In Oregon's Malheur National Forest, a fungus popularly known as the honey mushroom spreads through tree roots across 2,200 acres, making it the largest living organism ever found. It's been “weaving its black shoestring filaments” through the forest for more than two millennia, killing trees as it grows. Its shoestring filaments, called “rhizomorphs,” tunnel as deep as ten feet into the soil. And although the organism is incredibly large, it began with a single microscopic spore!
The Bible tells us of a single act of disobedience that caused widespread condemnation, and a single act of obedience that reversed it. The apostle Paul contrasted two individuals—Adam and Jesus (Romans 5:14–15). Adam’s sin brought condemnation and death “to all people” (v. 12). Through one act of disobedience, all people were made sinners and stood condemned before God (v. 17). But He had a means of dealing with humanity’s sin problem. Through the righteous act of Jesus on the cross, God provides eternal life and a right standing before Him. Christ’s act of love and obedience was powerful enough to overcome Adam’s one act of disobedience—providing “life for all people” (Romans 5:18).
Through His death on the cross, Jesus offers eternal life to anyone who puts their faith in Him. If you haven’t received His forgiveness and salvation, may you do so today. If you’re already a believer, praise Him for what He’s done by His great act of love!
In the movie Hachi: A Dog's Tale, a college professor befriended a stray Akita puppy named Hachi. The dog expressed his loyalty by waiting at the train station each day for the professor to return from work. One day, the professor suffered a fatal stroke. Hachi waited hours at the train station, and for the next ten years he returned each day—awaiting His loving master.
Luke tells the story of a man named Simeon who patiently waited for the coming of his Master (Luke 2:25). The Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not see death until he saw the Messiah (v. 26). As a result, Simeon kept waiting for the One that would provide “salvation” for God’s people (v. 30). When Mary and Joseph entered the temple with Jesus, the Holy Spirit whispered to Simeon, “Yes! This is the One!” The wait was finally over! Simeon held Christ in his arms—the hope, salvation, and comfort for all people (vv. 28–32).
If we find ourselves in a season of waiting, may we hear the words of the prophet Isaiah with fresh ears: “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31). As we await Jesus’ return, He provides the hope and strength we need for each new day.
When their bank accidentally deposited $120,000 into their account, a couple went on a shopping spree. They purchased an SUV, camper, and two four-wheelers in addition to paying off bills. Discovering the deposit error, the bank told the couple to return the money. Unfortunately, the husband and wife had already spent it. They were then charged with felony theft. When the couple arrived at the local court, the husband said to a reporter, “We took some bad legal advice.” The two learned that following bad advice (and spending what wasn’t theirs) could lead to making a mess of their lives.
In contrast, the psalmist shared wise advice that can help us avoid messing up in life. He wrote that those who find genuine fulfillment—who are “blessed”—refuse to be influenced by the advice of those who don’t serve God (Psalm 1:1). They know that unwise, ungodly counsel can lead to unseen dangers and costly consequences. Also, they’re motivated by (find “delight” in) and preoccupied with (“meditate on”) the timeless and unshakeable truths of Scripture (v. 2). They’ve found that submitting to God’s guidance leads to stability and fruitfulness (v. 3).
When we’re making decisions, big or small, about our careers, money, relationships, and more, may we seek God’s wisdom found in the Bible, godly counsel, and the leading of the Holy Spirit. His guidance is essential and trustworthy for living a fulfilling life and not creating messes.
Russian wedding customs are filled with beauty and significance. One such custom takes place during the reception as the toastmaster proposes a toast in honor of the couple. Everyone takes a sip of raised glasses and then begin shouting “Gor’ko! Gor’ko!,” meaning “Bitter! Bitter!” When the guests shout that word, the newlyweds must rise and kiss each other in order to make the drink sweet again.
Isaiah prophesies that the bitter drink of desolation, ruin, and the curse upon the earth (ch. 24) will give way to the sweet hope of a new heaven and new earth (ch. 25). God will prepare a feast of rich foods and the finest and sweetest of drinks. It will be a banquet of continual blessing, fruitfulness, and provision for all people (25:6). There’s more. Under the sovereign reign of the righteous King, death is swallowed up, bitter tears are wiped away, and the shroud of disgrace is removed (vv. 7–8). And His people will rejoice because the One they trusted in and waited for will bring salvation and turn the bitter cup of life sweet again (v. 9).
One day, we’ll be together with Jesus at the wedding supper of the Lamb. When He welcomes His bride home (the Church), the promise of Isaiah 25 will be fulfilled. The life once bitter will be made sweet again.
Julio was biking across the George Washington Bridge—that busy, double-decked thoroughfare connecting New York City and New Jersey—when he encountered a life-or-death situation. A man was standing on a ledge over the Hudson River preparing to jump. Knowing that the police wouldn’t arrive in time, Julio acted quickly. He recalls getting off his bike and spreading out his arms, saying something like: “Don’t do it. We love you.” Then, like a shepherd with a crook, he grabbed the distraught man, and with the help of another passerby, brought him to safety. According to reports, Julio wouldn’t let go of the man, even after he was safe.
Two millennia earlier, in a life-or-death situation, Jesus, the Good Shepherd said He would lay down His life to save and never let go of those who believed in Him. He summarized how He would bless His sheep: they would know Him personally, have the gift of eternal life, would never perish, and were secure in His care (John 10:28). This security didn’t depend on the ability of the frail and feeble sheep, but the sufficiency of the Shepherd who will never let one be snatched “out of [His] hand” (vv. 28–29).
When we were distraught and feeling hopeless, Jesus rescued us. So we can feel safe and secure in our relationship with Him. He loves us, pursues us, finds us, saves us, and promises to never let us go.
Human beings are not special—at least according to the London Zoo. In 2005, the zoo introduced a four-day exhibit: “Humans in Their Natural Environment.” The human “captives” were chosen through an online contest. To help visitors understand the humans, the zoo workers created a sign detailing their diet, habitat, and threats. According to the zoo’s spokesperson, the goal of the exhibit was to downplay the uniqueness of human beings. One participant in the exhibit seemed to agree. “When they see humans as animals, here, it kind of reminds them that we’re not that special.”
What a stark contrast to what the Bible says about human beings: God “fearfully and wonderfully” made us in “his image” (Psalm 139:14; Genesis 1:26–27).
David began Psalm 139 by celebrating God’s intimate knowledge of him (vv. 1–6) and His all-encompassing presence (vv. 7–12). Like a master weaver, God not only formed the intricacies of David’s internal and external features (vv. 13–14), but He also made him a living soul, giving spiritual life and the ability to intimately relate to God. Meditating on God’s handiwork, David responded in awe, wonder, and praise (v. 14).
Human beings are special. God created us with marvelous uniqueness and the awesome ability to have an intimate relationship with Him. Like David, we can praise Him because we are the workmanship of His loving hands.
Since 2006 a group of people have celebrated an unusual event around the New Year. It’s called Good Riddance Day. Based on a Latin American tradition, individuals write down unpleasant, embarrassing memories and bad issues from the past year and throw them into an industrial-strength shredder. Or some take a sledgehammer to their good riddance item.
The writer of Psalm 123 goes beyond suggesting that people say good riddance to unpleasant memories. He reminds us that the Lord bids good riddance to our sins. In his attempt to express God’s vast love for His people, the psalmist used word pictures. He compared the vastness of the Lord’s love to the distance between the heavens and the earth (Psalm 103:11). Then he talked about God’s forgiveness in spatial terms. As far as the place where the sun rises is from the place where the sun sets, so the Lord has removed His people’s sins from them (v. 12). The psalmist wanted the Lord’s people to know that His love and forgiveness were infinite and complete. God freed his people from the power of their transgressions by fully pardoning them.
Rejoice! We don’t have to wait until the New Year to experience Good Riddance Day. Through our faith in Jesus, when we confess and turn from our sins, He bids good riddance to them and casts them into the depths of the sea. Today can be a Good Riddance Day!
It’s not unusual for utility bills to be surprisingly high. But Kieran Healy of North Carolina received a water bill that would make your heart stop. The notification said that he owed 100 million dollars for his water bill. A 100-million-dollar water bill! Confident that he hadn't used that much water the previous month, Healy jokingly asked if he could pay the bill in installments.
Owing a 100-million-dollar debt would be an overwhelming burden, but that pales in comparison to the real—and immeasurable—burden sin causes us to carry. Attempting to carry the burden and consequences of our own sins ultimately leaves us feeling tired and riddled with guilt and shame. The truth is, we are incapable of carrying this load.
And we were never meant to. As Peter reminded believers, only Jesus, the sinless Son of God, could carry the heavy burden of our sin and its weighty consequences (1 Peter 2:24). In His death on the cross, Jesus took all our wrongdoing on Himself and offered us His forgiveness. Because He carried our burden, we do not have to suffer the punishment we deserve.
Instead of living in fear or guilt, the “empty way of life handed down to” us (1:18), we can enjoy a new life of love and freedom (vv. 22–23).
After five deaths and 51 injuries in elevator accidents in 2016, New York City launched an ad campaign to educate people on how to stay calm and be safe. The worst cases were people who tried to save themselves when something went wrong. The best plan of action, authorities say, is simply, “Ring, relax, and wait.” New York building authorities made a commitment to respond promptly to protect people from injury and extract them from their predicament.
In the book of Acts, Peter preached a sermon that addressed the error of trying to save ourselves. Luke, who wrote the book, records some remarkable events in which believers in Christ were speaking in languages they did not know (Acts 2:1–12). Peter got up to explain to his Jewish brothers and sisters that what they were witnessing was the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy (Joel 2:28–32)—the outpouring of the Spirit and a day of salvation. The blessing of the Holy Spirit was now visibly seen in those who called on Jesus for rescue from sin and its effects. Then Peter told them how this salvation is available for anyone (v. 21). Our access to God comes not through keeping the Law but through trusting Jesus as Lord and Messiah.
If we are trapped in sin, we cannot save ourselves. Our only hope for being rescued is acknowledging and trusting Jesus as Lord and Messiah.