When Sherman Smith recruited Deland McCullough to play American football for Miami University, he loved Deland and became the father Deland never had. Deland had great admiration for Sherman and aimed to become the man he was. Decades later, when Deland tracked down his birth mom, she shocked him with the news, “Your father’s name is Sherman Smith.” Yes, that Sherman Smith. Coach Smith was stunned to learn he had a son, and Deland was stunned that his father figure was literally his father!
The next time they met, Sherman hugged Deland and said, “My son.” Deland had never heard that from a father. He knew Sherman “was saying it from a place of ‘I’m proud. This is my son,’ ” and he was overwhelmed.
We too should be overwhelmed by the perfect love of our heavenly Father. John writes, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” We are as dumbfounded as Deland, who didn’t dare think someone like Sherman could be his dad. Is it really true? John insists, Yes, “And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).
If you believe in Jesus, His Father is also your Dad. You may feel orphaned, alone in the world. But the truth is you have a Father—the only perfect One—and He’s proud to call you His child.
In the hit musical Hamilton, England’s King George III is humorously portrayed as a cartoonish, deranged villain. However, a new biography on King George said he was not the tyrant described in Hamilton or America’s Declaration of Independence. If George had been the brutal despot that Americans said he was, he would have stopped their drive for independence with extreme, scorched-earth measures. But he was restrained by his “civilized, good-natured” temperament.
Who knows if King George died with regret? Would his reign have been more successful if he’d been harsher with his subjects?
Not necessarily. In the Bible we read of King Jehoram, who solidified his throne by putting “all his brothers to the sword along with some of the officials of Israel” (2 Chronicles 21:4). Jehoram “did evil in the eyes of the
Historians may debate whether George was too soft; Jehoram was surely too harsh. A better way is that of King Jesus, who is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus’ expectations are firm (He demands truth), yet He embraces those who fail (He extends grace). Jesus calls us who believe in Him to follow His lead. Then, through the leading of His Holy Spirit, He empowers us to do so.
Natalia went to a different nation with the promise of receiving an education. But soon the father in her new home began physically and sexually abusing her. He forced her to care for his home and children without pay. He refused to let her go outside or use the phone. She had become his slave.
Hagar was Abram and Sarai’s Egyptian slave. Neither one used her name. They called her “my slave” or “your slave” (Genesis 16:2, 5–6). They merely wanted to use her so they could have an heir.
How different is God! The angel of the Lord makes His first appearance in Scripture when He speaks to a pregnant Hagar in the desert. The angel is either God’s messenger or God Himself. Hagar believes He is God, for she says, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (v. 13). If the angel is God, He could possibly be the Son—the One who reveals God to us—making an early, preincarnate appearance. He says her name, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” (v. 8).
God saw Natalia and brought caring people into her life who rescued her. She’s now studying to become a nurse. God saw Hagar and called her by name. And God sees you. You may be overlooked or worse, abused. Jesus calls you by name. Run to Him.
Phil and Sandy, moved by stories of refugee children, opened their hearts and home to two of them. After they picked them up at the airport, they nervously drove home in silence. Were they ready for this? They didn’t share the same culture, language, or religion, but they’d become people of refuge for these precious children.
Boaz was moved by the story of Ruth. He’d heard how she left her people to support Naomi, and when Ruth came to glean in his field, Boaz prayed this blessing over her, “May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the
Ruth reminded Boaz of his blessing when she interrupted his sleep one night. Awakened by movement at his feet, Boaz asked, “Who are you?” Ruth replied, “I am your servant Ruth. Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family” (3:9, emphasis added).
The Hebrew word for “corner of garment” and “wings” is the same. Boaz gave Ruth refuge by marrying her, and their great-grandson David echoed their story in his praise to the
Neither Orville nor Wilbur Wright had a pilot’s license. Neither had gone to college. They were bicycle mechanics with a dream and the courage to try. On December 17, 1903, they took turns piloting their Wright Flyer on four separate flights. The longest lasted only a minute, but it changed our world forever.
Neither Peter nor John had a preaching license. Neither had gone to seminary. They were fishermen who, filled with the Spirit of Jesus, courageously proclaimed the good news. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The Wright brothers’ neighbors didn’t immediately appreciate their accomplishment. Their hometown newspaper didn’t believe their story, and said that even if true, the flights were too brief to be significant. It took several more years of flying and refining their planes before the public recognized what they had truly done.
The religious leaders didn’t like Peter and John, and they ordered them to stop telling others about Jesus. Peter said, No way. “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (v. 20).
You may not be on the approved list. Perhaps you’re scorned by those who are. No matter. If you have the Spirit of Jesus, you’re free to live boldly for Him!
Dan endured daily beatings from the same prison guard. He felt compelled by Jesus to love this man, so one morning, before the beating was about to begin, Dan said, “Sir, if I’m going to see you every day for the rest of my life, let’s become friends.” The guard said, “No sir. We can never be friends.” Dan insisted and reached out his hand.
The guard froze. He began to shake, then grabbed Dan’s hand and wouldn’t let go. Tears streamed down his face. He said, “Dan. My name is Rosoc. I would love to be your friend.” The guard didn’t beat Dan that day, or ever again.
Scripture tells us, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21–22). This doesn’t mean we’re to kill our enemies with kindness. The “coals” imagery may reflect an Egyptian ritual in which a guilty person showed his repentance by carrying a bowl of hot coals on his head. Similarly, our kindness may cause our enemies to become red in the face from embarrassment, which may lead them to repentance.
Who is your enemy? Who do you dislike? Dan discovered the kindness of Christ was strong enough to change any heart—his enemy’s and his own. We can too.
My brothers and our families spent the day moving our parents’ belongings from our childhood home. Late in the afternoon we went back for one last pickup and, knowing this would be our final time in our family home, posed for a picture on the back porch. I was fighting tears when my mom turned to me and said, “It’s all empty now.” That pushed me over the edge. The house that holds fifty-four years of memories is empty now. I try not to think of it.
The ache in my heart resonates with Jeremiah’s first words of Lamentations: “How deserted lies the city, once so full of people!” (1:1). An important difference is that Jerusalem was empty “because of her many sins” (v. 5). God exiled His people into Babylon because they rebelled against Him and refused to repent (v. 18). My parents weren’t moving because of sin, at least not directly. But ever since Adam’s sin in the garden of Eden, each person’s health has declined over their lifetime. As we age, it’s not unusual for us to downsize into homes that are easier to maintain.
I’m thankful for the memories that made our modest home special. Pain is the price of love. I know the next goodbye won’t be to my parents’ home but to my parents themselves. And I cry. I cry out to Jesus to come, put an end to goodbyes, and restore all things. My hope is in Him.
The tale is told that after yet another stop on Albert Einstein’s lecture tour, his chauffeur mentioned that he’d heard enough of the speech that he could give it. Einstein suggested they switch places at the next college, as no one there had seen his picture. The chauffer agreed and delivered a fine lecture. Then came the question-and-answer period. To one aggressive inquirer, he replied, “I can see you’re a brilliant professor, but I’m surprised you would ask a question so simple that even my chauffeur could answer it.” His “chauffeur” did—Albert Einstein himself. So ends the fun but fictional story.
Daniel’s three friends were truly on the hot seat. King Nebuchadnezzar threatened to throw them into a blazing furnace if they didn’t worship his idol. He asked, “What god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” (v. 15). The friends still refused to bow, so the king heated the furnace seven times hotter and had them tossed in.
They didn’t go alone. An “angel” (v. 28), perhaps Jesus Himself, joined them in the fire, keeping them from harm and answering the king’s question (vv. 24–25). Nebuchadnezzar conceded that “no other god can save in this way,” and he praised the “God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego” (vv. 28–29).
At times, we may be in over our heads and unable to solve this problem or answer that question. But Jesus stands with those who serve Him. He’ll carry us.
Augustine’s autobiographical Confessions describes his long and winding journey to Jesus. On one occasion he was riding to the palace to give a flattering speech for the emperor. He was fretting over his deceptive applause lines when he noticed a drunken beggar “joking and laughing.” He realized the drunk already had whatever fleeting happiness his shifty career might bring, and with much less effort. So Augustine stopped striving for worldly success.
But he was still enslaved by lust. He knew he couldn’t turn to Jesus without turning from sin, and he still struggled with sexual immorality. So he prayed, “Grant me chastity . . . but not yet.”
Augustine stumbled along, torn between salvation and sin, until finally he had enough. Inspired by others who had turned to Jesus, he opened a Bible to Romans 13:13–14. “Let us behave decently, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality . . . . Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
That did it. God’s Word broke the chains of lust and brought him “into the kingdom of the Son…in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13–14). Augustine became a bishop who remained tempted by fame and lust, but he now knew whom to see when he sinned. He turned to Jesus. Have you?