A five-minute montage of snow-related mishaps was the central piece to one episode of a TV show. Home videos of people skiing off rooftops, crashing into objects while tubing, and slipping on ice brought laughter and applause from the studio audience and people watching at home. The laughter seemed to be loudest when it appeared that the people who wiped out deserved it because of their own foolish behavior.
Funny home videos aren’t a bad thing, but they can reveal something about ourselves: we can be prone to laugh or take advantage of the hardships of others. One such story is recorded in Obadiah about two rival nations, Israel and Edom. When God saw fit to punish Judah for their sin, Edom rejoiced. They took advantage of the Israelites, looted their cities, thwarted their escape, and supported their enemies (Obadiah 1:13–14). A word of warning came through the prophet Obadiah to Edom: “You should not gloat over your brother in the day of his misfortune,” for “the day of the
When we see the challenges or suffering of others, even if it seems they’ve brought it upon themselves, we must choose compassion over pride. We’re not in a position to judge others. Only God can do that. The kingdom of this world belongs to Him (v. 21)—He alone holds the power of justice and mercy.
Picture a mighty oak tree that’s small enough to fit on a kitchen table. That’s what a bonsai looks like—a beautiful ornamental tree that’s a miniature version of what you find wild in nature. There’s no genetic difference between a bonsai and its full-size counterpart. It’s simply that a shallow pot, pruning, and root trimming restrict growth, so the plant remains small.
While bonsai trees make for wonderful decorative plants, they also illustrate the power of control. It’s true that we can manipulate their growth as the tree responds to its environment. But God is ultimately the One who makes things grow.
God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel this way: “I the
The world tells us to try to control our circumstances by manipulation and through our own hard work. But true peace and thriving are found by relinquishing control to the only One who can make the trees grow.
A treat we grew to love when we lived in England was Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bars. When we returned to the States, I was dismayed to discover the U.S. distributor of Cadbury chocolate uses a different recipe and does not allow for any importer to supply the original UK version. You can buy Cadbury chocolate in the US, but it’s not the authentic version.
Authenticity. It’s something I can taste in my chocolate but earnestly long to be true of me as well as a believer in Jesus.
Authentic faith is a quality Paul commends his disciple Timothy for in the opening of his second letter to Timothy. Paul writes of his deep love and appreciation for Timothy, specifically, “his sincere faith” (2 Timothy 1:5). Sincere, or authentic faith, is beautiful because it is real. We embrace genuine faith in part because we are turned off by its opposite: hypocrisy.
Paul’s words still speak into our lives today, when we find ourselves tempted to present a slightly different version of ourselves, whether to cover fears or anxieties or to gloss over hurts and frustrations. Timothy’s example reminds me that authentic faith acknowledges those realities but continues to hold fast to God and to celebrate the faith God is developing in me.
In memorializing his grandfather’s work, Peter Croft wrote, “It is my deepest desire for the person who picks up their Bible, whatever version they use, to not only understand but experience the scriptures as living documents, just as relevant, dangerous, and exciting now as they were those thousands of years ago.” Peter’s grandfather was J.B. Philips, a youth minister who undertook a new paraphrase of the Bible in English during World War II in order to make it come alive to students at his church.
Like Phillips’ students, we face barriers to reading and experiencing Scripture, and not necessarily because of our Bible translation. We may lack time, discipline, or the right tools for understanding. But Psalm 1 tells us that “Blessed is the one . . . whose delight is in the law of the Lord” (vv. 1–2). Meditating on Scripture daily allows us to “prosper” in all seasons, no matter what hardship we are facing.
How do you view your Bible? It is still relevant with insight for living today; still dangerous in its call to believe and follow Jesus; still exciting in the intimate knowledge of God and humanity that it imparts. It’s like a stream of water (v. 3) that provides the sustenance we need daily. Today, let’s lean in—make time, get the right tools, and ask God to help us experience Scripture as a living document.
Lean food rations, waterproof boots, and a map are some of the essentials carried by hikers on the John Muir Trail. The John Muir Trail is a 211-mile path in the western United States that winds across creeks, around lakes and woods, and up and over mountains, encompassing 47,000 feet of elevation gain. Because traversing this trail takes about three weeks, carrying the right amount of supplies is critical. Too much and you will run out of strength to carry it all; too little and you won’t have what you need for the journey.
Finishing well on our journey as believers in Jesus also requires careful consideration of what we bring. In Hebrews 12, the apostle Paul exhorts us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” He compares our lives to a “race marked out for us,” one in which we must “not grow weary and lose heart” (vv. 1, 3). To become overburdened with sin or distracted by things outside of God’s purpose for us is to carry an unnecessary weight. Just as there are packing lists for the John Muir Trail, God has provided directions for us in the Bible. We can know what habits, dreams, and desires are worth bringing along by examining them in light of the Scriptures. When we travel light, we are able to finish well.
In 2019, Hurricane Dorian was overwhelming the islands of the Bahamas with intense rain, wind, and flooding—the worst natural disaster in the country’s history. Sheltering at home with his adult son who has cerebral palsy, Brent knew they needed to leave. Even though Brent is blind, he had to save his son. Tenderly, he placed him over his shoulders and stepped into chin-deep water to carry him to safety. If an earthly father facing a great obstacle himself is eager to help his son, think of how much more our heavenly Father is concerned about His children.
The Old Testament tells how God carried His people even as they experienced the danger of faltering faith. Moses was reminding the Israelites how God had delivered them, providing food and water in the desert, fighting against their enemies, and guiding the Israelites with pillars of cloud and fire. Meditating on the many ways God acted on their behalf, Moses said, “There you saw how the L
The Israelites’ journey through the wilderness wasn’t easy and their faith waned at times. But it was also full of evidence of God’s protection and provision. The image of a father carrying a son—tenderly, courageously, confidently—is a wonderful picture of how God cared for Israel. Even when you face challenges that test your faith, remember that God is there carrying you through them