It was a Sunday night in September and most people were sleeping when a small fire broke out in Thomas Farriner’s bakery on Pudding Lane. Soon the flames spread from house to house and London was engulfed in the Great Fire of 1666. Over 70,000 people were left homeless by the blaze that leveled four-fifths of the city. So much destruction from such a small fire!
The Bible warns us of another small but destructive fire. James was concerned about lives and relationships, not buildings, when he wrote, “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark” (James 3:5).
But our words can also be constructive. Proverbs 16:24 reminds us, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” The apostle Paul says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6). As salt flavors our food, grace flavors our words for building up others.
Through the help of the Holy Spirit our words can encourage people who are hurting, who want to grow in their faith, or who need to come to the Savior. Our words can put out fires instead of starting them.
The National Portrait Gallery in London, England, houses a treasure of paintings from across the centuries, including 166 images of Winston Churchill, 94 of William Shakespeare, and 20 of George Washington. With the older portraits, we may wonder: Is that what these individuals really looked like?
For instance, there are 8 paintings of Scottish patriot William Wallace (c. 1270–1305), but we obviously don’t have photographs to compare them to. How do we know if the artists accurately represented Wallace?
Something similar might be happening with the likeness of Jesus. Without realizing it, those who believe in Him are leaving an impression of Him on others. Not with brushes and oils, but with attitudes, actions, and relationships.
Are we painting a portrait that represents the likeness of His heart? This was the concern of the apostle Paul. “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus,” he wrote (Phil. 2:5). With a desire to accurately represent our Lord, he urged His followers to reflect the humility, self-sacrifice, and compassion of Jesus for others.
It has been said, “We are the only Jesus some people will ever see.” As we “in humility value others above [ourselves]” (v. 3), we will show the world the heart and attitude of Jesus Himself.
A few years ago, a friend invited me to join him as a spectator at a pro golf tournament. Being a first-timer, I had no idea what to expect. When we arrived, I was surprised to receive gifts, information, and maps of the golf course. But what topped it all was that we gained access to a VIP tent behind the 18th green, where we had free food and a place to sit. I couldn’t have gained entry to the hospitality tent on my own though. The key was my friend; it was only through him that I had complete access.
Left to ourselves, we would all be hopelessly separated from God. But Jesus, who took our penalty, offers us His life and access to God. The apostle Paul wrote, “[God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known” (Eph. 3:10). This wisdom has brought Jew and Gentile together in Christ, who has made a way for us to come to God the Father. “Through faith in [Christ] we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (v. 12).
When we put our trust in Jesus, we receive the greatest access of all—access to the God who loves us and desires relationship with us.
I enjoy gazing up at a cloudless blue sky. The sky is a beautiful part of our great Creator’s masterpiece, given for us to enjoy. Imagine how much pilots must love the view. They use several aeronautical terms to describe a perfect sky for flying, but my favorite is, “You can see to tomorrow.”
Actually, “seeing to tomorrow” is something even pilots cannot do. Sometimes we even struggle to see or understand what life is throwing at us today. The Bible tells us, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).
But our limited visibility is not cause for despair. Just the opposite. We trust in the God who sees all of our tomorrows perfectly—and who knows what we need as we face the challenges ahead. The apostle Paul knew this. That’s why Paul encourages us with hopeful words, “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:1-9).
When we trust God with our day as well as our unseen tomorrows, we don’t need to worry about anything life throws at us. We walk with Him and He knows what is ahead; He is strong enough and wise enough to handle it.
Our son and daughter-in-law had an emergency. Our grandson Cameron was suffering from pneumonia and bronchitis and needed to go to the hospital. They asked if we could pick up their five-year-old son, Nathan, from school and take him home. Marlene and I were glad to do so.
When Nathan got in the car, Marlene asked, “Are you surprised that we came to get you today?” He responded, “No!” When we asked why not, he replied, “Because I know everything!”
A five-year-old can claim to know everything, but those of us who are a bit older know better. We often have more questions than answers. We wonder about the whys, whens, and hows of life—often forgetting that though we do not know everything, we know the God who does.
Psalm 139:1 and 3 speak of our all-knowing God’s all-encompassing, intimate understanding of us. David says, “You have searched me,
Our knowledge will always be limited, but knowing God is what matters most. We can trust Him.
Jeralean Talley died in June 2015 as the world’s oldest living person—116 years of age. In 1995, the city of Jerusalem celebrated its 3,000th birthday. One hundred sixteen is old for a person, and 3,000 is old for a city, but there are trees that grow even older. A bristlecone pine in California’s White Mountains has been determined to be older than 4,800 years. That precedes the patriarch Abraham by 800 years!
Jesus, when challenged by the Jewish religious leaders about His identity, also claimed to pre-date Abraham. “Very truly I tell you,” He said, “before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58). His bold assertion shocked those who were confronting Him, and they sought to stone Him. They knew He wasn’t referring to a chronological age but was actually claiming to be eternal by taking the ancient name of God, “I am” (see Ex. 3:14). But as a member of the triune Godhead, He could make that claim legitimately.
In John 17:3, Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” The timeless One entered into time so we could live forever. He accomplished that mission by dying in our place and rising again. Because of His sacrifice, we anticipate a future not bound by time, where we will spend eternity with Him. He is the timeless one.
In March 1974, Chinese farmers were digging a well when they made a surprising discovery: Buried under the dry ground of central China was the Terracotta Army—life-size terracotta sculptures that dated back to the third century
The apostle Paul wrote that followers of Christ have a treasure inside them that is to be shared with the world: “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure (2 Cor. 4:7
This treasure is not to be hidden but is to be shared so that by God’s love and grace people of every nation can be welcomed into His family. May we, through His Spirit’s working, share that treasure with someone today.
In August 2010, the attention of the world was focused on a mine shaft near Copiapó, Chile. Thirty-three miners huddled in the dark, trapped 2,300 feet underground. They had no idea if help would ever arrive. After 17 days of waiting, they heard drilling. Rescuers produced a small hole in the mine shaft ceiling. That hole was followed by three more, establishing a delivery path for water, food, and medicine. The miners depended on those conduits to the surface above ground, where rescuers had the provisions they would need to survive. On day 69, rescuers pulled the last miner to safety.
None of us can survive in this world apart from provisions that are outside of ourselves. God, the Creator of the universe, is the one who provides us with everything we need. Like the drill holes for those miners, prayer connects us to the God of all supply.
Jesus encouraged us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). In His day, bread was the basic staple of life and pictured all the daily needs of the people. Jesus was teaching us to pray not only for our physical needs but also for everything we need—comfort, healing, courage, wisdom.
Through prayer we have access to Him at any moment, and He knows what we need before we even ask (v. 8). What might you be struggling with today? “The
In a 1929 Saturday Evening Post interview, Albert Einstein said, “As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene. . . . No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.”
The New Testament Scriptures give us other examples of Jesus’s countrymen who sensed there was something special about Him. When Jesus asked His followers, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” they replied that some said He was John the Baptist, others said He was Elijah, and others thought He was Jeremiah or one of the prophets (Matt. 16:14). To be named with the great prophets of Israel was certainly a compliment, but Jesus wasn’t seeking compliments. He was searching their understanding and looking for faith. So He asked a second question: “But what about you? . . . Who do you say I am?” (16:15).
Peter’s declaration fully expressed the truth of Jesus’ identity: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (v. 16).
Jesus longs for us to know Him and His rescuing love. This is why each of us must eventually answer the question, “Who do you say Jesus is?”