God Is Listening
Chuck, an actor and martial artist, honored his mother on her hundredth birthday by sharing how instrumental she’d been in his spiritual transformation. “Mom has been an example of perseverance and faith,” he wrote. She raised three boys on her own during the Great Depression; suffered the death of two spouses, a son, a stepson, and grandchildren; and endured many surgeries. “[She] has prayed for me all my life, through thick and thin.” He continued, “When nearly losing my soul to Hollywood, she was back home praying for my success and salvation.” He concluded, “I thank [my mom] for helping God to make me all I can and should be.”
The prayers of Chuck’s mother helped him to find salvation—and a godly wife. She prayed fervently for her son, and God heard her prayers. We don’t always get our prayers answered the way we’d like, so we cannot use prayer as a magic wand. However, we are assured by James that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (5:16). Like this mom, we are to continue to pray for the sick and those in trouble (vv. 13–15). When, like her, we commune with God through prayer, we find encouragement and peace and the assurance that the Spirit is at work.
Does someone in your life need salvation or healing or help? Lift your prayers to God in faith. He’s listening.
Keep Talking about Jesus!
In an interview, a musician who’s a believer in Christ recalls a time he was urged to “stop talking about Jesus” so much. Why? It was suggested that his band could be more famous and raise more money to feed the poor if he stopped saying his work was all about Jesus. After thinking it through, he decided, “The entire point of my music is to share my faith in Christ. . . . No way [am I] going to be silent.” He said his “burning calling [is] to share the message of Jesus.”
Under much more threatening circumstances, the apostles received a similar message. They’d been jailed and miraculously delivered by an angel, who told them to continue telling others about their new life in Christ (Acts 5:19–20). When the religious leaders learned of the apostles’ escape and that they were still proclaiming the gospel, they reprimanded them: “We gave you strict orders not to teach in [Jesus’] name” (v. 28).
Their reply: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (v. 29). As a result, the leaders flogged the apostles and “ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus” (v. 40). The apostles rejoiced that they were worthy of suffering for Jesus’ name, and “day after day . . . never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news” (v. 42). May God help us to keep following their example!
Fighting “Flashy” Things
In the sixties-era program The Andy Griffith Show, a man tells Andy he should let his son Opie decide how he wants to live. Andy disagrees: “You can’t let a young’un decide for himself. He’ll grab at the first flashy thing with shiny ribbons on it. Then, when he finds out there’s a hook in it, it’s too late. Wrong ideas come packaged with so much glitter that it’s hard to convince them that other things might be better in the long run.” He concludes that it’s important for parents to model right behavior and help “keep temptation away.”
Andy’s words are related to the wisdom found in Proverbs: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (22:6). These words aren’t a promise but a guide. All of us are called to make our own decision to follow Christ. But we can help lay a biblical foundation through our love for God and Scripture. And we can pray that as little ones under our care mature, they choose to receive Jesus as Savior and walk in His ways and not “in the paths of the wicked” (Proverbs 22:5).
Our own victory over “flashy things” through the Holy Spirit’s enabling is also powerful testimony. Christ’s Spirit helps us to withstand temptation and molds our lives into examples worth imitating.
Amanda works as a visiting nurse who rotates among several nursing homes—often bringing her eleven-year-old daughter Ruby to work. For something to do, Ruby began asking residents, “If you could have any three things, what would you want?” and recording their answers in her notebook. Surprisingly, many of their wishes were for little things—Vienna sausages, chocolate pie, cheese, avocados. So Ruby set up a GoFundMe to help her provide for their simple wishes. And when she delivers the goodies, she doles out hugs. She says, “It lifts you. It really does.”
When we show compassion and kindness like Ruby’s, we reflect our God who “is gracious and compassionate . . . and rich in love” (Psalm 145:8). That’s why the apostle Paul urged us, as God’s people, to “clothe [our]selves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Because God has shown great compassion to us, we naturally long to share His compassion with others. And as we do so intentionally, we “clothe” ourselves in it.
Paul goes on to tell us: “over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (v. 14). And he reminds us that we are to “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 17), remembering that all good things come from the Lord. When we are kind to others, our spirits are lifted.
Opportunities to Shine
In March of 2020, while walking his dog in New York City’s Central Park, Whitney, a retired financial expert, saw trucks, stacks of tarps, and white tents, each bearing a cross and the name of a charity he’d never heard of before. When he discovered the group was building a field hospital for his fellow New Yorkers with COVID-19, he asked if he could help. For weeks, he and his family pitched in wherever they could, despite differing faiths and politics. Whitney stated, “Every single person I’ve met has been a genuinely nice person.” And he applauded the fact that no one was paying them to “help my city in our hour of deep, deep need.”
In response to the tremendous needs resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, unlikely partners in service were brought together, and believers in Jesus were given new opportunities to share Christ’s light with others. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His followers to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds” (Matthew 5:16). We shine Christ’s light by letting the Spirit guide us in loving, kind, and good words and actions (see Galatians 5:22–23). When we allow the light we’ve received from Jesus to shine clearly in our daily lives, we also “glorify our Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
This day and every day may we shine for Christ, as He helps us be His salt and light in a world that desperately needs Him.
The Making of Me
Seven-year-old Thomas Edison didn’t like or do well in school. One day, he was even called “addled” (mentally confused) by a teacher. He stormed home. After speaking with the teacher the next day, his mom, a teacher by training, decided to teach him at home. Helped along by her love and encouragement (and his God-given genius), Thomas went on to become a great inventor. He later wrote, “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had someone to live for, someone I must not disappoint.”
In Acts 15, we read that Barnabas and the apostle Paul served together as missionaries until they had a major disagreement about whether or not to bring along John Mark. Paul was opposed because Mark had earlier “deserted them in Pamphylia” (vv. 36–38). As a result, Paul and Barnabas split; Paul taking Silas and Barnabas taking Mark. Barnabas was willing to give Mark a second chance, and his encouragement contributed to Mark’s ability to serve and succeed as a missionary. He went on to write the gospel of Mark and was even a comfort to Paul while he was in prison (2 Timothy 4:11).
Many of us can look back and point to someone in our life who encouraged and helped us along our way. God may be calling you to do the same for someone in your life. Who might you encourage?
Who Is Jesus?
Who do people believe Jesus is? Some say He was a good teacher, but just a man. Author C.S. Lewis wrote, “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher.” These now-famous words from Mere Christianity propound that Jesus would not have been a great prophet if He falsely claimed to be God. That would be the ultimate heresy.
While talking with His disciples as they walked between villages, Jesus asked them, “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27). Their answers included John the Baptist, Elijah, and one of the prophets (v. 28). But Jesus wanted to know what they believed: “Who do you say I am?” Peter got it right. “You are the Messiah” (v. 29), the Savior.
But who do we say Jesus is? Jesus could not have been a good teacher or prophet if what He said about Himself—that He and the Father (God) are “one” (John 10:30)— wasn’t true. His followers and even the demons declared His divinity as the Son of God (Matthew 8:39; 16:16; 1 John 5:20). Today, may we spread the word about who Christ is as He provides what we need.
The Message of the Cross
Zhang was raised with, in his words, “no God, no religion, nothing.” In 1989, seeking democracy and freedom for his people, he helped lead students in peaceful protests. But the protests tragically led to the government’s intervention and hundreds of lives lost. For his part in the event, Zhang was placed on his country’s most-wanted list. After a short imprisonment, he fled to an outlying village where he met an elderly farmer who introduced him to Christianity. She had only a handwritten copy of the gospel of John but couldn’t read, so she asked Zhang to read it to her. As he did, she explained it to him—and a year later he became a believer in Jesus.
Through all he endured, Zhang sees that God was powerfully leading him to the cross, where he experienced firsthand what the apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians, “The message of the cross is . . . the power of God” (1:18). What many considered foolishness, a weakness, became Zhang’s strength. For some of us, this too was our thinking before we came to Christ. But through the Spirit, we felt the power and wisdom of God breaking into our lives and leading us to Christ. Today Zhang serves as a pastor spreading the truth of the cross to all who will hear.
Jesus has the power to change even the hardest of hearts. Who needs His powerful touch today?
No Formula Needed
When Jen was young, her well-intentioned Sunday school teacher instructed the class in evangelism training, which included memorizing a series of verses and a formula for sharing the gospel. She and a friend nervously tried this out on another friend, fearful they’d forget an important verse or step. Jen doesn’t “remember if the evening ended in conversion [but guesses] it did not.” The approach seemed to be more about the formula than the person.
Now, years later, Jen and her husband are modeling for their own children a love for God and sharing their faith in a more inviting way. They understand the importance of teaching their children about God, the Bible, and a personal relationship with Jesus, but they’re doing so through a living, daily example of a love for God and the Scriptures. They’re demonstrating what it means to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) and to reach out to others through kindness and hospitable words. Jen says, “We cannot impart words of life to others if we don’t possess them ourselves.” As she and her husband show kindness in their own lifestyle, they’re preparing their children “to invite others into their faith.”
We don’t need a formula to lead others to Jesus—what matters most is that a love for God compels and shines through us. As we live in and share His love, God draws others to know Him too.