“Dad, what time is it?” my son asked from the back seat. “It's 5:30.” I knew exactly what he'd say next. “No, it's 5:28!” I watched his face light up. Gotcha! his beaming smile said. I felt delight, too—the kind that comes from knowing your child the way only a parent can.
Like any attentive parent, I know my children I know how they'll respond when I wake them up. I know what they’ll want in their lunches. I know countless interests, desires, and preferences.
But for all that, I'll never know them perfectly, inside and out, the way our Lord knows us.
We catch a glimpse of the kind of intimate knowledge Jesus has of His people in John 1. As Nathanael, who Philip had urged to meet Jesus, moved toward Him, Jesus pronounced, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit” (v. 47). Startled, Nathanael responded, “How do you know me?” Somewhat mysteriously, Jesus replied that He’d seen him under the fig tree (v. 48).
We may not know why Jesus chose His knowledge of this particular moment to share, but it seems Nathaniel did! Overwhelmed, he responded, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God” (v. 49).
Jesus knows each of us like this: intimately, completely, and perfectly—the way we long to be known. And He accepts us completely—inviting us to be, not only His followers, but His beloved friends (John 15:15).
“Must. Go. Faster.” That’s what Dr. Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum, says in an iconic scene from the 1993 movie Jurassic Park as he and two other characters flee in a Jeep from a rampaging tyrannosaurus. When the driver looks in the rearview mirror, he sees the raging reptile’s jaw—right above the words: “OBJECTS IN MIRROR MAY BE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR.”
The scene is a masterful combination of intensity and grim humor. But sometimes the “monsters” from our own past feel like they’ll never stop pursuing us. We look in the “mirror” of our lives and see our mistakes looming right there, threatening to consume us with guilt or shame.
The apostle Paul understood the past’s potentially paralyzing power. He’d spent years trying to live perfectly apart from Christ, and even persecuted Christians (Philippians 3:1–9). Regret over his past could easily have crippled him.
But Paul found such beauty and power in his relationship with Christ that he was compelled to let go of his old life (vv. 8–9). That freed him to look forward in faith instead of backward in fear or regret: “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal” (vv. 13–14).
Our redemption in Christ has freed us to live for Him. We don’t have to let those “objects in (our) mirror” dictate our direction as we continue forward.
Turns out that crooked church steeples make people nervous. When we visited with some friends, they shared how, after a fierce windstorm, their church's proud steeple was . . . crooked, causing some alarm.
Of course, the church quickly repaired the flagging spire, but the humorous image got me thinking. Often church is seen as a place where everything is expected to look perfect; it’s not seen as a place where we can show up… crooked. Right?
But in a fallen, broken world, all of us are “crooked,” each with our own collection of natural weaknesses. We might be tempted to keep our vulnerabilities under wraps, but Scripture encourages the opposite attitude. In 2 Corinthians 12, for example, Paul suggests that it’s in our weaknesses—for him, an unnamed struggle he calls a “thorn in the flesh” (v. 7)—that Christ is most likely to reveal His power. For Jesus had told Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness" (v. 9). So Paul concluded, "For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (v. 10).
We may not like our imperfections, but hiding them only denies Jesus’s power to work within those aspects of ourselves. When we invite Christ into the crooked places in us, He gently mends and redeems in ways our effort could never accomplish.
The news was grim.
My father had been having chest pains, so his doctor had ordered a test to peer into his heart. The result? Blockage in three arteries.
Triple-bypass surgery was scheduled for February 14. My dad, though anxious, saw that date as a hopeful sign: "I'm getting a new heart for Valentine's Day!" And he did! The surgery went perfectly, restoring life-giving blood flow to his struggling heart. A “new” heart. A second chance.
My father's surgery reminded me that God offers us a new life as well. Because sin clogs our spiritual "arteries"—our capacity to connect with God—we need spiritual "surgery" to clear them.
That's what God promised His people in Ezekiel 36:26. He assured the Israelites, "I will give you a new heart. . . I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." He also promised, "I will cleanse you from all your impurities" (v. 25) and "put my Spirit in you" (v. 27). To a people who'd lost hope, God promised a fresh start as the One who could renew their lives.
That promise was ultimately fulfilled through Jesus's death and resurrection. When we trust in Jesus, we receive a new spiritual heart, one that's cleansed of our sin and despair. Filled with Christ's Spirit, our new heart beats with the spiritual lifeblood of Jesus, that "we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:4).
Are you kidding me? I was already late. But the road sign ahead instructed me to adjust my expectations: “Expect Delays," it announced. Traffic was slowing down.
I had to laugh: I expect things to work on my ideal timeline; I don’t expect road construction.
On a spiritual level, few of us plan for crises that slow us down or reroute our lives. Yet, if I’m paying attention, I can recall many times when circumstances redirected me—in big ways and small. Delays happen.
Solomon never saw a sign that said, “Expect Delays.” But in Proverbs 16, he does contrast our plans with God's providential guidance. The Message paraphrases verse one as follows: “Mortals make elaborate plans, but
How do I lose track of this spiritual truth? I make my plans, sometimes forgetting to ask God what His plans are. I get frustrated when interruptions interfere.
But in place of that fretting, we could, as Solomon teaches, grow in simply trusting that God guides us, step by step, as we seek prayerfully Him, await His leading, and—yes—allow Him to continually redirect us.
What determines our direction in life? I once heard an answer to that question in a surprising place: a motorcycle training course. Some friends and I wanted to ride, so we took a class to learn how. Part of our training dealt with something called target fixation.
“Eventually,” our instructor said, “you’re going to face an unexpected obstacle. If you stare at it—if you target fixate—you’ll steer right into it. But if you look above and past it to where you need to go, you can usually avoid it.” Then he added, “Where you’re looking is the direction you’re going to go.”`
That simple-but-profound principle applies to our spiritual lives too. When we “target fixate”—focusing on our problems or struggles—we almost automatically orient our lives around them.
However, Scripture encourages us to look past our problems to the One who can help us with them. In Psalm 121:1, we read, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?” The psalm then answers: “My help comes from the L
Sometimes our obstacles can seem insurmountable. But God invites us to look to Him to help us see beyond our troubles instead of letting them dominate our perspective.
My favorite football team has lost eight consecutive games as I write this. With each loss, it’s harder to hope this season can be redeemed for them. The coach has made changes weekly, but they haven’t resulted in wins. Talking with my coworkers, I’ve joked that merely wanting a different outcome can’t guarantee it. “Hope is not a strategy,” I’ve quipped.
That’s true in football. But in our spiritual lives, it’s just the opposite. Not only is cultivating hope in God a strategy, but clinging to Him in faith and trust is the only strategy. This world often disappoints us, but hope can anchor us in God’s truth and power during the turbulent times.
Micah understood this reality. He was heartbroken by how Israel had turned away God. “What misery is mine! . . . The faithful have been swept from the land; not one upright person remains” (vv. 1–2). But then he refocused on his true hope: “But as for me, I watch in hope for the
What does it take to maintain hope in harsh times? Micah shows us: Watching. Waiting. Praying. Remembering—that God hears our cries even when our circumstances are overwhelming. In these moments, clinging to and acting in response to our hope in God is our strategy, the only strategy that will help us weather life’s storms.
I didn’t expect a profound lesson about the Father’s heart at the dentist’s office—but I got one. I was there with my ten-year-old son. He had an adult tooth coming in under a baby tooth that hadn’t fallen out yet. It had to come out. There was no other way.
My son, in tears, pleaded with me: “Dad, isn’t there another way? Can’t we just wait and see? Please, Dad, I don’t want to have this tooth pulled!” It just about broke my heart, but I told him, “Son, it’s got to come out. I’m sorry. There’s no other way.” And I held his hand as he wriggled and writhed while the dentist removed that stubborn molar, tears in my eyes, too. I couldn’t take his pain away; the best I could offer was to be present with him in it.
In that moment, I remembered Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, asking His Father for a different way. How it must have broken the Father’s heart to see His beloved Son in such agony! Yet there was no other way to save His people.
In our lives, we sometimes face unavoidable yet painful moments—just like my son did. But because of Jesus’s work for us, through His Spirit, even in our darkest moments our loving heavenly Father is always present with us (Matthew 28:20)—just as I was present and holding my son’s hand that hard day.
The thorn pricked my index finger, drawing blood. I hollered and then groaned, drawing back my hand instinctively. But I shouldn’t have been surprised: trying to prune a thorny bush without gardening gloves was a recipe for exactly what just happened.
The pain throbbing in my finger—and the blood flowing from it—demanded attention. And as I searched for a Band-Aid, I found myself unexpectedly thinking about my Savior. After all, soldiers forced Jesus to don an entire crown of thorns (John 19:1–3). If one thorn hurt this much, I thought, how much agony would an entire crown of them inflict? And that just a small portion of the physical pain He suffered. A whip flogged his back. Nails penetrated His wrists and ankles. A spear pierced His side.
But Jesus endured spiritual pain too. Verse 5 of Isaiah 53 tells us, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him.” The "peace" Isaiah talks about here is another way of talking about forgiveness. Jesus allowed Himself to be pierced—by a sword, by nails, by a crown of thorns—to bring us spiritual peace with God. His sacrifice, His willingness to die on our behalf, paved the way to make a relationship with the Father possible. And He did it, Scripture tells us, for me. For you.