In 2014, biologists captured a pair of orange pygmy seahorses in the Philippines. They took the marine creatures, along with a section of the orange coral sea fan they called home, to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Scientists wanted to know if the pygmy seahorses were born to match the color of their parents or their environment. When the pygmy seahorses gave birth to dull brown babies, scientists placed a purple coral sea fan into the tank. The babies, whose parents were orange, changed their color to match the purple sea fan. Due to their fragility by nature, their survival depends on their God-given ability to blend into their environment.
Blending in is a useful defense mechanism in nature. However, God invites all people to receive salvation and stand out in the world by how we live. The apostle Paul urges believers in Jesus to honor God in every aspect of our lives, to worship Him by offering our bodies as “living sacrifices” (v. 1). Due to our fragility as human beings affected by sin, our spiritual health as believers depends on the Holy Spirit “renewing” our minds and empowering us to avoid conforming to “the pattern of this world” that rejects God and glorifies sin (v. 2).
Blending into this world means living in opposition to God’s Word. However, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can look and love just like Jesus!
In 2013, about 600 on-site spectators watched aerialist Nik Wallenda walk on a tightrope across a 1500-foot-wide gorge near the Grand Canyon. Wallenda stepped onto the 2-inch-thick steel cable and thanked Jesus for the view as his head camera pointed toward the valley below. He prayed and praised Jesus as he walked across the gorge as calmly as if he was strolling on a sidewalk. When the wind became treacherous, he stopped and crouched. He rose and regained his balance, thanking God for “calming that cable.” With every step on that tightrope, he displayed his dependence on the power of Christ to everyone listening then and now as the video is watched across the world.
When the winds of a storm caused waves to overtake the disciples on the sea of Galilee, fear seeped through their pleas for help (Mark 4:35–38). After Jesus stilled the squall, they knew He controlled the winds and everything else (vv. 39–41). Slowly they learned to grow in their trust of Him. Their personal experiences could help others recognize the Lord’s intimate availability and extraordinary might.
As we experience life’s storms or walk on the tightropes of trust stretched over the deep valleys of affliction, we can demonstrate confident faith in the power of Christ. God will use our faith-walk to inspire others to hope in Him.
When Xavier was an elementary student, I drove him to and from school. One day, things didn’t go according to plan. I was late to pick him up. I parked the car, praying frantically as I ran toward his classroom. I found him hugging his backpack as he sat on a bench next to a teacher. “I’m so sorry, Mijo. Are you okay?” He sighed. “I’m fine, but I’m mad at you for being late.” How could I blame him? I was mad at me too. I loved my son, but I knew there would be many times when I’d disappoint him. I also knew he might feel disappointed with God one day. So I worked hard to teach him that God never has and never will break a promise.
Psalm 33 encourages us to celebrate God’s faithfulness with joyful praises (vv. 1–3) because “the word of the lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does” (vv. 4–5). Using the world God created as tangible proof of His power and dependability (vv. 5–7), the psalmist calls on the “people of the world” to worship God (vv. 8–9).
When plans fail or people let us down, we can be tempted to be disappointed in God. However, we can rely on God’s trustworthiness because His plans “stand firm forever” (vv. 10–11). We can praise God, even when things go wrong because our loving Creator sustains everything and everyone. God is forever faithful.
While we decorated for a special event at church, the woman in charge griped about my inexperience. After she walked away, another woman approached me. “Don’t worry about her. She’s what we call an E.G.R.—Extra Grace Required.”
I laughed. Soon I started using that label every time I had a conflict with someone. Years later, I sat in that same church sanctuary listening to that E.G.R.’s obituary. The pastor shared how she had served God behind the scenes and given generously to others. I asked God to forgive me for judging and gossiping about her and anyone else I’d labeled as an E.G.R. in the past. After all, I needed extra grace as much as any other believer in Jesus.
In Ephesians 2, the apostle Paul states that all believers were “by nature deserving of wrath” (v. 3). But God gave us the gift of salvation, a gift which we did nothing to deserve, a gift we’d never be able to earn “so that no one can boast” (v. 9). No one.
As we submit to God moment by moment during this lifelong journey, the Holy Spirit will work to change our character so we can reflect the character of Christ. Every believer requires extra grace. But we can be grateful that God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).
A “master of disguise” lives in the waters of Indonesia and in the Great Barrier Reef. The mimic octopus, like other octopuses, can change its skin pigment to blend in with its surroundings. This intelligent creature also changes its shape and “the way it moves and behaves” when threatened. In fact, the mimic octopus can impersonate fifteen other kinds of sea creatures, including the venomous lionfish and flatfish, and even deadly sea snakes. Though imperfect, these disguises provide time to escape other predators and may have kept the mimic octopus from being discovered until 1998.
Unlike the mimic octopus, believers in Jesus are meant to stand out in the world that surrounds us. We may feel threatened by those who disagree with us and become tempted to blend in so we won’t be recognized as believers in Jesus. The apostle Paul, however, urges us to offer our bodies as a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1), representing Jesus in every aspect of our lives.
Friends or family members may try to pressure us to conform to the “patterns of this world” (v. 2). But we can show who we serve by aligning our lives with what we say we believe as God’s children. When we obey the Scriptures and reflect His loving character, our lives can demonstrate that the rewards of obedience are always greater than any loss. How will you mimic Jesus today?
A dozen teams, each including three people standing shoulder to shoulder, prepared for the four-legged race. Bound to the person in the middle by colorful rags at their ankles and knees, each trio locked their eyes on the finish line. When the whistle blew, the teams lunged forward. Most of them fell and struggled to regain their footing. A few groups chose to hop instead of walk. Some gave up. But one team delayed their start, confirmed their plan, and communicated as they moved forward. They stumbled along the way but pressed on and soon passed all the teams. Their willingness to cooperate, step-by-step, enabled them to cross the finish line together.
Living for God within the community of believers in Jesus often feels as frustrating as trying to move forward during a four-legged race. We often stumble when interacting with people who hold different opinions from us. Frequently, we push forward when others aren’t with us on the same page.
Peter speaks of prayer, hospitality, and using our gifts to align ourselves in unity for life ahead. He urges believers in Jesus to “love each other deeply” (1 Peter 4:8) to be hospitable without complaining, and to “serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (v. 10). When we ask God to help us communicate and cooperate, we can lead the race in showing the world how to celebrate differences and live together in unity.
After an officer searched me, I stepped into the county jail, signed the visitor’s log, and sat in the crowded lobby. I prayed silently, watching adults fidgeting and sighing while young children complained about the wait. Over an hour later, an armed guard called a list of names including mine. He led my group into a room and motioned us to our assigned chairs. When my stepson sat in the chair on the other side of the thick glass window and picked up the telephone receiver, the depth of my helplessness overwhelmed me. But as I wept, God assured me that my stepson was still within His reach.
In Psalm 139, David said to the Lord, “You know me . . . you are familiar with all my ways” (vv. 1–3). His proclamation of an all-knowing God led to a celebration of His intimate care and protection (v. 5). Overwhelmed by the vastness of God’s knowledge and the depth of His personal touch, David asked two rhetorical questions: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (v. 7).
When we or our loved ones are stuck in situations that leave us feeling hopeless and helpless, God’s hand remains strong and steady. Even when we believe we’ve strayed too far for God’s loving redemption, we’re always within His reach.
Sometimes, living with chronic pain and fatigue leads to being isolated at home and feeling alone. I’ve often felt unseen by God and others. During an early morning prayer-walk with my service dog, I struggled with these feelings. I noticed a hot air balloon in the distance. The people in its basket could enjoy a bird’s-eye view of our quiet neighborhood, but they couldn’t really see me. As I continued walking past my neighbors’ houses, I sighed. How many people behind those closed doors felt unseen and insignificant? As I finished my walk, I asked God to give me opportunities to let my neighbors know that I saw them and cared for them, and so did He.
God determined the exact number of stars that He spoke into existence. He identified each star with a name, an intimate act that demonstrates His attention to the smallest details (Psalm 147:4). His strength—insight, discernment, and knowledge—have “no limit” in the past, present, or future (v. 5).
God hears each desperate cry and sees each silent tear as clearly as He notices each sigh of contentment and belly laugh. He sees when we’re stumbling and when we’re standing in triumph. He understands our deepest fears, our innermost thoughts, and our wildest dreams. He knows where we’ve been and where we’re going. As God helps us see, hear, and love our neighbors, we can trust Him to see, understand, and care for us.
While waiting for a train at a station in Atlanta, Georgia, a young man wearing slacks and a dress shirt sat on a bench. As he struggled with his tie, an older woman encouraged her husband to help. Another stranger took a photo of the trio when the elderly man hunched over and began teaching the young man how to knot the tie. When this photo went viral online, many viewers left comments about the power of random acts of kindness.
For believers in Jesus, kindness to others reflects the self-sacrificing care that He showed for people like us. It’s an expression of God’s love and what He desired His disciples to live out: “We should love one another” (1 John 3:11, italics added). John equates hating a brother or sister to murder (v. 15). Then he turns to Christ as an example of love in action (v. 16).
Selfless love doesn’t have to be an extravagant display of sacrifice. Selfless love simply requires us to acknowledge the value of all God’s image-bearers by placing their needs above our own . . . every day. Those seemingly ordinary moments when we care enough to notice the needs of others and do what we can to help are selfless, when we’re motivated by love. When we see beyond our personal space, step out of our comfort zones to serve others, and give when we don’t have to give, we’re loving like Jesus.