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.
Before I came to faith in Christ, I had heard the gospel preached but wrestled with Jesus’s identity. How could He offer forgiveness for my sins when the Bible says only God can forgive sins? I discovered I wasn’t alone in my struggles after reading J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. Packer suggests that for many unbelievers the “really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man . . . as truly and fully divine as He was human.” Yet this is the truth that makes salvation possible.
When the apostle Paul refers to Christ as “the image of the invisible God,” he’s saying Jesus is completely and perfectly God—Creator and Sustainer of all things in heaven and earth‒but also fully human (Colossians 1:15–17, 22). Because of this truth, we can be confident that through Christ’s death and resurrection, He has not only carried the consequences for our sins but He also redeemed human nature, so that we—and all of creation—can be reconciled to God (vv. 20–22).
In an amazing, initiating act of love, God the Father reveals Himself in and through His Holy Word by the power of God the Holy Spirit and through the life of God the Son. Those who believe Jesus is Lord are saved . . . because Christ is Emmanuel‒God with us. Hallelujah!
A clear, glass vase with bell-shaped Lilies of the Valley, pink tulips, and yellow daffodils greeted Kim at her front door. For seven months, an anonymous Christ follower sent Kim beautiful bouquets from a local flower shop. Each monthly gift arrived with a note filled with scriptural encouragement and signed with these words: “Love, Jesus.”
Kim shared photos of these secret deliveries on Facebook. The flowers gave her opportunity to celebrate a stranger’s kindness and to acknowledge the way God expressed His love to her through His people. Month after month, each secret delivery caused her friends to rejoice over the priceless gift of time the Lord gave Kim. As she trusted Him through her battle with a terminal disease, every colorful blossom and handwritten note affirmed God’s loving compassion for her.
The sender’s anonymity reflects the heart-motive Jesus encourages His people to adopt when giving. The Lord warns against practicing righteous acts “to be seen” by others (Matthew 6:1). Good deeds are intended to be expressions of worship overflowing from hearts grateful for all God’s done for us. Highlighting our own generosity with the hope or expectation of being honored can take the focus off the Giver of all good things—Jesus.
God knows when we give with good intentions (v. 4). He simply wants our generosity motivated by love as we give Him the glory, the honor, and the praise.
A small church in southern California recognized an opportunity to express God’s love in a practical way. Christ followers gathered at a local laundry mat to give back to their community by washing clothes for those in financial need. They cleaned and folded clothes together, sometimes providing a hot meal or bags of groceries for recipients.
One volunteer discovered the greatest reward was in the “actual contact with people . . . hearing their stories.” Because of their relationship with Jesus, these volunteers wanted to live out their faith through loving words and actions that helped them nurture genuine relationships with others.
The apostle James affirms that every act of a professing believer’s loving service is a result of genuine faith (James 2:14-16). He states that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (v. 17). Declaring we believe makes us followers of Christ, but it’s when we serve God by serving others that we act as believers who trust and follow Him (v. 24). Faith and service are as closely interdependent as the body and the spirit (v. 26), a beautiful display of the power of Christ as He works in and through us.
After personally accepting that God’s sacrifice on the cross washes us in perfect love, we can respond in authentic faith that overflows into the ways we serve people.
In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote: “Almost certainly God is not in time. His life does not consist of moments one following another . . . Ten-thirty—and every other moment from the beginning of the world—is always present for Him.” Still, to our frail humanness, waiting seasons often feel endless. But as we learn to trust God, the eternal Maker of time, we can accept the reality that our fragile existence is secured in His hands.
The psalmist lamenting in Psalm 102 admits his days are as fleeting as “the evening shadow” and withering grass, while the Lord “endures through all generations” (v. 11). The writer, weary from suffering, proclaims God sits “enthroned forever” (v. 12). He affirms God’s power and consistent compassion reach beyond his personal space (vv. 13-18). Even in his despair (vv. 19-24), the psalmist turns his focus on the power of God as Creator (v. 25). Though His creations will perish, the Lord will remain the same for eternity (vv. 26-27).
When time seems to be standing still or dragging on, it’s tempting to accuse God of being late or non-responsive. We can grow impatient and frustrated with remaining still. We can forget He’s chosen every single cobblestone on the path He’s planned for us. But He never leaves us to fend for ourselves. As we live by faith in the presence of God, we can walk in the present with God.
In preparation for Xavier’s first job interview, my husband, Alan, handed our son a pack of thank you cards for him to send out after he met with prospective employers. He then pretended to be a hiring interviewer, using his decades of experience as a manager to ask Xavier relevant questions. After a few rounds of role-playing, our son tucked several copies of his resume into a folder. He smiled when Alan reminded him about the cards. “I know,” he said. “A sincere thank you note will set me apart from all the other applicants.”
When the manager called to hire Xavier, he expressed gratitude for the first hand-written thank you card he’d received in years.
Saying thanks can have a lasting impact. The psalmists’ heartfelt prayers and grateful worship were preserved in the Book of Psalms. Though there are one hundred and fifty psalms, these two verses reflect a message of thankfulness: “I will give thanks to you,
We will never be able to finish expressing our gratitude for all God’s wonderful deeds. But we can start with a sincere thank you through our prayers. We can nurture a lifestyle of grateful worship, praising God and acknowledging all He’s done and all He promises He’ll do.