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.
A man named James took an adventurous, 1,250-mile journey down the West Coast of the US—biking from Seattle, Washington, to San Diego, California. A friend of mine met the ambitious biker near the cliffs of Big Sur, 930 miles from his starting point. After learning that someone had recently stolen James’ camping gear, my friend offered his blanket and sweater, but James refused. He said that as he traveled south into the warmer climate, he needed to begin shedding items. And the closer he got to his destination, the more tired he became so he needed to reduce the weight he was carrying.
James’ realization was smart. It’s a reflection of what the writer of Hebrews is saying too. As we continue our journey in life, we need to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (12:1). We need to travel light to press on.
As believers in Jesus, running this race requires “perseverance” (v. 1). And one of the ways to ensure we can keep going is to be free of the weight of unforgiveness, pettiness, and other sins that will hinder us.
Without Jesus’ help, we can’t travel light and run this race well. May we look to the “pioneer and perfecter of faith” so that we won’t “grow weary and lose heart” (vv. 2–3).
I love a good game of Scrabble. After one particular game, my friends named a move after me—calling it a “Katara.” I’d been trailing the entire game, but at the end of it—with no tiles left in the bag—I made a seven-letter word. This meant the game was over, and I received fifty bonus points as well as all the points from all of my opponents’ leftover tiles, moving me from last place to first. Now whenever we play and someone is trailing, they remember what happened and hold out hope for a “Katara.”
Remembering what has happened in the past has the power to lift our spirits and give us hope. And that’s exactly what the Israelites did when they celebrated Passover. The Passover commemorates what God did for the Israelites when they were in Egypt, oppressed by Pharaoh and his crew (Exodus 1:6–14). After they cried out to God, He delivered the people in a mighty way. He told them to put blood on their doorposts so the death angel would “pass over” their firstborn people and animals (12:12–13). Then they would be kept safe from death.
Centuries later, believers in Jesus regularly take communion as we remember His sacrifice on the cross—providing what we needed to be delivered from sin and death (1 Corinthians 11:23–26). Remembering God’s loving acts in the past gives us hope for today.
My elderly great aunt lay on her sickbed with a smile on her face. Her gray hair was pushed back from her face and wrinkles covered her cheeks. She didn’t speak much but I still recall the few words she said when my father, mother, and I visited her. She whispered, “I don’t get lonely. Jesus is here with me.”
As a single woman at the time, I marveled at my aunt’s proclamation. Her husband had died several years earlier and her children lived far away. Nearing her ninetieth year of life, she was alone, in her bed, barely able to move. Yet she was able to say she wasn’t lonely.
My aunt took Jesus’ words to the disciples literally, as we all should: “Surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). She knew that Jesus’ Spirit was with her, as He promised when He instructed the disciples to go out into the world and share His message with others (v. 19). Jesus said the Holy Spirit would “be with” the disciples and us (John 14:16–17).
I’m certain my aunt experienced the reality of that promise. Jesus’ spirit was within her as she lay on her bed. And the Spirit used her to share His truth with me—a young niece who needed to hear those words and take them to heart too.
As I enter the final few minutes of my forty-minute workout, I can almost guarantee that my instructor will yell out, “Finish strong!” Every personal trainer or group fitness leader I’ve known uses the phrase a few minutes before cool down. They know that the end of the workout is just as important as showing up for it. And they know that the human body has a tendency to want to slow down or slack off when it’s been in motion for a while.
The same is true in our journey with Jesus. Paul told the elders of the church at Ephesus that he needed to finish strong as he headed to Jerusalem where he was certain to face more persecution as an apostle of Christ (Acts 20:17–24). Paul, however, was undeterred. He had a mission and that was to finish the journey he’d begun and to do what God called him to do (v. 19). He had one job—to tell “the good news of God’s grace” (v. 24). And he wanted to finish strong. Even if hardship awaited him (v. 23), he continued to run toward his finish line—focused and determined to remain steadfast in his journey.
Whether we’re exercising our physical muscles or working out our God-given abilities through actions, words, and deeds, we too can be encouraged by the reminder to finish strong. Don’t “become weary” (Galatians 6:9). Don’t give up. God will provide what you need to finish strong.
While attending seminary, I was working full-time. Add to that a chaplaincy rotation and an internship at a church. I was busy. When my father visited me, he said, “You’re going to have a breakdown.” I shrugged off his warning thinking he was of another generation, and he didn’t understand goal-setting.
I didn’t have a breakdown. But I did experience a very rough, dry season in which I fell into depression. Since then, I’ve learned to listen to warnings—especially from loved ones—more carefully.
That’s what Moses did. He was diligently working, serving as Israel’s judge (Exodus 18:13). Yet, he chose to listen to his father-in-law’s warning (vv. 17–18). Jethro had a different perspective than Moses. He wasn’t in the thick of things, but he loved Moses and his family. Perhaps that’s why Moses was able to listen to Jethro and heed his advice. Moses set up a system for “capable men from all the people” to take on the smaller disputes and he took the more difficult cases (vv. 21–22). Because he rearranged his work, listened to Jethro, and entrusted others to shoulder the load, he was able to avoid burnout during that season of life.
Many of us take our work for God, our families, and others seriously—passionately even. But we still need to heed the advice of trusted loved ones and to rely on the wisdom and power of God in all we do.
My mother shared with me how she chose not to attend college so she could marry my father in the 1960s, but she always held on to her dream of becoming a home economics teacher. Three children later, though she never received a college degree, she did become a nutritionist aide for the state of Louisiana’s health system. She cooked meals to demonstrate healthier meal choices—much like a home economics teacher. As she shared her dream with me after recounting the events of her life, she proclaimed that God had indeed heard her prayers and given her the desires of her heart.
Life can be like that for us. Our plans point one way but reality goes another way. But with God, our time and lives can be turned into beautiful displays of His compassion, love, and restoration. God told the people of Judah (Joel 2:21) that He would “repay” them for their lost or destroyed years—brought about by a “locust swarm” (V. 25). He also works to help us in the challenges and unfulfilled dreams we face. For we serve a Redeemer God who honors and rewards our sacrifices for Him (Matthew 19:29).
Whether we’re facing a devastating challenge or a time of unrealized dreams, may we call out to the God who restores and give Him praise.
No words. Just music and moving. During a 24-hour Zumba marathon amid the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of people from around the globe worked out together and virtually followed instructors from India, China, Mexico, America, South Africa, parts of Europe, and several other places. These diverse individuals were able to move together without any language barriers. Why? Because instructors of the exercise craze Zumba, created in the mid-1990s by a Colombian aerobics instructor, utilize non-verbal cues. Class instructors move and students follow their lead. They follow with no words uttered or shouted.
Words can sometimes get in the way and create barriers. They may cause confusion such as the Corinthians experienced, as noted in Paul’s first letter to them. It was confusion brought about by differing views of disputable matters pertaining to the eating of particular foods (1 Corinthians 10:27–30). But our actions can transcend barriers and even confusion. As Paul says in today’s passage, we should show people how to follow Jesus through our actions—seeking “the good of many” (10:32–33). We invite the world to believe in Him as we “follow the example of Christ” (11:1).
As someone once said, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words when necessary.” As we follow Jesus’ lead, may He guide our actions so as to cue others to the reality of our faith. And may our words and actions be done “all for the glory of God” (10:31).
In 1952, in an effort to prevent clumsy or careless people from breaking items in a shop, a Miami Beach storeowner posted a sign that read: “You break it, you buy it.” The catchy phrase served as a warning to shoppers. This type of sign can now be seen in many boutiques.
Ironically, a different sign might be placed in a real potter’s shop. It would say: “If you break it, we’ll make it into something better.” And that’s exactly what’s revealed in Jeremiah 18.
The prophet reminds us that God is indeed a skillful potter and we are the clay. Jeremiah visits a potter’s and sees the potter shaping the “marred” clay with his hands, carefully handling the material and forming “it into another pot” (v. 4). He is sovereign and can use what He creates to both destroy evil and create beauty in us.
God can shape us even when we’re marred or broken. He, the masterful potter, can and is willing to create new and precious pottery from our shattered pieces. God doesn’t look at our broken lives, mistakes, and past sins as unusable material. Instead, He picks up our pieces and reshapes them as He sees best.
Even in our brokenness, we have immense value to our Master Potter. In His hands, the broken pieces of our lives can be reshaped into beautiful vessels that can be used “best by him” (v. 4).