A marine biologist was swimming near the Cook Islands in the South Pacific when a 50,000-pound humpback whale suddenly appeared and tucked her under its fin. The woman thought her life was over. But after swimming slowly in circles, the whale let her go. It’s then that the biologist saw a tiger shark leaving the area. The woman believes the whale had been protecting her—keeping her from danger.
In a world of danger, we’re called to watch out for others. But you might ask yourself, Should I really be expected to be responsible for someone else? Or in Cain’s words: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). The rest of the Old Testament resounds with the thunderous response: Yes! Just as Adam was to care for the garden, so Cain was to care for Abel. Israel was to keep watch over the vulnerable and care for the needy. Yet they did the opposite—exploiting the people, oppressing the poor, and abdicating the calling to love their neighbors as themselves (Isaiah 3:14–15).
Yet, in the Cain and Abel story, God continued to watch over Cain, even after he was sent away (Genesis 4:15–16). God did for Cain what Cain should have done for Abel. It’s a beautiful foreshadowing of what God in Jesus would come to do for us. Jesus keeps us in His care, and He empowers us to go and do likewise for others.
Had the wireless radio been on, they would have known the Titanic was sinking. Cyril Evans, the radio operator of another ship, had tried to relay a message to Jack Phillips, the radio operator on the Titanic—letting him know they had encountered an ice field. But Phillips was busy relaying passengers’ messages and rudely told Evans to be quiet. So Evans reluctantly turned off his radio and went to be bed. Ten minutes later, the Titanic struck an iceberg. Their distress signals went unanswered because no one was listening.
In 1 Samuel we read that the priests of Israel were corrupt and had lost their spiritual sight and hearing as the nation drifted into danger. “The word of the
“Speak, for your servant is listening” (v. 10). It’s the servant who hears. May we also choose to listen to and obey what God has revealed in the Scriptures. Let’s submit our lives to Him and take the posture of humble servants—those who have their “radios” turned on.
The security guard found and removed a piece of tape that was keeping a door from clicking shut. Later, when he checked the door, he found it had been taped again. He called the police, who arrived and arrested five burglars.
Working at the Watergate building in Washington, D.C., the headquarters of a major political party in the US, the young guard had just uncovered the biggest political scandal of his lifetime simply by taking his job seriously—and doing it well.
Nehemiah began rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem—a task he took very seriously. Toward the end of the project, neighboring rivals asked him to meet with them in a nearby village. Under the guise of a friendly invitation was an insidious trap (Nehemiah 6:1–2). Yet Nehemiah’s response shows the depth of his conviction: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” (v. 3).
Although he certainly possessed some authority, Nehemiah may not have rated very high on the hero scale. He wasn’t a great warrior, not a poet or a prophet, not a king or a sage. He was a cup-bearer-turned-contractor. Yet he believed he was doing something vital for God. May we take seriously what He’s given us to do and do it well in His power and provision.
“Dad, why do you have to go to work?” The question from my young daughter was motivated by her desire to play with me. I would have preferred to skip work and spend time with her, but there was a growing list of things at work that required my attention. The question, nevertheless, is a good one. Why do we work? Is it simply to provide for ourselves and for the people we love? What about labor that’s unpaid—why do we do that?
Genesis 2 tells us that God placed the first human in the garden to “work it and take care of it” (v. 15). My father-in-law is a farmer, and he often tells me that he farms for the sheer love of land and livestock. That’s beautiful, but it leaves lingering questions for those who don’t love their work. Why did God put us in a particular place with a particular assignment?
Genesis 1 gives us the answer. We’re made in God’s image to carefully steward the world He made. Pagan stories of the way the world began reveal “gods” making humans to be their slaves. Genesis declares that the one true God made humans to be His representatives— to steward what He’d made on His behalf . May we reflect His wise and loving order into the world. Work is a call to cultivate God’s world for His glory.
At the sound of the digital melody, all six of us sprang into action. Some slipped shoes on, others simply bolted for the door barefoot. Within seconds we were all sprinting down the driveway chasing the ice cream truck. It was the first warm day of summer, and there was no better way to celebrate than with a cold, sweet treat! There are things we do simply because of the joy it brings us, not out of discipline or obligation.
In the pair of parables found in Matthew 13:44–46, the emphasis is selling everything to gain something else. We might think the stories are about sacrifice. But that’s not the point. In fact, the first story declares it was “joy” that led the man to sell everything and buy the field. Joy drives change—not guilt or duty.
Jesus isn’t one segment of our lives; His claims on us are total. Both men in the stories “sold all” (v. 46). But here’s the best part: the result of this selling of everything is actually gain. We may not have guessed that. Isn’t the Christian life about taking up your cross? Yes. It is. But when we die, we live; when we lose our lives, we find it. When we “sell all,” we gain the greatest treasure: Jesus! Joy is the reason; surrender is the response.
The treasure of knowing Jesus is the reward.
The young man became his team’s captain. The professional sports squad was now led by a mild-mannered kid who barely needed to shave. His first press conference was underwhelming. He kept deferring to the coach and to his teammates, and mumbled clichés about just trying to do his job. The team performed poorly that season, and by the end of it the young captain had been traded. He didn't grasp that he’d been entrusted with the authority to lead, or maybe he never believed he could.
Due to his failures, Saul was “small in [his] own eyes” (1 Samuel 15:17)—which is a funny thing to say about a guy who’s described as being tall. He was literally head and shoulders above the rest (9:2). And yet that wasn’t how he saw himself. In fact, his actions in the chapter show him trying to win the approval of the people. He hadn’t fully grasped that God—not people—had chosen him and given him a mission.
But Saul’s mistake is a picture of every human being’s failure: we can miss that we were made in God’s image to reflect His rule, and end up misusing our authority—spreading destruction in the world. To undo this, we need to return to God: to let the Father define us by His love, to let Him fill us with the Spirit, and to let Jesus send us out into the world.
With no cell service and no trail map, we had just our memory of a fixed map at the trailhead to guide us. More than an hour later, we finally emerged from the woods into the parking lot. Having missed the turn-off that would have made for a half-mile hike, we took a much longer trek.
Life can be like that: we have to ask not simply if something is right or wrong, but where it will lead. Psalm 1 compares two ways of living—that of the righteous (those who love God) and that of the wicked (the enemies of those who love God). The righteous flourish like a tree, but the wicked blow away like chaff (vv. 3–4). This psalm reveals what flourishing really looks like. The person who lives it out is dependent on God for renewal and life.
So how do we become that kind of person? Among other things, Psalm 1 urges us to disengage from destructive relationships and unhealthy habits and to delight in God’s instruction (v. 2). Ultimately, the reason for our flourishing is God’s attentiveness to us: “The
Commit your way to God, let Him redirect you from old patterns that lead to nowhere, and allow the Scriptures to be the river that nourishes the root system of our hearts.
When our oldest child became a teenager, my wife and I gave her a journal that we’d been writing in since her birth. We’d recorded her likes and dislikes, quirks and memorable one-liners. At some point the entries became more like letters, describing what we see in her and how we see God at work in her. When we gave it to her on her thirteenth birthday, she was mesmerized. She’d been given the gift of knowing a crucial part of the origins of her identity.
In blessing something as common as bread, Jesus was revealing its identity. What it—along with all creation—was made to reflect: God’s glory. I believe Jesus was also pointing to the future of the material world. All creation will one day be filled with the glory of God. So in blessing bread (Matthew 26:26), Jesus was pointing to the origin and the destiny of creation (Romans 8:21-22).
Maybe the “beginning” of your story feels messed up. Maybe you don’t think there’s much of a future. But there’s a bigger story. It’s a story of a God who made you on purpose and for a purpose, who took pleasure in you. It’s a story of God who came to rescue you (v. 28); a God who put His Spirit in you to renew you and recover your identity. It’s a story of a God who wants to bless you.
We met every Thursday after he lost his wife in a car accident. Sometimes he came with questions to which no answers exist, sometimes he came with memories he wanted to relive. Over time, he accepted that even though the accident was a result of the brokenness in our world, God could work in the midst of it. A few years later, he taught a class at our church about grief and how to lament well. Soon, he became our go-to guide for people experiencing loss. Sometimes it’s when we don’t feel like we have anything to offer that God takes our “not enough” and makes it “more than enough.”
Jesus told His disciples to give the people something to eat. They’d protested that there was nothing to give; Jesus multiplied their meager supplies and then turned back to the disciples and gave them the bread, as if to say, “I meant it: You give them something to eat!” Christ will do the miraculous, but He often chooses to involve us.
Jesus says to us, “Place who you are and what you have in My hands; Your broken life. Your story. Your frailty and your failure, your pain and your suffering. Put it in My hands. You’ll be surprised what I can do with it.” Jesus knows that out of our emptiness, He can bring fullness. Out of our weakness, He can reveal His strength.