Stephen Cass, an editor at Discover magazine, was determined to investigate some of the invisible things that are part of his daily life. As he walked toward his office in New York City, he mused: “If I could see radio waves, the top of the Empire State Building [with its host of radio and TV antennas] would be lit like a kaleidoscopic flare, illuminating the entire city.” He realized he was surrounded by an invisible electromagnetic bedlam of radio and TV signals, Wi-Fi, and more.
Elisha’s servant learned about another kind of unseen reality—the invisible spiritual world—one morning. He awoke to find himself and his master surrounded by the armies of Aram. As far as his eyes could see, there were thousands of soldiers mounted on powerful warhorses (2 Kings 6:15)! The servant was afraid, but Elisha was confident because he saw the army of angels that surrounded them. He said: “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (v. 16). Then he asked the Lord to open his servant’s eyes so he too could see that the Lord had surrounded their enemy and He was in control (v. 17).
Do you feel overpowered and helpless? Remember that God is in control and fights for you. He “will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). May we fix our eyes on this unseen reality.
“It’s amazing to look at a tree and see the individual leaves instead of just a blur of green!” my dad said. I couldn’t have said it better. I was eighteen at the time and not a fan of my new need to wear glasses, but they changed the way I saw everything, making the blurry beautiful!
When reading Scripture, I view certain books like I do when I look at trees without my glasses. There doesn’t seem to be much to see. But noticing details can reveal the beauty in a boring passage.
This happened to me when I was reading Exodus. God’s directions for building the tabernacle—His temporary dwelling place among the Israelites—can seem like a blur of boring details. But I paused at the end of chapter 25 where God gave directions for the lampstand. It was to be hammered out “of pure gold,” including its base and shaft and its flowerlike cups, buds, and blossoms (v. 31). The cups were to be “shaped like almond flowers” (vv. 33–36).
Almond trees are breathtaking. And God chose to incorporate that same natural beauty into His tabernacle!
According to Paul in the book of Romans, “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature” are seen and understood in creation (1:20). Sometimes we have to look at creation, and uninteresting passages in the Bible, differently, through a new lens, to see God’s beauty.
A plaque in our home states “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.” A modern version might read, “Acknowledged or unacknowledged, God is here.”
Hosea, an Old Testament prophet who lived in late eighth century BC (755–715
Hosea’s simple but profound insight to acknowledge God reminds us He is near and at work in our lives, in both the joys and struggles.
To acknowledge God might mean when we get a promotion at work, to recognize God gave us insight to finish our work on time and within budget. If our housing application is rejected, acknowledging God helps to sustain us as we trust Him to work in the situation for our good.
If we don’t make it into the college of our choice, we can acknowledge God is with us and take comfort in His presence even in our disappointment. As we enjoy dinner, to acknowledge God may be to remind ourselves of God’s provision of the ingredients and a kitchen to prepare the meal.
When we acknowledge God, we remember His presence in both the successes and sorrows, whether big or small, of our lives.
Among the thousands of sentiments printed on greeting cards, perhaps one of the most touching is this simple statement: “Thanks for being you.” If you receive that card, you know that someone cares for you not because you did something spectacular for that person but because you’re appreciated for your essence.
I wonder if this kind of sentiment might indicate for us one of the best ways to say “Thank you” to God. Sure, there are times when God intervenes in our lives in a tangible way, and we say something like, “Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to get that job.” But most often, we can simply say, “Thank You, God, for being who You are.”
That’s what’s behind verses like 1 Chronicles 16:34: “Give thanks to the
Who God is. That’s reason enough for us to stop what we’re doing and praise and thank Him. Thank You, God, for just being You!
A man filed a lawsuit against a woman, claiming she had his dog. In court, the woman said her dog couldn’t be his dog because she had purchased the five-year-old canine on the street. Although the plaintiff said his dog was younger, the real owner’s identity was revealed when the judge released the animal in the courtroom. Tail wagging, it immediately ran to the plaintiff!
Solomon, a judge in ancient Israel needed to settle a somewhat similar issue. Two women each claimed to be the mother of the same baby boy. After considering both arguments, he requested a sword to divide the infant in half. The real mother begged Solomon to give the baby to the other woman, choosing to save her son’s life even if she could not have him (1 Kings 3:26). Solomon gave the baby to her.
Wisdom is necessary input as we decide what’s fair and moral, right and wrong.. If we truly value wisdom, we can ask God for a discerning heart, like Solomon did (v. 9). God may answer our request by helping us balance our needs and desires with the interests of others. He may also help us weigh short-term benefits against long-term (sometimes eternal) gains so we can honor Him in how we live.
Our God is not only a perfectly wise judge, but He is also a personal counselor who is willing to give us godly wisdom in great amounts (James 1:5).
One news report called it “the single deadliest day for Christians in decades.” The pair of attacks on Sunday worshipers in April 2017 defies our understanding. We simply don’t have a category to describe bloodshed in a house of worship. But we can find some help from others who know this kind of pain well.
Most of the people of Jerusalem were in exile or had been slain when Asaph wrote Psalm 74. Pouring out his heart’s anguish, he described the destruction of the temple at the hands of ruthless invaders. “Your foes roared in the place where you met with us,” Asaph said (v. 4). “They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name” (v. 7).
Yet the psalmist found a place to stand despite the awful reality—encouragement that we can do so too. “But God is my King from long ago,” Asaph resolved. “He brings salvation on the earth” (v. 12). This truth enabled Asaph to praise God’s mighty power even though His salvation seemed absent in the moment. “Have regard for your covenant,” Asaph prayed. “Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; may the poor and needy praise your name” (vv. 20–21).
When justice and mercy seem absent, God’s love and power are in no way diminished. With Asaph, we can confidently say, “But God is my King.”
It was a cold, icy winter’s day in Chicago, and my mind was on getting from my warm vehicle to a warm building. The next thing I knew I was on the ground, my knees turned inward and my lower legs turned outward. Nothing was broken, but I was in pain. The pain would get worse as time went by and it would be weeks before I was whole again.
Who among us hasn’t taken a spill of some sort? Wouldn’t it be nice to have something or someone to keep us on our feet all the time? While there are no guarantees of surefootedness in the physical sense, there is One who stands ready to assist us in our quest to honor Christ in this life and prepare us to stand joyfully before Him in the next.
Every day we face temptations (and even false teachings) that seek to divert us, confuse us, and entangle us. Yet, it’s not ultimately through our own efforts that we remain on our feet as we walk in this world. How assuring to know that when we hold our peace when tempted to speak angrily, to opt for honesty over deceit, to choose love over hate, or to select truth over error—we experience God’s power to keep us standing (Jude 24). And when we appear approved before God when Christ returns, the praise that we offer now for His sustaining grace will echo throughout eternity (v. 25).
We can find nearly every argument in the book of Job about why there is pain in the world, but the arguing never seems to help Job much. His is a crisis of relationship more than a crisis of doubt. Can he trust God? Job wants one thing above all else: an appearance by the one Person who can explain his miserable fate. He wants to meet God Himself, face to face.
Eventually Job gets his wish. God shows up in person (see Job 38:1). He times His entrance with perfect irony, just as Job’s friend Elihu is expounding on why Job has no right to expect a visit from God.
No one—not Job, nor any of his friends—is prepared for what God has to say. Job has saved up a long list of questions, but it is God, not Job, who asks the questions. “Brace yourself like a man,” He begins; “I will question you, and you shall answer me” (v. 3). Brushing aside thirty-five chapters’ worth of debates on the problem of pain, God plunges into a majestic poem on the wonders of the natural world.
God’s speech defines the vast difference between the God of all creation and one puny man like Job. His presence spectacularly answers Job’s biggest question: Is anybody out there? Job can only respond, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (42:3).
As my friend and I went for a walk, we talked about our love for the Bible. She surprised me when she said, “Oh, but I don’t like the Old Testament much. All of that hard stuff and vengeance—give me Jesus!”
We might resonate with her words when we read a book like Nahum, perhaps recoiling at a statement such as, “The
When we dig more deeply into the subject of God’s anger, we understand that when He exercises it, He’s most often defending His people or His name. Because of His overflowing love, He seeks justice for wrongs committed and the redemption of those who have turned from Him. We see this not only in the Old Testament, as He calls His people back to Himself, but also in the New, when He sends His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins.
We may not understand the mysteries of the character of God, but we can trust that He not only exercises justice but is also the source of all love. We need not fear Him, for He is “good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (v. 7).