He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Romans 8:32

I don’t know if Covid has affected you or your work’s economy, but it certainly has had an impact on our world missions ministry.  Let me rephrase that.  It certainly has had an impact on our department’s budget.  Our biannual missions meeting this past week reassured me that God’s work and his people had not been slowed down a bit even though their funds had been affected.    Somehow God has just provided creative solutions to continue the good work that he has begun through us.

We’ve cut our budget three times and have eagerly offered the new numbers up to our heavenly Father to see how he will provide.  (I’ve discovered that following Jesus is one of the most adventurous ways one can live.)  Several days ago I received a letter from one of our missionaries in which he listed some urgent needs with specific costs and prayers for donations.  I sent the letter on to members of our World Missions Prayer Group, and that very night someone called me saying she would send a check for the exact amount listed in the letter.

I sometimes have to remind myself that Jesus said, “If you…know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  (Matt. 7:11)  As if we would do more for our children than God would do for us, his very own.

When I approached our bishop a couple of months ago asking if I could cut my work days and salary (due to travel restrictions), I had already been reassured that God would oversee my financial affairs while I disciplined my spending.  As I walk out this new faith challenge, I have not been disappointed at God’s loving care and look forward to his continued provision.

You may be experiencing your own test regarding finances or health or whatever.  Let’s go forward together anticipating God to appear at any moment.  He cares.

Father, thank you for your lovely surprises.  Strengthen our trust in our care.  AMEN.


Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.  Psalm 23:6

A precious saint tells the story of a shopping excursion downtown with her father.  After the purchases had been made, he took her to the soda fountain for a treat.  They both enjoyed a delicious chocolate milkshake and then went home.

A while later, the father overheard his small daughter boasting to her brothers about something she’d picked up at the store counter—a wonderful, long-handled spoon that had come with the shake.  When the boys ran off to play, Father gently approached his daughter and asked her about the spoon.  Was the spoon hers or had she taken it from someone else?  After a few more questions, the little girl admitted that she had taken something that didn’t belong to her.  To her horror, her father pronounced that she would have to return the spoon to the rightful owner.

The following day, the little girl and her father climbed into the family sedan and headed for the department store and its soda fountain.  Not a word was spoken.  All the little girl could think of was having to face the manager and admitting her theft.  Would the police come and arrest her?  Would she have to leave her family and go to jail?  By the time the two reached the store, tears were streaming down her cheeks.

Father and daughter returned to the scene of the crime, and then the father picked up the little girl and seated her at the counter.  He signaled for the attendant to come—and ordered two more chocolate milkshakes.  As the drinks arrived, the father spoke softly into the little girl’s ear, “Now you can put the spoon down on the counter,” and then he gave her a loving smile and a little pat.  No recriminations or denunciations, just loving mercy that allowed her to tangibly undo her childish misdemeanor.

Do you wonder that this dear earthly father became the picture of a heavenly Father for the little girl who grew up to be a faithful servant of her Lord?  How often do we think that repentance must be bitter and that restoration must be costly? 

Actually, mercy and goodness flow freely to us at our repentance because the cost has already been paid.

Father, words are inadequate to express our gratitude for your kind mercy given us freely through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  AMEN.


…  In quietness and confidence shall be your strength. But you would not… Isaiah 30:15

Through the years studies have been done on the effect noise has on stress and fatigue.  As expected, people exposed to higher levels of noise experience more stress and greater fatigue whether in an office or airplane or any other venue with noticeable decibels of noise.  And, if you’re one of those people who has full concerts or speeches or sports events going on in your head 24/7, imagine the stress level and fatigue exposure.

The year 2020 has introduced all of us to record-breaking noise:  frightful and contradictory medical reports; apocalyptic political predictions; chilling street pronouncements; alarming community behaviors; and so much more.  Who wouldn’t be disturbed?  Watch any late news broadcast if you want to be up all night.  Engage in any discussion about matters with someone of a different opinion, and be assured you’ll be rattled for hours.  Noise.

The children of Israel were also subject to noise from every side—particularly when they moved from obedience to Jehovah to relying on other alliances with pagan neighbors.  Isaiah was sent to his kinsmen to remind them that strength would come from rejecting panic and being quiet before their God while bolstering their faith in confident reliance on him.  He was the one with whom they had a covenant relationship, the one who had never broken a promise, the one who always responded to their cries for help.  He’s the one who said, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psa. 46:10).  The same God who said, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13).  Our total dependence is on him.

Isaiah, reminding the Israelites that the secret of their success was quietness and confidence, goes on to say, “But you would not…”  We have the same choices in the middle of this crazy environment.  Will we still our churning thoughts and give all our anxiety to the only one who can bring quietness?  Will we cast our cares on him, fully trusting his faithfulness to strengthen us for whatever circumstances await us?

Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled (Joshua 21:45).  Different time, same God.  Same promises.  What will we do?

Father, the noise is hurting my heart.  I choose your quietness; I rest and am confident in YOU.  AMEN.


Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!  Psalm 43:1  (ESV)

I doubt that there is a person alive who has not been victimized by injustice.  This may be among life’s most painful experiences.  Slander, false accusations, untimely deaths, undeserved attacks, untrue labels, wrongful judgments, misunderstandings, and miscommunications.  Injustice is especially bitter when it comes from someone we love.

My husband, a state judge, rarely allowed himself to become emotionally involved in his cases, but Stephen’s case was different.  Peter presided over numerous hearings, studied evidence and did personal research of the facts and precedents.  He saw flaws in the presentations and errors in proceedings of other courts, but he was overruled by the appeals court.  One of the most difficult assignments Peter fulfilled was setting the date for Stephen’s execution.  And one of his most wrenching experiences—at Stephen’s request (“Will you come as my friend?”)—was being present at Stephen’s death.

Few of our dealings with injustice are that momentous, but we all know the bitterness that arises from being treated unfairly.  In fact, that pain can be resurrected years after the fact if injustice isn’t resolved.  Jesus showed us how to take the sting from injustice when he suffered on the cross.  He had been betrayed by a friend, and all his most intimate companions had left him.  False accusations were followed by brutal torture, excruciating pain, and death.

On the cross, Jesus, that Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, in final triumph over all the evil of time and eternity, prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  Omniscient, all-knowing God, through his Son was asked to pardon those who brought unmerited suffering and death to his only Son.  The basis of the argument:  “They know not what they do.”

Can you resolve that puzzle?  They knew they were killing this itinerant preacher.  They knew they were responding to political pressure.  They knew he had done nothing worthy of death.  So what didn’t they know?  They didn’t know who Jesus was.  They didn’t know he was the Son of God, the Lord of Life, the Word, the Savior and Messiah.  Jesus himself had said that only his Father revealed the identity of his Son (Matt. 16:17).  Yes, those who called for Jesus’ death knew about him, but they didn’t know him.  “Father, forgive them…”

Oswald Chambers says that there is always one thing we don’t know about other people, and that may be the very thing that gives insight to their behavior.  It may not excuse it, but it informs the phrase Jesus used, “They know not what they do.”

Is it time to release the bitterness of unjust words, wounds, judgments, suppositions?  Jesus, our example, has showed us how to do it.  Now we can ask him to work forgiveness and healing in us as only he can.

Father, give us grace to forgive just as you’ve forgiven us.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.  Psa. 19:4

Does anyone remember when parents whipped out a bar of soap and washed those bad words out of the mouths of children who spoke disrespectfully or said naughty words?  If that were the case today, I’d buy stock in Proctor & Gamble, assured that I was set for life.  I must be living in an alternate universe because the language I hear today is not at all familiar.  At the end of some days, I almost feel the need for a good scrub, especially in my ears.

What has happened to polite discourse?  Another thing I remember from childhood is the adage, “If you can’t say anything good about someone, don’t say anything at all.”  Geez.  If that were today’s rule, we’d be hearing nothing but the Sound of Silence.  James was right on target when he wrote, “…the tongue is a fire…and it is set on fire of hell” (Jas. 3:6).

Are you as weary as I am by the horrendous volley of words that seem to be intent on destruction?  What good can come from non-stop derision, fault-finding, judging, ridicule, mockery, and contempt?  And, sadly, this is not a partisan issue.

I’m reading about the early Church in the first three centuries of its history and note that one of the criticisms levied at it was the meanness of the Christians.  Digging a little deeper I saw that non-Christians disparaged Christians because they wouldn’t participate in popular social activities—the theater, the army, classic literature, sports—that were saturated with pagan worship.  Christians knew they were to be set apart from secular practices that were in opposition to Christ.  And what about us?

Do we dare to be different?  Peter says (I Pet. 3:10) that we are to keep our tongues from evil and deceitful speech; our conversation is to be full of grace (Col. 4:6); we should only say what is helpful to build others up and to benefit them (Eph. 4:29); we are to keep our tongues from …lies (Psa. 34:13); we’re not to slander but to be peaceable, considerate, and gentle (Titus 3:2); and the tongue of the wise brings healing (Prov. 12:18).  There are many other directives pertaining to what we say.

Apparently, Isaiah had a problem with his tongue—when he answered God’s call, the angel took a burning coal from the altar and touched his mouth saying his sin was forgiven and his iniquity taken away (Isa. 6:6-7).  I guess even preachers must learn to control their tongues.  And so should we.  I’m ready to take the pledge to use my tongue to build others up and to benefit them.  Enough of this tearing down.  (And that also means I don’t pass judgment on those who weaponize their tongues.  Instead, I pray for them.)

Father, I leave the judging to you, but I ask you to forgive me for using my words to wound rather than to heal.  Make me an instrument of your peace and love.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”  John 5:6

The man had an unspecified “infirmity” for thirty-eight years.  He was among the crowd who populated the porches around pool of Bethesda, and, with them, he waited for an angel to stir the pool.  Popular thought was that the first person who got into the pool after the angelic visitation would be healed.  Apparently, this infirm man was rather slow—he’d been waiting for thirty-eight years.  Then Jesus happened to walk by. 

The text states that Jesus knew the invalid had been there a long time, but he asked a question that most of us would say was rather (forgive me) stupid.  “Do you want to get well?”  Every single day for thirty-eight years someone had to transport the sick man to the pool.  Every day the man was dependent on someone else to provide food and perhaps even more intimate assistance.  And Jesus comes along and asks if he wants to get well.

In her memorable book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells of her aunt’s distress over the anniversary of the death of her husband’s aunt many years prior.  Tante Jans required a tonic and quiet in a household of lively children so that she might observe the somber occasion.  Apparently, she wanted to embrace the event that had caused such grief.  Tante Jans didn’t want to release the sorrow.

I have known folks who have suffered but who have also become so identified with their wounds that Jesus’ question would be offensive.  Who wants to be healed of a malady that offers so much recognition, or pity, or admiration, or attention?  Who wants to have to pick up his bed and start the hard, disciplined road to forgiveness, to personal responsibility, to healthy habits?

Someone I love has carried a grievance for many years; in fact, he has carried several grievances for many years.  The bitterness in his soul has affected his body so that now the sickness is in his joints and other parts.  When I urged long ago to let go and forgive, his reply was, “I’m not ready.”

Jesus’ question long ago was not so foolish after all.  God doesn’t overwhelm us and force us to be well.  His healing comes at the cost of our letting go of bitterness and injustice, of thoughtless wounds, of deception, of self pity.  He won’t make us let go.  He just asks the question, “Do you want to be healed?”

Yes, Lord, I release all the suffering I have carried.  Please take it all and make me whole.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Psalm 91:11, 12

My brother was a Green Beret on the front lines the whole time he served in Viet Nam.  For us at home, it was a time of stress and vigil.  Every day our family prayed the 91st Psalm that promises protection from so many types of danger:  night terror, pestilence, lions and serpents, and even tripping on rocks.  And Jack would remind his platoon that people were praying for them.

We heard tales of close calls and firsthand reports of life in a war zone.  And we also heard tales of God’s faithfulness.  It was a joy and relief when Jack was delivered home safely after his tour of duty.

Often we look for “second meanings” in Scripture, as described by C. S. Lewis, and are aware that the dangers we encounter daily may be of a different nature than either of the Psalms mentioned above.  But these dangers can threaten us to the eternal peril of our spirits:  anxiety that God is preoccupied just when we need him; sleepless nights due to all sorts of worries; the hidden presence of Covid 19; and multiple insecurities.  THESE are the everyday enemies against which we most likely need protection.

Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) lived through the Black Plague and the Peasants’ Revolt spending much of her life in seclusion in a small cell (room) attached to one of the churches in Norwich.  Julian, to whom many came for counseling and prayer was known for writing, “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”  Even though she lived through some of England and the world’s darkest times, her trust in God’s goodness brought assurance to those who sought her wisdom. 

Think of all the verses that God has provided for our encouragement in times like these: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1).  …my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation (II Sam. 22:3). You are my hiding place, you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance (Ps. 32:7).   Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Ps. 23:4).  And then, Ephesians 6:10-18 reminds us to put on God’s armor for protection from the enemy.

No matter what our circumstance, “His divine power has given us everything we need…” (II Peter 1:3).  God is faithful.  “The one who chose you can be trusted, and he will do this” (I Thess. 5:24).

Father, outside you, there is no place of safety.  Let us hide ourselves in you.  AMEN.


 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light…I Peter 2:9 KJV

Growing up, we often heard sermons that reminded us that, as Christians, we were peculiar.  In my childish mind, I was certain that referred to the list of “thou shalt nots” that informed our somewhat insulated lifestyle.  Not that we were ascetics, but we were different, maybe even peculiar.

To my unsophisticated thinking, those “differences” could be summed up in a list of activities that typically spilled over into social behaviors.  Another synonym for “peculiar,” I thought, was “odd.”  Yep, that’s what we were—odd.  It took years into adulthood for me to see what Peter really meant when he described followers of Jesus as “peculiar.”

One of the online entries defining “peculiar” is “particular” and “special.”  Now as I look out from my COVID shelter, I am thinking that God’s people really arepeculiar in the sense of unique and special.  Physical, emotional, financial, political—you name it—stressors are surrounding us with no certain end in sight.  Peter acknowledges the darkness that doesn’t seem to be vanishing.  And yet, these peculiar people I know rejoice, have hope, encourage and reach out to others, trust, and persevere “as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27).  

Our missions fellowship has a friend, Sunday, who came from Uganda to visit and make presentations at our churches.  Sunday is the director of the Women’s Centre in northwest Nebbi and also the national facilitator of the Threads of Blessing micro enterprise ministry for women.  Sunday came to spend three weeks with us at beginning of March and got here in time to be locked out of her own country.  That was five months ago.

Sunday is one of those “peculiar” Christians.  Instead of whining about being stranded and worrying about the three small children she left at home with relatives, she patiently has trusted God to use her for his purposes.  She has quietly made small visits to mission supporters, made videos about her work, and spent weekends with our local feeding program.  When asked about being stuck here all this time, Sunday flashes her broad smile and says, “It’s okay.”  She trusts God with her family and with her time.  She is odd.

And we all can be peculiar, too.  We must seize this moment to glorify God through our trust, our love, our practical assistance, and whatever he would have us do and be.  We are called for such a time as this.

Father, make us unique in the sense that we are your hands and feet, joyously anticipating how we may serve you by serving others.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave [subjected to the authority of a master] of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”  Luke 1:38

I’ve recently finished reading N. T. Wright’s “The Day the Revolution Began” in which he underscores the purpose of Jesus’ crucifixion.  In contrast to much of our Western theology  that reinforces the concept that Jesus died to save us from hell and to ensure our eternity in heaven, Wright reminds his readers that “It’s not about us.”  Jesus’ death, says Wright, was the convergence of heaven and earth, ushering in his new subjects as 1)servants, 2)image-bearers, and 3) worshippers.  A far cry from our contemporary “sales pitch.”

So much that we hear from our pulpits, Bible studies, and Sunday schools encourage us to pursue God so that we become transformed and have better lives.  As we obey him, love our neighbors as ourselves, do good, and strive to be more earnest, we are blessed and eventually receive the harp, crown, and mansion that have been prepared for us.

But there are so many directives in the New Testament that push us far beyond this self-serving Gospel.  Look at Matthew 16:24, ““If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  Acts 14:22, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God…”  Luke 9:24, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”  Romans 12:2, “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship.”  Philippians 2:4  “…not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” And Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than receive.”  And I could go on…

In Colossians 3:22-24, Paul writes, “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;  Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”   In the Old Testament we read that some bondservants—slaves—so loved their masters that they had their ear lobes pierced by an awl indicating they never wanted to leave him and would serve him forever.

When the angel came to Mary, she responded immediately with no caveats, “May it be done to me according to your word…”  Mary jumped into God’s will without training or advance warning.  She simply said, “Yes.”

Today, we expect God to provide time for us to resolve our issues, develop a rule of life or set of personal disciplines, heal our memories, plan our futures, and fatten our portfolios before we serve HIM, bear HIS image, and worship HIM.  Where do Jesus or any of the disciples offer this proviso for servanthood?

Time to grow up and put away childish things.  Serve HIM now; bear HIS IMAGE now; worship HIM now.

Father, what a privilege to be invited to participate in your work in the world.  Open our hearts and spirits to serve you.  AMEN.


Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.  Isaiah 29:14

For months now we’ve listened to experts admonish on COVID19, opine on civil unrest, and caution on the economy only to revise their narratives the following day.  It’s somewhat akin to watching a soap opera—plenty of drama with various players vilified with the shifting scenes.  It’s hard to keep up, and it can be terribly dismaying.

Until we go to the Word…  In the Psalter, Psalm 73 for example, the poet bemoans all the inequities and troubles surrounding him day after day, year after year.  He is grieved that wrong is ongoing while God seems so inattentive.  “UNTIL [he] entered the sanctuary of God…”  (v. 17).  UNTIL he stopped looking out and began to look up.  Then his vision was clarified, and he saw that God has everything under control, and he acts at the time of his choosing.

In another Psalm (2), we see people raging and conspiring to do evil while God laughs seeing the limit to earthly power.  At the time he chooses to intervene, he breaks evil with an iron rod and dashes it to pieces “like a potter’s vessel.”  Essentially, God is sovereign, and all creation exists and moves at his pleasure.  There is no need to be disheartened when we abide in his presence and do his will.

My mother had a little poem on her kitchen bulletin board that read:

          Said the robin to the sparrow,
          “I should really like to know,
          Why these anxious human beings
          Rush about and worry so.”
          Said the sparrow to the robin,
          “Friend I think that it must be,
          That they have no Heavenly Father,
          Such as cares for you and me.”  (Elizabeth Cheney)

Does this negate prudence and neighborly love for such a time as this?  Absolutely not; it reinforces our trust in God’s watchful care over his children and our obligation to faithful obedience as we patiently wait for him to act.

By the way, Handel’s Messiah prominently features Psalm 2 (above) with bass and tenor proclaiming God’s vengeance on evil.  And what follows immediately?  The Hallelujah Chorus, “For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

Father, you hold all the affairs of our world in your hand.  Let us never forget that you are in control.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.