Category  |  God

What Can’t You Give Up?

“What’s one thing you can’t give up?” the radio host asked. Listeners called in with some interesting answers. Some mentioned their families, including a husband who shared memories of a deceased wife. Others shared they can’t give up on their dreams, such as making a living in music or becoming a mother. All of us have something we treasure dearly—a person, a passion, a possession—something we can’t give up.

In the book of Hosea, God tells us that He won’t give up on His chosen people Israel, His treasured possession. As Israel’s loving husband, God provided her with everything she needed: land, food, drink, clothing, and security. Yet like an adulterous spouse, Israel rejected God and sought her happiness and security elsewhere. The more God pursued her, the further she drifted away (Hosea 11:2). However, though she had hurt Him deeply, He would not give her up (v. 8). He would discipline Israel so as to redeem her; His desire was to re-establish His relationship with her (v. 11).

Today, all God’s children can have the same assurance: His love for us is a love that will never let us go (Romans 8:37–39). If we’ve wandered from Him, He yearns for us to return. When God disciplines us, we can be comforted that it’s a sign of His pursuit, not of His rejection. We are His treasure; He won’t give up on us.

Infinite Dimensions

I lay still on the vinyl-covered mat and held my breath on command as the machine whirred and clicked. I knew lots of folks had endured MRI’s, but for claustrophobic me, the experience required focused concentration on something—Someone—much bigger than myself.

In my mind, a phrase from Scripture (“how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,” Ephesians 3:18) moved in rhythm with the machine’s hum. In Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church, he described four dimensions to God’s love in order to stress the unending parameters of God’s love and presence.

My position while lying down for the MRI provided a new image for my understanding. Wide: the six inches on either side of where my arms were tightly pinned to my body within the tube. Long: the distance between the cylinder’s two openings, extending out from my head and feet. High: the six inches from my nose up to the “ceiling” of the tube. Deep: the support of the tube anchored to the floor beneath me, holding me up. Four dimensions illustrating God’s presence surrounding and holding me in the MRI tube—and in every circumstance of life.

God’s love is ALL around us. Wide: He extends His arms to reach all people everywhere. Long: His love never ends. High: He lifts us up. Deep: He dips down, holding us in all situations. Nothing can separate us from Him! (Romans 8:38–39).

Ponder It

During Oswald Chambers’ years at the Bible Training College in London (1911–15), he often startled the students with things he said during his lectures. One young woman explained that because discussion was reserved for the following mealtime together, Chambers would frequently be bombarded with questions and objections. She recalled that Oswald would often simply smile and say, “Just leave it for now; it will come to you later.” He encouraged them to ponder the issues and allow God to reveal His truth to them.

To ponder something is to concentrate and think deeply about it. After the events leading to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, followed by the appearance of angels, and the shepherds who came to see the Messiah, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). New Testament scholar W. E. Vine said that “ponder” means “to throw together, confer, to put one thing with another in considering circumstances”  (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).

When we struggle to understand the meaning of what is happening in our lives, we have Mary’s wonderful example of what it means to seek the Lord and His wisdom.

When we, like her, accept God’s leading in our lives, we have many new things about our Lord’s loving guidance to treasure and ponder in our hearts.

From Shame to Honor

It’s that time of the year again, when families gather to celebrate the festive season together. Some of us, however, dread meeting certain “concerned” relatives whose questions can make those who are still single or childless feel that there’s something wrong with them.

Imagine the plight of Elizabeth, who was childless despite being married for many years. In her culture, that was seen as a sign of God’s disfavor (see 1 Samuel 1:5–6) and could actually be considered shameful. So while Elizabeth had been living righteously (Luke 1:6), her neighbors and relatives may have suspected otherwise.

Nonetheless, Elizabeth and her husband continued to serve the Lord faithfully. Then, when both were well advanced in years, a miracle occurred. God heard her prayer (v. 13). He loves to show us His favor (v. 25). And though He may seem to delay, His timing is always right and His wisdom always perfect. For Elizabeth and her husband, God had a special gift: A child who would become the Messiah’s forerunner (Isaiah 40:3–5).

Do you feel inadequate because you seem to lack something—a university degree, a spouse, a child, a job, a house? Keep living for Him faithfully and waiting patiently for Him and His plan, just as Elizabeth did. No matter our circumstances, God is working in and through us. He knows your heart. He hears your prayers.

Heaven’s Love Song

In 1936, songwriter Billy Hill released a popular hit song titled “The Glory of Love.” Before long a nation was singing about the joy of doing even little things out of love for one another.  Fifty years later, lyricist Peter Cetera wrote a more romantic song with a similar title. He imagined two people living forever, knowing together, they did it all— for the glory of love.

Revelation, the last book in the Bible, describes a new love song that will someday lift the voices of everyone in heaven and earth (Revelation 5:9,13). The music begins, however, in a minor key of mourning. John, our narrator, cries, seeing no answer to all that has gone wrong with the world (vv. 3–4).  But his mood brightens and the music builds to a crescendo (vv. 12–13) as John learns the real glory and story of love.  Soon he hears all creation praising the powerful Lion-King of Judah (v. 5), who has won the hearts of His subjects by lovingly sacrificing Himself, like a Lamb, for our rescue (v. 13).

In the most moving lyrics ever sung, we see why even simple acts of kindness rise on the wings of a song. The glory we sing about reflects the heart of our God. We sing about Him because He gave us our song. 

The “Hope for a Baby” Tree

After wrapping the tree with clear twinkle lights, I tied pink and blue bows on its branches and christened it our “Hope for a Baby” Christmas tree. My husband and I had been waiting for a baby through adoption for over four years. Surely by Christmas!

Every morning I stopped at the tree and prayed, reminding myself of God’s faithfulness. On December 21 we received the news: no baby by Christmas. Devastated, I paused by the tree that had become a symbol of God’s provision. Was God still faithful? Was I doing something wrong?

At times, God’s apparent withholding results from His loving discipline. And other times God lovingly delays to renew our trust. In Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah describes God’s correction of Israel. The pain is palpable: “He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver” (3:13). Through it all, Jeremiah also expresses ultimate trust in God’s faithfulness: “his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (vv. 22–23).

I left the tree standing well beyond Christmas and continued my morning prayer. At last, on Easter weekend, we received our baby girl. God is always faithful, though not necessarily on our timeline nor always according to our desires.

My children are now in their thirties, but each year I set up a miniature version of the tree, reminding myself and others to hope in God’s faithfulness.

“The Lord’s”

It doesn’t take much to notice that getting “inked” is very popular these days. Some tattoos are so small that one barely notices them. Others—from athletes to actors to everyday people—have opted to cover much of their bodies with multi-colored inks, words and designs. The trend seems like it’s here to stay, a trend that netted $3 billion in revenue in 2014—and an additional $66 million for tattoo removal. 

Regardless of how you may feel about tattoos, Isaiah 44 speaks metaphorically about people writing something on their hands: “The Lord’s” (v. 5). This “self-tattoo” is the climax of an entire paragraph that speaks of the Lord’s care for those He had chosen (v. 1); they could count on His help (v. 2); their land and their descendants were marked for blessing (v. 3). Two simple, powerful words, “The Lord’s,” affirmed that God’s people knew they were the possession of the Lord and that He would take care of them.

Those who come to God through faith in Jesus Christ join can confidently say of themselves, “The Lord’s!” We are His people, His sheep, His offspring, His inheritance, His dwelling. These are the things we cling to in the varied seasons of life. While there may be no external mark or brand or tattoo, we can take heart that we have the witness of God’s Spirit in our hearts that we belong to Him (see Romans 8:16–17).

Steadfast Love

“I love you!” my dad called out as I slammed the car door and headed into school. I was in sixth grade, and for months we had played out basically the same scenario every morning. We arrived at school, Dad said, “Have a great day! I love you!” and all I said was “Bye.” I wasn’t angry with him or ignoring him. I was simply so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I didn’t notice his words. Nevertheless, my dad’s love remained steadfast.

God’s love is like that—and more. It endures forever. The Hebrew word that expresses this steadfast kind of love is hesed. It’s used over and over again in the Old Testament, and twenty-six times in Psalm 136 alone! No modern word can fully capture the meaning; we translate it “kindness,” “loving-kindness,” “mercy,” or “loyalty.” Hesed is a love that is based on covenant commitment; love that is loyal and faithful. Even when God’s people sinned, He was faithful in loving them. Steadfast love is an integral part of the character of God (Exodus 34:6).

When I was a child, I sometimes took my dad’s love for granted. Sometimes now I do the same thing with God’s love. I forget to listen to the Lord and respond. I forget to be grateful. Yet I know that God’s love for me remains steadfast—a reality that provides a sure foundation for all of my life.

God’s Hidden Hand

My friend was adopted by a missionary couple from Michigan and grew up in Ghana. After his family moved back to Michigan, he began college but had to drop out. Later, he signed on with the military, which eventually helped him pay for college and took him all over the world. Through it all, God was at work, preparing him for a special role. Today, he writes and edits Christian literature that ministers to an international audience. 

His wife also has an interesting story. She failed her chemistry exams during her first year of college due to the strong medication she had to take for epilepsy. After some careful deliberation, she switched from studying science to studying American Sign Language, which had a more manageable workload. Reflecting on that experience, she says, “God was redirecting my life for a greater purpose.” Today, she is making His life-changing Word accessible to the hearing-impaired. 

Do you sometimes wonder where God is leading you? Psalm 139:16 acknowledges God’s sovereign hand in our lives: “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” We don’t know how God will use the circumstances of our life, but we can rest in the knowledge that God knows everything about us and He is directing our footsteps. Though His sovereign hand may seem hidden, He’s never absent.

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