Devotional

Seven Minutes of Terror

29 January 2023, 12:00 am

When the Mars rover Perseverance landed on that red planet on February 18, 2021, those monitoring its arrival endured “seven minutes of terror.” As the spacecraft ended its 292-million-mile journey, it went through a complex landing procedure it had to do on its own. Signals from Mars to Earth take several minutes, so NASA couldn’t hear from Perseverance during the landing. Not being in contact was frightening for the team who had put so much effort and resources into the mission.

Sometimes we may experience our own times of fear when we feel we’re not hearing from God—we pray but we don’t get answers. In Scripture, we find people getting answers to prayer quickly (see Daniel 9:20–23) and those not getting answers for a long time (see Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel 1:10–20). Perhaps the most poignant example of a delayed answer—one that surely struck terror in the hearts of Mary and Martha—was when they asked Jesus to help their sick brother Lazarus (John 11:3). Jesus delayed, and their brother died (vv. 6–7, 14–15). Yet four days later, Christ answered by resurrecting Lazarus (vv. 43–44).  

Waiting for answers to our prayers can be difficult. But God can comfort and help as we “approach [His] throne of grace with confidence, . . . [that] we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

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The Pink Coat

28 January 2023, 12:00 am

Brenda was walking toward the mall exit when a flush of pink from a display window caught her eye. She turned and stood spellbound before a cotton-candy colored coat. Oh, how Holly would love it! Finances had been tight for her coworker friend who was a single mother, and while Brenda knew Holly needed a warm coat, she was also confident that her friend would never lay down cash on such a purchase for herself. After wavering ever so slightly, Brenda smiled, reached for her wallet, and arranged for the coat to be shipped to Holly’s home. She added an anonymous card, “You are so very loved.” Brenda practically danced to her car.

Joy is a byproduct of God-nudged giving. As Paul instructed the Corinthians in the art of generosity, he said, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). He also noted, “Whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (v. 6).

Sometimes we slip cash into the offering plate. At other times we donate online to a worthy ministry. And then there are moments when God leads us to respond to the need of a friend with a tangible expression of His love. We offer a bag of groceries, a tank of gas . . . or even the gift of a perfectly pink coat.

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Mercy for You and Me

27 January 2023, 12:00 am

One of consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic was the docking of cruise ships and the quarantining of passengers. The Wall Street Journal featured an article that included interviews of some of the tourists. Commenting about how being quarantined provided more opportunities for conversations, one passenger joked how his spouse—who possessed an excellent memory—was able to bring up every transgression he ever had and sensed she wasn’t done yet!

Accounts like this make us smile, remind us of our humanness, and serve to caution us if we’re prone to hold too tightly to the things we should release. What helps us to be kindly disposed to those who hurt us? Glimpses of our great God, as He’s portrayed in passages like Psalm 103:8–12.

The Message’s rendering of verses 8–10 is noteworthy: “God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.” Asking for God’s help as we prayerfully read Scripture can cause us to have second thoughts about ill-conceived payback or plans to punish. And it can prompt prayers for ourselves and for those we may be tempted to harm by withholding grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

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Love That Forgives

26 January 2023, 12:00 am

Eighty years of marriage! My husband’s great-uncle Pete and great-aunt Ruth celebrated this remarkable milestone on May 31, 2021. After a chance meeting in 1941 when Ruth was still in high school, the young couple were so eager to get married that they eloped the day after Ruth graduated. Pete and Ruth believe God brought them together and has guided them all these years.

Reflecting on eight decades of marriage, Pete and Ruth both agree that one key to sustaining their relationship has been the decision to choose forgiveness. That’s a significant choice. Anyone in a healthy relationship understands that we all regularly need forgiveness for the ways we hurt each other, whether through an unkind word, a broken promise, or a forgotten task.

In a section of Scripture written to help believers in Jesus live together in unity, Paul refers to the essential role forgiveness plays in daily relationships. After urging his readers to choose “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12) in their relationships, Paul adds the encouragement to “forgive one another if any of you has a grievance” (v. 13). Most importantly, all their interactions with each were to be guided by love (v. 14).

Relationships that model the characteristics outlined by Paul are a blessing. Though few of us will mark eighty years of marriage, may God help all of us work to cultivate healthy relationships characterized by love and forgiveness.

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