The film Amazing Grace was set in the late 1700s. It tells the story of William Wilberforce, a politician who was driven by his faith in Christ to commit his money and energy to abolishing the slave trade in England. In one scene, Wilberforce’s butler finds him praying. The butler asks, “You found God, Sir?” Wilberforce responds, “I think He found me.”
The Bible pictures humanity as wayward and wandering sheep. It says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way” (Isa. 53:6). In fact, this wayward condition is so deeply rooted in us that the apostle Paul said: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside” (Rom. 3:10-12). That is why Jesus came. We would never seek Him, so He came seeking us. Jesus declared His mission with the words, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
Wilberforce was exactly right. Jesus came to find us, for we could never have found Him if left to ourselves. It is a clear expression of the Creator’s love for His lost creation that He pursues us and desires to make us His own.
Dutch artist Yoni Lefevre created a project called “Grey Power” to show the vitality of the aging generation in the Netherlands. She asked local schoolchildren to sketch their grandparents. Lefevre wanted to show an “honest and pure view” of older people, and she believed children could help supply this. The youngsters’ drawings reflected a fresh and lively perspective of their elders—grandmas and grandpas were shown playing tennis, gardening, painting, and more!
Caleb, of ancient Israel, was vital into his senior years. As a young man, he infiltrated the Promised Land before the Israelites conquered it. Caleb believed God would help his nation defeat the Canaanites, but the other spies disagreed (Josh. 14:8). Because of Caleb’s faith, God miraculously sustained his life for 45 years so he might survive the wilderness wanderings and enter the Promised Land. When it was finally time to enter Canaan, 85-year-old Caleb said, “Just as my strength was then, so now is my strength” (v. 11). With God’s help, Caleb successfully claimed his share of the land (Num. 14:24).
God does not forget about us as we grow older. Although our bodies age and our health may fail, God’s Holy Spirit renews us inwardly each day (2 Cor. 4:16). He makes it possible for our lives to have significance at every stage and every age.
“Could they not carry their own garbage this far?” I grumbled to Jay as I picked up empty bottles from the beach and tossed them into the trash bin less than 20 feet away. “Did leaving the beach a mess for others make them feel better about themselves? I sure hope these people are tourists. I don’t want to think that any locals would treat our beach with such disrespect.”
The very next day I came across a prayer I had written years earlier about judging others. My own words reminded me of how wrong I was to take pride in cleaning up other people’s messes. The truth is, I have plenty of my own that I simply ignore—especially in the spiritual sense.
I am quick to claim that the reason I can’t get my life in order is because others keep messing it up. And I am quick to conclude that the “garbage” stinking up my surroundings belongs to someone other than me. But neither is true. Nothing outside of me can condemn or contaminate me—only what’s inside (Matt. 15:19-20). The real garbage is the attitude that causes me to turn up my nose at a tiny whiff of someone else’s sin while ignoring the stench of my own.
As I learned to write my letters, my first-grade teacher insisted that I hold my pencil in a specific way. As she watched me, I held it the way she wanted me to. But when she turned away, I obstinately reverted the pencil to the way I found more comfortable.
I thought I was the secret winner in that battle of the wills, and I still hold my pencil in my own peculiar way. Decades later, however, I realize that my wise teacher knew that my stubborn habit would grow into a bad writing practice that would result in my hand tiring more quickly.
Children rarely understand what is good for them. They operate almost entirely on what they want at the moment. Perhaps the “children of Israel” were aptly named as generation after generation stubbornly insisted on worshiping the gods of the nations around them rather than the one true God. Their actions greatly angered the Lord because He knew what was best, and He removed His blessing from them (Judg. 2:20-22).
Pastor Rick Warren says, “Obedience and stubbornness are two sides of the same coin. Obedience brings joy, but our stubbornness makes us miserable.”
If a rebellious spirit is keeping us from obeying God, it’s time for a change of heart. Return to the Lord; He is gracious and merciful.
It’s that time of year when I go to the doctor for my annual physical. Even though I feel well and I’m not experiencing any health problems, I know that routine checkups are important because they can uncover hidden problems that if left undiscovered can grow to be serious health issues. I know that giving permission to my doctor to find and remedy the hidden problems can lead to long-term health.
Clearly the psalmist felt that way spiritually. Pleading for God to search for hidden sin, he prayed, “Search me, O God, . . . and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24). Pausing to give God the opportunity for a full and unconditional inspection, he then surrendered to the righteous ways of God that would keep him spiritually healthy.
So, even if you are feeling good about yourself, it is time for a checkup! Only God knows the true condition of our heart, and only He can forgive, heal, and lead us to a cleansed life and productive future.
A successful Christian businessman shared his story with us at church. He was candid about his struggles with faith and abundant wealth. He declared, “Wealth scares me!”
He quoted Jesus’ statement, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25 niv). He cited Luke 16:19-31 about the rich man and Lazarus and how in this story it was the rich man who went to hell. The parable of the “rich fool” (Luke 12:16-21) disturbed him.
“But,” the businessman stated, “I’ve learned a lesson from Solomon’s verdict on the abundance of wealth. It’s all ‘meaningless’ ” (Eccl. 2:11 niv). He determined not to let wealth get in the way of his devotion to God. Rather, he wanted to serve God with his assets and help the needy.
Throughout the centuries, God has blessed some people materially. We read of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 17:5, “The Lord established the kingdom . . . so that he had great wealth and honor.” He did not become proud or bully others with his wealth. Instead, “his heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord” (v. 6). Also, “he followed the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (20:32).
The Lord is not against wealth for He has blessed some with it—but He’s definitely against the unethical acquisition and wrong use of it. He is worthy of devotion from all His followers.
A small pamphlet I received from a friend was titled “An Attempt to Share the Story of 86 Years of Relationship with the Lord.” In it, Al Ackenheil noted key people and events in his journey of faith over nearly nine decades. What seemed to be ordinary choices at the time—memorizing Bible verses, meeting for prayer with others, telling his neighbors about Jesus—became turning points that changed the direction of his life. It was fascinating to read how God’s hand guided and encouraged Al.
The psalmist wrote, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way” (Ps. 37:23). The passage continues with a beautiful description of God’s faithful care for everyone who wants to walk with Him. “The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide” (v. 31).
Each of us could create a record of God’s leading and faithfulness, reflecting on God’s guidance—the people, places, and experiences that are landmarks on our pathway of faith. Every remembrance of the Lord’s goodness encourages us to keep walking with Him and to thank someone who influenced us for good.
The Lord guides and guards all who walk with Him.
When I hear stories about young people who have been bullied, I notice there are always at least two levels of hurt. The first and most obvious comes from the mean-spirited nature of those actually doing the bullying. That’s terrible on its own. But there’s another, deeper hurt that may end up being even more damaging than the first: The silence of everyone else.
It hurts the one being bullied because they’re stunned that no one will help. That often makes bullies more brazen, leading them to intensify their meanness. Worse, it heightens the embarrassment, false shame, and loneliness of the victim. So it is imperative to speak up for others and speak out against the behavior (see Prov. 31:8a).
Jesus knows precisely what it feels like to be bullied and to be left to suffer completely alone. Without cause, He was arrested, beaten, and mocked (Luke 22:63-65). Matthew 26:56 says that “all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” Peter, one of His closest friends, even denied three times that he knew Him (Luke 22:61). While others may not understand fully, Jesus does.
When we see others being hurt, we can ask Him for the courage to speak up.
CNN calls a derivative of graphite a “miracle material” that could revolutionize our future. Only one atom thick, graphene is being hailed as a truly two-dimensional material in a 3-D world. One hundred times stronger than steel, it is harder than diamond, conducts electricity 1,000 times better than copper, and is more flexible than rubber.
In and of themselves, such technological advances are neither moral nor evil. But we are wise to remember the limitations of anything we make for ourselves.
Isaiah spoke to a generation who found themselves carrying into captivity gods they had made with their own hands. The prophet wanted the Israelites to see the irony of needing to care for the silver and gold idols they had crafted to inspire, help, comfort, and protect them.
What was true of Israel holds true for us as well. Nothing we have made or bought for ourselves can meet the needs of our heart. Only God, who has been carrying us “from the womb” (Isa. 46:3-4), can carry us into the future.