The longest international border in the world is shared by the United States and Canada, covering an incredible 5,525 miles of land and water. Workers regularly cut down ten feet of trees on both sides of the boundary to make the border line unmistakable. This lengthy ribbon of cleared land, called “the Slash,” is dotted by more than eight thousand stone markers so visitors always know where the dividing line falls.
The physical deforestation of “the Slash” represents a separation of government and cultures. As believers in Jesus, we look forward to a time when God will reverse that and unite all nations across the world under His rule. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a future where His temple will be firmly established and exalted (Isaiah 2:2). People from all nations will gather to learn God’s ways and “walk in His paths” (v. 3). No longer will we rely on human efforts that fail to maintain peace. As our true King, God will judge between nations and settle all disputes (v. 4).
Can you imagine a world without division and conflict? That’s what God promises to bring! Regardless of the disunity around us, we can “walk in the light of the Lord” (v. 5) and choose to give Him our allegiance now. We know that God rules over all and He will someday unite His people under one banner.
“Don’t be afraid of death, Winnie,” said Angus Tuck, “be afraid of the unlived life.” That quote from the book-turned-film Tuck Everlasting is made more interesting by the fact that it comes from a character who can’t die. In the story, the Tuck family has become immortal. Young James Tuck, who falls in love with Winnie, begs her to seek immortality too so they can be together forever. But wise Angus understands that simply enduring forever doesn’t bring fulfillment.
Our culture tells us that if we could be healthy, young, and energetic forever, we would be truly happy. But that’s not where our fulfillment is found. Before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed for His disciples and for future believers. He said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Our fulfillment in life comes from a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. He’s our hope for the future and joy for this present day.
Jesus prayed that His disciples would take on the patterns of new life: that they would obey God (v. 6), believe that Jesus was sent by God the Father (v. 8), and be united as one (v. 11). As believers in Christ, we look forward to a future eternal life with Him. But during these days we live on earth, we can live the “rich and satisfying life” that He promised—right here, right now (10:10 NLT).
Sara lost her mother when she was just fourteen years old. She and her siblings lost their house soon after and became homeless. Years later, Sara wanted to provide her future children with an inheritance that could be passed down from generation to generation. She worked extremely hard to purchase a house, giving her family the stable home she never had.
Investing in a home for future generations is an act of faith—taking steps toward a future you don’t yet see. God told the prophet Jeremiah to purchase land just before the violent siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 32:6–12). To the prophet, God’s instructions didn’t make a lot of sense. Soon all their property and belongings would be confiscated.
But God gave Jeremiah this promise: “As I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will give them all the prosperity I have promised them” (v. 42). Jeremiah’s investment in property was a physical sign of God’s faithfulness to someday restore the Israelites to their homeland. Even in the midst of a terrible attack, God promised His people that peace would come again—homes and property would be bought and sold again (vv. 43–44).
Today we can put our trust in God’s faithfulness and choose to “invest” in faith. Although we may not see an earthly restoration of every situation, we have the assurance that He will someday make everything right.
Researchers in Fujian, China, wanted to help intensive care unit (ICU) patients sleep more soundly. They measured the effects of sleep aids on test subjects in a simulated ICU environment, complete with bright, hospital-grade lighting and audio recordings of machines beeping and nurses talking. Their research showed that tools like sleep masks and ear plugs improved their subjects’ rest. But they acknowledged that for truly sick patients in a real ICU, peaceful sleep would still be hard to come by.
When our world is troubled, how can we find rest? Scripture’s clear: there’s peace for those who trust in God, regardless of their circumstances. The prophet Isaiah wrote about a future time when the ancient Israelites would be restored after hardship. They would live securely in their city, because they knew that God made it safe (Isaiah 26:1). They would trust that He was actively working in the world around them to bring good—“humbling those who dwell on high,” raising up the oppressed, and bringing justice (vv. 5–6). They would know that “the
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast,” wrote Isaiah, “because they trust in you” (v. 3). God can provide peace and rest for us today as well. We can rest in the assurance of His love and power, no matter what’s going on around us.
When my friend gave me a gift recently, I was surprised. I didn’t think I deserved such a nice present form her. She’d sent it after hearing about some work stress I was experiencing. Yet she was going through just as much stress, if not more, than I was, with an aging parent, challenging children, upheaval at work, and strain on her marriage. I couldn’t believe she had thought of me before herself, and her simple gift brought me to tears.
In truth, we’re all recipients of a gift which we could never deserve. Paul put it this way: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15). The apostle had experienced a miraculous conversion from persecutor of Christians to a faithful believer in Jesus. Although he “was once a blasphemer and persecutor and a violent man, . . . the grace of our Lord was poured out on [him] abundantly” (vv. 13–14). He had a deep understanding of the free gift of grace and what it meant to be an undeserving recipient of that gift. As a result, Paul became a powerful instrument of God’s love and told many people about what God had done for him.
It’s only through God’s grace that we receive love instead of condemnation and mercy instead of judgment. Today, let’s celebrate the undeserved grace that God has given and be on the lookout for ways to demonstrate that grace to others.
The horrific assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr happened at the height of the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. But just four days later, his widow Coretta Scott King courageously took her husband’s place in leading a peaceful protest march. Coretta had a deep passion for justice and was a fierce champion of many causes, eventually becoming an internationally recognized civil rights advocate.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). We know that someday God will come to deliver justice and right every wrong in our world, but until that time, we have the opportunity to participate in making God’s justice a reality on earth right now, just like Coretta did. Isaiah 58 paints a vivid picture of what God calls His people to do: “loose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free, share food with the hungry, provide the poor wanderer with shelter, clothe the naked, and do not turn away from those who need help” (vv. 6–7). Seeking justice for the oppressed and the marginalized is one way our lives point back to God. Isaiah writes that God’s people seeking justice is like the light of dawn and results in healing for them as well as for others (v. 8).
Today, may God help us cultivate a hunger for God’s righteousness here on earth. As we seek justice God’s way and in His power, the Bible says, we’ll be satisfied.
When the women in our newly formed Bible study faced a series of tragedies, we suddenly found ourselves sharing deeply personal experiences. Facing the loss of a father, the pain of a wedding anniversary after divorce, the birth of a child who was completely deaf, the experience of racing to bring a child to the emergency room—it was too much for anyone to carry alone. Each person’s vulnerability led to more transparency. We cried and prayed together, and what started as a group of strangers became a group of close friends in a matter of weeks.
As part of the church body, believers in Jesus are able to come alongside people in their suffering in a deep and personal way. The relational ties that bind together brothers and sisters in Christ aren’t dependent on the length of time we’ve known each other or the things we have in common. Instead, we do what Paul calls “[carrying] each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). Relying on God’s strength, we listen, we empathize, we help where we can, and we pray. We can look for ways to “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (v. 10). Paul says that when we do so, we fulfill the law of Christ (v. 2): to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. The burdens of life can be heavy, but He’s given us our church family to lighten the load.
A five-minute montage of snow-related mishaps was the central piece to one episode of a TV show. Home videos of people skiing off rooftops, crashing into objects while tubing, and slipping on ice brought laughter and applause from the studio audience and people watching at home. The laughter seemed to be loudest when it appeared that the people who wiped out deserved it because of their own foolish behavior.
Funny home videos aren’t a bad thing, but they can reveal something about ourselves: we can be prone to laugh or take advantage of the hardships of others. One such story is recorded in Obadiah about two rival nations, Israel and Edom. When God saw fit to punish Judah for their sin, Edom rejoiced. They took advantage of the Israelites, looted their cities, thwarted their escape, and supported their enemies (Obadiah 1:13–14). A word of warning came through the prophet Obadiah to Edom: “You should not gloat over your brother in the day of his misfortune,” for “the day of the
When we see the challenges or suffering of others, even if it seems they’ve brought it upon themselves, we must choose compassion over pride. We’re not in a position to judge others. Only God can do that. The kingdom of this world belongs to Him (v. 21)—He alone holds the power of justice and mercy.
Picture a mighty oak tree that’s small enough to fit on a kitchen table. That’s what a bonsai looks like—a beautiful ornamental tree that’s a miniature version of what you find wild in nature. There’s no genetic difference between a bonsai and its full-size counterpart. It’s simply that a shallow pot, pruning, and root trimming restrict growth, so the plant remains small.
While bonsai trees make for wonderful decorative plants, they also illustrate the power of control. It’s true that we can manipulate their growth as the tree responds to its environment. But God is ultimately the One who makes things grow.
God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel this way: “I the
The world tells us to try to control our circumstances by manipulation and through our own hard work. But true peace and thriving are found by relinquishing control to the only One who can make the trees grow.