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Monday, July 31, 2017

The Unspoken Compliment

When we put time and effort into something, we expect our men to notice. Is that too much to ask? The task was a big deal to us, so we assume that it will be a big deal to them. After all, remember, men like to receive praise and acknowledgment for their accomplishments, so why should we be any different?

This is where that Golden Rule principle comes back into play. We would think that they would treat us the same way they would want to be treated. If they had spent all day on a task, they would want us to notice and praise them for it, right? But there seems to be a disconnect when the roles are reversed.

As for us, remember that we have issues with setting expectations. When we don't get the reaction we are hoping for, we feel slighted, disappointed, and even angry. What we fail to take into consideration, however, is that even though our husbands often fail to take notice of our efforts and achievements, they don't usually take note of our lack of achievement either.

Ladies, instead of focusing on all the times our men don't say what we want them to say, let's try focusing on all the times they don't say anything negative—especially those times when it would be appropriate and well-deserved. Let's take their silence as an unspoken compliment, and leave it at that.

First Peter 4:8 tells us, And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Are you allowing your love for your husband to cover his mistakes?

Love overlooks faults and forgives when mistakes are made. Keep that in mind the next time your husband fails to offer a compliment.

***Excerpt from What Happened to Prince Charming? - Ten Tips To Achieve a Happy Marriage Life and Live Happily Ever After

Friday, July 28, 2017

God's Unconditional Guarantee

Last week, I purchased a program I had hoped would help in my current battle for better health. I was impressed by the pitch, the testimonials, and the 60-Day-No-Questions-Asked Money-Back Guarantee. So, I bit the bullet and dug into the information. What a ripoff! I was highly disappointed. This program of "secrets and unique formulas" was nothing but a short report of information anyone could find within five minutes with a quick Google search.

As you would expect, I sent a request to the email provided asking for my money back. The email was immediately returned and marked "No such address." Why wasn't I surprised? So, I went back to the main company page, found another email address and requested my money back. I still haven't heard from them. My next course of action is to contact PayPal's complaint department. They've always been great about dealing with these types of issues. I want my money back! That's what I was promised. That's what I depended on. And to be honest, it was the extra incentive that prompted me to buy the program in the first place.

In this day and age, it seems we can't trust anyone. Gimmicks and scams are everywhere. It seems many people have no morals and can't think of anything better to do than to cheat good people out of their hard-earned money.

Fortunately, God has given us an unconditional guarantee we can count on. He didn't promise stress-free living. He never said we wouldn't have troubles or heartache. No covenant in the Scriptures guarantees we'll never face the sting of death or the frustrations of life. But, God has given us a promise that doesn't hinge on our circumstances. No matter what we're facing, this guarantee holds fast. And while it doesn't offer us money (since we didn't pay for it anyway), it certainly offers us peace.

What is this unconditional guarantee? God is good! That's it. Those three words sum it up. God is good.

When the rain is pouring, God is good. 
When we're happy and walking on sunshine, God is good. 
When the one we love the most is taken from us, God is good.
When we hold our new baby for the first time, God is good. 
When the doctor shakes his head and walks away, God is good.
When the new job for which you've been praying finally arrives, God is good. 
When the bank account is empty, and the bills are due, God is good.
When you've finally overcome that obstacle, God is good.
When you've done all you can do, and you feel like giving up, God is good.

No matter the condition. No matter the circumstances. No matter our feelings, thoughts or moods. In the good times and the bad, we can remember this one simple—yet profound—truth: God is good! We can count on it. We can access it. We can trust that God will always be God, and God will always be good. It's in His nature. It's who He is. He couldn't be anything different if He tried. It's not that He acts good or that He feels good or even that He tries to be good. He simply is good, just as He told Moses, "I Am That I Am."

Whatever you're facing today, whether good or bad, cling to this powerful truth: God is good! Let it ring through your mind and reverberate through your thoughts. Allow it to consume you and to overflow into all that you are and all that you do. Meditate on it. Find comfort in it. Share it. But most of all, live like you believe it!

The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. - Psalm 145:9

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Stop Peeing in My Cornflakes!

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I don't know who came up with that phrase, but they definitely weren't from this planet. Or this universe even. Nope, around here, words hurt a lot! And while they may not break bones, they certainly break hearts, hopes and spirits. Just ask Hannah.

Hannah was the wife of a man named Elkanah. From what the Bible tells us, Elkanah was a good and kind person. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of his other wife, Peninnah (which, guys, if you're taking notes, is another good reason to have only one wife). Peninnah, from her description, was the queen of cruel. While she had everything she could want—a good husband, lots of children, a home—that wasn't enough. Rather than bask in her good fortune, she had to rub Hannah's nose in it. 

But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the Lord had shut up her womb. And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb. And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat. - I Samuel 1:5-7 

Well, that's mature, isn't it? We have words for people like Peninnah, but the Bible cautions us against uttering such things, so let's use the same word the Scripture uses—adversary. Enemy. We could even go so far as to call her a bully.  What is it about the adversaries in our lives that they feel it's necessary to kick us while we're down? Hannah felt bad enough about being barren. She didn't need Peninnah's cruel words and improper jests. She didn't need to be provoked to where she couldn't eat or sleep. What is wrong with people?

What makes this even worse is that Peninnah was family. Not by blood, but family nonetheless. If we can't count on family, who can we count on? Family is supposed to be supportive and comfort us when we're heartbroken. They're meant to be on our side—for us, not against us. But, that's not always the way it works.

In fact, I have a friend who is going through a terrible battle with some of her family members. These people, who call themselves Christians, have spouted lies about my friend on social media, addressing her by phrases like "the evil one." This is one of the most loving, caring, Godly women I've ever met. She's not the one talking about others behind their backs. She's not the one calling people names. Yet she's the evil one? (I've got to move on before I get too upset to continue!).

My point is, enemies are real, and sometimes the attacks come from people we would never expect. Yes, it seems there are those out there just waiting for us to fall so they can kick us while we're down or pee in our cornflakes (not sure where that phrase came from either, but it seemed appropriate here). It's painful to be attacked from within. It's shocking! And somehow, it hurts so much more. But before you allow the pain to consume you, take comfort in what the Bible has to say:

Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies. - Psalm 112:4-8 

God is keeping the record. He is watching, and I remind you, He is very protective of His children. A light will arise in the darkness. We don't have to be hurt or afraid. Our hearts can be established by fixing our eyes on the Lord. And did you catch that phrase, the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance? Let's go back to Hannah's story for a moment and see that promise come to pass.

And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the Lord, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the Lord remembered her. Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord. - I Samuel 1:19-20 

Who's laughing now, Peninnah? God kept His promise, and He'll keep His promise to you. I know you're hurting, but God is in control, and He will protect His own. Hang in there. Fix your eyes on Jesus and let Him fix the problem. He hasn't forgotten or forsaken you. He's on your side. Don't lose hope, dear one. God's got this!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Is That All You Can Think To Say?

I waited quietly in the line, reminding myself over and over again to think before I spoke. Yes, this time, I was determined to speak wisely or not speak at all. When I finally arrived at my destination, I shook hands with the man before me, smiled and asked, "How are you doing?"

Immediately, I regretted the words. The man had just lost his wife. How did I think he was doing? What kind of stupid question is that?

I don't know what it is about funerals that turns my mind to mush.  Perhaps it's the body lying there in eerie stillness (although it would probably be eerier if it were moving).  Or maybe it's the whole ambiance of the funeral home.  I just don't know, but it causes a disconnect between my brain and mouth and makes for quite an awkward situation.

As I made my way down the line of the family of the deceased, I inwardly berated myself. Again, I determined to guard my words carefully, but my mouth obviously had other plans. As I neared the end of the line and relief swept over me, a gentleman reached out his hand and said, "Thank you for coming." If I had taken my advice, I would have shaken his hand, smiled sympathetically and nodded my head. But I didn't heed my advice. Instead, I said, "Glad to be here." At that point, I was ready to crawl into the casket with the deceased and close the lid. What in the world is wrong with me?

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. . . A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak. (vs. 1,7)  Yes, there is a time to speak and a time to keep silent, and we would do well to recognize which is which. Sometimes it's best to simply keep our mouths closed, especially in situations where we don't know what to say. Even a verse of Scripture can do more harm than good if not delivered with the proper timing and tone. Let's face it, in the midst of a painful trial, the last thing we want is for someone to come up, slap us on the back and say, "Cheer up. Remember, the Bible says this will all work together for good." While the words are true, they lack compassion and tact. And when we're hurting, such advice comes across as flippant and uncaring.

Please understand, I am not saying that we should not share Scripture with one another. I'm merely sending forth caution to do so carefully and with a tender heart. I also want to admonish each of us that sometimes it's better to say nothing at all. A smile or a hug goes a long way toward encouraging others and letting them know how much you care. Don't mess that up by speaking thoughtless words.

Oh, and by the way, if I am ever in attendance at the funeral of one of your loved ones, I apologize in advance for anything stupid I may say. I'm working on it. I promise I am!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Lizard in My Cabinet

You probably think my title is some kind of clever metaphor, but unfortunately, I'm being literal. There is a lizard in my bathroom cabinet. He's dead—has been for quite a while. So now, you're probably wondering why I have allowed a dead lizard to remain in my bathroom cabinet for so long. It's an interesting story.

Several months ago, I walked into the bathroom and noticed a lizard on the floor beside the toilet. He looked at me. I screamed at him. All in all, it was quite the encounter. Evidently terrified by my shrieks, he scurried off under the bathtub and disappeared somewhere. A few days later, when I went into the bathroom again, my little "friend" was back. We exchanged pleasantries as we had done before, then once again, he disappeared into the unknown. This process continued several more times until one day, he seemed to have gone for good (not that I minded).

Fast forward a couple of months, I needed something out of the bathroom cabinet under the sink. Opening the door, I reached my hand in and then immediately drew it back to my chest with a scream. My lizard "friend" had found his way into the bathroom cabinet and died there. I called Jason to come dispose of him, and after verifying that he was dead, Jason walked off, I assumed to get something with which to dispose of the petrified reptile. But I guess my sweet hubby got sidetracked because he never returned, and I certainly wasn't going to touch the lizard, so I did the next best thing—I closed the door on him and left him in there.

The problem with my actions is that I did not take into account what would happen the next time I needed something out of the bathroom cabinet, which happened last week. As I had done before, I opened the door, reached my hand in and pulled it back with a shriek. I had forgotten all about that crazy lizard. He was literally out of sight and out of mind. Unfortunately, Jason was not available then to dispose of him, and I still haven't worked up enough nerve to touch him, so he's still under the bathroom sink. Bless his heart!

Of course, I couldn't let an experience like this pass without gaining some form of spiritual insight. After all, it's not every day (or even every month) you see a lizard in your bathroom cabinet, so surely there is knowledge to be gained here. Sure enough, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I view God the same way I viewed the lizard. Out of sight, out of mind. What I mean by that is it is easy to focus on God when I see Him working in my life, but when He is quiet and my prayers seem to go unanswered, it's as if He isn't even there. And when these dark times prolong, I forget God and turn to my own ways. In essence, I adopt the attitude of "If God won't fix it, I will." 

My reminder for you today is even when we can't see God working, He is still there. For months, I didn't see the lizard, but he was there. For weeks on end, I never gave him any thought, but his presence remained constant. God has promised He will never leave us, and He does not break His promises. It may not feel like He's with us. It may not seem like He's working. It may not look like He's on our side. But God will never fail us or forsake us, and we can trust in that. My prayer for us is that even when God is out of sight, may He never be out of our thoughts.

Now, would anyone like to volunteer to come remove the lizard from my bathroom cabinet? I'm pretty sure he won't bite!

Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; - Deuteronomy 7:9

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Non-Superhero's Guide To Saving the Day

Have you ever longed for superpowers? Have you ever dreamed of being a superhero? I've often wondered if I had a power, which power would I want? Super strength? Invisibility? X-ray vision? Lately, I've been fascinated with the idea of being a speedster, like the Flash. Not being much of a fan of comic books, I was always under the impression that the Flash's speed was restricted to his running. So, he could run fast. Big deal! But recently, I've discovered that not only can he run fast, but he can do everything fast. He can read 400-page books in a matter of seconds. Now that's a superpower I'd like to have!

To be honest, though, the idea of constantly saving the day sounds exhausting. Every time someone robs a bank or steals a car, the superhero is called to the rescue. Never able to live a normal life. Never able to make plans or have a routine. Always at the beck and call of law enforcement or bad guys. While I'm all for doing good in this world, I just don't think I have what it takes to be a superhero.

Fortunately, the Bible reveals a way for me to save the day, time and time again, without disrupting my own life. In fact, this method of saving the day will enhance my life and the lives of others. And while this formula may not prevent thefts and other injustices in the physical sense, it will impede the theft of my joy and peace and offer me super strength day in and day out. Would you like me to share with you this non-superhero's guide to saving the day? It can be found in Isaiah 30:15.

For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.

Step one: Return to the Lord.Too often in life, we get so busy running this way and that, we run away from the Lord without even realizing it. We cling to our own ways and the opinions of others. We follow the advice of the "experts" instead of seeking God's wisdom on the subject. Sure, we may still have our prayer time and Bible reading, but after that, God is all but forgotten as we go about our day, trying to accomplish a myriad of tasks in our own strength. Therefore, the first step to saving the day is to return our attention to God.

Step two: Rest.After turning our attention back to God, we need to take the time to be still in His presence. I know, I know. There's so much to do and so little time, but what we fail to realize is that our busyness is not accomplishing as much as we think, and it's killing us little by little in the process. We need to be still. We need to rest in God's embrace. We need more than a few minutes of peaceful time with him in the morning.

Step three: Be quiet.In that stillness, we would do well to do something that we often fail to dobe quiet. Unfortunately, most of our prayer time with God involves our talking. We talk about our problems. We talk about our family. We talk about our needs. And sometimes we even talk about our blessings. But how much time do we spend just listening? How much of our quiet time with God is just that–quiet? Saving the day has nothing to do with how many words we can utter during a single prayer time. I don't think that counts as a superpower.

Step four: Have faith.Once we return our attention to the Lord, take the time to rest in His presence and get still before Him, then it's time to have faith that God will do what He has said He will do. We must have confidence in the nature and character of God, knowing that no matter how dark things may seem, God knows and is doing what is best for us. We must trust that even when things don't make sense, His way is perfect. Only then, will we have super strength and be able to save the day.

There it is. We have the formula to make every day a great day. The question is, will we use the formula or will we fall into the category of the last phrase in Isaiah 30:15and ye would not? God will not force us to return to Him. He will not hold us down until we rest in His presence. He will not place His hand over our mouths so we will be quiet and listen for a change. And as for faith, He's already given us that; we only need to activate it. He has given us the guide, step-by-step. We have the information. It's up to us what we do with it.

We may not have superpowers, but we know Someone who does, and He has given us the opportunity to save the day. And the best part of all is we don't even need a mask or cape!

Friday, July 21, 2017

What a Tangled Web!

I walked through a spider web this morning. That, in and of itself, is not unusual. What is unusual is that I wasn't outside at the time. No, this spider web was in my house. And it was not a little web by any means. No, this web had its own zip code. It stretched from my curtains to my mantel and then down to my stereo.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I haven't won any "Housekeeper of the Year" awards. In fact, my housekeeping leaves A LOT to be desired (sorry, Mom). Nevertheless, I do frequently take the time to rid my house of spider webs. The problem is that we live in a very old house which means there are a lot of cracks and crevices for pesky little critters to enter in. And enter in they do. I can be completely rid of spider webs in the morning, but by afternoon, my house resembles the ancient crypts. It's unreal how quickly and elaborately these spiders can spin their webs.

You know who else is good at spinning webs? Satan. He can spin webs of discouragement, discontentment, and doubt better than any spider alive. The tricky part about these webs is that, like the web I walked through this morning, they often show up in unexpected places. Before we realize what's happening, we're tangled in a sticky web for which we were unprepared. 

For this reason, the Bible tells us to always be on guard. "Watch and pray," Jesus said. "Put on the whole armor of God." Over and over again, we are warned to expect the unexpected. When we do, we are less likely to become snared in one of Satan's webs.

As you get ready for the day today, be sure to grab your armor, your sword, and your shield. You may be facing fiery darts, but also be on guard for the unseen webs that may be in your path. They can often be as dangerous (and sometimes more) than the fiery darts. Beware!

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. - Ephesians 6:13

*Excerpt from Rise Up and Build Devotional:  52 Inspirational Thoughts for Dealing with Anxiety and Depression

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Pit of Voices

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. - Psalm 40:2

I believe all Christians can relate to this verse in one form or another.  How many times has God delivered us from danger?  How many times has He led us where we needed to go?  While there's loads of good meat in this one verse alone, I want to focus on the phrase "an horrible pit."

Have you ever felt like you were in a pit and no matter how hard you struggled, you just couldn't get out?  Maybe it was a pit of despair.  Or perhaps it was a pit of loneliness.  A pit of depression or a pit of fatigue.  I think we would all agree that those are horrible pits to find oneself in.  But the pit to which David is referring here is even worse.  In the Hebrew, the phrase "an horrible pit" is translated as "pit of voices."  Unfortunately, we can relate to that pit as well.

The world cries out to us, "Have it your way!"  Satan whispers in our ears, "Hath God said. . .?"  Even our own flesh calls out, "Life is hard.  I deserve a little happiness, don't I?"  And somewhere amid the cacophony is the still, small voice of the Savior saying, "Child, follow my lead."

We used to play a game with our church youth group that illustrated this pit of voices rather well.  Each team was made up of two players.  One player traversed an obstacle course while blindfolded, and the other gave the teammate directions.  The trick was that every other team was allowed to speak to the obstacle-facing contestant, and of course, they often chose to shout out incorrect directions meant to confuse, overwhelm and lead astray.  The only way the player could be successful was if he/she drowned out all other voices except that of his/her teammate.

Sometimes in life, I feel like I'm a contestant in this game without even realizing it.  Just like the player, friend and foe alike are filling my ears with advice, direction and suggestions.  It's up to me to filter out all other noise and to listen intently for that still, small voice.  Only then will I successfully finish the course.

*Excerpt from Rise Up and Build Devotional:  52 Inspirational Thoughts for Dealing with Anxiety and Depression

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fit for the Master's Use

In I Chronicles 21, King David sins against God and causes a plague to come upon the people of Israel. Repentant for his disobedience, David seeks to offer a sacrifice to God and plead for mercy. He goes to a man named Ornan and asks to buy a piece of his land on which he wants to offer the sacrifice to God. Ornan, being a good and gracious man, told David that he did not have to buy the land. Ornan would gladly give the land, the oxen for the sacrifice, the wood and whatever else David needed. But notice David’s response: And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take that which is thine for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings without cost (vs. 24). 

David understood that a sacrifice that didn’t cost him anything wasn’t really a sacrifice at all. He understood the importance of going above and beyond for the Lord because God had certainly done that for him.

You’re probably wondering what that has to do with our health and/or anxiety and depression. Allow me to explain. We are living sacrifices unto God (Romans 12:1), but too often we shy away from anything that’s going to cost us something. The Bible tells us that the body is the temple of the Holy Ghost and that we should care for it, but we have a tendency to shrug off the conviction about our health because we know if we do what God is asking of us, it’s going to cost us something. It will mean having to give up bad habits, junk food and some of our favorite treats. And sadly, as much as we love God, we obviously love our comfort foods more because we refuse to give them up.

The result is that we are destroying our bodies, and with them, our mental and emotional capabilities. We are unwilling to acknowledge that “garbage in; garbage out” is just as applicable in our physical and emotional health as it is anywhere else. We mistreat our bodies and fool ourselves into thinking that the only consequence is a little extra pudge. We have deluded ourselves and justified our poor health habits, and it has to stop!

I hope you are reading this because you’ve reached the place of King David. I pray you’ve come to the point where you can say, “I know it’s going to cost me something, but it’s definitely worth it. I’m doing this for God, and I’m doing it for me!” If you’re ready to be a living sacrifice fit for the Master’s work, then let’s get started.

*Excerpt from Rise Up and Build Good Health:  Practical Insights To Heal Your Emotions by Healing Your Body

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Changing the World One Prayer at a Time

Once or twice a week, I enjoy browsing through Pinterest to find interesting ideas and profound quotations. Recently, one of those quotes struck a chord with me and has been convicting me ever since. It read, "If God answered all of your prayers, would the world look different or just your life?"

That makes you think, doesn't it? As I thought about that quote, I looked back over many of my previous prayers. Prayers for my health, my safety, my provision and my wants and needs. Me, me, me! Sure, I've prayed for the needs of others, but if I'm honest, I haven't spent nearly as much time praying for others as I have for myself. Yes, I have to admit, when it comes to prayers, I'm rather selfish. The sad part is, I didn't even realize it--or at least not the extent of it--until I came across that quote.

I don't know about you, but I want my prayers to move mountains, not just in my own life but in the lives of others as well. I would love to see my prayers change the world, not just my existence. I want to pray prayers that please the Father, lift up the fallen and represent the needs of others. Being a prayer warrior involves not only fighting for your own life, but fighting for the lives of others also. Praying on their behalf. Speaking to God when they can't find the words for themselves.

I encourage you today to examine your own prayer life. Is it self-centered, or do you spend as much time praying for others as you do for your own needs? If your prayers are selfish, what can you do to change that?

Brothers and sisters, let's do what we can do to become the prayer warriors we ought to be. Let's change the world one prayer at a time!

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. - James 5:16

Monday, July 17, 2017

Dealing With Foul-Weather Friends

I believe we are all familiar with the term fair-weather friends. These are the individuals that only seem to stick around when things are going well, but as soon as the waters grow rough, they're nowhere to be found. Today, however, I want to talk about foul-weather friends. These are the people who seem only to come around when they're in trouble and need something. You know the type, right? So does Jephthah.

In Judges 11, the Scripture tells us of an illegitimate son named Jephthah. Though born to a harlot, the Bible says Jephthah was a mighty man of valor, just like Gideon. However, his stepbrothers could not see past his illegitimacy, and when they were old enough, they cast him out of the house and told him to never return. They wanted nothing to do with him… until, that is, they were in trouble.

And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob: And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon. - Judges 11:5-6

Okay, a show of hands. How many of you have been in a situation similar to this? You were minding your own business, staying out of the way of those who wanted nothing to do with you when out of the blue, they come asking for a favor—typically, a big favor. I see those hands! Now, how many of you would be honest enough to admit that your first response to the request was the Biblical equivalent of "Not my circus, not my monkeys"? Okay, maybe you didn't say it out loud, but you wanted to, didn't you? So did Jephthah.

And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father's house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress? - Judges 11:7 

Yep, Jephthah could have easily used one of my favorite words—"Seriously?" He could not believe they had the audacity to ask a favor of him after the way they had treated him, yet they did, and after some negotiation, Jephthah accepted the request. My first thought upon reading this passage was that Jephthah must have been a better person than I am, but as I thought about it further, I realized that I probably would've done the same thing. Not because I'm good or kind or that full of the spirit, unfortunately. But rather because I hate to say "no" or to have others think poorly of me. No matter what they've done to me, when they ask, I come running.

I cannot know the motivation behind Jephthah's actions, but I know if I am only helping others out of fear of being disliked, left out or talked about, my actions are in the wrong. It's nice to fit in, and I believe we all want to fit in, but let me ask you this: if we constantly have to prove ourselves to others, are we fitting in or are we being used? The Bible teaches us to be good unto one another, but it does not advocate allowing others to treat us like dirt or to misuse us and our talents. God has given each of us a work to do, and many times, those foul-weather friends only distract us from our true calling.

Please understand, I am not saying we should not help others or we should never go out of our way to be a blessing. What I am saying is that we need to be careful not to let people take advantage of us as this leads to bitterness and resentment in our hearts. Foul-weather friends can be toxic to our health, attitudes and relationships. When it comes to their requests, I advise you to seek God's will before agreeing to help. Saying "no" may keep you out of the in-crowd, but many times, that is a blessing. Sometimes it's better just to say "no."

On the flip side, I would also like to urge you not to be a foul-weather friend. Don't make a habit of calling people only when you need something from them or only giving when you get something in return. Be a real friend, a faithful friend, a friend like Jesus.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Rise Up and Build: Don't Believe Everything You Hear

I would like to have a word with the weatherman. He said that yesterday was supposed to be mostly sunny with a high of 72°—beautiful weather for taking the dog to the lake. The only problem is that he was WRONG!

It was not mostly sunny; it was quite cloudy all day. It was also windy and cool. Thankfully, I had taken a jacket for the morning chill. I ended up wearing it the entire time. My hands were so chilled I could barely write. The temperature was 58° when I began my hike. It was 60° when I was done. Ooooh, heatwave!

I'm not complaining about the weather, mind you. The cool temperature was quite a relief from the extreme heat we've been dealing with. No, my complaint is not with the weather—it's with the weatherman. If he doesn't know what the weather will be like, he should just say so. It just goes to show us that we can’t believe everything we hear.

We’ve already discussed how the world’s teachings don’t line up with God’s Word, so we must be careful to block out their voices or at the very least, to take what they’re saying with a grain of salt. Nehemiah learned that lesson as well.

Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee. And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in. And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me. (Nehemiah 6:10-14) 

Shemaiah was supposed to be on Nehemiah’s side. He was a fellow prophet and supposedly a good guy, but when he told Nehemiah that he should hide in the temple, Nehemiah knew that something wasn’t right. Even though the source was trustworthy, Nehemiah was smart enough and clear-headed enough to run those instructions through the filter based on what God had already told him. When he did, he figured out that Shemaiah had been hired by Tobiah and Sanballat (yes, the same old enemy). Their goal was to make Nehemiah fear for his life and run to the temple to escape his fate. But Nehemiah knew that his fate was in God’s hands, and that Tobiah and Sanballat couldn’t do anything to him unless God allowed it.

We cannot believe everything we hear from the enemy or even so-called friends. And we especially cannot trust what our emotions are saying to us. They are the biggest liars of all! They will tell us that we’re all alone, that no one cares about us, that things will never get better, that we might as well help ourselves because no one else will do it, and on and on. Don’t listen! Our feelings and emotions, when left to their own devices, will seek to do what Tobiah and Sanballat attempted to do to Nehemiah—they will make us fearful and ineffective. Don’t listen. Do what Nehemiah did and compare the statements of your feelings to the truth of God’s Word. Here’s what you’ll find:

Feelings say, “You are all alone.” God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Feelings say, “No one cares about you.” God says, “I loved you enough to send my Son to die for you.”

Feelings say, “You’re such a loser. You’ll never accomplish anything.” But God says, “You are more than conquerors through me, and you can do all things through me.”

Feelings say, “You’ve tried before and failed. This time won’t be any different.” God says, “Though you fall, you will not be cast down, for I’m upholding you with my hand.”

See what I mean? Don’t listen to the myriad of voices around you. Tune in to the only one that matters!

*Excerpt from Rise Up and Build:  A Biblical Approach To Dealing With Anxiety and Depression

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hiding God's Word in My Heart

For the past couple of months, the Lord has impressed upon me the importance of memorizing Scripture. To say that I have been lax in this area would sadly be an understatement. While I read the Bible daily, I'm ashamed to admit that it has been a long time since I've made an effort to commit a verse to memory. Over the past few weeks, I've been deliberating where to begin in my Scripture memorization. Should I highlight some of my favorite verses? Should I concentrate on memorizing entire chapters? Where, oh where to begin?

Then, it hit me. For me, Scripture memorization is about storing God's promises and directions in my heart so I can refer to them at any time. It's about having "go-to scripts" with me day in and day out. That being the case, I can think of no better place to begin my Scripture memorization journey than with I Corinthians 13.

I know that may sound odd to you. After all, I Corinthians 13 is the love chapter, so surely, there would be more appropriate passages to memorize. But this is the way I see it. God is love. We are supposed to be like God; therefore, we are expected to be love. But how can we be love if we don't truly understand it? My goal is to get I Corinthians 13 in my heart and mind to the point that I can run all of my actions through its filter and determine whether or not I am acting like Christ. In short, I can think of no better how to guide for the Christian then I Corinthians 13. Thus, my memorization has begun.

How about you? How long has it been since you memorized Scripture? Do you have a favorite verse or go-to passage that you would like to hide in your heart?

I realize that as we get older, our memories are not what they used to be, but the only way to keep them strong is to keep stretching them. It only takes a few minutes per day to read and reread the verses we want to memorize. While these things may not come as quickly to us as they did when we were young, they are still possible if we will put forth the time and effort to do them.

God's word is precious, and I want to carry it with me wherever I go. How about you?

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. - Psalm 119:11

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rise Up and Build: When Your Efforts Feel Inferior

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. (Nehemiah 4:1-3) 

Seriously? This guy won’t quit, will he? The taunts didn’t work. The distraction plan proved ineffective. So, he moved on to Plan C—make the hero feel inferior. Notice the words he used: feeble and rubbish. Not exactly encouraging, is it? And, not to be outdone, Tobiah adds, “Even if they did build the wall, it would be so weak and wobbly that a little fox could crawl on it and cause the whole thing to crumble.” Deadly darts away!

The enemy will have you doubting yourself. Is it worth it? Are you doing it right? Shouldn’t you be further along? He will make you feel inferior and try to convince you that your efforts are in vain. “After all,” he will say, “you can build the walls, but as soon as something bad happens, they’ll crumble again. Just wait and see.” If we’re not careful, we’ll let him get to us, and we’ll spend more time worrying than working.

Don’t let the enemy tell you that you aren’t good enough! Do not let him fool you into thinking that your efforts are worth nothing. Don’t let him have the victory over you. It’s not his. We are the victors. According to God’s Word, we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), which means we can build these walls, and they will stand. Besides, we have the Master Builder on our side and if God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

We’ll talk a little more about listening to the voice of the enemy in a later chapter, but for now, just remember that the enemy is a liar, and he’ll say whatever it takes to get you to stop building. Don’t give in to him and his wishes. Don’t let him be your puppet-master by allowing him to control your actions by his taunts and scare tactics. He’s just a bully trying to have his way, and you need to decide that you won’t be bullied any longer. That’s part of rising up. It’s not just about building the walls, but it’s about standing tall in the process, and it’s impossible for someone who is being bullied to stand up tall. It’s time to rise up. You are good enough because God said so. In fact, He thought you were worth dying for, so take that, enemy. God is doing a work in and through you, and He will complete it if you let Him.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. - I Corinthians 15:58

*Excerpt from Rise Up and Build:  A Biblical Approach To Dealing With Anxiety and Depression

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Inner Workings of My Heart and Mind

As you know, I've been seeking your input on what you like and don't like about Dana Rongione Ministries, and the reason I've done that is because I feel some decisions need to be made to make the ministry as effective as possible.  For the past year, I've felt the Lord urging me to expand the ministry, or at the very least, opening up doors for expansion.  In my mind, however, expanding the ministry meant adding more things:  videos, podcasts, expanded programs, etc.  I'm now beginning to wonder if I misunderstood the Lord's meaning.

Don't get me wrong.  I've enjoyed many of the new outreaches, but I'm starting to feel like a hamster on a wheel.  Imagine if you will the mental energy it takes to plan and prepare for a devotion every day, a video each week, a song for every day, a 30-minute Sunday School lesson each week, songs for the congregational singing each week, songs for the offertories for Sunday School, Sunday morning and Sunday evening services every week, and that's just the areas of ministry.  That doesn't include planning meals or shopping trips or anything else.  I love what I do, and I'm thrilled that the Lord is using me in so many ways, but recently, a single statement has been floating through my mind on a regular basis:  "More is not always better.  Sometimes, it's just more."

With that in mind, I began to wonder if God's idea of expanding the ministry was merely to spend more time and energy and outreach doing the things I was already doing:  writing and blogging.  Expand the audience.  Expand the awareness.  Do the same things, but do them better.  As I stated earlier, I haven't made any decisions yet, but the survey results helped me to see that my main passion and the most well-liked areas of my ministry were the same--blogging and writing books.  So, I am currently praying about the decision of cutting back on the various other methods of outreach.

One response I received from the survey was that I needed to stop trying to limit the ministry, and I completely agree.  But, the way I see it, cutting back, in this case, would not be limiting the ministry but rather focusing it on one or two areas.  There comes a point when we have so many things going on that we're not able to do any of them well.  I feel like that's the point I've reached.  The quality is lacking.  My zeal is faltering.  And my brain is overwhelmed by the constant demand for more, more, more!

As I thought on this, my mind was drawn to Martha.  Good ole Martha.  Friend of Jesus.  Sister to Mary and Lazarus.  Hard worker and gourmet chef (at least, in my mind she was).  But Martha had the same problem I've had of late.  She was so busy serving that she lost sight of all else.  The joy of serving was replaced with bitterness.  The reason for serving was hidden behind her to-do lists and daily schedules.  She had so many good things to do that she lost sight of the best thing.

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. - Luke 10:38-42

I don't want to be careful and troubled about many things.  I want to find the one (or two) things that God wants me to do and then do them to the very best of my ability.  I fear being spread so thin that I'm not doing anything well.  After all, this is not just a job.  It's a ministry--God's ministry, and I want to be confident that He's in charge.

So, please bear with me for the next little bit as I continue to pray and meditate on what the Lord would have me do.  And, if you would help me pray, that would be fantastic.  I know that none of us likes change, and cutting certain areas out may offend some and even cause them to walk away, and I hope that's not the case.  But I need to make sure that God is my ultimate authority and that I do not allow myself to be swayed by my own emotions or the disapproval of others.  I do greatly appreciate all the feedback I've received, and I am taking these things into consideration as I consult with the Lord.  I will let you know what's going on as soon as I am aware, but I can tell you that the daily devotions and books will be continuing until the Lord tells me to stop.  These areas are not in question, so I hope that brings joy and contentment to you.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below or contact me directly.  I always love hearing from you!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Rise Up and Build: Avoid Distractions

That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner. (Nehemiah 6:2-4) 

That’s just like the enemy, isn’t it? Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, they change tactics. When Sanballat and Geshem saw that their taunts and ridicule were not affecting the people, they tweaked their approach. If they could pull Nehemiah away from the job at hand, perhaps the people would grow weary and stop working. You know, take the cat away so the mice can play. Yes, the people had a mind to work, but how long would that last if their leader disappeared?

Fortunately, Nehemiah was too smart for their plan. He knew that they had no intentions of sitting down for a friendly cup of tea. He was acutely aware that they were out to destroy him and his efforts. So, he told them “no.” Well, that didn’t sit too well with these men—a lowly commoner disregarding them in such a way. So, they continued to “request” his presence.

Notice Nehemiah’s response: I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? I am doing a great work, and I can’t stop right now. That is the attitude we need to adopt if we’re going to rebuild the walls around our heart. No matter what comes our way—good or bad—we must avoid distractions! It is imperative that we awake every morning with the attitude that we are doing a great work, and we cannot and will not be stopped. We cannot afford to lose sight of our goal—to banish anxiety and depression from our lives once and for all. That task is great, so our determination will need to be great, as will our focus.

Sometimes the enemy’s attacks come as full-on assaults, but often they take the form of distractions. The urgent comes into our lives, causing us to lose sight of the essential. Or even the good floats in, pulling our attention away from the best. Whether in the form of something good or bad, distraction will hinder our progress, and we must be on guard against it.

Nehemiah refused to be called away from his efforts. We must do the same.

*Excerpt from Rise Up and Build:  A Biblical Approach To Dealing with Anxiety and Depression

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Simple Formula for Daily Strength

I pray for a lot of things.  Health, safety, provision--these are just a few that top the list.  But if I had to qualify the majority of my prayer requests into a single word, that word would be "strength."  Strength of body to perform the tasks that need to be accomplished.  Strength of character to do what's right no matter the situation.  Strength of mind to make wise and timely decisions.  And strength of faith to trust God in all things.  I need strength.  I crave it.  And recently, I heard a Biblical formula for gaining such strength.

Psalm 22:3 tells us, But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.  God inhabits the praises of His people, so it's safe to say that praise brings about God's manifest presence, right?  Okay, then let's move on to the next step.

Psalm 16:11 says, Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.  Praise brings about God's manifest presence, and in His presence, there is fullness of joy.  So, praise = presence = joy.  Still with me?  Good, let's take it one more step.

The last phrase of Nehemiah 8:10 says, For the joy of the Lord is your strength.  According to that, joy = strength.  So, if we put it all together, we see that praise brings about God's presence which, in turn, brings about joy which brings about strength.  Praise = Presence = Joy = Strength.

Want strength?  It all begins with praise.  Whether we need physical, mental, emotional or spiritual strength, the formula is the same.  It all starts with praise.  Daily worship of the Lord opens doors that nothing else can open.  If we're seeking to feel God's nearness, we need only praise Him.  If we long for more joy, praise can accomplish that too.

We often talk about how powerful prayer is, and I completely agree.  But I think we have a tendency to lose sight of how powerful praise can be in our lives.  Prayer is talking to God.  Praise is thanking Him.  Prayer is asking for God to move.  Praise is honoring Him for how He has already moved or how He's going to.  In many ways, the two go hand in hand.

Looking for strength to make it through the day?  Well, now you know where to begin.  Let the praises roll!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Every now and then, I like to submit a survey to test the effectiveness of different areas of my ministry.  This information helps me to give my followers more of what they like and also helps me to determine the best way to reach my target market (the lost and Christians who need encouragement).  The survey is only seven questions long (most of them multiple choice) and shouldn't take longer than five minutes to complete.  Would you please take some time right now to let your voice be heard?  What do you think of Dana Rongione Ministries?  What would you like to see more or less of?  This is your chance to make your requests and desires known.  Isn't that worth a few minutes of your time?  Feel free to be honest.  All answers are anonymous, so I won't know who said what.  Thank you in advance.  I appreciate your participation and help in this matter.  (If, for any reason, the form below is not cooperating, you can fill out the survey here:

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

What Difference Does It Make? (Repost)

In my daily Bible reading, I've come around again to Psalm 119, and as usual, I have mixed feelings.  On the one hand, I love the Psalms, and I enjoy the many golden nuggets to be found in each chapter. On the other hand, I know that I have a tendency to get bogged down in those 176 verses and also to be convicted by them.

The theme of Psalm 119, if you don't know or couldn't guess, is the Word of God.  In fact, the Scriptures are referred to in one word form or another (precepts, testimonies, commandments, etc.) in all but four verses of the entire chapter.  But it's what the psalmist has to say about the Word that's so convicting.

As I read through the chapter this week, one thought kept coming to mind--if all God's people felt this way about God's Word, how different would things be?  When was the last time we craved the Bible?  Have we rejoiced in it?  Have we meditated on it?  Have we delighted in it?  Have we memorized it, shared it or fallen in love with it?  When was the last time we chose the Word of God over riches, fame or selfish desires?  The psalmist said multiple times within chapter 119 alone that the Scriptures made him alive, but if that's the case today, why are so many of us walking around with our heads down and shoulders slumped?

Yes, when I read this chapter, I'm both humbled and ashamed.  It is a glaring reminder that I don't love and respect the Bible as I should.  I take it for granted and fail to treat it with the glory and honor that it deserves.  I fear that if I were to ask, many of you would say the same thing.  Could that be why we do not see revival like we used to?  Could that be why our churches are not on fire like they once were?  Could that be why we're so complacent to just "live and let live"?

May I be blunt with you? Today is Independence Day here in America, and as a nation, we celebrate how far we've come.  Unfortunately, many of us also cringe at how far we've fallen.  Our Christian nation is Christian no more.  We are being destroyed from within, and I fear it will only get worse unless the Lord comes back very soon.

That being said, the reason our country is in such a mess is because our churches, as a whole, are in a mess.  They're more concerned with rules and guidelines, dress codes and ceremonies, tickling ears and making friends than they are about standing up for the truth.  And the reason the churches have slipped so far is that the people who make up those churches have lost all love and reverence for the Word of God.  Perhaps if we had a few attitude adjustments and started taking God seriously, we would see a change in our lives, our churches and our country.

If you're unsure how exactly you should feel about and treat the Scriptures, turn to Psalm 119 and read a while.  Pay attention to each verse.  Meditate on what it's saying.  Then ask yourself, "Am I as devoted to the Word of God as I should be?"  Then say with the psalmist, O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!  Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. (vs.5-6)

What difference does it make?  All the difference in the world!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Little By Little

Do you ever feel like God is taking His sweet time in answering your prayers or meeting your needs?  Maybe it's a relationship, a job, health, finances or some other equally troubling circumstance. You know that God sees what's going on, and you understand that He cares for you. So why does it take Him so long to act?  Surely, the God who spoke the world into existence could easily speak our problems out of existence, but He chooses not to work that way. All it would take is a single word or possibly even a thought, yet even in the circumstances where we see God moving, it seems like the process is excruciatingly slow. Why would a loving God make us wait for an outcome when He could easily make things right immediately? I believe we find the answer to that in Exodus 23.

I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land. - Exodus 23:29-30

In this passage, God is making a promise to the children of Israel that He will drive out the inhabitants of Canaan so that Israel can possess the land. But notice what He says in verse 29:  He makes it clear that even though He could, He was not going to drive out all the nations in a single year; He was going to do it little by little. And if we look carefully, we'll identify his reasoning.

First off, God needed the Israelites to understand that He could see the consequences of a rushed takeover. The land would suffer, and instead of walking into a paradise, the children of Israel would enter a land unsuitable for survival. The slow process of driving out the nations was not a punishment but rather a provision. God knew what Israel did not, and acting with that knowledge, He decided on a course of action that was best for His people. Likewise, God sees our future and the consequences of rushed actions. Knowing what lies ahead, He gives us what we need when we need it in order to bring about the best outcome.

Secondly, if you will look at verse 30, God told the children that He was waiting until they had increased. It's very possible that God was speaking about increasing in number, but I think it went further than that. Sometimes, God takes us the long way around because it is in the process that we grow. If God were to instantly give us the things for which we've been praying, how would our lives change? Would we become closer to Him? Would we become more spiritual? How would our relationship to others be influenced? And, to be blunt, how long would it take before we were asking God for more? God knows and understands that it's not enough to give us what we want, but it's imperative that we grow along the way. And as much as we hate to admit it, growth takes time.

Too often, we are so focused on the destination that we lose sight of what God is trying to teach us in the journey. His delays are not a punishment or means of instigating frustration. He is truly doing what's best for us whether we realize it or not. So as you embark on your journey, I urge you to remember that God is working all things for your good, and if it's taking longer than you expected, that's okay because God has something good in store for you. Be open to His working in your life and accept the growth He wants to see in you. And as difficult as it may seem at times, try your best to enjoy the journey.  God is working. . . little by little.