As my husband and I prepared for a cross-country move, I wanted to ensure that we kept in touch with our grown sons. I found a unique gift, friendship lamps connected by wireless internet, which can be turned on remotely. When I gave the lamps to my sons, I explained that their lamps will turn on when I touch my lamp—to provide a shining reminder of my love and ongoing prayers. No matter how great the distance between us, a tap on their lamps would trigger a light in our home too. Though we knew nothing could replace our more personal moments of connection, we could be encouraged by knowing we’re loved and prayed for every time we turned on those lights.
All God’s children have the privilege of being light-sharers powered by the Holy Spirit. We’re designed to live as radiant beacons of the Lord’s everlasting hope and unconditional love. When we’re sharing the gospel and serving others in the name of Jesus, we become brilliant spotlights and living testimonies. Every good deed, kind smile, gentle word of encouragement, and heartfelt prayer produces a beaming reminder of God’s faithfulness and His unconditional and life-transforming love (Matthew 5:14–16).
Wherever God leads us, and however we serve Him, we can be used by Him to help others shine His light. As God, by His Spirit, provides the true illumination, we can reflect the light and love of His presence.
During an outing, we met a woman who had known my husband’s family since he was a child. She looked from Alan to our son, Xavier. “He’s the spitting image of his daddy,” she said. “Those eyes. That smile. Yep. Looks just like him.” As the woman delighted in acknowledging such a strong resemblance between father and son, she even noted similarities in their personalities. Still, though they are alike in many ways, my son doesn’t reflect his father perfectly.
There is only one Son—Jesus—who reflects His Father completely. Jesus is the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). In Him and through Him and for Him all things were created (v. 16). “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (v. 17).
We can spend time in prayer and Bible study, discovering the Father’s character by looking at Jesus—God in the flesh. He invites us to witness His love in action by examining how He interacts with others in Scripture and in our day-to-day living. After surrendering our lives to Christ and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can grow in knowing and trusting our loving Father. He transforms us to reflect His character, so we can live for Him.
What a joy it would be if others could say we look like just like Jesus!
After doctors diagnosed their first-born son with autism, Diane Dokko Kim and her husband grieved facing a lifetime of caring for a cognitively disabled child. In her book Unbroken Faith, she admits to struggling with adjusting their dreams and expectations for their beloved son’s future. Yet through this painful process, they learned that God can handle their anger, doubts, and fears. Now, with their son reaching adulthood, Diane uses her experiences to encourage parents of children with special needs. She tells others about God’s unbreakable promises, limitless power, and loving faithfulness. She assures people that He gives us permission to grieve when we experience the death of a dream, an expectation, a way or a season of life.
In Isaiah 26, the prophet declares that God’s people can trust in the
When we face any loss, disappointment, or difficult circumstance, God invites us to be honest with Him. He can handle our ever-changing emotions and our questions. He remains with us and refreshes our spirits with enduring hope. Even when we feel like our lives are falling apart, God can make our faith unbreakable.
As I waited in the breakfast buffet line at a Christian conference center, a group of women entered the dining hall. I smiled, saying hello to a woman who stepped into the line behind me. Returning my greeting, she said, “I know you.” We scooped scrambled eggs onto our plates and tried to figure out where we’d met. I was pretty sure we had a case of mistaken identity though.
When we returned for lunch, the woman approached me. “Do you drive a white car?”
I shrugged. “I used to. A few years ago.”
She laughed. “We stopped at the same traffic light by the elementary school almost every morning,” she said. “You’d always be lifting your hands, singing joyfully. I thought you were worshiping God. That made me want to join in, even on tough days.”
Praising the Lord, we prayed together, hugged, and enjoyed lunch.
My new friend affirmed that people notice how Jesus’s followers behave, even when we think no one is watching. As we embrace a lifestyle of joyful worship, we can come before our Creator anytime and anywhere. Acknowledging His enduring love and faithfulness, we can enjoy intimate communion with Him and thank Him for His ongoing care (Psalm 100:1-5). Whether we’re singing praises in our cars, praying in public, or spreading God’s love through kind acts, we can inspire others to praise Him. Worshiping God is more than a Sunday morning event.
Looking at the handmade Christmas ornaments my son, Xavier, crafted over the years and the annual mismatched baubles Grandma had sent him, I couldn’t figure out why I was not content with our decorations. I’d always valued the creativity and memories each ornament represented. So, why did the allure of the retail stores’ holiday displays tempt me to desire a tree adorned with perfectly-matched bulbs, shimmering orbs, and satin ribbons?
As I began to turn away from our humble decor, I glimpsed a red heart-shaped ornament with a simple phrase scripted on it−Jesus, My Savior. How could I have forgotten my family and my hope in Christ are the reasons I love celebrating Christmas? Our simple tree looked nothing like the trees in the storefronts, but the love behind every decoration made it beautiful.
Like our modest tree, the Messiah didn’t meet the world’s expectations in any way (Isaiah 53:2). Jesus “was despised and rejected” (v. 3). Yet, in an amazing display of love, He still chose to be “pierced for our transgressions” (vv. 4–5). He endured punishment, so we could enjoy peace (v. 5). Nothing is more beautiful than that.
With renewed gratitude for our perfect decorations and our perfect Savior, I stopped longing for glitz and praised God for His glorious love. Sparkling adornments could never match the beauty of His sacrificial gift−Jesus.
When Philadelphia Eagle’s quarterback Carson Wentz returned to the field after healing from a severe injury, the NFL team’s backup quarterback, Nick Foles, graciously returned to the bench. Although competing for the same position, the two men chose to support each other and remained confident in their roles. One reporter observed that the two athletes have a “unique relationship rooted in their faith in Christ” shown through their ongoing prayers for each other. As others watched, they brought honor to God by remembering they were on the same team—not just as Eagle quarterbacks, but as believers in Jesus—representing Him.
The apostle Paul reminds believers to live as “children of light” awaiting “the Lord’s return” (1 Thessalonians 5:5–6, NLT). With our hope secure in the salvation Christ has provided, we can shrug off any temptations to compete out of jealousy, insecurity, fear, or envy. Instead, we can “encourage one another and build each other up” (vv. 6-10). We can respect spiritual leaders who honor God and “be at peace” as we serve together to accomplish our shared goal—telling people about the gospel and encouraging others to live for Jesus (vv. 11-15).
As we serve on the same team, we can heed Paul’s command: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (vv. 16-18).
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.