Wisely Weeding

By |2021-03-31T09:06:04-04:00March 31st, 2021|

My grandchildren are running around my backyard. Playing games? No, pulling weeds. “Pulling them up by the roots!” the youngest says, showing me a hefty prize. Her delight as we tackled weeds that day was how much we enjoyed plucking the weedy roots—clearing away each pesky menace. Before the joy, however, came the choice to go after them.

Intentional weeding is also the first step in removing personal sin. Thus, David asked the Lord: “Search me, God, and know my heart . . . . See if there is any offensive way in me (Psalm 139:23–24).

What a wise approach, to go after our sin by asking God to show it to us. He above all knows everything about us. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me,” wrote the psalmist. “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar” (vv. 1–2).

Such knowledge, David added, “is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (v. 6). Even before a sin takes root, therefore, the Lord can alert us to the danger. He knows our “landscape.” So, when a sneaky sinful attitude tries to take root, He is first to know and point it out.  

“You hem me in behind and before,” wrote David. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,” (vv. 5–6). May we closely follow our Savior to higher ground!

Got Your Nose

By |2021-03-30T09:06:03-04:00March 30th, 2021|

“Why are the statues’ noses broken?” That’s the number one question visitors ask Edward Bleiberg, curator of Egyptian art at the Brooklyn Museum.

        Bleiberg can’t blame it on normal wear and tear; even two-dimensional painted figures are missing noses. He surmises that such destruction must have been intentional. Enemies meant to kill Egypt’s gods. It’s as if they were playing a game of “got your nose” with them. Invading armies broke off the noses of these idols so they couldn’t breathe.

Really? That’s all it took? With gods like this, Pharaoh should have known he was in trouble. Yes, he had an army and the allegiance of a whole nation. The Hebrews were weary slaves led by a timid fugitive named Moses. But Israel had the living God, and Pharaoh’s gods were pretenders. Ten plagues later, their imaginary lives were snuffed out.

Israel celebrated their victory with the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when they ate bread without yeast for a week (Exodus 12:17; 13:7–9). Yeast symbolizes sin, and God wanted his people to remember their rescued lives belong entirely to Him.

Our Father says to idols, “Got your nose,” and to His children, “Got your life.” Serve the God who gives you breath, and rest in His loving arms.

Facing the Battles with God

By |2021-03-29T09:06:05-04:00March 29th, 2021|

The heroic deeds of US Army soldier Desmond Doss are featured in the 2016 movie Hacksaw Ridge. While Doss’ convictions wouldn’t allow him to take human life, as an army medic he committed himself to preserving life even at the risk of his own. The citation read at Doss’ Medal of Honor ceremony on October 12, 1945, included these words: “Private First Class Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them one by one to the edge of the escarpment. . . . He unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer.”

In Psalm 11, David’s conviction that his refuge was in God compelled him to resist suggestions to flee rather than face his foes (vv. 2–3). Six simple words comprised his statement of faith: “In the Lord I take refuge” (v. 1). That well-rooted conviction would guide his conduct.

David’s words in verses 4–7 amplified God’s greatness. Yes, life can sometimes be like a battlefield, and hostile fire can send us scattering for cover when we’re bombarded with health challenges or financial, relational, and spiritual stresses. So, what should we do? Acknowledge that God is the king of the universe (v. 4); take delight in His amazing capacity to judge with precision (vv. 5–6); and rest in His delight in what’s right, fair, and equitable (v. 7). We can run swiftly to God for shelter!

Watch Me!

By |2021-03-28T09:06:04-04:00March 28th, 2021|

“Watch my fairy princess dance, Grandma!” my three-year-old granddaughter gleefully called as she raced around the yard of our cabin, a big grin on her face. Her “dancing” brought a smile; and her big brother’s glum, “She’s not dancing, just running,” didn’t staunch her joy at being on vacation with family.

The first Palm Sunday was a day of highs and lows. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the crowds enthusiastically shouted, “Hosanna . . . blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:6–9). Yet many in the crowd were expecting a Messiah to free them from Rome, not a Savior who would die for their sins that same week.

Later that day, despite the anger of the chief priests who questioned Jesus’s authority, children in the temple expressed their joy by shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (vv. 14–15), perhaps leaping and waving palm branches as they ran around the courtyard. They couldn’t help but worship Him, Jesus told the indignant leaders, for “from the lips of children and infants [God has] called forth [His] praise” (vv. 15–16). They were in the presence of the Savior!

Jesus invites us to also see Him for who He is. When we do, like a child overflowing with joy, we cannot help but revel in His presence.

Hosting Royalty

By |2021-03-27T09:06:05-04:00March 27th, 2021|

After meeting the Queen of England at a ball in Scotland, Sylvia and her husband received a message that the royal family would like to visit them for tea. Sylvia started cleaning and prepping, nervous about hosting the royal guests. Before they were due to arrive, she went outside to pick some flowers for the table, her heart racing. Then she sensed God remind her that He’s the King of Kings and that He’s with her every day. Immediately she felt peaceful and thought, “After all, it’s only the Queen!”

Sylvia is right. As the apostle Paul noted, God is the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15) and those who follow Him are “children of God” (Galatians 3:26). When we belong to Christ (v. 27), we are heirs of Abraham (v. 29). We no longer are bound by division—such as that of race, social class, or gender—for we’re “all one in Christ Jesus” (v. 28). We’re children of the King.

Although Sylvia and her husband had a marvelous meal with the Queen, I don’t anticipate receiving an invitation from her anytime soon. But I love the reminder that the highest King of all is with me every moment. And that those who believe in Jesus wholeheartedly (v. 27) can live in unity, knowing they are God’s children.

How could holding onto this truth shape the way we live today?

Slum Songs

By |2021-03-26T09:06:07-04:00March 26th, 2021|

Cateura is a small slum in Paraguay, South America. Desperately poor, its villagers survive by recycling items from its rubbish dump. But from these unpromising conditions something beautiful has emerged—an orchestra.

With a violin costing more than a house in Cateura, the orchestra had to get creative, crafting its own instruments from their garbage supply. Violins are made from oil cans with bent forks as tailpieces. Saxophones have come from drainpipes with bottle tops for keys. Cellos are made from tin drums with gnocchi rollers for tuning pegs. Hearing Mozart played on these contraptions is a beautiful thing. The orchestra has gone on tour in many countries, lifting the sights of its young members.

Violins from landfills. Music from slums. That’s symbolic of what God does. For when the prophet Isaiah envisions God’s new creation, a similar picture of beauty-from-poverty emerges, with barren lands bursting into flower (Isaiah 35:1–2), deserts flowing with streams (vv. 6–7), castaway war tools crafted into garden instruments (2:4), and impoverished people becoming whole to the sounds of joyful songs (35:5–6, 10).

“The world sends us garbage,” Cateura’s orchestra director says. “We send back music.” And as they do, they give the world a glimpse of the future, when God will wipe away the tears of every eye, and poverty will be more.

Know His Voice

By |2021-03-25T09:06:07-04:00March 25th, 2021|

One year for vacation Bible school, Ken’s church decided to bring in live animals to illustrate the Bible story. When Ken arrived to help, he was asked to bring a sheep inside. He had to practically drag the sheep by rope into the church gymnasium. But as the week went on, it became less reluctant to follow him. By the end of the week, Ken didn’t have to hold the rope anymore; he just called the sheep and it followed, knowing it could trust him.

In the New Testament, Jesus compares Himself to a shepherd, stating that His people, the sheep, will follow Him because they know His voice (John 10:4). But those same sheep will run from a stranger or thief (vv. 5, 10). Like sheep, we (God’s children) get to know the voice of our Shepherd through our relationship with Him. And as we do, we see His character and learn to trust Him.

As we grow to know and love God, we will be discerning of His voice and better able to run from the “the thief [who] comes only to steal and destroy” (v. 10)—from those who try to deceive and draw us away from Him. Unlike those false teachers, we can trust the voice of our Shepherd to lead us to safety.

Something Much Bigger

By |2021-03-24T09:06:02-04:00March 24th, 2021|

More than two hundred volunteers assisted October Books, a bookstore in Southampton, England, move its entire inventory to an address down the street. Helpers lined the sidewalk between the two buildings and passed books down a “human conveyor belt.” Having witnessed the volunteers in action, a store employee said, “It was . . . a really moving experience to see people [helping]. . . . They wanted to be part of something bigger.”

We can also be part of something much bigger than ourselves. God uses us to reach the world with the message of His love. Because someone shared the message with us, we can turn to another person and pass it on. Paul compared this—the building of God’s kingdom—to growing a garden. Some of us plant seeds while some of us water the seeds. We are, as Paul said, “co-workers in God’s service” (1 Corinthians 3:9).

Each job is important, yet all are done in the power of God’s Spirit. By His Spirit, God enables people to thrive spiritually when they hear that He loves them and sent His Son to die in their place so that they can be free from their sin (John 3:16).

God does much of His work on earth through “volunteers” like you and me. Although we are a part of a community that is much bigger than any contribution we may make, we can help it grow by working together to share His love with the world.

The Reason to Rest

By |2021-03-23T09:06:03-04:00March 23rd, 2021|

If you want to live longer, take a vacation! Forty years after a study of middle-aged, male executives who each had a risk of heart disease, researchers in Helsinki, Finland, followed up with their study participants. The scientists discovered something they hadn’t been looking for in their original findings: the death rate was lower among those who had taken time off for vacation.

Work is a necessary part of life—a part God appointed to us even before our relationship with Him was fractured in Genesis 3. Solomon wrote of the seeming meaninglessness of work experienced by those not working for God’s honor—recognizing its “anxious striving” and “grief and pain” (Ecclesiastes 2:22–23). Even when they’re not actively working, he says their “minds do not rest” because they’re thinking about what still needs to be done (v. 23).

We too might at times feel like we’re “chasing after the wind” (v. 17) and grow frustrated by our inability to “finish” our work. But when we remember that God is part of our labor—our purpose—we can both work hard and take time to rest. We can trust Him to be our Provider, for He’s the giver of all things. Solomon acknowledges that “without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” (v. 25). Perhaps by reminding ourselves of that truth we can work diligently for Him (Colossians 3:23) and also allow ourselves times of rest.

Sweeter than Honey

By |2021-03-22T09:06:03-04:00March 22nd, 2021|

During “Chicago Day” in October 1893, the city’s theatres shut down because the owners figured everyone would be attending the World’s Fair. Some four hundred thousand people went, but Dwight Moody (1837–99) wanted to fill a music hall at the other end of Chicago with preaching and teaching. His friend R.A. Torrey (1856–1928) was skeptical that Moody could draw a crowd on the same day as the fair. But by God’s grace, he did. As Torrey later concluded, the crowds came because Moody knew “the one Book that this old world most longs to know—the Bible.” Torrey longed for others to love the Bible as Moody did, reading it regularly with dedication and passion.

God through His Spirit brought people back to Himself at the end of the nineteenth century in Chicago, and He continues to speak today. We can echo the psalmist’s love for God and His Scriptures as he exclaims, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103). For the psalmist, God messages of grace and truth acted as a light for his path, a lamp for his feet (v. 105).

How can you grow more in love with the Savior and His message? As we immerse ourselves in Scripture, God will increase our devotion to Him and guide us, shining His light along the paths we walk.

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