When I stopped to browse through a box of books marked “C.S. Lewis” at a used bookshop, the store owner appeared. As we chatted about the available titles, I wondered if he might be interested in the faith that inspired much of Lewis’s writing. I prayed silently for guidance. Information from a biography came to mind, and we began to discuss how C. S. Lewis’s character pointed to God. In the end, I was thankful that a quick prayer had reoriented our conversation to spiritual matters.
Nehemiah paused to pray before a pivotal moment in a conversation with King Artaxerxes in Persia. The king had asked how he could help Nehemiah who was distraught over Jerusalem’s destruction. Nehemiah was the king’s servant and therefore in no position to ask for favors, but he needed one—a big one. He wanted to restore Jerusalem. So, he “prayed to the God of heaven” before asking to leave his job so he could reestablish the city (Nehemiah 2:4–5). The king consented and even agreed to help Nehemiah make travel arrangements and procure timber for the project.
The Bible encourages us to pray “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18). This includes moments when we need courage, self-control, or sensitivity. Praying before we speak helps us give God control of our attitude and our words.
How might He want to direct your words today? Ask Him and find out!
“I don’t get it!” My daughter slapped her pencil down on the desk. She was working on a math assignment, and I’d just begun my “job” as a homeschooling mom/teacher. We were in trouble. I couldn’t recall what I’d learned thirty-five years ago about changing decimals into fractions. I couldn’t teach her something I didn’t already know, so we watched an online teacher explain the skill.
As human beings, we’ll struggle at times with things we don’t know or understand. But not God; He’s the all-knowing One—the omniscient One. Isaiah wrote, “Who can . . . instruct the
Humans have intelligence because God created us in His own image. Still, our intelligence is just an inkling of His. Our knowledge relies on what others have learned before us, but God knows everything from eternity past to eternity future (Psalm 147:5). Our knowledge is increasing today with the aid of technology, but we still get things wrong. Jesus, however, knows all things “immediately, simultaneously, exhaustively and truly,” as one theologian put it.
No matter how much humans advance in knowledge, we’ll never surpass Christ’s all-knowing status. We’ll always need Him to bless our understanding and to teach us what’s good and true.
In the city of Mysore, India, there’s a school made of two refurbished train cars connected end-to-end. Local educators teamed up with the South Western Railways Company to buy and remodel the discarded coaches. The units were essentially large metal boxes, unusable until workers installed stairways, fans, lights, and desks. Workers also painted the walls and added colorful murals inside and out. Now, sixty students attend classes there because of the amazing transformation that took place.
Something even more amazing takes place when we follow the apostle Paul’s command to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). As we allow the Holy Spirit to uncouple us from the world and its ways, our thoughts and attitudes begin to change. We become more loving, more hopeful, and filled with inner peace (8:6).
Something else happens too. Although this transformation process is ongoing, and often has more stops and starts than a train ride, the process helps us understand what God wants for our lives. It takes us to a place where we “will learn to know God’s will” (12:2
Nali Kali, the name of the transformed school in India, means “joyful learning” in English. How is God’s transforming power leading you to the joyful learning of His will?
When a medical treatment began to provide relief for a family member’s severe food allergies, I became so excited that I talked about it all the time. I described the intense process and extolled the doctor who had created the program. Finally, some friends commented, “We think God should always get the credit for healing.” Their statement made me pause. Had I taken my eyes off of the Ultimate Healer and made the healing into an idol?
The nation of Israel fell into a similar trap when they began to burn incense to a bronze snake which God had used to heal them. They’d been performing this act of worship until Hezekiah identified it as idolatry and “broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made” (2 Kings 18:4).
Several centuries earlier, a group of venomous snakes had invaded the Israelite camp. The snakes bit the people and many died (Numbers 21:6). Although spiritual rebellion had caused the problem, the people cried out to God for help. Showing mercy, He directed Moses to sculpt a bronze snake, fasten it to a pole, and hold it up for everyone to see. When the people looked at it, they were healed (vv. 4–9).
Think of God’s gifts to you. Have any of them become objects of praise instead of evidence of His mercy and grace? Only our holy God—the source of every good gift (James 1:17)—is worthy of worship.
In the novella Family Happiness by Leo Tolstoy, main characters Sergey and Masha meet when Masha is young and impressionable. Sergey is an older, well-traveled businessman who understands the world beyond the rural setting where Masha lives. Over time, the two fall in love and marry.
They settle in the countryside, but Masha becomes bored with her surroundings. Sergey, who adores her, arranges a trip to St. Petersburg. There, Masha’s beauty and charm bring her instant popularity. Just as the couple is about to return home, a prince arrives in town, wanting to meet her. Sergey knows he can force Masha to leave with him, but he lets her make the decision. She chooses to stay, and her betrayal breaks his heart.
Like Sergey, God will never force us to be faithful to Him. Because He loves us, he lets us choose for or against Him. Our first choice for Him happens when we receive His Son, Jesus Christ, as the sacrifice for our sin (1 John 4:9–10). After that, we have a lifetime of decisions to make.
Will we choose faithfulness to God as His Spirit guides us, or let the world entice us? David’s life wasn’t perfect, but he often wrote about keeping “the ways of the Lord” and the good outcomes that came from doing so (Psalm 18:21–24). When our choices honor God, we can experience the blessing David described: to the faithful, God shows himself faithful.
What do you imagine dinosaurs looked like when they were alive? Big teeth? Scaly skin? Long tails? Artist Karen Carr recreates these extinct creatures in large murals. One of her panoramas is over twenty feet tall and sixty feet long. Because of its size, it required a crew of experts to install it in sections where it resides in the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History.
It would be hard to stand in front of this mural without feeling dwarfed by the dinosaurs. I get a similar sensation when I read God’s description of the powerful animal called “Behemoth” (Job 40:15). This big guy munched grass like an ox and had a tail the size of a tree trunk. His bones were like iron pipes. He lumbered through the hills grazing, stopping occasionally to relax at the local swamp. When floodwaters surged, Behemoth never raised an eyebrow.
No one could tame this incredible creature—except its maker (v. 19). God reminded Job of this truth during a time when Job’s problems had cast ominous shadows over his life. Grief, bewilderment, and frustration filled his field of vision until he began to question God. But God’s response helped Job see the real size of things. God was bigger than all his issues, and powerful enough to handle problems that Job could not resolve on his own. In the end, Job conceded, “I know that You can do all things” (42:2).
Given enough sunlight and water, vibrant wildflowers carpet areas of California such as Antelope Valley and Figueroa Mountain. But what happens when drought strikes? Scientists have discovered that certain wildflowers store large quantities of their seeds underground instead of allowing them to push through the soil and bloom. After the drought, the plants use the seeds they have saved to begin to flourish again.
The ancient Israelites thrived in the land of Egypt, despite harsh conditions. Slave masters forced them to work in fields and make bricks. Ruthless overseers required them to build entire cities for Pharaoh. The king of Egypt even tried to use infanticide to reduce their numbers. However, because God sustained them, “the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread” (Exodus 1:12). Many Bible scholars estimate that the population of Israelite men, women, and children grew to two million (or more) during their time in Egypt.
God, who preserved His people then, is upholding us today, as well. He can help us in any environment. We may worry about enduring through another season. But the Bible assures us that God, who “cares so wonderfully for the wildflowers that are here today and [are gone] tomorrow” can provide for our needs (Matthew 6:30
I can close my eyes and go back in time to the house where I grew up. I remember stargazing with my father. We took turns squinting through his telescope, trying to focus on glowing dots that shimmered and winked with eye-catching brilliance. These pinpricks of light, born of heat and fire, stood out in sharp contrast to the smooth, ink-black sky.
Do you consider yourself to be a shining star? I’m not talking about reaching the heights of human achievement, but standing out as a light against a dark background of brokenness and evil. The apostle Paul told the Philippian believers that God would shine in and through them as they held “firmly to the word of life” and avoided grumbling and arguing (Philippians 2:14-16).
Our unity with other believers and our faithfulness to God can set Christians apart from the world. The problem is, these things don’t come naturally. We constantly strive to overcome temptation so we can maintain a close relationship with God. We wrestle against selfishness to have harmony with our spiritual brothers and sisters.
But still, there is hope. Alive in each believer, God’s Spirit empowers us to be self-controlled, kind, and faithful (Galatians 5:19-23). Just as we are called to live beyond our natural capacity, Gods supernatural help makes this possible (v. 13). If every believer became a “shining star” through the power of the Spirit, just imagine how the light of God would repel the darkness around us.
I was exploring a library on the bottom floor of a new community center when an overhead crash suddenly shook the room. A few minutes later it happened again, and then again. An agitated librarian finally explained that a weight-lifting area was positioned directly above the library, and the noise occurred every time someone dropped a weight. Architects and designers had carefully planned many aspects of this state-of-the-art facility, yet someone had forgotten to locate the library away from all the action.
In life as well, our plans are often flawed. We overlook important considerations. Our plans don’t always account for accidents or surprises. Although planning helps us avoid financial shortfalls, time crunches, and health issues, even the most thorough strategies can’t eliminate all problems from our lives. We live in a post-Eden world.
With God’s help, we can find the balance between prudently considering the future (Proverbs 6:6–8) and responding to difficulties. God often has a purpose for the trouble He allows into our lives. He may use it to develop patience in us, to increase our faith, or simply to bring us closer to Him. The Bible reminds us, “Many are the plans of a person’s heart, but it is the