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    Out of Context

    As I queued up to board my flight, someone tapped my shoulder. I turned and received a warm greeting. “Elisa! Do you remember me? It’s Joan!” My mind flipped through various “Joans” I’d known, but I couldn’t place her. Was she a previous neighbor? A past coworker? Oh dear . . . I didn’t know.

    Sensing my struggle, Joan responded, “Elisa, we knew each other in high school.” A memory rose: Friday night football games, cheering from the stands. Once the context was clarified, I recognized Joan.

    After Jesus’s death, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early in the morning and found…

    Love Changes Us

    Before I met Jesus, I’d been wounded so deeply that I avoided close relationships in fear of being hurt more. My mom remained my closest contact, until I married Alan. Seven years later and on the verge of divorce, I toted our kindergartener, Xavier, into a church service. I sat near the exit door, afraid to trust but desperate for help.

    Thankfully, believers reached out, prayed for our family, and taught me how to nurture a relationship with God through prayer and Bible reading. Over time, the love of Christ and His followers changed me.

    Two years after that first church service,…

    Restored

    A 2003 infestation of Mormon Crickets caused more than $25 million in lost crops. The crickets came in such numbers that people couldn’t so much as take a step without finding one underfoot. The grasshopper-like insect, named for attacking the crops of the Utah pioneers in 1848, can eat an astounding thirty-eight pounds of plant material in their lifetimes, despite being merely two to three inches long. The impact of infestations on famers’ livelihoods—and the overall economy of a state or country—can be devastating.

    The Old Testament prophet, Joel, described a horde of similar insects ravaging the entire nation of Judah…

    Deeper Love

    When they first met, Edwin Stanton snubbed US president Abraham Lincoln personally and professionally—even referring to him as a “long-armed creature.” But Lincoln appreciated Stanton’s abilities and chose to forgive him, eventually appointing Stanton to a vital cabinet position during the Civil War. Stanton later grew to love Lincoln as a friend. It was Stanton who sat by Lincoln’s bed throughout the night after the president was shot at Ford’s Theater and whispered through tears on his passing, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

    Reconciliation is a beautiful thing. The apostle Peter pointed followers of Jesus there when he wrote, “Above…

    Adopted

    I’m glad when a philanthropist builds an orphanage for homeless children. I’m thrilled when that person gives even more and adopts one of them. Most orphans would be delighted merely to have a patron. But then to learn the sponsor isn’t content merely to help me but also wants me. How must that feel?

    If you’re a child of God you already know, because it’s happened to you. We couldn’t complain if God had merely loved us enough to send His Son that we might “not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It would be enough for us. But not for…

    Eyes Tightly Shut

    He knew he shouldn’t have done it. I could clearly see he knew it was wrong: it was written all over his face! As I sat down to discuss his wrongdoing with him, my nephew quickly squeezed his eyes shut. There he sat, thinking—with three-year-old logic—that if he couldn’t see me, then I must not be able to see him. And if he was invisible to me, then he could avoid the conversation (and consequences) he anticipated.

    I’m so glad I could see him in that moment. While I couldn’t condone his actions, and we needed to talk about it, I really…

    Good Riddance Day

    Since 2006 a group of people have celebrated an unusual event around the New Year. It’s called Good Riddance Day. Based on a Latin American tradition, individuals write down unpleasant, embarrassing memories and bad issues from the past year and throw them into an industrial-strength shredder. Or some take a sledgehammer to their good riddance item.

    The writer of Psalm 123 goes beyond suggesting that people say good riddance to unpleasant memories. He reminds us that the Lord bids good riddance to our sins. In his attempt to express God’s vast love for His people, the psalmist used word pictures. He…

    "Walk in the Light"

    To mistake freedom from sin only on the conscious level of our lives for complete deliverance from sin by the atonement through the Cross of Christ is a great error. No one fully knows what sin is until he is born again. Sin is what Jesus Christ faced at Calvary. The evidence that I have been delivered from sin is that I know the real nature of sin in me. For a person to really know what sin is requires the full work and deep touch of the atonement of Jesus Christ, that is, the imparting of His absolute perfection.

    His Birth and Our New Birth

    His Birth in History. “. . . that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it. He did not emerge out of history; He came into history from the outside. Jesus Christ is not the best human being the human race can boast of— He is a Being for whom the human race can take no credit at all. He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate— God coming into human flesh from outside it. His life is the highest and the holiest entering through the most humble of doors. Our Lord’s birth was an advent— the appearance of God in human form.

    The Hidden Life

    The Spirit of God testifies to and confirms the simple, but almighty, security of the life that “is hidden with Christ in God.” Paul continually brought this out in his New Testament letters. We talk as if living a sanctified life were the most uncertain and insecure thing we could do. Yet it is the most secure thing possible, because it has Almighty God in and behind it. The most dangerous and unsure thing is to try to live without God. For one who is born again, it is easier to live in a right-standing relationship with God than it is to go wrong, provided we heed God’s warnings and “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7).

    Sharing in the Atonement

    The gospel of Jesus Christ always forces a decision of our will. Have I accepted God’s verdict on sin as judged on the Cross of Christ? Do I have even the slightest interest in the death of Jesus? Do I want to be identified with His death— to be completely dead to all interest in sin, worldliness, and self? Do I long to be so closely identified with Jesus that I am of no value for anything except Him and His purposes? The great privilege of discipleship is that I can commit myself under the banner of His Cross, and that means death to sin. You must get alone with Jesus and either decide to tell Him that you do not want sin to die out in you, or that at any cost you want to be identified with His death.

    The Drawing of the Father

    When God begins to draw me to Himself, the problem of my will comes in immediately. Will I react positively to the truth that God has revealed? Will I come to Him? To discuss or deliberate over spiritual matters when God calls is inappropriate and disrespectful to Him. When God speaks, never discuss it with anyone as if to decide what your response may be (see Galatians 1:15-16). Belief is not the result of an intellectual act, but the result of an act of my will whereby I deliberately commit myself.

    Experience or God’s Revealed Truth?

    We have received…the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. —1 Corinthians 2:12

    My experience is not what makes redemption real— redemption is reality. Redemption has no real meaning for me until it is worked out through my conscious life. When I am born again, the Spirit of God takes me beyond myself and my experiences, and identifies me with Jesus Christ. If I…

    Test of Faithfulness

    We know that all things work together for good to those who love God . . . —Romans 8:28

    It is only a faithful person who truly believes that God sovereignly controls his circumstances. We take our circumstances for granted, saying God is in …

    Redemption— Creating the Need it Satisfies

    The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him… —1 Corinthians 2:14

    The gospel of God creates the sense of need for the gospel. Is the gospel hidden to those who are servants already? No, Paul said, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who…

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