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The Power of God

Rebecca and Russell’s doctors had told them they couldn’t have children. But God had other ideas, and ten years later Rebecca conceived. The pregnancy was a healthy one; and when the contractions started they excitedly rushed to the hospital. The hours of labor grew long and more intense, and Rebecca’s body still wasn’t progressing enough for delivery. Finally, the doctor decided she needed to perform an emergency C-section. Fearful, Rebecca sobbed for her baby and herself. The doctor calmly said, “I will do my best, but we’re going to pray to God because He can do more.” She prayed with Rebecca, and Bruce, a healthy baby boy, was born fifteen minutes later.

That doctor knew her dependence on God and His power. She recognized that although she had the training and skill to do the surgery, she still looked to God for His help and to guide her hands (Psalm 121:1–2). It’s encouraging to hear about highly skilled people, or anyone, who recognizes they need Him—because, honestly, we all do. He is God; we are not.

God alone “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20–21). Let’s have a humble heart to learn from Him and to trust Him in prayer “because He can do more” than we ever could.

By |2021-06-14T09:06:03-04:00June 14th, 2021|

The Kingdom of God

My mother has been committed to many things over the course of her life, but one that has remained constant is her desire to see little children introduced to Jesus. Of the few times I’ve witnessed my mother display disagreement publicly, all were when someone attempted to cut a children’s ministry budget in favor of what they felt were more “serious” expenditures. “I took off one summer when I was pregnant with your brother, but that’s it,” she told me. I did a little family math and I realized my mom had been working with children in the church for fifty-five years. 

Mark 10 records one of the endearing stories in the Gospels commonly titled “The Little Children and Jesus.” People were bringing children to Jesus that He might touch and bless them. But the disciples tried to prevent this from happening. Mark records Jesus as “indignant”—and rebuking His very own disciples: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (v. 14).

Charles Dickens wrote, “I love these little people; and it is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.” And it is not a slight thing when we, who are older, do all we can to make sure the little children are never hindered from the ever-fresh love of Jesus.

 

By |2021-06-13T09:06:04-04:00June 13th, 2021|

He Knows Your Name

After breaking with our longtime church, my husband and I reunited with the fellowship after three long years. But how would people treat us? Would they welcome us back? Love us? Forgive us for leaving? We got our answer on a sunny Sunday morning. As we walked through the big church doors, we kept hearing our names. “Pat! Dan! It’s so great to see you!” As children’s author Kate DiCamillo wrote in one of her popular books, “Reader, nothing is sweeter in this sad world than the sound of someone you love calling your name.”

The same assurance was true for the people of Israel. Where we had chosen a different church for a time, they had turned their backs on God. Yet He welcomed them back. He sent the prophet Isaiah to assure them, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

In this world, where we can feel unseen, unappreciated, and even unknown, be assured that God knows each of us by name. “You are precious and honored in my sight,” He promises (v. 4). “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” (v. 3). This promise isn’t just for Israel. Jesus ransomed His life for us. He knows our names. Why? In love, we are His.

By |2021-06-12T09:06:03-04:00June 12th, 2021|

Unseen Wonder

In the twilight of her years, Mrs. Goodrich’s thoughts came in and out of focus along with memories of a challenging and grace-filled life. Sitting by a window overlooking the waters of Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, she reached for her notepad. In words she soon wouldn’t recognize as her own she wrote: “Here I am in my favorite chair; With my feet on the sill, and my heart in the air. The sun-struck waves on the water below; In constant motion—to where I don’t know. But thank You—dear Father above; For Your innumerable gifts—and Your undying love! It always amazes me—How can it be? That I’m so in love with One I can’t see.”

The apostle Peter acknowledged such wonder. He had seen Jesus with his own eyes, but those who would read his letter had not. His words reflect their unseen reality, and ours: “Though you have not seen him . . . you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). We love Jesus not because we’re commanded to, but because with the help of the Spirit (v. 11) we begin to see how much He loves us.

It’s more than hearing that He cares for people like us. It’s experiencing for ourselves the promise of Christ to make the wonder of His unseen presence and Spirit real to us, at every stage of life.

By |2021-06-11T09:06:07-04:00June 11th, 2021|

Who Are You?

The leader of our video conference said, “Good morning!” I said “Hello” back, but I wasn’t looking at him. I was distracted by my own image on the screen. Do I look like this? I looked at the smiling faces of the others on the call. That looks like them. So yes, this must be me. I should lose some weight. And get a haircut.

In his mind, Pharaoh was pretty great. He was “a lion among the nations . . . a monster in the seas” (Ezekiel 32:2). But then he caught a glimpse of himself from God’s perspective. God said he was in trouble and that He would expose his carcass to wild animals, causing “many peoples to be appalled at you, and their kings [to] shudder with horror because of you” (v. 10). Pharaoh was much less impressive than he thought.

We may think we’re “spiritually handsome”—until we see our sin as God sees it. Compared to His holy standard, even “our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). But God also sees something else, something even more true. He sees Jesus, and us in Jesus.

Feeling discouraged about how you are? Remember this is not who you are. If you have put your trust in Jesus, then you are in Jesus, and His holiness drapes over you. You are more beautiful than you imagine.

By |2021-06-10T09:06:04-04:00June 10th, 2021|

Moving Toward Maturity

A recent survey asked respondents to identify the age at which they believed they became adults. Those who considered themselves adults pointed to specific behaviors as evidence of their status. Having a budget and buying a house topped the list as being marks of “adulting.” Other adult activities ranged from cooking dinner every weeknight and scheduling one’s own medical appointments, to the more humorous ability to choose to eat snacks for dinner or being excited to stay at home on a Saturday evening instead of going out.

The Bible says we should press on toward spiritual maturity as well. Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, urging the people to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). While we’re “young” in our faith, we’re vulnerable to “every wind of teaching” (v. 14), which often results in division among us. Instead, as we mature in our understanding of the truth, we function as a unified body under “him who is the head, that is, Christ” (v. 15).

God gave us His Spirit to help us grow into a full understanding of who He is (John 14:26), and He equips pastors and teachers to instruct and lead us toward maturity in our faith (Ephesians 4:11). Just as certain characteristics are evidence of physical maturity, our unity as His body is one evidence of our spiritual growth.

By |2021-06-09T09:06:04-04:00June 9th, 2021|

Divine Rescue

After being informed of a 911 call from a concerned citizen, a police officer drove alongside the train tracks, shining his floodlight into the dark until he spotted the vehicle straddling the iron rails. The trooper’s dashboard camera captured the harrowing scene as the train barreled forward. "That train was coming fast,” the officer said, “Fifty to 80 eighty per hour." Acting without hesitation, he pulled an unconscious man from the car mere seconds before the train slammed into it.

Scripture reveals God as the One who rescues—and rescues often at precisely the moment when all seems lost. Trapped in Egypt and withering under suffocating oppression, the Israelites imagined no possibility for escape. In Exodus, however, we find God offering them words resounding with hope: “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt,” He said. “I have heard them crying out . . . and I am concerned about their suffering” (3:7). And God not only saw—God acted. “I have come down to rescue them” (v.8). God led Israel out of bondage. This was a divine rescue.

God’s rescue of Israel reveals God’s heart—and His power—to help all of us who are in need. He assists those of us who are destined for ruin unless God arrives to save us. Though our situation may be dire or impossible, we can lift our eyes and heart and watch for the One who loves to rescue.

By |2021-06-08T09:06:03-04:00June 8th, 2021|

A Wise Builder

Sojourner Truth, whose birth name was Isabella Baumfree, was born a slave in 1797 in Esopus, New York. Though nearly all of her children were sold as slaves, she escaped to freedom in 1826 with one daughter and lived with a family who paid the money for her freedom. Instead of allowing an unjust system to keep her family apart, she took legal action to regain her small son Peter—an amazing feat for an African-American woman in that day. Knowing she couldn’t raise her children without God’s help, she became a believer in Christ and later changed her name to Sojourner Truth to show that her life was built on the foundation of God’s truth.

King Solomon, the writer of Proverbs 14:1, declares, “The wise woman builds her house.” In contrast, one without wisdom “tears hers down.” This building metaphor shows the wisdom God provides to those willing to listen. How does one build a house with wisdom? By saying “only what is helpful for building others up” (Ephesians 4:29; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:11). How does one tear down? Proverbs 14 gives the answer: “A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride” (v. 3).

Sojourner had a “secure fortress” (v. 26) in a turbulent time, thanks to the wisdom of God. You may never have to rescue your children from an injustice. But you can build your house on the same foundation Sojourner did—the wisdom of God.

By |2021-06-07T09:06:06-04:00June 7th, 2021|

Our True Selves

Inside my parents’ old photo album is a picture of a young boy. He has a round face, freckles, and straight light-blond hair. He loves cartoons, hates avocado, and owns just one record, by Abba. Also inside that album are pictures of a teenager. His face is long, not round; his hair is wavy, not straight. He has no freckles, likes avocado, watches movies rather than cartoons, and would never admit to owning an Abba record! The boy and the teenager are little alike. According to science they have different skin, teeth, blood, and bones. And yet they are both me. This paradox has baffled philosophers. Since we change throughout our lives, who is the real us?

The Scriptures provide the answer. From the moment God began knitting us in the womb (Psalm 139:13–14), we’ve been growing into our unique design. While we can’t yet imagine what we’ll finally become, we know that if we’re children of God we will ultimately be like Jesus (1 John 3:2)—our body with His nature, our personality but His character, all our gifts glistening, all our sins gone.

Until the day Jesus returns, we’re being drawn towards this future self. By His work, step by step, we can reflect His image ever more clearly (2 Corinthians 3:18). We aren’t yet who we’re meant to be, but as we become like Him, we become our true selves.

By |2021-06-06T09:06:02-04:00June 6th, 2021|

Waiting in Hope

 

Xochitl E. Dixon

 

Suggested Reading: Romans 12:9–13

 

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

 

Rogelio served as our waiter during our weeklong vacation. During one conversation, he credited Jesus for blessing him with Kaly, a compassionate wife with strong faith. After they had their first baby, God gave them the opportunity to help care for their niece who had Downs Syndrome. Soon after, Rogelio’s mother-in-law needed live-in care.

Rogelio works with joy, often taking on double shifts to ensure his wife can stay home to care for the people God entrusted to them. When I shared how the couple opening their hearts and home to serve their family members inspired me to love better, he said, “It is my pleasure to serve them . . . and you.”

Rogelio’s life affirms the power of living with generosity and trusting the Lord to provide as we serve one another selflessly. The apostle Paul urged God’s people to be “devoted to one another in love . . . joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer” as we “share with the Lord’s people who are in need” and practice hospitality (Romans 12:10–13).

Our life can change in an instant, leaving us or those we love in circumstances that feel impossible to bear. But when we’re willing to share all God has given us while we wait on Him, we can cling to His enduring hope . . . together.

 

By |2021-06-05T09:06:05-04:00June 5th, 2021|
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