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Wisely Weeding

By |2021-03-31T09:06:04-04:00March 31st, 2021|

My grandchildren are running around my backyard. Playing games? No, pulling weeds. “Pulling them up by the roots!” the youngest says, showing me a hefty prize. Her delight as we tackled weeds that day was how much we enjoyed plucking the weedy roots—clearing away each pesky menace. Before the joy, however, came the choice to go after them.

Intentional weeding is also the first step in removing personal sin. Thus, David asked the Lord: “Search me, God, and know my heart . . . . See if there is any offensive way in me (Psalm 139:23–24).

What a wise approach, to go after our sin by asking God to show it to us. He above all knows everything about us. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me,” wrote the psalmist. “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar” (vv. 1–2).

Such knowledge, David added, “is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (v. 6). Even before a sin takes root, therefore, the Lord can alert us to the danger. He knows our “landscape.” So, when a sneaky sinful attitude tries to take root, He is first to know and point it out.  

“You hem me in behind and before,” wrote David. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,” (vv. 5–6). May we closely follow our Savior to higher ground!

Sweeter than Honey

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

During “Chicago Day” in October 1893, the city’s theatres shut down because the owners figured everyone would be attending the World’s Fair. Some four hundred thousand people went, but Dwight Moody (1837–99) wanted to fill a music hall at the other end of Chicago with preaching and teaching. His friend R.A. Torrey (1856–1928) was skeptical that Moody could draw a crowd on the same day as the fair. But by God’s grace, he did. As Torrey later concluded, the crowds came because Moody knew “the one Book that this old world most longs to know—the Bible.” Torrey longed for others to love the Bible as Moody did, reading it regularly with dedication and passion.

God through His Spirit brought people back to Himself at the end of the nineteenth century in Chicago, and He continues to speak today. We can echo the psalmist’s love for God and His Scriptures as he exclaims, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103). For the psalmist, God messages of grace and truth acted as a light for his path, a lamp for his feet (v. 105).

How can you grow more in love with the Savior and His message? As we immerse ourselves in Scripture, God will increase our devotion to Him and guide us, shining His light along the paths we walk.

The Purple Shawl

By |2021-03-19T09:06:02-04:00March 19th, 2021|

While serving as my mom’s live-in caregiver at a cancer center hundreds of miles away from my home, I asked people to pray for us. As the months passed, isolation and loneliness sapped my strength. How could I care for my mom if I gave in to my physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion?

One day, a friend sent me an unexpected care package. Jodi had crocheted a purple prayer shawl, a warm reminder that we had people praying for us daily. Whenever I wrapped the soft yarn around my shoulders, I felt God hugging me with the prayers of His people. Years later, He still uses that purple shawl to comfort me and strengthen my resolve.

The apostle Paul affirmed the importance and spirit-refreshing power of praying for others (Romans 15:23–29). Through his passionate request for prayerful support and encouragement during his travels, Paul demonstrated how those who pray for others become partners in ministry (v. 30). Offering specific requests, the apostle not only showed his dependence on the support of fellow believers but his trust that God powerfully answers prayer (vv. 31–33).

We’ll all experience days when we feel alone. But Paul shows us how to ask for prayer as we pray for others. When we’re wrapped in the intercessory prayers of God’s people, we can experience God’s strength and comfort no matter where life takes us.

A Ripening Process

By |2021-01-05T11:15:51-05:00January 5th, 2021|

Early in his fifty-year ministry in Cambridge, England, Charles Simeon (1759–1836) met a neighboring pastor, Henry Venn, and his daughters. After the visit, the daughters remarked how harsh and self-assertive the young man seemed. In response, Venn asked his daughters to pick a peach from the trees. When they wondered why their father would want the unripe fruit, he responded, “Well, my dears, it is green now, and we must wait; but a little more sun, and a few more showers, and the peach will be ripe and sweet. So it is with Mr. Simeon.”

Over the years Simeon did soften through God’s transforming grace. One reason was his commitment to read the Bible and pray every day. A friend who stayed with him for a few months witnessed this practice and remarked, “Here was the secret of his great grace and spiritual strength.”

Simeon in his daily time with God followed the prophet Jeremiah, who faithfully listened for God’s words. Jeremiah depended on them so much that he said, “When your words came, I ate them.” He mulled and chewed over God’s words, which were his “joy and heart’s delight” (Jeremiah 15:16).

If we too resemble a sour green fruit, we can trust that God will help to soften us through His Spirit as we get to know Him through reading and obeying the Scriptures.

The Tree Whisperer

By |2020-11-03T08:06:03-05:00November 3rd, 2020|

Some call him the “tree whisperer.” Tony Rinaudo is, in fact, World Vision Australia’s tree maker. He’s a missionary and agronomist engaged in a 30-year effort to share Jesus by combating deforestation across Africa’s Sahel, south of the Sahara.

Realizing stunted “shrubs” were actually dormant trees, Rinaudo started pruning, tending, and watering them. His work inspired hundreds of thousands of farmers to save their failing farms by restoring nearby forests, reversing soil erosion. Farmers in Niger, for example, have doubled their crops and their income, providing food for an additional 2.5 million people per year.

In John 15, Jesus the creator of agriculture, referred to similar farming tactics when He said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in my that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (vv. 1–2).

Without the daily tending of God, our souls grow barren and dry. When we delight in the law of the Lord, however, meditating on it day and night, we are “like a tree planted by streams of water” (Psalm 1:3). Our leaves will “not wither” and “whatever [we] do will prosper” (v. 3). Pruned and planted in Him, we’re evergreen—revived and thriving.

Straight Ahead

By |2020-06-16T09:02:32-04:00June 18th, 2020|

It used to take the steady eye and the firm hand of a farmer to drive a tractor or combine down straight rows. But even the best eyes would overlap rows, and by end of day even the strongest hands would be fatigued. But now there’s autosteer—a GPS-based technology that allows for accuracy to within one inch when planting, cultivating, and spraying. It’s incredibly efficient and hands-free...

The Heart of Fasting

By |2019-05-17T16:30:38-04:00May 22nd, 2019|

Hunger pangs gnawed at my nerves. My mentor had recommended fasting as a way to focus on God. But as the day wore on, I wondered: How did Jesus do this for forty days? I struggled to rely on the Holy Spirit for peace, strength, and patience. Especially patience. If we’re physically able, fasting can teach us the importance of our spiritual food...

The House on the Rock

By |2018-07-20T15:18:08-04:00August 30th, 2018|

After living in their house for several years, my friends realized that their living room was sinking—cracks appeared on the walls and a window would no longer open. They learned that this room had been added without a foundation. Rectifying the shoddy workmanship would mean months of work as builders laid a new foundation...

Serve Continually

By |2018-07-20T15:05:05-04:00August 27th, 2018|

When educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom, researching how to develop talent in young people, examined the childhoods of 120 elite performers—athletes, artists, scholars—he found that all of them had one thing in common: they had practiced intensively for long periods of time. Bloom’s research suggests that growing in any area of our lives requires discipline...

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