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
More than two hundred volunteers assisted October Books, a bookstore in Southampton, England, move its entire inventory to an address down the street. Helpers lined the sidewalk between the two buildings and passed books down a “human conveyor belt.” Having witnessed the volunteers in action, a store employee said, “It was . . . a really moving experience to see people [helping]. . . . They wanted to be part of something bigger.”
We can also be part of something much bigger than ourselves. God uses us to reach the world with the message of His love. Because someone shared the message with us, we can turn to another person and pass it on. Paul compared this—the building of God’s kingdom—to growing a garden. Some of us plant seeds while some of us water the seeds. We are, as Paul said, “co-workers in God’s service” (1 Corinthians 3:9).
Each job is important, yet all are done in the power of God’s Spirit. By His Spirit, God enables people to thrive spiritually when they hear that He loves them and sent His Son to die in their place so that they can be free from their sin (John 3:16).
God does much of His work on earth through “volunteers” like you and me. Although we are a part of a community that is much bigger than any contribution we may make, we can help it grow by working together to share His love with the world.
Farming is difficult in areas that lack freshwater. To help solve this problem, The Seawater Greenhouse Company has created something new—“cooling houses” in Somaliland, Africa, and other countries with similar climates. Cooling houses use solar pumps to drizzle saltwater over walls made of corrugated cardboard. As the water moves down each panel, it leaves its salt behind. Much of the remaining fresh water evaporates inside the structure, which becomes a humid place where fruit and vegetable crops can flourish.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God promised to do a “new thing” as He provided “streams in the wasteland” for ancient Israel (Isaiah 43:19). This new thing contrasted with the old thing He had done to rescue His people from the Egyptian army. Remember the Red Sea account? God wanted His people to recall the past but not let it overshadow His current involvement in their lives (v. 18). He said, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness” (v. 19).
While looking to the past can bolster our faith in God’s provision, living in the past can blind us to all the fresh work of God’s Spirit today. We can ask God to show us how He’s currently moving—helping, remaking, and sustaining His people. May this awareness prompt us to partner with Him to meet the needs of others, both near and far.
After a holiday meal at my house, everyone opened party favors filled with candy, small toys, and confetti. But there was something else in the favors—a paper crown for each of us. We couldn’t resist trying them on, and we smiled at each other as we sat around the table. For just a moment, we were kings and queens, even if our kingdom was a dining room littered with the remnants of our dinner.
This sparked a memory of a Bible promise I don’t often think about. In the next life, all believers will share ruling authority with Christ. Paul mentions this in 1 Corinthians 6 where He asks, “Do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world?” (v. 2). Paul referenced this future privilege because he wanted to inspire believers to settle disputes peacefully on earth. They had been suing each and consequently harming the reputation of other believers in their community.
We become better at resolving conflict as the Holy Spirit produces self-control, gentleness, and patience within us. By the time Jesus returns to the earth and completes the Spirit’s work in our lives (1 John 3:2–3), we’ll be ready for our eventual role as “a kingdom and priests to serve our God and . . . reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10). Let’s hold on to this promise that glitters in Scripture like a diamond set in a crown of gold.
One morning I visited a pond near my house. I sat on an overturned boat, thinking and watching a gentle west wind chase a layer of mist across the water’s surface. Wisps of fog circled and swirled. Mini “tornadoes” rose up and then exhausted themselves. Before long, the sunlight cut through the clouds and the mist disappeared.
This scene comforted me because I connected it with a verse I had just read: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist…” (Isaiah 44:22). I had visited the place hoping to distract myself from a series of sinful thoughts I had been preoccupied with for days. Although I was confessing them, I began to wonder if God would forgive me when I had repeated the same sin so consistently.
That morning, I knew the answer was yes. Through his prophet Isaiah, God showed grace to the Israelites when they struggled with the ongoing problem of idol worship. Although He told them to stop chasing false gods, God also invited them back to Himself, saying, “I have made you…you are my servant…I will not forget you” (v.21).
I don’t fully grasp forgiveness like that, but I do understand that God’s grace is the only thing that can dissolve our sin completely and heal us from it. I’m thankful His grace is endless and divine like He is, and that it available whenever we need it.
The country of El Salvador has honored Jesus by placing a sculpture of Him in the center of its capital city. Although the monument resides in the middle of a busy traffic circle, its height makes it easy to see, and its name—The Divine Savior of the World—communicates reverence for His supernatural status.
The monument’s name affirms what the Bible says about Jesus (1 John 4:14). He is the one who offers salvation to everyone. Jesus crosses cultural boundaries and accepts any sincere person who wants to know Him, regardless of age, education, race, past sin, or social status.
The apostle Paul traveled the ancient world telling people about Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. He shared this good news with political and religious authorities, soldiers, Jews, Gentiles, men, women, and children. Paul explained that a person could begin a relationship with Christ by declaring Jesus to be the ruler of his or her life, and believing that God had indeed raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 10:9). He said, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame. . . . Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:11, 13).
Jesus isn’t a distant image to be honored; we must a person-to-person connection with Him through faith. May we see the value of the salvation He offers and move forward into a spiritual relationship with Him today.
A wildfire in Andilla, Spain, scorched nearly 50,000 acres of woodland. When scientists entered the area they expected total devastation; and they did indeed see miles of blackened oaks, pines, and junipers. However, in the middle of the wreckage, a group of nearly 1,000 bright green cypress trees remained standing. The trees’ unusual ability to retain water had allowed them to safely endure the fire.
In the days of King Nebuchanezzar’s reign in Babylon, a small cluster of friends survived the flames of the king’s wrath. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship a statue Nebuchadnezzar had created, and they told him, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it” (Daniel 3:17). Infuriated, the monarch cranked up the heat seven times hotter than normal (v. 19).
The soldiers who carried out the king’s orders and tossed the friends into the blaze burned up and died, yet onlookers watched Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walk around inside the flames “unbound and unharmed.” Someone else was in the furnace as well—a fourth man who looked “like a son of the gods” (v. 25). Many scholars say this was a preincarnate appearance of Jesus.
Jesus is with us when we face intimidation and trials. In the moments when we are urged to give in to pressure, we don’t have to be afraid. We may not always know how or when God will help us, but we know He’s with us. He will give us the strength to stay faithful to Him through every “fire” we endure.
The room was dim and silent as I pulled a chair close to Jacquie’s bed. Before a three-year battle with cancer, my friend had been a vibrant person. I could still picture her laughing—eyes full of life, her face lit with a smile. Now she was quiet and still, and I was visiting her in a special care facility.
Not knowing what to say, I decided to read some Scripture. I pulled my Bible out of my purse and turned to a reference in 1 Corinthians and began to read.
After the visit and an emotional time in the seclusion of my parked car, a thought came to mind that slowed my tears: You’ll see her again. Caught up in sadness, I had forgotten that death is only temporary for believers (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). I knew I’d see Jacquie again because both of us had trusted in Jesus’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sin (vv.3-4). When Jesus came back to life after his crucifixion, death lost its ultimate power to separate believers from each other and from God. After we die, we’ll live again in heaven with God and all of our spiritual brothers and sisters—forever.
Because Jesus is alive today, Christians have hope in times of loss and sorrow. Death has been swallowed up in the victory of the cross (v. 54).