Game of Change
The handshake spoke volumes. On a March night in 1963, two college basketball players—one Black, one White—defied the hate of segregationists and shook hands, marking the first time in Mississippi State’s history that its all-White men’s team played against an integrated team. To compete in the “Game of Change” against Loyola University Chicago in a national tournament, the Mississippi State squad avoided an injunction to stop them by using decoy players to leave their state. Loyola’s Black players, meantime, had endured racial slurs all season, getting pelted with popcorn and ice, and faced closed doors while traveling.
Yet the young men played. The Loyola Ramblers beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs 61–51, and Loyola eventually went on to win the NCAA national championship. But what really won that night? A move from hate toward love. As Jesus taught, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).
God’s instruction was a life-changing concept. To love our enemies as Christ taught, we must obey His revolutionary mandate to change. As Paul wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). But how does His new way in us defeat the old? With love. Then, in each other, we can finally see Him.
Reflecting Christ’s Light
To capture the beauty of reflective light in his landscape oil paintings, artist Armand Cabrera works with a key artistic principle: “Reflected light is never as strong as its source light.” He observes that novice painters tend to exaggerate reflected light. He says, “Reflected light belongs to the shadow and as such it must support, not compete with the lighted areas” of a painting.
We hear similar insight in the Bible concerning Jesus as “the light of all mankind” (John 1:4). John the Baptist who “came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe” (v. 7). The gospel writer tells us, “He himself [John] was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light” (v. 8).
As with John, we’re chosen by God to reflect Christ’s light to those living in the shadows of an unbelieving world. This is our role, as one source says, “perhaps because unbelievers are not able to bear the full blazing glory of His light firsthand.”
Cabrera teaches his art students that “anything that has direct light falling on it . . . becomes a source of light itself.” Similarly, with Jesus as “the true light that gives light to everyone” (v. 9), we can shine as witnesses. As we reflect Him, may the world be amazed to see His glory shine through us.
As a visitor to a small West African town, my American pastor made sure to arrive on time for a 10 a.m. Sunday service. Inside the humble sanctuary, however, he found the room empty. So he waited. One hour. Two hours. Finally, about 12:30 p.m., when the local pastor arrived after his long walk there—followed by some choir members and a gathering of friendly town people—the service began “in the fullness of time,” as my pastor said. “The Spirit welcomed us, and God wasn’t late.” My pastor understood the culture was different here for its own good reasons.
Time seems relative, but God’s perfect on-time nature is affirmed throughout the Scriptures. Thus, after Lazarus got sick and died, Jesus arrived four days later, with Lazarus’s sisters asking why. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). We may think the same, wondering why God doesn’t hurry to fix our problems. Better instead to wait by faith for His answers and power.
As theologian Howard Thurman wrote, “We wait, our Father, until at last something of thy strength becomes our strength, something of thy heart becomes our heart, something of thy forgiveness becomes our forgiveness. We wait, O God, we wait.” Then, as with Lazarus, when the Lord responds, we’re miraculously blessed by what wasn’t, after all, a delay.
Just As I Am
The young woman couldn’t sleep. A person with a lifelong physical disability, she’d be center stage at a church bazaar the next day to receive donations to pay for her higher education. But I’m not worthy, Charlotte Elliott worried. Tossing and turning, she doubted her credentials, questioning every aspect of her spiritual life. Still restless the next day, she finally moved to a desk to pick up pen and paper to write down the words of the now classic hymn, “Just As I Am.”
“Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bidst me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come!”
Her words, written in 1835, express how Jesus bid His disciples to come and serve Him. Not because they were ready. They weren’t. But because He authorized them—just as they were. A rag-tag group, his team of twelve included a tax collector, a zealot, two overly ambitious brothers (see Mark 10:35–37), and Judas Iscariot “who betrayed him” (Matthew 10:4). Still, He gave them authority to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons” (v. 8)—all without taking any money, luggage, extra shirt or sandals, or even a walking stick (vv. 9–10).
“I am sending you,” He said (v. 16), and He was enough. For each of us who say yes to Him, He still is.
On a busy day before Christmas, an aged woman approached the mail counter at my crowded neighborhood post office. Watching her slow pace, the patient postal clerk greeted her, “Well hello, young lady!” His words were friendly, but some might hear them saying that “younger” is better.
In the Christmas season, however, the Bible inspires us to see that advanced age can motivate our hope. As the infant Jesus is brought to the temple by Joseph and Mary, to be consecrated, two elderly believers suddenly take center stage in the holy story (Luke 2:23; Exodus 13:2, 12).
First, Simeon—who had been waiting for years to see the Messiah—“took [Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations’” (Luke 2:28–30).
Then Anna, a “very old” prophet (v. 36), came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph. A widow who had been married only seven years, she’d lived in the temple to age eighty-four. Never leaving, she “worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” When she saw Jesus, she began praising God, explaining about Jesus “to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (vv. 37–38).
These two hopeful servants remind us to never stop waiting on God—no matter our age -- with great expectations.
Hearing Christ, Not Chaos
After watching cable news for hours each day, the elderly man grew agitated and anxious—worried the world was falling apart and taking him with it. “Please turn it off,” his grown daughter begged him. “Just stop listening.” But the man refused, eventually following conspiracy-mongers on social media to “teach” himself what’s “really” happening.
What we listen to matters deeply. We see that in Jesus’ encounter with Pontius Pilate. Responding to criminal charges brought against Jesus by religious leaders, Pilate summoned Him and asked, “Are you the king of the Jews” (John 18:33). Jesus replied with a stunning question: “Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?” (v. 32).
The same question tests us. In a world of panic, are we listening to chaos and conspiracy—or Christ? Indeed, “my sheep listen to my voice,” He said. “I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Jesus “used this figure of speech” (v. 6) to explain Himself to doubting religious leaders. As with a good shepherd, He said that “his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice” (John 10:4–5).
As our Good Shepherd, Jesus bids us to hear Him above all. May we listen well and find His peace.
Trusting God’s Foresight
While driving us to an unfamiliar location, my husband noticed that the GPS directions suddenly seemed wrong. After entering a reliable four-lane highway, we were advised to exit and travel along a one-lane “frontage” road running parallel to us. “I’ll just trust it,” Dan said, despite seeing no delays. After about ten miles, however, the traffic on the highway next to us slowed to a near standstill. The trouble? Major construction. And the frontage road? With little traffic, it provided a clear path to our destination. “I couldn’t see ahead,” Dan said, “but the GPS could.” Or, as we agreed, “just like God can.”
Knowing what was ahead, God in a dream gave a similar change in directions to the wise men who’d come from the east to worship Jesus, “born king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). King Herod, disturbed by the news of a “rival” king, lied to the magi, sending them to Bethlehem, saying: “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him” (v. 8). Warned in a dream “not to go back to Herod,” however, “they returned to their country by another route” (v. 12).
God will guide our steps too. As we travel life’s highways, we can trust that He sees ahead and remain confident that “he will make [our] paths straight” as we submit to His directions (Proverbs 3:6).
Birds of the Air
The summer sun was rising and my smiling neighbor, seeing me in my front yard, whispered for me to come look. “What?” I whispered back, intrigued. She pointed to a wind chime on her front porch, where a tiny teacup of straw rested atop a metal rung. “A hummingbird’s nest,” she whispered. “See the babies?” The two beaks, tiny as pinpricks, were barely visible as they pointed upwards. “They’re waiting for the mother.” We stood there, marveling. I raised my cell phone to snap a picture. “Not too close,” my neighbor said. “Don’t want to scare away the mother.” And with that, we adopted—from afar—a family of hummingbirds.
But not for long. In another week, mother bird and babies were gone—as quietly as they had arrived. But who would care for them?
The Bible gives a glorious but familiar answer. It’s so familiar that we may forget all that it promises. “Do not worry about your life,” says Jesus (Matthew 6:25). A simple but beautiful instruction. “Look at the birds of the air,” He adds. “They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (v. 26).
Just as He cares for tiny birds, He cares for us—nurturing us mind, body, spirit, and soul. It’s a magnificent promise. May we look to Him daily—without worry—and soar.
The cut flowers came from Ecuador. By the time they arrived at my house, they were droopy and road weary. Instructions said revive them with a cool drink of refreshing water. Before that, however, the flower stems had to be trimmed one-half inch so they could drink the water more easily. But would they survive?
The next morning, I discovered my answer. The Ecuadorian bouquet was a glorious sight. Featuring flowers I’d never seen before, the floral display was stunning. Fresh water made all the difference—a reminder of what Jesus said about water and what it means to believers.
When Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water—implying He’d drink from what she fetched from the well—He changed her life. She was surprised by His request. Jews looked down on Samaritans. But Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10). Later, in the temple, He cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (7:37). Among those who believed in Him, “rivers of living water will flow from within them. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive” (vv. 38–39).
God’s refreshing Spirit revives us today when we’re life weary. He’s the Living Water, dwelling in our souls with holy refreshment. May we drink deep today.