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So Beautiful

By |2022-11-27T01:33:05-05:00November 27th, 2022|

I was very young when I peered through a hospital nursery window and saw a newborn for the first time. In my ignorance, I was dismayed to see a tiny, wrinkly child with a hairless, cone-shaped head. The baby’s mother standing near us, however, couldn’t stop asking everyone, “Isn’t he gorgeous?” I was reminded of that moment when I saw a video of a young dad tenderly singing the song, “You Are So Beautiful” to his baby girl. To her enraptured daddy—the little girl was the most beautiful thing ever created.

Is that how God looks at us? Ephesians 2:10 says that we’re His “handiwork”—His masterpiece. Aware of our own failings, it may be hard for us to accept how much He loves us or to believe that we could ever be of value to Him. But God doesn’t love us because we deserve love (vv. 3-4); He loves us because He is love (1 John 4:8). His love is one of grace and He showed the depth of it when, through Jesus’ sacrifice, He made us alive in Him when we were dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:5, 8).

God’s love isn’t fickle—it’s constant. He loves the imperfect, the broken, those who are weak and those who mess up. When we fall, He’s there to lift us up. We’re His treasure, and we’re so beautiful to Him.

God Knows You

By |2022-11-19T01:33:04-05:00November 19th, 2022|

It seems my mother can sense trouble from a mile away. Once, after a rough day at school, I tried to mask my frustration hoping that no one would notice. “What’s the matter?” she asked. Then she added, “Before you tell me it’s nothing, remember I’m your mother. I gave birth to you, and I know you better than you know yourself.” My mom has consistently reminded me that her deep awareness of who I am helps her be there for me in the moments I need her most.

As believers in Jesus, we’re cared for by a God who knows us intimately. The psalmist David praised Him for His attentiveness to the lives of His children saying, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar” (Psalm 139:1–2). Because God knows who we are—our every thought, desire, and action—there’s nowhere we can go where we’re outside the bounds of His abundant love and care (vv. 7–12). As David wrote, “If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me” (vv. 9–10). We can find comfort knowing that no matter where we are in life, when we call out to God in prayer, He’ll offer us the love, wisdom, and guidance we need.

God in the Details

By |2022-10-20T02:33:03-04:00October 20th, 2022|

It had been an awful week for Kevin and Kimberley. Kevin’s seizures had suddenly worsened and he’d been hospitalized. Amid the pandemic their four young children—siblings adopted from foster care—were taking cabin fever to a new extreme. On top of that, Kimberley couldn’t scrounge up a decent meal from the fridge. Oddly, at that moment, she craved carrots.

An hour later there was a knock at the door. There stood their friends Amanda and Andy, with an entire meal she’d prepared for the family. Including carrots.

They say the devil is in the details? No. An amazing story in the history of the Jewish people shows God in the details. Pharaoh had commanded, “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile” (Exodus 1:22). That genocidal development turned on a remarkable detail. Moses’ mother did indeed “throw” her baby into the Nile, albeit with a strategy. And from the Nile, Pharaoh’s own daughter would rescue the baby whom God used to rescue His people. She would even pay Moses’ mother to nurse him (2:9).

One day from this fledgling Jewish nation would come a promised baby boy. His story would abound with amazing details and divine ironies. Most importantly, Jesus would provide an exodus out of our slavery to sin.

Even—especially—in the dark times, God is in the details. As Kimberley will tell you, “God brought me carrots!”

Baby Boy

By |2022-10-14T16:06:22-04:00October 14th, 2022|

For more than a year, his legal name was “Baby Boy.” Discovered by a security guard who heard his cries, Baby Boy had been abandoned—hours old and wrapped only in a bag—in a hospital parking lot.

Soon after his discovery, Social Services called the people who would one day become his forever family. The couple took him in and called him Grayson (not his real name). Finally, the adoption was complete, and Grayson’s name became official. Today you can meet a delightful child who mispronounces his r’s as he earnestly engages you in conversation. You’d never guess he’d once been found abandoned in a bag.

Late in his life, Moses reviewed God’s character and what He had done for the people of Israel. “The Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them,” Moses told them (Deuteronomy 18:15). This love had a broad scope. “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing,” Moses said (v. 18). “He is the one you praise; he is your God” (v. 21).

Whether it’s through adoption, or simply through love and service, we’re all called to reflect God’s love. That loving couple became the hands and feet God used to extend His love to someone who might have gone unnoticed and unclaimed. We can serve as His hands and feet too

Where to Turn

By |2022-09-30T02:33:22-04:00September 30th, 2022|

Everyone in high school admired Jack’s easygoing attitude and athletic skill. He was happiest in midair above a half-pipe ramp—one hand holding his skateboard, the other stretched out for balance.

Jack decided to follow Jesus when he started attending a local church. Up to that point, he’d endured significant family struggles and had used drugs to medicate his pain. For a while after his conversion, things seemed to be going well for him. But years later he started using drugs again. Without the proper intervention and ongoing treatment, he eventually died of an overdose.

It’s easy to turn back to what is familiar when we face difficulty in life. When the Israelites felt the distress of an upcoming Assyrian attack, they crawled back to the Egyptians—their former slave masters—for help (Isaiah 30:1–5). God predicted this would be disastrous, but He continued to care for them although they made the wrong choice. Isaiah voiced God’s heart: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion” (v. 18).

This is God’s attitude toward us, even when we choose to look elsewhere to numb our pain. He wants to help us. He doesn’t want us to hurt ourselves with habits that create bondage. Certain substances and actions tempt us with a quick sense of relief, but God wants to provide authentic healing as we walk closely with Him throughout the course of our lives.

God Fights for Us

By |2022-06-21T09:06:05-04:00June 21st, 2022|

A Colorado mother proved she would stop at nothing to protect her child. Her five-year-old son was playing outside when she heard him screaming. She rushed outside and, to her horror, saw that her son had an unexpected “playmate”—a mountain lion. The large cat was on top of her son, with his head in its mouth. The mother summoned her inner mamma grizzly to fight off the lion and pry open its jaws to rescue her son. This mother’s heroic actions remind us of how motherhood is used in Scripture to illustrate God’s tenacious love and protection for His children.   

God tenderly cared for and comforted His people as a mother eagle cares for her young (Deuteronomy 32:10–11; Isaiah 66:13). Also, like a mother who could never forget a nursing child with whom she had built an inseparable bond, God would never forget His people nor forever withhold compassion from them (Isaiah 54:7–8). Finally, like a mother bird offering protective cover under her wings for baby birds, God would “cover [His people] with his feathers” and “his faithfulness [would] be [their] shield and rampart” (Psalm 91:4).

Sometimes we feel alone, forgotten, and trapped in the grip of all kinds of spiritual predators. May God help us remember that He compassionately cares, comforts, remembers, and will fight for us.

The Potter’s Wheel

By |2022-01-24T08:06:02-05:00January 24th, 2022|

In 1952, in an effort to prevent clumsy or careless people from breaking items in a shop, a Miami Beach storeowner posted a sign that read: “You break it, you buy it.” The catchy phrase served as a warning to shoppers. This type of sign can now be seen in many boutiques.

Ironically, a different sign might be placed in a real potter’s shop. It would say: “If you break it, we’ll make it into something better.” And that’s exactly what’s revealed in Jeremiah 18.

The prophet reminds us that God is indeed a skillful potter and we are the clay. Jeremiah visits a potter’s and sees the potter shaping the “marred” clay with his hands, carefully handling the material and forming “it into another pot” (v. 4). He is sovereign and can use what He creates to both destroy evil and create beauty in us.

God can shape us even when we’re marred or broken. He, the masterful potter, can and is willing to create new and precious pottery from our shattered pieces. God doesn’t look at our broken lives, mistakes, and past sins as unusable material. Instead, He picks up our pieces and reshapes them as He sees best.

Even in our brokenness, we have immense value to our Master Potter. In His hands, the broken pieces of our lives can be reshaped into beautiful vessels that can be used “best by him” (v. 4).

Labrador Angel

By |2021-11-21T08:06:09-05:00November 21st, 2021|

In 2019, Cap Dashwood and his sweet black lab companion, Chaela (“la” Dashwood’s abbreviation for “Labrador angel”), accomplished something remarkable: reaching a mountain summit each day for 365 consecutive days.

Dashwood has a moving story to tell. He left home at sixteen, explaining simply, “Bad family life.” But these past wounds led him to find healing elsewhere. He explains, “Sometimes when you’re disappointed by people, you turn to something else. You know?” For Dashwood, mountain climbing and the unconditional love of his black lab companion has been a big part of that “something else.”

For those of us, like myself, who deeply love our animal companions, a big piece of why we do is the sweet, utterly unconditional love they pour out—a kind of love that’s rare. But I like to think the love they effortlessly give points to a much greater and deeper reality than the failures of others—God’s unshakeable, boundless love upholding the universe.

In Psalm 143, as in many of his prayers, it is only David’s faith in that unshakable, “unfailing love” (v. 12) that tethers him to hope in a time when he feels utterly alone. But a lifetime of walking with God gives him just enough strength to trust that the morning will “bring me word of your unfailing love” (v. 8).

Just enough hope to trust again and to let God lead the way to paths unknown (v. 8).

Accepted and Approved

By |2021-11-17T08:06:03-05:00November 17th, 2021|

As a child, Tenny felt insecure. He sought approval from his father, but he never received it. It seemed that whatever he did, whether in school or at home, it was never good enough. Even when he entered adulthood, the insecurity remained. He continually wondered, Am I good enough?

Only when Tenny received Jesus as his Savior did he find the security and approval he’d long yearned for. He learned that God—having created him—loved and cherished him as His son. Tenny finally could live with the confidence that he was truly valued and appreciated.

In Isaiah 43:1–4, God told His chosen people that, having formed them, He would use His power and love to redeem them. “You are precious and honored in my sight,” He proclaimed. He would act on their behalf because He loved them (v. 4).

The value God places on those He loves doesn’t come from anything we do, but from the simple and powerful truth that He has chosen us to be His own.

These words in Isaiah 43 not only gave Tenny great security, but also empowered him with the confidence to do his best for God in whatever task he was called to do. Today he is a pastor who does all he can to encourage others with this life-giving truth: we are accepted and approved in Jesus. May we confidently live out this truth today.

Powerful and Loving

By |2021-11-16T12:11:17-05:00November 14th, 2021|

In 2020, the Ecuadorian volcano Sangay erupted. The BBC described the “dark ash plume which reached a height of more than 12,000m.” The discharge covered four provinces (about 198,000 acres) in gray ash and grimy soot. The sky turned dingy and grim, and the air was thick—making it difficult to breathe. Farmer Feliciano Inga described the unnerving scene to El Comercio newspaper: “We didn’t know where all this dust was coming from. . . . We saw the sky go dark and grew afraid.”

The Israelites experienced a similar fear at the base of Mount Sinai, as they “stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire . . . with black clouds and deep darkness” (Deuteronomy 4:11). God’s voice thundered, and the people trembled. It was terrifying. It’s an awesome, knee-buckling experience to encounter the living God.

”Then the Lord spoke,” and they “heard the sound of words but saw no form” (v. 12). The voice that rattled their bones provided life and hope. God gave Israel the Ten Commandments and renewed His covenant with them. The voice from the dark cloud caused them to quake, but also wooed and loved them with tenacity (Exodus 34:6–7).

God is powerful, beyond our reach, even startling. And yet He’s also full of love, always reaching out to us. A God both powerful and loving—this is who we desperately need.

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