The Happiest Place on Earth

IMG_6198

Earlier this summer, our family made a pilgrimage to the ultimate summer vacation destination, Disneyland. As we navigated the crowds, I noticed a common trait among our fellow mouse-eared tourists. With the exception of a few overstimulated toddlers and stressed-out parents, everyone around us was smiling and laughing. The strangers we met waiting in line, the families schlepping around snacks and sunscreen, the teens, newlyweds, and retirees – most people appeared to be reveling in the magic of their surroundings.

Before we left on our trip, I had decided to memorize Psalm 84. Halfway through our vacation, I realized how fitting it was to meditate on the happiest place in Israel while visiting the “happiest place on Earth.” Strolling through a joy-sparking atmosphere helped me imagine what it might have felt like stepping foot inside the tabernacle courts, except surrounded by songs of praise rather than reprises of “It’s a Small World.”

What made the tabernacle such a happy place? It didn’t boast fun rides, huggable characters, or photo opps galore. No, the greatest draw for the Israelites to visit the tabernacle was to be with the One who lived there.

Read full article at Unlocking the Bible.

Blessed Are the Meek

daniel-o-dowd-529836-unsplash

Meekness isn’t a virtue we think about often. It doesn’t appear high on society’s list of desirable traits, like power, wealth, strength, and influence. We don’t interact with people and hope they walk away thinking “Wow, she’s really meek.”

Yet meekness is one of the most radical ways we can live like Christ. Instead of lashing back, meekness turns the other cheek. Instead of demanding rights, meekness defers and submits.

Jesus – the only human possessing the divine, authoritative right to insist upon His will – restrained his almighty power to obey His Father’s will.

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” ~ Isaiah 53:7

Read the full devotional at Servants of Grace.

[Photo courtesy  Daniel o’dowd on Unsplash]

Better than Batman

My house doubles as a functional living space and a superhero lair. Come over and you’ll find Batman, Spider-Man and any one of the Avengers battling foes on the stairs, under the kitchen table or wherever my sons last deserted them.

Superhero fascination isn’t restricted to elementary school boys. A genre that was once the domain of comic book geeks has risen to massive popularity in the entertainment and retail industries. Last year alone, the six live-action superhero films released raked in more than $4 billion in worldwide box office. From the movies we watch to the clothes we wear, the realm of superheroes has expanded to become a marketing cash cow and a culture unto itself.

Our captivation with powerful, otherworldly characters reveals a deeper spiritual truth about our basic human desire to be rescued. As objects of our admiration and fandom, superheroes promise us deliverance from trouble and supply inspiration for a better future. The line between fantasy and reality blurs into irrelevance as we latch onto these symbols of hope amidst adversity.

Read full article at Intersect Project

The Shunammite Woman: Faith in God’s Life-giving Power

A short story in the Old Testament tells how a simple woman with a generous heart grew in faith after witnessing God work a miracle in her life. God’s faithfulness to his word led her to boldly request another miracle later on, as she faced the uncertainty of death and loss. Her intensified conviction provides hope that God can mature the smallest mustard seed of faith in those who seek after him, even for chronic doubters like me.

We learn about this woman in 2 Kings 4, which chronicles events that happened early in the prophet Elisha’s ministry. During his frequent travels, Elisha often passed through the small village of Shunem, where the woman lived with her husband in a large, empty house. She invited the prophet over to eat every time he came by, and eventually asked her husband if they could set up a small room where the holy man of God could rest.

Elisha stayed and, in gratitude for her hospitality, asked his servant how he could repay her. The servant mentioned she didn’t have a son, and her husband was too old for them to bear children. Learning this, Elisha delivered shocking news: The following year, she would hold a son in her arms. Her response is reminiscent of Sarah’s incredulity when God promised her and Abraham a son: “No, my lord, O man of God; do not lie to your servant” (2 Kgs 4:16). She couldn’t believe it, because it was impossible.

Read full article at Morning by Morning.

Enjoy the Freedom of Your Redemption

paula-may-tqgugqVksjs-unsplash

You’ll never defeat this.

My mind recites this line like a broken record when ugly, deceptive sin threatens to trap me in its patterns. Because God has rescued me from my former way of living, I know I need to stop engaging in behavior that defies his will, and live in the way that pleases him.

But persistent sins like worry and pride are so entrenched in my heart that they seem impossible to overcome. I feel as though the weight of shame and guilt will always hound me since my sins are too heavy to shake off by my own efforts.

As I carry these burdens, unable to unload them, I forget the deeper truth revealed in human weakness: What I can’t accomplish, Christ already did.

Read full article at Unlocking the Bible.

[Photo courtesy Paula May on Unsplash]

Hebrews: A bright hope

Jesus radiance glory God Hebrews Bible study

This Fall, I have the pleasure of studying Hebrews with some wonderful friends who share such amazing insights, I feel like they all should write devotionals or speak at church retreats. They’ve helped me look at this book with a range of fresh perspectives that bring some of the older – and honestly, difficult to understand – words and passages to life and applicability for our present times.

Right out of the gate, we hit this verse that speaks to the greatness of Jesus, and were fascinated by this description of His nature, captured in the term “radiance.”

In the Greek, this means “reflected brightness,” or “effulgence” (see what I mean by archaic language?). So Christ reflects the brightness of God’s majesty, which makes sense since He is the exact imprint – a precise reproduction – of God’s nature.

Our group talked about how “radiant” isn’t a label we use that often nowadays, except in a few specific circumstances to describe the faces of:

1) A bride on her wedding day
2) A woman after she gives birth and holds her baby for the first time
3) A believer on their deathbed as they draw their final breaths before entering eternal glory

Isn’t that striking, how we perceive someone as radiant or glowing when they’re delighting in an overwhelming moment of joy – even if that moment involves pain and suffering? And how much of that luminosity is a reflection of the pure brilliance of the object which the person is beholding – the bride, her groom; the mother, her child; the believer, their Savior seated on the throne.

There’s a reason so many VBS programs over the decades have utilized the pun-ny “Son-shine” theme.

Jesus is the Light of the World, the Lamb who is the Lamp; He shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. And the more we’re with Him, soaking in His grace, the more our lives will reflect His bright hope in a world shuttered in darkness.

May we shine like little radiant lights mirroring His glory.

Jesus radiance glory God Hebrews 1:3 Bible study