I watched from my seat near the back of the classroom as students straggled into class one by one. Some carried remainders of their lunches that they hadn’t been able to finish in the fifteen minute gap between class periods. As the students took their seats, they immediately unzipped their backpacks to find their reading notes. Everyone was getting some last-minute studying in before the big quiz.
After a little while, the professor strolled cheerfully into the classroom. “Did you all have a good weekend?” he asked sincerely while readying his PowerPoint slides. A few heads nodded politely in the midst of their cramming session. “I decided to make a change on the quiz today.” That got our attention. “We have a lot of material to cover from the lesson, so I went ahead and gave you all 100% on the quiz. That way I have more time to teach.”
It took a moment for us to believe what we were hearing. As the news sunk in, students began to cheer and clap. Relief permeated the atmosphere with new perspective.
Have you ever had something like this happen to you? Colossians 2:14 reveals another area where we have received greater mercy than just being released from a quiz. Colossians says that God freed us “…by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
This news should awake thankful joy in our hearts that far exceeds the clapping and cheers in my class! It is unimaginable mercy that God showed in punishing his own son for our sins instead of letting us bear his wrath. As if this wasn’t enough, God also credits us with Jesus’ perfect life. We were not only pardoned from taking the test, but were given a 100% that we never would have been able to earn on our own!
This is radical love. And it is something that we can imitate every day in our relationships with other people. Is there anyone who you have been reluctant to forgive because the debt that they owe you is just so huge? Maybe it is one of your parents, or a stepparent, or someone you think should have intervened in your parents’ decision. Imitate God’s mercy by releasing them from that debt. Love them anyway.
When have you been blessed by someone’s grace in your life?
A young family walked past our window, the parents laughing while their son rolled along the sidewalk on his tricycle.
Zoom! A streak of black fur whizzed past my feet. My dog, Cheerio, reached the wall and jumped up onto the chair beside the window. He barked furiously at the small family that had dared to walk on his sidewalk. They turned to look for the source of the noise, smiled at the puppy face in the window, and continued walking unconcerned.
Cheerio has proclaimed himself as the guardian of our house. He takes his job very seriously. Wherever I am in the house, he parks himself next to the closest window, sticks his nose against the glass, and scrutinizes the front yard for movement.
Today as I was watching Cheerio, I was reminded of 1 Corinthians 16:13 which says, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” Cheerio has got the “be on your guard” part down pretty well.
One of the most damaging things to a Christian, depression, can also be most stealthy in entering our lives. That is why we need to be especially watchful in looking out for it. As soon as we catch it, we can sound the alarm in prayer to God just like Cheerio does when he barks at an unwanted visitor. When we catch unhelpful and untrue thoughts in our minds, we can combat them with the armor of God that is talked about in Ephesians 6.
Cheerio does a great job of keeping watch from far away. However, if he finds an insect in our house, he leaps a few feet back in surprise and fear before venturing forward to investigate. Even though he is thousands of times larger than the tiny insect, he treats it as though it were enormous. Problems like depression can also seem insurmountable. But with God, we have all the strength and truth to defeat the lies of depression.
Be like Cheerio in keeping watch over your life. What prayers or verses do you find helpful to combat depression?
On Tuesday I was interviewed on the Christian Devotions’ Speak Up radio program! Speak Up has hosted interviews with people like Twila Paris, Aaron Shust, Jim Daly, Ken Ham, Alex Kendrick, the Duggar Family, and Blimey Cow!
You can listen to the interview using the embedded media player or by listening at this audio player. The part with my interview is from 10:30-31:30.
Also, go check out some of the other great interviews on the main website! Christian Devotions Speak Up
Be on the lookout for a full-length post tomorrow. =)
For a little over a week, people from around the world have been united around their respective TV sets as they watch the 2012 Summer Olympics. We’ve cheered for our favorite competitors, felt their crushing disappointments, and shared in their joy as they come out victorious at the medal ceremonies. In a small way, we feel as though we have traveled alongside these national heroes on their journey to Gold.
But in reality, we only see a miniscule part of the journey that these men and women have traveled to have the opportunity to compete in the Olympic games. We see the culmination of years of intense training in these short two weeks. The winning Olympians have invested literally thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars into training for the games, occasionally even experiencing foreclosure or bankruptcy because of their choice to compete.
So why do they do it? Why spend your life pursuing something even though it means sacrificing so much? They do it because they want a Gold medal, and they are willing to train, spend, and focus in order to get it.
We can learn a lot from these extremely dedicated men and women. Jesus says in Luke 12:34 that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What do you treasure? Probably not a Gold medal, but what is it for you? Good grades? Lots of “likes” on your Facebook status? Or do you treasure your relationship with Jesus above all things?
In a world where there are so many things vying for our attention, we have to make a special effort to keep Jesus as our treasure. Olympic athletes plan everything around their training schedule so that they can devote hours every day to getting better at their sport. We can learn from this in planning our time to best pursue our Treasure too.
Key #2 for keeping your thoughts on Jesus is to make Jesus your treasure. What ideas do you have to do this practically? I’d love to hear!
“We’re getting closer,” I replied to my tiny great-grandma who was seated in the wheelchair I was pushing. “We’ll walk outside now because I think I can find the building easier that way.” At 92 years old, Grammie Lee’s frail body seemed to add no weight to the wheelchair as I pushed her on the sidewalk towards the apartment where we would meet my grandmother.
“Would you look at those flowers!” Grammie Lee exclaimed in her small voice. “The yellows are so pretty!” I glanced across the street and spotted the patch of yellow pansies she was talking about. “Yeah, they’re nice!” I tried to muster up some enthusiasm to match my great-grandma’s. Where was that building? The retirement community had such a large campus that I sometimes stopped to get my bearings.
A few minutes later I heard a sound come from the chair. “What, Grammie Lee?” I leaned forward to listen. “Look at those little flowers in the ivy! Who would have known they were there? Aren’t they beautiful?” I looked at the greenery that lined the sidewalk. Sure enough, there were small green flowers hidden among the leaves. I marveled at how Grammie Lee seemed to notice all these things that I would pass by otherwise. What would it be like to see things through her eyes? I decided to try it.
“Grammie Lee, look at that!” I pointed to a pair of geese with two goslings following close behind. “Oh, yes.” She spent a few moments admiring the animals.
By the time we found the apartment building, my heart felt a lot lighter.
Grammie Lee is able to have a joyful attitude even though she can’t participate in many of the activities that go on around her. Her secret lies in Psalm 9:1: “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” Giving thanks to God means looking for those tiny blessings that we might pass by every day. Our whole heart should be occupied in telling of His miracles, even if they are as common as a yellow flower.
Has your heart felt especially burdened lately? Try taking a walk and making a point of giving thanks to God for making the beautiful things around you.
Music is such a powerful tool in influencing our thoughts. An environment of faith-filled songs will help us to stand strong in our relationship with God, while songs with degrading lyrics can influence us to think sinful thoughts. When fighting against discouragement, it is very important that the songs you listen to are uplifting. This week I wanted to share with you some of the songs that I have been enjoying lately. Click on the link to hear the song on Grooveshark!
Day by Day by Point of Grace
Blue Skies by Point of Grace
He’s Always Been Faithful sung by Sarah Groves
Absolutely by Starfield
Top of Our Lungs by Starfield
Have you heard any of these songs before? Which is your favorite? What other music do you like?
The enormous trees of the Redwood forest rose far into the air above our heads, blocking out the sky and creating the illusion of being deep inside a jungle forest. My family and I spent several hours walking the trails that wove through the forest, pointing out ancient trees that were especially impressive. Some of the largest trees were big enough to hold two or three laughing children for a picture within their hollowed trunks. This was one of the largest Redwood forests in the country: Muir Woods.
As we passed by the visitor center on our way out, I noticed a cross-section from a tree that had fallen several years ago. The cross-section, which was at least 4 feet in diameter, was marked at different rings with dates and events that evidenced how old it probably was. Next to the cross-section was a tiny seed. It was hard to believe that this enormous Redwood tree had grown from a tiny seed.
The other day I was continuing to read through the Psalms when I came across Psalm 126. If you have a few minutes, take some time to read the whole Psalm (it’s not long!), but verse 5 particularly struck me: “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy.”
You might be going through some very painful things right now – things that you never imagined could happen to you or your family. Maybe you have spent many nights sowing your own tears and crying out to God. Let Psalm 126:5 speak to you.
You have been promised that you will reap joy from the tears that you have sowed. Picture that joy as one of the enormous Redwoods in comparison with it’s small starting point: the seed.
How have you reaped joy from your hardships? I know that I personally have reaped closeness in my relationship with God that is a direct result of suffering in my life. I turned to God in a way that I might not have if I hadn’t experienced sorrow from an early age. Those seeds grew into the joy of a beautiful relationship.
I’d love to hear how you have experienced the truth of Psalm 126:5! Leave a comment below and tell me about it.