Devotional

God’s Sure Pursuit

7 December 2022, 12:00 am

Some years ago, a man walked about a block ahead of me. I could clearly see his arms were full of packages. All of a sudden, he tripped, dropping everything. A couple of people helped him to his feet, assisting him in collecting what he’d dropped. But they missed something—his wallet. I picked it up and took off in hot pursuit of the stranger, hoping to return that important item. I yelled “Sir, sir!” and finally got his attention. He turned just as I reached him. As I held out the wallet, I’ll never forget his look of surprised relief and immense gratitude. 

What began as following along after that man turned into something quite different. Most English translations use the word follow in the final verse of the familiar Psalm 23—“Surely your goodness and love will follow me” (v. 6). And while “follow” fits, the actual Hebrew word used is more forceful, aggressive even. The word literally means “to pursue or chase,” much like a predator pursues his prey (think of a wolf pursuing sheep).

God’s goodness and love don’t merely follow along after us at a casual pace, in no real hurry, like a pet might leisurely follow you home. No, “surely” we are being pursued—chased even—with intention. Much like pursuing a man to return his wallet, we’re pursued by the Good Shepherd who loves us with an everlasting love (v. 1). 

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Great Expectations

6 December 2022, 12:00 am

On a busy day before Christmas, an aged woman approached the mail counter at my crowded neighborhood post office. Watching her slow pace, the patient postal clerk greeted her, “Well hello, young lady!” His words were friendly, but some might hear them saying that “younger” is better.

In the Christmas season, however, the Bible inspires us to see that advanced age can motivate our hope. As the infant Jesus is brought to the temple by Joseph and Mary, to be consecrated, two elderly believers suddenly take center stage in the holy story (Luke 2:23; Exodus 13:2, 12).

First, Simeon—who had been waiting for years to see the Messiah—“took [Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations’” (Luke 2:28–30).

Then Anna, a “very old” prophet (v. 36), came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph. A widow who had been married only seven years, she’d lived in the temple to age eighty-four. Never leaving, she “worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” When she saw Jesus, she began praising God, explaining about Jesus “to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (vv. 37–38).

These two hopeful servants remind us to never stop waiting on God—no matter our age -- with great expectations. 

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Daily Dependence

5 December 2022, 12:00 am

One morning our younger kids decided to get up early and fix breakfast for themselves. Tired from a grueling week, my wife and I were trying to sleep until at least 7:00 a.m. on that Saturday morning. Suddenly, I heard a loud crash! I jumped out of bed and raced downstairs to find a shattered bowl, oatmeal all over the floor, and Jonas—our five-year-old—desperately trying to sweep (more like smear) the gooey mess off the floor. My children were hungry, but they chose not to ask for help. Instead of reaching out in dependence, they chose independence, and the result was definitely not a culinary delight.

In human terms, children are meant to grow from dependence to independence. But in our relationship with God, maturity means moving from independence to dependence on Him. Prayer is where we practice such dependent ways. When Jesus taught His disciples—and all of us who have come to believe in Him—to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11), He was teaching a prayer of dependence. Bread is a metaphor for sustenance, deliverance, and guidance (vv. 10, 13). We’re dependent on God for all of that and more.

There are no self-made believers in Jesus, and we’ll never graduate from His grace. Throughout our lives, may we always begin our day by taking the posture of dependence as we pray to “our Father in heaven” (v. 9).

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A Labor of Love

4 December 2022, 12:00 am

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first African-American woman to earn a medical degree. Yet during her lifetime, she recalls being “ignored, slighted and rendered insignificant.” Even amid adversity, however, she remained devoted to healing and fulfilling her purpose. Crumpler boldly affirmed that although some people might choose to judge her based on her race and gender, she’d always have a “renewed and courageous readiness to do when and wherever duty calls,” and that she did. Not only was she a servant in her field, but she also believed that treating women and children and providing medical attention for freed slaves was a way to serve God. Sadly, she didn’t receive formal recognition for her accomplishments until nearly a century later. 

There are times in life when we’ll be overlooked, devalued, or unappreciated by those around us. Biblical wisdom reminds us, however, that when God has called us to a task, we shouldn’t focus on gaining worldly approval and recognition but should instead “work at it with all [our] heart, as working for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). When we focus on serving God while carrying out our day-to-day activities, we’re able to accomplish even the most difficult tasks with fervor and gladness in His power and leading. We can then become less concerned with receiving earthly recognition and awards and become more eager to receive the reward only He can provide (v. 24).

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