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Walk with Me

By |2022-11-28T01:33:14-05:00November 28th, 2022|

A few years ago a popular song hit the charts, with a gospel choir singing the chorus, “Jesus walks with me.” Behind the lyrics lies a powerful story.

The choir was started by jazz musician Curtis Lundy when he entered a treatment program for cocaine addiction. Drawing fellow addicts together and finding inspiration in an old hymnal, he wrote that chorus as a hymn of hope for those in rehab. “We were singing for our lives,” one choir member says of the song. “We were asking Jesus to save us, to help us get out of the drugs.” Another found that her chronic pain subsided when she sang the song. That choir wasn’t just singing words on a sheet, but offering desperate prayers for redemption.

Today’s Scripture reading describes their experience well. In Christ, our God has appeared to offer salvation to all (Titus 2:11). While eternal life is part of this gift (v. 13), God is working on us now, empowering us to regain self-control, say no to worldly passions, and redeem us for life with Him (vv. 12, 14). As the choir members found, Jesus doesn’t just forgive our sins—He frees us from destructive lifestyles.

Jesus walks with me. And you. And anyone who cries out to Him for help. He’s with us, offering hope for the future and salvation now.

Preparing a Place for Us

By |2022-03-17T09:06:02-04:00March 17th, 2022|

Our family was planning to get a puppy, so my eleven-year-old daughter researched for months. She knew what the dog should eat and how to introduce it to our new home—among myriad other details.    

Turns out puppies do best, she told me, if they’re introduced to one room at a time. So we carefully prepared a spare bedroom. I’m sure there will still be surprises as we raise our new puppy, but my daughter’s delight-infused preparation couldn’t have been more thorough.

The way my daughter channeled her eager anticipation for a puppy into loving preparation reminded me of Christ’s longing to share life with His people, and His promise to prepare a home for them. Nearing the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus urged His disciples to trust Him, saying, “You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). Then He promised to “prepare a place for [them] . . . that you also may be where I am” (v. 3).

Trouble was coming. But Jesus wanted His disciples to know that He was at work to bring them home to Him.

I can’t help but delight in the careful, deliberate intent with which my daughter has prepared for our new puppy. But I can only imagine how much more our Savior is delighting in His own detailed preparation for each of His people to share eternal life with Him (John 14:2).

He Fills the Empty

By |2021-11-20T08:06:03-05:00November 20th, 2021|

Psychologist Madeline Levine noticed the fifteen-year-old girl’s “cutter disguise”—a long sleeve T-shirt pulled halfway over her hand commonly used by people who engage in self-harm. When the young girl pulled back her sleeve, Levine was startled to find that the girl had used a razor to carve “empty” on her forearm. She was saddened, but also grateful the teen was open to receiving the serious help she desperately needed.

The teen in some way represents many people who have carved “empty”—perhaps not on their forearms, but on their hearts. John wrote that Jesus came to fill the empty and to offer life “to the full” (John 10:10). God placed the desire for a full life in every human being, and He longs for people to experience a loving relationship with Him. But He also warned them that the “thief” would use people, things, and circumstances to attempt to ravage their lives (vv. 1, 10). The claims each made to give life would be counterfeit and an imitation. In contrast, Jesus offers what’s true—“eternal life” and the promise that “no one will snatch [us] out of [His} hand” (v. 28).

Only Jesus can fill the empty spaces in our hearts with life. If you’re feeling empty, call out to Him today. And if you’re experiencing serious struggles, seek out godly counsel. Christ alone provides life that’s abundant and full—life full of meaning found in Him.

Redeeming the Season

By |2021-10-31T09:06:05-04:00October 31st, 2021|

Leisa wanted a way to redeem the season. So many of the autumn decorations she saw seemed to celebrate death, sometimes in gruesome and macabre ways.  

Determined to counter the darkness in some small way, Leisa began to write things she was grateful for with a permanent marker on a large pumpkin. “Sunshine” was the first item. Soon visitors were adding to her list. Some entries were whimsical: “doodling,” for instance. Others were practical: “a warm house”; “a working car.” Still others were poignant, like the name of a departed loved one. A chain of gratitude began to wind its way around the pumpkin.

Psalm 104 offers a litany of praise to God for things we easily overlook. “[God] makes springs pour water into the ravines,” sang the poet (v. 10). “He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate” (v. 14). Even the night is seen as good and fitting. “You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl” (v. 20). But then, “The sun rises. . . . People go out to their work, to their labor until evening” (vv. 22–23). For all these things, the psalmist concluded, “I will sing praise to my God as long as I live” (v. 33).

In a world that doesn’t know how to deal with death, even the smallest offering of praise to our Creator can become a shining contrast of hope.

A Great Act of Love

By |2021-09-12T09:06:06-04:00September 12th, 2021|

In Oregon's Malheur National Forest, a fungus popularly known as the honey mushroom spreads through tree roots across 2,200 acres, making it the largest living organism ever found. It's been “weaving its black shoestring filaments” through the forest for more than two millennia, killing trees as it grows. Its shoestring filaments, called “rhizomorphs,” tunnel as deep as ten feet into the soil. And although the organism is incredibly large, it began with a single microscopic spore!

The Bible tells us of a single act of disobedience that caused widespread condemnation, and a single act of obedience that reversed it. The apostle Paul contrasted two individuals—Adam and Jesus (Romans 5:14–15). Adam’s sin brought condemnation and death “to all people” (v. 12). Through one act of disobedience, all people were made sinners and stood condemned before God (v. 17). But He had a means of dealing with humanity’s sin problem. Through the righteous act of Jesus on the cross, God provides eternal life and a right standing before Him. Christ’s act of love and obedience was powerful enough to overcome Adam’s one act of disobedience—providing “life for all people” (Romans 5:18).

Through His death on the cross, Jesus offers eternal life to anyone who puts their faith in Him. If you haven’t received His forgiveness and salvation, may you do so today. If you’re already a believer, praise Him for what He’s done by His great act of love!

Water Where We Need It

By |2021-05-22T09:06:06-04:00May 22nd, 2021|

Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake, is vast and magnificent. Measuring one mile deep and nearly 400 miles (636 km) by 49 miles (79 km) across, it contains one-fifth of all the surface fresh water in the world. But this water is largely inaccessible. Lake Baikal is located in Siberia—one of the most remote areas of Russia. With water so desperately needed in much of our planet, it’s ironic that such a vast supply of water is tucked away in a place where not many people can access it.

Although Lake Baikal may be remote, there is an endless source of life-giving water that is available and accessible to those who need it most. When at a well in Samaria, Jesus engaged a woman in conversation, probing at the edges of her deep spiritual thirst. The solution to her heart-need? Jesus Himself.

In contrast to the water she had come to draw from the well, Jesus invited, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14).

Many things promise satisfaction but never fully quench our thirsty hearts. Jesus alone can truly satisfy our spiritual thirst, and His provision is available to everyone, everywhere.

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.

A Joyful Celebration

By |2021-02-12T08:06:02-05:00February 12th, 2021|

My friend Sharon passed away one year prior to the death of my friend Dave’s teenage daughter Melissa. They both had been tragically killed in car accidents. One night both Sharon and Melissa were in my dream. They giggled and talked as they hung streamers in a large banquet hall and ignored me when I stepped into the room. A long table with white tablecloths had been set with golden plates and goblets. I asked if I could help decorate, but they didn’t seem to hear me and kept working. 

But then Sharon said, “This party is Melissa’s wedding reception.” 

“Who’s the groom?” I asked. 

Neither responded but smiled and looked at each other knowingly. Finally, it dawned on me—it’s Jesus! 

“Jesus is the groom,” I whispered as I woke up. 

My dream brings to mind the joyful celebration believers in Jesus will share together when Christ returns. It’s portrayed in Revelation as a lavish feast and is called “the wedding supper of the Lamb” (19:9). John the Baptist, who prepared people for the first coming of Jesus, had called Him “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He also referred to Jesus as “the bridegroom” and himself as the “friend” (like the best man) who waited for Him (3:29). 

On that banquet day and for all eternity we will enjoy unbroken fellowship with Jesus, our groom, and with Sharon and Melissa and all of God’s people.

What Comes Next?

By |2020-04-03T13:55:46-04:00April 3rd, 2020|

On the night of April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King gave his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” In it, he hints that he believed he might not live long. He said, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land...

Precious Departure

By |2020-03-26T16:32:20-04:00March 27th, 2020|

Sculptor Liz Shepherd’s 2018 exhibition The Wait was described by a Boston Globe correspondent as “evok[ing] the precious, exposed, and transcendent in life.” Inspired by the time Shepherd spent at her dying father’s bedside, the exhibition attempts to convey yearning, the emptiness of loss, and the fragile sense that loved ones are just out of reach...

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