I stand in the cashier line of the local supermarket and look around me. I see teenagers with shaved heads and nose rings looking through the snack foods; a young professional buying one steak, a few twigs of asparagus, and a sweet potato; an elderly woman pondering the peaches and strawberries. Does God know all these people by name? I ask myself? Do they really matter to Him?
The Maker of all things is the Maker of all human beings, and each of us is deemed worthy of His individual attention and love. God demonstrated that love in person on the gnarly hills of Israel and ultimately on the cross.
When Jesus visited earth in the form of a servant, He showed that the hand of God is not too big for the smallest person in the world. It is a hand engraved with our individual names and engraved also with wounds, the cost to God of loving us so much.
Now, when I find myself wallowing in self-pity, overwhelmed by the ache of loneliness that is articulated so well in books like Job and Ecclesiastes, I turn to the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s stories and deeds. If I conclude that my existence “under the sun” (Eccl. 1:3) makes no difference to God, I contradict one of the main reasons God came to earth. To the question Do I matter? Jesus is indeed the answer.
A young Japanese man had a problem—he was afraid of leaving his house. To avoid other people, he slept through the day and stayed up all night watching TV. He was a hikikomori or a modern-day hermit. The problem began when he stopped going to school because of poor grades. The longer he remained apart from society, the more he felt like a social misfit. Eventually he broke off all communication with his friends and family. He was helped on his journey to recovery, though, by visiting a youth club in Tokyo known as an ibasho—a safe place where broken people could start reintroducing themselves to society.
What if we thought of the church as an ibasho—and far more? Without a doubt, we are a community of broken people. When the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he described their former way of life as anti-social, harmful, and dangerous to themselves and others (1 Cor. 6:9–10). But in Jesus they were being transformed and made whole. And Paul encouraged these rescued people to love one another, to be patient and kind, not to be jealous or proud or rude (13:4-7).
The church is to be an ibasho where all of us, no matter what struggles or brokenness we face, can know and experience God’s love. May the hurting world experience the compassion of Christ from all who follow Him.
Numbers 33 is a chapter in the Bible we might pass by without reflection. It appears to be nothing more than a long list of places tracing Israel's pilgrimage from Ramses in Egypt to their arrival in the plains of Moab. But it must be important because it’s the only section in Numbers that follows with the words: “At the
Why keep a record of this? Could it be that this list provides a framework upon which the Israelites emerging from the wilderness could retrace that forty-year journey in their thoughts and recall God's faithfulness at each location?
I envision an Israelite father, sitting near a campfire, reminiscing with his son: “I will never forget Rephidim! I was dying of thirst, nothing but sand and sage for hundreds of miles. Then God directed Moses to take his staff and strike a rock—actually a hard slab of flint. I thought, What a futile gesture; he’ll never get anything out of that stone. But to my amazement water gushed out of that rock! A copious flow that slaked the thirst of the thousands of Israel. I’ll never forget that day!” (see Ps. 114:8; Num. 20:8–13; 33:14).
So why not give it a try? Reflect on your life—stage by stage—and remember all the ways God has shown you His faithful, covenant love.
A number of years ago I wrote an essay about my collection of canes, staffs, and walking sticks and mused that I might someday graduate to a walker. Well, the day has come. A combination of back issues and peripheral neuropathy has left me pushing a three-wheel walker. I can't hike; I can't fish; I can't do many of the things that used to bring me great joy.
I'm trying to learn, however, that my limitation, whatever it may be, is a gift from God, and it is with this gift that I am to serve Him. This gift and not another. This is true of all of us, whether our limits are emotional, physical, or intellectual. Paul was so bold as to say that he boasted in his weakness for it was in weakness that God's power was revealed in him (2 Cor. 12:9).
Seeing our so-called liabilities this way enables us to go about our business with confidence and courage. Rather than complain, feel sorry for ourselves, or opt out, we make ourselves available to God for His intended purposes.
I have no idea what He has in mind for you and me, but we shouldn't worry about that. Our task today is just to accept things as they are and to be content, knowing that in the love, wisdom, and providence of God this moment is as good as it can possibly be.
In the remote region of Ghana where I lived as a boy, “Chop time, no friend” was a common proverb. Locals considered it impolite to visit at “chop time” (mealtime) because food was often scarce. The maxim applied to neighbors and outsiders alike.
But in the Philippines, where I also lived for a time, even if you visit unannounced at mealtime, your hosts will insist on sharing with you regardless of whether they have enough for themselves. Cultures differ for their own good reasons.
As the Israelites left Egypt, God provided specific instructions to govern their culture. But rules—even God’s rules—can never change hearts. So Moses said, “Change your hearts and stop being stubborn” (Deut. 10:16
Israel served the “God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome” (v. 17). One powerful way they were to show their identification with God was by loving foreigners—those from outside their culture.
What might this small picture of God’s character mean for us today? How can we show His love to the marginalized and the needy in our world?
My friend Bob Horner refers to Jesus as “the Master Reminder.” And that is good, because we are so doubting and forgetful. No matter how often Jesus met the needs of the people who came to Him when He was here on earth, His first disciples feared they would somehow be left in need. After witnessing miracles, they failed to understand the greater meaning the Lord wanted them to remember.
On a journey across the Sea of Galilee, the disciples realized they had forgotten to bring bread and were talking about it. Jesus asked them, “Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?” (Mark 8:17–18). Then He reminded them that when He fed five thousand people with five loaves, the disciples had collected twelve basketfuls of leftover pieces. And when He fed four thousand with seven loaves, they filled seven baskets with leftovers. Then “He said to them, ‘Do you still not understand?’” (v. 21)
The Lord’s miraculous provision for people’s physical needs pointed to the greater truth—that He was the Bread of Life and that His body would be “broken” for them and for us.
Every time during the Lord’s Supper we eat the bread and drink the cup we are reminded of our Lord’s great love and provision for us.
As a group of religious leaders herded an adulterous woman toward Jesus, they couldn’t know they were carrying her within a stone’s throw of grace. Their hope was to discredit Him. If He told them to let the woman go, they could claim He was breaking Mosaic law. But if He condemned her to death, the crowds following Him would have dismissed His words of mercy and grace.
But Jesus turned the tables on the accusers. Scripture says that rather than answering them directly, He started writing on the ground. When the leaders continued to question Him, He invited any of them who had never sinned to throw the first stone, and then He started writing on the ground again. The next time He looked up, all the accusers were gone.
Now the only person who could have thrown a stone—the only sinless one—looked at the woman and gave her mercy. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).
Whether today finds you needing forgiveness for judging others or desiring assurance that no sin is beyond His grace, be encouraged by this: No one is throwing stones today; go and be changed by God’s mercy.
When we face a perplexing situation or a tough problem, we often ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for us. It’s a great encouragement to know that others who care are holding us up to God in prayer. But what if you don’t have close Christian friends? Perhaps you live where the gospel of Christ is opposed. Who will pray for you?
Romans 8, one of the great, triumphant chapters of the Bible, declares, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans . . . . The Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Rom. 8:26-27). The Holy Spirit is praying for you today.
In addition, “Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (v. 34). The living Lord Jesus Christ is praying for you today.
Think of it! The Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus Christ mention your name and your needs to God the Father, who hears and acts on your behalf.
No matter where you are or how confusing your situation, you do not face life alone. The Spirit and the Son are praying for you today!
While attending a concert, my mind detoured to a troublesome issue that insisted on my attention. Thankfully, the distraction was short-lived as the words of a beautiful hymn began to reach deep into my being. A men’s a capella group was singing “Be Still, My Soul.” Tears welled up as I listened to the words and contemplated the restful peace that only God can give:
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side! Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change He faithful will remain.
When Jesus was denouncing the unrepentant towns where He had done most of His miracles (Matt. 11:20-24), He still had words of comfort for those who would come to Him. He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened . . . . learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (vv. 28-29).
This statement is striking! Immediately following His strong words for those who were rejecting Him, Jesus extended an invitation to all to draw near to Him to find the peace we all yearn for. Jesus is the only one who can calm our restless, weary souls.