As the cabbie drove us to London’s Heathrow Airport, he told us his story. He had come alone to the United Kingdom at age fifteen, seeking to escape war and deprivation. Now, eleven years later, he has a family of his own and is able to provide for them in ways unavailable in his native land. But he laments that he’s still separated from his parents and siblings. He told us that he has had a hard journey that won’t be complete until he’s reunited with his family.
Being separated from our loved ones in this life is hard, but losing a loved one in death is much harder and creates a sense of loss that won’t be made right until we’re reunited with them. When the new believers at Thessalonica wondered about such losses, Paul wrote, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). He explained that as believers in Jesus, we can live in expectation of a wonderful reunion—together forever in the presence of Christ (v. 17).
Few experiences mark us so deeply as the separations we endure, but in Jesus we have hope of being reunited. And in the midst of grief and loss we can find the comfort (v. 18) we need in that enduring promise.
In Perth, Australia, there is a place called Shalom House where men struggling with addictions go to find help. At Shalom House, they’ll meet caring staff members who introduce them to God’s shalom (Hebrew for peace). Lives crushed under the weight of addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, and other destructive behaviors are being transformed by the love of God.
Central to this transformation is the message of the cross. The broken people of Shalom discover that through the resurrection of Jesus, they can find their own lives resurrected. In Christ, we gain true peace and healing.
Peace is not merely the absence of conflict; it is the presence of God’s wholeness. All of us need this shalom, and it is only found in Christ and His Spirit. This is why Paul pointed the Galatians to the Spirit’s transformational work. As the Holy Spirit operates in our lives, He generates His fruit that includes love, joy, patience, and more (Galatians 5:22–23). He gives us that vital element of true, enduring peace.
As the Spirit enables us to live in God’s shalom, we learn to bring our needs and concerns to our heavenly Father. This in turn brings us “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,”—the peace that “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
In Christ’s Spirit, our hearts experience true shalom.
Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake, is vast and magnificent. Measuring one mile deep and nearly 400 miles (636 km) by 49 miles (79 km) across, it contains one-fifth of all the surface fresh water in the world. But this water is largely inaccessible. Lake Baikal is located in Siberia—one of the most remote areas of Russia. With water so desperately needed in much of our planet, it’s ironic that such a vast supply of water is tucked away in a place where not many people can access it.
Although Lake Baikal may be remote, there is an endless source of life-giving water that is available and accessible to those who need it most. When at a well in Samaria, Jesus engaged a woman in conversation, probing at the edges of her deep spiritual thirst. The solution to her heart-need? Jesus Himself.
In contrast to the water she had come to draw from the well, Jesus invited, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14).
Many things promise satisfaction but never fully quench our thirsty hearts. Jesus alone can truly satisfy our spiritual thirst, and His provision is available to everyone, everywhere.
Historians say the Atomic Age began on July 16, 1945, when the first nuclear weapon was detonated in a remote desert of New Mexico. But long before the invention of anything that could even see these tiny building blocks of the universe, the Greek philosopher Democritus (c. 460
The Scriptures tell us that the essence of faith is embracing what can’t be seen. Hebrews 11:1 affirms, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” This assurance is not the result of wishful or positive thinking. It is confidence in the God we cannot see but whose existence is the most real reality in the universe. His reality is displayed in His creative works (Psalm 19:1) and made visible by revealing His invisible character and ways in His Son, Jesus, who came to show the Father’s love to us (John 1:18).
This is the God in whom “we live and move and have our being,” as the apostle Paul put it (Acts 17:28). As such, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Yet we do not walk alone. The unseen God walks with us every step of the way.
Michelangelo’s works explored many facets of the life of Jesus, yet one of the most poignant was also one of the most simple. In the 1540s he sketched a pieta (a picture of Jesus’ mother holding the body of the dead Christ) for his friend Vittoria Colonna. Done in chalk, the drawing depicts Mary looking to the heavens as she cradles her Son’s still form. Rising behind Mary, the upright beam of the cross carries these words from Dante’s Paradise, “There they don't think of how much blood it costs.” Michelangelo’s point was profound: when we contemplate the death of Jesus, we must consider the price He paid.
The price paid by Christ is captured in His dying declaration, “It is finished” (John 19:30). That term for “it is finished” (tetelestai) was used in several ways—to show a bill had been paid, a task finished, a sacrifice offered, a masterpiece completed. Each of them applies to what Jesus did on our behalf on the cross! Perhaps that’s why the apostle Paul wrote, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
Jesus’ willingness to take our place is the eternal evidence of how much God loves us. As we contemplate the price He paid, may we also celebrate His love—and give thanks for the cross.
In his book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, co-authored with Philip Yancey, Dr. Paul Brand observed, “A hummingbird heart weighs a fraction of an ounce and beats eight hundred times a minute; a blue whale’s heart weighs half a ton, beats only ten times per minute, and can be heard two miles away. In contrast to either, the human heart seems dully functional, yet it does its job, beating 100,000 times a day [65–70 times a minute] with no time off for rest, to get most of us through seventy years or more.”
The amazing heart so thoroughly powers us through life that it has become a metaphor for our overall inner well-being. Yet, both our literal and metaphorical hearts are prone to failure. What can we do?
The psalmist Asaph, a worship leader of Israel, acknowledged in Psalm 73 that true strength comes from somewhere—Someone—else. He wrote, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (v. 26). Asaph was right. The living God is our ultimate and eternal strength. As the Maker of heaven and earth, He knows no such limitations to His perfect power.
In our times of difficulty and challenge, may we discover what Asaph learned through his own struggles: the Lord is the true strength of our hearts. We can rest in that strength every day.
As a boy, theologian Bruce Ware was frustrated that 1 Peter 2:21–23 calls us to be like Jesus. Ware wrote of his youthful exasperation in his book The Man Christ Jesus. “Not fair, I determined. Especially when the passage says to follow in the steps of one ‘who did no sin.’ This was totally outlandish . . . . I just couldn’t see how God could really mean for us to take it seriously.”
I understand why Ware would find such a biblical challenge so daunting! An old chorus says, “To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus. My desire, to be like Him.” But as Ware rightly noted, we are not capable of doing that. Left to ourselves, we could never become like Jesus.
However, we are not left to ourselves. The Holy Spirit has been given to the child of God, in part so that Christ can be formed in us (Galatians 4:9). So it should come as no surprise that in Paul’s great chapter on the Spirit we read, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). God will see His work completed in us. And He does it through the Spirit of Christ living in us.
As we allow the Spirit to work in us, we truly become more like Jesus. How comforting to know that is God’s great desire for us!
Victor Hugo (1802–1885), a poet and novelist during the social and political upheavals of nineteenth-century France, is perhaps best known for his classic Les Miserables. Over a century later, a musical adaption of his novel has become one of our generation’s most popular productions. This shouldn’t surprise us. As Hugo once said, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
The psalmists would have agreed. Their songs and prayers provide us with honest reflections on life and its inevitable pain. They touch us in places we find difficult to access. For example, in Psalm 6:6, David cries out, “I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.”
The fact that such raw honesty is included in the inspired songs of the Scriptures gives us great encouragement. It invites us to bring our fears to God, who welcomes us into His presence for comfort and help. He embraces us in our heartfelt honesty.
Music can give us the ability to express our feelings when words are hard to come by, but whether that expression is sung, prayed, or silently cried, our God reaches into the deepest places in our hearts and gives us His peace.
Pastor Tim Keller said, “Nobody ever learns who they are by being told. They must be shown.” In a sense, it is one application of the adage, “Actions speak louder than words.” Spouses show their mates that they are appreciated by listening to them and loving them. Parents show their children they are valued by lovingly caring for them. Coaches show athletes they have potential by investing in their development. And on it goes. By the same token, a different kind of action can show people painful things that communicate much darker messages.
Of all the action-based messages in the universe, there is one that matters most. When we want to be shown who we are in God’s eyes, we need look no further than His actions on the cross. In Romans 5:8, Paul wrote, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The cross shows us who we are—those whom God so loved that He gave His one and only Son for us (John 3:16).
Against the mixed messages and confusing actions of broken people in a broken culture, the message of God’s heart rings clear. Who are you? You are the one so beloved by God that He gave His Son for Your rescue. Consider the price He paid for you and the wonderful reality that, to God, you were always worth it.