Why Do This?
As I was helping my sixth-grade grandson Logan with some tough algebra-type homework, he told me of his dream of becoming an engineer. After we returned to figuring out what to do with the x’s and y’s in his assignment, he said, “When am I ever going to use this stuff?”
I couldn’t help but smile, saying, “Well, Logan, this is exactly the stuff you’ll use if you become an engineer!” He hadn’t realized the connection between algebra and his hoped-for future.
Sometimes we view Scripture that way. When we listen to sermons and read certain parts of the Bible, we may think, “When am I ever going to use this?” The psalmist David had some answers. He said God’s truths found in Scripture do these things: “[refresh] the soul,” “[make] wise the simple,” and “[give] joy to the heart” (Psalm 19:7–8). The wisdom of Scripture, found in the first five books of the Bible as referred to in Psalm 19 (as well as all of Scripture), helps us as we daily rely on the Spirit’s leading (Proverbs 2:6).
And without the Scriptures we’d lack the vital way God has provided for us to experience Him and better know His love and ways. Why study the Bible? Because “the commands of the
The Loneliest Man
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out of their lunar landing module and became the first humans to walk on the surface of the moon. But we don’t often think about the third person on their team, Michael Collins, who was flying the command module for Apollo 11.
After his teammates clambered down the ladder to test the lunar surface, Collins waited alone on the far side of the moon. He was out of touch with Neil, Buzz, and everyone on earth. NASA’s mission control commented, “Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins.”
There are times when we feel completely alone. Imagine, for instance, how Joseph, Jacob’s son, felt when he was taken from Israel to Egypt after his brothers sold him (Genesis 37:23–28). Then he was thrust into further isolation by being thrown in prison on false charges (39:19–21).
How did Joseph survive in prison in a foreign land with no family anywhere near? Listen to this: “While Joseph was there in prison, the
Do you feel alone or isolated from others? Hold on to the truth of God’s presence, promised by Jesus Himself: “Surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). With Jesus as your Savior, you’re never alone.
Seven Minutes of Terror
When the Mars rover Perseverance landed on that red planet on February 18, 2021, those monitoring its arrival endured “seven minutes of terror.” As the spacecraft ended its 292-million-mile journey, it went through a complex landing procedure it had to do on its own. Signals from Mars to Earth take several minutes, so NASA couldn’t hear from Perseverance during the landing. Not being in contact was frightening for the team who had put so much effort and resources into the mission.
Sometimes we may experience our own times of fear when we feel we’re not hearing from God—we pray but we don’t get answers. In Scripture, we find people getting answers to prayer quickly (see Daniel 9:20–23) and those not getting answers for a long time (see Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel 1:10–20). Perhaps the most poignant example of a delayed answer—one that surely struck terror in the hearts of Mary and Martha—was when they asked Jesus to help their sick brother Lazarus (John 11:3). Jesus delayed, and their brother died (vv. 6–7, 14–15). Yet four days later, Christ answered by resurrecting Lazarus (vv. 43–44).
Waiting for answers to our prayers can be difficult. But God can comfort and help as we “approach [His] throne of grace with confidence, . . . [that] we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Running to Our Shelter
The sixth-grade basketball game was well underway. Parents and grandparents were cheering on their players, while younger brothers and sisters of the boys on the teams entertained themselves out in the school hallway. Suddenly, sirens blared and lights flashed in the gym. A fire alarm had been tripped. Soon the siblings came streaming back into the gym in panic, looking for their parents.
There was no fire; the alarm had accidentally been activated. But as I watched, I was struck by the way the children—sensing a crisis—unashamedly ran to embrace their parents. What a picture of confidence in those who could provide a sense of safety and reassurance in a time of fear!
Scripture presents a time when David experienced great fear. Saul and numerous other enemies (2 Samuel 22:1) pursued him. After God delivered David to safety, the grateful man sang an eloquent song of praise about His help. He called God “my rock, my fortress and my deliverer” (v. 2). When the “cords of the grave” and “the snares of death” (v. 6) hounded him, David “called out” to God and his “cry came to [God’s] ears” (v. 7). In the end, David proclaimed He “rescued me” (v. 49).
In times of fear and uncertainty, we can run to the “Rock” (v. 32). As we call on God’s name, He alone provides the refuge and shelter we need (vv. 2–3).
Legacy of Friends
I met him in the 1970s when I was a high school English teacher and basketball coach, and he was a tall, gangly freshman. Soon he was on my basketball team and in my classes—and a friendship was formed. This same friend, who had served with me as a fellow editor for many years, stood before me at my retirement party and shared about the legacy of our longstanding friendship.
What is it about friends connected by the love of God that encourages us and brings us closer to Jesus? The writer of Proverbs understood that friendship has two encouraging components: First, true friends give valuable advice, even if it’s not easy to give or take (27:6): “Wounds from a friend can be trusted,” he explains. Second, a friend who is nearby and accessible is important in times of crisis (v. 10): “Better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.”
It’s not good for us to fly solo in life. As Solomon noted: “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 NLT). In life, we need to have friends and we need to be friends. May God help us “love one another with brotherly affection” (Romans 12:10 ESV) and “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2)—becoming the kind of friend that can encourage others and draw them closer to the love of Jesus.
The Coffee-Bean Bowl
I’m not a coffee drinker, but one sniff of coffee beans brings me a moment of both solace and wistfulness. When our teenage daughter Melissa was making her bedroom uniquely hers, she filled a bowl with coffee beans to permeate her room with a warm, pleasant scent.
It’s been nearly two decades since Melissa’s earthly life ended in a car accident at age seventeen, but we still have that coffee-bean bowl. It gives us a continual, aromatic remembrance of Mell’s life with us.
Scripture also uses fragrances as a reminder. Song of Songs refers to fragrances as a symbol of love between a man and a woman (see 1:3; 4:11, 16). In Hosea, God’s forgiveness of Israel is said to be “fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon” (Hosea 14:6). And Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet (John 12:3), which caused the house of Mary and her siblings to be “filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3), pointed ahead to Jesus’ death (see v. 7).
The idea of fragrance can also help us be mindful of our testimony of faith to those around us. Paul explained it this way: “We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15).
Just as the scent of coffee beans reminds me of Melissa, may our lives produce a scent of Jesus and His love that reminds others of their need of Him.
Approximately ten Lego pieces are sold for every person on earth each year—more than seventy-five billion of the little plastic bricks. But if it wasn’t for the perseverance of Danish toymaker Ole Kirk Christiansen, there wouldn't be any Legos to snap together.
Christiansen toiled away in Billund, Denmark, for decades before creating leg godt, which means “play well.” His workshop was destroyed by fire twice. He endured bankruptcy and a world war that caused a shortage of materials. Finally, in the late 1940s, he landed on the idea for self-locking plastic bricks. By the time Ole Kirk died in 1955, Legos was on the verge of becoming a household word.
Persevering in the challenges of work and life can be difficult. That’s also true in our spiritual life as we strive to grow to be more like Jesus. Trouble hits us, and we need God’s strength to persevere. The apostle James wrote: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial” (1:12). Sometimes the trials we face are setbacks in relationships or finances or health. Sometimes they’re temptations that slow us down in our goal of honoring God with our lives.
But God promises wisdom for such times (v. 5), and He asks us to trust Him as He provides what we need (v. 6). Through it all, when we allow Him to help us persevere in honoring Him with our lives, we find true blessing (v. 12).
In an orbit between Mars and Jupiter zooms an asteroid worth trillions and trillions of dollars. Scientists say 16 Psyche consists of metals such as gold, iron, nickel, and platinum worth unfathomable amounts of money. For now, earthlings are not attempting to mine this rich resource, but the United States is planning to send a probe in 2022 to study the valuable rock.
The promise of untold riches just out of reach can be both tantalizing and frustrating. Surely in time there will be people who will champion the cause of reaching 16 Psyche for its treasure.
But what about the prospect of riches that are within our reach? Wouldn’t everyone go for that? Writing to the first-century church at Rome, Paul spoke of attainable riches—those we find in our relationship with God. He wrote, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33). Bible scholar James Denney described these riches as “the unsearchable wealth of love that enables God to . . . far more than meet the [great needs] of the world.”
Isn’t that what we need—even more than gold nuggets from some far-off asteroid? We can mine the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge found in the Scriptures as the Holy Spirit helps us. May God lead us to dig into those riches and to know and treasure Him more.
Puddles of Sunshine
It was a warm summer day and my four-year-old granddaughter Mollie and I were taking a break from playing ball. As we sat on the porch with our glasses of water, Mollie looked out at the yard and said, “Look at the puddles of sunshine.” The sunlight was filtering through the thick foliage to create a pattern of light amid the dark shadows.
Puddle of sunshine. Isn’t this a beautiful image for finding hope in dark days? In the midst of what can often be challenging times—when good news seems in short supply—instead of concentrating on the shadows, we can focus on the light.
The Light has a name—Jesus. Matthew quoted Isaiah to describe the brightness that came into the world when Jesus arrived: “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16; see also Isaiah 9:2). The effects of sin are all around us as we live in the “land of the shadow of death.” But shining through that shadow is Jesus, the grand and glorious light of the world (John 1:4–5).
The sunshine of Jesus’ love and compassion breaks through the shade—giving us “puddles of sunshine” to illuminate our day and brighten our hearts with hope.