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Untold Riches

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

In an orbit between Mars and Jupiter zooms an asteroid worth trillions and trillions of dollars. Scientists say 16 Psyche consists of metals such as gold, iron, nickel, and platinum worth unfathomable amounts of money. For now, earthlings are not attempting to mine this rich resource, but the United States is planning to send a probe in 2022 to study the valuable rock.

The promise of untold riches just out of reach can be both tantalizing and frustrating. Surely in time there will be people who will champion the cause of reaching 16 Psyche for its treasure.

But what about the prospect of riches that are within our reach? Wouldn’t everyone go for that? Writing to the first-century church at Rome, Paul spoke of attainable riches—those we find in our relationship with God. He wrote, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33). Bible scholar James Denney described these riches as “the unsearchable wealth of love that enables God to . . . far more than meet the [great needs] of the world.”

Isn’t that what we need—even more than gold nuggets from some far-off asteroid? We can mine the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge found in the Scriptures as the Holy Spirit helps us. May God lead us to dig into those riches and to know and treasure Him more.

Standing Boldly

By |2022-08-10T02:33:05-04:00August 10th, 2022|

What do we do when we are required to stand boldly for what we believe in amid life’s challenges?

In a small Illinois town, domestic violence comprises forty percent of all crimes in the community. According to a local pastor, this issue is often hidden in our faith communities because it’s uncomfortable to talk about. So instead of shying away from the problem, local ministers chose to exercise faith and courageously address the issue by taking classes to recognize the signs of violence and supporting non-profit organizations working on the issue. Acknowledging the power of faith and action, a local minister said, “Our prayers and compassion, coupled with some tangible support, can make an important difference.” 

When Esther, Queen of Persia, was scared to speak out against a law that would lead to the genocide of her people, her uncle reminded her of the importance of taking a stand (Esther 4:13). “Who knows that you have come into a royal position for such a time as this?” he asserted, affirming that there will be moments where we must be bold and act (v. 14). Whether we are called to speak out against injustice or to forgive someone who’s caused us distress, the Bible assures us that in challenging circumstances, God will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5–6). When we look to God for help in moments where we feel intimidated, he will give us “power, love, and self-discipline” to see our assignment through to the end (2 Timothy 1:7-8).

Humility Is the Truth

By |2022-08-09T02:33:19-04:00August 9th, 2022|

Reflecting one day on why God values humility so highly, sixteenth-century believer Teresa of Avila suddenly realized the answer: “It is because God is the supreme Truth, and humility is the truth . . . nothing good in us springs from ourselves. Rather, it comes from the waters of grace, near which the soul remains, like a tree planted by a river, and from that Sun which gives life to our works.” Teresa concluded that it’s by prayer that we anchor ourselves in that reality, for “the whole foundation of prayer is humility. The more we humble ourselves in prayer, the more will God lift us up.”

Teresa’s words echo the language of Scripture in James 4, where James warned of the self-destructive nature of pride and selfish ambition, the opposite of a life lived in dependence on God’s grace (vv. 1–6). The only solution to a life of greed, despair, and constant conflict, he emphasized, is to repent of our pride in exchange for God’s grace. Or, in other words, to “humble yourselves before the Lord,” with the assurance that “he will lift you up” (v. 10).

Only when we’re rooted in the waters of grace can we find ourselves nourished by the “wisdom that comes from heaven” (3:17). Only in Him can we find ourselves lifted up by the truth.

Discerning Right Paths

By |2022-08-08T02:33:16-04:00August 8th, 2022|

One writer referred to Brazilian skateboarder Felipe Gustavo as “one of the most legendary skateboarders on the planet.” No one would have believed this would be Gustavo’s future when he was sixteen. Gustavo’s dad believed his son needed to pursue his dream of skating professionally, but they didn’t have the money. So his dad sold their car, and took his son to the renowned Tampa Am skating competition in Florida. No one had heard of Gustavo . . . until he won. And the victory catapulted him into an amazing career.

Gustavo’s dad had the capacity to see his son’s heart and passion. “When I become a father,” Gustavo said, “I just want to be like five percent of what my dad was for me.”

Proverbs describes the opportunity parents have to help their children discern the unique way God has crafted their heart, energy, and personality—and then to direct and encourage them toward the path that reflects who God made them to be. “Start children off on the way they should go,” the writer says, “and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (22:6).

We may not possess vast resources or profound knowledge. With God’s wisdom (vv. 17–21) and our attentive love, however, we can offer our kids and other children within our sphere of influence an immense gift. We can help them trust in God and discern the paths they can follow for a lifetime (3:5–6).

Relinquishing Control to God

By |2022-08-06T02:33:13-04:00August 6th, 2022|

Picture a mighty oak tree that’s small enough to fit on a kitchen table. That’s what a bonsai looks like—a beautiful ornamental tree that’s a miniature version of what you find wild in nature. There’s no genetic difference between a bonsai and its full-size counterpart. It’s simply that a shallow pot, pruning, and root trimming restrict growth, so the plant remains small.

While bonsai trees make for wonderful decorative plants, they also illustrate the power of control. It’s true that we can manipulate their growth as the tree responds to its environment. But God is ultimately the One who makes things grow.

God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel this way: “I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall” (Ezekiel 17:19). God was foreshadowing future events when he would “uproot” the nation of Israel by allowing the Babylonians to invade. In the future, however, God would plant a new tree in Israel that would bear fruit, with “birds of every kind” finding shelter in the shade of its branches (v. 23). God said that no matter how much upcoming events seemed out of control, He was still in charge.

The world tells us to try to control our circumstances by manipulation and through our own hard work. But true peace and thriving are found by relinquishing control to the only One who can make the trees grow.

The Privilege of Stewardship

By |2022-08-04T02:33:06-04:00August 4th, 2022|

While on vacation, my husband and I walked along the beach. We noticed a large square patch of sand blocked off by a makeshift fence. A young man explained that he worked around the clock with a team of volunteers committed to guarding the eggs in each sea turtle’s nest. Once the hatchlings emerged from their nest, the presence of both animals and humans threaten and decrease their chance of survival. “Even with all our efforts,” he said, “scientists estimate that only one out of every five thousand hatchlings reach adulthood.” These bleak numbers didn’t discourage this young man, however. His passion for selflessly serving the hatchlings deepened my desire for respecting and protecting sea turtles. Now I wear a sea turtle pendant that reminds me of my God-given responsibility to care for the creatures He’s made. 

When God created the world, He provided a habitat for each creature to thrive and live in interdependently (Genesis 1:20–25). When He created His image-bearers, God intended for us to “rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (v. 26). He helps us serve Him as responsible stewards who use our God-given authority to care for His vast creation.

When Prayer Shakes the Earth

By |2022-08-03T02:33:05-04:00August 3rd, 2022|

Dr. Gary Greenberg has magnified and photographed sand from beaches around the world, often revealing surprising, vibrant splashes of color from the minerals, shell, and coral fragments contained within. 

He’s discovered there’s more to sand than meets the eye. In arenology (the study of sand), the microscopic analysis of sand’s mineral content can reveal much about erosion, shore currents, and their potential effects on coastlines. Even a little sand can yield information of great worth! 

A single prayer, like a grain of sand, can be a weighty thing. Scripture indicates prayer’s powerful role in the coming of God’s kingdom. In Revelation 8, John sees an angel standing at the altar before His throne holding a golden censer containing “the prayers of all God’s people.” “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake” (vv. 3, 5). 

Immediately after the angel hurled the censer filled with fire and prayer, seven angels with seven trumpets “prepared to sound them” (v. 6), heralding the old earth’s last days and Christ’s return. 

Sometimes we may not feel like our prayers add up to much, but God doesn’t miss one. He so values them that they somehow even play a role in the consummation of His kingdom. What may seem like the smallest prayer to us can have earth-shaking weight with Him!

Life-Giving Correction

By |2022-08-02T02:33:15-04:00August 2nd, 2022|

A treat we grew to love when we lived in England was Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bars. When we returned to the States, I was dismayed to discover the U.S. distributor of Cadbury chocolate uses a different recipe and does not allow for any importer to supply the original UK version. You can buy Cadbury chocolate in the US, but it’s not the authentic version. 

Authenticity. It’s something I can taste in my chocolate but earnestly long to be true of me as well as a believer in Jesus. 

Authentic faith is a quality Paul commends his disciple Timothy for in the opening of his second letter to Timothy. Paul writes of his deep love and appreciation for Timothy, specifically, “his sincere faith” (2 Timothy 1:5). Sincere, or authentic faith, is beautiful because it is real. We embrace genuine faith in part because we are turned off by its opposite: hypocrisy. 

Paul’s words still speak into our lives today, when we find ourselves tempted to present a slightly different version of ourselves, whether to cover fears or anxieties or to gloss over hurts and frustrations. Timothy’s example reminds me that authentic faith acknowledges those realities but continues to hold fast to God and to celebrate the faith God is developing in me.

In This Together

By |2022-08-01T02:33:13-04:00August 1st, 2022|

Kelly was battling brain cancer when the COVID-19 crisis hit. Then fluid developed around her heart and lungs and she had to be hospitalized again. Her family couldn’t visit because of the pandemic. Her husband, Dave, vowed to do something.

Gathering loved ones together, Dave asked them to make large signs with messages. They did. Wearing masks, twenty people stood on the street outside the hospital holding signs: “BEST MOM!” “LOVE YOU.” “WE ARE WITH U.” With the help of a nurse, Kelly made her way to a fourth-floor window. “All we could see was a facemask and a waving hand,” her husband posted on social media, “but it was a beautiful facemask and waving hand.”

Late in his life, the apostle Paul felt alone as he languished in a Roman prison. He wrote to Timothy, “Do your best to get here before winter” (2 Timothy 4:21). Yet Paul wasn’t totally alone. “The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength,” he said (v. 17). And it’s also apparent that he had some encouraging contact with other believers. “Eubulus greets you,” he said to Timothy, “and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters” (v. 21).

We’re created for community, and we feel that most keenly when we’re in crisis. What might you do for someone who may feel entirely alone today?  

“Make It Your Own, Dawg!”

By |2022-07-31T02:33:04-04:00July 31st, 2022|

On June 11, 2002, the singing competition American Idol debuted. Each week, hopefuls performed their own versions of popular songs, and the viewing audience voted on who advanced to the next round of the competition.

As one of the panel judges on the show, Randy Jackson’s signature feedback was this zinger: “You made that song your own, dawg!” He lavished that praise when a singer took a familiar tune, learned it inside out, and then performed it in a new way that gave it unique, personal spin. To “make it their own” was to own it completely and creatively, and then offer it to the world onstage.

Paul invites us to do something similar, to own our faith and our expression of it, too. In Philippians 3:7–14, he rejects attempts to earn right standing before God (vv. 6–8). Instead, he teaches us to embrace “the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (v. 9). That gift of forgiveness and redemption transforms our motivation and goals: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (v. 12).

Jesus has secured our victory. Our job? To take hold of that truth, internalizing God’s gospel gift and living it out amid our broken world. In other words, we’re to make our faith our own and in so doing “live up to what we have already attained” (v. 16).

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