More Than Skin Deep
José, a young believer in Jesus, was visiting his brother’s church. As he entered the sanctuary prior to the service, his brother’s face fell when he saw him. José’s tattoos, covering both arms, were visible since he was wearing a T-shirt. His brother told him to go home and put on a long-sleeved shirt, for many of José’s tattoos reflected the ways of his past. José suddenly felt dirty. But another man overheard the brothers’ interaction and brought José to the pastor, telling him what had happened. The pastor smiled and unbuttoned his shirt, revealing a large tattoo on his chest—something from his own past. He assured José that he didn’t need to cover his arms because God had made him pure from the inside out.
David experienced the joy of being made pure by God. After confessing his sin to Him, the king wrote, “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!” (Psalm 32:1 nlt). He could now “shout for joy” with others “whose hearts [were] pure!” (v. 11 nlt). The apostle Paul later quoted Psalm 32:1–2 in Romans 4:7–8, a passage declaring that faith in Jesus leads to salvation and a pure standing before Him (see Romans 4:23–25).
Our purity in Jesus is much more than skin deep, for He knows and purifies our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 John 1:9). May we rejoice in His purifying work today.
A Small Start
The Brooklyn Bridge was considered “the eighth wonder of the world” upon its completion in 1883. But a single, slender wire strung from one bridge tower to the other was essential for the structure to come to fruition. Additional wires were added to the first until a massive cable, along with three others, was woven together. When finished, each cable—composed of more than five thousand galvanized wires—helped support the longest suspension bridge in its day. What started as something small turned into a huge part of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Jesus’ life began in a small way—a baby born in a feeding trough in a tiny town (Luke 2:7). The prophet Micah prophesied His humble birth, writing, “Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel” (Micah 5:2; see also Matthew 2:6). A small start, but this Ruler and Shepherd would see His fame and mission “reach to the ends of the earth” (Micah 5:4).
Jesus was born in a small place in humility, and His life on earth ended as “he humbled himself” and died on “a criminal’s cross” (Philippians 2:8). But by His immense sacrifice He bridged the gap between us and God—providing salvation for all who believe. This season, may you receive God’s great gift in Jesus by faith. And if you do believe, may you humbly praise Him anew for all He’s done for you.
Standing Firm by Faith
Nokia became the world’s best-selling mobile phone company in 1998 and saw profits rise to nearly four billion dollars in 1999. But by 2011, sales were diminishing and soon the failing phone brand was acquired by Microsoft. One factor in Nokia’s mobile division failure was a fear-based work culture that led to disastrous decisions. Managers were afraid to tell the truth about the Nokia phone’s inferior operating system and other design problems for fear of being fired.
King Ahaz of Judah and his people were fearful—“shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind” (Isaiah 7:2). They knew that the kings of Israel and Aram (Syria) had allied, and their combined armies were marching to Judah to take it over (vv. 5–6). Although God used Isaiah to encourage Ahaz by telling him his enemies’ hostile plans would “not happen” (v. 7), the foolish leader fearfully chose to ally with Assyria and submit to the superpower’s king (2 Kings 16:7–8). He didn’t trust in God, who declared, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9).
The writer of Hebrews helps us consider what it looks like to stand firm in faith today: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (10:23). May we press on and not “shrink back” (v. 39) as the Holy Spirit empowers us to trust in Jesus.
Ever had a close encounter with a rattlesnake? If so, you might have noticed that the sound of the rattle seemed to get more intense as you moved nearer to the viper. Research reported in 2021 in Current Biology reveals that the venomous reptiles do increase their rattling rate when they think a threat is approaching. This “high-frequency mode” can cause us to think they’re closer than they are. As one researcher put it, “The misinterpretation of distance by the listener . . . creates a distance safety margin.”
People can sometimes use increasing volume with harsh words that push others away during a conflict—exhibiting anger and resorting to shouting. The writer of Proverbs shares some wise advice for times like these: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). He goes on to say that “soothing” and “wise” words can be “a tree of life” and a source of “knowledge” (vv. 4, 7).
Jesus provided the ultimate reasons for gently appealing to those with whom we enter into conflict: extending love that reveals us to be His children (Matthew 5:43–45) and seeking reconciliation—“[winning] them over” (18:15). Instead of raising our voice or using unkind words during conflicts, may we show civility, wisdom, and love to others as God guides us by His Spirit.
As a teen, I was driving way too fast trying to follow my friend to his home after a high school basketball practice. It was raining hard, and I was having a hard time keeping up with his car. Suddenly, my wipers cleared the watery windshield only to reveal my friend’s sedan stopped in front of me! I slammed on the brakes, slid off the street, and struck a large tree. My car was destroyed. Later I awoke in the comatose ward of a local hospital. While by God’s grace I survived, my reckless ways had proved to be very costly.
Moses made a reckless decision that cost him greatly. His poor choice, however, involved a lack of water—not too much of it (as in my case). The Israelites were without water in the Desert of Zin, and “the people gathered in opposition to Moses” (Numbers 20:2). God told the frazzled leader to speak to a rock and it would “pour out its water” (v. 8). Instead, he “struck the rock twice” (v. 11). God said, “Because you did not trust in me . . . , you will not [enter the promised land]” (v. 12).
When we make reckless decisions, we pay the consequences. “Desire without knowledge is not good—how much more will hasty feet miss the way!” (Proverbs 19:2). May we prayerfully, carefully seek God’s wisdom and guidance in the choices and decisions we make today.
Drawn by Disaster
In 1717, a devastating storm raged for days, leading to widespread flooding in northern Europe. Thousands of people lost their lives in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. History reveals an interesting and customary—for that time—response by at least one local government. The provincial authorities of the Dutch city of Groningen called for a “prayer day” in response to the disaster. A historian reports that the citizens gathered in churches and “listened to sermons, sang psalms, and prayed for hours.”
The prophet Joel describes an overwhelming disaster faced by the people of Judah that also led to prayer. A massive swarm of locusts had covered the land and “laid waste [its] vines and ruined [its] fig trees” (Joel 1:7). As he and his people reeled from the devastation, Joel prayed, “Lord, help us!” (1:19
When we face difficulties and disaster, may we turn to God—perhaps in anguish, perhaps in repentance. “Compassionate” and “abounding in love” (v. 13), He draws us to Himself—providing the comfort and help we need.
What a Find!
While scuba diving in 2021, Jennifer’s eyes fixed on a small, green bottle at the bottom of a river. She scooped up what she describes as “a once-in-a-lifetime find.” The bottle contained a message written by a young man on his eighteenth birthday in 1926! The words requested that whoever discovered the message return it to him. Jennifer used Facebook to locate a delighted family member of the man. Although he’d died in 1995, his once-hidden note brought joy to Jennifer and his family.
In 2 Kings 22:8, we read that Hilkiah made an extraordinary find when he “found the Book of the Law in the temple of the
Today, our Bibles contain sixty-six books that reveal God’s wisdom and instruction—including Deuteronomy. As we read and listen to them, may the Holy Spirit transform our minds and reform our ways. Dive into the life-changing story of Scripture today and find wisdom to explore for a lifetime!
How Are You?
Charla was dying, and she knew it. While she was lying on her hospital room bed, her surgeon and a group of young interns poured into the room. For the next several minutes, the doctor ignored Charla as he described her terminal condition to the interns. Finally, he turned to her and asked, “And how are you?” Charla weakly smiled and warmly told the group about her hope and peace in Jesus.
Some two thousand years ago, Jesus’ battered, naked body hung in humiliation on a cross before a crowd of onlookers. Would He lash out at His tormentors? No. “Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ ” (Luke 23:34). Though falsely convicted and crucified, He prayed for His enemies. Later, He told another humiliated man, a criminal, that—because of the man’s faith—he would soon be with Him “in paradise” (v. 43). In His pain and shame, Jesus chose to share words of hope and life out of love for others.
As Charla concluded sharing Christ to her listeners, she posed the question back to the doctor. She tenderly looked into the tear-filed eyes of the surgeon and asked, “And how are you?” By Christ’s grace and power, she’d shared words of life—showing love and concern for him and others in the room. In whatever trying situation we face today or in the days ahead, let’s trust God to provide courage to lovingly speak words of life.