God Remembers Names
Just one Sunday after I’d started working as a youth leader at a church and had met several of the young people, I spoke to a teen seated next to her mom. As I greeted the shy girl with a smile, I said her name and asked how she was doing. She lifted her head and her beautiful brown eyes widened. She too smiled and said in a small voice: “You remembered my name.” By simply calling that young girl by name—a girl who may have felt insignificant in a church filled with adults—I began a relationship of trust. She felt seen and valued.
In Isaiah 43, God is using the prophet Isaiah to convey a similar message to the Israelites: They were seen and valued. Even through captivity and time in the wilderness, God saw them and knew them “by name” (Isaiah 43:1). They were not strangers; they belonged to Him. Even though they may have felt abandoned, they were “precious” and His “love” was with them (v. 4). And along with the reminder that God knew them by name, He shared all that He would do for them, especially during trying times. When they went through trials, He would be with them (v. 2). They didn’t need to be afraid or worried, because God remembered their names.
God knows each of His children’s names—and that’s good news, especially as we pass through the deep, difficult waters in life.
Stress to Peace
Moving from one home to another ranks as one of the biggest stressors in life. We moved to our current home after I’d lived in my previous one for nearly twenty years. I’d lived alone in that first home for eight years before I got married. Then my husband moved in, along with all his things. Later, we added a child, and that meant even more stuff.
Our moving day to the new house wasn’t without incident. Five minutes before the movers arrived, I was still finishing up a book manuscript. And the new home had several sets of stairs, so it took double the time and twice as many movers as planned.
But for some reason I wasn’t feeling stressed out by the events of that day. Then it hit me: I’d spent many hours finishing writing a book—one chock-full with Scripture and biblical concepts. By God’s grace I‘d been poring over the Bible, praying, and writing to meet my deadline. So I believe the key was my immersion in Scripture and in prayer.
Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” Philippians 4:6). When we pray—and “rejoice in” God (v. 4)—we refocus our mind from the problem to our Provider. We may be asking God to help us deal with a stressor, but we’re also connecting with Him, which can provide amazing peace—a peace “which transcends all understanding” (v. 7).
Comfort on Doorframes
As I scanned my social media feed in the aftermath of the 2016 flood in southern Louisiana, I came across a friend’s post. After realizing her home would have to be gutted and rebuilt, my friend’s mom encouraged her to look for God even in the heart-wrenching work of cleaning up. My friend later posted pictures of Bible verses she uncovered on the exposed door frames of the home, apparently written at the time the home had been built. Reading the Scriptures on the wooden planks gave her comfort.
The tradition of writing Bible verses on doorframes may stem from God’s command to Israel. God instructed the Israelites to post His commands on doorframes as a way of remembering who God is. By writing the commandments on their hearts (Deuteronomy 6:6), teaching them to their children (v. 7), using symbols and other means to recall what God commands (v. 8) and placing the words on doorframes and entry ways (v. 9), the Israelites had constant reminders of God’s words. They were encouraged to never forget what He had said or their covenant with Him.
Displaying God’s words in our homes as well as planting their meaning in our hearts can help us to build a foundation that relies on His faithfulness as revealed in Scripture. And He can use those words to bring us comfort even in the midst of tragedy or heart-wrenching loss.
What’s Truly Needed
While preparing a meal, a young mother cut a pot roast in half before she put it in a large pot. Her husband asked her why she cut the meat in half. She replied, “Because that’s the way my mother does it.”
Her husband’s question, however, piqued the woman’s curiosity. So she asked her mother about the tradition. She was shocked to learn that her mother cut the meat so it would fit in the one small pot she used. And because her daughter had many large pots, the act of cutting the meat was unnecessary.
Many traditions begin out of a necessity but are carried on without question—becoming “the way we do it.” It’s natural to want to hold on to human traditions—something the Pharisees were doing in Mark 7 (vv. 1–2). They were distracted by what seemed like the breaking of one of their religious rules.
As Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions” (v. 8). He revealed that traditions should never replace the wisdom of Scripture. A genuine desire to follow God (vv. 6-7) will focus on the attitude of our heart rather than outward actions.
It’s a good idea to consistently evaluate traditions—anything we hold close to our heart and follow religiously. The things that God has revealed to be truly needed should always supersede traditions.
Wearing my new eyeglasses as I stepped into the sanctuary, I sat down and spotted a friend sitting directly across the aisle on the other side of the church. As I waved at her, she looked so near and clear. It felt like I could reach out and touch her even though she was several yards away. Later, as we talked following the service, I realized she was in the same seat she always sat in. I simply could see her better because of an upgraded prescription in my new spectacles.
God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, knew that the Israelites stuck in Babylonian captivity would need a new prescription—a new view. He told them. “I am doing a new thing! . . . I am making a way in the wilderness” (Isaiah 43:19). And His message of hope included the reminders that He had “created” them, “redeemed” them, and that He would be with them. “You are mine,” He encouraged (v. 1).
In whatever you’re facing today, the Holy Spirit can provide better vision for you to put the old behind you and look for the new. By God’s love (v. 4), it’s popping up all around you. Can you see what He’s doing in the midst of your pain and bondage? Let’s put on our new spiritual glasses to see the new God is doing even in our wilderness moments.
Clinging to What’s Good
When we park our car near an open field and walk across it to get to our house, we almost always get some sticky cockleburs on our clothes—especially in the fall. These tiny “hitchhikers” attach to clothing, shoes, or whatever is passing by and ride to their next destination. It’s nature’s way of spreading cocklebur seeds in my local field and around the world.
As I try to carefully remove clinging cockleburs, I’ve often thought about the message that admonishes believers in Jesus to “cling to what is good” (Roman 12:9). When we’re trying to love others, it can be challenging. However, as the Holy Spirit helps us hold on to what’s good with all we have, we can repel evil and be “sincere” in our love as He guides us (v. 9).
Cocklebur seeds don’t fall off with a mere brush of the hand, they hang on to you. And when we focus on what’s good, keeping our mind on God’s mercy, compassion, and commands, we too—in His strength—can hang on tightly to those we love. He helps us stay “devoted to one another in love,” remembering to place other’s needs before our own (v. 10).
Yes, those cockleburs can be challenging, but they also remind me to cling to others in love and by God’s power to grip tightly “what is good” (v. 9; see also Philippians 4:8–9).
A Hot Meal
Barbecue chicken, green beans, spaghetti, rolls. On a cool day in October, at least fifty-four homeless people received this hot meal from a woman celebrating fifty-four years of life. The woman and her friends decided to forgo her usual birthday dinner in a restaurant, choosing instead to cook and serve meals to people on the streets of Chicago. On social media, she encouraged others to also perform a random act of kindness as a birthday gift.
This story reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (v. 40). He said these words after declaring that His sheep will be invited into His eternal kingdom to receive their inheritance (v. 33). At that time, Jesus will acknowledge that they’re the people who fed and clothed Him because of their genuine faith in Him (unlike the proud religious people who did not believe in Him; see 26:3–5). Although the “righteous” will question when they fed and clothed Jesus (v. 37), He will assure them that what they did for others was also done for Him (v. 40).
Feeding the hungry is just one way God helps us care for His people—showing our love for Him and relationship with Him. May He help us meet others’ needs today.
“Who’s in the mirror?” the psychologists conducting the self-recognition test asked children. At eighteen months or younger, a child usually doesn’t associate herself with the image in the mirror. But as kids grow, they can understand they’re looking at themselves. Self-recognition is an important mark of healthy growth and maturation.
It’s also important to the growth of believers in Jesus. James outlines a mirror recognition test. The mirror is “the word of truth” from God (James 1:18). When we read the Scriptures, what do we see? Do we recognize ourselves when they describe love and humility? Do we see our own actions when we read what God commands us to do? When we look into our hearts and test our actions, Scripture can help us recognize if our actions are in line with what God desires for us or if we need to seek repentance and make a change.
James cautions us not to just read Scripture and turn away “and so deceive [ourselves]” (v. 22), forgetting what we’re taken in. The Bible provides us with the map to live wisely according to God’s plans. As we read them, meditate on them, and digest them, we can ask Him to give us the eyes to see into our heart and the strength and to make necessary changes.
Leave the Light On
A hotel chain’s commercial featured one little building standing amidst a dark night. Nothing else was around. The only light in the scene came from a small lamp near the door on the porch of the building. The bulb cast enough illumination for a visitor to walk up the steps and enter the building. The commercial ended with the phrase, “We’ll leave the light on for you.”
A porch light is akin to a welcome sign, reminding weary travelers that there’s a comfortable place still open where they can stop and rest. The light invites those passing by to come on in and escape from the dark, weary journey.
Jesus says the life of believers in Him should resemble that of a welcoming light. He told His followers, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). As believers, we’re to illuminate a dark world.
As He directs and empowers us, “they may see [our] good deeds and glorify [our] Father in heaven” (v. 16). And as we leave our lights on, others will feel welcomed to come to us to learn more about the one true Light of the world—Jesus (John 8:12). In a weary and dark world, His light always remains on.
Have you left your light on? As Jesus shines through you today, others may see and begin radiating His light too.