My friend’s words stung. Trying to sleep, I battled to stop mulling over her pointed comments about my strong opinions. As I lay there, I asked for God’s wisdom and peace. Several weeks later, still concerned about the matter, I prayed, “I hurt, Lord, but show me where I need to change. Show me where she’s right.”
My friend had acted as God’s sandpaper in my life. My feelings felt rubbed raw, but I sensed that how I responded would lead to the building of my character—or not. My choice was to submit to the smoothing process, confessing my pride and stubborn stance. I sensed that my bumps and imperfections didn’t glorify the Lord.
King Solomon knew that life in community could be difficult, a theme he addressed in the book of Proverbs. In chapter 27, we see his wisdom applied to relationships. He likens the sharp words between friends as iron sharpening iron: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (v. 17), shaving off the rough edges in each other’s behavior. The process may bring about wounds, such as the hurt I felt from my friend’s words (see v. 6), but ultimately the Lord can use these words to help and encourage us to make needed changes in our attitude and behavior.
How might the Lord be smoothing out your rough edges for His glory?
“We’re cutting your job.” A decade ago those words sent me reeling when the company I worked for eliminated my position. At the time, I felt shattered, partly because my identity was so intertwined with my role as editor. Recently I felt a similar sadness when I heard that my freelance job was ending. But this time I didn’t feel rocked at my foundation, because over the years I have seen God’s faithfulness and how He can turn my mourning to joy.
Though we live in a fallen world where we experience pain and disappointment, the Lord can move us from despair to rejoicing, as we see in Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming of Jesus (Isa. 61:3). The Lord gives us hope when we feel hopeless; He helps us to forgive when we think we can’t; He teaches us that our identity is in Him and not in what we do. He gives us courage to face an unknown future. When we wear the rags of “ashes,” He gently gives us a coat of praise.
When we face loss, we shouldn’t run from the sadness, but neither do we want to become bitter or hardened. When we think about God’s faithfulness over the years, we know that He’s willing and able to turn our grief to dancing once again—to give us sufficient grace in this life and full joy in heaven.
Walking in my North London neighborhood, I can hear snatches of conversation in many languages—Polish, Japanese, Hindi, Croatian, and Italian, to name a few. This diversity feels like a taste of heaven, yet I can’t understand what they’re saying. As I step into the Russian café or the Polish market and hear the different accents and sounds, I sometimes reflect on how wonderful it must have been on the day of Pentecost when people of many nations could understand what the disciples were saying.
On that day, pilgrims gathered together in Jerusalem to celebrate the festival of the harvest. The Holy Spirit rested on the believers so that when they spoke, the hearers (who had come from all over the known world) could understand them in their own languages (Acts 2:5-6). What a miracle that these strangers from different lands could understand the praises to God in their own tongues! Many were spurred on to find out more about Jesus.
We may not speak or understand many languages, but we know that the Holy Spirit equips us to connect with people in other ways. Amazingly, we are God’s hands and feet—and mouth—to further His mission. Today, how might we—with the Spirit’s help—reach out to someone unlike us?
She called herself a worrier, but when her child was hurt in an accident, she learned how to escape that restricting label. As her child was recovering, she met each week with friends to talk and pray, asking God for help and healing. Through the months as she turned her fears and concerns into prayer, she realized that she was changing from being a worrier to a prayer warrior. She sensed that the Lord was giving her a new name. Her identity in Christ was deepening through the crucible of unwanted heartache.
In Jesus’ letter to the church at Pergamum, the Lord promises to give to the faithful a white stone with a new name on it (Rev. 2:17). Biblical commentators have debated over the meaning, but most agree that this white stone points to our freedom in Christ. In biblical times, juries in a court of law used a white stone for a not-guilty verdict and a black stone for guilty. A white stone also gained the bearer entrance into such events as banquets; likewise, those who receive God’s white stone are welcomed to the heavenly feast. Jesus’ death brings us freedom and new life—and a new name.
What new name do you think God might give to you?
“I’m not surprised you lead retreats,” said an acquaintance in my exercise class. “You have a good aura.” I was jolted but pleased by her comment, because I realized that what she saw as an “aura” in me, I understood to be the peace of Christ. As we follow Jesus, He gives us the peace that transcends understanding (Phil. 4:7) and radiates from within—though we may not even be aware of it.
Jesus promised His followers this peace when, after their last supper together, He prepared them for His death and resurrection. He told them that though they would have trouble in the world, the Father would send them the Spirit of truth to live with them and be in them (John 14:17). The Spirit would teach them, bringing to mind His truths; the Spirit would comfort them, bestowing on them His peace. Though soon they would face trials—including fierce opposition from the religious leaders and seeing Jesus executed—He told them not to be afraid. The Holy Spirit’s presence would never leave them.
Although as God’s children we experience hardship, we too have His Spirit living within and flowing out of us. God’s peace can be His witness to everyone we meet—whether at a local market, at school or work, or in the gym. Amy Boucher Pye
Tenacity and audacity—Elisha had heaps of both. Having spent time with Elijah, he witnessed the Lord working through the prophet by performing miracles and by speaking truth in an age of lies. Second Kings 2:1 tells us that Elijah is about to be taken “up to heaven,” and Elisha doesn’t want him to leave.
The time came for the dreaded separation, and Elisha knew he needed what Elijah had if he was going to successfully continue the ministry. So he made a daring demand: “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit” (2 Kings 2:9). His bold request was a reference to the double portion given the firstborn son or heir under the law (Deut. 21:17). Elisha wanted to be recognized as the heir of Elijah. And God said yes.
Recently one of my mentors—a woman who spread the good news of Jesus—died. Having battled ill health for years, she was ready to enjoy her eternal feast with the Lord. Those of us who loved her were grateful at the thought of her newfound freedom from pain and that she could enjoy God’s presence, but we grieved the loss of her love and example. Despite her departure, she did not leave us alone. We too had God’s presence.
Elisha gained a double portion of Elijah’s spirit—a tremendous privilege and blessing. We who live after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus have the promised Holy Spirit. The triune God makes His home with us! Amy Boucher Pye
“Cowboy builders” is a term many British homeowners use for tradespeople who do shoddy construction work. The term is bandied about with fear or regret, often because of bad experiences.
No doubt there were rogue carpenters, masons, and stonecutters in biblical times, but tucked away in the story of King Joash repairing the temple is a line about the complete honesty of those who oversaw and did the work (2 Kings 12:15).
However, King Joash “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (v. 2) only when Jehoiada the priest instructed him. As we see in 2 Chronicles 24:17-27, after Jehoiada died Joash turned from the Lord and was persuaded to worship other gods.
The mixed legacy of a king who enjoyed a season of fruitfulness only while under the spiritual counsel of a godly priest makes me stop and think. What will our legacies be? Will we continue to grow and develop in our faith throughout our lives, producing good fruit? Or will we become distracted by the things of this world and turn to modern-day idols—such as comfort, materialism, and self-promotion? Amy Boucher Pye
A friend’s baby was suffering seizures, so they sped to the hospital in an ambulance, her heart racing as she prayed for her daughter. Her fierce love for this child hit her afresh as she held her tiny fingers, recalling too how much more the Lord loves us and how we are “the apple of His eye.”
The prophet Zechariah employs this phrase in his word to God’s people who had returned to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon. He calls them to repent, to rebuild the temple, and to renew their hearts of love for the true God. For the Lord loves His people greatly; they are the apple of His eye.
Hebrew scholars suggest this phrase from Zechariah 2 denotes one’s reflection in the pupil of another’s eye, with the word “apple” emerging because it’s a common spherical object. So with eyes being precious and fragile, they need protecting, and that’s how the Lord wants to love and protect His people—by holding them close to His heart.
The Lord who dwells in our midst pours out His love on us—even, amazingly, far more than a loving mother who does all she can for her ailing child. We are the apple of His eye, His beloved.
I parked my bicycle, fingering my map of Cambridge for reassurance. Directions not being my strength, I knew I could easily get lost in this maze of roads bursting with historic buildings.
Life should have felt idyllic, for I had just married my Englishman and moved to the UK. But I felt adrift. When I kept my mouth closed I blended in, but when I spoke I immediately felt branded as an American tourist. I didn’t yet know what my role was, and I quickly realized that blending two stubborn people into one shared life was harder than I had anticipated.
I related to Abraham, who left all that he knew as he obeyed the Lord’s call to live as a foreigner and stranger in a new land (Gen. 12:1). He pressed through the cultural challenges while keeping faith in God, and 2,000 years later the writer to the Hebrews named him a hero (11:9). Like the other men and women listed in this chapter, Abraham lived by faith, longing for things promised, hoping and waiting for his heavenly home.
Perhaps you’ve always lived in the same town, but as Christ-followers we’re all foreigners and strangers on this earth. By faith we press forward, knowing that God will lead and guide us, and by faith we believe He will never leave nor abandon us. By faith we long for home.