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    Our Reason for Joy

    When the schoolyear began, fourteen-year-old C.J. would hop off the bus every afternoon and dance down his driveway. His mom recorded and shared videos of C.J.’s afterschool boogie time. He danced because he enjoyed life and “making people happy” with every move. One day, two garbage collectors took time out of their busy work schedule to stomp, spin, and sway with the young boy who inspires others to dance with him. This trio demonstrates the power of sincere and infectious joy.

    The writer of Psalm 149 describes the original source of enduring and unconditional joy—God. The psalmist encourages God’s people to…

    Seeking God

    It can be inspiring to watch people’s passion and dedication in pursuing their dreams. A young woman I know recently graduated from college in just three years—a task that took total commitment. A friend wanted a particular car, so he worked diligently baking and selling cakes until he reached his goal. Another person who’s in sales seeks to meet one hundred new people every week.

    While it can be good to earnestly seek something of earthly value, there’s a more important kind of seeking that we must consider.

    In desperation, struggling in a desert, King David wrote, “You, God, are my God,…

    Fruit Juice

    A thrift-store bargain, the lamp seemed perfect for my home office—the right color, size, and price. Back at home, however, when I plugged in the cord, nothing happened. No light. No power. No juice.

    No problem, my husband assured me. “I can fix that. Easy.” As he took the lamp apart, he saw the trouble immediately. The plug wasn’t connected to anything. Without wiring to a source of power, the “perfect” pretty lamp was useless.

    The same is true for us. Jesus told His disciples. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you,…

    True, Deep Desire

    A mouse with a shrill voice, Reepicheep is perhaps The Chronicles of Narnia’s most valiant character. He charged into battle swinging his tiny sword. He rejected fear as he prodded on the Dawn Treader toward the Island of Darkness. The secret to Reepicheep’s courage? He was deeply connected to his insatiable longing to get to Aslan’s country. “That is my heart’s desire,” he said. Reepicheep knew what he truly wanted, and this desire led him toward his king.

    Bartimaeus, a blind man from Jericho, sat in his normal spot jingling his cup for coins when he heard Jesus and the crowd…

    In the Vine

    One spring after a particularly dreary winter during which she helped a family member through a long illness, Emma found encouragement each time she walked past a cherry tree near her home in Cambridge, England. Bursting out at the top of the pink blossoms grew blossoms of white. A clever gardener had grafted into the tree a branch of white flowers. When Emma passed the unusual tree, she thought of Jesus’s words about being the Vine and His followers the branches (John 15:1–8).

    By calling Himself the Vine, Jesus was speaking of an image familiar to the Israelites in the Old…

    When Sharks Won’t Bite

    My children were thrilled, but I felt uneasy. During a family vacation, we visited an aquarium where people were encouraged to pet small sharks kept in a special tank. When I asked the attendant if the creatures ever snapped at fingers in the water, she explained that the sharks had recently been fed and then given extra food. They wouldn’t bite because they weren’t hungry.

    What I learned about shark petting makes sense according to a proverb in the Bible: “One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet” (Proverbs 27:7). Hunger—that…

    Finding Treasure

    John and Mary were walking their dog on their property when they stumbled on a rusty can partially unearthed by recent rains. They took the can home and opened it, discovering a cache of gold coins over a century old! The couple returned to the spot and located seven more cans containing 1,427 coins in all. Then they protected their treasure by reburying it elsewhere.

    The cache of coins (valued at $10 million) is called the Saddle Ridge Hoard, the largest find of its kind in US history. The story is strikingly reminiscent of a parable Jesus told: “The kingdom of…

    Not Like Yesterday

    When our grandson Jay was a child his parents gave him a new T-shirt for his birthday. He put it on right away and proudly wore it all day.

    When he appeared the next morning in the shirt, his dad asked him, “Jay, does that shirt make you happy?”

    “Not as much as yesterday,” Jay replied.

    That’s the problem with material acquisition: Even the good things of life cannot give us the deep, lasting happiness we so ardently desire. Though we may have many possessions, we may still be unhappy.

     

    The world offers happiness through material accumulation: new clothes, a new automobile, an update…

    The Marks of Friendship

    As a little boy growing up in Ghana, I enjoyed holding my father’s hand and walking with him along crowded places. He was both my father and my friend, for holding hands in my culture is a mark of true friendship. Walking along, we would chitchat about a variety of subjects. Whenever I felt lonely, I found consolation with my father. How I valued our companionship!

    The Lord Jesus called His followers friends, and He showed them the marks of His friendship. “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you,” He said (John 15:9), even laying down His…

    The Spirit of Fika

    The coffeehouse in the town near my house is named Fika. It’s a Swedish word meaning to take a break with coffee and a pastry, always with family, co-workers, or friends. I’m not Swedish, yet the spirit of fika describes one thing I love most about Jesus—His practice of taking a break to eat and relax with others.

    Scholars say Jesus’s meals weren’t random. Theologian Mark Glanville calls them “the delightful ‘second course’” of Israel’s feasts and celebrations in the Old Testament. At the table, Jesus lived what God had intended Israel to be: “a center of joy, celebration and justice for…

    Imitate Jesus in 2019

    Read: 1 Peter 2:21   To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

    God wants us to become like Jesus—“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). And Jesus himself tells us to follow His example.

    We may…

    Continuous Conversion

    These words of our Lord refer to our initial conversion, but we should continue to turn to God as children, being continuously converted every day of our lives. If we trust in our own abilities, instead of God’s, we produce consequences for which God will hold us responsible. When God through His sovereignty brings us into new situations, we should immediately make sure that our natural life submits to the spiritual, obeying the orders of the Spirit of God.

    Where the Battle is Won or Lost

    Our battles are first won or lost in the secret places of our will in God’s presence, never in full view of the world. The Spirit of God seizes me and I am compelled to get alone with God and fight the battle before Him. Until I do this, I will lose every time. The battle may take one minute or one year, but that will depend on me, not God. However long it takes, I must wrestle with it alone before God, and I must resolve to go through the hell of renunciation or rejection before Him. Nothing has any power over someone who has fought the battle before God and won there.

    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 …

    Wrestling Before God

    Take up the whole armor of God . . . praying always . . . —Ephesians 6:13,18

    You must learn to wrestle against the things that hinder your communication with God, and wrestle in prayer for other people; but to wrestle with God in…

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