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Beauty of Harmony

It was a beautiful sight. All of Israel coming together to anoint David their king. The Bible records the Elders of Israel telling David they knew the Lord had chosen him. So, David made a covenant with the leaders of Israel before the Lord, and they anointed him king. Israel was experiencing unity and harmony at this time.

It may have been this event that prompted David to write the words of Psalm 133, reflecting on the beauty of harmony:

How wonderful and pleasant it is
    when brothers live together in harmony!
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
    that was poured over Aaron’s head,
    that ran down his beard
    and onto the border of his robe.
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon
    that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing,
    even life everlasting.

These words remind us of the beauty and peace harmony and unity bring. A harmonious and unified people of God have changed lives in the past, and can still change lives today. We may have our differences, but we also have common ground. We are all in need of the transforming work of the cross.

Max Lucado writes:

I spoke at each Good Friday service of a nearby Episcopal church for many years. On one occasion, I shared the responsibility with the bishop of the diocese of West Texas. He wore a robe and a large gold cross around his neck. My church background didn’t make me too keen on preachers wearing religious jewelry. So, I was less than impressed. And, I confess, even a bit judgmental.

But as he shared the story behind his gold cross, my attitude began to change. In order to assume his role as bishop, he had to leave behind St. Mark’s Episcopal, a church where he was loved dearly. The people tried to talk him into staying, but he felt it was God’s will to leave. The members, then, expressed their gratitude by making him this cross. Two hundred and forty-two households contributed gold pieces which were melted down and forged together. Some of the gold provided was from the wedding bands of widow and widowers. Three couples who had divorced and then reconciled each gave a set of wedding rings to the cross. One friend of the bishop was a bachelor who was rejected by “the love of his life” just days before the ceremony contributed her ring to the cross as a symbolic surrendering of the pain of his lost love. The cross includes a college ring as well as the bridge from a fellow bishop’s mouth. One mom donated some gold beads. When her son was four, he found them on a dresser, thought they were toys and damaged them. He died soon thereafter in an accident. She donated them on the day before what would have been his seventh birthday.

Two hundred and forty-two stories. Stories of celebration, stories of sorrow. Stories of peace, stories of pain. But when forged together they form the cross of Christ.

What happened literally with the bishop’s cross happens spiritually in every church that devotes itself to fellowship. When your story intermingles with mine, and our stories interweave with others, the cross is formed. When one hand holds another in a hospital, the cross is lifted up. When a conservative loves a liberal; when an Anglo seeks to understand a Hispanic; when the redneck and the tree-hugger stand side by side at the communion table, the cross is lifted up.

No matter our backgrounds, our socioeconomic status, or our political views, we have one thing in common. We’re all in need of grace, and when we share grace with one another, the cross is what is lifted up. How can you lift up the cross today?

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Is Love At The Core?

When you think of the church, Christianity, and followers of Christ, what comes to mind? Depending on your perspective, it could be any number of pictures.

Is one of those pictures’ devotion to one another; do you picture Christians loving the world?

The miracles recorded in the Bible are awesome and truly show us the power of our Lord, but the most attractive characteristic permeating from the Bible’s pages is love. Behind all the miracles and work the Lord does is love. Behind everything the Lord does is love. It is out of his great love for us, we find the ability to have a relationship with him. God is love, and it shows in all he does.

As Christians, the Bible encourages us to imitate this same level of love.

1 Peter 4:8 encourages:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Our love should be behind everything we do. We can do some great things, but if they are not rooted in love, they really aren’t accomplishing a great deal. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says:

13 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

1 Corinthians 13 goes on:

13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

Being shining examples of Christ’s love is how Christianity grows. If love is at the very heart of all of our actions, then our impact will be great. Jesus shows us love, so take a moment to reflect on how well you show love to others. What are some ways you could put your love into practice?

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Love Is…

Attend a wedding, and along with the decorations and beauty of love on display, you’ll probably hear this passage read, or at least, referenced.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages[b] and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 

This passage certainly describes the type of love a husband and wife should have for one another, but it goes farther. It truly describes the type of love Christians should strive to imitate in all of our relationships. This passage does a marvelous job describing it, and the Gospels give us explicit illustrations of how Jesus modeled it.

Jesus’ Patience

On one occasion, James and John came to Jesus desiring to be called the greatest. They wanted Jesus to promote them to places of honor. His response demonstrates his patience.

The NIV Jesus Bible remarks, “Consider the passage in the Gospel of Mark in which James and John asked Jesus to do whatever they asked of him. They boldly asked—maybe even with a hint of demand—to sit on either side of him in glory. However, rather than chiding them for such brashness, Jesus spoke to them patiently (Mk 10:35–40).”

Jesus’ Kindness

Jesus’ disciples felt Jesus was busy and would not have time to visit with some families who brought their children for Jesus to bless. Matthew records the disciples rebuking the parents and trying to send the families away, but Jesus showed them kindness. Matthew 19:13-15 says:

“13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.

14 But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” 15 And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.”

Jesus was not Proud

As he was approaching the time on the cross, Jesus and his disciples were in the upper room having a meal, but the disciples forgot to wash their feet. This was a dirty job, and it was usually reserved for the lowest servant in the home. Seeing the need, Jesus took it upon himself to wash the disciples’ feet. He was humble enough to perform this task. He did not consider himself to good to do it.

Jesus was not Easily Angered

According to the NIV Jesus Bible, “Jesus was not easily angered, either. The careful reader might immediately think of the Lord driving out the moneychangers in the temple. Clearly, these people angered the Lord. However, Jesus’ anger was not an easily triggered rage over something insignificant. Instead, love for his Father’s house consumed him (Jn 2:17).”

Jesus Delighted in the Truth

John 18:37 says, “37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”

Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”

Jesus Never Gave Up and was Always Hopeful

Jesus continued following God’s path even though, for him, it became unimaginably hard. He knew the Father could raise him from the grave, so he laid his own interests aside to take up the interests of the world. He truly demonstrated love.

Jesus’ Perseverance

“Scorning the shame, he endured the cross for his people (Heb 12:2). This patient, kind, truth-rejoicing, protecting, trusting and persevering love kept no record of wrongs (1Co 13:5). Because of Jesus’ death, the amassed wrongs committed by the people of God were forgiven. The love demonstrated on the cross will forever remain unmatched (1Jn 4:10),” states the NIV Jesus Bible.

Is this the type of love you are imitating?

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A Living Hope

Their lives were hard. Day after day, they endured harsh labor as they made bricks. Their bosses overlooking every step, and their quota seeming unrealistic and never ending. They cried out for relief and hoped that one day it would come. Their hope fueled by a forefather, who by faith, requested his remains be carried with them to the promised land. Generation after generation heard this request and cherished the idea it would come true someday. Hope continued through the generations.

Hope, in many ways, is fuel for our soul. It is what drives us forward. Hope of something better coming pushes us through the rough and challenging times. When our bank account is empty or we’re being slaughtered in the gossip circles, it is our hope which propels us forward.

For the nation of Israel, their hope was in Joseph’s request to carry his remains with them as they left Egypt for the promised land. Hebrews 11:22 says it was Joseph’s faith which gave him this hope.

  • 22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

Because of his faith, Joseph knew the Lord would bring Israel out of Egypt. He understood he would not see Israel’s deliverance, but he knew it would come when the time was right. So, Joseph gave instructions for his burial. It was Joseph’s instructions which gave the Israelites hope for generations. Basically, they were placing their hope in a dead man’s faithful instructions.

We, as Christ followers, have something better. Our hope is not in a forefather’s faith, but in a living Savior. 1 Peter 1:3-9 encourages:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Max Lucado writes:

Others offer life, but no one offers to do what Jesus does—to reconnect us to his power. But how can we know? How do we know that Jesus knows what he’s talking about? The ultimate answer, according to his flagship followers, is the vacated tomb. Did you note the words you just read? “A living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” In the final sum, it was the disrupted grave that convinced the maiden Christians to cast their lots with Christ. “He appeared to Cephas [Peter], and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time” (1Co 15:5–6).

Can Jesus actually replace death with life? He did a convincing job with his own. We can trust him because he has been there.

He’s been to Bethlehem, wearing barn rags and hearing sheep crunch. Suckling milk and shivering against the cold. All of divinity content to cocoon itself in an eight-pound body and to sleep on a cow’s supper. Millions who face the chill of empty pockets or the fears of sudden change turn to Christ. Why?

Because he’s been there.

He’s been to Nazareth, where he made deadlines and paid bills. To Galilee, where he recruited direct reports and separated fighters. To Jerusalem, where he stared down critics and stood up against cynics.

We have our Nazareths as well—demands and due dates.

Jesus wasn’t the last to build a team; accusers didn’t disappear with Jerusalem’s temple. Why seek Jesus’ help with your challenges? Because he’s been there. To Nazareth, to Galilee, to Jerusalem.

But most of all, he’s been to the grave. Not as a visitor, but as a corpse. Buried amidst the cadavers. Numbered among the dead.

Heart silent and lungs vacant. Body wrapped and grave sealed.

The cemetery. He’s been buried there.

You haven’t yet. But you will be. And since you will, don’t you need someone who knows the way out?

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The Route

The shortest route between two places is a straight line; however, going straight from point A to point B does not always work. It is not always the best route; it sure wasn’t for the people of Israel.

The Lord delivered Israel from the Egyptian bondage they were suffering. He designed an exit strategy which had them leave in a hurry, but they did not go directly to the land of Canaan. Exodus 13:17 records:

17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”

Israel did not go directly to their destination because it wasn’t what was best for them. Though it may have seemed the Lord had the people wondering aimlessly in the wilderness, he had their best interests in mind and was always accomplishing his purpose. The Lord knew a direct route was not best in this situation.

Charles Stanley has commented, “Our God is practical, and He deals with us according to our nature. He will always lead us in the way that is most appropriate for us.”

Sometimes, the Lord may not take our lives on a direct route. It may seem there are many twists and turns to get to where we are going, but we can rest assured the Lord knows what he is doing. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that the Lord knows the plans he has for us. Those twists in turns of life are in our best interest. It may not seem like it at the time, but the Lord knows the best route to our destination.

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Guiding Through Adversity

Adversity. It is certainly not welcomed in anyone’s life, but it finds its way into all of our lives. As hard as we try to avoid it, it seems there are just times when we have to climb uphill. Joseph was no stranger to adversity. The Bible tells his story in Genesis 38-50.

He was loved by his father, and as a young man, Joseph’s brothers grew to hate him. Joseph was the favored child and his brothers didn’t care for that. When given the opportunity, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, and Joseph was placed in Potiphar’s home.

He was in charge of Potiphar’s household and the Lord blessed Joseph’s work. He was also good looking, so Potiphar’s wife wanted to go to bed with him. Joseph refused so one day she tried to force him, but Joseph escaped. Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of rape. This accusation resulted in Joseph being sent to prison.

While in prison Joseph interpreted some dreams for fellow prisoners. These prisoners turned out to be some of Pharaoh’s officials, and Joseph’s relationship placed him in front of Pharaoh to interpret a dream.

Joseph told Pharaoh his dream was a warning that famine would strike Egypt. Joseph encouraged Pharaoh to prepare for the famine, and he was given the responsibility to prepare the nation. Joseph did and the Lord blessed his work. Joseph gained much power and pull with Pharaoh.

Eventually, everyone ran out of food and Joseph’s family was moved to Egypt. When Joseph’s dad dies, his brothers are fearful Joseph will seek revenge, but he doesn’t. Notice his response in Genesis 50:20:

20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Joseph remembered the Lord had a plan as he went through all of the adversity his life brought him. It has been said the iron chains around Joseph’s hands and feet in prison led to gold chains around his neck in the palace. Joseph found his way to Pharaoh because of his time in prison. Joseph was in Egypt because he was sold into slavery. Even though he faced adversity, Joseph was still guided by the Lord to accomplish his purpose.

We will face adversity in our lives. It is inevitable; however, the Lord will guide us through those times. Like Joseph, the Lord guides us to accomplish our purpose. How has the Lord brought you through adversity in the past?

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Does God Care About Me?

Sometimes we feel insignificant as if we don’t even matter. In the vastness of the world, we are merely a face in the crowd or a number in the system, so we begin to wonder if we matter. Does anyone realize I’m here? Does anyone really care about my concerns and needs? Do I matter? Does God care about me?

The Bible teaches the answer is a resounding YES!

Jesus says in Luke 12:6-7:

“What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins[b]? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

Think of Jesus’ words this way. Not one bird, though worth only a fraction of a penny, falls from the sky without the Lord knowing and caring, and our value is much higher. We do not have to fear the Lord does not care for us. He does! The Lord cares about us enough that he knows everything about us.

I don’t know how many hairs I have on my head, but the Lord does.

The Lord cares about us so much that he gave us the gift of grace. As you experience the vastness of the world today, remember, the Lord knows you and cares for you.

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Abraham’s Faith

He was promised a son. He was promised from this son would come many descendants. Then Abraham was called to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Genesis 22 records:

22 Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

Abraham’s faith is being tested. How far will he allow his faith to take him? Genesis 22 goes on:

The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”

So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”

“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.

Notice Abraham tells his servants he and Isaac will return. Like Isaac, Abraham knows the Lord is in control. Abraham’s faith compels him to trust the Lord.

In Hebrews 11:17-19, the writer says:

17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.”[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.

By faith, Abraham knew the Lord would keep his promises. Therefore, he fully trusted the Lord. The Bible encourages us to fully trust the Lord. In Proverbs 3, Solomon suggests we trust the Lord and seek him in everything we do.

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Faith That Climbs A Mountain

Where would you let your faith take you? How far do you think you could trust it if it was pushed? These are questions a 17-year-old young man had to answer.

The Bible records Isaac’s faith taking him up a mountain to be a potential sacrifice. Genesis 22 records the Lord asking Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. While Abraham’s faith was being tested, so was Isaac’s. Think of the scene for a moment.

At a certain point on their journey, Abraham and Isaac leave everyone else behind. It is just the two of them. As Abraham is carrying the fire, Isaac is carrying the wood, so he knows they are going to offer a sacrifice; however, there’s no lamb. Isaac knows something is up.  Abraham is around 120 years old, while Isaac is in his late teens. Isaac could have easily overpowered Abraham and refused to go any farther, but he doesn’t. His faith takes him up the mountain with Abraham.

Genesis 22:9-12 records what happens on top of the mountain:

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Isaac’s faith takes him all the way to the altar. He is not sure what the Lord is going to do, but he knows the Lord has it under control. Isaac’s faith pushes him up the mountain.

Where is your faith taking you? Is it pushing you to trust the Lord in your life? Is it calling you to follow the Lord’s leading to achieve a dream or accomplish a goal? Are you trusting your faith to help you fulfill your purpose in life? We may not be sure what the Lord is going to do, but we can trust that he is in control.

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Promises Kept

The Bible is filled with promises the Lord has made to you and me. He promises we will spend eternity in Heaven. He promises eternal life. He promises our needs will be met. He promises peace. He promises too always be with us. And, the Lord keeps all of his promises.

Along with the promises made to us, the Bible also shows us the Lord is faithful to keep his promises. Take the promise the Lord made to Abraham and Sarah for example. The Lord promised this couple they would have a son, which seemed impossible, but the Lord kept his promise. Abraham and Sarah had a son.

Genesis 21:1-3 records:

21 The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. And Abraham named their son Isaac. 

This is not the only time we see a promise being made and kept. On the night of Jesus’ birth, Luke’s Gospel teaches the angel made some promises to the shepherds as to what they would find. Luke says the shepherds found everything just as they had been told when they went to see Jesus.

The promises made to us will be kept; we too will find everything just as we’ve been told. The Lord is gracious, and he keeps his promises. How has the Lord kept a promise for you?

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