Wednesday

Why Is It So Hard to Forgive?

The 1,000 Lincoln logs scattered on the carpet in my living room were proof that scarcity doesn’t breed selfishness. Human nature does. 

It's easy to understand why a starving cat would hiss and spit to keep other cats away from a morsel of food in a trash can, but it's harder to understand why someone would act selfishly in the face of abundance. Yet this was the scenario unfolding before me. 

“These are mine,” one grandchild shouted. “I’m using them to build a tower.” 

“No, they’re mine,” the other said, snatching the log from her sister’s hand. “I need them to build a bridge.” A tug of war ensued, and I stepped in to mediate. 

“Girls, these logs aren’t yours. They belong to Gigi, and I'm sharing them with you. If you want to play with them, you’re going to have to work out a way to share with each other. If you fight again, I’m going to put them back into the attic.” 

I shake my head at my grandchildren’s squabbles, yet I am often guilty of the same crime—selfishness in the face of abundance. Apparently it’s a sin that goes back to Bible times. The book of Jonah describes an ancient version of the Lincoln Log scene. 

You know the story. God commanded Jonah to go to the city of Ninevah and deliver a message: Repent of your sinful ways or I will destroy you." Instead of rushing to obey, Jonah jumped aboard a ship and hightailed it in the opposite direction. 

A storm arose, Jonah confessed to the crew that his disobedience was the cause, and they threw him overboard to save their lives. He sank into the depths of the sea, only to be swallowed by a giant fish. 

In the belly of the fish, Jonah had lots of time to think. But he was stubborn. My, my was he stubborn. It took him three days and three nights, but finally, surrounded by partially-digested fish, his head wrapped in seaweed, and his skin bleached white from the fish’s stomach acid, he repented. 


God, in his mercy, gave him a second chance. He commanded the whale to burp Jonah out—guess where—on the coast of Ninevah. Then he repeated his call, “Arise, go to Ninevah.” 

This time Jonah obeyed. 

You’d think, after being tossed into the ocean, swallowed by a fish, and stuck in its belly for three days and three nights, Jonah would be eager to share the God of Second Chances with the Ninevites. I can hear his opening line, “Boy, do I have a story to tell you. . .” 

Instead, he delivered God’s message verbatim and sulked when the entire city repented and turned to God. “This is why I didn’t want to come,” he muttered. “I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm” (4:2). 

It’s easy to cluck our tongues at Jonah until we look in the mirror and see bits of seaweed clinging to our faces.


Like Jonah, I readily accept God’s mercy and forgiveness. When I sin, I rush to drink from the cleansing water, allowing his grace to expunge my guilt. I revel in his mercy, marveling that one so holy would even look at a sinful soul like me, let along welcome me into a relationship. 

Yet when the opportunity comes to extend forgiveness and grace to someone who has wronged me, instead of lavishing it on them in the quantity I have received, I hoard it selfishly, unwilling to share the smallest drop. I ignore Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” and instead crave judgment and punishment. They hurt me, so they should hurt a while, too. Forgiveness lets them off too easily. 

When I need forgiveness, when I confess my sin to a holy and righteous God, he doesn’t let me stew and sweat. He doesn’t require penance and purgatory. Even before the words leave my mouth, his response covers them, “Yes. Yes! A thousand times yes. Not only do I forgive you, but I cast your sins as far as the east is from the west to remember them no more. You are cleansed. You are restored. You are forgiven.” 

And then he wipes the seaweed, sea salt, and stomach acid from my Jonah face and gives me another chance. And another. And another. 

Consider the precious words of Psalm 103: 8-14.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, 
slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion. 
He will not always accuse us, nor harbor His anger forever. 
He has not dealt with us according to our sins 
or repaid us according to our iniquities. 
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, 
so great is His loving devotion for those who fear Him. 
As far as the east is from the west, 
so far has He removed our transgressions from us. 
As a father has compassion on his children, 
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. 

“He who has been forgiven much loves much,” Jesus once said of a sinful woman. Like her, we, too, have been forgiven much. Let’s do our best to live like it. 

Father, remind me every day how great a love debt I owe you and how quickly you forgive me every time I ask. Help me forgive others just like you forgive me. In the mighty name of Jesus I ask, Amen.



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Sunday

Why You Need Church (and I Do, Too)


My husband and I became Christians in our late teen years. Led to Christ through the efforts of caring, soul-winning members of two different local churches, we were immediately adopted into God’s family. These kind people who loved Jesus also loved us. They overlooked our rough edges and immature ways and took time corporately and individually to teach us what it looked like to live the faith life. 

We’ve walked with God for almost forty years now. Second only to accepting Christ as our Savior, being active members of a local church has been the single best life decision we’ve ever made. 

Here’s why: 

1. Church helps us gain wisdom and discernment. My Toastmasters club teaches me how to speak effectively. My dental hygiene study club keeps my professional knowledge up to date. An occasional nutrition class reminds me to make healthy food choices. Only the church helps me learn how to make wise parenting decisions, live peacefully with my spouse, care for my aging parents, pray with power, share my faith, and make God-centered life decisions. 

At every new stage of life, God met our family’s need for wisdom and knowledge through his Body, the church. In the early days of our parenting, godly couples several years ahead of us invited us to a Bible study. “Bring your baby,” they said. “She won’t be a problem.” How did they know we were lonely, overwhelmed, and struggling? Maybe they didn’t, but God did, and he opened their hearts to invite us. That study, and the fellowship and friendship it provided, gave us the hope and help we desperately needed. 

A Growing Kids God’s Way class taught us that strong families begin with strong marriages. A Let Prayer Change Your Life study cracked the door on the power of prayer. A Love and Respect study helped us identify sources of conflict that had troubled our marriage since its early days. In every age and stage of life, the church has met our need for guidance through a class, a resource, or a relationship. 

2. Church helps us connect with like-minded people and those with similar goals and values. In a church, certain standards of thought and conduct are understood. Parents look out for each other’s kids and blow the whistle if they see something concerning. They’re not afraid to challenge our kids if they hear words or see behavior that contradicts God’s Word. 

They provide invaluable reinforcement in the weary trenches of parenting. They bolster our faith with their examples of standing for righteousness even when it costs something. They provide a peer group for wholesome activities and meaningful pursuits. 

3. Church attendance is good for your health. Laura Rowley, in her article, “5 Surprising Scientific Reasons to Attend Church” writes, “Tyler J. VanderWeele, an epidemiologist with the Harvard School of Public Health, conducted a study of regular church-goers over two decades with his colleagues. He found that people who attend religious services at least once a week enjoy better blood pressure, healthier cardiovascular, immune and endocrine functions and less coronary artery disease than those who don’t attend at all”. 

The article also notes, “People who go to services regularly are less likely to be depressed. A survey of nearly 100,000 women over 50 who attended religious services found they were 56 percent more likely to have a positive outlook on life and 27 percent less likely to be depressed, according to a study in the Journal of Religion and Health. 

4. Church knits people’s hearts together unlike anything else. Because we share the same Holy Spirit, our friendships are deeper, our conversations more intentional, and our time together richer and more life-changing. We’ve discovered the collective joy of serving our community, each other, and the Lord. Nothing builds a friendship like packing and inspecting 2,600 Operation Christmas Child boxes in a single afternoon. Or packing and delivering 100 Thanksgiving food boxes. Or volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center or a homeless woman’s shelter. 

The satisfaction of working together on projects like these makes shallow, self-centered pursuits pale in comparison. At the end of the day, the shared experience of laboring together for a cause greater than ourselves builds eternal relationships.

5. Church is there for the good times and the bad. We’ve celebrated new babies, graduations, and marriages together. We’ve mourned job losses, cancer, and death. When our family received word while out of the country on a mission trip that my sister-in-law had died of a triple brain aneurysm, we couldn’t make it back in time for the funeral. Members of our church helped make funeral arrangements, fed the family, and stood beside our loved ones in our absence. For one daughter’s wedding, friends baked cakes and pies, tied a hundred bows, and cleaned up late into the night. We’ve done the same for them, with joy. It’s what family does.

6. Church gives us something bigger than ourselves in which to invest our lives. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 4:2 reminds us, “He who has been given a trust must prove faithful.” Each of us have been entrusted with a measure of time, talent, and treasure. One day we’ll give an account of what we did with it. And while there are a thousand good causes, there are also a thousand empty pursuits. 

Christ gave believers one assignment—to build his kingdom by pointing others to himself. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;” (Matthew 28:19-20). God’s kingdom is the only one that promises eternal rewards and endless joy. Every time we give, teach, pray, and serve in God’s name, we invest in people—people who will live forever. When all is said and done, this is the most meaningful and significant way to spend and be spent. 

These six reasons why we need church are a small sample of the hundreds I could describe. I’d like to conclude with perhaps the greatest reason: We need church because God is there. Yes, God lives in us, so, technically, he is present wherever we are, but when we gather as a body of believers for the purpose of worshiping him, his presence is almost palpable. He speaks through the music and the preaching. He draws us to his side through the collective prayers of his children. He inspires us through stories of others’ faithfulness. We are stronger, wiser, kinder, sweeter when we sit in our Father’s house, surrounded by our brothers and sisters, for the sole purpose of drawing closer to Him. 

Why, oh why, would you want to miss this? 

If you regularly attend a church, don’t stop. If you don’t, perhaps it’s time to give it a try. What do you have to lose? And what might you gain?

Now it’s your turn to share a reason why we need church. Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. If you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment. 



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How to Age Well

In my job as a health care worker, I’m privileged to treat many elderly patients. I’ve worked in the same practice for more than 31 years, so I’ve also had the opportunity to watch our patient population age. 

The ones who were children when I joined the staff now have children of their own. The college students are middle-aged. Those who were middle-aged are now elderly. 

I find the middle-agers who are now senior citizens most interesting, probably because I see my future most clearly in them. 

Some have aged well. Their faces have grown kinder. Their personalities have softened. Their eyes sparkle with laughter, and their hearts overflow with gratitude. Even though their physical limitations make caring for them more difficult, I look forward to seeing them because they’re fun, inspiring, and sweet. 

Others, I’m sad to say, haven’t improved with age. Their words are impatient and sharp. Their faces wear a permanent scowl. They’re demanding, suspicious, and entitled. Instead of believing the best about the people who have cared for them all these years, they believe we’re part of a giant conspiracy to steal their money. 

Watching people age has taught me much. It’s helped me realize I have a choice to make about how I approach each day—with grumbling or gratitude. 

If I choose to grumble about my aches, pains, and limitations, my grumpy words will reflect my grumpy attitude. If I demand special care because of my age, social status, or income, I’ll never be satisfied, because any effort will fall short by my unrealistic standards. If I grow suspicious and cynical and treat honest, hard-working people with distrust, I’ll sabotage any hope of genuine care, because relationships require trust. 

Like a dog who’s been eating out of the garbage can, the stench of my bad attitude will precede me, surround me, and linger behind me wherever I go. Before long, people will catch a whiff and hide rather than hold their breath in my presence. 


If I embrace gratitude, however, I’ll become a very different person. By focusing on my blessings (and everyone has some), I can change the atmosphere of a room almost instantly. By expressing thanks for the care others show me, I can validate those who feel unappreciated or overlooked. By trusting others and assuming the good (while exercising discretion, of course), I can foster an environment of mutual respect and commitment. 

Like bed sheets fresh from the clothesline, I can scatter sunshine and fresh air wherever I go. Instead of hiding when people see me coming, they’ll gravitate toward me, eager to share a smile, a laugh, or an encouraging word. 

Of all the patients I've cared for, Mrs. Maisy is one of my favorites. 

Well into her 90s, she lost a husband and a son in tragic deaths. While we’ve often talked about her losses, she always ends the conversation the same way. “I have much to be thankful for. God has given me a good life.” 

For the last year or so, Mrs. Maisy’s been battling cancer. Three weeks before she passed away, she came in for a visit. Every staff member stuck their head into the treatment room to speak to her. 

“How’re you doing, Mrs. Maisy?” 

“Oh, I’m slowing down,” she said, shaking her head. But her blue eyes twinkled and a smile hovered at the corners of her mouth. “It won’t be long now. But I’m ready. I have much to be thankful for. God has given me a good life.” 

Mrs. Maisy’s obituary was two columns long in the local paper, but I believe her greatest accomplishment wasn’t the committees she served on or the charities with which she worked. Her greatest accomplishment was demonstrating to the world that old doesn’t have to be synonymous for grumpy. Old can also mean grateful. 

Thank you, Mrs. Maisy, for showing me how to age gracefully, squeeze every bit of joy out of life, and share that joy with those around me. Thanks for teaching me I have a choice about the type of old person I become—grumbly or grateful. I want to wear well the grateful gown you left behind. 

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."(1 Chronicles 16:34).

Now it’s your turn. Have you known someone who got sweeter, kinder, and more grateful as they aged? How did their example impact you? Leave a comment below and share your story. If you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment.



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Tuesday

7,000 Taste Buds

Taste buds. Yep, that’s what I wrote in my journal today. Thank you, Lord, for taste buds. 

Has it ever occurred to you that God didn’t have to create us with taste buds? He could have made us like dogs, who only have enough taste buds to determine if their food is spoiled and could kill them.

Without taste buds, we’d eat simply to supply our bodies with enough calories to survive. It wouldn’t matter what we ate as long as we filled our stomachs. Like pumping gasoline into a gas tank. Or watering a plant. 

Instead, God gave us 7,000 taste buds with the ability to sense sweet, salty, bitter, salty, and savory. And oh, the pleasure we experience when we taste the sweetness of a ripe watermelon. Or the salty deliciousness of a giant bowl of buttered popcorn. Or the savory, melt-in-your-mouth goodness of a perfectly-cooked steak. 

First Timothy 6:17 gives us a glimpse of why God infused our bodies and our world with sensory pleasures. “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.” 

Did you catch the back half of this verse? “God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.” 

When God created the world, he designed it for our pleasure. He created flowers with heavenly scents, sunsets with a rainbow of colors, and kittens with silky-soft fur. He made bumbly puppies with sweet-smelling puppy breath, chattering squirrels to make us laugh, and friends and family to enjoy life with. 

God could have made the world utilitarian. Monochromatic. Efficient. Dull. Instead he created it with a billion spots of delight and pleasure. Our precious Father, who richly gives us all we need (and so much more) fashioned the world for our enjoyment. 

What a gift. What a God. 

Today, as you make your way through the world, take a moment and pause. Smell the air. Feel the sunshine or the rain. Savor the flavor of your food. Ponder the things that bring you pleasure. Then thank your creator, the God who loves you so much that he surrounds you with gifts to enjoy. 

See. Hear. Touch. Smell. Taste. Be grateful. 


Now it’s your turn. What has God created that you especially enjoy? Leave a comment below and share your sensory pleasures. If you're reading by email, click HERE to visit Hungry for God online.



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Sunday

Worry Is a Stray Cat

 There’s a stray cat in the neighborhood, and for whatever reason, it’s homed in on you. 

It howls at your doorstep. You shoo it away. When you come home at night, it’s lurking in the bushes. You rush inside, closing the door firmly in its face, but the next morning, there it is – waiting for you. 

In a moment of weakness, you let it inside. Stroke it a few times. Let it nap in the sunny spot on the carpet. Feed it—just a morsel, because it’s crying so pitifully. Before long it’s sleeping in your bed, kneading you with its paws, disturbing your sleep, and leaving hair everywhere. 

Worry is a lot like a stray cat. It lurks in the corners of our lives waiting to pounce. No matter how many times we shut the door in its face, it’s always there, waiting. 

Sometimes we succumb and let it into our heart’s home. We give it full access to our minds and emotions. We feed it what ifs, and it thrives. Before long it takes over. Nothing—not even sleep—is safe from its needle-sharp claws. It crowds out our peace and leaves evidence of its presence clinging to everything. 

If you’re struggling with worry, here are four biblical suggestions: 

1. Recognize worry for what it is—and unwelcome guest. Worry has no place in the life of a believer. For years I excused my tendency to worry by saying, “I can’t help it. I’m a natural born worrier.” This is true. But believers aren’t natural any more, we’re supernatural. Because we have the Spirit of Christ living in us, we can triumph over the frailties of our human nature. We don’t have to be enslaved to them. 

2. Don’t entertain it. Worry, like that stray cat I referred to, often shows up at our door. We can’t help that, but we can choose not to invite it in. Memorizing promises from God’s Word, praying, and keeping a thankful list can help us bar the door. “Be anxious for nothing,” God’s Word commands us, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). 

3. Don’t feed it. Worry has the amazing ability to grow. The more we feed it, the fatter it gets. Following our thoughts down dark pathways, through sinister possibilities, and around terrifying turns fuels our fears, providing a nourishing diet for it to thrive. When we starve it by redirecting our thoughts, speaking truth into the situation, and channeling our ponderings into purposeful action, we cut off its supply. 

4. Banish it with truth from God’s Word. Spending time in the Bible every day supplies a powerful antidote for worry. Reading true-life accounts of God’s faithfulness to believers down through the ages inspires us to trust him. Exploring the characteristics of God teaches us how much he loves us. Watching God’s plan of redemption play out on the pages of Scripture gives us glimpses of how God can also work in our lives. Worry flees in the face of truth, and the Bible is the best source of truth available. 

If you’re struggling today, I hope you’ll take the garden hose of faith to the stray cat of worry. Truth be told, this unwelcome guest will continue to pester you this side of heaven, but these tips will provide a powerful way to guard your home and your heart. 



Are you hungry for God, but starving for time? 
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