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The Secret of Contentment

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

When Joni Eareckson Tada returned home after suffering a swimming accident that left her a quadriplegic, her life was vastly different. Now doorways were too narrow for her wheelchair and sinks were too high. Someone had to feed her, until she decided to relearn how to feed herself. Lifting the special spoon to her mouth from her arm splint the first time, she felt humiliated as she smeared applesauce on her clothes. But she pressed on. As she says, “My secret was learning to lean on Jesus and say, ‘Oh God, help me with this!’” Today she manages a spoon very well.

Joni says her confinement made her look at another captive—the apostle Paul, who was imprisoned in a Roman jail—and his letter to the Philippians. Joni strives for what Paul achieved: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). Note that Paul had to learn to be at peace; he wasn’t naturally peaceful. How did he find contentment? Through trusting in Christ: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (v. 13).

We all face different challenges throughout our days, and we all can look to Jesus moment by moment for help, strength, and peace. He will help us to hold back from snapping at our loved ones; He will give us the courage to do the next hard thing. Look to Him and find contentment.

Your Life’s Passion

By |2021-06-29T09:06:06-04:00June 29th, 2021|

One evening years ago, my wife and I were making our way down a mountain trail, accompanied by two friends. The trail was narrow and wound around a slope with a steep drop on one side and an unclimbable bank on the other.

As we came around a bend, I saw a large bear moseying along, swinging his head from side to side, and quietly huffing. We were downwind and he hadn’t detected our presence, but he would soon.

Our friend began to rummage around in her jacket for a camera. “Oh, I must take a picture!” she said. I, being less comfortable with our odds, said, "No, we must get out of here." So we backed up quietly until we were out of sight—and ran.

That’s how we should feel about the dangerous passion to get rich. There’s nothing wrong with money; it's just a medium of exchange. But those who desire to get rich "fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction,” Paul wrote (1 Timothy 6:9). Wealth is only a goad to get more.

Instead, we should “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness” (v. 11). These traits grow in us as we pursue them and ask God to form them within us. This is how we secure the deep satisfaction we seek in God.

God’s Protection

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

Needles, milk, mushrooms, elevators, births, bees, and bees in blenders—these are just a fraction of the many phobias attributed to Mr. Adrian Monk, detective and title character of the TV show Monk. But when he and long-time rival Harold Krenshaw find themselves locked in a car trunk, Monk has a breakthrough that allows him to cross at least one fear off the list—claustrophobia.  

It’s while Monk and Harold are both panicking that the epiphany comes, abruptly interrupting Monk’s angst. “I think we’ve been looking at this the wrong way,” he tells Harold. “This trunk, these walls . . . they’re not closing in on us. . . . they’re protecting us, really. They’re keeping the bad stuff out. . . . germs, and snakes, and harmonicas.” Eyes widening, Harold sees what he means and whispers in wonder, “This trunk is our friend.

In Psalm 63, it’s almost as if David has a similar epiphany. Despite being in a “dry and parched land,” when David remembers God’s power, glory, and love (vv. 2–3), it’s as if the desert transforms into a place of God’s care and protection. Like a baby bird hiding in the shelter of a mother’s wings, David finds that when he clings to God, even in that barren place he can feast “as with the richest of foods” (v. 5), finding nourishment and strength in a love that “is better than life” (v. 3).

Legacy of Kindness

By |2021-06-27T09:06:02-04:00June 27th, 2021|

Martha served as a teacher’s aide at an elementary school for over thirty years. Every year, she saved money to buy new coats, scarves, and gloves for students in need. After she lost her fight with leukemia, we held a celebration of life service. In lieu of flowers, people donated hundreds of brand-new winter coats to the students she loved and served for decades. Many people shared stories about the countless ways Martha encouraged others with kind words and thoughtful deeds. Her fellow teachers honored her memory with an annual coat drive for three years after her life ended on this side of eternity. Her legacy of kindness still inspires others to generously serve those in need.

In Acts 9, the apostle Luke shares a story about Dorcas, a woman who was “always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36). After she got sick and died, the grieving community urged Peter to visit. All the widows showed Peter how Dorcas had lived to serve (v. 39). In a miraculous act of compassion, Peter brought Dorcas back to life. The news of Dorcas’ resurrection spread and “many people believed in the Lord” (v. 42). But it was Dorcas’ commitment to serving others in practical ways that touched the hearts in her community and revealed the power of loving generosity.

How might God use you to leave a legacy of kindness?

He Hears Us

By |2021-06-26T09:06:06-04:00June 26th, 2021|

US President Franklin D. Roosevelt often endured long receiving lines at the White House. As the story is told, he complained that no one really paid attention to what was said. So, he decided to experiment at a reception. To everyone who passed down the line and shook his hand, he said, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous! Keep up the good work. God bless you, sir.” It was not until the end of the line, greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Nonplussed, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.”

Do you ever wonder if people are really listening? Or worse, do you fear that God isn’t listening? We can tell if people are listening based on their responses or eye contact. But how do we know if God is listening? Should we rely on feelings? Or see if God answers our prayers?

After seventy years of exile in Babylon, God promised to bring His people back to Jerusalem and secure their future (Jeremiah 29:10–11). When they called upon Him, He heard them (v. 12). They knew that God heard their prayers because He promised to listen. And the same is true for us (1 John 5:14). We don’t need to rely on feelings or wait for a sign to know that God listens to us. He’s promised to listen, and He always keeps His promises (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Children of God

By |2021-06-25T09:06:04-04:00June 25th, 2021|

I once spoke at a secular conference for childless couples. Heartbroken over their infertility, many attendees despaired at their future. Having walked the childless path too, I tried to encourage them. “You can have a meaningful identity without becoming parents,” I said. “I believe you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and there’s new purpose for you to find.”

A woman later approached me in tears. “Thank you,” she said. “I’ve felt worthless being childless and needed to hear that I’m fearfully and wonderfully made.” I asked the woman if she was a Christian. “I walked away from God years ago,” she said. “But I need a relationship with Him again.”

Times like this remind me how profound the gospel is. Some identities, like “mother” and “father,” are hard for some to attain. Others, like those based on a career, can be lost through unemployment. But through Jesus we become God’s “dearly loved children”—an identity that can never be stolen (Ephesians 5:1). And then we can “walk in the way of love”—a life purpose that transcends any role or employment status (v. 2).

All human beings are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and those who follow Jesus become children of God (John 1:12–13). Once in despair, that woman left in hope—about to find an identity and purpose bigger than this world can give.

Sharing Your Faith

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

When author and evangelist Becky Pippert lived in Ireland, she longed to share the good news of Jesus with Heather, who’d done her nails for two years. But Heather hadn’t seemed remotely interested. Feeling unable to start a conversation, Becky prayed before her appointment.

While Heather worked on her nails, Becky flipped through an old magazine and paused at a picture of one of the models. When Heather asked her why she was so riveted, Becky told her the photograph was of a close friend who’d years before been a Vogue cover model. Becky shared some of her friend’s story of coming to faith in God, which Heather listened to in rapt attention. Becky left for a trip and later, when she returned to Ireland, learned that Heather had moved to a new location. As Becky reflected, “I had asked God to provide an opportunity to share the gospel, and He did!”

Becky looked to God for help in her weakness, inspired by the apostle Paul. For when Paul was weak and pleaded with God to remove the thorn in his flesh, the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul had learned to rely on God in all things—the big and the small.

When we depend on God to help us love those around us, we too will find opportunities to share our faith authentically.

Imagine This!

By |2021-06-23T09:06:05-04:00June 23rd, 2021|

During the course of a popular home renovation television program, viewers often hear the host say, “Imagine this!” Then she unveils what could be when old things are restored and drab walls and floors are painted or stained. In one episode, after the renovation the homeowner was so overjoyed that, along with other expressions of elation, the words “That's beautiful!” gushed from her lips three times.

One of the stunning “Imagine this!” passages in the Bible is Isaiah 65:17–25. What a dazzling re-creation scene! The future renovation of heaven and earth is in view (v. 17), and it’s not merely cosmetic. It’s deep and real, life-altering and life-preserving. “They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit” (v. 21). Violence will be a thing of the past, “They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain” (v. 25).

While the reversals envisioned in Isaiah 65 will be realized in the future, the God who will orchestrate universal restoration is in the business of life-change now. The apostle Paul assures us, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In need of restoration? Has your life been broken by doubt, disobedience, and pain? Life-change through Jesus is real and beautiful and available to those who ask and believe.

God Is There

By |2021-06-22T09:06:07-04:00June 22nd, 2021|

Aubrey bought a fleece-lined coat for her aging father, but he died before he could wear it. So she tucked a note of encouragement with a $20 bill into the pocket and donated the jacket to charity.

Ninety miles away, unable to endure his family’s dysfunction any longer, nineteen-year-old Kelly left his house without grabbing a coat. He knew of only one place to turn—the home of his grandmother who prayed for him. Hours later he stepped off a bus and into grandma’s arms. Shielding him from the winter wind, she said, “We’ve got to get you a coat!” At the mission store, Kelly tried on a coat he liked. Slipping his hands into the pockets he found an envelope—with a $20 bill and Aubrey’s note.

Jacob fled his dysfunctional family in fear for his life (Genesis 27:41–45). When he stopped for the night, God revealed Himself to Jacob in a dream. “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go,” God told him (28:15). Jacob vowed, “If God will . . . give me food to eat and clothes to wear . . . , then the Lord will be my God” (vv. 20–21).

Jacob made a rudimentary altar and named the spot “God’s house” (v. 22). Kelly keeps Aubrey’s note and that $20 wherever he goes. Each serves as a reminder that no matter where we run, God is there.

He Will Fight for You

By |2021-06-21T09:06:05-04:00June 21st, 2021|

The wounded horse was named Drummer Boy. One of 112 mounts carrying British soldiers into battle during the famed Charge of the Light Brigade, the animal showed such bravery and stamina that his assigned commander, Lieutenant Colonel de Salis, decided his horse deserved a medal as much as his valiant men. This was done even though their military action against enemy forces failed. Yet the cavalry’s valor, matched by the courage of their horses, established the clash as one of Britain’s greatest military moments, still celebrated today.

The confrontation, however, shows the wisdom of an ancient Bible proverb: “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31). Scripture affirms this principle clearly. “For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory” (Deuteronomy 20:4). Indeed, even against the sting of death, wrote the apostle Paul, “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Knowing this, our task still is to be prepared for life’s tough tests. To build a ministry, we study, work, and pray. To create beautiful art, we master a skill. To conquer a mountain, we secure our tools and build our strength. Then prepared, we’re more than conquerors through Christ’s strong love.

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