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Choices Matter

By |2024-04-17T02:33:11-04:00April 17th, 2024|

Pastor Damian’s schedule included hospital visits to two people nearing death who’d chosen two different life paths. In one hospital was a woman beloved by her family. Her selfless public service had endeared her to many. Other believers in Jesus had gathered around her, and worship, prayer, and hope filled the room. In another hospital the relative of a member of Pastor Damian’s church was also dying. His hardened heart had led to a hard life, and his disheveled family lived in the wake of his poor decisions and misdeeds. The differences in the two atmospheres reflected the contrasts in how each had lived.

Those who fail to consider where they’re headed in life often find themselves stuck in uncomfortable, undesirable, lonely places. Proverbs 14:12 notes that “there is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Young or old, sick or well, wealthy or impoverished—it’s not too late to reexamine our path. Where will it lead? Does it honor God? Does it help or disrupt others? Is it the best path for a believer in Jesus?

Choices do matter. And the God of heaven will help us make the best choices as we turn to Him through His Son, Jesus, who said, “Come to me, . . . and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Ready to Go for God

By |2024-04-16T02:33:08-04:00April 16th, 2024|

The book Hidden Figures recounts preparations for John Glenn’s flight into space. Computers were new-fangled inventions in 1962, subject to glitches. Glenn didn’t trust them and worried about calculations for the launch. He knew one brainy woman in the back room could run the numbers. He trusted her. “If she says the numbers are good,” Glenn said, “I’m ready to go.”

Katherine Johnson was a teacher and mother of three. She loved Jesus and served in her church. God had blessed Katherine with a remarkable mind. NASA tapped her in the late 1950s to help with the space program. She was Glenn’s “brainy woman,” one of the “human computers” they hired at the time.

We may not be called to be brilliant mathematicians, but God calls us to other things: “To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it” (Ephesians 4:7).  We’re to ”live a life worthy of the calling” we’ve received (v. 1). We’re part of one body, in which “each part does its work” (v. 16).

Katherine Johnson’s calculations confirmed the course trajectory. Glenn's launch into orbit was like “hitting a bull’s-eye.” But this was just one of Katherine’s callings. Remember, she was called also to be a mother, teacher, and church worker. We might ask ourselves what God has called us to, whether big or small. Are we “ready to go,” exercising the grace-gifts He’s bestowed, “living a life worthy of [our] calling” (v. 1)?

When Jesus Stops

By |2024-02-27T01:33:29-05:00February 27th, 2024|

For days, the sickly cat cried, huddled in a box near my workplace. Abandoned on the street, the feline went unnoticed by many who passed it by—until Jun came along. The street sweeper carried the animal home, where he lived with two dogs, which were former strays.

“I care for them because they’re the creatures no one notices,” Jun said. “I see myself in them. No one notices a street sweeper, after all.”

As Jesus walked toward Jericho on His way to Jerusalem, a blind man sat begging by the roadside. He felt unnoticed too. And on this day especially, when a crowd was passing through and all eyes were focused on Jesus—no one stopped to help the beggar.

No one except Jesus. In the midst of the clamoring crowd, He heard the forgotten man’s cry. “What do you want me to do for you?” Christ asked, and He received the heartfelt reply, “Lord, I want to see.” Then Jesus said, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you” (Luke 18:41–42).

Do we feel unnoticed at times? Are our cries drowned out by people who seem to matter more than us? Our Savior notices those the world doesn’t care to notice. Call to Him for help! While others may pass us by, He’ll stop for us.

 

Cling to Jesus

By |2023-11-12T01:33:11-05:00November 12th, 2023|

Dizziness struck me in the stairwell of the office building. Overwhelmed, I gripped the banister because the stairs seemed to spin. As my heart pounded and my legs buckled, I clung onto the banister, thankful for its strength. Medical tests showed I had anemia. Although its cause wasn’t serious and my condition was resolved, I’ll never forget how weak I felt that day.

That’s why I admire the woman who touched Jesus. She not only moved through the crowd in her weakened state, but she also showed faith in venturing out to approach Him. She had good reason to be afraid: Jewish law defined her as unclean and by exposing others to her uncleanness, she could be punished (Leviticus 15:25−27). But the thought, If I only touch His cloak kept her going. The Greek word that is translated as “touch” in Matthew 9:21 is not mere touching but has the stronger meaning of “to hold onto” or “to attach oneself.” The woman tightly held onto Jesus. She believed He could heal her.

Jesus saw, in the midst of a crowd, the desperate faith of one woman. When we too venture out in faith and cling to Christ in our need, He welcomes us and comes to our aid. We can tell Him our story without fear of rejection or punishment. Jesus tells us today, “Cling to me.”

Worth It to Follow Jesus

By |2023-11-01T02:33:32-04:00November 1st, 2023|

Ronit came from a religious but non-Christian family. Their discussions about spiritual matters were dry and academic. “I kept praying all the prayers,” she said, “but I wasn’t hearing [from God].”

She began to study the Bible. Slowly, steadily, she inched toward faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Ronit describes the defining moment: “I heard a clear voice in my heart saying, ‘You’ve heard enough. You’ve seen enough. It’s time to just believe.’ ” But Ronit faced a problem: her father. “My dad was like Mount Vesuvius erupted,” she recalls.

When Jesus walked this earth, crowds followed Him (Luke 14:25). We don’t’ know exactly what they were looking for, but He was looking for disciples. And that comes with a cost. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple,” He said (v. 26). He told a story about building a tower. “Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost?” He asked (v. 28). Jesus’ point wasn’t that we’re to literally hate family; rather, it’s that we must choose Him over everything else. He said, “You who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (v. 33).

Ronit loves her family deeply, yet she concluded, “Whatever the cost, I figured it’s worth it.” What might you need to give up to follow Jesus as He guides You?

The God of Surprises

By |2023-09-08T02:33:19-04:00September 8th, 2023|

The convention center darkened, and thousands of us university students bowed our heads as the speaker led us in a prayer of commitment. As he welcomed those to stand who felt called to serve in overseas missions, I could feel my friend Lynette leave her seat and knew she was promising to live and serve in the Philippines. Yet I felt no urge to stand. Seeing the needs in the United States, I wanted to share God’s love in my native land. But a decade later I would make my home in Britain, seeking to serve God among the people He gave me as my neighbors. My ideas about how I would live my life changed when I realized that God invited me on an adventure different from what I had anticipated.

Jesus often surprised those He met, including the fishermen He called to follow Him. When Christ gave them a new mission to fish for people, Peter and Andrew left their nets “at once” and followed Him (Matthew 4:20), and James and John “immediately” left their boat (v. 22). They set off on this new adventure with Jesus, trusting Him yet not knowing where they were going.

God, of course, calls many people to serve Him right where they are! Whether staying or going, we can all look to Him expectantly to surprise us with wonderful experiences and opportunities to live for Him in ways we might never have dreamed possible.

The Gospel in Unexpected Places

By |2023-06-29T02:33:25-04:00June 29th, 2023|

Recently, I found myself someplace I’d seen in movies and on TV more times that I could count: Hollywood, California. There, in the foothills of Los Angeles, those enormous white letters marched proudly across that famous hillside as I viewed them from my hotel window.

Then I noticed something else: down to the left was a prominent cross. I’d never seen that in a movie. And the moment I left my hotel room, some students from a local church began to share Jesus with me.

We might sometimes think of Hollywood as only the epicenter of worldliness, in utter contrast with God’s kingdom. Yet clearly Christ was at work there, catching me by surprise by His presence.

The Pharisees were consistently surprised by where Jesus turned up. He didn’t hang out with the people they expected. Instead, Mark 2:13–17 tells us He spent time with “tax collectors and sinners” (v. 15), people whose lives practically screamed “Unclean!” Yet there Jesus was, among those who needed Him most (v. 17).

More than 2,000 years later, Jesus continues to plant His message of hope and salvation in unexpected places, among the most unexpected of people. And He’s called and equipped us to be a part of that mission.   

All for Jesus

By |2023-05-25T02:33:04-04:00May 25th, 2023|

When Jeff was fourteen, his mom took him to see a famous singer. Like many musicians of his era, B. J. Thomas had gotten caught up in a self-destructive lifestyle while on music tours. But that was before he and his wife were introduced to Jesus. Their lives were radically changed when they became believers in Christ.

On the night of the concert, the singer began to entertain the enthusiastic crowd. But after performing a few of his well-known songs, one guy yelled out from the audience, “Hey, sing one for Jesus!” Without any hesitation, B. J. responded, “I just sang four songs for Jesus.”

It’s been a few decades since then, but Jeff still remembers that moment when he realized that everything we do should be for Jesus—even things that some might consider to be “non-religious.”

We’re sometimes tempted to divvy up the things we do in life. Read the Bible. Share our story of coming to faith. Sing a hymn. Sacred stuff. Mow the lawn. Go for a run. Sing a country song. Secular stuff.

Colossians 3:16 reminds us that the message of Christ indwells us in activities like teaching, singing, and being thankful, but verse 17 goes even further. It emphasizes that as God’s children, “whatever [we] do, whether in word or deed, [we] do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

We do it all for Him.

Finishing Strong

By |2022-12-31T01:33:12-05:00December 31st, 2022|

At the age of 103, a woman named Man Kaur competed as India’s oldest female athlete during the 2019 World Masters Athletic Championship in Poland. Remarkably, Kaur won gold in four events (javelin, shot put, 60-meter dash, and 200-meter run). But most astounding: she ran faster than she ran in the 2017 championship. A great-grandmother running into her second century, Kaur showed how to finish strong.

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, a younger disciple, of how he’d entered his concluding years. “The time for my departure is near,” Paul wrote (2 Timothy 4:6). Reflecting on his life, he confidently believed he was finishing strong. “I have fought the good fight,” Paul said. “I have finished the race” (v. 7). He wasn’t confident because he’d calculated his impressive accomplishments or surveyed his vast impact (though they were immense). Rather, he knew he’d “kept the faith” (v.7). The apostle had remained loyal to Jesus. Through sorrows and joys, he’d followed the One who’d rescued him from ruin. And he knew that Jesus stood ready with a “crown of righteousness,” the joyful finale to his faithful life (v. 8).

Paul insists that this crown isn’t for an elite few but for “all who have longed for [Christ’s] appearing” (v.8). As we head into a new year, let’s remember that Jesus stands eager to crown all who’ve loved Him and may we live to finish strong.

Using Your Voice

By |2022-11-15T01:33:03-05:00November 15th, 2022|

Since age eight, Lisa had struggled with a stammer and became afraid of social situations that required her to talk with people. But later in life, after speech therapy helped her overcome her challenge, Lisa decided to use her voice to help others. She began volunteering as a counselor for an emotional distress telephone hotline.

Moses had to face his concerns about speaking to help lead the Israelites out of captivity. God asked him to communicate with Pharaoh, but Moses protested because he didn’t feel confident in his speaking ability (Exodus 4:10). God challenged him, “Who gave human beings their mouths?” Then He reassured Moses saying, “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (vv. 11–12).

God’s response reminds us that He can work powerfully through us even in our limitations. But even when we know this in our hearts, it can be hard to live it out. Moses continued to struggle and begged God to send someone else (v. 13). So God allowed Moses’ brother Aaron to accompany him (v. 14).

Each of us has a voice that can help others and change the world for the better. We may be afraid. We may not feel capable. We may feel we don’t have the right words.

God knows how we feel. He can provide the words and all we need to serve others and accomplish His work.

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