Devo for the Rest of Us



Jesus calls us to be salt and light. It can be easy to forget that and get lost in the weeds in the midst of serving the Lord in whatever place He has called us.


Many of us look for or receive a new devotional book to start off a new year. At this point in my life, I have quite a collection. Some of them I revisit over and over again. Others are good, but they don’t challenge me to apply the Word or keep the main things in focus as well.


Devo For The Rest of Us by Vince Antonucci took me on a forty-day journey that drew me in, challenged me, encouraged me, and reminded me of the key elements of my Christian life and experience.


Vince states, “You are loved by a limitless God! Yet many of us don’t live our everyday lives in that reality. The ‘rest of us’ subconsciously believe half-truths about God and ourselves, sabotaging our lives in subtle and no-so-subtle ways.”


To help “the rest of us” have our hearts, minds, and spirits aligned with the Lord Vince led me through forty days of devotions that did not disappoint me. Since I am not a newcomer to devotionals that is significant.


Devo For The Rest of Us invites the reader to take an eight-week trek, five days a week to allow the Lord to bring your relationship with Him into better focus. He does so not through preachy religious language, but foundational themes of the Christian life. Then Vince uses illustrations that can help apply those themes or resurrect them in our daily life.


The eight-week themes include:

  • Hungry
  • Story
  • New
  • Abide
  • Community
  • Obstacles
  • Questions
  • Missions


Through these themes, Vince imparts knowledge of the truth and seeks to encourage us to adopt habits that help us to live more effective lives as a son or daughter of the Lord.


When I finished the book, I felt refreshed and renewed, my heart lighter and full of joy! Vince wrote in a style that was inviting and real with personal stories and examples that enriched each day’s reading and correlated with the theme of the week.


Vince Antonucci is pastor of an innovative church, Verve, that seeks to reach people who work and live around the Las Vegas Strip. The television series, God for the Rest of Us chronicles his work there.


This book was provided and published by Tyndale House Publishing, in exchange for my review.

What’s in a Name?



I am fascinated by the variety and number of names people are using for their newborns. The new names I have never heard before fall into all different responses on the spectrum for me. Some of them are lovely and lyrical. Others land with a thud on my ears. And others beyond that cause me to wonder ‘what were you thinking’. (As a former schoolteacher, I am well aware of how students respond when called on when their name is unusual.)


Most surprising in recent years has been the resurgence of what I would call “old” names that I associate with great aunts and uncles and grandparents of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Names like Edna or Mabel come to mind.


My family has not been without unique names. My mother’s first name was Delight and her sister was Gloine. I have never heard either of those names used anywhere else. Then, of course, their father’s first name was Banks!


When I am reading in passages in the Old Testament and sometimes stumbling over names, I can grow weary with reading the lists of names. Even so, I know names have meaning and significance. I am not a true student of all of the meanings, but I was very much aware of the meaning of the name, David, when we chose it for our son. I seriously was excited that when I used his name it meant “well beloved” and it was not only true, but it also conveyed to any and all that blessing.


I confess that David is a name I have always loved. It was one of my grandfather’s names and now I am blessed to have a son-in-law with that first name as well as two grandsons who have it as part of their names as either a first or second name along with our son.


Antisthenes in 400 B.C. said, “The beginning of all instruction is the study of names.”


 Reading the Bible demonstrates the value placed on names by the Israelites. The lineage of names is found in Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Matthew, and Luke. When the canon of scripture was determined, the inclusion of these sometimes-lengthy sections suggests their importance.


Biblically, names denote natural or physical qualities and might also point to an occupation. Names may point to a symbolic or prophetic feature or may be given indifferently to men and women. Certainly, names were connected with family relationships and were fixed immediately after birth with the mother usually choosing the name.


Names carried a religious relationship and significance and those names considered most important were given with intentionality.


In Proverbs 22: 1, Solomon wrote, “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches”.


Despite the seemingly endless list of new names, research shows that nearly half the people of the civilized world have names originating from the collection in the Bible.


Two names were given before their birth: John the Baptist and Jesus.


It is also of note that some names in the Bible were changed by God’s direct intervention (Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel.


I am also fascinated by the passage in Revelation 2:17 in the message to the Church in Pergamum which reads:


“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.”


Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says of this passage:


“The influences and comforts of the Spirit of Christ, come down from heaven into the soul, for its support. This is hidden from the rest of the world. The new name is the name of adoption; when the Holy Spirit shows his own work in the believer’s soul, this new name and its real import are understood by him.”


What’s in a name? Clearly, there can be great significance even though in our modern day we may think of it far less often.


When I was about to be married to my wonderful fiancé, I was aware my maiden last name was difficult to pronounce for many and also often misspelled. Nonetheless, it had value to me because it was one that was respected for the character and values it represented in our community as a result of my father and his family’s witness.


I am called by a number of names and nicknames by the people in my life, but the name I am most interested in is the one Jesus calls me.


 Recently I was reading about how Jesus’ disciple, John, is most often referred to in scripture. He’s called “the disciple whom Jesus loved”.


Wow! I LOVE that!


Clearly, Jesus loved all of His disciples, but none but John had this reference. What about his identity, his devotion, his character resulted in this reference being given to him alone?


Reading “the disciple whom Jesus loved” reverberates in my heart.


What name or attribute would Jesus give me?


What would He give you?




How to Defeat Doubt





What a pesky thing it can be for any and all of us! It would be lovely if we could say we never experienced doubt, but if we are totally honest none of us really can say that.


Doubts are those uncertainties that can send us spinning. They also can become snares that lead us astray.


 When we are very young, doubt does not seem to be quite as much of an enemy. Unless something has occurred to create a question, we tend not to wonder whether or not to jump into daddy’s arms when he invites us to do so. We know he will catch us if he told us to jump.


Little by little doubts seem to grow unnoticed like weeds hidden in the grass at first. It can happen all at once, but often it is a gradual thing. It starts when something we believed in or trusted lets us down. It also happens, as we get a little bit older when we are tempted and the enemy whispers as he did to Eve that we will be okay if we yield.


Like some of you, I somehow grew up with what seemed to be a fair number of uncertainties. They seemed to crop up in all kinds of places.


Much of it came from nagging doubts about whether or not I was loved, accepted, and valued if I was less than perfect (and I was). As these questions evolved into a belief that I wasn’t or might not be, questions and doubts seemed to multiply.


Despite my efforts to defeat these enemies, they clung to me into adulthood even though I had first accepted Jesus when I was 12.


A common little example was when I would plan to meet someone for coffee or lunch. If they were late, I would start to question if they were really coming or if they had someone they preferred to spend time with. I wondered if I mattered to them and if left unchecked, my insecurity grew.


When we don’t understand something, it can be easier to doubt. If we don’t really know someone, it can be easier to doubt.


 Add to that our own filters about ourselves and soon we are slipping down a rabbit hole we cannot seem to get out of.


The truth is that the more I know and understand about myself or another person, the easier it is to defeat doubt and uncertainty about the relationship.


 If I am waiting on a friend that I know well, I will know if they are late there is a good reason because it is unlike them or I will know if they are late that it is common for them to be late because they are late for nearly everything and everyone! In both cases, I accept it is not about me.


These things can help us experience relationships that are not hampered by needless doubting.


The biggest challenges come in our relationship with the Lord. If our prayers don’t seem to be answered, or answered as we desire, it can be easier to doubt, lose faith, and question. When bad things happen despite all our efforts to be good, do the right thing, or be the right person, we can fall prey to questions in our heart even if our head knows that bad things can happen to anyone.


I am not sure that in this life we can totally escape all doubts, but I do believe we can do much to defeat them by growing in our understanding and knowledge of others. It helps us to make wiser choices about relationships and which ones are healthy and trustworthy.


Most important of all is to grow in our understanding and knowledge of the Lord.


At 12, I accepted Jesus into my heart, but I didn’t really know Him very well and didn’t expend time to grow in my knowledge and understanding so my footing was unsure and doubts could more easily assail my mind and heart.


Getting to know someone, getting to know the Lord, takes intentional time spent with them observing what they do, how they do it, what motivates them, and what they care about.


 I can hear a lot about someone, which can give me a sense of the person, but unless or until I spend time with him or her myself, I will never really know him or her nor trust and understand him or her at a significant level. That will make me vulnerable to doubt.


It’s also true I can hear a lot about the Lord from great preaching and teaching or hearing others share their testimony, but if I don’t spend time with Him coming to know His heart I will fall prey to doubt.


Because I am finite and He is infinite there are things I will never be able to fully understand about Him. But if I spend time seeking to know Him, know His heart, and not just learn more about Him, doubt will be defeated more easily as I rest in the certainty of His love and care, His goodness and grace.




What Navy SEALS Can Teach Us



I confess. I love movies. It was a gift my husband brought into my life. I am not sure if I had seen more than a half dozen movies prior to our dating. His love of story played out on the big screen with plenty of action and a great musical score grabbed me.


Yes, I love a great love story and am a fan of Downton Abbey, but along the way my husband’s love of action movies has taught me more about character, great missions, and teamwork than I could have imagined. As believers, there is much we can learn from them because I see qualities in them that are too often in short supply among us.


This past weekend we saw two great movies rich in story line and powerful in significance. We went to see the new movie, Thirteen Hours. We also watched The Two Towers (expanded version), from The Lord of the Rings series (a big favorite of ours).


Were the movies different? Yes and no.


Both movies deliver a powerful story full of action and moving lines delivered in the midst of stunning backgrounds and powerful musical scores. One is an allegory written by J.R.R. Tolkien playing out the forces of good and evil, light and darkness.


The other is a retelling of the survivors of a real life story set in the midst of the crumbling modern day Middle East where it is difficult to identify the good guys from the bad guys.


The similarity I see is that each lays out the story of a team joined together on a mission of significant importance. Lives are on the line. Trust and courage will be tested. There are no easy choices. Working together is essential. Not everyone will survive.


What makes that resonate is how it reminds me that we too often get caught up in small stories, forgetting we too are part of a great story of crucial significance.


We also are on a mission that we too easily forget. Choices can be difficult. Trust and courage will be tested. Working together is essential and not everyone will finish the mission.


What I see in a story of Navy SEALS or Delta Force missions as well as in ‘ring fellowship’ in Tolkien’s story shows me what is missing in the great story we are all a part of.


In the stories unfolding on the screen, the teams are clear on their mission and committed to it at all cost. Whether in these two I have mentioned or numerous others like Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers, concern for self-interest gets set aside for the sake of someone and something else to accomplish the mission before them.


No matter how individualistic they may be at the outset, the mission is kept in focus. They also support one another and truly have each other’s back in the midst of great danger when all faith and hope can be lost. The small stories each may have come from may or may not have equipped them.


The key is that they are caught up in something bigger and more important than themselves.


 In the quest for the mission to succeed, each is willing to lay down his life, his preferences, his doubts, and his ego for the good of everyone else. They work and fight together as one and in the midst of that they show great care and love for each other. They also want no one to be left behind, alive or dead.


The Navy SEALS, Delta Force, Rangers, and other elite teams all operate under a similar code. What are the hallmarks that forge such teams?

  • Loyalty.
  • Honor.
  • Integrity.
  • Ready to lead.
  • Ready to follow.
  • Never quit.
  • Take responsibility for your actions and those of your teammates.
  • Excel as warriors through discipline and innovation.
  • Train for war.
  • Leave no one behind.


 What if we, in the body of Christ, operated similarly keeping the Lord’s mission and our place in it in focus?


What would happen if we understood the significance of the unseen war we are caught up in and applied such hallmarks?


What if we stood with one another against the enemy of our Lord and us as His disciples?


What if we were committed to leave no one behind?


The Navy SEALS and the stories they live are stories we can learn from to stand more effectively with and for one another, helping each of us to be encouraged, strengthened, accountable, and focused. When we do, we can be better than we would have been without each other.

Keys to Staying Connected



Earlier this week I wrote about losing connection and I shared that Nehemiah impacted me on some principles that can apply to my life (our lives) now as a result of some parallels I sensed the Lord was showing me.


When I talked about the biblical story, I noted that Israel had lost connection with God, each other, and their true identity.


They had forgotten who they were and whose they were.


When they returned from exile, we should not miss the significance of the broken down walls of the city that Nehemiah was scouting out.


The walls had been a key source of their success and strength. Now their condition was a source of shame, humiliation, and contempt by all those surrounding them. Additionally, Nehemiah faced a lot of mocking and challenges from adversaries about the condition of the walls as well as his plan to rebuild them.


What is my source of strength? Yours?


Their true strength was now in their hands in the decision to rebuild the walls, but more than that. They needed to look to God Himself to fight for them. Their walls were no longer there. Nehemiah faced no easy task. His consistent prayer as he approached the problem and began to take action was essential.


If you read the whole story, you see that the workers Nehemiah assembled were faced with ridicule, discouragement, wrath, contempt, and a conspiracy to defeat the project. No doubt about it, the enemy did not want this project to go forward.


We can also lose connection just as Israel did. We can become busy, distracted, immersed in our issues, bogged down by our challenges, and trapped in our unhealthy habits. We can start trusting in something or someone other than the Lord. We know things are getting out of control, but fail to notice we are getting lost somewhere along “the yellow brick road”.


Too often when connection gets lost we move farther away from the very connection we need as believers.


 The enemy of our hearts uses his best tools. He chooses fear, pride, control, despair, discouragement, shame, and guilt.


 You see, we were always designed for community from the very beginning. It mirrors the community in the Godhead. When things are going well for us, we can feel pretty good about connecting with God and each other. We can feel more confident in who we are and whose we are. But when things in our lives begin to wear down and crumble, those enemies can mock us just like those Nehemiah faced.


Quite a variety of things can get us there. Our prayer life gets lost in the mix and the Bible no longer fits into life’s busy schedule or it doesn’t seem to speak hope, life, and truth as it once did. Maybe it even brings reminders of where we are not so it can be easier to set it aside.


We also stop talking and sharing at honest levels with those few closer friends who journey with us.


 Connection with others is crucial at such times because it provides us with the gift of accountability


 Some of us might say we have a lot of ‘friends’. Others of us may say they have none. What each of us needs is just a very few friends, one or two, with whom we spend enough face-to-face time that we come to know each other at a heart level.


We share at a different level with these few. We don’t talk in the superficial and stay away from religious clichés. These come to know the nuances of our facial expressions, our body language, our tone of voice, and use of words. As a result, they recognize things about us that we may not even be recognizing.


Because they walk with us, love, and accept us, we can be more transparent with them. They can also help keep us humble. They can challenge us by speaking the truth in love.


If we have no such connections or we step away from those we have, we become vulnerable to all the enemy’s devices.


Nehemiah speaks to that as well.


The people had a mind and heart to work to rebuild. He stationed them by clans or groups to do the work and the leaders stood behind those who were rebuilding.


The problem was this. They were too far apart on the wall.


There was too much separation between them. It was giving the enemy too much opportunity.


Yes, my primary connection is with the Lord and He gives me my true sense of identity through His Word, communion with Him, and time in prayer with Him.


But I also need companions for the journey, not many but a few who come to know me well to provide support, encouragement, and accountability.


 I am blessed to have some close friends, but in that number there are two with whom I spend more time and share at a different level and there is one who is closest of all that I meet with regularly. She helps keep me honest with myself about my life and my connection with the Lord.


From this connection I experience the keys to maintaining connection:


  • Faith to overcome fear


  • Humility to overcome pride


  • A spirit of unity to overcome disunity


  • An attitude of servanthood to overcome the need to control


  • Integrity to overcome all manner of corruption


  • Light to overcome darkness


  • Acceptance to overcome prejudice


  • Hope to overcome despair



Romans 5:1-5   ESV

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.