As a member of the leadership team for a local ministry, part of my job was to invite others to join us as group discussion leaders. My invitations described the time commitment required and outlined the ways leaders would need to engage with their small group participants, both in meetings and during regular phone calls. I was often reluctant to impose on other people, being aware of the sacrifice they’d be making to become a leader. And yet sometimes their reply would completely overwhelm me: “I’d be honored.” Instead of citing legitimate reasons to decline, they described their gratitude to God for all He’d done in their lives as their reason for being eager to give back.
When the time came to give resources toward building a temple for the Lord, David had a similar response: “Who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?” (1 Chronicles 29:14) David’s generosity was driven by gratitude for God’s involvement in his life and that of the people of Israel. His response speaks of his humility and his acknowledgment of God’s goodness toward “foreigners and strangers” (v. 15).
Our giving to God’s work—whether in time, talent, or treasure—reflects our gratitude to the One who gave to us to begin with. All that we have comes from His hand (v. 14); in response we can give gratefully to Him.
I was elated to find the “perfect” gift for my mother-in-law’s birthday: the bracelet even contained her birthstone! Finding that perfect gift for someone is always an utter delight. But what if the gift the individual needs is beyond our power to give. Many of us wish we could give someone peace of mind, rest, or even patience. If only those could be purchased and wrapped with a bow!
These types of gifts are impossible for one person to give to another. Yet Jesus—God in human flesh—does give those who believe in Him one such “impossible” gift: the gift of peace. Before ascending to heaven and leaving the disciples, Jesus comforted them with the promise of the Holy Spirit who would “remind [them] of everything [He had] said to them” (John 14:26). He offered them peace—His peace—as an enduring, unfailing gift for when their hearts were troubled or when they were experiencing fear. He, Himself, is our peace with God, with others, and within.
We may not have the ability to give our loved ones the extra measure of patience or improved health they desire. Nor is it within our power to give them the peace we all desperately need to bear up under the struggles of life. But we can be led by the Spirit to speak to them about Jesus, the giver and embodiment of true and lasting peace.
The Red Dress project was conceived by British artist Kirstie Macleod and has become an exhibit in museums and galleries around the world. For thirteen years, eighty-four pieces of burgundy silk traveled across the globe to be embroidered upon by more than three hundred women (and a handful of men). The pieces were then constructed into a gown, telling the stories of each contributing artist—many of whom are marginalized and impoverished.
Like the Red Dress, the garments worn by Aaron and his descendants were made by many “skilled workers” (Exodus 28:3). God’s instructions for the priestly attire included details that told the collective story of Israel, including engraving the names of the tribes on onyx stones that would sit on the priests’ shoulders “as a memorial before the Lord” (v. 12). The tunics, embroidered sashes, and caps gave the priests “dignity and honor” as they served God and led the people in worship (v. 40).
As New Covenant believers in Jesus, we—together—are a priesthood of believers, serving God and leading one another in worship (1 Peter 2:4–5, 9); Jesus is our high priest (Hebrews 4:14). Though we don’t wear any particular clothing to identify ourselves as priests, with His help, we “clothe [ourselves] with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).
Attending a large event might change you in a surprising way. After interacting with more than 1,200 people at multi-day gatherings in the UK and US, researcher Daniel Yudkin and his colleagues learned that large festivals can impact our moral compass and even affect our willingness to share resources with others. Their research found that sixty-three percent of attendees had a “transformative” experience at the festival that also left them feeling more connected to humanity and more generous toward friends, family, and even complete strangers.
When we gather with others to worship God, however, we can experience more than merely the social “transformation” of a secular festival; we commune with God Himself. God’s people undoubtedly experienced that connection to Him when they gathered in Jerusalem in ancient times for their sacred festivals throughout the year. They traveled—without modern conveniences—to be present at the temple three times a year for “the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles” (Deuteronomy 16:16). These gatherings were times of solemn remembrance, worship, and “rejoic[ing] before the
Let’s gather with others for worship to help one another to continue to enjoy Him and trust in His faithfulness.
Residents of Olten, Switzerland, were surprised by a shower of chocolate shavings covering the entire town. The ventilation system at a nearby chocolate factory had malfunctioned, sending cocoa into the air and dusting the area with confectionary goodness. The chocolate coating, harmless to both people and environment, sounds like a dream come true for chocoholics!
While chocolate (sadly) doesn’t adequately provide for one’s nutritional needs, God supplied the Israelites with heavenly showers that did. As they traveled through the desert, they began to grumble about the variety of food they’d left behind in Egypt. In response, God said He would “rain down bread from heaven” to sustain them (Exodus 16:4). When the morning dew dried up each day, a thin flake of food remained. The Israelites—approximately two million of them!—were instructed to gather as much as they needed that day. For the years of their desert wanderings, they were nourished by God’s supernatural provision in manna.
We know little about manna except that it was “white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey” (v. 31). Though manna may not sound as appealing as a steady diet of chocolate, the sweetness of God’s provision for His people is clear. Manna points us to Jesus who described Himself as the “bread of life” that sustains us daily and assures us of life eternal (John 6:48, 51).
Turning eighteen ushered in a new era in my daughter’s life: legally an adult, she now has the right to vote in future elections and will soon embark on life after graduating from high school. This shift has instilled in me a sense of urgency—I have precious little time with her under my roof to impart to her the wisdom she needs to face the world on her own: how to manage finances, stay alert to world issues, and make sound decisions.
My sense of duty to equip my daughter to handle her life is understandable. After all, I love her and desire for her to flourish. But I realized that while I have an important role, it’s not solely—or even primarily—my job. In Paul’s words to the Thessalonians—a group of people he considered his children in the faith because he’d taught them about Jesus—we see him urge them to help one another but ultimately he trusts their growth to God. He acknowledges that God will “sanctify [them] through and through” (1 Thessalonians 5:14–15, 23).
Paul trusts God to do what he cannot: prepare them—“spirit, soul and body”—for the eventual return of Jesus (v. 23). Though his letters to the Thessalonians contained instructions, Paul’s trust in God for their well-being and preparedness teaches us that growth in the lives of those we care for is ultimately in God’s hands (1 Corinthians 3:6).
Last spring, the night before our lawn was to be aerated a violent windstorm blew the seeds off our maple tree in one fell swoop. So when the aerating machine broke up the compacted soil by pulling small “cores” out of the ground, it planted hundreds of maple seeds in my yard. Just two short weeks later, I had the beginnings of a maple forest growing up through my lawn!
As I (frustratedly) surveyed the misplaced foliage, I was struck by the prolific abundance of new life a single tree had spawned. Each of the miniature trees became a picture for me of the new life in Christ that I—as merely one person—can share with others. We each will have countless opportunities to “give the reason for the hope that [we] have” (1 Peter 3:15) in the course of our lives.
When we bear up under the winds of adversity or suffering with the hope of Jesus (v. 14), it’s visible to those around us and might just become a point of curiosity to those who don’t know God personally. If we’re ready when they ask, then we may share the seed through which God brings forth new life. We don’t have to share it with everyone all at once—in some kind of spiritual windstorm. Rather, we gently and respectfully drop the seed of faith into a heart ready to receive it.
Who shared the reason for their hope with you? Who in your life is asking about the reason for your hope? What will you share with them?
Jesus, thank You for growing the seed of faith in my life. Help me to share the reason for my hope—You—with those who ask and may they grow in their love for You.
Kurbera-Voronja, in the Eurasian country of Georgia, is one of the deepest caves yet explored on planet Earth. A team of explorers have probed the dark and scary depths of its caverns to two kilometers—that’s 7,188 feet into the earth! Similar caves, around 400 of them, exist in other parts of the country and across the globe. More caverns are being discovered all the time and new depth records are being set.
The mysteries of creation continue to unfold, changing and adding to our understanding of the universe we live in and causing us to wonder at the matchless creativity of God’s handiwork on earth that we’re called by God to care for and steward (Genesis 1:26–28). The psalmist invites us all to “sing for joy” and “shout aloud” to the Lord because of His greatness (v. 1). As we celebrate Earth Day tomorrow, let’s consider God’s incredible work of creation. All that it contains—whether we’ve yet discovered it or not—is cause for us to bow down in worship to Him (v. 6).
He doesn’t just know the vast, physical places of His creation, but also the intimate depths of our hearts. And not unlike the caverns of Georgia, we will go through dark and perhaps scary seasons in life. Yet knowing that God holds even those times in His powerful yet tender care: In the words of the psalmist, we are His people, the “flock under His care” (v. 7).
On Easter Sunday 2020, the famous Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro in Brazil was illuminated in a way that appeared to clothe Jesus in the attire of a physician. The poignant portrayal of Christ as a doctor was in tribute to the many front-line healthcare workers battling the coronavirus pandemic. The imagery brings to life the common description of Jesus as our Great Physician (Mark 2:17).
Jesus did, in fact, heal many people of their physical afflictions during His earthly ministry: blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46–52), a leper (Luke 5:12–16), and a paralytic (Matthew 9:1–8), to name a few. His care for the health of those following Him was also demonstrated in providing for their hunger by multiplying a simple meal to feed the masses (John 6:1–13). Each of these miracles reveal both Jesus’ mighty power and His genuine love for people.
He was also concerned with an even more devastating problem than any of the physical ailments He cured. His greatest act of healing came through His death and resurrection, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah. It is “by [Jesus’] wounds we are healed” of our worst affliction: our separation from God as a result of our sins (Isaiah 53:5). Though Jesus doesn’t heal us of all our health challenges, we can always trust the cure for our deepest need: the healing He brings to our relationship with God.