Author: StephanieBBlake

I love to help others focus on the one thing that's most important in life through my ministry, teaching and writing. As Vice President of Xtend Ministries International - www.xtendinternational.com, I travel extensively with my husband. I maintain two websites: www.onefocusministries.com and stretchmoney.wordpress.com. On the One Focus site, you can find free Bible studies, devotionals and information about my first book, "The Prayer Driven Life". My book, "Money: How to Be Rich Without It and How to Stretch It Using Ten Hints from the Past and the Technology of Today" was the inspiration for stretchmoney.wordpress.com. Money saving hints are contained throughout the book and this site was created to continue to give helpful hints on stretching money or having the proper view toward money.

Time Economics

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16).

“A Stitch in Time Saves Nine” was a saying characteristic of people living during the Depression. With no money for replacement items, repair and maintenance were done out of necessity. The origin of “a stitch in time saves nine” literally dealt with sewing. A small tear repaired at once prevents a larger tear from forming in the future – thus saving nine more stitches. The idea, of course, has come to mean that you will do yourself a favor by taking care of small problems when they appear. If you wait, repairs will be more time consuming and expensive.

An example of this would be car maintenance. Stay on top of engine tune-ups in order to guarantee that your engine will last as long as possible. Check your tires periodically for wear and make sure they have the proper amount of air and they will last longer.

Routine maintenance can prevent damage and save you time and money. If you clean out the gutters on your house each year, potential expensive repairs to your home can be avoided; removing lint from the dryer every time not only keeps your dryer running more efficiently, thus saving electricity, but potentially prevent a dangerous fire caused by excessive lint build up; vacuuming the coils of your refrigerator can prolong the life of that appliance; pulling weeds as soon as they appear can prevent you from having to do a widespread spraying or spending days removing overgrown patches; backing up files on your computer can save you enormous headache in redoing projects and losing some important information forever. When traveling, calling ahead for information or printing your boarding pass at home can save unpleasant surprises or a long wait in line. Repairing small leaks when you first notice them can save you a lot of time and money later. Carrying a small tool kit when traveling by car can make the difference between being able to fix a minor problem or having to call a repairman. Packing a mending kit when traveling can prevent you from having to buy a new item of clothing if something happens while you are on the road. Packing essential prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines can keep you from having to go to the emergency room.

Often maintenance is a matter of cleanliness. Metal items, such as automobiles, barbeque grills, iron fences and farm equipment last longer if cleaned regularly and checked for rust. Once rust sets in, the repair job is lengthy. When it is first noticed (like on the fender of a car) and taken care of, that “stitch in time” saves not only nine more stitches, but expensive repairs. It is more than a dollar saved.

If you don’t know how to repair certain items, there are more resources available than ever before. An online search will usually turn up a “how to” article that will walk you through it. Even when you can’t repair an item yourself, you can often extend its life by having it repaired by a professional.

After the Crisis of 2008 hit, there were many news reports on how people were coping. Sales in stores were down because people were making what they had last longer, repairing those items rather than buying new ones. This actually resulted in an increase of revenue for some businesses such as shoe repair shops, auto repair shops and home improvement stores. Some items need to be fixed by professionals, but even that cost is cheaper than replacing it – most of the time. There are some notable exceptions, such as computers and other electronic items.

In addition to saving money, your “stitch in time” can save your time. The less complicated the repair, the quicker it is done, the more time is left for other things.

Time really does have value. Somewhere, someone else is employed for services as an accountant, an auto mechanic, a bookkeeper, a cook, a driver (chauffeur), electrician, gardener, housekeeper, nurse, etc. As you balance your checkbook, change the oil in your car, prepare meals for your family, drive your children to and from activities, repair the wiring in your garage, maintain and adorn your yard and garden, clean your house, take care of your family members when they are sick, you are performing tasks routinely that someone else might be paid for.

Procrastination in maintenance and repairs leads to the “nine other stitches.” Procrastination also makes your “to do” list longer than it needs to be.

In many ways, time is of much more worth than money is.

In every area of life, it is better to take action on issues as they come up. For instance, a misunderstanding between family members, friends and neighbors can fester if not dealt with immediately.

Even if you don’t have money or a job, it is good to remember that you have the same amount of time as everyone else. What you do with that time will help you move forward or allow you to stagnate.

During the Great Recession, many people were forced to seek employment in areas they had never imagined they would work in. Sometimes this involved schooling. Sometimes it meant doing manual labor instead of office work.

In a few cases, the forced adjustment led to a happier lifestyle. Their time was now allocated more towards family or church or their community.

These changes involved spending time learning a new skill, competing in a job market that was new to them, and not giving in to the temptation to give up.

It is understandable to be disappointed with unforeseen negative circumstances, but what you do with those circumstances is up to you. Procrastination is not a good thing, but having such a full schedule that you cannot enjoy family or life is not either. There must be a balance.

Only you can determine the proper balance of time in your life. Many who have had money, though, and made it their priority, have regretted it in the end. Prioritize according to what really matters and your time will be of more value to you than money.

“Waste your money and you’re only out of money, but waste your time and you’ve lost part of your life.” – Michael LeBoueuf

God expects us to be good stewards of every gift He gives. How we spend our resources and how we spend our time are indicators of how we view His gifts. Jesus made that point very clear in His parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The lazy servant wasted his time and his master’s money.

© Stephanie B. Blake

July 2015

(This devotional was adapted from a chapter of “Money, How to be Rich Without It and How to Stretch It Using Ten Hints from the Past and the Technology of Today”)

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The Source

In the midst of an ever changing world, the source of my peace is Jesus.

For He Himself is our peace.

In the midst of frightening circumstances, the source of my refuge and trust is Jesus.

What time I am afraid, I will trust in You. 

In the midst of losing loved ones to death, the source of my hope is Jesus.

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

In the midst of experiencing aging and its limitations, the source of my strength is Jesus.

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.

In the midst of Satan’s temptations, the source of my escape and salvation is Jesus.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

In the midst of confusion and doubt, the source of my faith is Jesus.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. 

In the midst of sadness, the source of my comfort is the Spirit of God.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

The source of my joy is God’s everlasting love revealed through His Spirit and declared through His only begotten Son Jesus Christ.

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

Ephesians 2:14, Psalm 56:3, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, Habakkuk 3:19, 1 Corinthians 10:13, Hebrews 11:6, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, John 15:11

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  © Stephanie B. Blake June 2015

The Leadership Legacy

One hundred and forty eight years after the people of Cleburne, Texas chose to name the city after Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne, a statue was erected in his honor. Underneath the statue is a plaque containIMG_3025ing the following statement.

Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne’s battle cry was “Follow me” when other generals said, “Forward, men.” Robert E. Lee wrote, “He shone like a meteor on a clouded sky.” Jefferson Davis called him “The Stonewall of the West.”

Cleburne was born March 16, 1828, in Cork County, Ireland. His superiors revered him; his troops trusted him. Cleburne died on November 30, 1864, as he led his unit at the battle of Franklin, Tennessee.

In 1867, with the support of local veterans who had served under the General, the new county seat of Johnson County was named Cleburne.

IMG_3027General Cleburne died many years before I came to live in Cleburne, Texas. As a resident, I have been curious about him. Now I am struck with the legacy of leadership he left.

His men literally followed him into battle. They didn’t just hear his commands; they observed his bravery. As a leader who was respected and trusted, he demonstrated his loyalty to their joint cause by his example and gave his life to that cause in the process.

I am a follower of Jesus Christ who gave more than General Cleburne was capable of giving. Although our Lord Jesus has won the greatest battle of all time – the spiritual battle for our souls – many people are just curious about Him.

I revere and trust Jesus as my Savior and Lord. He led by example. He demonstrated in His own body how to live a victorious life. He died in my place. As the Son of God, He rose from the grave and gained the victory over sin and death for those who would trust Him. Through His sacrifice, I do not have to die. I serve Him with gratitude for all He did for me and for the spiritual army of which I am a part.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps …who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed (1 Peter 2:21:24).

Purified Water

My husband and I frequently travel internationally. When we travel, we often have to buy purified or natural spring water. Local water can make us sick.

Companies that provide the bottled water often advertise that they have acquired water from the source. The leading water supplier goes to great lengths to find spring waters that are pure and free from contaminants.

I have had stomach issues when I travel and I do what I can to avoid having them again. I rinse my toothbrush with the bottled water; I avoid salads (lettuces and vegetables have been rinsed with the local water); I have even learned that delicious local fruit drinks can be mixed with the local water and I no longer drink those.

All of this can be hard to remember. Occasionally I have forgotten to take the precautions I knew I should take – for one simple reason. The water coming out of the tap looks the same as the water that has been bottled. Looks can be deceiving.

800px-thumbnailThis is an issue that must be dealt with. We cannot live without water. Although you cannot see the contaminants – such as E-coli, coliform bacteria, lead and nitrates –  they can definitely make you sick.

Even though we need water, not all water can satisfy.

water-1373543892cbL This is perhaps the best example of the relationship between the physical and the spiritual. Jesus made this point when He was speaking to a woman drawing water from a well. She was not drawing impure water, but because the need for water is constant, she had to return daily. Jesus used this physical need to make a spiritual connection with her.  Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:13-14).

There is no physical life without water. There is no everlasting spiritual life without the living water the Lord provides.

Jesus is truly the source of living water. As He did the woman in Samaria, He invites each of us to drink of the water He provides – pure and uncontaminated. In doing so, He shares His life and His Spirit with those who believe in Him.

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).

The Cure for Loneliness

The Cure for Loneliness

Furthermore, if two lie down together to keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart (Ecclesiastes 4:11-12).

We are made for companionship and we feel it keenly when it is absent.

The refrain of the Beatle’s hit song, Eleanor Rigby is:

All the lonely people.

Where do they all come from?

All the lonely people.

Where do they all belong?

Some of the most popular pop songs have had this lonely theme: I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams; Only the Lonely by Roy Orbison; Lonely Man by Elvis Presley and many others. Why are those songs so popular? Many people can relate to the lyrics.

Being alone and being lonely are two different things. You can be by yourself but not be lonely. You can be in a crowd, but the loneliness can be devastating.

A February 2014 article in The Guardian says that loneliness has found to be more deadly than obesity and is now being defined as a disease.

In a report called Rewarding Social Connections Promote Successful Ageing that Professor John Cacioppo presented in Chicago… the effect of satisfying relationships on the elderly was measured.

Cacioppo’s team found that friendships helped older people develop their resilience and ability to bounce back after adversity, as well as an ability to gain strength from stress rather than be diminished by it.

Not surprisingly, there is no corresponding good news for those less well connected to other people. Loneliness has dramatic consequences on health. Feeling isolated from others can disrupt sleep, raise blood pressure, lower immunity, increase depression, lower overall subjective wellbeing and increase the stress hormone cortisol (at sustained high levels, cortisol gradually wears your body down).

Elderly people can often be so lonely that they will keep telemarketers on the phone just to have someone talk to them, but it is not just the elderly who are prone to loneliness.

Social media is not always beneficially social. Occasionally the harsh comments made through twitter, Facebook and other sources can cause great damage to the targeted person – often a young person.

God knows we need fellowship. He made us that way. Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).

Loneliness is a malady that can strike even God’s choicest servants. Elijah had performed great miracles in the name of the Lord, but then had a spell of depression when he thought he was alone. Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men” (1 Kings 18:22). With that declaration, Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a demonstration. Each one would place a bull on an altar but put no fire under it. Elijah said, “Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, He is God” (1 Kings 18:24). After much pleading, the prophets of Baal were unable to get their gods to consume their offering. Elijah then poured water over the sacrifice and the wood and called upon the Lord who then consumed the sacrifice. The people saw, fell on their faces before God, and seized the prophets of Baal.

Even with the miracles that God had performed through Elijah’s hand, Elijah continued to believe that he was alone. When Jezebel sought him out to kill him, he ran away, crying for God to take his life. When God confronted him, Elijah twice said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life” (1 Kings 19:10,14).

God did two things to help Elijah understand he was not alone. He informed him of seven thousand in Israel who had not worshiped Baal. He sent Elijah to meet his own successor. Elisha became his servant and served the Lord with him. Cured of his disease of loneliness, when the Lord told Elijah He was going to take him to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah tried to leave Elisha behind. He wanted to go on alone. Elisha begged him to allow him to go with him, saying three times, “I will not leave you!” 

What made the difference for Elijah? God became enough. He had believed in God and performed His miracles. Elijah wanted companionship. God gave him Elisha. In the time between his bout of depressing loneliness and his ride on the flaming chariot, Elijah realized that with God, he was never alone.

Jesus knew rejection, but He never gave in to the disease of loneliness because He knew that His Father was always with Him. “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me (John 16:32).

Alone, but not lonely, could describe many people I know. Like Anna, who was a widow eighty-four years and was so dedicated to God that He gave her the special gift of seeing the Christ Child, I know widows who spend most of their time in prayer. I have friends who are so sick they cannot do the things they would like to do, but give glory to God because they totally trust Him.

Jesus knew His disciples would be confused and lonely after His death. He told them it would be to their advantage that He went away because He would be sending His Holy Spirit to be with them always.

All the lonely people – where do they all come from?

They come from all ages and all nationalities. They come from every sex and every vocation. They come from every walk of life.

All the lonely people – where do they all belong?

In the loving presence of Jesus, who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b).

© Stephanie B. Blake

May 2015

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That Special Someone – A Friend

We all need friends.

I have some very special friends – some that I don’t see very often, but when I do, we take up right where we left off.

DSC03454 Cuba Oct '08 153 Stephanie, Sharon and Tina Photo on 8-10-14 at 4.56 PM IMG_1255I am an American. Some of my friends are American but many of my friends live in other countries. We communicate by phone, email, or Facebook but there can be great lapses of time between each message. I often wish for a chance to catch up – to have a cup of coffee or tea with that special someone – a person I feel comfortable with, I can relate to, who understands me.

Although I consider myself a friendly person, not everyone I meet falls into that “special someone” category. There are those who do not share my interests, my values, or my faith.

God is the creator of all people, but not every person wants to be close to Him. I take encouragement from those who do and learn from their special relationship with God, such as these biblical characters:

  • Noah who found grace in the eyes of the Lord and he and his family were saved from the flood.
  • Abraham who was called a friend of God.
  • Moses who could talk with God face to face.
  • Job whom God called a blameless and upright man.Oma and her friend Lisa
  • Elijah who was known as a man of God.
  • Isaiah who was given prophetic visions by God.
  • Ezekiel who had the hand of the Lord upon him.
  • Daniel who was protected by God in the lion’s den.
  • The virgin Mary who was highly favored, chosen to be the mother of the Savior.
  • John, the apostle, who called himself “the one whom Jesus loved”.

Jesus makes it possible for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him. His miraculous birth, His sinless life, His sacrificial death and His bodily resurrection is a gift of grace to those who chose to believe in Him. There don’t have to be any lapses of time for communication – we can talk with Him constantly.  Especially comforting is – like Abraham – we are His friends. And like John, He loves us completely.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:13-15).

 

Rest From A Completed Project

My life is full of projects to be completed – little ones and big ones.

Every day is full of the little projects:

  • Laundry is not complete until I have folded it, put it away and ironed items that require it. After a trip, that particular project may take all day.
  • If we want to eat a meal, it is not enough to decide what to cook, cook it and serve it. The dishes must also be washed and put away.DSC03514
  • If yard work needs to be done, I have found it best not to do it in stages but to devote enough time to get it completely done including weeding flower beds, cutting the grass, trimming and cleaning up afterwards.
  • I maintain a couple of blogs. The article is not complete until I have finished writing it, added an image or two, proofed it and posted it to the internet.

IMG_2127When I am able, I help my husband with some of our household projects. These are more lengthy in nature and may take days or weeks, but I am always aware the project needs to be completed. If I do choose to “enter into the project” with him and follow through to the end, I can take delight in the fact I had a part in finishing it.

Some projects are part of something larger. If we are building a house, we may finish building a bathroom, but the remainder of the rooms may need to be finished as well. It is not completely finished until the last nail has been driven and the last paint brush has been put down.

I need to rest when I get tired, but I want to rest as well so that I can enjoy the result of the project.

God never gets tired but He does take time to enjoy what He has created. And God rested on the seventh day from all His works (Hebrews 4:4).

If you are a child of God, God is in the process of completing His work in you. When you believe, His rest becomes your rest. … we who have believed do enter that rest (Hebrews 4:3a).

There is a future element to that rest. There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from His works, as God did from His (Hebrews 4:9-10). Together, for eternity, we will enjoy all that God has planned for those who have chosen to believe in Him.

since a promise remains of entering His rest… Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest…(Hebrews 4:1, 11).

The World Clock and Sleep

I am often waiting on an international flight. The last time I did that, although my flight was more than twelve hours long and the door to door time in route was to be over seventeen hours, according to the calendar and the flight schedule, I arrived before I left – part of the curious life of working and living on the world clock.

I know the advantages we have our predecessors did not. Businesses are now able to work around the clock. Communication and business transactions can be conducted twenty four hours a day.

454px-C_Krohg-TrettI can also keep track of friends and family no matter what time of day or night it is. I may send a message late in my day knowing a friend or family member will receive it the next day when they arise. Often when I am overseas, I wake to a message about a loved one – some good, some bad, but the occasion for the message occurred during their daytime – my night.

This lifestyle leads to an interesting attack on my body. I often have serious problems with jet lag. Having tried every solution there is to conquer this, it still takes me days – sometimes weeks – to recover.

Angelo_Agostini,_1887,_El_Rey,_nosso_senhor_e_amoOur bodies are structured to need sleep. It is so important that people have even died from the lack of sleep. It is an effective torture tactic. Loss of sleep can cause you to lose your reasoning ability or become dangerously disoriented.

Often when I am sleep deprived or recovering from a long overseas trip, I thankfully reflect on the fact that my God does not need sleep. The world clock is not an issue for Him – He created time and is in time for all of us. He is as available to me during the night as He is during the day. When I am concerned about a loved one on the other side of the world, I know that when I talk to Him about him or her, He immediately hears.

In fact, because He never sleeps, my sleepless hours can be some of the best time to talk to Him about everything – those I love and my needs as well.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills – from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand (Psalm 121:1-5).

The Lead Character

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made (Genesis 1:1, John 1: 1-3).

In the film industry, they are called lead actors. In literature, they are known as main characters. It should never be hard to pick out the main character in a story. He is the one the story revolves around. For instance, in the movie Gravity, there would be no story without Dr. Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock. Les Miserables is about the life of Jean Valjean. Gone with the Wind tells the story of Scarlett O’Hara. Casablanca focuses on the character of Rick Blaine.

The creators of these stories put great effort into developing the main character. As the story progresses, the reader or viewer discovers more about the main character and why the story is about him. Through proper character development, the reader or viewer becomes aware of the significant role of the main character.

Alfred de Vigny, poet, playwright, and novelist (1797-1863) said, “History is a novel whose author is the people.” Respectfully, I believe de Vigny was wrong. History is not a fictional novel. Authored by God Himself, it is a factual record of His creation and His redeeming love for His people through His Son Jesus Christ. He is creator, author and the One the story revolves around.

History is His story.

The telling of God’s story in the Bible literally comes alive through Jesus. He is the Word of God. He is also the main character in every event in the written word of God. God’s story begins with Genesis 1:1. Jesus was there. John’s gospel makes that clear. The Bible ends with The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen (Revelation 22:21).

In an article on crupressgreen.com (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), Seeing Christ in All of Scripture, it is expressed this way: “The good news doesn’t just reside in part two of the Bible, the New Testament. The entire story of the Bible is about one person, one plan, one goal. That person is Jesus, that plan is redemption, the goal is the glory of God. It’s really a pretty simple story line.”

It is possible to miss that simple story line. If we view God’s Word as a collection of stories about people, we miss the point. Many stories in the Bible are well known, even to those who do not follow Christ but the reader’s perspective can sometimes be different than the Author’s intention. Some might erroneously give a supporting character the role of the main character.

God and Noah

Noah was not the main character in the story of the ark and the flood.

God made man. God was sorry He had made man. God was grieved. God sent the flood, but God miraculously saved the one man who walked with Him. God’s grace saved Noah and his family and enough of the animals to give mankind a new start. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord…. Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:8-9).

God and Moses

Moses was not the main character when the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land.

God chose Moses to lead His people out of bondage from Egypt. He revealed Himself to Moses and promised He would be with him. So He said, “I will certainly be with you…And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”… So the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians…Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses (Exodus 3:12, 14; 14:30, 31).

God and David

David knew he could not kill Goliath with just a slingshot, but God could use him to do it.

God prepared David, the shepherd boy, to do what the army could not do. His armor was not the armor of metal and war. It was the armor of faith. “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand…Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17: 46-47).

 God and Jonah

Jonah was a reluctant participant in God’s plan to offer salvation to the people of Nineveh. He was definitely not the main character.

In the New Inductive Study Bible, the preface to Jonah states, “The focus of Jonah is not a man trapped in the belly of a great fish; the focus is people engraved on the heart of God.” As a result of forcing Jonah to go to Nineveh, many repented and turned to God. “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons… (Jonah 4:11).

God and Daniel

Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den and remained untouched, but Daniel could not save himself.

The officials of Darius became jealous of the favor Daniel, a foreigner, found with the king. Through their conniving, Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. It was Daniel’s refusal to worship any God but the true God. It was his God who rescued Him. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him”…So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God” (Daniel 6:20-23).

In Jesus, God’s story comes alive. …Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and … He was buried, and … He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Through faith in Him, our names are written in another book – the Book of Life. What a privilege it is to be part of His story.

© Stephanie B. Blake

April 2015

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We Chose Adoption

Once again adoption is more than an idea in our family – it is a reality.

10929019_10206604680294704_245956839076266793_nMy second Chinese granddaughter is now in the family. I was reminded, as I was with the first adoption, that the entire family made a choice. Every member – daddy, mommy, two brothers and a sister – wants Ava to know how much she is loved and wanted. So do my husband and I. The rest of the extended family feels the same.

Ava and I have yet to meet, but once I was aware she would be joining the family, she earned a special spot in my heart. She doesn’t know me yet, but I love this precious girl.

Prior to leaving to pick Ava up from China, the family made preparation for her10665191_10207033896384959_5610547872014842076_n at home – shifting things around and making sure that she had her own spot in which to sleep and keep her belongings. Time, thought, effort and expense were given willingly – all because having Ava in the family was worth it. She has been and will continue to be loved sacrificially, unconditionally and completely.

Ava has yet to fully realize the depth of love that brought her into the family. I think someday she will.

Adoption is a choice God made. As part of His adopted family, I am blessed. I feel His love. I know that bringing me into His family cost Him immeasurable sacrifice – the death of His only begotten Son. God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit knew the cost of offering me an eternal home with His family. I will never be able to fully comprehend the depth of His love, but the reciprocal and grateful love I have for Him is very real.

Our lives have been immeasurably enriched because my son and his family chose to adopt. This has helped me come a little closer to understanding God’s love for me and all of my Christian brothers and sisters.

We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). “I go to prepare a place for you…I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you….He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him….If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him…”(John 14: 2b, 18, 20-21, 23).