A Deadly Weapon

Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; . . . they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. —Isaiah 40:31

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali used several ring tactics to defeat his opponents; one tactic was taunting. In his fight with George Foreman in 1974, Ali taunted Foreman, “Hit harder! Show me something, George. That don’t hurt. I thought you were supposed to be bad.” Fuming, Foreman punched away furiously, wasting his energy and weakening his confidence.

It’s an old tactic. By referring to Nehemiah’s efforts at rebuilding the broken wall of Jerusalem as nothing more than a fox’s playground (Neh. 4:3), Tobiah intended to weaken the workers with poisonous words of discouragement. Goliath tried it on David by despising the boy’s simple weapons of a sling and stones (1 Sam. 17:41-44).

A discouraging remark can be a deadly weapon. Nehemiah refused to surrender to Tobiah’s discouragements, just as David rejected Goliath’s diabolical teasing. Focusing on God and His help rather than on their discouraging situations, David and Nehemiah both achieved victory.

Taunting can come from anybody, including those who are close to us. Responding to them negatively only saps our energy. But God encourages us through His promises: He will never forsake us (Ps. 9:10; Heb. 13:5), and He invites us to rely on His help (Heb. 4:16).

Lord, it’s easy to let discouragement sap my energy
and joy. Help me to reject all agents of
discouragement in my life and to trust in You for comfort and strength.
If you’re in a tunnel of discouragement, keep walking toward the Light.
INSIGHT: Despite the taunting that the Israelites faced from multiple sources when rebuilding the walls and city of Jerusalem, they had courage and confidence in God. They had returned to Jerusalem just as God had promised through the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 29:10).


Friending

The social networking Web site Facebook.com was launched in 2004 as a way for college students to connect with each other online. It is now open to people of all ages, and currently there are an estimated 500 million users. Each user has an individual page with photos and personal details that can be viewed by “friends.” To “friend” a person means opening the door to communication and information about who you are, where you go, and what you do. Facebook friendships may be casual or committed, but each one is “by invitation only.”

Just before Jesus was crucified, He told His disciples: “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:14-15).

Unselfishness, oneness of purpose, and confident trust are the hallmarks of true friendship, especially in our relationship with the Lord. Christ has taken the initiative by giving His life for us and inviting us to know and follow Him.

Have we responded to the Lord Jesus’ invitation of friendship by opening our hearts to Him with nothing held back?

Friendship with Jesus, Fellowship divine; O what blessed, sweet communion— Jesus is a Friend of mine. —Ludgate
Jesus longs to be our Friend.


Exalt Him

Read: Psalm 46 | Bible in a Year: Leviticus 14; Matthew 26:51-75

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations” (Ps. 46:10). These words from a song sung long ago at the temple in Jerusalem remind us of one of our main tasks—worshiping our awesome God.

One way to do that is to meditate on His many attributes. Exalt God, for He is faithful, eternal, all-knowing, just, unchangeable, gracious, holy, merciful, longsuffering, impartial, and infinite. Our God is perfect.

Exalt God also by realizing that He is all-powerful, almighty, personal, righteous, unsearchable, wise, triune, accessible, self-existent, glorious, and compassionate.

Another way to worship God is to contemplate His names. Exalt God, for He is Creator. He is Love. He is Redeemer. He is Shepherd. He is Savior, Lord, and Father. He is Judge. He is Comforter. He is Teacher. He is I AM. Our God is the Mighty One.

Dwell on His identity. God is our shield. Our stronghold. Our light. Our strength. Our sustainer. Our rescuer. Our fortress.

Meditate on God’s attributes. Contemplate His names. Dwell on His identity. Adore Him. Respect Him. Honor Him. Love Him. Exalt Him. Use the rest of your life getting ready to worship our awesome God forever.

O worship the King, All glorious above, And gratefully sing His power and His love. —Grant
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. —Psalm 150:6


Volcanic Activity

It erupts. It melts everything in its path. Its blast is as powerful as a nuclear explosion!

Well, maybe not—but a temper can feel as intense as a volcano when it is aimed directly at another person in a family. The moment may be quickly over, but it can leave emotional devastation and bitter feelings behind.

It’s sad that the people we love the most are often the target of our hurtful words. But even when we feel we’ve been provoked, we have a choice. Will we respond in anger or in kindness?

The Bible tells us to rid ourselves of bitterness and anger, and to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).

If you are struggling with chronic anger that is hurting your relationships, surrender this vulnerable part of your emotions to Christ’s strength (Phil. 4:13). Ask God to forgive you for an uncontrolled temper and to show you how to moderate your emotions and to teach you how to honor others above yourself (Rom. 12:10). Seek out help from others to learn how to deal with your strong emotions in appropriate ways.

As we earnestly seek to love others and to please God, we can win the victory over a volcanic temper.

Spirit of God, please change my heart, And give me a new desire; I want to be a man of peace, Not controlled by anger’s fire. —K. De Haan
Losing your temper is no way to get rid of it.


Will I Have To Tell?

Jim was sharing the gospel with Kerri. He told her she was separated from a holy God because of her sin, and that Jesus had died and risen for her salvation. She kept coming up with one reason not to believe: “But if I do receive Him, I won’t have to tell other people about it, will I? I don’t want to do that.” She said that didn’t fit her personality; she didn’t want to have to tell others about Jesus.

Jim explained that promising to witness about Jesus wasn’t a requirement before receiving Him. But he also said that once she came to know the Lord, Kerri would become His ambassador to the world (2 Cor. 5:20).

After talking a little longer, Kerri acknowledged her need for salvation through Christ. She went home excited and at peace. Funny thing happened—within 24 hours she told three people about what God had done in her life.

Because we have been reconciled to God through Jesus, we now have “the ministry of reconciliation,” according to the apostle Paul (v.18). We are His ambassadors, and therefore we implore people “on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (v.20).

When we’re thankful, we want to share what God has done.

I love to tell the story, For some have never heard The message of salvation From God’s own holy Word. —Hankey
There’s no better news than the gospel— spread the word!


Standing Ovation

Susan Boyle spent most of her adult life living with her cat Pebbles, caring for her aging mother, and singing in church. She certainly didn’t look like a musical superstar. That’s probably why the audience laughed at this unassuming middle-aged woman before she performed in a talent show. Undeterred, Susan faced the unfriendly crowd, sang beautifully, and went on to receive a standing ovation.

Stephen was confronted by a hostile crowd in the days of the early church (Acts 6–7). A panel of religious authorities listened to lying witnesses accuse him of blasphemy (Acts 6:13). Stephen responded by speaking the truth of God’s Word, which reinforced his faith in Christ. At the end of his speech, he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (7:56). Then the crowd stoned him (v.58). Jesus, who was watching from heaven, welcomed Stephen home.

Most Christians aren’t confronted with this much hostility. Yet we all need to “stand fast in the Lord” when the pressure is on (Phil. 4:1). We can’t let others silence our voice for Christ. Speaking up for Jesus does not always win the crowd’s favor here on earth, but it does ensure His approval in heaven, where it matters the most.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the strife will not be long; This day the noise of battle—the next the victor’s song. To him that overcometh a crown of life shall be: He with the King of glory shall reign eternally. —Duffield
If you meet opposition, maybe it shows that you are doing something that counts.


Of Weeping and Rejoicing

Golda Meir knew both struggle and success during her life. As prime minister of Israel, she experienced many episodes of conflict and loss, as well as the periodic joy of successes and victory in the life of the fledgling State of Israel. She said of joy and sorrow, “Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole heart, don’t know how to laugh either.”

The apostle Paul called us to a life of both weeping and rejoicing—but with a twist. In Romans 12:15, the apostle challenged us to look outside our own experiences to the needs of others. He said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

If we rejoice only in our own victories, we miss the wonder of celebrating the power of the Lord, who desires to accomplish His purposes in and through others as well. If we mourn only our own losses, we lose the opportunity to “be there” for those who are hurting by showing them compassion.

Life is filled with the extremes of joy and sorrow, victory and defeat. But we have been given the privilege of entering into those moments in people’s lives to see the grace of God at work. Don’t miss it!

Lord, give me sensitivity To people in their grief and pain, To weep with them and show Your love In ways mere words cannot attain. —Sper
Looking to the needs of others honors Christ.


Space Scouts

Many of the first astronauts were once Boy Scouts. The scouts were good at capturing the imagination of young boys and instilling discipline to reach their goals—even if it meant reaching for the stars.

On July 20, 1969, the Boy Scouts were busy celebrating at a conference. During the gathering, the scouts were delighted to hear from former Eagle Scout Neil Armstrong, who sent them greetings from space. One of their own had grown up to realize a wonderful dream!

In some ways, the Christian home can be like a loving, spiritual scout camp. The Bible encourages parents to provide a positive growth environment for children in the home. Parents are exhorted to “bring [children] up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). “To bring up” refers to nourishing children by providing resources for their physical, mental, and spiritual needs. “Training” includes concern about all aspects of a child’s development. And “admonition” speaks of providing direction by well-chosen words uniquely suited to each child.

Let’s strive to make our home a place where loving discipline enables the children in our charge to reach their potential for God’s glory.

They are buds of hope and promise, Possessed by Him whose name is Love; Lent us here to train and nourish For a better life above. —Crosby
What you put into your children’s hearts today influences their character for tomorrow.


Not Lost in Translation

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to teach the Bible to many people around the world. Because I can speak only English, I often work with interpreters who can take the words of my heart and translate them into the language of the people. Effective communication is directly dependent upon the skill of these translators. Whether it is Inawaty in Indonesia, Annie in Malaysia, or Jean in Brazil, they ensure that the meaning of my words is clearly expressed.

This work of translation resembles one facet of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of God’s people. In our times of prayer, we don’t always know how we should pray (Rom. 8:26), and verse 27 encourages us, saying, “Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” When we go to our heavenly Father in prayer, the Holy Spirit comes to our aid by translating our prayers according to God’s good purposes for our lives.

What a provision! Not only does God desire for us to share our hearts with Him, He even provides us with the greatest interpreter to help us as we pray. We can be sure that our prayers will never get lost in translation.

Thank You, Father, for the provision of Your Spirit.
I’m grateful that when I pray I can rest in Your help
to make my prayers what they need to be. Teach me
to lean on His perfect understanding of Your desires.
The participation of the Spirit assures that my prayers line up with God’s purposes.
INSIGHT: Today’s passage is filled with hope and comfort. Though Paul describes the deep suffering and groaning of both humanity and creation, his emphasis is on the nearness of our God and His affectionate care for His creation. Paul encourages readers in Rome—and us—with the thought that God knows us so well that His Spirit prays for us, translating our weak words into prayers according to the will of the Father (vv.26-27).


Boo!

One of the early games that many parents play with their children involves a fake scare. Dad hides his face behind his hands and suddenly reveals himself while saying, “Boo!” The child giggles at this silliness.

Being frightened is a fun game until the day when the child experiences a real scare. Then it’s no laughing matter. The first real scare often involves separation from a parent. The child wanders away innocently, moving from one attraction to another. But as soon as she realizes she is lost, she panics and lets out a loud cry of alarm. The parent immediately comes running to reassure the child that she is not alone.

As we get older, our fake scares become sophisticated—scary books, movies, amusement park rides. Being scared is so invigorating that we may begin taking bigger risks for bigger thrills.

But when a real scare comes, we may realize that we, like the ancient Israelites (Isa. 30), have wandered from the One who loves and cares for us. Recognizing that we are in danger, we panic. Our call for help does not require sophisticated words or a well-reasoned defense, just a desperate cry.

Like a loving parent, God responds quickly for He longs to have us live in the protection of His love where we need never be afraid.

Trusting God’s faithfulness helps dispel our fearfulness.
INSIGHT: In Isaiah’s prophecy in today’s text, we see the great heart of patience our God has toward us even in our worst moments (see 2 Peter 3:15). In verse 18, Isaiah says that the Lord waits “that He may be gracious” to those who fail. His exalted position is one from which He exercises mercy on our behalf. Isaiah issues the challenge that we also are to wait upon Him, for He alone can bring justice into our broken world.