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The Coffee-Bean Bowl

By |2022-09-29T02:35:03-04:00September 29th, 2022|

I’m not a coffee drinker, but one sniff of coffee beans brings me a moment of both solace and wistfulness. When our teenage daughter Melissa was making her bedroom uniquely hers, she filled a bowl with coffee beans to permeate her room with a warm, pleasant scent.

It’s been nearly two decades since Melissa’s earthly life ended in a car accident at age seventeen, but we still have that coffee-bean bowl. It gives us a continual, aromatic remembrance of Mell’s life with us.

Scripture also uses fragrances as a reminder. Song of Songs refers to fragrances as a symbol of love between a man and a woman (see 1:3; 4:11, 16). In Hosea, God’s forgiveness of Israel is said to be “fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon” (Hosea 14:6). And Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet (John 12:3), which caused the house of Mary and her siblings to be “filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3), pointed ahead to Jesus’ death (see v. 7).

The idea of fragrance can also help us be mindful of our testimony of faith to those around us. Paul explained it this way: “We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15).

Just as the scent of coffee beans reminds me of Melissa, may our lives produce a scent of Jesus and His love that reminds others of their need of Him.

Leave the Light On

By |2022-08-30T02:33:11-04:00August 30th, 2022|

A hotel chain’s commercial featured one little building standing amidst a dark night. Nothing else was around. The only light in the scene came from a small lamp near the door on the porch of the building. The bulb cast enough illumination for a visitor to walk up the steps and enter the building. The commercial ended with the phrase, “We’ll leave the light on for you.”

 A porch light is akin to a welcome sign, reminding weary travelers that there’s a comfortable place still open where they can stop and rest. The light invites those passing by to come on in and escape from the dark, weary journey.

Jesus says the life of believers in Him should resemble that of a welcoming light. He told His followers, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). As believers, we’re to illuminate a dark world.

As He directs and empowers us, “they may see [our] good deeds and glorify [our] Father in heaven” (v. 16). And as we leave our lights on, others will feel welcomed to come to us to learn more about the one true Light of the world—Jesus (John 8:12).  In a weary and dark world, His light always remains on.

Have you left your light on? As Jesus shines through you today, others may see and begin radiating His light too.

How Are You?

By |2022-06-18T09:06:05-04:00June 18th, 2022|

Charla was dying, and she knew it. While she was lying on her hospital room bed, her surgeon and a group of young interns poured into the room. For the next several minutes, the doctor ignored Charla as he described her terminal condition to the interns. Finally, he turned to her and asked, “And how are you?” Charla weakly smiled and warmly told the group about her hope and peace in Jesus.

Some two thousand years ago, Jesus’ battered, naked body hung in humiliation on a cross before a crowd of onlookers. Would He lash out at His tormentors? No. “Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ ” (Luke 23:34). Though falsely convicted and crucified, He prayed for His enemies. Later, He told another humiliated man, a criminal, that—because of the man’s faith—he would soon be with Him “in paradise” (v. 43). In His pain and shame, Jesus chose to share words of hope and life out of love for others.

As Charla concluded sharing Christ to her listeners, she posed the question back to the doctor. She tenderly looked into the tear-filed eyes of the surgeon and asked, “And how are you?” By Christ’s grace and power, she’d shared words of life—showing love and concern for him and others in the room. In whatever trying situation we face today or in the days ahead, let’s trust God to provide courage to lovingly speak words of life.

Age Is Just a Number

By |2022-04-26T09:06:04-04:00April 26th, 2022|

Youthfulness shouldn’t stop anyone from achievement. It certainly didn’t stop eleven-year-old Mikaila. Instead of putting up a lemonade stand, Mikaila opened a lemonade business. Me & the Bees Lemonade started with her grandmother’s recipe and eventually earned a $60,000 investment from investors on the television show Shark Tank. She also signed a contract with a major grocer to sell her lemonade at fifty-five of the chain’s stores.

Mikaila’s drive and dreams point us back to Paul’s words to Timothy: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (1 Timothy 4:12).

Timothy, though not a child like Mikaila, was likely considerably younger than most in his congregation. And he had concerns about people treating him with contempt. Also, even after interning with the apostle Paul, some thought that Timothy wasn’t mature enough to lead them. Instead of proving himself by showing his credentials, Paul encouraged Timothy to demonstrate his spiritual maturity by the way he used his words, lived his life, loved his parishioners, exercised his faith, and remained sexually pure (v. 12). No one could discredit him as a teacher and pastor if he backed it up with a godly example.

Regardless of our age, we can impact the world. We do it by setting a godly example for others as God provides what we need. May He shape our lives with the gospel, so whether we’re seventeen or seventy, we’ll be worthy to teach and share it with others.

Practice What You Preach

By |2022-01-14T08:06:05-05:00January 14th, 2022|

I started reading the Bible to my sons when my youngest, Xavier, entered kindergarten. I would look for teachable moments and share verses that would apply to our circumstances and encourage them to pray with me. Xavier memorized Scripture without even trying. If we were in a predicament in which we needed wisdom, he’d blurt out verses that shone a light on God’s truth.

One day, I got angry and spoke harshly within his earshot. My son hugged me and said, “Practice what you preach, Mama.”

Xavier’s gentle reminder echoes the wise counsel of the apostle James as he addresses Jewish believers in Jesus scattered in various countries (James 1:1). Highlighting the various ways sin can interfere with our witness for Christ, James encourages God’s people to “humbly accept the word planted in” us (v. 21). By hearing but not obeying Scripture, we’re like people who look in the mirror and forget what we look like (vv. 23–24). We can lose sight of the privilege we’ve been given as image-bearers—made right with God through the blood of Christ.

Believers in Jesus are commanded to share the gospel. The Holy Spirit changes us while empowering us to become better representatives and therefore messengers of the good news. As our loving obedience helps us reflect the light of God’s truth and love wherever He sends us, we can point others to Jesus by practicing what we preach.

Dealing with Disagreement

By |2022-01-06T08:06:03-05:00January 6th, 2022|

The social media powerhouse Twitter created a platform where people all over the world express opinions in short sound bites. In recent years, however, this formula has become more complex as individuals have begun to leverage Twitter as a tool to reprimand others for attitudes and lifestyles they disagree with. Log on to the platform on any given day, and you’ll find the name of at least one person “trending.” Click on that name, and you’ll find millions of people expressing opinions about whatever controversy has emerged.

We’ve learned to publicly criticize everything from the beliefs people hold to the clothes they wear. The reality, however, is that a critical and unloving attitude doesn’t align with who God has called us to be as believers in Jesus. After all, his death on the cross is the ultimate forgiveness. While there will be times when we disagree and hold opposing opinions, the Bible reminds us that as believers we’re to always carry ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Instead of being harshly critical, even of our enemies, God urges us to “bear with each other and forgive one another” (v. 13). This treatment isn’t limited to the people whose lifestyles and beliefs we agree with. Even when it’s difficult, may we extend grace and love to everyone we encounter as Christ guides us, recognizing that we’ve been redeemed by His love.

The Whatevers

By |2021-09-24T09:06:09-04:00September 24th, 2021|

Every Friday evening, the national news my family views concludes the broadcast by highlighting an uplifting story. In contrast to the rest of the news, it’s always a breath of fresh air. A recent “good” Friday story focused on a reporter who had suffered from COVID-19, fully recovered, and then decided to donate plasma to possibly help others in their fight against the virus. At the time the jury was still out on how effective antibodies would be. But when many of us felt helpless and even in light of the discomfort of donating plasma (via needle), she felt it “was a small price to pay for the potential payoff.”

After that Friday broadcast, my family and I always feel encouraged—dare I say hope-filled. That’s the power of the “whatevers” Paul described in Philippians 4: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” (v. 8). Did Paul have in mind plasma donation? Of course not. But did he have in mind sacrificial actions on behalf of someone in need—in other words, Christlike behavior? I’ve no doubt the answer is yes.

But that hopeful news wouldn’t have had its full effect if it hadn’t been broadcast. It’s our privilege as witnesses to God’s goodness to look and listen for the “whatevers” all around us and then share that good news with others that they may be encouraged.  

Truth, Lies, and Vigilantes

By |2021-09-21T09:06:10-04:00September 21st, 2021|

During the 2018 baseball season, a Chicago Cubs coach wanted to give a baseball to a young boy sitting by the dugout. But when the coach tossed the ball toward him, a man scooped it up instead. Video of the event went viral. News outlets and social media skewered this “brute” of a man. Except, viewers didn’t know the whole story. Earlier, the man had helped the young boy snag a foul ball; and they agreed to share any additional balls that came their way. Unfortunately, it took 24 hours before the true story emerged. The mob had already done its damage, demonizing an innocent man.

Too often, we think we have all the facts when we only have fragments. In our modern gotcha culture, with snippets of dramatic video and inflamed tweets, it’s easy to condemn people without hearing the full story. However, Scripture warns us not to “spread false reports” (Exodus 23:1). We must do everything possible to confirm the truth before leveling accusations, making sure not to participate in lies. We should be cautious whenever a vigilante spirit takes hold, whenever passions ignite and waves of judgment swell. We want to safeguard ourselves from “follow[ing] the crowd in doing wrong” (v. 2).

 As believers in Jesus, may God help us not to spread falsehoods. May He provide what we need to exhibit wisdom, making certain our words are actually true.

The Sweet Aroma of Christ

By |2021-09-18T09:06:03-04:00September 18th, 2021|

I knew a rancher who lived near Lometa, Texas. His two grandsons were my best friends. We would go into town with him and follow him around while he shopped and chatted with the folks he knew. He knew them all by name and he knew their stories. He’d stop here and there and ask about a sick child or a difficult marriage, and he’d offer a word of encouragement or two. He would share Scripture and pray if it seemed the right thing to do. I’ll never forget the man. He was something special. He didn’t force his faith on anyone, but he always seemed to leave it behind.

The elderly rancher had about him what Paul would call the sweet “aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15). God used him to “spread the aroma of the knowledge of [Christ]” (v. 14). He’s gone to be with God now, but his fragrance lingers on in Lometa.

C. S. Lewis wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked with a mere mortal.” Put another way, every human contact has eternal consequences. Every day we have opportunities to make a difference in the lives of people around us through the quiet witness of a faithful and gentle life or through encouraging words to a weary soul. Never underestimate the effect of a Christ-life on others.

Not Seeking Revenge

By |2021-08-22T09:06:03-04:00August 22nd, 2021|

The farmer climbed into his truck and began his morning inspection of the crops. On reaching the farthest edge of the property, his blood began to boil. Someone had used the farm’s seclusion to illegally dump their trash—again.

As he filled the truck with the bags of food scraps, the farmer found an envelope. On it was printed the offender’s address. Here was an opportunity too good to ignore. That night he drove to the offender’s house and filled his garden with not just the dumped trash but his own!

Revenge is sweet, some say, but is it right? In 1 Samuel 24, David and his men are hiding in a cave to escape a murderous King Saul. When Saul wanders into the same cave to relieve himself, David’s men see a too-good-to-ignore opportunity for David to get revenge (vv. 3–4). But David goes against this desire to get even. “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master,” he says (v. 6). When Saul discovers that David chose to spare his life, he’s incredulous. “You are more righteous than I,” he exclaims (vv. 17–18).

As we or our loved ones face injustice, opportunities to take revenge on offenders may well come. Will we give in to these desires, as the farmer did, or go against them, like David? Will we choose righteousness over revenge?

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