Fruitful to the End
Although Lenore was ninety-four years young, her mind was sharp, her smile was bright, and her contagious love for Jesus was felt by those whose lives she touched. It wasn’t uncommon to find her in the company of the youth of our church; her presence and participation were sources of joy and encouragement. Lenore’s life was so vibrant that her death caught us off guard. Like a runner with energy at the end of the race, she sprinted across life’s finish line. Her energy and zeal were such that, just days before her death, she completed a sixteen-week course that focused on taking the message of Jesus to the peoples of the world.
The fruitful, God-honoring life of Lenore Dunlop illustrates what’s seen in Psalm 92:12–15. This psalm describes the budding, blossoming, and fruit-bearing of those whose lives are rooted in a right relationship with God (vv. 12–13). The two trees pictured were valued for their fruit and wood, respectively; with these the psalmist captures a sense of vitality, prosperity, and usefulness. When we see in our lives the budding and blossoming fruit of loving, sharing, helping, and leading others to Christ, we should rejoice. Even for those who may be labeled “senior” or “seasoned,” it’s never too late to take root and bear fruit. The life of Lenore Dunlop, whose life was deeply rooted in God through Jesus, testifies to this and to God’s goodness (v. 15). Ours can too.
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 approaching. He yelled out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47). The crowd tried to silence him, but Bartimaeus was undeterred.
“Jesus stopped,” Mark says (v. 49). In the midst of the throng, Jesus wanted to hear Bartimaeus. “What do you want?” Jesus asked (v. 51).
The answer seemed obvious; surely Jesus knew. But He seemed to believe there was power in allowing Bartimaeus to express his deep desire. “I want to see,” Bartimaeus said (v. 51). And Jesus sent Bartimaeus home seeing colors, beauty, and the faces of friends for the first time.
Not all desires are met immediately (and desires must be transformed), but what’s essential here is how Bartimaeus knew his desire and took it to Jesus. If we’ll pay attention, we’ll notice that our true desires and longings always lead us to Him.
Loving the Stranger
After a member of my family converted to a different religion, Christian friends urged me to “convince” her to return to Christ. I found myself first seeking to love my family member as Christ would—including in public places where some people frowned at her “foreign-looking” clothes. Others even made rude comments. “Go home!” one man yelled at her from his truck, not knowing or apparently caring that she already is “home.”
Moses taught a much kinder way to act toward people whose dress or beliefs feel different. Teaching laws of justice and mercy, Moses instructed the children of Israel, “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). The edict expresses God’s concern for all strangers, people vulnerable to bias and abuse, and it is reiterated in Exodus 22:21 and Leviticus 19:33.
Therefore, when I spend time with my family member—at a restaurant, in a park, taking a walk together or sitting and talking with her on my front porch—I seek first to show her kindness and respect—in the way I would want to be treated. It’s one of the best ways to remind her of the sweet love of Christ, not by upbraiding her for rejecting Him, but by loving her as He loves all of us—with amazing grace.
Soldiers fighting in a sweltering jungle many years ago encountered a frustrating problem. Without warning and mimicking the strength of a thick rope, a pervasive prickly vine would attach itself to the soldiers’ bodies and gear, causing them to be trapped. As they struggled to get free, even more of the plant’s tentacles seemed to entangle them. The soldiers dubbed the weed the “wait-a-minute” vine because, once entwined and unable to move forward, they were forced to shout out to other members of their team, “Hey, wait a minute, I’m stuck!”
In a similar way, it’s hard for followers of Jesus to move forward when our hearts and minds are ensnared by sin. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” and “run with perseverance.” But how do we run with the heaviness of sin weighing us down and keeping us from moving ahead?
Jesus is the only one who can free us from pervasive sin in our lives. We must learn to fix our eyes on Him, our Savior (12:2). Because the Son of God became “fully human in every way,” He knows what it is like to be tempted—yet not sin (2:17–18; 4:15). Alone, we may be desperately entwined by our own sin, but God wants us to overcome temptation. It’s not through our own strength, but His, that we can “throw off” entangling sin and pursue His righteousness (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Dad, Where Are You?
“Dad! Where are you?”
I was pulling into our driveway when my daughter, panicking, called me on my cell. I’d needed to be home by 6:00 to get her to play practice; I was on time. My daughter's voice, however, betrayed her lack of trust. Reflexively, I responded: “I'm here. Why don’t you trust me?”
But as I spoke those words, I wondered, How often could my heavenly Father ask that of me? In stressful moments, I too am impatient. I too struggle to trust, to believe God will keep His promises. So I cry out: “Father, where are you?”
Amid stress and uncertainty, I sometimes doubt God's presence, or even His goodness and purposes for me. The Israelites did too. In Deuteronomy 31, they were preparing to enter the Promised Land, knowing their leader, Moses, would stay behind. Moses sought to reassure God’s people by reminding them, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (v. 8).
That promise—that God is always with us—remains a cornerstone of our faith today (see Matthew 1:23, Hebrews 13:5). Indeed, Revelation 21:3 culminates with these words: “God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.”
Where is God? He is right here, right now, right with us—always ready to hear our prayers.