Years ago, a train carrying 218 people derailed in northwestern Spain, killing 79 people, and hospitalizing 66 more. The driver couldn’t explain the accident, but the video footage could and did. The train was going far too fast before it hit a deadly curve. The limit of allowable speed limit had been created to protect everyone on board the train. Despite being a thirty-year veteran of Spain’s national rail company, however, the driver had for whatever reason ignored the speed boundary and many people lost their lives.
In Deuteronomy 5, Moses reviewed God’s original covenant boundaries for His people. Moses encouraged a new generation to regard God’s instruction as their own covenant with Him (v. 3), and then he restated the Ten Commandments (vv. 7–21). By repeating the commandments and drawing lessons from the previous generation’s disobedience, Moses invited the Israelites to be reverent, humble, and mindful of God’s faithfulness. God had made a way for His people so they wouldn’t wreck their lives or the lives of others. If they ignored His wisdom, they would do so at their own peril.
Today, as God leads us, let’s make all of Scripture our delight, counselor, and the guardrail for our lives. And as the Spirit guides us, we can keep on track within His wise protection and devote our lives wholeheartedly to Him.
David Willis had been upstairs in Waterstones Bookshop when he came downstairs and found the lights were turned off and the doors locked. He was trapped inside the store! Not knowing what else to do, he turned to Twitter and tweeted: “Hi @Waterstones. I’ve been locked inside of your Trafalgar Square bookstore for 2 hours now. Please let me out.” Not too long after his tweet, he was rescued.
It’s good to have a way to get help when we’re in trouble. Isaiah said there’s Someone who will answer our cries when we’re trapped in a problem of our own making. The prophet wrote that God had charged his people with practicing their religious devotion irresponsibly. They were going through the motions of religion but masking their oppression of the poor with empty and self-serving rituals (Isaiah 58:1–7). This didn’t win divine favor. God hid His eyes from them and didn’t answer their prayers (1:15). He told them to repent and display outward acts of caring for others (58:6–7). If they did that, He told them, “you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I ‘If you do away with the yoke of oppression with the pointing finger and malicious talk’ ” (v. 9).
Let’s get close to the poor, saying to them: “I am here.” For God hears our cries for help and says to us, “I am here.”
In 2010, a tsunami struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra, killing more than four hundred people. But the deaths could have been prevented or minimized had the tsunami warning system been working properly. The tsunami detection networks (buoys) had become detached and drifted away.
Jesus said His disciples had a responsibility to warn fellow disciples to things that could harm them spiritually—including unrepentant sin. He outlined a process in which a believer who’s been sinned against by another can humbly, privately, and prayerfully “point out” the sin to the offending believer (Matthew 18:15). If the person repents, then the conflict can be resolved and relationship restored. If the believer refuses to repent, then “one or two others” can help resolve the conflict (v. 16). If the sinning person still doesn’t repent, then the issue is to be brought before “the church” (v. 17). If the offender still won’t repent, the individual is to be removed from assembly fellowship, but he or she can certainly still be prayed for and shown Christ’s love.
As believers in Jesus, let’s pray for the wisdom and courage we need to care for one another enough to lovingly warn others of the dangers of unrepentant sin and of the joys of restoration to our heavenly Father and other believers. Jesus will be “there . . . with [us]” as we do (v. 20).
Running a marathon is about pushing yourself, physically and mentally. For one high school runner, however, competing in a cross-country race is all about pushing someone else. In every practice and meet, fourteen-year-old Susan Bergeman pushes older brother, Jeffrey, in his wheelchair. When Jeffrey was twenty-two months old, he went into cardiac arrest—leaving him with severe brain damage and cerebral palsy. Today, Susan sacrifices personal running goals so Jeffrey might compete with her. What love and sacrifice!
The apostle Paul had love and sacrifice in mind when he encouraged his readers to be “devoted to one another” (Romans 12:10). He knew that the believers in Rome were struggling with jealousy, anger, and sharp disagreements (v. 18). So, he encouraged them to let divine love rule their hearts. This kind of love, rooted in Christ’s love, would fight for the highest possible good of others. It would be sincere, and it would lead to generous sharing (v. 13). Those who love this way are eager to consider others more worthy of honor than themselves (v. 16).
As believers in Jesus, we’re running a race of love while helping others finish the race too. Though it can be difficult, it brings honor to Jesus. So, for love’s sake, let’s rely on Him to empower us to love and serve others.
We all leave a bit of ourselves behind when we move to a new place. But to become a long-term resident of Villas Las Estrellas, Antarctica, a cold and desolate place, leaving a piece of yourself behind is a literal thing. With the nearest hospital 625 miles away, a person will be in serious trouble if her appendix bursts. So every citizen must first undergo an appendectomy before moving there.
Drastic, right? But it’s not as drastic as becoming a resident of the kingdom of God. Because people want to follow Jesus on their own terms and not His (Matthew 16:25–27), He redefines what it means to be a disciple. He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (v. 24). This includes being prepared to let go of anything that competes with Him and His kingdom. And as we take up our cross, we declare a willingness to undergo social and political oppression and even death for the sake of devotion to Christ. Along with letting go and taking up, we’re also to take on a willingness to truly follow Him. This is a moment-by-moment posture of following His lead as He guides us into service and sacrifice.
Following Jesus means so much more than leaving a little piece of our lives behind. As He helps us, it’s about submitting and surrendering our whole lives—including our bodies—to Him alone.
Northern Spain produced a beautiful way of expressing communion and friendship. With the countryside full of handmade caves, after each harvest some farmers would sit in a room built above a cave and inventory their various foods. As time passed, the room became known as the “telling room”—a place of communion where friends and families would gather to share their stories, secrets, and dreams. If you needed the intimate company of safe friends, you would head for the telling room.
Had they lived in northern Spain, the deep friendship shared by Jonathan and David might have led them to create a telling room. When King Saul became so jealous that he wanted to kill David, Jonathan, Saul’s oldest son, protected and befriended him. The two became “one in spirit” (1 Samuel 18:1–3). And Jonathan “loved [his friend] as himself” and—though he was heir apparent to the throne—recognized David’s divine selection to be king. He gave David his robe, sword, bow, and his belt (v. 4). Later, David declared that Jonathan’s love for him as a friend “was wonderful” (2 Samuel 1:26).
As believers in Jesus, may He help us build our own relational “telling rooms”—friendships that reflect Christlike love and care. Let’s take the time to linger with friends, open our hearts, and live in true communion with one another in Him.
The restless soul is never satisfied with wealth and success. A deceased country music icon could testify to this truth. He had nearly forty of his albums appear on Billboard's country-music top ten charts and just as many number one singles. But he also had multiple marriages and spent time in prison. Even with all his achievements, he once lamented: "There’s a restlessness in my soul that I've never conquered, not with motion, marriages or meaning. . . . It's still there to a degree. And it will be till the day I die." Sadly, he could have found rest in his soul before his life ended.
Jesus invites all those, like this musician, who have become weary from toiling in sin and its consequences to come to him personally: “Come to me,” He says (Matthew 11:28). When we receive salvation in Jesus, He will take the burdens from us and “give [us] rest.” The only requirements are to believe in Him and then to learn from Him how to live the abundant life He provides (John 10:10). Taking on the yoke of Jesus’ discipleship results in our finding “rest for [our] souls” (Matthew 11:29).
When we come to Jesus, He doesn’t abbreviate our accountability to God. He gives peace to our restless souls by providing us a new and less burdensome way to live in Him. He gives us true rest.
In a viral video, a three-year-old white belt karate student imitated her instructor. With passion and conviction the little girl said the creed with her leader. Then, with poise and attentiveness, the little ball of cuteness and energy imitated everything her teacher said and did—at least she did a pretty good job!
Jesus once said, “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (Luke 6:40). He told His disciples that to imitate Him included being generous, loving, non-judgmental (vv. 37–38), and discerning about whom they followed: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (v. 39). His disciples needed to discern that this standard disqualified the Pharisees who were blind guides—leading people to disaster (Matthew 15:14). And they needed to grasp the importance of following their Teacher. Thus, the aim of Christ’s disciples was to become like Jesus Himself. So it was important for them to pay careful attention to Christ’s instruction about generosity and love and apply it.
As believers striving to imitate Jesus today, let’s give our lives over to our Master Teacher so we can become like Him in knowledge, wisdom, and behavior. He alone can help us reflect His generous, loving ways.
In 1524, Martin Luther observed: "Among themselves the merchants have a common rule which is their chief maxim . . . I care nothing about my neighbor; so long as I have my profit and satisfy my greed.” More than two hundred years later, John Woolman, from Mount Holly, New Jersey, let his commitment to Jesus influence his tailor shop dealings. Out of support for the freeing of slaves, he refused to purchase any cotton or dye supplies from companies who used their forced labor. With a clear conscience, he loved his neighbor and lived according to integrity and sincerity in all his dealings.
The apostle Paul strived to live out “integrity and godly sincerity” (2 Corinthians 1:12). When some in Corinth tried to undermine his authority as an apostle for Jesus, he defended his conduct among them. He wrote that his words and actions could withstand the closest scrutiny (v. 13). He also showed that he was dependent on God’s power and grace for effectiveness, not his own (v. 12). In short, Paul’s faith in Christ permeated all his dealings.
As we live as ambassadors for Jesus, may we be careful to let the good news ring out in all our dealings—family, business, and more. When by God’s power and grace we reveal His love to others, we honor Him and love our neighbors well.