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The Sunflower Battle

The deer in our neighborhood and I have two different opinions about sunflowers. When I plant sunflowers each spring, I’m looking forward to the beauty of their blooms. My deer friends, however, don’t care about the finished product. They simply want to chew the stems and leaves until there’s nothing left. It’s an annual summertime battle as I try to see the sunflowers to maturity before my four-hoofed neighbors devour them. Sometimes I win; sometimes they win.

When we think about our lives as believers in Jesus, it’s easy to see a similar battle being waged between us and our enemy—Satan. Our goal is continual growth leading to spiritual maturity that helps our lives stand out for God’s honor. The devil wants to devour our faith and keep us from growing. But Jesus has dominion over “every power.” He can bring us “to fullness” (Colossians 2:10), which means He makes us “complete.” Christ’s victory on the cross allows us to stand out in the world like those beautiful sunflowers.

When Jesus nailed the “record of the charges against us” (the penalty for our sins) to the cross (v. 14 nlt), he destroyed “the powers” that controlled us. We became “rooted and built up” (v. 7) and made “alive with Christ” (v. 13). In Him we have the power (v. 10) to resist the enemy’s spiritual attacks and to flourish in Jesus—displaying a life of true beauty.

By |2022-05-09T09:06:04-04:00May 9th, 2022|

How Great Is Our God!

Fingerprints have long been used to identify people, but they can be faked by creating copies. Similarly, the pattern of the iris in the human eye is a reliable source for ID—until someone alters the pattern with a contact lens to skew the results. The use of biometrics to identify individuals can be defeated. So, what qualifies as a unique identifying characteristic? It turns out that everyone’s blood-vessel patterns are unique and virtually impossible to counterfeit. Your own personal “vein map” is a one-of-a-kind identifier, setting you apart from everyone else on the planet.  

Pondering such complexities of human beings should prompt a sense of worship and wonder for the Creator who made us. David reminded us that we are, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and that is certainly worth celebrating. In fact, Psalm 111:2 reminds us, “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.”

Even more worthy of our attention is the divine Maker Himself. While celebrating God’s great deeds, we also must celebrate Him! His deeds are great, but He’s even greater, prompting the psalmist to pray, “For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God” (Psalm 86:10).

Today, as we consider the greatness of what God does, may we also marvel at the greatness of who He is.

By |2022-05-08T09:06:06-04:00May 8th, 2022|

Love Like Mom

Juanita told her nephew about growing up during the Great Depression. Her poor family only had apples to eat, plus whatever wild game her dad might provide. Whenever he bagged a squirrel for dinner, her mom would say, “Give me that squirrel head. That’s all I want to eat. It’s the best piece of meat.” Years later Juanita realized there wasn’t any meat on a squirrel’s head. Her mom didn’t eat it. She only pretended it was a delicacy “so us kids could get more to eat and we wouldn’t worry about her.”

As we celebrate Mother’s Day tomorrow, may we also recount stories of our mothers’ devotion. We thank God for them, and strive to love more like them.

Paul served the Thessalonian church “as a nursing mother cares for her children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). He loved fiercely, fighting through “strong opposition” to tell them about Jesus and to share his own life with them (vv. 2, 8). He “worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while [he] preached the gospel of God to [them]” (v. 9). Just like Mom.

Few can resist a mother’s love, and Paul modestly said his efforts were “not without results” (v. 1). We can’t control how others respond, but we can choose to show up, day after day, to serve them in a sacrificial way. Mom would be proud, and so will our heavenly Father.

By |2022-05-07T09:06:04-04:00May 7th, 2022|

He Knows

Lea was about to start a job as a nurse in Taiwan. She’d be able to provide better for her family, more than she could in Manila, where job opportunities were limited. On the night before her departure, she gave instructions to her sister, who’d be taking care of her five-year-old daughter. “She’ll take her vitamins if you also give her a spoonful of peanut butter,” Lea explained “And remember, she’s shy. She’ll play with her cousins eventually. And she’s afraid of the dark, . . .”

While looking out the plane window the next day, Lea prayed: Lord, no one knows my daughter like I do. I can’t be with her, but You can.

We know the people we love, and we notice all the details about them because they’re precious to us. When we can’t be with them due to various circumstances, we’re often anxious that, since no one knows them as well as we do, they’ll be more vulnerable to harm.

In Psalm 139, David reminds us that God knows us more than anyone does. In the same way, He knows our loved ones intimately (vv. 1–4). He’s their Creator (vv. 13–15), so He understands their needs. He knows what will happen each day of their lives (v. 16), and He’s with them and will never leave them (vv. 5, 7–10).

When you’re anxious for others, entrust them to God for He knows them best and loves them the most.

By |2022-05-06T09:06:04-04:00May 6th, 2022|

Our Father

Most mornings I recite the Lord’s Prayer. I’m not worth much for the new day until I’ve grounded myself in those words. Recently I’d said only the first two words—“Our Father”—when my phone rang. It startled me as it was 5:43 a.m. Guess who? The phone display read—“Dad.” Before I had a chance to answer, the call quickly ended. I guessed my dad had called by mistake. Sure enough, he had. Random coincidence? Maybe, but I believe we live in a world awash in the mercy of God. That particular day I needed that reassurance of our Father’s presence.

Think about that for a minute. Of all the ways Jesus could have taught His disciples to begin their prayers, He chose those two words—“Our Father” (Matthew 6:9) as the starting point. Random? No, Jesus was never less than intentional with His words. We all have different relationships with our earthly fathers—some good, some far less than that. However, praying in the way we should is not addressing “my” father or “your” father, but “our” Father, the One who sees us and hears us, and who knows what we need before we even ask Him (v. 8).

What an amazing reassurance, especially on those days when we might feel forgotten, alone, abandoned, or simply just not worth much. Remember, regardless of where we are and what time of day or night it might be, our Father in heaven is always near.

By |2022-05-05T09:06:04-04:00May 5th, 2022|

A Heart for Service

A ministry in Carlsbad, New Mexico, supports their community by offering more than 24,000 pounds of free food each month to local residents. The leader of the ministry shared, “People can come here, and we will accept them and meet them right where they are. Our goal is . . . to meet their practical needs to get to their spiritual needs.” As believers in Christ, God desires for us to use what we’ve been given to bless others, drawing our communities closer to Him. How can we develop a heart for service that brings glory to God?

We develop a heart for service by asking God to show us how to use the gifts He’s given us to benefit others (1 Peter 4:10). In this way, we offer “many expressions of thanks to God” for the abundance He’s blessed us with (2 Corinthians 9:12). Serving others was an important part of Jesus’ ministry. When He healed the sick and fed the hungry, many were introduced to God’s goodness and love. By caring for our communities, we’re following His model of discipleship. God’s wisdom reminds us that when we demonstrate God’s love through our actions “others will praise God” (v. 13). Service isn’t about self-gratification but about showing others the extent of God’s love and the miraculous that ways He works through those who are called by His name.

 

By |2022-05-04T09:06:04-04:00May 4th, 2022|

Longing for a Home

Anne, the lead character in the Anne of Green Gables stories, longed for a family. Orphaned, she had lost hope of ever finding a place to call home. But then she learned that an older man named Matthew and his sister Marilla would take her in. On the buggy ride to their home, Anne apologized for chattering on and on, but Matthew, a quiet man, said, “You can talk as much as you like. I don’t mind.” This was music to Anne’s ears. She felt no one had ever wanted her around, much less wanted to hear her chatter. After arriving, her hopes were dashed when she learned the siblings had thought they were getting a boy to help as a farmhand. She feared being returned, but Anne’s longing for a loving home was met when they made her a part of their family.

We’ve all had times when we felt unwanted or alone. But when we become a part of God’s family through salvation in Jesus, He becomes for us a secure home (Psalm 62:2). He delights in us and invites us to talk with Him about everything: our worries, temptations, sorrows, and hopes. The psalmist tells us we can “find rest in God” and “pour out [our] hearts to him” (vv. 5, 8).

Don’t hesitate. Talk to God as much as you like. He won’t mind. He delights in our hearts. In Him you’ll find a home.

 

By |2022-05-03T09:06:05-04:00May 3rd, 2022|

Father of Lies

Victor slowly became addicted to pornography. Many of his friends looked at porn, and he fell into it because he was bored. But now he understands how it crushed his wife, and he’s vowed to put safeguards in his life so he will never look at it again. Yet he fears it’s too late. Can his marriage be saved? Will he ever be free and fully forgiven?

Our enemy the devil presents temptation as if it’s no big deal. Everyone’s doing it. What’s the harm? But the moment we catch on to his scheme, he switches gears. It’s too late! You’ve gone too far! You’re hopeless now!

The enemy will say whatever it takes to destroy us as we engage in spiritual warfare. Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

If the devil is a liar, then we should never listen to him. Not when he says our sin is no big deal, and not when he says we’re beyond hope. May Jesus help us dismiss the evil one’s words and listen to Him instead. We rest our hearts on His promise: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (vv. 31–32).

By |2022-05-02T09:06:05-04:00May 2nd, 2022|

Let There Be Light

In my daughter’s earliest days, I often named for her the things she encountered. I’d identify objects or allow her to touch something unfamiliar and say the word for her, bringing understanding—and vocabulary—to the vast world she was exploring. Though my husband and I might naturally have expected (or hoped) her first word would be Mama or Daddy, she surprised us with an entirely different first word: her small mouth murmured dight one day—a sweet, mispronounced echo of the word light I’d just shared with her.

Light is one of God’s first words recorded for us in the Bible. As the Spirit of God hovered over a dark, formless, and empty Earth, God introduced light into His creation, saying “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). He said the light was good, which the rest of Scripture bears out: the psalmist explains that God’s words illuminate our understanding (Psalm 119:130), and Jesus refers to Himself as the light of the world, the giver of the light of life (John 8:12).

God’s first utterance in the work of creation was to give light. That wasn’t because He needed light to do His work; no, the light was for us. Light enables us to see Him and to identify His fingerprints on the creation around us, to discern what is good from what is not, and to follow Jesus one step at a time in this vast world.

By |2022-05-01T09:06:03-04:00May 1st, 2022|

Servants of the Night

It’s 3 a.m. at an acute-care hospital. A worried patient presses the call button for the fourth time in an hour. The night-shift nurse answers without complaint. Soon another patient is screaming, crying for attention. The nurse isn’t surprised. She requested the night shift five years ago to avoid her hospital’s daytime frenzy. Then the reality hit. Night work often means taking on extra tasks, such as lifting and turning patients by herself. It also means closely monitoring patients’ conditions so physicians can be notified in emergencies.

Buoyed by close friendships with her nighttime co-workers, this nurse still struggles to get adequate sleep. Often, she asks her church for prayer, seeing her work as vital. “Praise God, their prayers make a difference.”

Her praise is good and right for a night worker—as well as for all of us. The psalmists wrote, “Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who minister by night in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord” (Psalm 134:1–2).

This psalm, written for the Levites who served as temple watchmen, acknowledged their vital work—protecting the temple by day and night. In our nonstop world, it feels proper to share this psalm especially for nighttime workers, yet every one of us can praise God in the night. As the psalm adds, “May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who is the Maker of heaven and earth” (v. 3).

By |2022-04-30T09:06:02-04:00April 30th, 2022|
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