As the novel coronavirus marched across the globe, health experts advised increased physical distance between people as a means to slow the spread. Many countries asked their citizens to self-quarantine or shelter in place. Organizations sent employees home to work remotely if they could, while others suffered a financially debilitating loss of employment. Like others, I participated in church and small group meetings through digital platforms. As a world, we practiced new forms of togetherness despite being physically disconnected.
It isn’t just the internet that lets us maintain a sense of connection. We connect to one another as members of the body of Christ through the Spirit. Paul expressed this notion centuries ago in his letter to the Colossians. Though he hadn’t personally founded their church, he cared deeply for them and their faith. And even though Paul couldn’t be with them in person, he reminded them that he was “present with [them] in spirit” (Colossians 2:5).
We can’t always be with those we love for financial, health, or other practical reasons, and technology can help fill that gap. Yet any form of virtual connection pales in comparison to the “togetherness” we can experience as fellow members of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). In such moments, we can, like Paul, rejoice in one another’s firmness of faith and, through prayer, encourage each other to fully “know the mystery of God, namely Christ” (Colossians 2:2).
As they made their way toward their car, Zander escaped his mother’s arms and made a mad dash back toward the church doors. He didn’t want to leave! His mom ran after him and tried to lovingly wrangle her son so they could depart. When his mother finally scooped four-year-old Zander back into her embrace, he sobbed and reached longingly over her shoulder and toward the church as they walked away.
Zander may merely have enjoyed playing with friends at church, but his enthusiasm is a picture of David’s desire to worship God. Though he might have asked God to thwart his enemies for his own comfort and security, David wanted peace to prevail so that he could instead “gaze on the beauty of the
We can freely worship God anywhere, for He now dwells within us through faith in the person of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 3:16). May we yearn to spend our days in His presence and to gather corporately to worship Him with other believers. In God—not the walls of a building—we find our safety and our greatest joy.
After an astounding thirty rounds of radiation treatments, Darla was finally pronounced cancer-free. As part of hospital tradition, she was eager to ring the “cancer-free bell” that marked the end of her treatment and celebrated her clean bill of health. Darla was so enthusiastic and vigorous in her celebratory ringing that the rope actually detached from the bell! Peals of joyous laughter ensued!
Darla’s story brings a smile to my face and gives me a sense of what the psalmist might have envisioned when he invited the Israelites to celebrate God’s work in their lives. The writer encouraged them to “clap their hands,” “shout to God,” and “sing praises” because God had routed their enemies and chosen them as His beloved people (Psalm 47:1, 6).
God doesn’t always grant us victory over our struggles in this life, whether health-related or financial or relational. He’s worthy of our worship and praise in even those circumstances because we can trust that He’s still “seated on his holy throne” (v. 8). When He does bring us to a place of healing—at least in a way we recognize in this earthly life—it’s cause for great celebration. We may not have a physical bell to ring, but we can joyfully celebrate His goodness to us with the same kind of exuberance Darla showed.
The teenage years are sometimes among the most agonizing seasons in life—for both parent and child. In my adolescent quest to “individuate” from my mother, I openly rejected her values and rebelled against her rules, suspicious their purposes were merely to make me miserable. Though we’ve since come to agree on those matters, that time in our relationship was riddled with tension. Mom undoubtedly lamented my refusal to heed the wisdom of her instructions, knowing they would spare me unnecessary emotional and physical pain.
God had the same heart for His children, Israel. God imparted His wisdom for living in what we know as the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:7–21). Though they could be viewed as a list of rules, God’s intention is evident in His words to Moses: “so that it might go well with them and their children forever!” (v. 29). Moses recognized God’s desire, saying that obedience to the decrees would result in their enjoyment of His ongoing presence with them in the Promised Land (v. 33).
We all go through a season of “adolescence” with God, not trusting that His guidelines for living are truly meant for our good. May we grow into the realization that He wants what’s best for us and learn to heed the wisdom He offers. His guidance is meant to lead us into spiritual maturity as we become more like Christ (Psalm 119:97–104; Ephesians 4:15; 2 Peter 3:18).
When Colin opened the box of stained-glass pieces he’d purchased, instead of finding the fragments he’d ordered for a project, he discovered intact, whole windows. He sleuthed out the windows’ origins and learned they'd been removed from a church to protect them from World War II bombings. Colin marveled at the quality of work and how the “fragments” formed a beautiful picture.
If I’m honest, there are times when I open particular passages of the Bible—such as chapters containing lists of genealogies—and I don’t immediately see how they fit within the bigger picture of Scripture. Such is the case with Genesis 11—a chapter that contains a repetitive cadence of unfamiliar names and their families, such as Shem, Shelah, Eber, Nahor, and Terah (vv. 10–32). I’m often tempted to gloss over these sections and skip to a part that contains something that feels familiar and fits more easily into my “window” of understanding of the Bible’s narrative.
Since “all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16), the Holy Spirit can help us better understand how a fragment fits into the whole, opening our eyes to see, for example, how Shelah is related to Abram (Genesis 11:26), the ancestor of David and—more importantly—Jesus (Matthew 1:2, 6, 17). He delights in surprising us with the treasure of a perfectly intact window where even the smaller parts reveal the story of God’s mission throughout the Bible.
Our son spent the early years of his life in a children’s home prior to our adopting him. Before leaving the cinderblock building together to go home, we asked to collect his belongings. Sadly, he had none. We exchanged the clothes he was wearing for the new items we’d brought for him and also left some clothing for the other children. Even though I was grieved by how little he had, I rejoiced that we could now help meet his physical and emotional needs.
A few years later, we saw a person asking for donations for families in need. My son was eager to donate his stuffed animals and a few coins to help them. Given his background, he might have (understandably) been more inclined to hold tightly to his belongings.
I’d like to think the reason for his generous response was the same as that of the early church: “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all” that nobody in their midst had need (Acts 4:33–34). The people willingly sold their own possessions to provide for one another’s needs.
When we become aware of the needs of others, whether material or intangible, may God’s grace be so powerfully at work in us that we respond as they did, willingly giving from our hearts to those in need. This makes us vessels of God’s grace as fellow believers in Jesus, “one in heart and mind” (v. 32).
Alan came to me for advice on how to deal with his fear of public speaking. Like so many others, his heart would begin to race, his mouth would feel sticky and dry, and his face would flush bright red. Glossophobia is among the most common social fears people have—many even joke that they’re more fearful of public speaking than of dying! To help Alan conquer his fear of not “performing” well, I suggested he focus on the substance of his message instead of how well he’d deliver it.
Shifting the focus to what will be shared, instead of one’s ability to share it, is similar to Paul’s approach to pointing others to God. When he wrote to the church at Corinth, he remarked that his message and preaching “were not with wise and persuasive words” (1 Corinthians 2:4). Instead, he’d determined to focus solely on the truth of Jesus Christ and His crucifixion (v. 2), trusting the Holy Spirit to empower his words, not his eloquence as a speaker.
When we’ve come to know God personally, we’ll want to share about Him with those around us. Yet we sometimes shy away from it because we’re afraid of not presenting it well—with the “right” or eloquent words. By focusing instead on the “what”—the truth of who God is and His amazing works—we can, like Paul, trust Him to empower our words and share without fear or reluctance.
A recent survey asked respondents to identify the age at which they believed they became adults. Those who considered themselves adults pointed to specific behaviors as evidence of their status. Having a budget and buying a house topped the list as being marks of “adulting.” Other adult activities ranged from cooking dinner every weeknight and scheduling one’s own medical appointments, to the more humorous ability to choose to eat snacks for dinner or being excited to stay at home on a Saturday evening instead of going out.
The Bible says we should press on toward spiritual maturity as well. Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, urging the people to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). While we’re “young” in our faith, we’re vulnerable to “every wind of teaching” (v. 14), which often results in division among us. Instead, as we mature in our understanding of the truth, we function as a unified body under “him who is the head, that is, Christ” (v. 15).
God gave us His Spirit to help us grow into a full understanding of who He is (John 14:26), and He equips pastors and teachers to instruct and lead us toward maturity in our faith (Ephesians 4:11). Just as certain characteristics are evidence of physical maturity, our unity as His body is one evidence of our spiritual growth.
On a hike in the mountains, Adrian found himself above some low-lying clouds. With the sun behind him, Adrian looked down and saw not only his shadow but also a brilliant display known as a Brocken spectre. This phenomenon resembles a rainbow halo, encircling the shadow of the person. It occurs when the sunlight reflects back off the clouds below. Adrian described it as a “magical” moment, one that delighted him immensely.
We can imagine how similarly stunning seeing the first rainbow must have been for Noah. More than just a delight to his eyes, the refracted light and resulting colors came with a promise from God. After a devastating flood, God assured Noah, and all the “living creatures” who’ve lived since, that “never again [would] the waters become a flood to destroy all life” (Genesis 9:15).
Our earth still experiences floods and other frightening weather that results in tragic loss, but the rainbow is a promise that God will never judge the earth again with a worldwide flood. This promise of His faithfulness can remind us that though we individually will experience personal losses and physical death on this earth—whether by disease, natural disaster, wrongdoing, or advancing age—God bolsters us with His love and presence throughout the difficulties we face. Sunlight reflecting colors through water is a reminder of His faithfulness to fill the earth with those who bear His image and reflect His glory to others.