The weather outside was threatening, and the alert on my cell phone warned about the possibility of flash floods. An unusual number of cars were parked in my neighborhood as parents and others gathered to pick up children at the school bus drop-off point. By the time the bus arrived, it had started to rain. That’s when I observed a woman exit her car and retrieve an umbrella from the trunk. She walked towards a little girl and made sure the child was shielded from the rain until they returned to the vehicle. What a beautiful “real time” picture of parental, protective care that reminded me of the care of our heavenly Father.
The prophet Isaiah forecast punishment for disobedience followed by brighter days for God’s people (Isaiah 40:1–8). The heavenly dispatch from the mountain (v. 9) assured the Israelites of God’s mighty presence and tender care. The good news, then and now, is that because of God’s power and ruling authority, anxious hearts need not fear (vv. 9–10). Included in the announcement was news about the Lord’s protection, the kind of protection shepherds provide (v. 11): vulnerable young sheep would find safety in the Shepherd’s arms; nursing ewes would be led gently.
In a world where circumstances aren’t always easy, such images of safety and care compel us to look confidently to the Lord. Those who trust wholeheartedly in the Lord find security and renewed strength in Him (v. 31).
“You need to listen to me, I’m your brother!” The plea came from a concerned older brother in my neighborhood and was directed to a younger sibling who was moving farther away and faster than the older child was comfortable with. Clearly the older child was better able to judge what was best in the situation.
How many of us have resisted the wise counsel of a brother or sister? If you have had to face the consequences of resisting the good advice of someone more mature, you are not alone.
One of the greatest resources we can have as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is a family—those who are spiritually related because of a common faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. This family includes mature men and women who love the Lord and each other. Like the little brother in my neighborhood, we sometimes need a word of caution or correction to get us back on track. This is particularly true when we offend someone or someone offends us. Doing what’s right can be difficult. Yet Jesus’s words in Matthew 18:15–20 show us what to do when offenses happen within our spiritual family.
Thankfully, our gracious heavenly Father places in our lives people who are prepared to help us honor the Lord and others. And when we listen, things go better in the family (vv. 15–16).
It was a cold, icy winter’s day in Chicago, and my mind was on getting from my warm vehicle to a warm building. The next thing I knew I was on the ground, my knees turned inward and my lower legs turned outward. Nothing was broken, but I was in pain. The pain would get worse as time went by and it would be weeks before I was whole again.
Who among us hasn’t taken a spill of some sort? Wouldn’t it be nice to have something or someone to keep us on our feet all the time? While there are no guarantees of surefootedness in the physical sense, there is One who stands ready to assist us in our quest to honor Christ in this life and prepare us to stand joyfully before Him in the next.
Every day we face temptations (and even false teachings) that seek to divert us, confuse us, and entangle us. Yet, it’s not ultimately through our own efforts that we remain on our feet as we walk in this world. How assuring to know that when we hold our peace when tempted to speak angrily, to opt for honesty over deceit, to choose love over hate, or to select truth over error—we experience God’s power to keep us standing (Jude 24). And when we appear approved before God when Christ returns, the praise that we offer now for His sustaining grace will echo throughout eternity (v. 25).
Picture a parent poised lovingly over a child, finger gently placed in front of nose and lips softly speaking the words—“hush,” “shhhh.” The demeanor and simple words are meant to comfort and quiet anxious little ones in the midst of disappointment, discomfort, or pain. Scenes like this are universal and timeless and most of us have been on the giving or receiving end of such loving expressions. When I ponder Psalm 131:2, this is the picture that comes to mind.
The language and flow of this psalm suggest that the writer, David, had experienced something that provoked serious reflection. Have you experienced a disappointment, defeat, or failure that prompted thoughtful, reflective prayer? What do you do when you are humbled by life’s circumstances? When you fail a test or lose a job or experience the end of a relationship? David poured out his heart to the Lord and in the process did a bit of honest soul-searching and inventory (Psalm 131:1). In making peace with his circumstances, he found contentment like that of a young child who was satisfied with simply being with its mother (v. 2).
Life’s circumstances change and sometimes we are humbled. Yet we can be hopeful and content knowing that there is One who has promised to never leave or forsake us. We can trust Him fully.
Some years ago a traveling companion noticed I was straining to see objects at a distance. What he did next was simple but life changing. He took off his glasses and said, “Try these.” When I put his glasses on, surprisingly my blurred vision cleared up. Eventually I went to an optometrist who prescribed glasses to correct my vision problem.
Today’s reading in Luke 18 features a man with no vision at all; and living in total darkness had forced him to beg for a living. Word about Jesus, the popular teacher and miracle worker, had reached the blind beggar’s ears; so when Jesus’s travel route took Him by where the blind man was sitting, hope was ignited in his heart. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 38) he called. Though without sight physically, the man possessed spiritual insight into Jesus’s true identity and faith in Him to meet his need. Compelled by this faith, “He shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (v. 39). The result? His blindness was banished, and he went from begging for his living to blessing God because he could see (v. 43).
In moments or seasons of darkness, where do you turn? Upon what or to whom do you call? Eyeglass prescriptions help improve vision, but it’s the merciful touch of Jesus, God’s Son, that brings people from spiritual darkness to light.
If there ever was a faithful person, it was Brother Justice. He was committed to his marriage, dedicated to his job as a postal worker, and stationed each Sunday at his post as a leader in our local church. I visited my childhood church recently, and perched on the upright piano was the same bell that Brother Justice rang to notify us that the time for Bible study was about to end. The bell has endured the test of time. And although Brother Justice has been with the Lord for years, his legacy of faithfulness also endures.
Hebrews 3 brings a faithful servant and a faithful Son to the readers’ attention. Though the faithfulness of Moses as God’s “servant” is undeniable, Jesus is the one believers are taught to focus on. “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters . . . fix your thoughts on Jesus” (v. 1). Such was the encouragement to all who face temptation (2:18). Their legacy could come only from following Jesus, the faithful One.
What do you do when the winds of temptation are swirling all around you? When you are weary and worn and want to quit? The text invites us to, as The Message renders it, “Take a good hard look at Jesus” (3:1). Look at Him again—and again and again. As we re-examine Jesus, we find the trustworthy Son of God who gives us courage to live in His family.
Linus Van Pelt, better known as simply “Linus,” was a mainstay in the comic strip. Witty and wise, yet insecure, Linus constantly carried a security blanket. We can identify. We have our fears and insecurities too.
The disciple Peter knew something about fear. When Jesus was arrested, Peter displayed courage by following the Lord into the courtyard of the high priest. But then, he began to show his fear by lying to protect his identity (John 18:15–18). He spoke disgraceful words that denied his Lord. But Jesus never stopped loving Peter and ultimately restored him (see John 21:15–19).
Peter’s emphasis on love in 1 Peter 4:8 came from one who had experienced the deep love of Jesus. And he, in turn, stressed the importance of love in our relationships with the words, “Above all.” The intensity of the verse continues with the encouragement to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
Have you ever needed that kind of “blanket”? I have! After saying or doing something I later regretted, I have felt the chilly draft of guilt and shame. I have needed to be “covered” in the manner that Jesus covered disgraced, shame-filled people in the Gospels.
To followers of Jesus, love is a blanket to be graciously and courageously given away for the comfort and reclamation of others. As recipients of such great love, let us be givers of the same.
For decades the renowned Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir has blessed multitudes through their soul-refreshing gospel songs. One example is their recording from Psalm 121 titled “My Help.”
Psalm 121 begins with a personal confession of faith in the Lord who brought all things into existence, and He was the source of the psalmist’s help (vv. 1–2). Just what did this mean? Stability (v. 3), around-the-clock care (3-4), constant presence and protection (vv. 5–6), and preservation from all kinds of evil for time and eternity (vv. 7–8).
Taking their cues from Scripture, God’s people through the ages have identified the Lord as their source of “help” through their songs. My own worship experience includes lifting my voice with others who sang a soulful rendition of Charles Wesley’s, “Father, I stretch my hands to Thee, no other help I know, if Thou withdraw thyself from me whither shall I go.” The great reformer Martin Luther got it right when he penned the words, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.”
Do you feel alone, forsaken, abandoned, confused? Ponder the lyrics of Psalm 121. Allow these words to fill your soul with faith and courage. You’re not alone; so don’t try to do life on your own. Rather, rejoice in the earthly and eternal care of God as demonstrated in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, whatever the next steps, take them with His help.
“Remove everything from your desks, take out a piece of paper and pencil.” When I was a student these dreaded words announced that “test time” had come.
In Mark 4, we read that Jesus’s day, which started with teaching by the seaside (Mark 4:1), ended with a time of testing on the sea (v. 35). The boat that had been used as a teaching platform was used to transport Jesus and a handful of His followers to the other side of the sea. During the journey (while an exhausted Jesus slept in the back of the boat), they encountered a swirling storm (v. 37). Drenched disciples woke Jesus with the words, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (v. 38). Then it happened. The One who had exhorted the crowds to, “Listen!” earlier in the day (v. 3), uttered a simple, powerful command to the winds of nature—“Quiet! Be still!”
The wind obeyed and the wonder of fear-filled disciples was displayed with the words, “Who is this?” (v. 41). The question was a good one but it would take them a while to honestly and correctly conclude that Jesus was God’s Son. Sincere, honest, openhearted inquiry and experience lead people to the same conclusion today. He is more than a teacher to listen to, He is God to be worshiped. Arthur Jackson