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Walking with Jesus

By |2021-08-03T09:06:03-04:00August 3rd, 2021|

Lean food rations, waterproof boots, and a map are some of the essentials carried by hikers on the John Muir Trail. The John Muir Trail is a 211-mile path in the western United States that winds across creeks, around lakes and woods, and up and over mountains, encompassing 47,000 feet of elevation gain. Because traversing this trail takes about three weeks, carrying the right amount of supplies is critical. Too much and you will run out of strength to carry it all; too little and you won’t have what you need for the journey. 

Finishing well on our journey as believers in Jesus also requires careful consideration of what we bring. In Hebrews 12, the apostle Paul exhorts us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” He compares our lives to a “race marked out for us,” one in which we must “not grow weary and lose heart” (vv. 1, 3). To become overburdened with sin or distracted by things outside of God’s purpose for us is to carry an unnecessary weight. Just as there are packing lists for the John Muir Trail, God has provided directions for us in the Bible. We can know what habits, dreams, and desires are worth bringing along by examining them in light of the Scriptures. When we travel light, we are able to finish well.

Growing in God’s Grace

By |2021-07-09T09:06:02-04:00July 9th, 2021|

The English preacher Charles H. Spurgeon (1834–1892) lived life “full throttle.” He became a pastor at age 19—and soon was preaching to large crowds. He personally edited all of his sermons, which eventually filled sixty-three volumes, and wrote many commentaries, books on prayer, and other works. And he typically read six books a week! In one of his sermons, Spurgeon said, “The sin of doing nothing is about the biggest of all sins, for it involves most of the others. . . . Horrible idleness! God save us from it!”

Spurgeon lived with diligence, which meant he “[made] every effort” (2 Peter 1:5) to grow in God’s grace and to live for Him. If we are Christ’s followers, God can instill in us that same desire and capacity to grow more like Jesus, to “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge . . . self-control, perseverance . . . godliness” (vv. 3, 5–7)

We each have different motivations, abilities, and energy levels—not all of us can, or should, live at Spurgeon’s pace! But when we understand all Jesus has done for us, we have the greatest motivation for diligent, faithful living. And we find our strength through the resources God has given us to live for and serve Him. God through His Spirit can empower us in our efforts—big and small—to do so.

A Remarkable Life

By |2021-06-02T09:06:06-04:00June 2nd, 2021|

I came to learn about Catherine Hamlin, a remarkable Australian surgeon, through reading her obituary. In Ethiopia, Catherine and her husband established the world’s only hospital dedicated to curing women from the devastating physical and emotional trauma of obstetric fistulas, a common injury in the developing world that can occur during childbirth. Catherine is credited with overseeing the treatment of more than 60,000 women.

Still operating at the hospital when she was 92 years old, and still beginning each day with a cup of tea and Bible study, Hamlin told curious questioners that she was an ordinary believer in Jesus who was simply doing the job God had given her to do. 

I was grateful to learn about her remarkable life because she powerfully exemplified for me Scripture’s encouragement to believers to live our lives in such a way that even people who actively reject God “may see your good deeds and glorify God” (1 Peter 2:12).

 

The power of God’s Spirit that called us out of spiritual darkness into a relationship with God (v. 9) can also transform our work or areas of service into testimonies of our faith. For whatever passion or skill God has gifted us, we can embrace added meaning and purpose in doing all of it in a manner that has the power to point people to God.

Shining Stars

By |2021-05-15T09:06:04-04:00May 15th, 2021|

I can close my eyes and go back in time to the house where I grew up. I remember stargazing with my father. We took turns squinting through his telescope, trying to focus on glowing dots that shimmered and winked with eye-catching brilliance. These pinpricks of light, born of heat and fire, stood out in sharp contrast to the smooth, ink-black sky.

Do you consider yourself to be a shining star? I’m not talking about reaching the heights of human achievement, but standing out as a light against a dark background of brokenness and evil. The apostle Paul told the Philippian believers that God would shine in and through them as they held “firmly to the word of life” and avoided grumbling and arguing (Philippians 2:14-16).

Our unity with other believers and our faithfulness to God can set Christians apart from the world. The problem is, these things don’t come naturally. We constantly strive to overcome temptation so we can maintain a close relationship with God. We wrestle against selfishness to have harmony with our spiritual brothers and sisters.

But still, there is hope. Alive in each believer, God’s Spirit empowers us to be self-controlled, kind, and faithful (Galatians 5:19-23). Just as we are called to live beyond our natural capacity, Gods supernatural help makes this possible (v. 13). If every believer became a “shining star” through the power of the Spirit, just imagine how the light of God would repel the darkness around us.

Listening to Wise Advice

By |2021-05-11T09:06:02-04:00May 11th, 2021|

During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln once found himself wanting to please a politician, so he issued a command to transfer certain Union Army regiments. When the secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, received the order, he refused to carry it out. He said that the president was a fool. Lincoln was told what Stanton had said, and he replied: “If Stanton said I’m a fool, then I must be, for he is nearly always right. I’ll see for myself.” As the two men talked, the president quickly realized that his decision was a serious mistake, and without hesitation he withdrew it. Though Stanton had called Lincoln a fool, the president proved himself wise by not digging in his heels when Stanton disagreed with him. Instead, Lincoln listened to advice, considered it, and changed his mind.

Have you ever encountered someone who simply wouldn’t listen to wise advice? (See 1 Kings 12:1–8.) It can be infuriating, can’t it? Or, even more personal, have you ever refused to listen to advice? As Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” People may not always be right, but the same goes for us! Knowing that everyone makes mistakes, only fools assume they’re the exception. Instead, let’s exercise godly wisdom and listen to the wise advice of others—even if we initially disagree. Sometimes that’s exactly how God works for our good (v. 2).

Difficult People

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

Lucy Worsley is a British historian and TV presenter. Like most people in the public eye, she sometimes receives nasty mail—in her case, over a mild speech impediment that makes her R’s sound like W’s. One person wrote this: “Lucy, I’ll be blunt: Please try harder to correct your lazy speech or remove R’s from your scripts—I couldn’t sit through your TV series because it made me so annoyed. Regards, Darren.”

For some people, an insensitive comment like this might trigger an equally rude reply. But here’s how Lucy responded: “Oh Darren, I think you’ve used the anonymity of the internet to say something you probably wouldn’t say to my face. Please reconsider your unkind words! Lucy.”

Lucy’s measured response worked. Darren apologized and vowed not to send anyone such an email again.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath,” Proverbs says, “but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1). While the hot-tempered person stirs things up, the patient person calms them down (v. 18). When we get a critical comment from a colleague, a snide remark from a family member, or a nasty reply from a stranger, we have a choice: to speak angry words that fuel the flames or gentle words that douse them.

May God help us to speak words that turn away wrath—and perhaps even help difficult people to change.

Live Like It’s Morning

By |2021-04-14T09:06:04-04:00April 14th, 2021|

When I have to travel across time zones by air, I try various remedies to avoid jet lag. I think I’ve tried them all! On one occasion, I decided to adjust my in-flight eating to the time zone where I was heading. Instead of eating dinner with the rest of the passengers, I kept watching a movie and tried to fall asleep. The hours of elective fasting were difficult and the breakfast that came right before we landed left much to be desired. But living “out of sorts” with those around me worked. It jolted my body clock into a new time zone.

Paul knew that if believers in Jesus were to truly reflect Him in their lives, they would need to live out of step with the world around them. They “were once darkness” but now they were to live as “children of light” (Ephesians 5: 8). And what might that look like? Paul goes on to fill out the picture: “The fruit of the light consists in all goodness, justice, and truth” (v. 9).

Sleeping through dinner may have seemed foolish to the people on my flight, but even as it’s midnight in the world, as believers, we’re called to live like it’s morning. This may provoke scorn and opposition, but in Jesus we can “walk in the way of love,” following the example of the One who “love[s] us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (v. 2).

Turn on the Light

By |2021-02-23T08:06:06-05:00February 23rd, 2021|

As my husband and I prepared for a cross-country move, I wanted to ensure that we kept in touch with our grown sons. I found a unique gift, friendship lamps connected by wireless internet, which can be turned on remotely. When I gave the lamps to my sons, I explained that their lamps will turn on when I touch my lamp—to provide a shining reminder of my love and ongoing prayers. No matter how great the distance between us, a tap on their lamps would trigger a light in our home too. Though we knew nothing could replace our more personal moments of connection, we could be encouraged by knowing we’re loved and prayed for every time we turned on those lights.

All God’s children have the privilege of being light-sharers powered by the Holy Spirit. We’re designed to live as radiant beacons of the Lord’s everlasting hope and unconditional love. When we’re sharing the gospel and serving others in the name of Jesus, we become brilliant spotlights and living testimonies. Every good deed, kind smile, gentle word of encouragement, and heartfelt prayer produces a beaming reminder of God’s faithfulness and His unconditional and life-transforming love (Matthew 5:14–16).

Wherever God leads us, and however we serve Him, we can be used by Him to help others shine His light. As God, by His Spirit, provides the true illumination, we can reflect the light and love of His presence.

Like Jesus

By |2021-02-22T08:05:17-05:00February 22nd, 2021|

As a boy, theologian Bruce Ware was frustrated that 1 Peter 2:21–23 calls us to be like Jesus. Ware wrote of his youthful exasperation in his book The Man Christ Jesus. “Not fair, I determined. Especially when the passage says to follow in the steps of one ‘who did no sin.’ This was totally outlandish . . . . I just couldn’t see how God could really mean for us to take it seriously.”

I understand why Ware would find such a biblical challenge so daunting! An old chorus says, “To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus. My desire, to be like Him.” But as Ware rightly noted, we are not capable of doing that. Left to ourselves, we could never become like Jesus.

However, we are not left to ourselves. The Holy Spirit has been given to the child of God, in part so that Christ can be formed in us (Galatians 4:9). So it should come as no surprise that in Paul’s great chapter on the Spirit we read, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). God will see His work completed in us. And He does it through the Spirit of Christ living in us.

 As we allow the Spirit to work in us, we truly become more like Jesus. How comforting to know that is God’s great desire for us!

Desperate Solutions

By |2021-02-17T08:06:05-05:00February 17th, 2021|

In the late 17th century, William of Orange intentionally flooded much of his nation’s land. The Dutch monarch resorted to such a drastic measure in an attempt to drive out the invading Spaniards. It didn’t work, and a vast swath of prime farmland was lost to the sea. “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” they say.

In Isaiah’s day, Jerusalem turned to desperate measures when the Assyrian army threatened them. Creating a water storage system to endure the siege, the people also tore down houses to shore up the city walls. Such tactics may have been prudent, but they neglected the most important step. “You built a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool,” God said, “but you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago” (Isaiah 22:11).

We aren’t likely to encounter a literal army outside our homes today. “The batterings always come in commonplace ways and through commonplace people,” said Oswald Chambers. Yet, such “batterings” are genuine threats. Thankfully, they also bring with them God’s invitation to turn to Him first for what we need.

When life’s irritations and interruptions come, will we see them as opportunities to turn to God? Or will we seek our own desperate solutions?

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