Competition in the internet age has become fierce. Increasingly, companies are developing creative ways to attract customers. Take Subaru, for instance. Subaru owners are famously loyal, so the company has invited “Subbie superfans” to become “brand ambassadors” of the vehicles.
The company’s website says, “Subaru Ambassadors are an exclusive group of energetic individuals who volunteer their passion and enthusiasm to spread the word about Subaru and help shape the future of the brand.” The company wants Subaru ownership to become a part of people’s very identity—something they’re so passionate about that they can’t help but share.
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul describes a different “ambassador” program, one of inviting others to follow Jesus. “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others” (v. 11). Paul then adds, “He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (vv. 19–20).
Many products promise to meet deep needs, to give us a sense of happiness, wholeness and purpose. But only one message—the message of reconciliation entrusted to us as believers in Jesus—is truly good news. And we have the privilege of delivering that message to a desperate world.
Winston knows he’s not supposed to chew them. So he’s adopted a sly strategy. We call it slow-walking. If Winston spies a discarded, unguarded shoe, he’ll casually meander in that direction, grab it, and just keep walking. Slowly. Nothing to see here. Right out the door if no one notices. “Uh, Mom, Winston just slow-walked your shoe out the door.”
It’s apparent that sometimes we think we can “slow-walk” our sin past God. We’re tempted to think that He won’t notice. It’s no big deal, we rationalize—whatever “it” is. But like Winston, we know better. We know those choices don’t please God.
Like Adam and Eve in the garden, we may try to hide due to the shame of our sin (Genesis 3:10) or pretend like it didn’t happen. But Scripture invites us to do something very different: to run to God’s mercy and forgiveness. Proverbs 28:13 tells us, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
We don’t have to try to slow-walk our sin and hope no one notices. When we tell the truth about our choices—to ourselves, to God, to a trusted friend—we can find freedom from the guilt and shame of carrying secret sin (1 John 1:9).
Recently, I found myself someplace I’d seen in movies and on TV more times that I could count: Hollywood, California. There, in the foothills of Los Angeles, those enormous white letters marched proudly across that famous hillside as I viewed them from my hotel window.
Then I noticed something else: down to the left was a prominent cross. I’d never seen that in a movie. And the moment I left my hotel room, some students from a local church began to share Jesus with me.
We might sometimes think of Hollywood as only the epicenter of worldliness, in utter contrast with God’s kingdom. Yet clearly Christ was at work there, catching me by surprise by His presence.
The Pharisees were consistently surprised by where Jesus turned up. He didn’t hang out with the people they expected. Instead, Mark 2:13–17 tells us He spent time with “tax collectors and sinners” (v. 15), people whose lives practically screamed “Unclean!” Yet there Jesus was, among those who needed Him most (v. 17).
More than 2,000 years later, Jesus continues to plant His message of hope and salvation in unexpected places, among the most unexpected of people. And He’s called and equipped us to be a part of that mission.
“ARRRGGGHHHH!” I yelled as the repair truck cut in front of me.
That’s when I saw the message: “How’s My Driving?” And a phone number. I picked up my phone and dialed. A woman asked me why I was calling, and I vented my frustration. She took down the truck’s number. Then she said, wearily, “You know, you can always call to report someone who’s driving nicely.”
Oh. Her tired words instantly punctured my smug self-righteousness. Embarrassment flooded me. In my zeal for “justice,” I hadn’t paused to consider how my rage-filled tone could affect this woman in her difficult job. The disconnect between my faith and my fruitfulness—in that moment—was devastating.
The gap between our actions and our convictions is what the book of James focuses on. The author challenges us to consider the relationship between our faith and how we live. In James 1:19, we read, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Later, he adds, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (v. 22).
None of us is perfect. Sometimes our “driving” in life needs help, the kind that starts with confession and asks for God’s help—trusting Him to keep filing the rough edges areas of our character.
This spring, weeds attacked our backyard like something out of Jurassic Park. One got so big that when I tried to pull it, I feared I might injure myself. Before I could find a machete or spade to whack it down, I noticed that my daughter was actually pouring water on it. “Why are you watering the weeds?!” I exclaimed. “I want to see how big it will get!” she replied with an impish grin.
Weeds aren’t something we intentionally nourish—which my daughter knows. But as I thought about it, I realized that sometimes we do water the “weeds” in our spiritual lives, feeding desires that strangle our growth.
Paul writes about this in Galatians 5:13–26, where he contrasts living by the flesh with living by the Spirit. He says trying to follow the rules alone won’t establish the kind of “weed-free” life we long for. Instead, to avoid watering the weeds, he instructs us to “walk by the Spirit.” He adds that being in regular step with God’s leading is what frees us from the impulse to “gratify the desires of the flesh” (v. 16).
It’s a lifelong process to understand fully what Paul is teaching here. But I love the simplicity of his guidance: instead of growing something unwanted by nourishing our own self-focused desires, when we’re cultivating our relationship with God, we grow fruit and reap the harvest of a godly life (vv. 22–25).
Over the last several decades, a new word has entered our movie vocabulary: the reboot. In cinematic parlance, a reboot takes an old story and jumpstarts it. Some reboots retell a familiar tale, like a superhero story or a fairytale. Other reboots take a lesser-known story and retell it in a new way. But in each case, a reboot is a bit like a do-over. It’s a fresh start, a chance to breathe new life into the old.
There’s another story that involves reboots—the gospel story. In it, Jesus invites us to His offer of forgiveness, as well as abundant and eternal life (John 10:10). And in the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah reminds us that God’s love for us makes every day a “reboot” of sorts: “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (3:22–23).
God’s grace invites us to embrace each day as a fresh opportunity to experience His faithfulness. Whether we’re struggling with the effects of our own mistakes or going through other hardships, God’s Spirit can breathe forgiveness, new life, and hope into each new day. Every day is a reboot of sorts, an opportunity to follow the lead of the great Director, who is weaving our story into His bigger one.
Recently, my wife and I were cleaning our house before having guests over. I noticed some dark stains on our white kitchen tile floor—the kind that required getting on my knees to scrub.
But I soon had a sinking realization: the more I scrubbed, the more I noticed other stains. Each stain I eliminated only made the others that much more obvious. Our kitchen floor suddenly seemed impossibly dirty. And with each moment, I realized, “No matter how hard I work, I can never get this floor completely clean.”
Scripture says something similar about self-cleansing—our best efforts at dealing with sin on our own always fall short. Seeming to despair of God’s people Israel ever experiencing God’s salvation (Isaiah 64:5), the prophet Isaiah wrote, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (v. 6).
But Isaiah knew there is always hope through God’s goodness. So he prayed, “You,
We can’t scrub away the smudges and smears of sin on our souls. Thankfully, we can receive salvation in the One whose sacrifice allows us to be cleansed completely (1 John 1:7).
I was sitting in my chair one morning years ago when my youngest came downstairs. She made a beeline for me, jumping up onto my lap. I gave her a fatherly squeeze and a gentle kiss on the head, and she squealed with delight. But then she furrowed her brow, crinkled her nose, and shot an accusatory glance at my coffee mug. “Daddy,” she announced solemnly. “I love you, and I like you, but I don’t like your smell.”
My daughter couldn’t have known it, but she spoke with grace and truth: she didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but she felt compelled to tell me something. And sometimes we need to do that in our relationships.
In Ephesians 4, Paul zeroes in on how we relate to each other—especially when telling difficult truths. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (v. 2). Humility, gentleness, and patience form our relational foundation. Cultivating those character qualities as God guide us will help us “[speak] the truth in love” (v. 15) and seek to communicate “what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (v. 29).
No one likes being confronted about our weaknesses and blind spots. But when something about us “smells,” God can use faithful friends to speak into our lives with grace, truth, humility, and gentleness.
I was drifting off into an impromptu nap when it hit me. From the basement, my son ripped a chord on his electric guitar. The walls reverberated. No peace. No quiet. No nap. Moments later, competing music greeted my ears: my daughter playing “Amazing Grace” on the piano.
Normally, I love my son’s guitar playing. But in that moment, it jarred and unsettled me. Just as quickly, the familiar notes of John Newton’s hymn reminded me that grace thrives amid the chaos. No matter how loud, unwanted, or disorienting the storms of life might be, God’s note of grace rings clear and true, reminding us of His watchful care over us.
We see that reality in Scripture. In Psalm 107:23–32, sailors struggle mightily against a maelstrom that could easily devour them. “In their peril, their courage melted away” (v. 26). Still, they didn’t despair but: “cried out to the
In chaotic moments, whether they’re life-threatening or merely sleep-threatening, the barrage of noise and fear can storm our souls. But as we trust God and pray to Him, we experience the grace of His presence and provision—the haven of His steadfast love.