22 February 2019, 12:00 am
The little girl who navigated the stairway one Sunday at church was cute, spunky, and independent. One by one the child—who appeared to be not much older than two years old—took the steps down to the lower level. Descending the stairs was her mission and she accomplished it. I smiled to myself as I pondered the daring independence of this courageous toddler. The child wasn’t afraid because she knew her caring mother’s watchful eye was always on her and her loving hand was extended to help her. This aptly pictures the Lord’s readiness to help His children as they make their way through life with its varied uncertainties.
Today’s Scripture includes two “hand” references. After cautioning His ancient people not to fear or be dismayed, the Lord told them, “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). Many anxious and fearful children have been steadied by the strength of a parent. Here God’s power comes into view. In the second “hand” reference, once again it’s the Lord who acted to secure the safety of His own. “For I am the
21 February 2019, 12:00 am
My great aunt had an exciting job in advertising, and traveled between Chicago and New York City. But she chose to give up that career out of love for her parents. They lived in Minnesota and needed to be cared for. Both of her brothers had died young in tragic circumstances and she was her mom and dad’s only remaining child. For her, serving her parents was an expression of her faith.
The apostle Paul’s writing to the church at Rome urged Christian believers to be “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). He hoped they would extend Christ’s sacrificial love to each other. And he asked them not to think of themselves more highly than they should (v. 3). When they fell into disagreements and division, he called them to lay down their pride, because “in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (v. 5). He yearned that they would show each other sacrificial love.
Each day we have the opportunity to serve others. For instance, we might let someone go ahead of us in a line or we might, like my great aunt, care for someone who is ill. Or maybe we share from our experience as we give another advice and direction. When we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, we honor God.More
20 February 2019, 12:00 am
Her name is Ruby. She is four years old. Like most children that age, Ruby loved to run, sing, dance, and play. But she started complaining about pain in her knees. Ruby’s parents took her in for tests. The results were shocking—a diagnosis of cancer, stage 4 neuroblastoma. Ruby was in trouble. She was quickly admitted to the hospital.
Ruby’s hospital stay lingered on, spilling over into the Christmas season, a hard time to be away from home. One of Ruby’s nurses came up with the idea to place a mailbox outside her room so family could send letters full of prayers and encouragement to her. Then the plea went out on Facebook, and that’s when the volume of mail coming in from friends to complete strangers surprised everyone, most of all Ruby. With each letter received (over 100,000 total), Ruby grew a little more encouraged, and she finally got to go home.
Paul’s letter to the people at Colossae was exactly that—a letter (1:2). Words penned on a page that carried hopes for continued fruitfulness and knowledge and strength and endurance and patience (vv. 10–11). Can you imagine what a dose of good medicine such words were to the faithful at Colossae? Just knowing that someone was praying nonstop for them strengthened them to stay steady in their faith in Christ Jesus.
Our words of encouragement can dramatically help others in need.More
19 February 2019, 12:00 am
I’m reminded of some wise advice a radio broadcaster friend once gave me. Early on in his career, as my friend struggled to know how to deal with both criticism and praise, he felt that God was encouraging him to shelve both. What’s the essence of what he took to heart? Learn what you can from criticism and accept praise. Then shelve both and humbly move on in God’s grace and power.
Criticism and praise stir in us powerful emotions that, if left unchecked, can lead to either self-loathing or an overinflated ego. In Proverbs we read of the benefits of encouragement and wise counsel: “Good news gives health to the bones. Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding” (15:30–32).
If we’re on the receiving end of a rebuke, may we choose to be sharpened by it. Proverbs states, “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise” (v. 31). And if we’re blessed with words of praise, may we be refreshed and filled with gratitude. As we walk humbly with God, He can help us learn from both criticism and praise, shelve them, and then move on in Him (v. 33).More