When I was a boy, the schoolyard was where bullies threw their weight around and kids like me received that bullying with minimal protest. As we cowered in fear before our tormenters, there was something even worse: their taunts of “Are you scared? You’re afraid of me, aren’t you? There’s no one here to protect you.”
In fact, most of those times I really was frightened—and with good cause. Having been punched in the past, I knew I didn’t want to experience that again. So, what could I do and who could I trust when I was stricken with fear? When you’re eight years old and being bullied by a kid who is older, bigger, and stronger, the fear is legitimate.
When David faced attack, he responded with confidence rather than fear—because he knew he didn’t face those threats alone. He wrote, “The
The threats we face in life are real. Yet we need not fear. The Creator of the universe is with us, and He’s more than enough.
Robert Todd Lincoln lived under the extensive shadow of his father, beloved American president Abraham Lincoln. Long after his father’s death, Robert’s identity was engulfed by his father’s overwhelming presence. Lincoln’s close friend, Nicholas Murray Butler, wrote that Robert often said, “No one wanted me for secretary of war, they wanted Abraham Lincoln’s son. No one wanted me for minister to England, they wanted Abraham Lincoln’s son. No one wanted me for president of the Pullman Company, they wanted Abraham Lincoln’s son.”
Such frustration isn’t limited to the children of the famous. We all are familiar with the feeling of not being valued for who we are. Yet nowhere is the depth of our value more evident than in the way God loves us.
The apostle Paul recognized us for who we were in our sins, and for who we become in Christ. He wrote, “At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). God loves us because of who we are—even at our worst! Paul wrote, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8). God’s values us so much that He allowed His Son to go to the cross on our behalf.
Who are we? We are God’s beloved children. Who could ask for more?
Green Bank, West Virginia, is a tiny community in the rugged US Appalachian Mountains of the USA. The town resembles dozens of other small towns in the area—with one major exception. None of the 142 residents have access to the internet. This total disconnect isn’t a technology boycott or a desire to get back to a simpler lifestyle. The absence of Wi-Fi access or cellular phone towers is because of the Green Bank Observatory, whose telescope is constantly trained on the sky. To prevent interference with the leading-edge technology of the observatory, local officials do not allow citizens to use high-tech communication devices. As a result, Green Bank is one of the most technologically quiet places in North America.
Sometimes quiet is the best environment for moving forward—especially in our relationship with God. Jesus Himself modeled this by retreating to quiet, secluded places to talk with His Father. In Luke 5:16 we read, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Perhaps the key word there is often. This was Christ’s regular practice, and it sets the perfect example for us. If the Creator of the universe was this aware of His dependence upon His Father, how much more do we need Him!
Retreating to a quiet place to be refreshed in God’s presence equips us to go forward in His renewing strength. Where can you find such a place today?
Following the Sunday morning worship service, my Moscow host took me to lunch at a restaurant outside the Kremlin. Upon arrival, we noticed a line of newlywed couples in wedding garb approaching the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Kremlin wall. The happiness of their wedding day intentionally included remembering the sacrifices others had made to help make such a day possible. It was a sobering sight as the couples took pictures by the memorial before laying wedding flowers at its base.
All of us have cause to be thankful for others who, in one way or another, made sacrifices to bring a measure of fullness to our lives. None of those sacrifices are unimportant, but neither are those sacrifices the most important. It’s only at the foot of the cross where we see the sacrifice Jesus made for us and begin to understand how thoroughly our lives are indebted to the Savior.
To that end, coming to the Lord’s Table to take communion reminds us of Jesus’ sacrifice—pictured in the bread and cup. Paul wrote, “whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). May our times at His table remind us to live every day in remembrance and gratitude of all that Jesus’ sacrifice has done in us and for us.
Robert Todd Lincoln, son of US president Abraham Lincoln, was present for three major events—the death of his own father as well as the assassinations of presidents James Garfield and William McKinley.
But consider that the apostle John was present at four of history’s most crucial events: the last supper of Jesus, Christ’s agony in Gethsemane, His crucifixion, and His resurrection. John knew that bearing witness to these events was the ultimate why behind his presence in these moments. In John 21:24, he wrote, “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them. We know that his testimony is true.”
John reaffirmed this in his letter of 1 John. He wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim” (1:1). John felt a compelling duty to share his eyewitness account of Jesus. Why? “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard,” he said, “so that you also may have fellowship with us” (v. 3).
The events of our lives may be surprising or mundane, but in either case God is orchestrating them so we can bear witness to Him. As we rest in the grace and wisdom of Christ, may we speak for Him in even life’s surprising moments.
Bluestone is a fascinating variety of rock. When struck, certain bluestones will ring with a musical tone. Maenclochog, a Welsh village whose name means “bell” or “ringing stones,” used bluestones as church bells until the eighteenth century. Interestingly, the ruins of Stonehenge, in England, are built of bluestone, causing some to wonder if that landmark’s original purpose was musical. Some researchers claim that the bluestone at Stonehenge was brought from near Maenclochog, nearly two hundred miles away, because of their unique acoustic properties.
Musical ringing stones are yet another of the wonders of God’s great creation, and they remind us of something Jesus said during His Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem. As the people praised Jesus, the religious leaders demanded Him to rebuke them. “‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out’” (Luke 19:40).
If bluestone can make music, and if Jesus made mention of even the stones bearing witness to their Creator, how might we express our own praise to the one who made us, loves us, and rescued us? He is worthy of all worship. May the Holy Spirit stir us to give Him the honor He deserves. All of creation praises Him.
Scholar Kenneth E. Bailey told of the leader of an African nation who had learned to maintain an unusual posture in the international community. He’d established a good relationship with both Israel and the nations surrounding it. When someone asked him how his nation maintained this fragile balance, he responded, “We choose our friends. We do not encourage our friends to choose our enemies [for us].”
That is wise—and genuinely practical. What that African country modeled on an international level is what Paul encouraged his readers to do on a personal level. In the midst of a lengthy description of the characteristics of a life changed by Christ, he wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). He goes on to reinforce the importance of our dealings with others by reminding us that even the way we treat our enemies (vv. 20–21) reflects our trust in and dependence upon our Lord and His ultimate care.
To live in peace with everyone may not always be possible (after all, Paul does say “if”). But our responsibility as followers of Christ is to allow His wisdom to guide our living (James 3:17–18) so that we engage those around us as peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). What better way could there be to honor the Prince of Peace?
When Doris Kearns Goodwin decided to write a book about Abraham Lincoln, the fact that some 14,000 books had already been written about America’s sixteenth president intimidated her. What could be left to say about this beloved leader? Still, Goodwin pressed on, her work resulting in A Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Her fresh insights on Lincoln’s leadership style became a top-rated and top-reviewed book, in spite of the mass of volumes already available on him.
The apostle John faced a different challenge as he wrote his account of the ministry and passion of Jesus. The final verse of John’s gospel says, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25). John had more material than he could possibly use!
So John’s strategy was to focus on only a few selected miracles (signs) that supported Jesus’ “I Am” claims throughout John’s record. Yet behind this strategy was this eternal purpose: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Out of the mountains of evidence, John provided plenty of reasons to believe in Jesus. Who can you tell about Him today?
“Men have been found to resist the most powerful monarchs and to refuse to bow down before them,” observed philosopher and author Hannah Arendt (1906–1975). She added, “[B]ut few indeed have been found to resist the crowd, to stand up alone before misguided masses, to face their implacable frenzy without weapons . . . .” As a Jew, Arendt witnessed this firsthand in her native Germany. There’s something terrifying about being rejected by the group.
The apostle Paul experienced such rejection. Trained as a Pharisee and rabbi, his life was turned upside down when he encountered the resurrected Jesus. Paul had been traveling to Damascus to persecute those who believed in Christ (Acts 9). From that time forward, the apostle found himself rejected by his own people. In his letter we know as 2 Corinthians, Paul reviewed some of the troubles he faced at their hands, among them “beatings” and “imprisonments” (6:5).
Rather than responding to such rejection with anger or bitterness, Paul longed for them to come to know Jesus too. He wrote, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people” (Romans 9:2–3).
As God has welcomed us into His family, may He also enable us to invite even our adversaries into relationship with God.