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Dad was a man of few words. He had hearing damage due to years of military duty and wore hearing aids. One afternoon when Mom and I were talking a little longer than he thought necessary, he responded playfully, “Whenever I want peace and quiet, all I have to do is this.” Lifting both hands in a single motion, he turned off both hearing aids, folded his hands behind his head and closed his eyes in a serene smile.We laughed. As far as he was concerned, the conversation was over!My father’s actions that day remind me how different God is from us. He always wants to hear His children. This is underscored by one of the shortest prayers in the Bible. One day Nehemiah, a servant to King Artaxerxes of Persia, was visibly sad in the king’s presence. Fearful when the king asked him why, Nehemiah confessed it was because Jerusalem, the conquered city of his ancestors, lay in ruins. Nehemiah recounts, “The king said to me, "What is it you want?" “Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king…” (Neh. 2:4-5, italics added).Nehemiah’s prayer lasted only a moment, but God heard it. It set in motion God’s merciful response to the many prayers Nehemiah had already offered for Jerusalem. In that moment, Artaxerxes granted Nehemiah’s request to rebuild the city. Isn’t it comforting to know that God cares enough to listen to all of our prayers—from the shortest to the longest?
For three consecutive years, my son participated in a piano recital. The last year he played, I watched him mount the steps and set up his music. He played two songs and then sat down next to me and whispered, “Mom, this year the piano was smaller.” I said, “No, it’s the same piano you played last year. You’re bigger! You’ve grown.”Spiritual growth, like physical growth, often happens slowly over time. It is an ongoing process that involves becoming more like Jesus, and it happens as we are transformed through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2).When the Holy Spirit is at work in us, we may become aware of sin in our lives. Wanting to honor God, we make an effort to change. Sometimes we experience success, but at other times, we try and fail. If it seems like nothing changes, we get discouraged. We may equate failure with a lack of progress, when it’s often proof that we are in the middle of the process.Spiritual growth involves the Holy Spirit, our willingness to change, and time. At certain points in our lives, we may look back and see that we have grown spiritually. May God give us the faith to continue to believe that “He who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
My friend Gloria called with excitement in her voice. She had not been able to leave her home except for doctors’ appointments. So I understood why she was so happy to tell me, “My son just attached new speakers to my computer, so now I can go to my church!” Now she could hear the live broadcast of her church’s worship service. She raved about God’s goodness and the “best gift my son could have given me!”Gloria teaches me about having a thankful heart. Despite her many limitations, she’s thankful for the smallest of things—sunsets, helpful family and neighbors, quiet moments with God, the ability to remain in her own apartment. She’s had a lifetime of seeing God provide for her, and she talks about Him to anyone who visits or calls.We don’t know what difficulties the author of Psalm 116 was encountering. Some Bible commentaries say it was probably sickness because he said, “the cords of death entangled me” (v. 3). But he gave thanks to the Lord for being gracious and full of compassion when he was “brought low” (vv. 5–6).When we’re low, it can be hard to look up. Yet if we do, we see that God is the giver of all good gifts in our life—great and small—and we learn to give Him thanks.
Bob Foster, my mentor and friend for more than 50 years, never gave up on me. His unchanging friendship and encouragement, even during my darkest times, helped carry me through.We often find ourselves determined to reach out and help someone we know who is in great need. But when we fail to see improvement right away, our resolve can weaken and we may eventually give up. We discover that what we hoped would be an immediate change has become an ongoing process.The apostle Paul urges us to be patient in helping one another through the stumbles and struggles of life. When he writes, “Carry each other’s burdens” and so “fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2), he is compares our task to the work, time, and waiting it takes for a farmer to see a harvest. How long should we keep praying and reaching out to those we love? “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (v. 9). How many times should we reach out? “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (v. 10).The Lord encourages us today to trust Him, remain faithful to others, keep on praying and don’t give up!
Commuters on a Canadian Metro train witnessed a heart-moving conclusion to a tense moment. They watched as a 70-year old woman gently reached out and offered her hand to a young man whose loud voice and disturbing words were scaring other passengers. The lady’s kindness calmed the man who sank to the floor of the train with tears in his eyes. He said, “Thanks, Grandma,” stood up, and walked away. The woman later admitted to being afraid. But she said, “I’m a mother and he needed someone to touch.” While better judgment might have given her reason to keep her distance, she took a risk of love.Jesus understands such compassion. He didn’t side with the fears of unnerved onlookers when a desperate man, full of leprosy, showed up begging to be healed. Neither was He helpless as other religious leaders were—men who could only have condemned the man for bringing his leprosy into the village (Lev. 13:45-46). Instead, Jesus reached out to someone who probably hadn’t been touched by anyone for years, and healed him.Thankfully, for that man—and for us, Jesus came to offer the touch of His hand and heart to those who needed from Him—then and now—what no law could ever do.
I stood before the gathering at a small Jamaican church and said in my best local dialect, “Wah Gwan, Jamaica?” The reaction was better than I expected, as smiles and applause greeted me.In reality, all I had said was the standard greeting, “What’s going on?” in Patois [pa-twa], but to their ears I was saying, “I care enough to speak your language.” Of course I did not yet know enough Patois to continue, but a door had been opened.When the apostle Paul stood before the people of Athens, he let them know that he knew their culture. He told them that he had noticed their altar to “an unknown god,” and he quoted one of their poets. Of course, not everyone believed Paul’s message about Jesus’s resurrection, but some said, “We want to hear you again on this subject” (Acts 17:32).As we interact with others about Jesus and the salvation He offers, the lessons of Scripture (see also 1 Cor. 9:20–23) show us to invest ourselves in others—to learn their language, as it were—as a way to open the door to telling them the Good News.As we find out “Wah Gwan?” in others’ lives, it will be easier to share what God has done in ours.
One morning in Perth, Australia, Fionn Mulholland discovered his car was missing. That’s when he realized he had mistakenly parked in a restricted zone and his car had been towed away. After considering the situation—even the $600 towing and parking fine—Mulholland was frustrated, but he decided not to be angry with the person he would work with to retrieve his car. Instead of venting his feelings, Mulholland wrote a humorous poem about the situation and read it to the worker he met at the tow yard. The worker liked the poem, and a possible ugly confrontation never took place.The book of Proverbs teaches, “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife” (20:3). Strife is that interpersonal friction that either simmers under the surface or explodes in the open between people who disagree about something.God has given us the resources to live peacefully with other people. His Word assures us that it’s possible to feel anger without letting it boil over into rage (Eph. 4:26). His Spirit enables us to override the sparks of fury that prompt us to do and say things to strike out at people who upset us. And, God has given us His example to follow when we feel provoked (1 Peter 2:23). He is compassionate, gracious, and slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Ps. 86:15).
It was very late when we stopped for the night at a country inn outside of Munich. We were delighted to see that our cozy room had a balcony, although an oppressive fog made it impossible to see into the darkness. But when the sun rose a few hours later, the haze began to fade. Then we could see what had been grimly shrouded the night before—a completely idyllic scene—peaceful and lush green meadow, sheep grazing with tiny tinkling bells about their necks, and big white clouds in the sky that looked exactly like more sheep—huge, fluffy sheep!Sometimes life can get clouded over by a heavy fog of despair. Our situation may look so dark that we begin to lose hope. But just as the sun burns away a fog, our faith in God can burn away the haze of doubt. Hebrews 11 defines faith as “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (v. 1). The passage goes on to remind us of the faith of Noah, who was “warned about things not yet seen,” yet obeyed God (v. 7). And Abraham who went where God directed—even though he didn’t know where that would be (v. 8).Though we have not seen Him and cannot always feel Him, God is always present and will help us through our darkest nights.
It’s almost impossible for us to get through a day without being snubbed, ignored, or put down in some way. Sometimes we even do it to ourselves.David’s enemies were talking smack—bullying, threatening, pummeling him with insults. His sense of self-worth and well being had plummeted (Psalm 4:1–2). He asked for relief “from my distress.”Then David remembered, “Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself” (v. 3). Various English versions try to capture the full essence of David’s bold statement by translating “faithful servant” as “godly.” The Hebrew word here, esed, literally refers to God’s covenant love and might well be rendered “those whom God will love forever and ever and ever.”Here’s what we too must remember: We are loved forever, set apart in a special way, as dear to God as His own Son. He has called us to be His children for all eternity.Instead of despairing, we can remind ourselves of the love we freely receive from our Father. We are His dearly beloved children. The end is not despair but peace and joy (vv. 7–8). He never gives up on us, and He never ever stops loving us.
What would you do if the Lord showed up in the middle of your workday with a message of encouragement? This happened to Gideon, one of the ancient Israelites. “The angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and said, ‘Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!’ ” Gideon could have responded with a wordless nod and gulp, but instead he said, “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (Judg. 6:12–13 nlt). Gideon wanted to know why it seemed as if God had abandoned His people.God didn’t answer that question. After Gideon had endured seven years of enemy attacks, starvation, and hiding in caves, God didn’t explain why He never intervened. God could have revealed Israel’s past sin as the reason, but instead He gave Gideon hope for the future. God said, “Go with the strength you have . . . . I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites” (vv.14, 16 nlt).Do you ever wonder why God has allowed suffering in your life? Instead of answering that specific question, God may satisfy you with His nearness today and remind you that you can rely on His strength when you feel weak. When Gideon finally believed that God was with him and would help him, he built an altar and called it “The Lord Is Peace” (v. 24).There is peace in knowing that whatever we do and wherever we go, we go with God who promised never to leave or forsake His followers
When we got back to our home with the tribe, we were met by some old friends awaiting for us on our bookshelves! […]
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