It was a dark and somber day in the outskirts of Jerusalem. On a hill just outside the city walls, a Man who’d been attracting crowds of eager followers for the past three years hung in disgrace and pain on a rough wooden cross. Mourners wept and wailed in sorrow. The light of the sun no longer brightened the afternoon sky. And the intense suffering of the Man on the cross ended when He cried out in a loud voice, “It is finished!” (Matthew 27:50; John 19:30).
At that very moment, another sound came from the great temple across town—the sound of ripping fabric. Miraculously, without human intervention, the huge, thick veil that separated the outer temple from the Holy of Holies tore in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51).
That torn curtain symbolized the reality of the cross: a new way was now open to God! Jesus, the Man on the cross, had shed His blood as the last sacrifice—the one true and sufficient sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10)—which allows all who believe in Him to enjoy forgiveness and enter into a relationship with God (Romans 5:6–11).
Amidst the darkness of that original Good Friday, we received the best news ever—an open door to be saved from our sins and to experience fellowship with God forever (Hebrews 10:19–22). Thank God for the message of the torn veil!
As the enemy occupation of the Netherlands grew, Anne Frank and her family bravely prepared and then moved to a secret hiding place to escape the danger. They remained there two years during World War II before being found and sent to concentration camps. Yet Anne, writing in what became her famous Diary of a Young Girl said this: “In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit.”
Gentleness can be a complicated issue as we deal with real life.
In Isaiah 40 we get a picture of God that shows Him to be both gentle and powerful. In verse 11 we read: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms.” But that verse follows this: “See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm” (v. 10). Full of power, but gentle when it comes to protecting the vulnerable.
And think of Jesus, who fashioned a whip and brandished it as He flipped over the money-changers tables in the temple but who also gently cared for children. He used powerful words to denounce the Pharisees (Matthew 23:1-39) but forgave a woman who needed His gentle mercy (John 8:1–11).
While there may be times to stand up with power for the weak and challenge others to pursue justice—we’re also to “let [our] gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5). As we serve God, sometimes our greatest strength reveals a heart of gentleness to those in need.
I’m encouraged every time I visit the fitness center near our house. In that busy place, I’m surrounded by others who are striving to improve their physical health and strength. Posted signs remind us not to judge each other, but words and actions that reveal support for others’ conditioning efforts are always welcomed.
What a great picture of how things should look in the spiritual realm of life! Those of us who are striving to “get in shape” spiritually, to grow in our faith, can sometimes feel as if we don’t belong because we’re not as spiritually fit—as mature in our walk with Jesus—as someone else.
Paul gave us this short, direct suggestion: “Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). And to the believers in Rome he wrote: “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Romans 15:2). Recognizing that our Father is so lovingly gracious with us, let’s show God’s grace to others with encouraging words and actions.
As we “accept one another” (v. 7), let’s entrust our spiritual growth to God—to the work of His Spirit. And while we daily seek to follow Him, may we create an atmosphere of encouragement for our brothers and sisters in Jesus as they also seek to grow in their faith.
A law-abiding, honest man received a voicemail that said, “This is officer _______ from the police department. Please call me at this number.” Immediately the man began to worry—afraid that somehow he had done something wrong. He was afraid to return the call, and he even spent sleepless nights running through possible scenarios—worried that he was in some kind of trouble. The officer never called back, but it took weeks for the worry to go away.
Jesus asked an interesting question about worry: “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27). Perhaps this can help us rethink our tendency to worry, because it suggests that it doesn’t help the situation we are concerned about.
When problems are on the horizon for us, maybe we can try the following two-step approach: Take action and trust in God. If we can do something to avoid the problem, let’s try that route. We can pray for God to guide us to an action we should take. But if there’s nothing we can do, we can take comfort in knowing that God never finds Himself in such a predicament. He can always act on our behalf. We can always turn our situation over to Him in trust and confidence.
When it feels like time to worry, may we turn to the inspired words of King David, who faced his own share of difficulties and worries, but concluded: “Cast your cares on the
Recently a friend who sold homes for a living died of cancer. As my wife and I reminisced about Patsy, Sue recalled that many years ago Patsy had led a man to faith in Jesus and he became a good friend of ours.
How encouraging to recall that Patsy not only helped families find homes to live in here in our community, but she also helped others make sure they had an eternal home.
As Jesus prepared to go to the cross for us, He showed a keen interest in our eternal accommodations. He told His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you” and reminded them that there would be plenty of room in His Father’s house for all who trusted Him (John 14:2
We love to have a nice home in this life—a special place for our family to eat, sleep, and enjoy each other’s company. But think of how amazing it will be when we step into the next life and discover that God has taken care of our eternal accommodations. Praise God for giving us life “to the full” (John 10:10), including His presence with us now and our presence with Him later in the place He is preparing for us (14:3).
Thinking of what God has in store for those who trust Jesus can challenge us to do as Patsy did and introduce others to Jesus.
Among the thousands of sentiments printed on greeting cards, perhaps one of the most touching is this simple statement: “Thanks for being you.” If you receive that card, you know that someone cares for you not because you did something spectacular for that person but because you’re appreciated for your essence.
I wonder if this kind of sentiment might indicate for us one of the best ways to say “Thank you” to God. Sure, there are times when God intervenes in our lives in a tangible way, and we say something like, “Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to get that job.” But most often, we can simply say, “Thank You, God, for being who You are.”
That’s what’s behind verses like 1 Chronicles 16:34: “Give thanks to the
Who God is. That’s reason enough for us to stop what we’re doing and praise and thank Him. Thank You, God, for just being You!
During a recent vacation, my wife and I visited a famous athletic complex. The gates were wide open, and it appeared that we were welcome to visit. We enjoyed touring the grounds and admiring the well-manicured sports fields. As we were about to leave, someone stopped us and coldly told us we were not supposed to be there. Suddenly, we were reminded that we were outsiders—and it felt uncomfortable.
On that vacation we also visited a church. Again, the doors were open, so we walked in. What a difference! Many people greeted us warmly and made us feel right at home. We walked out of that church service knowing we were welcomed and accepted.
Sadly, it isn’t uncommon for outsiders to receive the unspoken message “you’re not supposed to be here” when they visit a church. But Scripture calls us to be hospitable to all. Jesus said we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, which surely means welcoming them into our lives and our churches (Matthew 22:39). In Hebrews, we are reminded to “show hospitality to strangers” (13:2). Both Luke and Paul instruct us to show active love to people with social and physical needs (Luke 14:13–14; Romans 12:13). And among the body of believers, we have a special responsibility to show love (Galatians 6:10).
When we welcome all people openly and with Christlike love, we reflect our Savior’s love and compassion.
When I came home from work one day and saw a pair of lady’s high-heel shoes next to the driveway, I was sure I knew whose they were. So I put them in the garage to give to my daughter Lisa when she returned to the house to pick up her children. But when I checked with Lisa, I found they didn’t belong to her. In fact, no one in our family claimed them, so I put them back where I’d found them. The next day, they were gone. Mysterious.
Did you know that the apostle Paul wrote of a mystery in his letters? But the mystery he described was so much more than some kind of “whodunit.” In Ephesians 3, for example, Paul spoke of a mystery that “was not made known to people in other generations” (v. 5). This mystery is that, while in the past God revealed Himself through Israel, now, through Jesus, Gentiles—those outside of Israel—could be “heirs together with Israel” (v. 6).
Think about what this means: all who trust Jesus as Savior can love and serve God together. We can all equally “approach God with freedom and confidence” (v. 12). And through the church’s unity the world will see God’s wisdom and goodness (v. 10).
Praise God for our salvation. It unlocks for us the mystery of unity as people of any and all backgrounds become one in Jesus.
Because I like dark chocolate, I sometimes Google “Is dark chocolate good for you?” I get a variety of results—some good, some bad. You can do the same for almost any food product. Is milk good for you? Is coffee good for you? Is rice good for you? There is a dizzying array of answers to these questions, so you have to be aware that the search itself may not be good for you. It may give you a headache.
But if you are looking for something that is one-hundred-percent good for you all the time, can I recommend the Word of God? Listen to what it can do for the follower of Jesus who is seeking to build His relationship with God.
It can keep you pure (Psalm 119:9, 11).
It blesses you (Luke 11:28).
It makes you wise (Matthew 7:24).
It gives light and understanding (Psalm 119:130).
It helps you grow up spiritually (1 Peter 2:2).
Our Lord God is good: “The