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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.

The Love of God

By |2022-11-14T01:33:02-05:00November 14th, 2022|

In 1917, Frederick Lehman, a California businessman beset by financial setbacks, wrote the lyrics to the hymn, “The Love of God.” His inspiration led him quickly to pen the first two stanzas, but he got stuck on the third. He recalled a poem that had been discovered years earlier, written on the walls of a prison. No one knows the prisoner who scratched it there into the stone, but it expressed a deep awareness of God’s love. The poem happened to be in the same meter as Lehman’s hymn. He made it his third stanza.  

There are times when we face difficult setbacks as did Lehman and the unknown poet in the prison cell. In times of despair, we do well to echo the psalmist David’s words and “take refuge in the shadow of [God’s] wings” (Psalm 57:1). It’s okay to “cry out to God” with our troubles, to speak to Him of our current ordeal and the fears we have when “in the midst of lions” (v. 4). We’re soon reminded of the reality of God’s provision in times past, and join David who says, “I will sing and make music. . . . I will awaken the dawn” (vv. 7–8).

“The love of God is greater far,” this hymn proclaims, adding “it goes beyond the highest star.” It’s precisely in our time of greatest need when we’re to embrace how great God’s love really is—indeed “reaching to the heavens” (v. 10).

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.

The Power of a Name

By |2022-09-24T02:35:04-04:00September 24th, 2022|

Seeking to affirm some children who live on the streets in Mumbai, India, Ranjit created a song of their names. Coming up with a unique melody for each name, he taught them the tune, hoping to give them a positive memory related to what they’re called. For children who don’t regularly hear their name spoken in love, he bestowed on them a gift of respect.

Names are important in the Bible, often reflecting a person’s character traits or new role. For instance, God changed the names of Abram and Sarai when He made a covenant of love with them, promising that He would be their God and they would be His people. Abram, which means exalted father, became Abraham, which means father of many. And Sarai, which means princess, became Sarah, which means princess of many (see Genesis 17:5, 15).

God’s new names included the gracious promise that they would no longer be childless. When Sarah gave birth to their son, overjoyed, they named him Isaac, which means “he laughs”: “Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me’” (Genesis 21:6).

We show honor and respect to people when we call them by name and affirm who God has created them to be. A loving nickname that affirms someone’s unique qualities as one created in the image of God can do the same.

The Challenge of the Stars

By |2022-02-23T08:06:04-05:00February 23rd, 2022|

In the early twentieth century, Italian poet F. T. Marinetti launched Futurism, an artistic movement rejecting the past, scoffing at traditional ideas of beauty, and glorifying instead machinery. In 1909 Marinetti wrote his Manifesto of Futurism, in which he declared “contempt for women,” praised “the blow with the fist,” and asserted, “We want to glorify war.” The manifesto concludes: “Standing on the world’s summit we launch once again our insolent challenge to the stars!”

Five years after Marinetti’s manifesto, modern warfare began in earnest. World War I did not bring glory. Marinetti himself died in 1944. The stars, still in place, took no notice.

King David sang poetically of the stars but with a dramatically different outlook. He wrote, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3–4). David’s question isn’t one of disbelief but of amazed humility. He knew that the God who made this vast cosmos is indeed mindful of us. He notices every detail about us—the good, the bad, the humble, the insolent—even the absurd.

It’s pointless to challenge the stars. Rather, they challenge us to praise our Creator. 

The Power of Love

By |2022-02-14T08:06:03-05:00February 14th, 2022|

Two octogenarians, one from Germany and the other Denmark, were an unlikely couple. They each enjoyed sixty years of marriage before being widowed. Though living only fifteen minutes apart, their homes were in separate countries. Still, they fell in love, regularly cooking meals and spending time together. Sadly, in 2020, due to the coronavirus, the Danish government closed the border crossing. Undeterred, every day at 3:00 p.m., the two met at the border on a quiet country lane, and seated on their respective sides, shared a picnic. “We’re here because of love,” the man explained. Their love was stronger than borders, more powerful than a pandemic.

The Song of Songs effuses in rapturous language about love’s indomitable power. “Love is as strong as death,” Solomon insists (8:6). None of us escapes death; it arrives with a steely finality we can’t break. And yet love, the writer says, is every bit as strong. What’s more, love “burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame” (v. 6). Have you ever watched a fire exploding in feverish rage? Fire—like love—is impossible to contain. “Many waters cannot quench love.” Not even a raging river can sweep love away (v. 7).

Human love, whenever it’s selfless and true, offers reflections of these characteristics. However, only God’s love offers such potency, such limitless depths, such tenacious power. And here’s the stunner: God loves each of us with this unquenchable love.

Unapologetic Tears

By |2022-01-31T08:06:02-05:00January 31st, 2022|

“I’m sorry,” Karen said, apologizing for her flowing tears. After the death of her husband, she stretched herself to care for her teenage kids. When men from church provided a weekend camping excursion to entertain them and give her a break, Karen wept with gratitude, apologizing over and over for her tears.

Why do so many of us apologize for our tears? Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to dinner. In the middle of the meal, as Jesus reclined at the table, a woman who had lived a sinful life brought an alabaster jar of perfume. “As she stood behind [Jesus] at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them” (Luke 7:37–38). Unapologetically, this woman freely emoted and then unwound her hair to dry Jesus’ feet. Overflowing with gratitude and love for Jesus, she topped off her tears with perfumed kisses—actions that contrasted with those of her proper but cold-hearted host.

Jesus’ response? He praised her exuberant expression of love and proclaimed her “forgiven” (vv. 44–48).

We may be tempted to squelch tears of gratitude when they threaten to overflow. But God made us emotional beings and we can use our feelings to honor Him. Like the woman in Luke’s gospel, let’s unapologetically express our love for our good God who provides for our needs and freely receives our thankful response.

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