We stared at the piles of donated shoes as we entered a local homeless shelter. The director had invited our youth group to help sort through the heaps of used footwear. We spent the morning searching for matches and lining them up in rows across the concrete floor. At the end of the day, we threw away more than half of the shoes because they were too damaged to give to people. Though the shelter couldn’t stop people from giving poor quality items, they refused to distribute shoes that were in bad condition.
The Israelites struggled with giving God their damaged goods too. When the Lord spoke through the prophet Malachi, He rebuked the Israelites for sacrificing blind, lame, or diseased animals when they had strong animals to offer (Malachi 1:6–8). He announced His displeasure (v. 10), affirmed His worthiness, and reprimanded the Israelites for keeping the best for themselves (v. 14). But He also promised to send the Messiah, whose love and grace would transform their hearts and ignite their desire to bring offerings that would be pleasing to the Lord (3:1–4).
Oftentimes, it’s tempting to give God our leftovers. We praise Him and expect Him to give us His all, yet we offer Him our crumbs. When we consider all God has done, we can rejoice in celebrating His worthiness and giving Him our very best.
As an adult leader, I arranged a student fieldtrip to an obstacle course. We instructed students to slip into safety gear and scale an eight-foot wall. Those who volunteered to go first encouraged each climber to trust the harness and keep moving forward without looking down. One of our students stared at the barrier as we secured belts and buckles around her waist. “There’s no way I can do this,” she said. Affirming the strength of her harness, we encouraged her and cheered when she climbed up the wall and stepped onto the high platform.
When we face problems that seem impossible to conquer, fears and insecurities can cause doubts. The assurance of God’s unchanging might, goodness, and faithfulness creates a strong harness of trust. This confident assurance fueled the courage of the Old Testament saints, who demonstrated that faith trumps our need to know every detail of God’s plan (Hebrews 11:1–13, 39). With conviction, we seek God earnestly, often standing alone when we trust Him. We can adjust the way we approach our challenges by viewing our circumstances with an eternal perspective‒knowing our trials are only temporary (vv. 13–16).
Focusing on the inevitable tough roads and steep climbs in life can prevent us from believing that God will bring us through. But knowing He’s with us, we can harness our uncertainties by faith as we trust God to help us overcome obstacles that once seemed impossible.
During a trip to celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary, my husband and I read our Bibles on the beach. As vendors passed and called out the prices of their wares, we thanked each one but didn’t buy anything. One vendor, Fernando, smiled wide at my rejection and insisted we consider buying gifts for friends. After I declined his invitation, Fernando packed up and began walking away . . . still grinning. “I pray God will bless your day,” I said.
Fernando turned toward me and said, “He has! Jesus changed my life.” Fernando knelt between our chairs. “I feel His presence here.” He then shared how God had delivered him from drug and alcohol abuse over fourteen years earlier.
My tears flowed as he recited entire poems from the book of Psalms and prayed for us. Together, we praised God and rejoiced in His presence . . . on la playa.
Psalm 148 is a prayer of praise. The psalmist encourages all of creation to “praise the name of the
Though God invites us to bring our needs before Him and trust He hears and cares for us, He also delights in prayers of grateful praise wherever we are. Even on the beach.
My husband Alan stood below the towering lights illuminating the athletic field, as a member of the opposing team hit a ball into the air. With his eyes fixed on the ball, Alan ran full speed toward the darkest corner of the field—and slammed into the chain link fence.
Later that night, I handed him an ice pack. “Are you feeling okay?” I asked. He rubbed his shoulder. “I’d feel better if my buddies would have warned me that I was getting near the fence,” he said.
Teams function best when they work together. Alan’s injury could have been avoided, if only one of his teammates would have yelled out a warning as he approached the fence.
Scripture reminds us that members of the church are designed to work together and watch out for each other, like a team. The apostle Paul tells us that God cares about how we interact with each other, because the actions of one person can impact the whole community of believers (Col. 3:13–14). When we all embrace our opportunities to serve each other, fully devoted to unity and peace, the church flourishes (v. 15).
Paul instructed his readers to “let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit” (v. 16). In this way we can inspire and protect one another through loving and honest relationships, obeying and praising God with grateful hearts—thriving together.
When my grown son faced a difficult situation, I reminded him about God’s constant care and provision during his dad’s year of unemployment. I recounted the times God strengthened our family and gave us peace while my mom fought and lost her battle with leukemia. Highlighting the stories of God’s faithfulness stitched into Scripture, I affirmed He was good at keeping His word. I led my son down our family’s God-paved memory lane, reminding him about the ways He remained reliable through our valley and mountaintop moments. Whether we were struggling or celebrating, God’s presence, love, and grace proved sufficient.
Although I’d like to claim this faith-strengthening strategy as my own, the Lord designed the habit of sharing stories to inspire the future generations’ belief in God. As the Israelites remembered all they’d seen the Lord do in the past, He placed cobblestones of confidence down their God-paved memory lanes.
The Israelites had witnessed God holding true to His promises as they followed Him (Deuteronomy 4:3-6). He’d always heard and answered their prayers (v. 7). Rejoicing and reminiscing with the younger generations (v. 9), the Israelites shared the holy words breathed and preserved by the one true God (v. 10).
As we tell of our Lord’s majesty, mercy, and intimate love, our convictions and the faith of others can be strengthened by the confirmation of His enduring trustworthiness.
Who has invested in your spiritual growth by sharing what God had done in their lives? What creative ways can you share God’s faithfulness and love across generational lines?
After a recent move, Mabel’s seven-year-old son, Ryan, fussed as he prepared to attend a summer camp at his new school. Mabel encouraged him, assuring him that she understood change was hard. But one morning, Ryan’s out-of-character grumpiness seemed excessive. With compassion, Mabel asked, “What’s bothering you, Son?”
Staring out of the window, Ryan shrugged. “I don’t know, Mom. I just have too many feelings.”
Mabel’s heart ached as she comforted him. Desperate for a way to help him, she shared that the move was hard for her too. She assured Ryan that God would stay close, that He knows everything, even when they couldn’t understand or voice their frustrations. “Let’s set up a visit with your friends before school starts,” she said. They made plans, grateful that God understands even when His children have “too many feelings.”
The writer of Psalm 147 experienced overwhelming emotions throughout his faith journey and recognized the benefits of praising the all-knowing Maker and Sustainer of all, the Healer of physical and emotional wounds (vv. 1–6). He praised God for the ways He provides and “delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (v. 11).
When we’re struggling to make sense of our ever-changing emotions, we don’t have to feel alone or discouraged. We can rest in the unconditional love and unlimited understanding of our unchanging God.
During his 1962 visit to Mexico, Bill Ashe helped fix windmill hand pumps at an orphanage. Fifteen years later, inspired by a deep desire to serve God by helping provide clean water to villages in need, he founded a nonprofit organization. He said, “God awoke me to ‘make the most of the time’ by finding others with a desire to bring safe drinking water to the rural poor.” Later, having learned about the global need for safe water through the requests of thousands of pastors and evangelists from over 100 countries, Bill invited others to join the ministry’s efforts.
God welcomes us to team up to serve with Him and others in various ways. When the people of Corinth argued over which teachers they preferred, the apostle Paul affirmed his role as a servant of Christ and a teammate of Apollos, fully dependent on God for spiritual growth (1 Corinthians 3:1-7). He reminds us that all work has God-given value (v. 8). Acknowledging the privilege of working with others while serving the Lord, Paul encourages us to build each other up as God transforms us in love (v. 9).
Though our mighty Father doesn’t need our help to accomplish His great works, He equips us and invites us to partner with Him.
My anger percolated when a woman mistreated, blamed, and gossiped about me. I wanted everyone to know what she’d done—wanted her to suffer as I’d suffered because of her behavior. I steamed with resentment until a headache pierced my temples. But as I began praying for my pain to go away, the Holy Spirit convicted me. How could I plot revenge while begging God for relief? If I believed the Lord would care for me, why wouldn’t I trust Him to handle this situation? Knowing that people who are hurting often hurt other people, I asked God to help me forgive the woman and work toward reconciliation.
The psalmist David understood the difficulty of trusting God while enduring unfair treatment. Though David did his best to be a loving servant, King Saul succumbed to jealousy and wanted to murder him (1 Samuel 24:1-2). David suffered while God worked things out and prepared him to take the throne, but still he chose to honor God instead of seeking revenge (vv. 3-7). He did his part to reconcile with Saul and left the results in God’s hands (vv. 8-22)
When it feels like people get away with wrongdoing, we struggle with the injustice. But with God’s mercy at work on our hearts and the hearts of others, we can forgive as He’s forgiven us and receive the blessings He’s prepared for us.
A severe thunderstorm passed through our town, leaving high humidity and dark skies in its wake. I took our dog, Callie, for an evening stroll. The mounting challenges of our cross-country move grew heavier on my mind. Frustrated by the countless ways things had strayed so far from our high hopes and expectations, I slowed to let Callie sniff the grass. I listened to the creek that runs beside our house. Tiny lights flashed on and off while hovering over the patches of wildflowers climbing up the creek’s bank. Fireflies.
The Lord wrapped me in peace as I watched the blinking lights cutting through the darkness. I thought of the psalmist David singing, “You,
Whether we’re enduring the unpredictable storms in life or enjoying the stillness after the rains have passed, the peace of God’s constant presence lights our way through the darkness. Our living God will always be our strength, our refuge, our sustainer, and our deliverer.