Category  |  Basics Of Faith

Raise Your Hand

The St. Olaf Choir from Northfield, Minnesota, is renowned for making beautiful music. One reason for its excellence is the selection process. Applicants are chosen based not only on how well they sing but also on how they sound as part of the whole. Another reason is that all members agree to make the choir their first priority and commit to a rigorous rehearsal and performance schedule.

One of the things that intrigues me the most about this choir is what happens during rehearsals. Whenever members make a mistake, they raise their hand. Instead of trying to hide the blunder, they call attention to it! This allows the conductor to help each singer learn the difficult part, and it increases the likelihood of a flawless performance.

I think this is the kind of community Jesus was establishing when He told Nicodemus that God sent His Son into the world to save it, not condemn it (John 3:17). Shortly after this conversation, Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman at the public well. He made it easy for her to admit failure by promising her a better way of life where she could enjoy His forgiveness (John 4).

As members of Christ’s body on Earth, we should not fear admitting our wrongs but welcome it as an opportunity to together experience and rejoice in the forgiveness of God.

Christ the Redeemer

The famous statue Christ the Redeemer overlooks the city of Rio de Janeiro. The statue is a model of Christ with His arms extended so that His body forms the shape of a cross. Brazilian architect Heitor da Silva Costa designed the figure. He imagined that the city’s residents would see it as the first image to emerge from the darkness at dawn. At dusk, he hoped the city dwellers would view the setting sun as a halo behind the statue’s head.

            There is value in keeping our eyes on our Redeemer each day, during the good times and the difficult times. As he suffered, Job said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth” (Job 19:25).

            The cry of Job’s heart points us to Jesus—our living Savior who will visit the earth again one day (1 Thess. 4:16-18). Keeping our eyes on Jesus means remembering that we have been rescued from our sin. Jesus “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people” (Titus 2:14).

            Anyone who has accepted Jesus as Savior has a reason to be glad today. No matter what we endure on earth, we can have hope today and look forward to enjoying eternity with Him.

Rescuing the Reluctant

Many years ago during a water safety class, we were taught how to save a drowning person who is resisting rescue. “Approach the person from behind,” the instructor told us. “Place one arm across the person’s chest and flailing arms, and swim toward safety. If you approach from the front, the person may grab you and pull both of you down.” Panic and fear can paralyze the ability to think and act wisely.

            When two angels sent by God came to rescue Lot and his family from the impending destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:12-13), they encountered resistance. Lot’s sons-in-law thought the warning was a joke (v. 14). When the angels told Lot to hurry and leave, he hesitated (v. 15). At that point, the two angels “took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters,” and led them safely out of the city because God was merciful toward them (v. 16).

            When we reflect on our journey of faith in Christ, we can see God’s faithfulness in overcoming our reluctance and resistance. When we encounter people lashing out in spiritual desperation and fear, may we have God’s wisdom to show His love to them—and to every person who is reluctant to be rescued by Him.

Hidden Mysteries

Most of what goes on in the universe we never see. Many things are too small or move too fast or even too slow for us to see. Using modern technology, however, filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg is able to show stunning video images of some of those things—a caterpillar’s mouth, the eye of a fruit fly, the growth of a mushroom.

            Our limited ability to see the awesome and intricate detail of things in the physical world reminds us that our ability to see and understand what’s happening in the spiritual realm is equally limited. God is at work all around us doing things more wonderful than we can imagine. But our spiritual vision is limited and we cannot see them. The prophet Elisha, however, actually got to see the supernatural work that God was doing. God also opened the eyes of his fearful colleague so he too could see the heavenly army sent to fight on their behalf (2 Kings 6:17).

            Fear makes us feel weak and helpless and causes us to think we are alone in the world. But God has assured us that His Spirit in us is greater than any worldly power (1 John 4:4).

            Whenever we become discouraged by the evil we can see, we need to think instead about the good work God is doing that we cannot see.

Walking on Water

When I learned to sail, I had to walk along a very unsteady floating platform to reach the little boats in which we had our lessons. I hated it. I don’t have a good sense of balance and was terrified of falling between the platform and the boat as I attempted to get in. I nearly gave up. “Fix your eyes on me,” said the instructor. “I’m here, and I’ll catch you if you slip.” I did what he said, and I am now the proud possessor of a basic sailing proficiency certificate!

            Do you avoid taking risks at all costs? Many of us are reluctant to step out of our comfort zones in case we fail, get hurt, or look stupid. But if we allow that fear to bind us, we’ll end up afraid to do anything.

            The story of Peter’s water-walking adventure and why it supposedly failed is a popular choice for preachers (Matt. 14:22-33). But I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of them discuss the behavior of the rest of the disciples. In my opinion, Peter was a success. He felt the fear but responded to the call of Jesus anyway. Maybe it was those who never tried at all who failed.

            Jesus risked everything for us. What are we prepared to risk for Him?

Shopping with Liam

My son Liam loves to pick dandelions for his mother. To date, she hasn’t wearied of receiving them. One man’s weed is a little boy’s flower.

One day I took Liam shopping with me. As we hurried past the floral section, he pointed excitedly to an arrangement of yellow tulips. “Daddy,” he exclaimed, “you should get those dandelions for Mommy!” His advice made me laugh. It made a pretty good Facebook post on his mother’s page too. (By the way, I bought the tulips.)

Some see in weeds a reminder of Adam’s sin. By eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve brought on themselves the curse of a fallen world—relentless work, agonizing birth, and eventual death (Gen. 3:16-19).

But Liam’s youthful eyes remind me of something else. There is beauty even in weeds. The anguish of childbirth holds hope for us all. Death is ultimately defeated. The “Seed” God spoke of in Genesis 3:15 would wage war with the serpent’s offspring. That Seed is Jesus Himself, who rescued us from the curse of death (Gal. 3:16).

The world may be broken, but wonder awaits us at every turn. Even weeds remind us of the promise of redemption and a Creator who loves us.

The Challenge of Transition

After former professional athlete Chris Sanders suffered a career-ending injury, he told a group of military veterans that although he had never experienced combat, “I understand the pressures of transitions.”

            Whether it’s the loss of a job, the loss of a marriage, a serious illness, or a financial setback, every major change brings challenges. The former athlete told the soldiers that the key to success when you are transitioning into a new way of living is to reach out and get help.

            The book of Joshua is recommended reading whenever we find ourselves in transition. After 40 years of wandering and setbacks, God’s people were poised to enter the Promised Land. Moses, their great leader, had died, and Joshua, his assistant, was in charge.

            God told Joshua to “be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go” (Josh. 1:7). God’s words of direction were to be the bedrock of Joshua’s leadership in every situation.

             The Lord’s charge and promise to Joshua apply to us as well: “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (v. 9).

            He is with us in every transition.

A Loving Father

The parents were obviously weary from dragging their two energetic preschoolers through airports and airplanes, and now their final flight was delayed. As I watched the two boys running around the crowded gate area, I wondered how Mom and Dad were going to keep the little guys settled down for our half-hour flight into Grand Rapids. When we finally boarded, I noticed that the father and one of the sons were in the seats behind me. Then I heard the weary father say to his son, “Why don’t you let me read one of your storybooks to you.” And during the entire flight, this loving father softly and patiently read to his son, keeping him calm and focused. 

            In one of his psalms David declares, “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him” (Ps. 103:13). The word pities refers to showing love and compassion. This tender word gives us a picture of how deeply our heavenly Father loves His children, and it reminds us what a great gift it is to be able to look to God and cry, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15).

            God longs for you to listen again to the story of His love for you when you are restless on your own journey through life. Your heavenly Father is always near, ready to encourage you with His Word.