For years, feelings of unworthiness and shame over my less-than-godly past had an adverse impact on every aspect of my life. What if others discovered the extent of my blemished reputation? Though God helped me muster up courage to invite a ministry leader to lunch, I strived to seem perfect. I scrubbed my house spotless, whipped up a three-course meal, and donned my best jeans and blouse.
I rushed to turn off the front-yard sprinklers. Twisting the leaking nozzle, I screamed when a gush of water drenched me. With towel-dried hair and smeared makeup, I changed into dry sweats and a T-shirt . . . just in time to hear the doorbell. Frustrated, I confessed my morning’s antics and motives. My friend shared her battles with fear and insecurity stemming from guilt over past failings. After we prayed, she welcomed me to her team of God’s imperfect servants.
The apostle Paul accepted his new life in Christ, refusing to deny his past or let it stop him from serving the Lord (1 Timothy 1:12–14). Because Paul knew Jesus’s work on the cross saved and changed him—the worst of sinners—he praised God and encouraged others to honor and obey Him (vv. 15–17).
When we accept God’s grace and forgiveness, we’re freed from our past. Flawed but fiercely loved, we have no reason to be ashamed of our real faces as we serve others with our God-given gifts.
I admire people who record prayer requests in journals tattered from daily handling, those who keep track of every prayer and praise and then faithfully update their lists. I’m inspired by those who gather with others to pray and whose kneeling wears out the carpet at their bedsides. For years, I tried to copy their styles, to simulate a perfect prayer life, and to imitate the eloquence of the so-much-more-articulate-than-me folks. I strived to unravel what I thought was a mystery, as I longed to learn the right way to pray.
Eventually, I learned that our Lord simply desires prayer that begins and ends with humility (Matthew 6:5). He invites us into an intimate exchange through which He promises to listen (v. 6). He never requires fancy or memorized words or phrases (v. 7). He assures us that prayer is a gift, an opportunity to honor His majesty (vv. 9–10), to display our confidence in His provision (v. 11), and to affirm our security in His forgiveness and guidance (vv. 12–13).
God assures us He hears and cares about every single spoken and unspoken prayer, as well as the prayers that slip down our cheeks as silent tears. As we place our trust in God and His perfect love for us, we can be sure praying with a humble heart that’s surrendered to and dependent on Him is always the right way to pray.
In 2011, the National Aeronautics and Space Association celebrated thirty years of space research. In those three decades, shuttles carried over 355 people into space and helped construct the International Space Station. After retiring five shuttles, NASA has now shifted its focus to deep-space exploration.
The human race has invested massive amounts of time and money, with some astronauts even sacrificing their lives, to study the immensity of the universe. Yet the evidence of God’s majesty stretches far beyond what we can measure.
When we consider the Sculptor and Sustainer of the universe who knows each star by name (Isaiah 40:26), we can understand why the psalmist David praises His greatness (Psalm 8:1). The Lord’s fingerprints are on “the moon and the stars, which [He] set in place” (v. 3). The Maker of the heavens and the earth reigns above all, yet He remains near all His beloved children, caring for each intimately and personally (v. 4). In love, God gives us great power, responsibility, and the privilege to care for and explore the world He’s entrusted to us (vv. 5–8).
As we study our star-spattered night skies, our Creator invites us to seek Him with passion and persistence. He hears every prayer and song of praise flowing over our lips.
After reviewing all God had already done throughout our church’s history, leaders presented the congregation with a proposal for a new gym to help us better serve our community. The leadership team announced they’d be the first to sign pledge notes to fund the construction. I initially prayed with a heart soured by selfishness, not wanting to offer more money than we had already committed to give. Still, my husband and I agreed to pray for the ongoing project. While considering all God continued providing for us, we eventually decided on a monthly offering. The combined gifts of our church family paid for the entire building.
Grateful for the many ways God’s used that gym for community events, since we celebrated opening its doors for ministry, I’m reminded of another generous giver−King David. Though the Lord didn’t choose him to build His temple, David invested all his resources to the project (1 Chronicles 29:1–5). The leaders under him and the people they served gave generously, too (vv. 6–9). The king acknowledged all they’d contributed had first been given to them by God—the Creator, Sustainer, and Owner of everything (vv. 10–16).
When we recognize God owns it all, we can commit to grateful, generous, and faithful giving for the benefit of others. And we can trust the Lord will provide—and may even use the generosity of others to help us when we’re in need.
As an amateur photographer, I enjoy capturing glimpses of God’s creativity with my camera. I see His fingerprints on each delicate flower petal, each vibrant sunrise and sunset, and each cloud-painted and star-speckled sky canvas.
My camera’s powerful zoom option allows me to take photos of the Lord’s creatures too. I’ve snapped shots of a chattering squirrel in a cherry blossom tree, a colorful butterfly flitting from bloom to bloom, and sea turtles sunning on a rocky, black beach. Each one-of-a-kind image prompted me to worship my marvelous Maker.
I’m not the first of God’s people to praise Him while admiring His unique creations. The writer of Psalm 104 sings of the Lord’s many works of art in nature (v. 24). He regards “the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number” (v. 25) and rejoices in God for providing constant and complete care for His masterpieces (vv. 27–31). Considering the majesty of the God-given life around him, the psalmist bursts with worshipful gratitude: “I will sing to the
While reflecting on the Lord’s magnificent and immense creation, we can look close at His intentional creativity and attention to detail. And like the psalmist, we can sing to our Creator with thankful praise for how powerful, majestic, and loving He is and always will be. Hallelujah!
When our son, Xavier, was younger, business trips often pulled my husband away from home. Though his father called often, there were rough nights when the calls alone didn’t comfort Xavier. To help soothe our son when he felt he needed his dad, I’d pull out our homemade photo albums as he prepared for bedtime. I’d point out the images that showed them spending time together and ask, “Do you remember this?”
Memory after memory encouraged our son, who often said, “I have a good daddy.”
I understood Xavier’s need to be reminded of his father’s love when he couldn’t see him. Whenever I’m going through tough or lonely times, I too long to know I’m loved, especially by my Heavenly Father.
David proclaimed his deep yearning for God as he hid from his enemies in the desert (Psalm 63:1). Remembering his personal encounters with God’s limitless power and satisfying love led him to praise (vv. 2–5). Through his most difficult nights, David could still rejoice in his dependable Father’s loving care (vv. 6–8).
During our dark times, when we feel as if God’s not there for us, we need reminders of who God is and how He’s demonstrated His love. Reflecting on our personal experiences with Him, as well as His actions recorded in Scripture, can affirm the countless ways our good Abba Father loves us.
On our wedding anniversary, my husband, Alan, gives me fresh flowers. When he lost his job during a corporate restructure, I didn’t expect this extravagant display of devotion to continue. But on our nineteenth anniversary, the color-splashed blossoms greeted me from their spot on our dining room table. Because he valued continuing this annual tradition, Alan saved some money each month to ensure he’d have enough for this personal show of affection.
My husband’s careful planning exhibited exuberant generosity, similar to what Paul encouraged when he addressed the Corinthian believers. The apostle complimented the church for their intentional and enthusiastic offerings (2 Corinthians 9:2, 5), reminding them that God delights in generous and cheerful givers (vv. 6–7). After all, no one gives more than our loving Provider, who’s always ready to supply all we need (vv. 8–10).
We can be generous in all kinds of giving, caring for one another because the Lord meets all of our material, emotional, and spiritual needs (v. 11). As we give, we can express our gratitude for all God’s given us. We can even motivate others to praise the Lord and give from all God’s given them (vv. 12–13). Openhanded giving, a lavish expression of love and gratitude, can demonstrate our confidence in God’s provision for all His people.
When Xavier was two, he darted into one aisle after another in a small shoe store. Hiding behind stacks of shoeboxes, he giggled when my husband, Alan, said, “I see you.”
Moments later, I saw Alan dash franticly from aisle to aisle, calling Xavier’s name. We raced to the front of the store. Our child, still laughing, ran toward the open door leading to the busy street outside.
Within seconds, Alan scooped him up. He embraced us as I thanked God, sobbed, and kissed our toddler’s chubby cheeks.
A year before I became pregnant with Xavier, I’d lost our first child during the pregnancy. When God blessed us with our son, I became a fearful parent. Our shoe store experience proved I wouldn’t always be able to see or protect our child. But I discovered peace, as I learned to turn to my only sure source of help—God—when I struggled with worry and fear.
Our heavenly Father never takes His eyes off His children (Psalm 121:1-4). While we can’t prevent trials, heartache, or loss, we can live with confident faith, relying on an ever-present Helper and Protector who will watch over our lives (vv. 5-8).
We may encounter days when we feel lost and helpless. We may also feel powerless when we can’t shield loved ones. But we can trust that our all-knowing God never loses sight of us—His precious and beloved children.
During a vacation, my husband and I signed up for a leisurely tour down Georgia’s Chattahoochee River. Dressed in sandals, a sundress, and a wide brimmed hat, I groaned when we discovered—contrary to the advertisement—that the trip included light rapids. Thankfully, we rode with a couple experienced in whitewater rafting. They taught my husband the basics of paddling and promised to navigate us safely to our destination. Grateful for my life jacket, I screamed and gripped the plastic handle on the raft until we reached the muddy bank downriver. I stepped onto the shore and dumped water from my purse as my husband helped me wring out the hem of my soaked dress. We enjoyed a good laugh, even though the trip had not turned out as advertised.
Unlike the tour brochure, which clearly left out a key detail about the trip, Jesus explicitly warned His disciples that rough waters were ahead. He told them that they’d be persecuted and martyred and that He would die and be resurrected. He also guaranteed His trustworthiness, affirming that He would guide them toward undeniable triumph and everlasting hope (John 16:16–33).
Although it would be nice if life were easier when we follow Jesus, He made it clear that His disciples would have troubles. But He promised to be with us. Trials won’t define, limit, or destroy God’s plan for us, because Jesus’s resurrection has already propelled us to eternal victory.