For decades, London has been one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. In 1933, journalist Glyn Roberts wrote of England’s great capital, “I still think the parade of peoples and colours and tongues just about the best thing in London.” That “parade” is still in evidence today with the blended smells, sounds, and sights of a global community. The beauty of diversity is part of the breathtaking appeal of one of the world’s greatest cities.
As with any city inhabited by human beings, however, London is not without its problems. Change brings challenges. Cultures sometimes clash. And that is one of the reasons no city built by human hands can compare to the wonder of our eternal home.
When the apostle John was transported into the presence of God, diversity was one of the elements of heavenly worship, as the redeemed sing, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9–10).
Imagine heaven—a parade of every people group in the world celebrating the wonder of being children of the living God—together! As believers in Jesus, may we celebrate that diversity today.
Uncle Zaki was more than a friend to scholar Kenneth Bailey; he was his trusted guide on challenging excursions into the vast Sahara. By following Uncle Zaki, Bailey says that he and his team were demonstrating their complete trust in him. In essence, they were affirming, “We don't know the way to where we are going, and if you get us lost we will all die. We have placed our total trust in your leadership.”
In a time of great weariness and heartache, David looked beyond any human guide, seeking direction from the God he served. In Psalm 61:2 we read, “From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” He longed for the safety and relief of being ushered afresh into God’s presence (vv. 3–4).
God’s guidance in life is desperately needed for people the Scriptures describe as sheep that have “gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). Left to ourselves, we would be hopelessly lost in the desert of a broken world.
But we are not left to ourselves! We have a Shepherd who leads us “beside quiet waters,” refreshes our souls, and guides us (Psalm 23:2–3).
Where do you need His leading today? Call on Him. He will never leave you.
In his book Restless Faith, theologian Richard Mouw talks about the importance of remembering the lessons of the past. He quotes sociologist Robert Bellah, who said that “healthy nations must be ‘communities of memory. ’” Bellah extended that principle to other societal bonds, such as families. Remembering is an important part of living in community.
The Scriptures teach the value of community memory as well. The Israelites were given the Passover feast to remind them of what God had done to rescue them from slavery in Egypt (see Exodus 12:1–30). Still today, Jewish people around the world revisit that rich community memory every spring.
Passover holds great meaning for followers of Christ too, for Passover has always pointed to the work of the Messiah on the cross. It was at Passover, the night before the cross, that Jesus established His own memorial table. Luke 22:19 records, “He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’”
Every time we gather at the Lord’s Table to celebrate communion, we remember that Christ rescued us from slavery to sin and provided us with eternal life. May the rescuing love of Jesus remind us that His Cross is worth remembering—together.
Why is it valuable to partake of the communion table with other followers of Jesus? How did the shared event remind you of the love Jesus exhibited for you on the cross?
What does it take to ignite a revolution? Guns? Bombs? Guerilla warfare? In late-1980s Estonia, it took songs. After the people had lived under the burden of Soviet occupation for decades, a movement began with the singing of a series of patriotic songs. These songs birthed the “Singing Revolution,” which played a key role in restoring Estonian independence in 1991.
As one writer put it, “This was a non-violent revolution that overthrew a very violent occupation,” says a website describing the movement. “But singing had always been a major unifying force for Estonians while they endured fifty years of Soviet rule.”
Music can also play a significant part in helping us through our own hard times. I wonder if that’s why we so readily identify with the psalms. It was in a dark night of the soul that David sang, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5). It was in a season of deep disillusionment that Asaph, the worship leader, reminded himself, “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart” (Psalm 73:1).
In our own challenging times, may we join the psalmists with a singing revolution for our hearts. Such a revolution overwhelms the personal tyranny of despair and confusion with faith-fueled confidence in God’s great love and faithfulness.
The leader of our college singing group directed the group and accompanied us on the piano at the same time, skillfully balancing those responsibilities. At the close of one concert, he looked particularly weary, so I asked him if he was okay. He responded, “I’ve never had to do that before. Then he explained. “The piano was so out of tune I had to play the whole concert in two different keys—my left hand playing in one key and my right hand in another!” I was blown away by the startling skill he displayed, and I was amazed at the One who creates humans to be capable of such things.
King David expressed an even greater sense of wonder when he wrote, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it” (Psalm 139:14
One day, when we are in God’s presence, people from every generation will worship Him with the words, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11). The amazing skills God gives us and the great beauty God has created are ample reason to worship Him.
In January 1943, warm Chinook winds hit Spearfish, South Dakota, raising the temperatures from –4° to 45°F (–20° to 7° C) over a two-minute span. That drastic weather change—a swing of 49 degrees—took place in just two minutes. The widest temperature change recorded in the USA over a 24-hour period is an incredible 103°F (57°C). On January 15, 1972, Loma, Montana, saw the temperature jump from −54° to 49°F (–48° to 9°C).
Sudden change, however, is not simply a weather phenomenon. It is sometimes the very nature of life. James reminds us, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow” (4:13–14). An unexpected loss. A surprise diagnosis. A financial reversal. Sudden changes.
Life is a journey with many unpredictable elements. This is precisely why James warns us away from “arrogant schemes” (v. 16) that do not take the Almighty into account. As he advised us, “You ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (v. 15). The events of our lives may be uncertain, but one thing is sure: through all of life’s unexpected moments, our God will never leave us. He is our one constant throughout life.
“Chasing tornadoes,” says Warren Faidley, “is often like a giant game of 3D-chess played out over thousands of square miles.” The photojournalist and storm chaser adds: “Being in the right place at the right time is a symphony of forecasting and navigation while dodging everything from softball-sized hailstones to dust storms and slow-moving farm equipment.”
Faidley’s words make my palms sweat. While admiring the raw courage and scientific hunger storm chasers display, I balk at throwing myself into the middle of potentially fatal weather events.
In my experience, however, I don’t have to chase storms in life—they seem to be chasing me. That experience is mirrored by Psalm 107 as it describes sailors trapped in a storm. They were being chased by the consequences of their wrong choices but the psalmist says, “They cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed” (Psalm 107:28–29).
Whether the storms of life are of our own making or the result of living in a broken world, our Father is greater than the storm. When we are being chased by storms, He alone is able to calm them—or to calm the storm within us.
Here in Michigan, the winters can be brutal, with sub-zero temperatures and never-ending snow. One bitterly cold day, as I shoveled snow for what seemed like the thousandth time, our postman paused in his rounds to ask how I was doing. I told him that I disliked winter and was weary of all the heavy snow. I then commented that his job must be pretty rough during these extreme weather conditions. He responded, “Yeah, but at least I have a job,” he said. “A lot of people don’t. I’m thankful to be working.”
I have to admit that I felt quite convicted by his attitude of gratitude. How easily we can lose sight of everything we have to be thankful for when the circumstances of life become unpleasant.
Paul told the followers of Christ at Colossae, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Col. 3:15). He wrote to the Thessalonians, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18).
Even in our times of genuine struggle and pain, we can know God’s peace and permit it to rule our hearts. And in that peace, we will find reminders of all that we have been given in Christ. In that, we can truly be thankful.
When the legendary composer Guiseppi Verdi (1813–1901) was young, a hunger for approval drove him toward success. Warren Wiersbe wrote of him, “When Verdi produced his first opera in Florence, the composer stood by himself in the shadows and kept his eye on the face of one man in the audience—the great Rossini. It mattered not to Verdi whether the people in the hall were cheering him or jeering him; all he wanted was a smile of approval from the master musician.”
Whose approval do we seek? A parent? A boss? A love interest? For Paul, there was but one answer. He wrote, “We speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).
What does it mean to seek God’s approval? At the very least, it involves two things: turning from the desire for the applause or others and allowing His Spirit to make us more like Christ—the One who loved us and gave Himself for us. As we yield to His perfect purposes in us and through us, we can anticipate a day when we will experience the smile of His approval—the approval of the One who matters most.