Learning and Loving
At a primary school in Greenock, Scotland, three teachers on maternity leave brought their babies to school every two weeks to interact with schoolchildren. Playtime with babies teaches children empathy, or care and feeling for others. Most receptive often are the children who are “a little challenging,” as one teacher put it. “It’s often [they] who interact more on a one-to-one level.” They learn “how much hard work it is to take care of a child,” and “more about each other’s feelings as well.”
Learning from an infant to care about others isn’t a new idea to believers in Jesus. We know the One who came as the baby Jesus. His birth changed everything we understand about caring relationships. The first to learn of Christ’s birth were shepherds, a humble profession involving care of weak and vulnerable sheep. Later, when children were brought to Jesus, He corrected disciples who thought children unworthy. “Let the little children come to me,” he said, “and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14).
Showing the essence of empathy, Jesus “took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them” (v. 16). In our own lives, as His sometimes “challenging” children, we could be considered unworthy, too. Instead, as the One Who came as a child, the Lord accepts us with His love—thereby teaching us the caring power of loving babies and all people.
Strength to Let Go
Once known as the World’s Strongest Man, American weightlifter Paul Anderson set a world record in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, despite a severe inner-ear infection and a 103-degree fever. Falling behind frontrunners, his only chance for a gold medal was to set a new Olympic record in his last event. His first two attempts failed badly.
So the burly athlete did what even the weakest among us can do. He called on God for extra strength, letting go of his own. As he later said, “It wasn’t making a bargain. I needed help.” With his final lift, he hoisted 413.5 pounds (187.5 kg) over his head.
Another Paul, the apostle of Christ, wrote, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Paul was speaking of spiritual strength, but he knew that God’s power was “made perfect in weakness” (v. 9).
As the prophet Isaiah declared, “[The
The path to such strength? Abiding in Jesus. “Apart from me you can do nothing,” He said (John 15:5). As weightlifter Anderson often said, “If the strongest man in the world can’t get through one day without the power of Jesus Christ—where does that leave you?” To find out, we can release our dependence on our own illusive strength, asking God for His strong and prevailing help.
Followed by God’s Goodness
At my first job during my high school years, I worked at a women’s clothing store where a female security guard dressed as a shopper followed women she thought might steal the merchandise. Certain people fit profiles of those the store owners’ thought were suspicious. Others not considered a threat were left alone. I’ve been profiled in stores myself and followed, an interesting experience since I still recognize the tactic.
In sharp contrast, David declared he was followed by a divine blessing—God’s goodness and mercy. These two gifts always stay close, following him not with suspicion but real love. The “twin guardian angels,” as evangelist Charles Spurgeon described the pair, follow believers closely during both bleak days and bright. “The dreary days of winter as well as the bright days of summer. Goodness supplies our needs, and mercy blots out our sins.”
As a onetime shepherd, David understood this intentional pairing as it’s provided by God. Other followers could pursue believers—fear, worry, temptation, doubts. But “surely,” David declares with undoubting certainty, God’s kind goodness and loving mercy follow us always.
As David rejoiced, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). What an amazing gift to follow us home!
A Humble Snack
The bag of snack chips was small, but it taught an American missionary a big lesson. Working one evening in the Dominican Republic, she arrived at a church meeting and opened her chips when a woman she hardly knew reached and grabbed a few from the bag. Others helped themselves, too.
How rude, the missionary thought. Then she realized a humbling lesson. She didn’t yet understand the culture where she’d agreed to serve. Rather than emphasizing individualism, as in the United States, she learned that life in the Dominican Republic is lived in community. Sharing one’s food and goods is how people relate to each other. Her way wasn’t better, just different. She confessed, “It was very humbling to discover these things about me.” As she began to recognize her own biases, she also learned that humbly sharing with others helped her serve them better.
Peter taught this lesson to church leaders: treat others with humility. He counseled the elders to resist “lording it over those entrusted to you” (1 Peter 5:3). And those younger? “Submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility” (v. 5). As he declared: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Therefore, “humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (v. 6). May He help us humbly live before Him and others today.
Giving God My Work
The magazine I was writing for felt “important,” so I struggled to present the best possible article I could for the high-ranking editor. Feeling pressure to meet her standards, I kept rewriting my thoughts and ideas. But what was my problem? Was it my controversial topic? Or was my real worry personal: Would the editor approve of me and not just my words?
For answers to our job worries, Paul gives trustworthy instruction. In a letter to the Colossian church, Paul urged believers to work not for approval of people, but for God. As the apostle said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23–24).
Reflecting on Paul’s wisdom, we can stop struggling to look good in the eyes of our earthly bosses. For certain, we honor them as people and seek to give them our best. But if we work “as for the Lord”—asking Him to lead and anoint our work for Him—He’ll shine a light on our efforts. Our reward? Our job pressures ease and our assignments are completed. Even more, we’ll one day hear Him say, “Well done!”
Planted in God
“The wind is tossing the lilacs.” With that opening line of her springtime poem “May,” poet Sara Teasdale captured a vision of lilac bushes waving in gusty breezes. But Teasdale was lamenting a lost love, and her poem soon turned sorrowful.
Our backyard lilacs also encountered a challenge. After having their most lush and beautiful season, they faced the axe of a hard-working lawn man who “trimmed” every bush, chopping them to stubs. I cried. Then, three years later—after barren branches, a bout of powdery mildew, and my faithless plan to dig them up—our long-suffering lilacs rebounded. They just needed time, and I simply needed to wait for what I couldn’t see.
The Bible tells of us many people who waited by faith despite adversity. Noah waited for delayed rain. Caleb waited forty years to live in the Promised Land. Rebekah waited twenty years to conceive a child. Jacob waited seven years to marry Rachel. Simeon waited and waited to see the baby Jesus. Their patience was rewarded.
In contrast, those who look to humans “will be like a bush in the wastelands” (Jeremiah 17:6). Poet Teasdale ended her verse in such gloom. “I go a wintry way,” she concluded. But for believers, “blessed is the one who trusts in the
The trusting stay planted in God—the One who will walk with us through the joys and adversities of life.
Turn Up the Heat
Temperatures where we live in Colorado can change quickly—sometimes within a few minutes. So my husband, Dan, was curious about the temperature differences in and around our home. As a fan of gadgets, he was excited to unpack his latest “toy”—a thermometer showing temperature readings from four “zones” around our house. Joking that it was a “silly” gadget, I was surprised to find myself frequently checking the temperatures, too. The differences inside and out fascinated me.
Jesus used temperature to describe the “lukewarm” church in Laodicea, one of the richest of the seven cities cited in the book of Revelation. A bustling banking, clothing, and medical hub, the city was hampered by a poor water supply, so it needed an aqueduct to carry water from a hot springs. By the time the water arrived in Laodicea, however, it was neither hot nor cold.
The church was tepid too. Jesus said, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15–16). As Christ explained, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent” (v. 19).
Our Savior’s plea remains urgent for us too. Are you spiritually neither hot nor cold? Accept His correction and ask Him to help you live an earnest, fired-up faith.
Servants of the Night
It’s 3 a.m. at an acute-care hospital. A worried patient presses the call button for the fourth time in an hour. The night-shift nurse answers without complaint. Soon another patient is screaming, crying for attention. The nurse isn’t surprised. She requested the night shift five years ago to avoid her hospital’s daytime frenzy. Then the reality hit. Night work often means taking on extra tasks, such as lifting and turning patients by herself. It also means closely monitoring patients’ conditions so physicians can be notified in emergencies.
Buoyed by close friendships with her nighttime co-workers, this nurse still struggles to get adequate sleep. Often, she asks her church for prayer, seeing her work as vital. “Praise God, their prayers make a difference.”
Her praise is good and right for a night worker—as well as for all of us. The psalmists wrote, “Praise the
This psalm, written for the Levites who served as temple watchmen, acknowledged their vital work—protecting the temple by day and night. In our nonstop world, it feels proper to share this psalm especially for nighttime workers, yet every one of us can praise God in the night. As the psalm adds, “May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who is the Maker of heaven and earth” (v. 3).
Keep It Simple
The email was short but urgent. “Request salvation. I would like to know Jesus.” What an astonishing request. Unlike reluctant friends and family who hadn’t yet received Christ, this person didn’t need convincing. My task was to quiet my self-doubt about evangelizing and simply share key concepts, Scriptures, and trusted resources that addressed this man’s plea. From there, by faith, God would lead his journey.
Philip demonstrated such simple evangelism when on a desert road he met the treasurer of Ethiopia who was reading aloud from the book of Isaiah. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked (Acts 8:30). “How can I,” the man answered, “unless someone explains it to me” (v. 31). Invited to clarify, “Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (v. 35).
Starting where people are and keeping evangelism simple, as Philip showed, can be an effective way to share Christ. In fact, as the two traveled along, the man said, “Look here is water” and asked to be baptized (v. 37). Philip complied, and the man “went on his way rejoicing” (v. 39). I rejoiced when the email writer replied that he had repented of sin, confessed Christ, found a church, and believed he was born again. What a beautiful start! Now, may God take him higher!