28 November 2023, 12:00 am
“A thorn has entered your foot—that is why you weep at times at night,” wrote Catherine of Sienna in the fourteenth century. She continued, “There are some in this world who can pull it out. The skill that takes they have learned from [God].” Catherine devoted her life to cultivating that “skill,” and is still remembered today for her remarkable capacity for empathy and compassion for others in their pain.
That image of pain as a deeply embedded thorn that requires tenderness and skill to remove lingers with me. It’s a vivid reminder of how complex and wounded we are, and of our need to dig deeper to develop true compassion for ourselves and others.
Or, as the apostle Paul describes it, it’s an image that reminds me that loving others like Jesus does requires more than good intentions and well-wishes—it requires being “devoted to one another” (Romans 12:10), “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (v. 12). It requires being willing to not only “rejoice with those who rejoice” but to “mourn with those who mourn” (v. 15). It requires all of us.
In a broken world, none of us escape unwounded—hurt and scars are deeply embedded in each of us. But deeper still is the love we find in Christ; love tender enough to draw out those thorns with the balm of compassion, willing to embrace both friend and enemy (v. 14) to find healing together.More
27 November 2023, 12:00 am
When England’s Queen Elizabeth passed away in September 2022, thousands of soldiers were deployed to march in the funeral procession. Their individual roles must have been almost unnoticeable in the large crowd, but many saw it as the greatest honor. One soldier said it was “an opportunity to do our last duty for Her Majesty.” For him, it was not what he did, but whom he was doing it for that made it an important job.
The Levites assigned to take care of the tabernacle furnishings had a similar aim. Unlike the priests, the Gershonites, Kohathites, and Merarites were assigned seemingly mundane tasks: cleaning the furniture, lampstands, curtains, posts, tent pegs, and ropes (Numbers 3:25–26, 31, 36–37). Yet their jobs were specifically assigned by God, constituted “doing the work of the tabernacle” (v. 8), and are recorded in the Bible for posterity.
What an encouraging thought! Today, what many of us do at work, at home, or in church may seem insignificant to a world that values titles and salaries. But God sees it differently. If we work and serve for His sake—seeking excellence and for His honor, even in the smallest task—then our work is important because we’re serving our great God.More
26 November 2023, 12:00 am
As a member of the leadership team for a local ministry, part of my job was to invite others to join us as group discussion leaders. My invitations described the time commitment required and outlined the ways leaders would need to engage with their small group participants, both in meetings and during regular phone calls. I was often reluctant to impose on other people, being aware of the sacrifice they’d be making to become a leader. And yet sometimes their reply would completely overwhelm me: “I’d be honored.” Instead of citing legitimate reasons to decline, they described their gratitude to God for all He’d done in their lives as their reason for being eager to give back.
When the time came to give resources toward building a temple for the Lord, David had a similar response: “Who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?” (1 Chronicles 29:14) David’s generosity was driven by gratitude for God’s involvement in his life and that of the people of Israel. His response speaks of his humility and his acknowledgment of God’s goodness toward “foreigners and strangers” (v. 15).
Our giving to God’s work—whether in time, talent, or treasure—reflects our gratitude to the One who gave to us to begin with. All that we have comes from His hand (v. 14); in response we can give gratefully to Him.More
25 November 2023, 12:00 am
During my morning walk, the sun hit the waters of Lake Michigan at a perfect angle to produce a stunning view. I asked my friend to stop and wait for me as I positioned my camera to take a pic. Because of the position of the sun, I couldn’t see the image on my phone’s screen before I snapped the shot. But having done this before, I sensed it would be a great picture. I told me friend, “We can’t see it now, but pictures like this always come out good.”
Walking by faith through this life is often like taking that picture. You can’t always see the details on the screen, but that doesn’t mean the stunning picture isn’t there. You don’t always see God working, but you can trust that He’s there. As the writer of Hebrews penned, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance in what we do not see” (11:1). By faith we place our confidence and assurance in God—especially when we can’t see or understand what He’s doing.
With faith, not seeing doesn’t prevent us from “taking the shot.” It just might make us pray more and seek God’s direction. We can also rely on knowing what has happened in the past as others have walked by faith (vv. 4–12) as well as through our own stories. What God has done before, He can do again.More