For fourteen years, the Mars rover Opportunity faithfully communicated with the people at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After it landed in 2004, it traversed twenty-eight miles of the Martian surface, took thousands of images, and analyzed many materials. But in 2018 communication between Opportunity and scientists ended when a major dust storm coated its solar panels, causing the rover to lose power.
Is it possible that we can allow “dust” to block our communication with Someone outside of our world? When it comes to prayer—communicating with God—there are certain things that can get in the way.
Scripture says that sin can block our relationship with God. “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18). Jesus instructs, “When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25). Our communication with God can also be hindered by doubt and relationship problems (James 1:5–7; 1 Peter 3:7).
Opportunity’s blockage of communication seems to be permanent. But our prayers don’t have to be blocked. By the work of the Holy Spirit, God lovingly draws us to restored communication with Him. As we confess our sins and turn to Him, by God’s grace we experience the greatest communication the universe has ever known: one-to-one prayer between us and our holy God.
When my friend Marge met Tami at a Bible study meeting, she noticed that they seemed to have little in common. But Marge befriended her, and she learned a valuable lesson from her new friend.
Tami had never been to a Bible study, and she was having a hard time understanding something the other women in the study talked about: that God communicated with them—something she’d never experienced.
She so desired to hear from God that she took action. Later, she told Marge. “I set aside an old wooden chair, and every time I study my Bible, I ask Jesus to come sit in it.” Then Tami explained that whenever a verse stood out to her, she would write out the verse in chalk on the chair. It’s become her special “Jesus chair,” and she’s filled it up with God’s messages to her directly from the Bible.
Marge says, “[The Jesus Chair] has changed her life. She’s growing spiritually because Scripture is becoming personal.”
While speaking to Jewish believers, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31). Let’s hold to His teaching, whether it means writing His words on a chair, memorizing them, or seeking to put them into action. The truth and wisdom of Christ’s messages help us grow in Him and set us free.
In early 2019, Charlie VanderMeer died at the age of 84. For many decades, he was known to thousands and thousands of people as Uncle Charlie, the host of a national radio broadcast called Children’s Bible Hour. The day before Uncle Charlie slipped into eternity, he told a good friend, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Of course, I’m talking about Jesus Christ.”
Even as he faced the end of his life, Uncle Charlie couldn’t help but talk about Jesus and the necessity for people to receive Him as their Savior.
The apostle Paul considered knowing Jesus his most important task: “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:8–9). And how do we know Jesus? “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
We may know facts about Jesus, we may know all about the church, and we may even be familiar with the Bible. But the only way to know Jesus as Savior is to accept His free gift of salvation. He’s the Who we need to know.
The caller to the Christian radio station said that his wife was coming home from the hospital following surgery. Then he shared something that spoke deeply to my heart: “Everyone in our church family has been so helpful in taking care of us during this time.”
When I heard this simple statement, it reminded me of the value and necessity of Christian hospitality and care. I began to think that the love and support of fellow believers for one another is one of the greatest ways to demonstrate the life-changing power of the gospel.
In 1 Peter, the apostle was writing a letter to be circulated among the first-century churches in what’s now the country of Turkey. In that letter, he compelled his readers to do something that his friend Paul wrote about in Romans 12:13: “Offer hospitality.” Peter said, “Love each other deeply . . . offer hospitality,” and he told them to use the gifts God has given to “serve others” (1 Peter 4:8–10). These are clear directions to all believers in Jesus for how we’re to treat fellow believers.
All of us know people like that caller’s wife—those who need someone to come alongside and show concern and Christ-like love. In God’s strength, may we be among the ones who are noted for being “so helpful.”
A family’s prayer time ended with a surprising announcement one morning. As soon as Dad said, “Amen,” five-year-old Kaitlyn proclaimed, “And I prayed for Logan, because he had his eyes open during prayer.”
I’m pretty sure praying for your 10-year-old brother’s prayer protocol isn’t what Scripture has in mind when it calls us to intercessory prayer, but at least Kaitlyn realized that we can pray for others.
Bible teacher Oswald Chambers emphasized the importance of praying for someone else. He said that “intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and perspective.” It’s praying for others in light of what we know about God and His love for us.
We find a great example of intercessory prayer in Daniel 9. The prophet understood God’s troubling promise that the Jews would have seventy years of captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 25:11–12). Realizing that those years were nearing their completion, Daniel went into prayer mode (Daniel 9:4). He referenced God’s commands (vv. 5–6), he humbled himself (v. 8), he confessed sin (v. 15), he honored God’s character (v. 9), and he depended on His mercy as he prayed for his people (v. 18). And he got an immediate answer from God (v. 21).
Not all prayer ends with such a dramatic response, but be encouraged that we can to go to God on behalf of others with an attitude of trust and dependence on Him.
Harriet Tubman was one of the great American heroes of the nineteenth century. Showing remarkable courage, she guided more than three hundred fellow slaves to freedom after she first escaped slavery by crossing into free territory in the United States north. Not content to simply enjoy her own freedom, she ventured back into slave states nineteen times to lead friends, family, and strangers to freedom, sometimes guiding people on foot all the way to Canada.
What drove Miss Tubman to such brave action? A woman of deep faith, she at one time said this: “I always told God, I’m going to hold steady on you, and you’ve got to see me through.” Her dependence on God’s guidance as she led people out of slavery was a hallmark of her success.
What does it mean to “hold steady” to God? A verse in the prophecy of Isaiah might help us see that in reality it’s He who holds us as we grab His hand. Isaiah quotes God, who said, “I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you” (41:13).
Harriet held tightly to God, and He saw her through. What challenges are you facing? Hold steady to God as He “takes hold” of your hand and your life. “Do not fear.” He will help you.
“Don’t get on the expressway!” That text came from my daughter one day as I was leaving work. The highway home had become a virtual parking lot. I began trying alternate routes, but after experiencing gridlock on other roads, I gave up. The trip home would have to wait till later in the day, so I drove in the opposite direction to an athletic event my granddaughter was involved in.
Discovering that no roads would lead me home made me think about people who say that all roads lead to an eternal relationship with God. Some believe the road of kindness and good behavior will get you there. Others choose the road of doing religious things.
Relying on those roads, however, leads to a dead end. There’s only one road to take to God’s eternal presence. Jesus clarified this when He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He was revealing that He was going to die to open the way for us to enter His Father’s house—to His presence and the real life He provides for today and eternity.
Skip the blocked highways that don’t lead to God’s presence. Instead, trust Jesus as Savior, “for whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36). And for those who already believe in Him, rest in the way He’s provided.
Here’s one conversation Mary didn’t have to have with Joseph as they awaited the birth of the baby she was carrying: “Joseph, what should we name the baby?” Unlike most people awaiting a birth, they had no question about what they would call this child.
The angels who visited both Mary and Joseph told them each that the baby’s name would be Jesus (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31). Joseph’s angel explained that this name indicated that the baby would “save his people from their sins.”
He would also be called “Immanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14) which means “God is with us,” because He would be God in human form—deity wrapped in swaddling clothes. The prophet Isaiah revealed additional titles of “Wonderful Counselor” or “Mighty God” or “Everlasting Father” or Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), because He would be all of those things.
It’s always exciting to name a new baby. But no other baby had such a powerful, exciting, world-changing name as the one who was “Jesus who is called the Messiah” (Matthew 1:16). What a thrill for us to be able to “call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:2)! There is no other name that saves (Acts 4:12).
Let’s praise Jesus and contemplate everything He means to us this Christmas season!
When two of my grandchildren tried out for the musical Alice in Wonderland Jr., their hearts were set on getting leading roles. Maggie wanted to be young Alice, and Katie thought Mathilda would be a good role. But they were chosen to be flowers. Not exactly a ticket to Broadway.
Yet my daughter said the girls were “excited for their friends who got the [leading roles]. Their joy seemed greater cheering for their friends and sharing in their excitement.”
What a picture of how our interactions with each other in the Body of Christ should look! Every local church has what might be considered key roles. But it also needs the flowers—the ones who do vital but not-so-high-profile work. If others get roles we desire, may we choose to encourage them even as we passionately fulfill the roles God has given us.
In fact, helping and encouraging others is a way to show love for Him. Hebrews 6:10 says, “[God] will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people.” And no gift from His hand is unimportant: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace” (1 Peter 4:10).
Just imagine a church of encouragers “diligently” using their God-given gifts to His glory (Hebrews 6:11). Now that makes for joy and excitement!