God’s Arms Are Open
I frowned at my cellphone and sighed. Worry wrinkled my brow. A friend and I had had a serious disagreement over an issue with our children, and I knew I needed to call her and apologize. I didn’t want to do it because our viewpoints were still in conflict, yet I knew I hadn’t been kind or humble the last time we discussed the matter.
Anticipating the phone call, I wondered, What if she doesn’t forgive me? What if she doesn’t want to continue our friendship? Just then, lyrics to a song came to mind and took me back to the moment when I confessed my sin in the situation to God. I felt relief because I knew God had forgiven me and released me from guilt.
We can’t control how people will respond to us when we try to work out relational problems. As long as we own up to our part, humbly ask for forgiveness, and make any changes needed, we can let God handle the healing. Even if we have to endure the pain of unresolved “people problems,” peace with God is always possible. His arms are open, and He is waiting to show us the grace and mercy we need. “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
The Right Jesus
The buzz in the room faded to a comfortable silence as the book club leader summarized the novel the group would discuss. My friend Joan listened closely but didn’t recognize the plot. Finally, she realized she had read a nonfiction book with a similar title to the work of fiction the others had read. Although she enjoyed reading the “wrong” book, she couldn’t join her friends as they discussed the “right” book.
The apostle Paul did not want the Corinthian Christians to believe in a “wrong” Jesus. He pointed out that false teachers had infiltrated the church and presented a different “Jesus” to the congregation (2 Corinthians 11:3–4). He also noted that the people swallowed the lies without much resistance.
Paul didn’t describe the heresy these phony teachers tried to pass off as truth. In his first letter to the church, however, he reviewed some facts about the Jesus of scripture. This Jesus was the Messiah who “died for our sins…was raised on the third day…[and then] appeared to the Twelve, and finally to Paul himself” (1 Corinthians 15:3–8). This Jesus had come to earth through a virgin named Mary and was named Immanuel (God with us) to affirm His divine nature (Matthew 1:20-23).
Does this sound like the Jesus you know? Understanding and accepting the truth written in the Bible about Jesus is important. It assures us that we are on the spiritual path that leads to heaven.
The Miracle of Christmas
At a garage sale, I found a nativity set in a beat-up cardboard box. As I picked up the baby Jesus, I noticed the finely sculpted details of the infant’s body. This newborn wasn’t cocooned in a blanket with closed eyes—he was awake and partially unwrapped with outstretched arms, open hands, and fingers extended. “I’m here!” he seemed to say.
The figurine illustrated the miracle of Christmas—that God sent his Son to earth in a human body. As Jesus’s infant body matured, His little hands played with toys, eventually held the Torah, and then fashioned furniture before his ministry began. His feet, once plump and perfect at birth, grew to carry him from place to place to teach and heal. At the end of His life, these human hands and feet would be pierced with nails to hold His body on the cross.
“In that body, God ended sin’s control over us by giving us Jesus as a sacrifice for our sin,” Romans 8:3 (
Using Your Voice
Since age eight, Lisa had struggled with a stammer and became afraid of social situations that required her to talk with people. But later in life, after speech therapy helped her overcome her challenge, Lisa decided to use her voice to help others. She began volunteering as a counselor for an emotional distress telephone hotline.
Moses had to face his concerns about speaking to help lead the Israelites out of captivity. God asked him to communicate with Pharaoh, but Moses protested because he didn’t feel confident in his speaking ability (Exodus 4:10). God challenged him, “Who gave human beings their mouths?” Then He reassured Moses saying, “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (vv. 11–12).
God’s response reminds us that He can work powerfully through us even in our limitations. But even when we know this in our hearts, it can be hard to live it out. Moses continued to struggle and begged God to send someone else (v. 13). So God allowed Moses’ brother Aaron to accompany him (v. 14).
Each of us has a voice that can help others and change the world for the better. We may be afraid. We may not feel capable. We may feel we don’t have the right words.
God knows how we feel. He can provide the words and all we need to serve others and accomplish His work.
Signs of Life
When my daughter received a pair of pet crabs as a gift, she filled a glass tank with sand so the creatures could climb and dig. She supplied water, protein, and vegetable scraps for their dining pleasure. They seemed happy, so it was shocking when they disappeared one day. We searched everywhere. Finally, we learned they were likely under the sand, and would be there for about two months as they shed their exoskeletons.
Two months passed, and then another month elapsed, and I had begun to worry that they’d died. The longer we waited, the more impatient I became. Then finally, we saw signs of life, and the crabs emerged from the sand.
I wonder if Israel doubted that God’s prophecy for them would be fulfilled when they lived as exiles in Babylon. Did they feel despair? Did they worry they would be there forever? Through Jeremiah, God had said, “I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to [Jerusalem]” (v. 11). Sure enough, seventy years later, God caused the Persian king Cyrus to allow the Jews to return and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1–4).
In seasons of waiting when it seems like nothing is happening, God hasn’t forgotten us. As the Holy Spirit helps us to develop patience, we can know that He’s the Hope-giver, the Promise Keeper, and the One who controls the future.
Where to Turn
Everyone in high school admired Jack’s easygoing attitude and athletic skill. He was happiest in midair above a half-pipe ramp—one hand holding his skateboard, the other stretched out for balance.
Jack decided to follow Jesus when he started attending a local church. Up to that point, he’d endured significant family struggles and had used drugs to medicate his pain. For a while after his conversion, things seemed to be going well for him. But years later he started using drugs again. Without the proper intervention and ongoing treatment, he eventually died of an overdose.
It’s easy to turn back to what is familiar when we face difficulty in life. When the Israelites felt the distress of an upcoming Assyrian attack, they crawled back to the Egyptians—their former slave masters—for help (Isaiah 30:1–5). God predicted this would be disastrous, but He continued to care for them although they made the wrong choice. Isaiah voiced God’s heart: “The
This is God’s attitude toward us, even when we choose to look elsewhere to numb our pain. He wants to help us. He doesn’t want us to hurt ourselves with habits that create bondage. Certain substances and actions tempt us with a quick sense of relief, but God wants to provide authentic healing as we walk closely with Him throughout the course of our lives.
As Strong as Iron
Ironclad beetles are known for their tough exterior which protects them from predators. One special variety, however, has extraordinary strength under pressure. The insect’s hard, outer shell stretches, rather than cracks, where it joins together. Its flat back and low profile also help it to resist fractures. Scientific tests show that it can survive a compression force of nearly 40,000 times its body weight.
God made this bug extra tough, and He gave resilience to Jeremiah as well. The prophet would face intense pressure when he delivered unwelcome messages to Israel, so God promised to make him “an iron pillar and a bronze wall” (Jeremiah 1:18). The prophet wouldn’t be flattened, dismantled, or overwhelmed. His words would stand strong because of God’s presence and rescuing power.
Throughout his life, Jeremiah was falsely accused, arrested, tried, beaten, imprisoned, and chucked into a well—yet he survived. Jeremiah also persisted despite the weight of inner struggles. Doubt and grief plagued him. Constant rejection and the dread of a Babylonian invasion added to his mental stress.
God continually helped Jeremiah so that his spirit and testimony weren’t shattered. When we feel like giving up on the mission He’s given us, or backing away from living faith-filled lives, we can remember that Jeremiah’s God is our God. He can make us as strong as iron because His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
A couple who stopped to admire a large abstract painting noticed open paint cans and brushes underneath it. Assuming it was a “work in progress” that anyone could help create, they stroked in some color and left. The artist, though, had purposefully left the supplies there as part of the finished work’s display. After reviewing video footage of the incident, the gallery acknowledged the misunderstanding and didn’t press charges.
The Israelites who lived east of the Jordan created a misunderstanding when they built a massive altar next to the river. The western tribes viewed this as rebellion against God—everyone knew the tabernacle was the only God-approved place for worship (Joshua 22:16).
Tensions mounted until the eastern tribes explained that they only meant to make a replica of God’s altar. They wanted their descendants to see it and recognize their spiritual and ancestral connection with the rest of Israel (vv. 28–29). They exclaimed: “The Mighty One, God, the
Because God “searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought” (1 Chronicles 28:9) everyone’s motives are clear to Him. If we ask Him to help us sort out confusing situations, He may give us the chance to explain ourselves or the grace we need to forgive offenses. We can turn to Him when we’re striving for unity with others.
In 1478, Lorenzo de Medici, the ruler of Florence, Italy, escaped an attack on his life. His countrymen sparked a war when they tried to retaliate for the attack on their leader. As the situation worsened, the cruel King Ferrante I of Naples became Lorenzo’s enemy, but a courageous act by Lorenzo changed everything. He visited the king unarmed and alone. This bravery, paired with his charm and brilliance, won Ferrante’s admiration and ended the war.
Daniel also helped a king experience a change of heart. No one in Babylon could describe or interpret a troubling dream King Nebuchadnezzar had. This made him so angry that he decided to execute all his advisors—including Daniel and his friends. But Daniel asked to visit the king who wanted him dead (Daniel 2:24).
Standing before Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel gave God all the credit for revealing the mystery of the dream (v. 28). When the prophet described and deciphered it, Nebuchadnezzar honored the “God of gods and the Lord of kings” (v. 47). Daniel’s uncommon courage, which was born of his faith in God, helped him, his friends, and the other advisors avoid death that day.
In our lives, there are times when bravery and boldness are needed to communicate important messages. May God guide our words and give us the wisdom to know what to say and the ability to say it well.