I recently attended a high school graduation during which the speaker provided a needed challenge for the young adults awaiting their diplomas. He mentioned that this was a time in their lives when everyone was asking them, “What’s next?” What career would they be pursuing next? Where would they be going to school or working next? Then he said that the more important question was what were they doing now?
In the context of their faith journey, what daily decisions would they be making that would guide them each day to live for Jesus and not for themselves?
His words reminded me of the book of Proverbs, which makes many pointed statements about how to live—now. For instance: choosing the right friends, now (12:26); living with integrity, now (13:6); having good judgment, now (13:15); speaking wisely, now (14:3); practicing honesty, now (11:1).
Living for God now, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, makes the decisions about what is next much easier. “The
Recently I read through a stack of World War II-era letters my dad sent to my mother. He was in North Africa and she was in West Virginia. Dad, a second lieutenant in the US Army, was tasked with censoring soldiers’ letters—keeping sensitive information from enemy eyes. So it was rather humorous to see—on the outside of his letters to his wife—a stamp that said, “Censored by 2nd Lt. John Branon.” Indeed, he had cut out lines from his own letters!
Self-censoring is really a good idea for all of us. Several times in Scripture, the writers mention the importance of taking a good long look at ourselves to find what’s not right—not God-honoring. The psalmist, for example, prayed, “Search me, God, and know my heart. . . . See if there is any offensive way in me” (Psalm 139:23–24). Jeremiah put it like this: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the
The Holy Spirit can help us turn from any attitudes or actions that don’t please God. So before we head out into the world today, let’s stop and seek the Spirit’s help in doing some self-checking so we can “return to the
I can never recapture the splendor that was our daughter Melissa. Fading from my memory are those wonderful times when we watched her joyfully playing high school volleyball. And it’s sometimes hard to remember the shy smile of contentment that crossed her face when we were doing family activities. Her death at age seventeen dropped a curtain on the joy of her presence.
In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah’s words show he understood that the heart can be punctured. “My splendor is gone,” he said, “and all that I had hoped from the L
But that’s not the end of his story. Light shined through. Jeremiah, burdened and broken, stammered out “I have hope” (v. 21)—hope that comes from realizing that “because of the L
Even in our darkest days, God’s great faithfulness shines through.
It was nighttime when the leader set out by horseback to inspect the work that lay ahead. As he toured the destruction all around him, he saw city walls that had been destroyed and gates that had been burned. In some areas, the vast debris made it tough for his horse to get through. Saddened, the rider turned toward home.
When it came time to report the damage to the officials of the city, he began by saying, “You see the trouble we are in” (Nehemiah 2:17). He reported that the city was in ruins, and the protecting city wall had been rendered useless.
But then he made a statement that energized the troubled citizens: “I also told them about the gracious hand of God on me.” Immediately, the people replied, “Let us start rebuilding” (v. 18).
And they did.
With faith in God and all-out effort, despite enemy opposition and a seemingly impossible task, the people of Jerusalem—under Nehemiah’s leadership—rebuilt the wall in just fifty-two days (6:15).
As you consider your circumstances, is there something that looks difficult but that you know God wants you to do? A sin you can’t seem to get rid of? A relationship rift that’s not God-honoring? A task for Him that looks too hard?
Ask God for guidance (vv. 4–5), analyze the problem (vv. 11–15), and recognize His involvement (v. 18). Then start rebuilding.
Sitting in his wheelchair at a senior citizens home in Belize, a man joyfully listened as a group of American high school teenagers sang about Jesus. Later, as some of the teens tried to communicate with him, they discovered he couldn’t talk. A stroke had robbed him of his ability to speak.
Since they couldn’t carry on a conversation with the man, the teens decided to sing to him. As they began to sing, something amazing happened. The man who couldn’t talk began to sing. With enthusiasm, he belted out “How Great Thou Art” right along with his new friends.
It was a remarkable moment for everyone. This man’s love for God broke through the barriers and poured out in audible worship—heartfelt, joyous worship.
We all have worship barriers from time to time. Maybe it’s a relationship conflict or a money problem. Or it could be a heart that’s grown a bit cold in its relationship to God.
Our non-talking friend reminds us that the greatness and majesty of our Almighty God can overcome any barrier. “O Lord, my God—when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made!”
Struggling in your worship? Reflect on how great our God is by reading a passage such as Psalm 96, and you too may find your obstacles and objections being replaced by praise.
It can be inspiring to watch people’s passion and dedication in pursuing their dreams. A young woman I know recently graduated from college in just three years—a task that took total commitment. A friend wanted a particular car, so he worked diligently baking and selling cakes until he reached his goal. Another person who’s in sales seeks to meet one hundred new people every week.
While it can be good to earnestly seek something of earthly value, there’s a more important kind of seeking that we must consider.
In desperation, struggling in a desert, King David wrote, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you” (Psalm 63:1). As David cried out to Him, God drew close to the weary king. David’s deep spiritual thirst for God (v. 1) could only be satisfied in His presence.
The king remembered meeting with God in His “sanctuary” (v. 2), experiencing His all-conquering love (v. 3), and praising Him day after day—finding true satisfaction in Him that’s not unlike enjoying a full and satisfying meal (vv. 4–5). Even during the night he contemplated God’s greatness, recognizing His help and protection (vv. 6–7).
Today the Holy Spirit convicts us to earnestly seek after God. As we cling to Him, in power and love God holds us up with His strong right hand. By the leading of the Spirit, may we draw close to the Maker of all good things.
In 2018, endurance athlete Colin O’Brady took a walk that had never been taken before. Pulling a supply sled behind him, O’Brady trekked across Antarctica entirely alone—a total of 932 miles in 54 days. It was a momentous journey of dedication and courage.
Commenting on his time alone with the ice, the cold, and the daunting distance, O’Brady said, “I was locked in a deep flow state (fully immersed in the endeavor) the entire time, equally focused on the end goal, while allowing my mind to recount the profound lessons of this journey.”
For those of us who have put our faith in Jesus, that statement might strike a familiar chord. It sounds a lot like our calling as believers: focused on the goal of walking through life in a way that glorifies (honors) God and reveals Him to others. In Acts 20:24, Paul, no stranger to dangerous journeys, said, “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
As we walk on in our relationship with Jesus, may we recognize what we know about the purpose for our journey and press on to the day we’ll see our Savior face-to-face.
Bart Millard penned a megahit in 2001 when he wrote, “I Can Only Imagine.” The song pictures how amazing it will be to be in Jesus’s presence.
Millard’s lyrics offered comfort to our family the next year when our seventeen-year-old daughter Melissa died in a car accident and we imagined what it was like for her to be in God’s presence.
But imagine spoke to me in a different way in the days following Mell’s death. As fathers of Melissa’s friends approached me, full of concern and pain, they said, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
Their expressions were helpful, showing that they were grappling with our loss in an empathetic way—finding it unimaginable.
David pinpointed the depth of great loss when he described walking through “the darkest valley” (Psalm 23:4). The death of a loved one certainly is that, and we sometimes have no idea how we’re going to navigate the darkness. We can’t imagine ever being able to come out on the other side.
But as God promised to be with us in our darkest valley now, He also provides great hope for the future by assuring us that beyond the valley we’ll be in His presence. For the believer, to be “away from the body” means being present with Him (2 Corinthians 5:8). That can help us navigate the unimaginable as we imagine our future reunion with Him and others.
Stephen told his parents that he needed to get to school early every day, but for some reason he never explained why it was so important. Yet they made sure he arrived at Northview High School by 7:15 each morning.
On a wintry day during his junior year, Stephen was in a car accident that sadly took his life. Later, his mom and dad found out why he’d been going to school so early. Each morning he and some friends had gathered at the school entrance to greet other students with a smile, a wave, and a kind word. It made all students—even those who weren’t popular—feel welcomed and accepted.
A believer in Jesus, Stephen wanted to share His joy with those who desperately needed it. His example lives on as a reminder that one of the best ways to shine the light of Christ’s love is by gestures of kindness and through a welcoming spirit.
In Matthew 5:14–16, Jesus reveals that in Him we are “the light of the world” and “a town built on a hill” (v. 14). Ancient cities were often built of white limestone, truly standing out as they reflected the blazing sun. May we choose not to be hidden but to give light “to everyone in the house” (v. 15).
And as we “let [our] light shine before others” (v. 16), may they experience the welcoming love of Christ.