Called by Name

Advertisers have concluded that the most attention-grabbing word that viewers react to is their own name. Thus a television channel in the UK has introduced personalized advertisements with their online streaming services.

We might enjoy hearing our name on television, but it doesn’t mean much without the intimacy that comes when someone who loves us says our name.

Mary Magdalene’s attention was arrested when, at the tomb where Jesus’s body had been laid after He was crucified on the cross, He spoke her name (John 20:16). With that single word, she turned in recognition to the Teacher whom she loved and followed, I imagine with a rush of disbelief and joy. The familiarity with which He spoke her name confirmed for her beyond a doubt that the One who’d known her perfectly was alive and not dead.

Although Mary shared a unique and special moment with Jesus, we too are personally loved by God. Jesus told Mary that He would ascend to His Father (v. 17), but He had also told His disciples that He would not leave them alone (John 14:15–18). God would send the Holy Spirit to live and dwell in His children (see Acts 2:1–13).

God’s story doesn’t change. Whether then or now, He knows those whom He loves (see John 10:14–15). He calls us by name

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Advice from My Father

After being laid off from an editorial job, I prayed, asking for God to help me find a new one. But when weeks went by and nothing came of my attempts at networking and filling out applications, I began to pout. “Don’t You know how important it is that I have a job?” I asked God, my arms folded in protest at my seemingly unanswered prayer.

When I talked to my father, who had often reminded me about believing God’s promises, about my job situation, he said, “I want you to get to the point where you trust what God says.”

My father’s advice reminds me of Proverbs 3, which includes wise advice from a parent to a beloved child. This familiar passage was especially applicable to my situation: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6). To “make . . . paths straight” means God will guide us toward His goals for our growth. His ultimate goal is that I become more like Him.

This does not mean that the paths He chooses will be easy. But I can choose to trust that His direction and timing are ultimately for my good.

Are you waiting on God for an answer? Choose to draw near to Him and trust that He will guide you.

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The Perfect Father

Standing in the crowded store aisle, I struggled to find the perfect Father’s Day card. Although we had reconciled after years of a strained connection, I had never felt close to my dad.

The woman next to me groaned and shoved the card she’d been reading back into the display. “Why can’t they make cards for people who don’t have good relationships with their fathers, but are trying to do the right thing?”

She stormed off before I could respond, so I prayed for her. Thanking God for affirming only He could be a perfect Father, I asked Him to strengthen my relationship with my dad.

I long for deeper intimacy with my heavenly Father too. I want David’s confidence in God’s constant presence, power, and protection (Psalm 27:1–6).

When David cried out for help, he expected God’s answers (vv. 7–9). Though earthly parents could reject, abandon, or neglect their children, David declared God’s unconditional acceptance (v. 10). He lived with assurance in the Lord’s goodness (vv. 11–13). Like most of us, David sometimes struggled, but the Holy Spirit helped him persevere in trust and dependence on the Lord (v. 14).

We, like the lady in the card aisle, will encounter difficult relationships on this side of eternity. But even when people fall short, fail us, or hurt us, we’re still completely loved and protected by the only Perfect Father.

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Faces

When our granddaughter Sarah was very young, she explained to me what happens when you die: “Only your face goes to heaven, not your body. You get a new body, but keep the same face.”

Sarah’s concept of our eternal state was a child’s understanding, of course, but she did grasp an essential truth. In a sense, our faces are a visible reflection of the invisible soul.

My mother used to say that an angry look might someday freeze on my face. She was wiser than she knew. A worried brow, an angry set to our mouths, a sly look in our eyes may reveal a miserable soul. On the other hand, kind eyes, a gentle look, a warm and welcoming smile—despite wrinkles, blemishes, and other disfigurements—become the marks of inner transformation.

We can’t do much about the faces we were born with, but we can do something about the kind of person we’re growing into. We can pray for humility, patience, kindness, tolerance, gratefulness, forgiveness, peace, and love (Galatians 5:22–26).

By God’s grace, and in His time, you and I may grow toward an inner resemblance to our Lord, a likeness reflected in a kind, old face. Thus, as John Donne said, age becomes “loveliest at the latest day.”   

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And in Truth

Years ago, I attended a wedding where two people from different countries got married. Such a blending of cultures can be beautiful, but this ceremony included Christian traditions mixed with rituals from a faith that worshiped many gods.

Zephaniah the prophet pointedly condemned the mixing of other religions with faith in the one true God (sometimes called syncretism). Judah had become a people who bowed in worship to the true God but who also relied on the god Molek (Zephaniah 1:5). Zephaniah described their adoption of pagan culture (v. 8) and warned that as a result God would drive the people of Judah from their homeland.

Yet God never stopped loving His people. His judgment was to show them their need to turn to Him. So Zephaniah encouraged Judah to “Seek righteousness, seek humility” (2:3). Then the Lord gave them tender words promising future restoration: “At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home” (3:20).

It’s easy to condemn examples of obvious syncretism like the wedding I attended. But in reality, all of us easily blend God’s truth with the assumptions of our culture. We need the Holy Spirit’s guidance to test our beliefs against the truth of God’s Word and then to stand for that truth confidently and lovingly. Our Father warmly embraces anyone who worships Him in both Spirit and truth (see John 4:23–24). 

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Side by Side

In ancient times, a city with broken walls revealed a defeated people, exposed to danger and shame. That is why the Jews rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. How? By working side by side, an expression that can well describe Nehemiah 3.

At first glance, chapter 3 might appear to be a boring account of who did what in the reconstruction. However, a closer look highlights how people worked together. Priests were working alongside rulers. Perfume-makers were helping as well as goldsmiths. There were some who lived in nearby towns and came to give a hand. Others made repairs opposite their houses. Shallum’s daughters, for example, worked alongside the men (3:12), and some people repaired two sections, like the men of Tekoa (vv. 5, 27).

Two things stand out from this chapter. First, they all worked together for a common goal. Second, all of them are commended for being part of the work, not for how much or little they did as compared to others.

Today we see damaged families and a broken society. But Jesus came to build the kingdom of God through the transformation of lives. We can help to rebuild our neighborhoods by showing others they can find hope and new life in Jesus. All of us have something to do. So let us work side by side and do our part—whether big or small—to create a community of love where people can find Jesus.

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A Blind Man’s Plea

Some years ago a traveling companion noticed I was straining to see objects at a distance. What he did next was simple but life changing. He took off his glasses and said, “Try these.” When I put his glasses on, surprisingly my blurred vision cleared up. Eventually I went to an optometrist who prescribed glasses to correct my vision problem.

Today’s reading in Luke 18 features a man with no vision at all; and living in total darkness had forced him to beg for a living. Word about Jesus, the popular teacher and miracle worker, had reached the blind beggar’s ears; so when Jesus’s travel route took Him by where the blind man was sitting, hope was ignited in his heart. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 38) he called. Though without sight physically, the man possessed spiritual insight into Jesus’s true identity and faith in Him to meet his need. Compelled by this faith, “He shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (v. 39). The result? His blindness was banished, and he went from begging for his living to blessing God because he could see (v. 43).

In moments or seasons of darkness, where do you turn? Upon what or to whom do you call? Eyeglass prescriptions help improve vision, but it’s the merciful touch of Jesus, God’s Son, that brings people from spiritual darkness to light.

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A Blind Man’s Plea

Some years ago a traveling companion noticed I was straining to see objects at a distance. What he did next was simple but life changing. He took off his glasses and said, “Try these.” When I put his glasses on, surprisingly my blurred vision cleared up. Eventually I went to an optometrist who prescribed glasses to correct my vision problem.

Today’s reading in Luke 18 features a man with no vision at all; and living in total darkness had forced him to beg for a living. Word about Jesus, the popular teacher and miracle worker, had reached the blind beggar’s ears; so when Jesus’s travel route took Him by where the blind man was sitting, hope was ignited in his heart. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 38) he called. Though without sight physically, the man possessed spiritual insight into Jesus’s true identity and faith in Him to meet his need. Compelled by this faith, “He shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (v. 39). The result? His blindness was banished, and he went from begging for his living to blessing God because he could see (v. 43).

In moments or seasons of darkness, where do you turn? Upon what or to whom do you call? Eyeglass prescriptions help improve vision, but it’s the merciful touch of Jesus, God’s Son, that brings people from spiritual darkness to light.

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Open My Eyes

The first time I went to the gorgeous Chora Church in Istanbul, I was able to figure out some Bible stories from the Byzantine frescos and mosaics on the ceiling. But there was much I missed. The second time, however, I had a guide. He pointed to all the details I had previously missed, and suddenly everything made perfect sense! The first aisle, for instance, depicted the life of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of Luke.

Sometimes when we read the Bible we understand the basic stories, but what about the connections—those details that weave Scripture into the one perfect story? We have Bible commentaries and study tools, yes, but we also need a guide—someone to open our eyes and help us see the wonders of God’s written revelation. Our guide is the Holy Spirit who teaches us “all things” (John 14:26). Paul wrote that He explains “spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words” (1 Corinthians 2:13).

How wonderful to have the Author of the Book to show us the wonders of it! God has not only given us His written Word and His revelation but He also helps us to understand it and learn from it. So let us pray with the psalmist, saying, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18).

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Clocks and Calendars

My father died at 58 years of age. Ever since then, I pause on the date he died to remember Dad and reflect on his influence in my life. When I realized I had lived more of life without my dad than with him, I began pondering the brevity of my own life.

On reflection, we may wrestle with both an event in time and the feelings it stirs within us. Though we measure time with clocks and calendars, we remember times because of events. In the moments of life that trigger our deepest emotions, we can experience joy, loss, blessing, pain, success, failure.

The Scriptures encourage us: “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8). This confident statement did not occur in a time of ease. David wrote these words while surrounded by enemies (vv. 3–4). Still, he waited quietly before God (vv. 1, 5) reminding us that God’s unfailing love (v. 12) is greater than any of the times of struggle we may face.

In every event, we have this confidence. Our God stands with us, and He is more than adequate to carry us through all of life’s moments. When the times of life threaten to overwhelm us, His help will be right on time.

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