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Trusting God

By |2023-11-30T01:33:19-05:00November 30th, 2023|

I needed two medications urgently. One was for my mom’s allergies and the other for my niece’s eczema. Their discomfort was worsening, but the medicines were no longer available in pharmacies. Desperate and helpless, I prayed repeatedly, Lord, please help them.

Weeks later, their conditions became manageable. God seemed to be saying: “There are times when I use medicines to heal. But medicines don’t have the final say; I do. Don’t place your trust in them, but in Me.”   

In Psalm 20, King David took comfort in God’s trustworthiness. The Israelites had a powerful army, but they knew that their biggest strength came from “the name of the Lord” (v. 7). They placed their trust in God’s name—in who He is, His unchanging character, and unfailing promises. They held on to the truth that He who is sovereign and powerful over all situations would hear their prayers and deliver them from their enemies (v. 6).  

While God may use the resources of this world to help us, ultimately, victory over our problems comes from Him. Whether He gives us a resolution or the grace to endure, we can trust that He’ll be to us all that He says He is. We don’t have to be overwhelmed by our troubles, but we can face them with His hope and peace.     

Just a Whisper

By |2023-11-29T01:33:30-05:00November 29th, 2023|

The whispering wall in New York City’s Grand Central Station is an acoustic oasis from the clamor of the area. This unique spot allows people to communicate quiet messages from a distance of thirty feet apart. When one person stands at the base of a granite archway and speaks softly into the wall, soundwaves travel up and over the curved stone to the listener on the other side.

Job heard the whisper of a message when his life was filled with noise and the tragedy of losing nearly everything (see Job 1:13–19; 2:7). His friends blabbered their opinions, his own thoughts tumbled endlessly, and trouble had invaded every aspect of his existence. Still, the majesty of nature spoke softly to him about God’s divine power.

The splendor of the skies, the mystery of the earth suspended in space, and the stability of the horizon reminded Job that the world was in the palm of God’s hand (26:7–11). Even a churning sea and a rumbling atmosphere led him to say, “these are but the outer fringe of [God’s] works; how faint the whisper we hear of him” (v. 14).

If the world’s wonders represent just a tiny fragment of God’s capabilities, it’s clear that His power exceeds our ability to understand it. In times of brokenness and disappointment, this gives us hope. God can do anything, including what He did for Job as He sustained him during suffering.

The Skill of Compassion

By |2023-11-28T01:33:14-05:00November 28th, 2023|

“A thorn has entered your foot—that is why you weep at times at night,” wrote Catherine of Sienna in the fourteenth century. She continued, “There are some in this world who can pull it out. The skill that takes they have learned from [God].” Catherine devoted her life to cultivating that “skill,” and is still remembered today for her remarkable capacity for empathy and compassion for others in their pain. 

That image of pain as a deeply embedded thorn that requires tenderness and skill to remove lingers with me. It’s a vivid reminder of how complex and wounded we are, and of our need to dig deeper to develop true compassion for ourselves and others.

Or, as the apostle Paul describes it, it’s an image that reminds me that loving others like Jesus does requires more than good intentions and well-wishes—it requires being “devoted to one another” (Romans 12:10), “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (v. 12). It requires being willing to not only “rejoice with those who rejoice” but to “mourn with those who mourn” (v. 15). It requires all of us.

In a broken world, none of us escape unwounded—hurt and scars are deeply embedded in each of us. But deeper still is the love we find in Christ; love tender enough to draw out those thorns with the balm of compassion, willing to embrace both friend and enemy (v. 14) to find healing together.

Serving for God’s Sake

By |2023-11-27T01:33:04-05:00November 27th, 2023|

When England’s Queen Elizabeth passed away in September 2022, thousands of soldiers were deployed to march in the funeral procession. Their individual roles must have been almost unnoticeable in the large crowd, but many saw it as the greatest honor. One soldier said it was “an opportunity to do our last duty for Her Majesty.” For him, it was not what he did, but whom he was doing it for that made it an important job.

The Levites assigned to take care of the tabernacle furnishings had a similar aim. Unlike the priests, the Gershonites, Kohathites, and Merarites were assigned seemingly mundane tasks: cleaning the furniture, lampstands, curtains, posts, tent pegs, and ropes (Numbers 3:25–26, 31, 36–37). Yet their jobs were specifically assigned by God, constituted “doing the work of the tabernacle” (v. 8), and are recorded in the Bible for posterity.

What an encouraging thought! Today, what many of us do at work, at home, or in church may seem insignificant to a world that values titles and salaries. But God sees it differently. If we work and serve for His sake—seeking excellence and for His honor, even in the smallest task—then our work is important because we’re serving our great God.

Who Am I?

By |2023-11-26T01:33:28-05:00November 26th, 2023|

As a member of the leadership team for a local ministry, part of my job was to invite others to join us as group discussion leaders. My invitations described the time commitment required and outlined the ways leaders would need to engage with their small group participants, both in meetings and during regular phone calls. I was often reluctant to impose on other people, being aware of the sacrifice they’d be making to become a leader. And yet sometimes their reply would completely overwhelm me: “I’d be honored.” Instead of citing legitimate reasons to decline, they described their gratitude to God for all He’d done in their lives as their reason for being eager to give back.

When the time came to give resources toward building a temple for the Lord, David had a similar response: “Who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?” (1 Chronicles 29:14) David’s generosity was driven by gratitude for God’s involvement in his life and that of the people of Israel. His response speaks of his humility and his acknowledgment of God’s goodness toward “foreigners and strangers” (v. 15).

Our giving to God’s work—whether in time, talent, or treasure—reflects our gratitude to the One who gave to us to begin with. All that we have comes from His hand (v. 14); in response we can give gratefully to Him.

Seeing by Faith

By |2023-11-25T01:33:03-05:00November 25th, 2023|

During my morning walk, the sun hit the waters of Lake Michigan at a perfect angle to produce a stunning view. I asked my friend to stop and wait for me as I positioned my camera to take a pic. Because of the position of the sun, I couldn’t see the image on my phone’s screen before I snapped the shot. But having done this before, I sensed it would be a great picture. I told me friend, “We can’t see it now, but pictures like this always come out good.”

Walking by faith through this life is often like taking that picture. You can’t always see the details on the screen, but that doesn’t mean the stunning picture isn’t there. You don’t always see God working, but you can trust that He’s there. As the writer of Hebrews penned, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance in what we do not see” (11:1). By faith we place our confidence and assurance in God—especially when we can’t see or understand what He’s doing.

With faith, not seeing doesn’t prevent us from “taking the shot.” It just might make us pray more and seek God’s direction. We can also rely on knowing what has happened in the past as others have walked by faith (vv. 4–12) as well as through our own stories. What God has done before, He can do again.

Worthy of All Praise

By |2023-11-24T01:33:05-05:00November 24th, 2023|

Many consider Ferrante and Teicher to be the greatest piano duet team of all time. Their collaborative presentations were so precise that their style was described as four hands but only one mind. Hearing their music, one can begin to grasp the amount of effort required to perfect their craft.

But there’s more. They loved what they did. In fact, even after they had retired in 1989, Ferrante and Teicher would occasionally show up at a local piano store just to play an impromptu concert. They simply loved making music.

David also loved making music—but he teamed up with God to give his song a higher purpose. His psalms affirm his struggle-filled life and his desire to live in deep dependence upon his God. Yet, in the midst of his personal failures and imperfections, his praise expressed a kind of spiritual “perfect pitch,” acknowledging the greatness and goodness of God even in the darkest of times. The heart behind David’s praise is simply stated in Psalm 18:1, which reads, “I love you, Lord, my strength.”

David continued, “I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise” (v. 3) and noted that he could turn to Him “in my distress” (v. 6). Regardless of our situation, may we likewise lift our hearts to praise and worship our God. He is worthy of all praise!

A Thanksgiving Blessing

By |2023-11-23T01:33:28-05:00November 23rd, 2023|

In 2016, Wanda Dench sent a text inviting her grandson to Thanksgiving dinner, not knowing he’d recently changed his phone number. The text instead went to a stranger, Jamal. Jamal didn’t have plans, and so, after clarifying who he was, asked if he could still come to dinner. Wanda said, “Of course you can.” Jamal joined the family dinner in what has become a yearly tradition. A mistaken invitation became an annual blessing.

Wanda’s kindness in inviting a stranger to dinner reminds me of Jesus’ encouragement in Luke’s gospel. During a dinner party at a “prominent” Pharisee’s house (Luke 14:1), Jesus noticed who was invited and how the guests jostled for the best seats (v. 7). Jesus told his host that inviting people based on what they could do for him in return (v. 12) meant the blessing would be limited. Instead, Jesus told the host that extending hospitality to people without the resources to repay him would bring even greater blessing (v. 14).

For Wanda, inviting Jamal to join her family for Thanksgiving dinner resulted in the unexpected blessing of a lasting friendship that was a great encouragement to her after her husband’s death. When we reach out to others, not because of what we might receive, but because of God’s love flowing through us, we receive far greater blessing and encouragement.

Shining Stars

By |2023-11-22T01:33:24-05:00November 22nd, 2023|

The first thing I noticed about the city was its gambling outlets. Next, its cannabis shops, “adult” stores, and giant billboards for opportunistic lawyers making money out of others’ mishaps. While I had visited many shady cities before, this one seemed to reach a new low.

My mood brightened, however, when I spoke to a taxi driver the next morning. “I ask God every day to send me the people He wants me to help,” he said. “Gambling addicts, prostitutes, people from broken homes tell me their problems in tears. I stop the car, I listen, I pray for them. This is my ministry.”

After describing Jesus’ descent into our fallen world (Philippians 2:5–8), the apostle Paul gives believers in Jesus a calling. As we pursue God’s will (v. 13) and hold to the “word of life”—the gospel (v. 16)—we’ll be “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation” who “shine . . . like stars in the sky” (v. 15). Like that taxi driver, we’re to bring Jesus’ light into the darkness.

A Christian has only to live faithfully in order to change the world, historian Christopher Dawson said, because in that very act of living “there is contained all the mystery of divine life.” Let’s ask God’s Spirit to empower us to live faithfully as Christ’s people, shining His light in the world’s darkest places.

Precious to God

By |2023-11-21T01:33:11-05:00November 21st, 2023|

As a boy, Ming found his father harsh and distant. Even when Ming was ill and had to see the pediatrician, his father grumbled that it was troublesome. Once, he overheard a quarrel and learned his father had wanted him aborted. The feeling of being an unwanted child followed him into his adult years. When Ming became a believer in Jesus, he found it difficult to relate to God as Father, even though he knew Him as Lord of his life.

If, like Ming, we haven’t felt loved by our earthly fathers, we may face similar doubts in our relationship with God. We may wonder, Am I a burden to Him? Does He care about me? But while our earthly fathers may have been silent and distant, God our heavenly Father comes close and says, “I love you” (Isaiah 43:4).

In Isaiah 43, God speaks as our Creator and as a Father. If you wonder whether He wants you to live under His care as part of His family, hear what He said to His people: “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth” (v. 6). If you wonder what you’re worth to Him, hear His affirmation, “You are precious and honored in my sight” (v. 4).

God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to pay the penalty of sin so that we who believe in Him can be with Him forever (John 3:16). Because of what He says and what He’s done for us, we can have full confidence that He wants us and loves us.

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