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Cries of Distress

By |2024-03-13T02:34:22-04:00March 13th, 2024|

Trapped under two floors of collapsed rubble caused by an earthquake, 5-year-old Jinan, a Syrian girl, called out to rescuers as she shielded her little brother from the debris surrounding them. “Get me out of here; I’ll do anything for you,” she called heartbreakingly. “I’ll be your servant.”  

Cries of distress are found throughout the Psalms: “When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord” (118:5). While we may never experience the crushing weight of earthquake-collapsed buildings, we all recognize the suffocating fears from a challenging medical diagnosis, economic hardship, uncertainty about the future, or relational loss.

In those moments we may offer bargains to God for deliverance. But God doesn’t need to be persuaded to help. He promises to answer, and while it may not be relief from our situation, He’ll be with us and on our side. Nor do we need to fear any other peril—including death. We can say with the psalmist, “The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies” (v. 7).

We’re not promised as dramatic a rescue as Jinan and her brother experienced, but we can trust our faithful God, who brought the psalmist “into a spacious place” (v. 5). He knows our situation and He’ll never abandon us, even in death.

God’s Greater Power

By |2024-03-05T01:33:17-05:00March 5th, 2024|

In March 1945, the “Ghost Army” helped US forces achieve the Rhine River crossing—giving the allies a vital base to operate from on World War II’s Western Front. The soldiers were most definitely human, not apparitions, all part of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. On this occasion, the 1,100-man team imitated 30,000 men by using inflatable decoy tanks, blasting troop and vehicle sound effects over speakers, and more. The relatively small number of Ghost Army members led the enemy to fear what appeared to be a far greater force.

The Midianites and their allies also trembled before a tiny army that loomed large in the night (Judges 7:8-22). Gideon, a judge, prophet, and military leader of Israel, was used by God to make his puny army a source of terror for the enemy. They also used sound effects (blown trumpets, smashed clay jars, human voices) and visible objects (blazing torches) to make the vast enemy—“thick as locusts” (v. 12)—believe they were facing a colossal foe. Israel defeated their enemy that night with an army whittled down from 32,000 men to just 300 by God’s command (vv. 2–8). Why? Because that made it clear who truly won the battle. As God told Gideon, “I have given you victory over them” (v. 9 nlt).

When we feel weak and inferior, let’s seek God and rest in His strength alone. For His “power is made perfect in [our] weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

In God’s Loving Hands

By |2024-02-18T01:33:06-05:00February 18th, 2024|

Soren Solkaer spent years photographing starlings and their breathtaking spectacle: murmurations, where hundreds of thousands of starlings move in fluid motion across the sky. Watching this marvel is like sitting underneath an orchestrated, swirling wave or a massive, dark brushstroke flowing into a kaleidoscope of patterns. In Denmark, they call this starling experience Black Sun (also the title of Solkaer’s stunning book of photographs). Most remarkable is how starlings instinctively follow their nearest companion, flying so close that if one were to miss a beat, they’d suffer mass calamity. However, starlings use murmurations to protect one another. When a hawk descends, these tiny creatures enter tight formation and move collectively, beating back a predator who’d easily pick them off if they were alone.

We’re better together than we are alone. “Two are better than one,” Ecclesiastes says. “If either . . . falls down, one can help the other up. [And] if two lie down together, they will keep warm” (4:9–11). Alone, we’re isolated and easy prey. We’re exposed without others’ comfort or protection.

But with companions, we give and receive help. “Though one may be overpowered,” Ecclesiastes says, “two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (v.12). We’re better together as God leads us.

Lean on God

By |2023-12-12T01:33:17-05:00December 12th, 2023|

While at a water park with some friends, we attempted to navigate a floating obstacle course made of inflatable platforms. The bouncy, slippery platforms made walking straight almost impossible. As we wobbled our way across ramps, cliffs, and bridges, we found ourselves yelping as we fell unceremoniously into the water. After completing one course, my friend, completely exhausted, leaned on one of the “towers” to catch her breath. Almost immediately, it buckled under her weight, sending her hurtling into the water.

Unlike the flimsy towers at the water park, in Bible times, a tower was a stronghold for defense and protection. Judges 9:51 describes how the people of Thebez fled to “a strong tower” to hide from Abimelek’s attack on their city. In Proverbs 18:10 (nkjv), the writer used the image of a strong tower to describe who God is—the One who saves those who trust Him.

Sometimes, however, rather than lean on the strong tower of God when we're tired or beaten down, we seek other things for safety and support—a career, relationships, or physical comforts. We’re no different from the rich man who looked for strength in his wealth (v. 11). But just as the inflatable tower couldn't support my friend, these things can't give us what we really need. God—who's all-powerful and in control of all situations—provides true comfort and security.

Sins Remembered No More

By |2023-11-14T01:33:31-05:00November 14th, 2023|

I never saw the ice. But I felt it. The back end of the pickup I was driving—my grandfather’s—fishtailed. One swerve, two, three—and I was airborne, flying off a fifteen-foot embankment. I remember thinking, This would be awesome if I wasn’t going to die. A moment later, the truck crunched into the steep slope and rolled to the bottom. I crawled out of the crushed cab, unscathed.

The truck was utterly totaled that December morning in 1992. God had spared me. But what about my grandfather? What would he say? In fact, he never said a single word about the truck. Not one. There was no scolding, no repayment plan, nothing. Just forgiveness. And a grandfather’s smile that I was okay.

My grandfather’s grace reminds me of God’s grace in Jeremiah 31. There, despite their tremendous failings, God promises a restored relationship with His people, saying, “I will forgive their wickedness, and I will remember their sins no more” (v. 34).

I’m sure my grandfather never forgot that I’d wrecked his truck. But he acted just like God does here, not remembering it, not shaming me, not making me work to repay the debt I rightfully owed. Just as God says He’ll do, my grandfather chose to remember it no more, as if the destructive thing I’d done had never happened.

Under God’s Wings

By |2023-10-31T02:33:27-04:00October 31st, 2023|

There are several Canada goose families with baby geese at the pond near our apartment complex. The little goslings are so fluffy and cute, it’s hard not to watch them when I go for a walk or run around the pond. But I’ve learned to avoid eye contact and give the geese a wide berth—otherwise, I risk a protective goose parent suspecting a threat and hissing and chasing me!

The image of a bird protecting her young is one that Scripture uses to describe God’s tender, protective love for His children (Psalm 91:4). In Psalm 61, David seems to be struggling to experience God’s care in this way once more. He’d experienced God as his “refuge, a strong tower” (v. 3), but now he called desperately “from the ends of the earth,” pleading, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (v. 2). He longed to once more “take refuge in the shelter of [God’s] wings” (v. 4).

And in bringing his pain and longing for healing to God, David took comfort in knowing that He had heard him (v. 5). Because of God’s faithfulness, he knew he would “ever sing in praise of [His] name” (v. 8).

Like the psalmist, when we feel distant from God’s love, we can run back to His arms to be assured that even in our pain, He’s with us, protecting and caring for us as fiercely as a mother bird guards her young.

Smartphone Compassion

By |2023-10-30T02:33:15-04:00October 30th, 2023|

Was the driver late with your food? You can use your phone to give him a one-star rating. Did the shopkeeper treat you curtly? You can write her a critical review. While smartphones enable us to shop, keep up with friends, and more, they have also given us the power to publicly rate each other. And this can be a problem.

Rating each other this way is problematic because judgments can be made without context. The driver gets rated poorly for a late delivery due to circumstances out of his control. The shopkeeper gets a negative review when she’d been up all night with a sick child. How can we avoid  rating others unfairly like this?

By imitating God’s character. In Exodus 34:5–7, God describes Himself as “compassionate and gracious”—meaning He wouldn’t judge our failures without context; “slow to anger”—meaning He wouldn’t post a negative review after one bad experience; “abounding in love”—meaning His correctives are for our good, not to get revenge; and “forgiving [of] sin”—meaning our lives don’t have to be defined by our one-star days. Since God’s character is to be the basis of ours (Ephesians 5:1), we can avoid the harshness smartphones enable by using ours as He would.

In the online age, we can all rate others harshly. May the Holy Spirit empower us to bring a little compassion today.

God’s Mighty Power

By |2023-06-23T02:33:14-04:00June 23rd, 2023|

The seemingly impossible happened when hurricane-force winds changed the flow of the mighty Mississippi River. In August 2021, Hurricane Ida came ashore on the coast of Louisiana, and the astonishing result was a “negative flow,” meaning water actually flowed upriver for several hours.

Experts estimate that over its life cycle a hurricane can expend energy equivalent to 10,000 nuclear bombs! Such incredible power to change the course of flowing water helps me understand the Israelites’ response to a far more significant “negative flow” recorded in Exodus.

While fleeing the Egyptians who’d enslaved them for centuries, the Israelites came to the edge of the Red Sea. In front of them was a wide body of water and behind them was the heavily armored Egyptian army. In that seemingly impossible situation, “the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land . . . and the Israelites went through the sea” (Exodus 14:21–22). Rescued in that incredible display of power, “the people feared the Lord” (v. 31).

Responding with awe is natural after experiencing the immensity of God’s power. But it didn’t end there; the Israelites also “put their trust” in God (v. 31).

As we experience God’s power in creation, we too can stand in awe of His might and place our trust in Him.

Uniting Nations

By |2023-06-02T02:33:03-04:00June 2nd, 2023|

The longest international border in the world is shared by the United States and Canada, covering an incredible 5,525 miles of land and water. Workers regularly cut down ten feet of trees on both sides of the boundary to make the border line unmistakable. This lengthy ribbon of cleared land, called “the Slash,” is dotted by more than eight thousand stone markers so visitors always know where the dividing line falls.

The physical deforestation of “the Slash” represents a separation of government and cultures. As believers in Jesus, we look forward to a time when God will reverse that and unite all nations across the world under His rule. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a future where His temple will be firmly established and exalted (Isaiah 2:2). People from all nations will gather to learn God’s ways and “walk in His paths” (v. 3). No longer will we rely on human efforts that fail to maintain peace. As our true King, God will judge between nations and settle all disputes (v. 4).

Can you imagine a world without division and conflict? That’s what God promises to bring! Regardless of the disunity around us, we can “walk in the light of the Lord” (v. 5) and choose to give Him our allegiance now. We know that God rules over all and He will someday unite His people under one banner.

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