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    Forever Love

    Years ago, my four-year-old son gave me a framed wooden heart mounted on a metal plate with the word forever painted in its center. “I love you forever, Mommy,” he said.

    I thanked him with a hug. “I love you more.”

    That priceless gift still assures me of my son’s never-ending love. On tough days, God uses that sweet present to comfort and encourage me as He affirms I’m deeply loved.

    The frame also reminds me of the gift of God’s everlasting love, as expressed throughout His Word and confirmed by His Spirit. We can trust God’s unchanging goodness and sing grateful praises…

    The One Who Sees

    “Oh no!” My wife’s voice rang out when she stepped into the kitchen. The moment she did, our ninety-pound Labrador retriever “Max” bolted from the room.

    Gone was the leg of lamb that had been sitting too close to the edge of the counter. Max had consumed it, leaving only an empty pan. He tried to hide under a bed. But only his head and shoulders fit. His uncovered rump and tail betrayed his whereabouts when I went to track him down.

    “Oh, Max,” I murmured, “Your ‘sin’ will find you out.” The phrase was borrowed from Moses, when he admonished two…

    Our Father Sings

    Dandy loves encouraging people by singing to them. One day we were having lunch at his favorite restaurant, and he noticed the waitress was having a hard day. He asked her a few questions and then started quietly singing a catchy, upbeat song to cheer her up. “Well, kind sir, you just made my day. Thank you so much,” she said with a big smile, as she wrote down our food order.

    When we open the book of Zephaniah, we find that God loves to sing. The prophet Zephaniah masterfully drew a picture with his words in which he described God…

    Able to Help

    Joe’s eight-week “break” from his job as a crisis care worker at a New York City church was not a vacation. In his words, it was “to live again among the homeless, to become one of them, to remember what hungry, tired, and forgotten feel like.” Joe’s first stint on the streets had come nine years earlier when he arrived from Pittsburg without a job or a place to stay. For thirteen days he lived on the streets with very little food or sleep. That’s how the Lord had prepared him for decades of ministry to needy people.

    When Jesus came…

    From Pity to Praise

    At a coat drive for children, excited kids searched gratefully for their favorite colors and proper sizes. They also gained self-esteem, an organizer said—with new coats boosting their acceptance by peers and school attendance on winter days.

    The apostle Paul seemed to need a coat, as well, when he wrote Timothy, “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas” (2 Timothy 4:13). Held in a cold Roman prison, Paul needed warmth but also companionship. “No one came to my support,” he lamented, “but everyone deserted me” when he faced a Roman judge (v. 16). His words pierce our hearts…

    Watched by God

    Our little grandson waved goodbye, then turned back with a question. “Grandma, why do you stand on the porch and watch until we leave?” I smiled at him, finding his question “cute” because he’s so young. Seeing his concern, however, I tried to give a good answer. “Well, it’s a courtesy,” I told him. “If you’re my guest, watching until you leave shows I care.” He weighed my answer, but still looked perplexed. So, I told him the simple truth. “I watch,” I said, “because I love you. When I see your car drive away, I know you’re safely heading…

    Pierced Love

    She’d called. She’d texted. Now Carla stood outside her brother’s gated entry, unable to rouse him to answer. Burdened with depression and fighting addiction, her brother had hidden himself away in his home, walled off from help. In a desperate attempt to penetrate his isolation, Carla gathered several of his favorite foods along with encouraging Scriptures and lowered the bundle over the fence.

    But as the package left her grip, it snagged on one of the gate spikes, tearing an opening and sending its contents onto the gravel below. Her well-intended, love-filled offering spilled out in seeming waste. Would her brother…

    Ancient Promises

    In 1979, Dr. Gabriel Barkay and his team discovered two silver scrolls in a burial ground outside the Old City of Jerusalem. In 2004, after twenty-five years of careful research, scholars confirmed that the scrolls were the oldest biblical text in existence, having been buried in 600 bc. What I find particularly moving is what the scrolls contain—the priestly blessing that God wanted spoken over His people: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you” (Numbers 6:24–25).

    In giving this benediction, God instructed Moses to tell Aaron and his sons how to bless the people on…

    We Are Dust

    The young father was at the end of his rope. “Ice cream! Ice cream!” his toddler screamed. The meltdown in the middle of the crowded mall began drawing the attention of shoppers nearby. “Fine, but we just need to do this for mommy first, okay?” “Nooooo! Ice cream!”And then she approached them: a small, well-dressed woman with shoes that matched her handbag. “He’s having a big fit,” the father said. The woman smiled and responded, “Actually, it looks like a big fit is having your little boy. Don’t forget he’s so small. He needs you to be patient and stay…

    God-Sized Love

    I once visited an impoverished neighborhood of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Homes were made of corrugated iron, with electricity wires dangling live above them. There I had the privilege of interviewing families and hearing how churches were helping to combat unemployment, drug use, and crime.

    In one alleyway I climbed a rickety ladder to a small room to interview a mother and her son. But just a moment later someone rushed up, saying, “We must leave now.” A machete-wielding gang leader was apparently gathering a mob to ambush us. We left quickly!

    We visited a second neighborhood, but there we…

    Strengthening Weak Knees

    When I was a kid, I thought the song title, “He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need” written by Dottie Rambo in 1967, was “He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Knees.” Employing the logic of a child, I wondered why God would look at knees. Was it because they were weak? I knew that weak kneed meant “afraid.” I later discovered that Dottie had written the song about God’s unconditional love in response to her brother Eddie’s belief that he was unlovable because of the wrong things he’d done. Dottie assured him that God saw his weakness…

    Demonstrating Grace

    “In moments where tragedy happens or even hurt, there are opportunities to demonstrate grace or to exact vengeance,” the recently bereaved man remarked. “I chose to demonstrate grace.” Pastor Erik Fitzgerald’s wife had been killed in a car accident caused by an exhausted firefighter who fell asleep while driving home, and legal prosecutors wanted to know whether he would seek the maximum sentence. The pastor chose to practice the forgiveness he often preached about. To the surprise of both him and the firefighter, the men eventually became friends.

    Pastor Erik was living out of the grace he’d received from God, who…

    Clean Containers

    “Hatred corrodes the container that carries it.” These words were spoken by former Senator Alan Simpson at the funeral of George H.W. Bush. Attempting to describe his dear friend’s kindness, Senator Simpson recalled how the 41st president of the United States embraced humor and love rather than hatred in his professional leadership and personal relationships.

    I relate to the senator’s quote, don’t you? Oh, the damage done to me when I harbor hatred!

    Medical research reveals the damage done to our bodies when we cling to the negative or release bursts of anger. Our blood pressure rises. Our hearts pound. Our spirits sag.…

    God Waited

    When Denise Levertov was just twelve, long before she became a renowned poet, she had the gumption to mail a package of poetry to the great poet T. S. Eliot. She then waited for a reply. Surprisingly, Eliot sent two pages of hand-written encouragement. In the preface to her collection The Stream and the Sapphire, she explained how the poems “trace [her] own movement from agnosticism to Christian faith.” It’s powerful, then, to recognize how one of the later poems (“Annunciation”) narrates Mary’s surrender to God. Noting the Holy Spirit’s refusal to overwhelm Mary and the Spirit’s desire for Mary to…

    Washed in Love

    A small church in southern California recognized an opportunity to express God’s love in a practical way. Christ followers gathered at a local laundry mat to give back to their community by washing clothes for those in financial need. They cleaned and folded clothes together, sometimes providing a hot meal or bags of groceries for recipients.

    One volunteer discovered the greatest reward was in the “actual contact with people . . . hearing their stories.” Because of their relationship with Jesus, these volunteers wanted to live out their faith through loving words and actions that helped them nurture genuine relationships with…

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