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.
We were on the way home from a visit with family in another state when I found it. I was pumping gas when I noticed a dirty, bulky envelope on the ground. I grabbed it, dirt and all, and looked inside. To my surprise, it contained one hundred dollars.
One hundred dollars that someone had lost and who at that very moment was possibly frantically searching to find. I gave our phone number to the attendants at the gas station in case anyone came back looking for it. But no one ever called.
Someone had that money and lost it. Earthly treasure is often like that. It can be lost, stolen, or even squandered. It can be lost in bad investments or even in a monetary market over which we have no control. But the heavenly treasure we have in Jesus—a restored relationship with God and the promise of eternal life—isn’t like that. We can’t lose it at a gas station or anywhere else for that matter.
That’s why Christ told us to store up “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). We do that when we become “rich in good deeds” (1 Timothy 6:18) or “rich in faith” (James 2:5)—lovingly helping others and sharing Jesus with them. As God leads and empowers us, may we store up eternal treasure even as we anticipate our eternal future with Him.
It was the seventh-grader’s first cross-country meet, but she didn’t want to run. Although she’d been preparing for the event, she was afraid of doing poorly. Still, she started the race with everyone else. Later, one by one the other runners finished the two-mile course and crossed the finish line—everyone except the reluctant runner. Finally, her mom, who was watching eagerly to see her daughter finish, saw a lone figure in the distance. The mother went to the finish line, preparing to comfort a distraught competitor. Instead, when the young runner saw her mom, she exclaimed, “That was awesome!”
What can be awesome about finishing last? Finishing!
The girl had tried something difficult and had accomplished it! Scripture honors hard work and diligence, a concept often learned through sports or music or other things that require perseverance and effort.
Proverbs 12:24 says, “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.” And later we read, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (14:23). These wise principles—not promises—can help us serve God well.
God’s plan for us always included work. Even before the fall, Adam was to “work [the Garden] and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). And any effort we make should be done “with all [our] heart” (Colossians 3:23). As believers in Jesus, let’s work in the strength He gives us—and leave the results to Him.
The first time a bat invaded our home we dismissed it as a fluke. But after a second nighttime visit, I read up on the little critters and discovered they don’t need much of an opening to pay humans a visit. I had assumed they would need a gaping hole, but I discovered that if they find a gap as small as the side of a coin they’ll let themselves in.
So I loaded up my caulk gun and went on a mission. I went around the house and closed up every tiny opening I could find.
In Songs of Songs 2:15, Solomon mentions another troublesome mammal. He writes of the danger of “little foxes,” which can “ruin the vineyards.” Symbolically, he’s speaking of threats that can enter a relationship and ruin it. Now I don’t mean to offend bat-lovers or fox-lovers, but keeping bats out of the house and foxes out of the vineyard is a bit like dealing with sin in our lives (Ephesians 5:3). By the grace of God, the Holy Spirit works within us so that we don’t have to “live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). By the Spirit’s power we can resist the temptation to sin.
Praise God that, in Christ, we are now “light in the Lord” and can live in a way that “pleases” Him (Ephesians 5:8-10). The Spirit helps us catch those little foxes.
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is a spectacular building. Its architecture is spellbinding, and its stained-glass windows and splendid interior features are breathtaking. But after centuries of standing sentry over the Paris landscape, it is falling apart. Time and pollution have taken their toll, and it is time for this glorious structure to be repaired.
So the people who love this eight-century-old landmark are coming to its rescue. In a recent year, the French government set aside more than six million dollars to help restore the church. Its supporting flying buttresses must be shored up. Many of its exterior stonework needs to be replaced. And the roof needs work. The money will be well spent, because for many this ancient cathedral stands as symbol of hope.
What’s true of buildings is also true of us. Our bodies, like this old church, will eventually look a bit worse for wear! But as the apostle Paul explains, there’s good news: while we might gradually lose the physical vibrancy of youth, the core of who we are—our spiritual being—can be continually renewing and growing (2 Corinthians 4:16).
As “we make it our goal to please [the Lord]” (2 Corinthians 5:10), relying on the Holy Spirit to fill and transform us (Ephesians 5:18, 2 Corinthians 3:18), our spiritual growth need never stop—no matter what our “building” looks like.
I recently found a “hack” (a clever solution to a tricky problem) when one of my grandchildren warmed her stuffed rabbit on our fireplace glass. The resulting globs of bunny fur weren’t pretty, but a fireplace expert provided a great hack—a tip for how to make the glass look like new. It worked, and now we no longer allow stuffed animals near the fireplace!
I bring up hacks because sometimes we can view Scripture as a collection of hacks—tips to make life easier. While it’s true that the Bible has much to say about how to live a Christ-honoring new life, that’s not the only purpose of the Book. What Scripture provides for us is a solution for mankind’s greatest need: rescue from sin and eternal separation from God.
From the promise of salvation in Genesis 3:15 all the way to the true hope of a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1–2), the Bible explains that God has an eternal plan for rescuing us from our sin and allowing us to enjoy fellowship with Him. In every story and every suggestion for how to live, the Bible is pointing us to Jesus—the only One who can solve our biggest problem.
May we remember that when we open God’s Book, we’re looking for Jesus, the rescue He offers, and how to live as His children. He’s provided the greatest solution of all!
Thomas knew what he needed to do. Having been born to a poor family in India and adopted by Americans, upon a return trip to India he witnessed the dire needs of the children in his hometown. So he knew he had to help. He began making plans to return to the US, finish his education, make a lot of money, and come back in the future.
Then, after reading James 2:14–18 in which the apostle asks, “What good is it . . . if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?,” Thomas heard a little girl in his native country cry out to her mother: “But Mommy, I’m hungry now!” He was reminded of the times he had been intensely hungry as a child—searching through trash cans for food. Thomas knew he couldn’t wait years to help. He decided, “I’ll start now!”
Today the orphanage he began houses fifty children who are well cared for, learning about Jesus, getting an education, and having plenty to eat—all because one man didn’t put off what he knew God was asking him to do.
James’s message applies to us as well. Our faith in Jesus Christ provides us with great advantages—a relationship with Him, an abundant life, and a future hope—but what good is it doing anyone else if we don’t reach out and help those in need? Can you hear the cry: “I’m hungry now?”
When Abby was a sophomore in high school, she and her mom heard a news story about a young man who’d been critically injured in a plane accident—an accident that took the lives of his father and stepmother. Although they didn’t know this person, Abby’s mom said, “We just need to pray for him and his family.” And they did.
Fast forward a few years, and one day Abby walked into a class at her university. A male student offered her the seat next to him. That student was Austin Hatch, the plane crash victim Abby had prayed for. Soon they were dating, and in 2018 they were married.
“It’s crazy to think that I was praying for my future husband,” Abby said in an interview shortly before they were married.
It can be easy to limit our prayers to our own personal needs and for those closest to us, without taking the time to pray for others. However, Paul, writing to the Christians at Ephesus, told them to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kind of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and keep praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18). Also, 1 Timothy 2:1 tells us to pray “for all people,” especially those in authority.
Let’s intercede for others—even people we don’t know. It’s one of the ways we can “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).