In November 1742, a riot broke out in Staffordshire, England, to protest against the gospel message Charles Wesley was preaching. It seems Charles and his brother John were changing some longstanding church traditions, and that was too much for many of the townsfolk.
When John Wesley heard about the riot, he hurried to Staffordshire to help his brother. Soon an unruly crowd surrounded the place where John was staying. Courageously, he met face to face with their leaders, speaking with them so serenely that one by one their anger was assuaged.
John Wesley’s gentle and quiet spirit calmed a potentially savage mob. But it was not a gentleness that occurred naturally in his own heart. Rather, it was the heart of the Savior whom Wesley followed so closely. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). This yoke of gentleness becomes the true power behind the apostle Paul’s challenge to us, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).
In our humanness, such patience is impossible for us. But by the fruit of the Spirit in us, the gentleness of the heart of Christ can set us apart and equip us to face a hostile world. When we do, we fulfill Paul’s words, “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5).
Fingerprints have long been used to identify people, but they can be faked by creating copies. Similarly, the pattern of the iris in the human eye is a reliable source for ID—until someone alters the pattern with a contact lens to skew the results. The use of biometrics to identify individuals can be defeated. So, what qualifies as a unique identifying characteristic? It turns out that everyone’s blood-vessel patterns are unique and virtually impossible to counterfeit. Your own personal “vein map” is a one-of-a-kind identifier, setting you apart from everyone else on the planet.
Pondering such complexities of human beings should prompt a sense of worship and wonder for the Creator who made us. David reminded us that we are, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and that is certainly worth celebrating. In fact, Psalm 111:2 reminds us, “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.”
Even more worthy of our attention is the divine Maker Himself. While celebrating God’s great deeds, we also must celebrate Him! His deeds are great, but He’s even greater, prompting the psalmist to pray, “For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God” (Psalm 86:10).
Today, as we consider the greatness of what God does, may we also marvel at the greatness of who He is.
When Abraham Lincoln became president of the United States, he was tasked with leading a fractured nation. Lincoln is viewed as a wise leader and a man of high moral character, but another element to his makeup, perhaps, was the foundation for everything else. He understood that he was inadequate for the task at hand. His response to that inadequacy? Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”
When we come to grips with the massive nature of life’s challenges and the severe limitations of our own wisdom, knowledge, or strength, we find, like Lincoln, that we are utterly dependent on Jesus—the One who has no limitations. Peter reminded us of this dependency when he wrote, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
God’s love for His child, paired with His absolute power, make Him the perfect Person to approach with our frailties, and that’s the essence of prayer. We go to Him acknowledging to Him (and ourselves) that we’re inadequate and He’s eternally sufficient. Lincoln said he felt he “had nowhere else to go”—but when we begin to comprehend God’s great care for us, that’s wonderfully good news. We can go to Him!
When we think of historic, trailblazing missionaries, the name of George Liele (1750–1820) doesn’t leap to mind. Perhaps it should. Born into slavery, Liele came to Christ in Georgia and gained his freedom prior to the American Revolutionary War. He took the message of Jesus to Jamaica, ministering to the slaves in the plantations there, and served as the founding pastor of two African churches in Savannah, Georgia—one of which is considered the “mother church of black Baptists.”
Liele’s remarkable life of kingdom service may have been forgotten by some, but his spiritual service will never be forgotten by God. Neither will the work you do for God. The letter to the Hebrews encourages us with these words, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” (Hebrews 6:10). God’s faithfulness can never be underestimated, for He truly knows and remembers everything done in His name. And so Hebrews encourages us, “Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (v. 12).
For many who serve behind the scenes in their church or community, it’s easy for them to feel their labor is unappreciated. Take heart. Whether or not your work is recognized or rewarded by the people around you, God is faithful. He will never forget you.
In the early 1960s, the US was filled with anticipation of a bright future. Youthful President John F. Kennedy had introduced the New Frontier, the Peace Corps, and the task of reaching the moon. A thriving economy caused many people to expect the future to simply “let the good times roll.” Then the war in Vietnam escalated, unrest on a national level unfolded, Kennedy’s assassination took place, and a dismantling of the accepted norms of that previously optimistic society ensued. Optimism simply wasn’t enough, and in its wake, disillusionment prevailed.
Then, in 1967, theologian Jürgen Moltmann’s A Theology of Hope pointed to a clearer vision. This path was not the way of optimism but the way of hope. The two are not the same thing. Moltmann affirmed that optimism is based on the circumstances of the moment, but hope is rooted in God’s faithfulness—regardless of our situation.
What is the source of this hope? Peter wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Our faithful God has conquered death through His Son Jesus! The reality of this greatest of all victories lifts us beyond mere optimism to a strong, robust hope—every day and in every circumstance.
Our bus finally arrived at our much-anticipated destination—an archaeological dig in Israel where we would actually do some excavation work of our own. The site’s director explained that anything we might unearth had been untouched for thousands of years. Digging up broken shards of pottery, we felt as though we were touching history. After an extended time, we were led to a workstation where those broken pieces—from huge vases shattered long, long ago—were being put back together.
The picture was crystal clear. Those artisans reconstructing centuries-old broken pottery were a beautiful representation of the God who loves to fix broken things. In Psalm 31:12, David wrote, “I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.” Though no occasion is given for the writing of this psalm, David’s life difficulties often found voice in his laments—just like this one. The song describes him as being broken down by danger, enemies, and despair.
So, where did he turn for help? In verse 16, David declares, “Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.”
The God who was the object of David’s trust is the same God who still fixes broken things today. All He asks is that we call out to Him and trust in His unfailing love.
Seneca, the great philosopher of ancient Rome (4
As the French soldier dug in the desert sand, reinforcing the defenses of his army’s encampment, he had no idea he would make a momentous discovery. Moving another shovel-full of sand he saw a stone. Not just any stone. The Rosetta Stone, containing laws and governance from King Ptolemy V written in three languages. That stone (now housed in the British Museum) would be one of the most important archaeological finds of the nineteenth century, helping to unlock the mysteries of the ancient Egyptian writing known as hieroglyphics.
For many of us, much of Scripture is also wrapped in deep mystery. Still, the night before the cross, Jesus promised His followers that He would send the Holy Spirit. He told them, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit is, in a sense, our divine Rosetta Stone, shedding light on the truth—including truths behind the mysteries of the Bible.
While we are not promised absolute understanding of everything given to us in the Scriptures, we can have confidence that, by the Spirit, we can comprehend everything necessary for us to follow Jesus. He will guide us into those vital truths.
“The captain has turned on the seat belt sign, indicating that we are entering an area of turbulence. Please return to your seats immediately and securely fasten your seat belt.” Flight attendants give that warning when necessary because in rough air, unbuckled passengers can be injured. Secured in their seats, they can safely ride out the turbulence.
Most of the…