love.

So how's your attitude today? Are you feeling whiny and ungrateful? Does God need to get your attention? I hope not, for I can tell you that the process is not a pleasant one. No matter how bad things may seem, be thankful for what you have. I guarantee you things could be much worse.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Living In Fear

As many of you know, the month of July has been tough on our family. At the beginning of the month, Mitch was injured rather severely while out hiking. The weeks since then have been filled with expensive vet visits, episodes of bleeding, restless nights and futile attempts to keep a very active dog inactive. It has not been pleasant, but God has been good and helped us through.

As Jason and I were speaking about how to progress once Mitch heals, I made the comment, "I'm scared to take them out by myself anymore. A couple of months ago, he was attacked by a pack of dogs, and now he's slit his paw wide open. Who knows what will happen the next time?" Jason was patient with me (as he always is when I get irrational) and helped me to see that I was living in a state of fear. "You can't be afraid to live life for fear of what might happen," he said. "You just need to live and trust that God will give you the strength to deal with hard times when they come."

I thought about his words. I thought about the two recent scares I'd had with Mitch, but then I remembered the hundreds (not an exaggeration) of pleasant hikes the dogs and I have had. Was I really willing to trade the hundreds of good hikes so that I'd never have to experience a couple of bad ones? Jason was right. I was letting fear make my decisions and rule my thinking. I was allowing fear to keep me from living life. I was dwelling in a land of "but what if this happens?".

II Timothy 1:7 says, For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Fear doesn't come from the Lord. So if it's not from Him, where do you think it comes from? It's just another tool Satan uses to get us distracted and off-kilter in our Christian walk. If he can trick us into allowing fear to rule our lives, he's won a great victory. After all, we can't have two masters. God and fear can't both rule. We must choose.

I've decided that once we get the "okay" from the vet, we'll start hiking again with Mitch. We did invest in some dog hiking shoes for him since he's prone to wander off the trail. Beyond that, I am going to try my best to not allow fear to rule my thoughts and actions. Instead, I want to live my life to the fullest each day, trusting that God will see me through any situations that may arise. Life is just so much sweeter that way!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Where Am I Going?

A couple of weeks ago, I was running an errand that required me to drive farther than I'm usually comfortable with. You see, I don't like to drive. I know how to drive, and I'm very competent, I just don't enjoy it. In addition to that, I inherited my dad's sense of direction, which means I couldn't find my way out of a paper bag with an opening at both ends. Nevertheless, I had an errand that needed to be run, so I hopped in the truck and followed the directions my husband had given me. I had driven to the place a couple of times before, so I knew it wasn't that difficult. It was the trip home that gave me trouble.

As I drove, I was listening to a book on CD. In fact, I was engrossed in the story. A little too engrossed, as it turns out. Don't get me wrong, I was watching where I was going and paying attention to traffic. What I didn't notice, however, was that I missed a turn. Slowly, as I drove along, I realized that nothing looked familiar anymore. The farther I went, the less familiar things looked. In a state of panic, I realized what I had done. It was impossible for me to determine, however, how far past my turn I had come. I was debating whether to turn around and try to find my turn or continue on in hopes that something would become familiar.

I continued down the road, glancing around, searching for anything that looked familiar. I tried to calm my churning stomach, telling myself that I could always turn around and go back the other way. But then, a moment of decision appeared. The road I was on no longer went straight. All traffic had to turn either left or right. I reasoned that since I was supposed to have turned left a ways back, turning left would be the right choice. In the back of my mind, I prayed that reasoning was sound. Before long, I began to see signs for the BiLo Center, which is very close to my house. Relieved, I followed the signs to the BiLo Center, knowing that I could find my way home from there.

Looking back, it's a humorous tale. At the time, however, I was not laughing. Thankfully, my distraction only cost me a little time and panic. It could have been much worse.

Distraction is a deadly tool used by Satan to get us off course in our Christian walk. Often, we are so distracted that we don't even realize we're off course until we're far from where we should be. Then we're left with the trip, stumbling around in the dark, trying to figure out where we took the wrong turn and how to get back on track.

Many things can serve as a distraction: people, circumstances, money, fame, and sin, just to name a few. These things (except sin), in and of themselves, are not wrong. But our focus on them can be. It's easy to get so bogged down with certain things that we lose our true focus. We get off course. We miss our turn.

Distraction. It seems innocent, but it's so very deadly! So how can we fight against it? I think it's best said in Hebrews 12:2, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. As long as our eyes are on Christ, we'll be headed in the right direction. It's a matter of focus.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Working Around the Flaw

I recently read a story of a man who owned a beautiful piece of white marble. His life-long dream was to carve a thing of beauty from it, but alas, it had a flaw that ran through it. If not done correctly, any attempt at carving something from the stone could result in the entire thing crumbling to pieces. And so, the blacksmith kept the marble in a back room where he would visit everyday and envision the different masterpieces he would carve if not for the flaw.

A friend of the blacksmith knew how much this marble meant to him, but he also knew the blacksmith would never be truly satisfied until the marble was made into something. He offered to buy the marble and promised to create a thing of beauty from it. At first, the blacksmith objected, pointing out that the marble had a flaw and could not be worked. After many promises and assurances, the friend persuaded him.

For several weeks, the friend worked on the marble in secret. He would not allow anyone, even the blacksmith, to see the work until it was finished. He spent every spare moment with the marble, choosing a design and working the marble until it conformed to what he pictured.

On the day of the unveiling, the blacksmith was speechless. The friend had carved a statue of a man and woman, regal and strong. People came from miles around and wept at the base of the statue. It's beauty was immense and indescribable, although it didn't keep people from trying to describe it to others. City folk stood in line for hours just to catch a glimpse of the masterpiece.

The blacksmith could not contain his joy. "It's more beautiful than anything I ever imagined," he told his friend. "How did you do it? How did you create this with such a flawed piece of marble?"

The friend smiled and replied, "I knew the marble had a flaw, but instead of allowing that flaw to keep me from carving, I allowed that flaw to dictate the shape and structure of what I would carve. I honestly don't think I would have ever come up with the design if I hadn't had to work around the flaw."

Life has hard times or "flaws." It's up to us whether we allow those flaws to cause us to give up on life altogether or use those flaws to guide us to something better. Some of the best things in life are the results of taking a different course because a "flaw" stood in the way.

Are you facing a flaw in life today? If so, don't be like the blacksmith, begrudging the fact that life is not what you would have it to be and dreaming only of "what ifs". Instead, be like the friend and use those flaws to make your life more beautiful than you have ever imagined. Your life is a masterpiece in the making. Don't allow life's flaws to keep you from becoming everything God intends for you to be.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Model Believer - The Samaritan Woman

I know, I know. Many of you are reading the title, your face scrunched in confusion. The Samaritan woman? You mean the woman at the well? The woman who had five husbands and was living out of wedlock with another man? That Samaritan woman--a model believer?

Sure. Why not? As I've already stated none of these model believers were perfect. They each had their own faults and failures. We have no problem accepting Paul, the Christian killer, as a model believer because of all he accomplished after his conversion. For some reason though, we have a hard time accepting an adulterous woman. What could she possibly teach us about being a Christian? I'm glad you asked!

1.) She sought to understand. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? (John 4:10-12) When Jesus told her He could give her water, she asked questions to better understand what He was saying. As Christians, we are often guilty of using the phrase "my pastor says." We take what we hear and read at face value and fail to study it out for ourselves. We don't seek to understand; we just mimic what we've heard.

2.) She made an earnest request. The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. (John 4:15) When she learned what Jesus had to offer, she asked him to grant her request. As Christians, we've already requested that living water, but have we gone beyond that. Sure, we ask for blessings or healing, but when was the last time we requested something from God, knowing that He was the only means to obtaining what we requested? The Bible says, "Ask and ye shall receive." Could it be that we're not receiving because we're not asking?

3.) She responded by pointing others to Christ. The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? Then they went out of the city, and came unto him. (John 4:28-30)
Once she had tasted of the living water, she couldn't help but tell others. In just a few moments, she accomplished what the disciples had failed to do. They went into the city and came back with food. She went into the city and came back with souls. Which do you think Jesus appreciated more?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Model Believer - Paul

I think we could all agree that Paul was the greatest preacher who ever lived (besides Jesus, of course). Not only did he preach with his lips, but he also preached with his life. In other words, he wasn't a hypocrite. He practiced what he preached. And probably one of the best lessons we can learn from Paul is how to be happy and content in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Paul was certainly no stranger to hard times. He was imprisoned countless times, stoned, shipwrecked, beaten, rejected, and ridiculed. Yes, if anyone knew about hard times, it was Paul. Yet look at some of his writings:

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. - Philippians 4:11

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:
I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: - Acts 26:1-2

And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. - Acts 16:22-25

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. - Galatians 6:9

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. - II Corinthians 12:9-10

Content. Happy. Singing. This is not the response we expect from a man who has been through so much. We expect bitterness and complaints, not thanksgiving and praises. But still, I think he tops it all in the following verse.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. - II Corinthians 4:17

Light affliction? I don't consider shipwrecks or beatings to be light afflictions. What did Paul know that would allow him to stay so positive despite the constant trouble that surrounded him? Actually, it isn't so much what he knew but what he believed and focused on. He didn't just know that God would work all things according to His plan; Paul believed it and acted on that belief. Many times we hear Paul speak of pressing toward the mark or striving to reach a goal. That was the secret to Paul's success. He didn't focus on the here and now. He looked to the future.

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. - II Corinthians 4:18

Paul had the attitude of "Who cares what happens to me on this earth? This body is temporary. What matters is that I do everything I can to make an eternal difference in as many lives as I can. There is a higher purpose than my comfort and convenience." And that, my friend, is the attitude we must take is we want to be truly happy and content in this life. We have to stop focusing on what we think would be best for us and allow God to have his way in our lives. We need not be concerned with fame or riches but with reaching a lost and dying world and sharing the news that Jesus saves.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 3:13-14

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Model Believer - Mary

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. - Luke 1:26-31

We don't hear much about Mary except around Christmas time when the story of Christ's birth is proclaimed. In fact, there's really not a whole lot said about Mary in the Bible. She's mentioned a few times, but never in great detail. Yet, from the little we read about Mary, we can find plenty of things to make her worthy of the title "Christian."

1. She lived a good life. Of all the women of all the ages, God picked Mary to be the mother of His only Son. If that doesn't speak volumes about Mary's character, I don't know what does.

2. She accepted God's will, no matter the cost. Mary didn't miss the implications of what Gabriel was saying. She could foresee what life would be like for her carrying a child that did not belong to her espoused. She knew she would be ridiculed and scorned. Her name would be on the gossip list for months. Still, in spite of this, she said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word."

3. She gave God her all. I think a lot times we think we're 100% sold out to God, but if we truly examine our lives, we'll find that we're holding something back. Mary didn't hold anything back. She gave her body to be used, her soul to magnify the Lord (vs. 46) and her spirit to rejoice in the Lord (vs. 47).

4. She praised God. Mary didn't miss the importance of what was happening. The Messiah was finally going to be born, and she was given the opportunity to play a vital role in that event. Mary goes on for ten verses talking about how wonderful God is. Please realize with me, however, that this is surely a bittersweet time for Mary. She's thrilled to know that she is carrying the Messiah, but I'm sure her thoughts are also filled with fear. Still, Mary praised.

5. She knew what God could do. One of the few other times we see Mary in the Bible is at the wedding in Cana. When the servants discovered there was no more wine for the guests, Mary knew exactly what to do. She took the problem to Jesus and left the results up to him. Oh, that we could learn to do the same!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado

Do you ever wonder if you're where God wants you to be? Do you ever feel like you were made for more than what you're currently doing? Do you ever feel out of place in your job or ministry? Max Lucado's book, Cure for the Common Life, addresses these issues and more. It is a guide to discovering your sweet spot in life, the place where you find peace and joy in using your talents and abilities as they were meant to be used. Lucado puts forth the idea that "you were born pre-packed--for a purpose. God equipped you with special and unique tools to achieve his purpose and fulfill his plan."

This book is not your everyday Christian living text. It is a combination of an inspirational work and a guidebook. Throughout the book, Lucado shows you how to examine your talents and your joys to seek out the purpose that God has for you. He encourages you to "think outside the box" of doing what has to be done because "someone has to do it." He asks the question, "But is that someone you?" He recounts story after story of people who were miserable and felt trapped in their dead-end lives. But after reviewing the "luggage" that God packed for them, they found new joy in life. For some, it meant changing careers. For others, it was simply a change of attitude. But for all, it resulted in joy in the journey.

This is my second time reading through this book. I first read it several years ago when God was tugging on my heart strings about leaving my teaching career to take up writing. I was terrified to make the change. I didn't know anything about writing, and I was worried about walking away from a steady paycheck. Things were tight enough as it was. Cure for a Common Life addressed every issue I was dealing with. God used it to answer my questions and dispel many of my fears and doubts. I've been writing for several years now, and I can't imagine what my life would have been like had I continued teaching after I had lost my joy for it.

If you're struggling to find joy in the journey, maybe it's time for a change. Lucado's book is an uplifting guide to studying your life in order to find the perfect place for you. The book comes with a Discovery Guide to help you determine your true sweet spot. It's truly a must read for anyone who suffers from daily discontentment or who asks the question, "Is this all there is?"

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Model Believer - Philip

And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea. - Acts 8:26-40

These verses are at the end of a passage of true revival. Philip was preaching in a big way, and multitude after multitude were turning Christ. To the human eye, it would seem that Philip was exactly where he needed to be. Things were going well. People were getting saved. But God had other plans for Philip, and those plans included leaving the crowd and going to witness to one man. Philip's response to this change of plans is what makes him a model believer for each of us.

1. He was so in touch with God that He heard when God spoke. I don't know about you, but when I feel the nudge to do something, I often have to wonder if it's God speaking or my flesh. Does God really want me to stay home and write, or is that just what my flesh wants? Was it really God's voice that I heard? According to the passage above, Philip didn't have any such problem. When God spoke, Philip knew exactly who was speaking and jumped to obey, which leads us to our next point.

2. He obeyed immediately. Philip didn't argue with the Lord. He could have. He could have said, "But Lord, look at the good work I'm doing here. These people are really listening to me, and they're getting saved. There's more work to do here. Surely, You don't want me to leave all these people so that I can go win one man. It just doesn't make sense." It probably didn't make sense to Philip, but he obeyed anyway. Without complaint. Without argument. Without trying to rationalize the decision. God directed, and Philip obeyed.

3. He was anxious to do God's will. When God gave Philip instructions, not only did Philip obey, but he showed an eagerness to comply. The Bible says that he ran to the chariot. When was the last time we were so excited to do God's work that we ran to accomplish the task?

4. He was prepared with the Gospel. When the Ethiopian eunuch asked for help in understanding what he was reading, Philip was ready with an answer. He was studied up and prayed up. He was acting in the power of God and knew that God would supply the words needed to win this soul to Christ. Not only did he have to be willing, but he had to be prepared. He had to know what he was talking about. Do we?

5. He was persistent. At the very end of the passage, we see where Philip is caught away and "transported" to another place. So, what does he do then? Simple. He does the same thing he's been doing all along. He picks up right where he left off--preaching the Gospel. He never misses a beat. He knows what he's been called to do, and he's persistent in seeing that it gets done.

There's a lot more that could be seen about Philip, but there was enough in just this one passage to fill a post. Philip was not perfect. He made mistakes just like the rest of us do. But Philip had some character traits that we would do well to imitate. It could mean the difference between finding joy in the journey or being weary in well-doing.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Model Believer - John

The disciples were an interesting lot, a rag-tag group of fishermen, tax collectors and who knows what else. Through the pages of the Bible, we read of some really idiotic things some of the disciples said and did. But if we look closely, we can see how well we actually relate to those disciples. How many times have we doubted like Thomas or spoke out of turn like Peter or even betrayed a friend like Judas? Yes, we have more in common with the disciples than we often care to admit. Hopefully, though, we share some of their good qualities as well. Today, I would like to look at some of the good qualities of John.

John, the brother of James. John, one of the sons of thunder. John, the one who argued with his brother over who would sit next to God in Heaven. John, the human author of the book of Revelation. Just like us, he had some faults, but if we study his life, we also see compelling traits of a model believer.

1.) He was not afraid to be in the background - It's interesting how John is never really seen as the center of attention. Peter, sure he was often the center of attention. Even Judas got his fair share of attention. But John was content to be in the background. He was happy to serve quietly. He was willing to work for the cause of Christ regardless of whether or not he received any credit. Even in the books he penned, he never refers to himself as "John" but as "the other disciple" or "the disciple whom Jesus loved." John had a way of taking the attention off of himself and placing it on Christ where it belongs.

2.) We often find him close to Christ. John 13:23 speaks of John lying on Jesus' bosom. John 19:26-27 tells us that John was the only disciple to follow Christ all the way to the cross. When the others fled, John felt compelled to stay. He is often one of the three Jesus would ask to accompany him when He left the other disciples. John was there on the Mount of Transfiguration. He was there in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was even there at the empty tomb. It seems that John couldn't get enough of Christ, for he was always around Him.

3.) He didn't have to be told to follow. After Christ's resurrection, He met up with the disciples and had a long heart-to-heart with Peter. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? (John 21:19-20) Peter had to be told to follow, and when he went to obey, he realized John was already following. John knew that his proper place was with Jesus, so wherever Jesus went, John followed. Not because he was told to, but because he wanted to.

4.) He learned from his mistakes, as well as those of others. As we already mentioned, John was an observer. Where Peter was outgoing and ready to get the job done no matter the cost, John was more laid back. He preferred to watch the goings on and then decide on a course of action. In other words, he thought before he acted or spoke. And in the three and a half years with Jesus, John had the opportunity to witness a lot of good things and a lot of failures, including his own. Can you imagine how he must have cringed as he wrote down the account of he and James arguing over who would be the greatest in Heaven? John didn't just gather information, but he took the time and effort to learn from it. We know this by his determination to carry on with the mission no matter the cost to him. Even being boiled alive was not enough to stop John from telling the world about Christ.

5.) He was never too busy to encourage other believers. If you look closely through the books written by John, you'll find a common theme--encouragement. John realized that while it is important to reach the lost, it's also important to uplift the saved. The Bible talks about being weary in well doing, and that's exactly what happens to a lot of Christians. John realized this, and God allowed him to write his books in a way that would evangelize and edify at the same time. John was there for Jesus at the cross. He was there for Mary. He was there to offer support and encouragement. No matter what circumstances he found himself in, he seemed to find a way to encourage others.

So, how do we measure up? Are we so involved with our daily living, that we are failing to follow John's example? God forbid.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Model Believer - Introduction

The Bible is full of fascinating stories, but I'm afraid we often become so entranced with the stories that we lose track of the characters. The people in the Bible were just regular people like you and me. They had faults, fears and failures. But I don't believe their existence in the Scriptures is an accident. In fact, I'm sure there were many people Jesus encountered in His ministry that are never mentioned in the Bible. Were they unimportant? No, I don't think that's the case. The Bible simply isn't big enough to contain everything. Some things had to be left out. But I believe there is a purpose for everything that was put in.

As far as the people are concerned, I think we are told their stories so that we can learn from them. We can see what they did right and what they did wrong. Now before I go any further, let me say that our true role model is Christ. He is the perfect example, and you can't go wrong by following His example. But to our more sensible side that argues, "Yea, but Christ was God. Of course, He didn't mess up. But I'm just a human. How can I possibly live up to that kind of standard," God gave us examples. For the next few days, we're going to look at a few of those examples--people who were not perfect, but who set a good example of what a believer should be.

Some of these people walked with Christ. Some of them walked away from Him. But all of them have a story to tell. And from each of them, we can learn some vital steps to becoming the believers we long to be. No, we're not perfect, and we never will be. But we are capable of being more than we are. We have the ability to learn and make improvements based on that knowledge. And that is the purpose for this series. Lord willing, by the end, we will each have a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Christian. . . and what it might require of us.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Jesus on the 4th of July

Jesus on the 4th of July

We gather ‘round to celebrate
On Independence Day
Pay homage to our country
As the children run and play.

With barbecues and picnics
And fireworks in the air
The flag we own is proudly flown
To show how much we care.

The stars and stripes spell freedom
She waves upon the breeze
While bursts of colors can be seen
Above the towering trees.

This is all quite wonderful
We revel in delight
But God above in divine love
Has brought this day to light.

With just a stroke of liberty
A touch of His great hand
He gave democracy to us
And helped this country stand.

The stripes upon our stately flag
Were touched by His sweet grace
Each star of white that shines so bright
Reflects His loving face.

So as you turn to face the flag
For battles that were fought
Be filled with pride for those who died
And freedoms that were bought.

But don’t forget to thank the One
That gives the bright display
The reason why we paint the sky
On Independence Day

Copyright © Marilyn Ferguson 2003

Happy Independence Day!