The Holy Oak stood next to Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church in New Jersey for more than 600 years until it had to be removed. At its prime, the twisting branches spanned high and wide. Cool breezes rustled its green leaves and acorns. The sun peeked through wind-blown gaps, creating dancing glimmers of light in the shade below its canopy. But beneath the ground’s surface lay its true magnificence—its root system. An oak’s main root grows vertically, securing a reliable supply of nourishment. From that taproot, a mass of roots spreads horizontally to supply the tree with a lifetime of moisture and nutrients. This intricate root system often grows more massive than the tree it supports and serves as a lifeline and an anchor for stabilizing the trunk.
Like the mighty oak, most of our life-giving growth occurs beneath the surface. When Jesus explained the parable of the sower to His disciples, He emphasized the importance of being firmly planted in a personal relationship with the Father. As we grow in the knowledge of God as revealed through the Scriptures, our faith roots are sustained by His Spirit. God helps His followers thrive through everchanging circumstances, trials, persecution, and worry (Matthew 13:18-23).
Our loving Father nourishes our hearts with His Word. As His Spirit transforms our character, He makes sure the fruit of our deep-rooted faith becomes evident to people around us.
When the schoolyear began, fourteen-year-old C.J. would hop off the bus every afternoon and dance down his driveway. His mom recorded and shared videos of C.J.’s afterschool boogie time. He danced because he enjoyed life and “making people happy” with every move. One day, two garbage collectors took time out of their busy work schedule to stomp, spin, and sway with the young boy who inspires others to dance with him. This trio demonstrates the power of sincere and infectious joy.
The writer of Psalm 149 describes the original source of enduring and unconditional joy—God. The psalmist encourages God’s people to join together and “sing to the
Our adoring Father created us and sustains the universe. He delights in us just because we are His beloved children. He designed us, knows us, and invites us into a personal relationship with Him. What an honor! Our loving and living God is our reason for everlasting joy. We can rejoice in the gift of His constant presence and be grateful for every day our Maker has given us.
After astronauts set the Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility, more than half a billion people heard Neil Armstrong’s voice transmitted from 240,000 miles away from Earth. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” he said as he became the first human to walk on the surface of the moon. Other space travelers followed, including the commander of the last Apollo mission, Gene Cernan. “There I was, and there you are, the Earth—dynamic, overwhelming, and I felt . . . it was just too beautiful to happen by accident,” Cernan said, “There has to be somebody bigger than you and bigger than me.” Even from their unique view in deep space, these men understood their smallness in comparison to the vastness of the universe.
The prophet Jeremiah also considered the immensity of God as Creator and Sustainer of the earth and beyond. The Maker of all promised to reveal Himself intimately as He offered His people love, forgiveness, and hope (Jeremiah 31:33–34). Jeremiah affirms God’s enormity as He who “appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night” (v. 35). Our Creator and Lord Almighty will reign above all as He works to redeem all of His people (vv. 36–37).
We’ll never finish exploring the immeasurable vastness of the heavens and depths of the earth’s foundations. But we can stand in awe at the complexity of the universe and trust the maker of the moon—and everything else.
Years ago, my four-year-old son gave me a framed wooden heart mounted on a metal plate with the word forever painted in its center. “I love you forever, Mommy,” he said.
I thanked him with a hug. “I love you more.”
That priceless gift still assures me of my son’s never-ending love. On tough days, God uses that sweet present to comfort and encourage me as He affirms I’m deeply loved.
The frame also reminds me of the gift of God’s everlasting love, as expressed throughout His Word and confirmed by His Spirit. We can trust God’s unchanging goodness and sing grateful praises that confirm His enduring love, as the psalmist does (Psalm 136:1). We can exalt the Lord as greater than and above all (vv. 2–3), as we reflect on His endless wonders and unlimited understanding (v. 4). The God who loves us forever is the conscious and caring Maker of the heavens and earth, who maintains control of time itself (vv. 5–9).
We can rejoice because the everlasting love the psalmist sang about is the same continuing love our all-powerful Creator and Sustainer pours into the lives of His children today. No matter what we’re facing, the One who made us and remains with us strengthens us by asserting He loves us unconditionally and completely. Thank You, Lord, for the countless reminders of Your endless and life-transforming love!
When the alarm on Shelley’s phone goes off every day at 3:16 in the afternoon, she takes a praise break. She thanks God and acknowledges His goodness. Although she communicates with God throughout the day, Shelley loves to take this break in her schedule because it helps her celebrate her intimate relationship with Him.
Inspired by her joyful devotion, I decided to set a specific time each day to thank Christ for His sacrifice on the cross and to pray for those who have yet to be saved. I wonder what it would be like if all believers in Jesus stopped to praise Him in their own way and pray for others every day.
The image of a beautiful wave of worship rolling to the ends of the earth resounds in the words of Psalm 67. The psalmist pleads for God’s grace, proclaiming his desire to make the Lord’s name great in all the nations (vv. 1-2). He sings, “May the peoples praise You, God; may all the peoples praise You” (v. 3). He celebrates God’s sovereign rule and faithful guidance (v. 4). As a living testimony of the Lord’s great love and abundant blessings, the psalmist leads God’s people into jubilant praise (vv. 5–6).
God’s continued faithfulness toward His beloved children inspires us to acknowledge Him. As we do, others can join us in trusting Him, revering Him, following Him, and acclaiming Him as Lord.
Having been hurt by Christians in the past, my mom responded in anger when I dedicated my life to Jesus. “So, now you’re going to judge me? I don’t think so.” She hung up the phone and refused to talk to me for a whole year. I grieved, but eventually realized a relationship with God was even more important than one of my most valued relationships. I prayed for her every time she refused my calls and asked the Lord to help me love her well.
Finally, we reconciled. A few months later, she said, “You’ve changed. I think I’m ready to hear more about Jesus.” Soon after, she accepted Christ and lived the rest of her days loving God and others.
Like the man who ran up to Jesus asking how he could inherit eternal life and left in sorrow because he didn’t want to part with his wealth (Mark 10:17-31), I struggled with the thought of giving up everything to follow the Lord.
It’s not easy surrendering the things or people we think we can count on more than God (vv. 23-25). But the value of what we give up or lose in this world will never exceed the gift of eternal life with Jesus. Our loving Lord willingly sacrificed Himself to save all people. He wraps us in peace and woos us with priceless and persistent love.
I pulled into my driveway, waving at my neighbor, Myriam, and her little girl, Elizabeth. Over the years, Elizabeth had grown accustomed to our spontaneous chats lasting longer than the promised “few minutes” and morphing into prayer meetings. She climbed the tree planted in the center of their front yard, dangled her thin legs over a branch, and busied herself while her mother and I spoke. After a while, Elizabeth hopped down from her roost and ran to where we stood. Grabbing our hands, she smiled and almost sang, “It’s time to pray . . . again.” Even at an early age, Elizabeth seemed to understand how important prayer was in our friendship.
After encouraging believers to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10), the apostle Paul offered special insight on the crucial role of continual prayer. He described the necessary armor God’s people would need during their spiritual walk with the Lord, who provides protection, discernment, and confidence in His truth (vv. 11-17). However, the apostle emphasized this God-given strength grew from deliberate immersion in the life-giving gift of prayer (vv. 18-20).
God hears and cares about our concerns, whether they’re spoken boldly, sobbed silently, or secured deep in a hurting heart. He is always ready to make us strong in His power, as He invites us to pray again and again and again.
In the 1997 Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii, two women fought to stay on their feet as they hobbled toward the finish line. Exhausted, the runners persevered on wobbly legs, until Sian Welch bumped into Wendy Ingraham. They both dropped to the ground. Struggling to stand, they stumbled forward, only to fall again about twenty meters from the finish line. When Ingraham began to crawl, the crowd applauded. When her competitor followed suit, they cheered louder. Ingraham crossed the finish line in fourth place. She slumped into the outstretched arms of her supporters. Then she turned and reached out to her fallen sister. Welch lunged her body forward, stretching her weary arm toward Ingraham’s hand and across the finish line. As she completed the race in fifth place, the crowd roared their approval.
This pair’s completion of the 140-mile swimming, biking, and running race, inspired many. But the powerful image of the weary competitors persevering together remains ingrained in my mind, affirming the life-empowering truth in Ecclesiastes 4:9–11.
There’s no shame in admitting we require assistance in life, especially since we can’t honestly deny our needs or hide them from our all-knowing God (v. 9). At one time or another, we’ll all fall, whether physically or emotionally. Knowing we’re not alone can comfort us as we persevere. As our loving Father helps us, He empowers us to reach out to others in need, affirming they too are not alone.
Physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, I curled up in my recliner. Our family had followed God’s leading and had moved from California to Wisconsin. After we arrived, car broke down and left us without a vehicle for two months. Meanwhile, my husband’s limited mobility after an unexpected back surgery and my increasing chronic pain complicated our unpacking. We uncovered costly problems with our new-to-us, old home. Our senior dog suffered with high-maintenance health issues. And though our new pup brought me great joy, raising a furry ball of energy was far more work than I anticipated. My attitude soured. How was I supposed to have unshakeable faith while traveling on a seemingly endless bumpy road of hardships?
As I prayed, God reminded me of the psalmist who had a lifestyle of praise that didn’t depend on his circumstances. David poured out his emotions, often with great vulnerability, and sought refuge in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 16:1). Acknowledging God as provider and protector (vv. 5–6), he praised Him and followed His counsel (v. 7). David affirmed that he would “not be shaken” because he kept his eyes “always on the Lord” (v. 8). So, he rejoiced and rested secure in the joy of God’s presence (vv. 9–11).
We too can delight in knowing our peace doesn’t depend on our present situation. As we thank our unchanging God for who He is and always will be—Maker and Sustainer of all—His promised presence will fuel our steadfast faith.