Category  |  Bible

Every Story

I opened the whimsically illustrated children’s Bible and began to read to my grandson. Immediately we were enthralled as the story of God’s love and provision unfurled in prose. Marking our place, I turned the book over and read the title once again: The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name.

Every story whispers His name. Every story.

To be honest, sometimes the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is hard to understand. Why do those who don’t know God seem to triumph over God’s own? How can God permit such cruelty when we know that His character is pure and that His purposes are for our good?

After His resurrection, Jesus met two followers on the road to Emmaus who didn’t recognize Him and were struggling with disappointment over the death of their hoped-for Messiah (Luke 24:19–24). They had “hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (v. 21). Luke then records how Jesus reassured them: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

Every story whispers His name—even the hard stories because they reveal the comprehensive brokenness of our world and our need for a Rescuer. Every act, every event, every intervention points to the redemption God designed for His wayward loved ones: to bring us back to Himself.

Someone Who Leads

Who do you think of when you hear the word mentor? For me, it is Pastor Rich. He saw potential in me and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. He challenged me to expect great things from God as I obey Him. He modeled for me how to lead by serving in humility and love. As a result of his mentoring, I am now serving God by mentoring others.

The prophet Elijah played a critical role in Elisha’s growth as a leader. Elijah found him plowing a field and invited him to be his protégé after God had told him to anoint him as his successor as prophet (1 Kings 19:16, 19). The young mentee watched his mentor perform incredible miracles and obey God no matter what. God used Elijah to prepare Elisha for a lifetime of ministry. Toward the end of Elijah’s life, Elisha had the opportunity to leave. Instead, he chose to renew his commitment to his mentor. Three times Elijah offered to release Elisha from his duties, yet each time he refused, saying, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you” (2 Kings 2:2, 4, 6). As a result of Elisha’s faithfulness, he too was used by God in extraordinary ways.

We all need someone who models for us what it means to follow Jesus. May God give us godly men and women who would help us grow spiritually. And may we, by the power of His Spirit, invest our lives in others as well.

Searching for Treasure

Buried treasure. It sounds like something out of a children’s storybook. But eccentric millionaire Forrest Fenn claims to have left a box of jewels and gold, worth up to $2 million, somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Many people have gone in search of it. In fact, four people have lost their lives trying to find the hidden riches.

The author of Proverbs gives us reason to stop and think: Does any kind of treasure merit such a quest? In Proverbs 4, a father writing to his sons about how to live well suggests that wisdom is one thing worth seeking at any cost (Proverbs 4:7). Wisdom, he says, will lead us through life, keep us from stumbling, and crown us with honor (vv. 8–12). Writing hundreds of years later, James, one of Jesus’s disciples, also emphasizes the importance of wisdom. “The wisdom that comes from heaven,” he writes, “is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). When we seek wisdom, we find all kinds of good things flowering in our lives.

To seek wisdom is ultimately to seek God, the source of all wisdom and understanding. And the wisdom that comes from above is worth more than any buried treasure we could ever imagine.

Working off Bad Information

On a recent trip to New York City, my wife and I wanted to brave a snowy evening and hire a taxi for a three-mile ride from our hotel to a Cuban restaurant. After entering the details into the taxi service’s app, I gulped hard when the screen revealed the price for our short jaunt: $1,547.26. After recovering from the shock, I realized I had mistakenly requested a ride to our home—several hundred miles away!

If you’re working with the wrong information, you’re going to end up with disastrous results. Always. This is why Proverbs encourages us to “apply [our] heart to instruction and [our] ears to words of knowledge”—God’s wisdom (Proverbs 23:9–12). If we instead seek advice from those who are foolish, those who pretend to know more than they do and who have turned their back on God, we’ll be in trouble. They “scorn . . . prudent words” and can lead us astray with unhelpful, misguided or even deceptive advice (v. 9).

Instead, we can bend our “ears to words of knowledge” (v. 12). We can open our heart and receive God’s liberating instruction, words of clarity and hope. When we listen to those who know the deep ways of God, they help us receive and follow divine wisdom. And God’s wisdom will never lead us astray but always encourages and leads us, toward life and wholeness.

Living with the Lights On

A work assignment had taken my coworker and me on a 250-mile journey, and it was late when we began our trip home. An aging body with aging eyes makes me a bit uneasy about nighttime driving; nevertheless, I opted to drive first. My hands gripped the steering wheel and my eyes gazed intently at dimly lit roads. While driving I found I could see better when lights from vehicles behind me beamed on the highway before me. I was much relieved when my friend eventually took the wheel of his vehicle. That’s when he discovered that I had been driving with “fog lights” and not the headlights!

Psalm 119 is the masterful composition of one who understood that God’s Word provides us with light for everyday living (v. 105). Yet, how often do we find ourselves in situations similar to my uncomfortable night on the highway? We needlessly strain to see, and we sometimes stray from the best paths because we forget to use the light of God’s Word. Psalm 119 encourages us to be intentional about “hitting the light switch.” What happens when we do? We find wisdom for purity (vv. 9–11); we discover fresh motivation and encouragement for avoiding detours (vv. 101–102). And when we live with the lights on the psalmist’s praise is likely to become our praise: “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (v. 97).

Free from Frostbite

On a winter day, my children begged to go sledding. The temperature hovered near zero degrees Fahrenheit. Snowflakes raced by our windows. I thought it over and said yes, but asked them to bundle up, stay together, and come inside after fifteen minutes.

Out of love, I created those rules so my children could play freely without suffering frostbite. I think the author of Psalm 119 recognized the same good intent in God as he penned two consecutive verses that might seem contradictory: “I will always obey your law” and “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts” (vv. 44–45). How is it that the psalmist associated freedom with a spiritually law-abiding life?

Mirrors and Hearers

When I emerged from my hotel in Kampala, Uganda, my hostess, who had come to pick me up for our seminar, looked at me with an amused grin. “What’s so funny?” I inquired. She laughed and asked, “Did you comb your hair?” It was my turn to laugh, for I had indeed forgotten to comb my hair. I had looked at my reflection in the hotel mirror. How come I took no notice of what I saw?

In a practical analogy, James gives us a useful dimension to make our study of God’s Word more beneficial. We look in the mirror to examine ourselves to see if anything needs correction—hair combed, face washed, shirt properly buttoned. Like a mirror, God’s Word helps us to examine our character, attitude, thoughts, and behavior (James 1:23–24). This enables us to align our lives according to the principles of God’s Word. We will “keep a tight rein” on our tongues (v. 26) and “look after orphans and widows” (v. 27). We will pay heed to God’s Holy Spirit within us and keep ourselves “from being polluted by the world” (v. 27).

When we look attentively into “the perfect law that gives freedom” and apply it to our lives, we will be blessed in what we do (v. 25). As we look into the mirror of God’s Word, we can “humbly accept the word planted in you” (v. 21).

Good for You?

Because I like dark chocolate, I sometimes Google “Is dark chocolate good for you?” I get a variety of results—some good, some bad. You can do the same for almost any food product. Is milk good for you? Is coffee good for you? Is rice good for you? There is a dizzying array of answers to these questions, so you have to be aware that the search itself may not be good for you. It may give you a headache.

But if you are looking for something that is one-hundred-percent good for you all the time, can I recommend the Word of God? Listen to what it can do for the follower of Jesus who is seeking to build His relationship with God.

         It can keep you pure (Psalm 119:9, 11).

         It blesses you (Luke 11:28).

         It makes you wise (Matthew 7:24).

         It gives light and understanding (Psalm 119:130).

         It helps you grow up spiritually (1 Peter 2:2).

Our Lord God is good: “The Lord is good to all,” says Psalm 145:9. And in His goodness, He has provided those who love Him with a guide that helps us see how to enhance our relationship with Him. As we try to decide how to live in a world full of choices, praise God that He has told us in Scripture what is good for us. Let’s say with the psalm-writer: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103).

And in Truth

Years ago, I attended a wedding where two people from different countries got married. Such a blending of cultures can be beautiful, but this ceremony included Christian traditions mixed with rituals from a faith that worshiped many gods.

Zephaniah the prophet pointedly condemned the mixing of other religions with faith in the one true God (sometimes called syncretism). Judah had become a people who bowed in worship to the true God but who also relied on the god Molek (Zephaniah 1:5). Zephaniah described their adoption of pagan culture (v. 8) and warned that as a result God would drive the people of Judah from their homeland.

Yet God never stopped loving His people. His judgment was to show them their need to turn to Him. So Zephaniah encouraged Judah to “Seek righteousness, seek humility” (2:3). Then the Lord gave them tender words promising future restoration: “At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home” (3:20).

It’s easy to condemn examples of obvious syncretism like the wedding I attended. But in reality, all of us easily blend God’s truth with the assumptions of our culture. We need the Holy Spirit’s guidance to test our beliefs against the truth of God’s Word and then to stand for that truth confidently and lovingly. Our Father warmly embraces anyone who worships Him in both Spirit and truth (see John 4:23–24). 

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