Encouragement and Prayers for the Graduates in Your Life

For many of our youngsters this graduation season, masks and sanitizer are replacing caps and gowns; e-certificates will arrive online instead of sheepskin diplomas. This cohort of youth make up the “coronials,” who are stepping forth into a future that seems even more uncertain than in other years. How to walk with them as they pass this unique milestone? Here are some suggestions, with prayers to offer on behalf of our children, nieces and nephews, students or others who are graduating from high school or college. 1. Honor their work, not their honors. Without the trappings of prom, commencement, and senior hoopla, some kids will feel deprived. Some were preparing for final performances, tournaments, recitals, capstone projects, or internships that have evaporated. Maybe there will be a belated official celebration rather than one in May, but it probably won’t feel like what was once anticipated. They may be questioning the relevance of their achievements to this new landscape.  Commend them on the discipline and skills they developed, which in God’s timing will benefit them beyond the short-term goal they were focused on. Studies have shown that praise is more encouraging when it is accompanied by a touch, and when it is specific—so (if you are in their household), give them a pat on the back for the laborious research they did on their term paper, or how they didn’t give up on basketball in sophomore year. That will be more effective than generalities like, “You always do whatever you set your mind to,” or “You’re so smart; you’ll be fine.” Of course, a special home-centered celebration may be more important than in other years. Solicit e-congratulations from relatives, your pastor, even your mayor and Congress member. Or how about decorating the family car with congratulatory washable graffiti, or making a scrapbook of school memorabilia? Maybe planting a tree in honor of the graduate would be meaningful for him or her. Lord of all times and seasons, please establish the works of these youngsters’ hands. Use this unexpected time to bring forth more creativity and resilience in their character. Holy Spirit, you so often bring joy and unity: help me to honor our graduates in memorable ways....

Encouragement and Prayers for the Graduates in Your Life2022-05-05T00:47:35+00:00

Small Things and the Way God Works

It was meant to be a big celebration. After all, dreams were finally coming true (read Ezra 3 to get the whole story). God’s people had been in a big “time out” in Babylon. Now they were back home and rebuilding after seventy years of exile. The foundation of the new temple was ready. The people gathered around this promise of a better day—when they would dwell with God in the land He had given them. It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. But not everyone was impressed. Much like the generation gaps we feel today, the older Israelites didn’t sing and dance along with the younger ones but instead wept (Ezra 3:12). They couldn’t help but compare this foundation with the temple of their childhood memories— the one Solomon built. This temple, the one Zerruabel was building, couldn’t light a candle to it. All those years of dreaming during exile, of crying and wishing “if only,” and now that their dreams had come true, disappointment overcame them. How could their future match their past with such a small start? In the laughs and high fives of the younger generation, tears and wailing of those who had seen better days struck an off-key note. Who despises the day of small things? So God answered their disappointment by sending Zechariah to say, "Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the LORD that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?" (Zechariah 4:10). Later, when the less than stellar temple construction was delayed again, Haggai told them, “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong… Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD, and work. For I am with you, declares the LORD Almighty. This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear” (Haggai 2:2-5). Were they scared that the size of the temple represented the size of their God? Did their expectations not match God’s plans? Did they trust more in a Big Start than in a Big God? We can despise the day of small things, too. The pressure is on to make a big splash in our world....

Small Things and the Way God Works2022-05-05T00:48:19+00:00

God’s Abounding Grace

There are times when I am driving my car, running simple errands or on my way to work, when I am struck by the landscape around me. The lush green hills set against the pure blue sky with puffs of clouds so thick, I wonder if I could reach out and grab one. Everything pressing on my mind vanishes and I feel a sense of wonder and amazement. Then I ask myself "Has that been there all long? How could I have missed something so amazing?” I’m especially surprised when it’s a route I often take. This is true when it comes to reading God’s Word. It's incredible what God can open our eyes to see in His Word at different times, especially in places that have become familiar. That’s the beauty of Scripture: Whether it be your first time reading it or the 20th time, you can still stumble across sweet treasures. Just like on my drives, the Lord is constantly setting our gaze on new things for us to see. A New Treasure in John 13 A recent treasure for me has been reading Peter's denial found in John 13:36-38. This story comes on the heels of Jesus serving the disciples by washing their feet, the same occasion where He announced to them that someone would shortly deny Him and informed them of His upcoming departure. When Peter heard that Jesus would soon leave them, he said, "Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." His response makes sense because they had experienced so much together and grown in their relationship. Jesus’ question in return carried a tone somewhat like “Really?” He said "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.”...

God’s Abounding Grace2022-05-05T00:49:27+00:00

Hope in Our Covenant Keeping God

It’s been several weeks of caution and seclusion. Our churches are livestreamed, our fellowship times are in digital halls, and our Bible studies are framed by computer or phone screens. There is a new normal that is still unfamiliar and uncomfortable, and we don’t know how long this altered existence will last. Scripture is full of exhortations about waiting on the Lord (Is. 25:9; Ps. 37:7; Lam. 3:26), having patience (Gal. 5:22; Col. 1:11; Jm. 5:7), and God’s care in the midst of hard times (2 Sam. 22:31; Ps. 36:7, 46:1, 62:8). But there is one page of the Bible that I’m finding unconventionally encouraging in these unconventional times. Unfortunately, if you use an electronic version of the Bible, you probably won’t notice it. Go grab a physical copy of the God’s Word and turn to Malachi 4. Now, turn the page. It’s blank, isn’t it? There’s a blank page, followed by a page introducing the New Testament. That blank page represents over 400 years of silence, uncertainty, and waiting. If you’re still holding a copy of the Bible, your left hand is holding around 1,500 years of covenant history. I say “covenant” history because the Bible is full of covenants that God makes with his people. Throughout that history, God kept his covenant to preserve and bless his people, even though his people disobeyed the covenant conditions. The Old Testament is an ongoing story of how God committed to his people, his people disobeying, God reestablishing the covenant, and sending covenant messengers (aka prophets) to remind his people of the terms of the covenant. There are robust themes of God’s faithfulness despite his people’s sin..

Hope in Our Covenant Keeping God2022-05-05T00:50:15+00:00

Even If: Hope in God’s Sovereignty

“Sometimes God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.” Joni Eareckson-Tada Guilty confession: I sometimes live in a fake future; a future of my own projection where God is not present, sovereign, or good. Maybe you can relate?  We don’t say it exactly like that, but anytime we project thoughts, emotions, and turmoil into the future— where God hasn’t given us grace to live yet— we are imagining a fake future where He is not God. Living in the Future For me, because I have Multiple Sclerosis, living in this fake future can happen when my nervous system stops sending signals to lift my foot while on a hike, or when there’s a pandemic, or just on a normal Tuesday morning … The pervasive thoughts of this fake future can come in and steal my joy, robbing me of the beauty of the present moment anytime I stop preaching the gospel to my oh-so-prone-to-wander heart. Well, as it turns out, that fake future is a bad place to live. Not only is it gut-wrenching, but it is simply not true. It’s a bold lie that Satan, my flesh, and the world tempt me to live in.  Anytime those three are in cahoots together, say during a pandemic, my fake future is all the grimmer.  And if I live there, I will self-protect, self-preserve, and ultimately self-serve, forgetting about God and others in the present.  This pretend future becomes ridden with the stench of self — what Jesus came to rescue me from!  This future is an awful place where I am the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good and all-wise one. Except, since I’m not those things, it is a place of great fear— a place where God is not present...

Even If: Hope in God’s Sovereignty2022-05-05T00:51:03+00:00

Called to One Another Care

I have the privilege of working with some of the godliest women in our congregation. The seasoned saints that sit in our church each Sunday are a treasure. Their collective wisdom, derived from walking closely with the Lord through unique experiences, provides such rich material from which to give care to hurting women. One reader of Help[H]er wrote, Shepherdesses must be very special people. I'm convinced that I would not be able to do such a demanding task…The women you described must be spiritual giants. I agree! Although the shepherdesses would probably cringe to hear that. So, it is my pleasure to encourage them to believe God has graciously equipped them with every good gift and they are competent for one another care (2 Tim. 3:17). And so are you...

Called to One Another Care2022-05-05T00:51:55+00:00

How the Resurrection Comforts us in Our Waiting

When I signed on to write this post, I had no idea the world would be in the midst of one of the hardest waits we’ve ever faced, the global pandemic of 2020. As I write, Americans are being urged to stay home from school, work, church, even from the doctor’s office. We stay home, and we wait. We wait to see if the curve will be flattened; we wait to see if the virus will strike us or our loved ones; we wait to see what will happen to the economy when it’s all over. It feels as if the whole world is trembling as it waits. And yet, even as we wait in this nerve-shattering season, because of the resurrection, we wait with hope. Unlike the first followers of Jesus on the day after his death, we know there is a better day coming. The First ‘Already/Not Yet’ Day You may have heard the phrase “the already and the not yet” in a sermon or read it in a book. The “already” refers to the fact that Jesus has “already” died for our sins and been raised to new life, that his followers have “already” known the cleansing of our sins and our adoption as God’s children. The “not yet” refers to the fact that Jesus has “not yet” returned to fully restore all of creation; indeed, we groan with all of creation for the redemption of all things (Romans 8:22-23). In this season of the “already/not yet,” we eagerly await the day when Jesus will return to fully and finally restore all broken things...

How the Resurrection Comforts us in Our Waiting2022-05-05T00:52:45+00:00
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