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Kirsten Holmberg

Kirsten Holmberg

Kirsten Holmberg is a speaker, author, and coach based in the Pacific Northwest. She’s the author of Advent with the Word: Approaching Christmas Through the Inspired Language of God and several Bible studies. She speaks regularly at business, church, and community events, encouraging others to step closer to Jesus and better know His love for them through His Word. Find her online at www.kirstenholmberg.com or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@kirholmberg).

Articles by Kirsten Holmberg

Chirpy

For twelve years, Chirpy, a seagull, has made daily visits to a man who had helped him heal from a broken leg. John wooed Chirpy to himself with dog biscuits and was then able to nurse him back to health. Though Chirpy only resides in Instow Beach in Devon, England, between September and March, he and John Sumner find each other easily—Chirpy flies straight to him when he arrives at the beach each day, though he doesn’t approach any other human. It’s an uncommon relationship, to be sure.

John and Chirpy’s bond reminds me of another uncommon relationship between man and bird. When Elijah, one of God’s prophets, was sent into the wilderness to “hide in the Kerith Ravine” during a time of drought, God said he was to drink from the brook, and He’d send ravens to supply him with food (1 Kings 17:4). Despite the difficult circumstances and surroundings, Elijah would have his needs for food and water met. Ravens were unlikely caterers—naturally feeding on unseemly meals themselves—yet they brought Elijah wholesome food.

It may not surprise us that a man would help a bird, but when birds provide for a man with “bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening,” it can only be explained by God’s power and care (v. 6). Like Elijah, we too can trust in His provision for us.

Nearby Neighbors

Our neighborhood, like many others, uses a website to help neighbors connect immediately with those surrounding them. In my neighborhood, members warn one another of mountain lion sightings and wildfire evacuation orders, as well as supply one another with child care when the need arises. It has even proven to be a resource for locating runaway pets. By leveraging the power of the internet, those living near one another are connecting again in ways that are often lost in today’s fast-paced world.

Being in relationship with those who live nearby was also important long ago, in the days of King Solomon. While family relationships are truly important and can be a source of great support, Solomon indicates that the role of a friend is vital—especially when “disaster strikes” (Proverbs 27:10). Relatives might care deeply for their family members and desire to be of help in such circumstances. But if they’re far away, there’s little they can do in the moments when calamity strikes. Neighbors, however, because they’re close by, are likely to know of the need quickly and can assist more readily.

Because technology has made it easier than ever to remain connected with loved ones across the globe, we may be tempted to overlook those living nearby. Lord, help us invest in relationships with the people You’ve placed around us!

Good for You

People the world over spent an estimated $98.2 billion on chocolate in 2016. The number is staggering, yet at the same time not all that surprising. Chocolate, after all, tastes delicious and we enjoy consuming it. And the world rejoiced collectively when the sweet treat was found to have significant health benefits too. Chocolate contains flavonoids that help safeguard the body against aging and heart disease. Never has a prescription for health been so well received or heeded (in moderation, of course!).

Solomon suggested there’s another “sweet” worthy of our investment: wisdom. He recommended his son eat honey “for it is good” (Proverbs 24:13) and compared its sweetness to wisdom. The person who feeds on God’s wisdom in Scripture finds it not only sweet to the soul but beneficial for teaching and training, equipping us for “every good work” we’ll need to accomplish in life (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

Wisdom is what allows us to make smart choices and understand the world around us. And it’s worth investing in and imparting to those we love—as Solomon wished to do for his son. We can feel good about feasting on God’s wisdom in the Bible. It’s a sweet treat that we can enjoy without limit—in fact, we’re encouraged to! Lord, thank You for the sweetness of Your Word.

Canceled Debts

In 2009, Los Angeles County stopped charging families for the costs of their children’s incarceration. Though no new fees were charged, those with unpaid fees from before the change in policy were still required to settle their debt. Then in 2018 the county canceled all outstanding financial obligations.

For some families, canceling the debt aided greatly in their struggle to survive; no longer having liens on their property or wages being garnished meant they were better able to put food on the table. It was for this kind of hardship that the Lord called for debts to be forgiven every seven years (Deuteronomy 15:2). He didn’t want people to be crippled forever under this burden.

Because the Israelites were forbidden to charge interest on a loan to fellow Israelites (Exodus 22:25), their motives for lending to a neighbor weren’t to make a profit, but rather to help those who were enduring hard times, perhaps due to a bad harvest. Debts were to be freely forgiven every seven years. As a result, there would be less poverty among them as a people group (Deuteronomy 15:4).

Today, believers in Jesus aren’t bound by these laws. But God might occasionally prompt us to forgive a debt so those who’ve been struggling can get back on their feet and begin afresh as contributing members of society. When we show such mercy and generosity to others, we lift up God’s character and give people hope.

Aiming for the Prize

In the 1994 fictional movie Forrest Gump, Forrest becomes famous for running. What began as a jog “to the end of the road” continued for three years, two months, fourteen days, and sixteen hours. Each time he arrived at his destination, he set another one and continued to run, zig-zagging across the United States, until one day when he no longer felt like it. “Feeling like it” was the way his running began. Forrest says, “That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run.”

In contrast to Forrest’s seemingly whimsical running, the apostle Paul asks his readers to follow his example and “run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24). Like disciplined athletes, our running—the way we live our lives—might mean saying no to some of our pleasures. Being willing to forgo our rights might help us reach others with the good news of our rescue from sin and death.

With our hearts and minds trained on the goal of inviting others to run the race alongside us, we are also assured of the ultimate prize—eternal fellowship with God. The victor’s crown God bestows will last forever; we win it by running our lives with the aim of making Him known while relying on His strength to do so. What a reason to run!

Join the Street Team

City health workers in San Francisco are taking medical care to the streets to supply the homeless who are suffering from opioid addiction with medicine to treat their addiction. The program began in response to the rising number of homeless who are injecting. Customarily, doctors wait for patients to come to a clinic. By taking medical care to the afflicted instead, patients don’t have to overcome the challenges of transportation or needing to remember the appointment.

The health workers’ willingness to go to those in need of care reminds me of the way Jesus has come to us in our need. In His ministry, Jesus sought out those who the religious elite were quick to ignore: He ate with “sinners and tax collectors” (v. 16). When asked why He would do that, Jesus replied, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (v. 17). He went on to say that His intention was to call sinners, not the righteous, into relationship with Him.

When we realize that we’re all “sick” and in need of a doctor (Romans 3:10), we can better appreciate Jesus’s willingness to eat with the “sinners and tax collectors”—us. In turn, like the health care workers in San Francisco, Jesus appointed us as His “street team” to take His saving message to others in need.

Truth: Bitter or Sweet?

I’d had the spot on my nose for the better part of a year when I went to the doctor about it. The biopsy results came back days later with words I didn’t want to hear: skin cancer. Though the cancer was operable and not life-threatening, it was a bitter pill to swallow.

God commanded Ezekiel to swallow a bitter pill—a scroll containing words of lament and woe (Ezekiel 2:10; 3:1–2). He was “to fill [his] stomach with it” and share the words with the people of Israel, whom God considered “obstinate and stubborn” (2:4). One would expect a scroll filled—front and back—with correction to taste like a bitter pill. Yet Ezekiel describes it being “as sweet as honey” in his mouth (3:3).

Ezekiel seems to have acquired a taste for God’s correction. Instead of viewing (tasting!) His rebuke as something to avoid, Ezekiel recognized that what is good for the soul is “sweet.” God instructs and corrects us with lovingkindness, helping us live in a way that honors and pleases Him.

Some truths are bitter pills to swallow while others taste sweet. If we remember how much God loves us, His truth will taste more like honey. His words are given to us for our good, providing wisdom and strength to forgive others, refrain from gossip, and bear up under mistreatment. Help us, Lord, to recognize your wisdom as the sweet counsel it truly is!

Blue Lines

Downhill skiing racecourses are often marked by swaths of blue paint sprayed across the white, snowy surface. The crude arcs might be a visual distraction for spectators but prove to be vital to both the success and safety of the competitors. The paint serves as a guide for the racers to visualize the fastest line to the bottom of the hill. Additionally, the contrast of the paint against the snow offers racers depth perception, which is critical to their safety when traveling at such high rates of speed.

Solomon begs his sons to seek wisdom in hopes of keeping them safe on the racecourse of life. Like the blue lines, wisdom, he says, will “lead [them] along straight paths” and keep them from stumbling (Proverbs 4:11–12). His earnest desire as a father is for his sons to be unhampered and to enjoy a rich life, free from the damaging effects of living apart from the wisdom of God.

God, as our loving Father, offers us “blue line” guidance for us in His Word. While He’s given us the freedom to “ski” wherever we like, the wisdom He offers in the Scriptures, like racecourse markers, are “life to those who find them” (v. 22). When we turn from evil and walk instead with Him, our path will be lit with His righteousness, keeping our feet from stumbling and guiding us onward each day (vv. 12, 18).

Ask the Man Who Owns One

In the early 1900s, the Packard Motor Car Company generated a slogan to entice buyers. “Ask the man who owns one” became a powerful tagline, one that contributed to the company’s reputation as manufacturing the dominant luxury vehicle in that era. What Packard seemed to understand is that personal testimony is compelling to the hearer: a friend’s satisfaction with a product is a powerful endorsement.

Sharing with others our personal experiences of God’s goodness to us also makes an impact. God invites us to not only declare our gratitude and joy not only to Him but also to those around us (Psalm 66:1). The psalmist eagerly shared in his song the forgiveness God granted him when he turned from his wrongdoings (vv. 18–20).

God has done amazing works in the course of history, such as parting the waters of the Red Sea (v. 6). He also does amazing work in each of our personal lives: giving us hope in the midst of suffering, giving us the Holy Spirit to understand His Word, and providing for our daily needs. When we share with others our personal experiences of God’s work in our lives, we’re giving something of much greater value than an endorsement of a particular purchase—we’re acknowledging God’s goodness and encouraging one another along the journey of life.

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