Category  |  Christian Living

Many Beautiful Things

Just before her death, artist and missionary Lilias Trotter looked out of the window and saw a vision of a heavenly chariot. According to her biographer, a friend asked, “Are you seeing many beautiful things?” She answered, “Yes, many, many beautiful things.”

Trotter’s final words reflect God’s work in her life. Not only in death, but throughout her life, God revealed much beauty to her and through her. Although she was a talented artist, she chose to serve Jesus as a missionary in Algeria. Ruskin, a famous painter who tutored her, is said to have commented, “What a waste,” when she chose the mission field over a career in art.

Similarly, in the New Testament, when a woman came to Simon the Leper’s house with an alabaster jar and poured perfume on Jesus’s feet, those with them saw it as a waste. This expensive perfume was worth a year’s common wages, so some of the people present thought it could have been used to help the poor. However, commending this woman’s deep devotion to Him, Jesus said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6).

Every day we can choose to let Christ’s life shine in our lives and display His beauty to the world. To some, it may seem a waste, but let us have willing hearts to serve Him. May Jesus say we have done many beautiful things for Him.

Where to Find Hope

Elizabeth struggled for a long time with drug addiction, and when she recovered wanted to help others in return. So she started writing notes and anonymously placing them throughout her city. Elizabeth tucks these notes under car windshield wipers and tacks them on poles in parks. She used to look for signs of hope; now she leaves them for others to find. One of her notes concluded with these words: “Much love. Hope sent.”

Hope with love—that’s what Jesus gives. He brings us His love with each new day and strengthens us with that hope. His love is not rationed out to us drop by drop but flows out of His heart freely and is poured lavishly into ours: “We know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:5 nlt).  He desires to use the hard times to develop perseverance and character and bring us a satisfying, hope-filled life (vv. 3–4). And even when we’re far from Him, He still loves us (vv. 6–8).

Are you looking for signs of hope? The Lord gives hope with love through inviting us to grow in a relationship with Him.  Our hope for a fulfilling life is anchored in His unfailing love. 

Is There Wi-Fi?

As I was preparing to go on a mission trip with some young people, the most frequently asked question was, “Is there Wi-Fi?” And I assured them there would be! So just imagine the wails and groans one night when the Wi-Fi was down!

Many of us become anxious when we’re separated from our smartphones. And when we do have our iPhones or Androids in our hands, we can be fixated on our screens.

Like many things, the internet and all that it allows us to access can become either a distraction or a blessing. It depends on what we do with it. In Proverbs we read, “A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash” (Proverbs 15:14 nlt).

Applying the wisdom of God’s Word to life, we can ask ourselves: Do we check our social networks compulsively throughout the day? What does that say about the things we hunger for? And do the things we read or view online encourage sensible living (vv. 16–21) or are we feeding on trash—gossip, slander, materialism, or sexual impurity?

As we yield to the work of the Holy Spirit, we can fill our minds with things that are “true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable” (Philippians 4:8 nlt). By God’s wisdom we can make good choices that honor the Lord.

They Smelled Like Christ

Hot and dusty, Bob dismounted from the bus he had ridden to Pasadena, California. He was tired from a long day of travel and grateful that he would be able to have dinner with friends of friends who lived in the area. They welcomed him in, and he immediately felt a sense of peace. He felt at home, comfortable, safe, and valued.

Later, wondering why he had felt such peace in an unfamiliar place, Bob found an answer in 2 Corinthians. The apostle Paul describes people who follow God as having the “pleasing aroma of Christ.” “That’s exactly it!” Bob said to himself. His hosts had “smelled like” Christ.

When Paul says that God leads His people in Christ’s “triumphal procession” spreading the fragrance of His truth, he’s referring to a practice in the ancient world. Victorious armies would burn incense as they processed through the streets. For their supporters, the smell brought joy. In the same way, Paul says the people of God carry a pleasing fragrance to those who believe. It isn’t something we create on our own but something God gives as He leads us in spreading the knowledge of Him.

Bob is my dad, and that trip to Pasadena took place more than forty years ago, but he’s never forgotten it. He’s still telling the story of the people who smelled like Christ.

Muscling Through

Competitive bodybuilders put themselves through a rigorous training cycle. During the initial months, they emphasize gaining size and strength. As the competition nears, the focus shifts to losing any fat that hides the muscle. In the final days before the competition, they consume less water than normal so their muscle tissue is easily visible. Because of the reduced consumption of nourishment, the competitors are actually at their weakest on the day of competition, despite appearing strong.

In 2 Chronicles 20, we read of the opposite reality: acknowledging weakness in order to experience God’s strength. “A vast army is coming against you,” people told King Jehoshaphat. So “he proclaimed a fast for all Judah” (v. 3), depriving himself and all his people of nourishment. Then they asked God for help. When he finally mustered his military, Jehoshaphat placed singers who praised God at the front of his army (v. 21). As they began to sing, the Lord “set ambushes against the men . . . who were invading Judah, and they were defeated” (v. 22).

Jehoshaphat’s decision demonstrates deep faith in God. He purposefully chose not to depend on his own human and military prowess but instead to lean on God. Rather than trying to muscle our way through the trials we face, may we turn to Him and allow Him to be our strength.

Strength for Your Journey

Hinds Feet on High Places, a classic allegory of the Christian life, is based on Habakkuk 3:19. The story follows the character Much-Afraid as she goes on a journey with the Shepherd. But, Much-Afraid is scared so she asks the Shepherd to carry her.

The Shepherd kindly replies, “I could carry you all the way up to the High Places myself, instead of leaving you to climb there. But if I did, you would never be able to develop hinds’ feet, and become my companion and go where I go.”

Much-Afraid echoes the questions of the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk (and if I’m honest, my questions too): “Why must I experience suffering?” “Why is my journey difficult?”

Habakkuk lived in Judah in late seventh century bc before the Israelites were taken into exile. The prophet found himself in a society that overlooked social injustice and was immobilized by the fear of imminent invasion by the Babylonians (Habakkuk 1:2–11). He asked the Lord to intervene and remove suffering (1:13). God replied that He would act justly but in His timing (2:3).

In faith, Habakkuk chose to trust the Lord. Even if the suffering did not end, Habakkuk believed that God would continue to be his strength.

We too can take comfort that the Lord is our strength to help us endure suffering and will also use the most challenging of life’s journeys to deepen our fellowship with Christ.

Learning to Trust

When I was a teenager I sometimes challenged my mother when she tried to encourage me to have faith. “Trust God. He will take care of you,” she would tell me. “It’s not that simple, Mom!” I would bark back. “God helps those who help themselves!”

But those words, “God helps those who help themselves” are nowhere to be found in Scripture. Instead, God’s Word teaches us to depend on Him for our daily needs. Jesus tells us, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:26–27).

Everything we enjoy—even the strength to earn a living and “help ourselves”—are gifts from a heavenly Father who loves us and values us beyond our ability to fathom.

As Mom neared the end of her life, Alzheimer’s disease robbed her of her creative mind and memories, but her trust in God remained. She lived in our home for a season, where I was given a “front-row seat” to observe God’s provision for her needs in unexpected ways—ways that helped me see she had been right all along. Instead of worrying, she entrusted herself to the One who promised to take care of her. And He showed Himself faithful

We Would See Jesus

As I looked down at the pulpit where I was sharing prayers at a funeral, I glimpsed a brass plaque bearing words from John 12:21: “Sir, we would see Jesus” (kjv). Yes, I thought, how fitting to consider how we saw Jesus in the woman we were celebrating with tears and smiles. Although she faced challenges and disappointments in her life, she never gave up her faith in Christ. And because God’s Spirit lived in her, we could see Jesus.

John’s gospel recounts how after Jesus rode into Jerusalem (see John 12:12–16), some Greeks approached Philip, one of the disciples, asking, “Sir, . . . we would like to see Jesus” (v. 21). They were probably curious about Jesus’s healings and miracles, but as they weren’t Jewish, they weren’t allowed into the inner courts of the temple. When their request was passed along to Jesus, He announced that His hour had come to be glorified (v. 23). And by that, He meant that He would die for the sins of many. He would fulfill His mission to reach not only the Jews but the Gentiles (the “Greeks” in verse 20), and now they would see Jesus.

After Jesus died, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in His followers (John 14:16–17). Thus as we love and serve Jesus, we see Him active in our lives. And, amazingly, those around us too can see Jesus!

An Enduring Happiness

Often we hear that happiness comes from doing things our own way. That, however, is not true. That philosophy leads only to emptiness, anxiety, and heartache.

Poet W. H. Auden observed people as they attempted to find an escape in pleasures. He wrote of such people: "Lost in a haunted wood, / Children afraid of the night / Who have never been happy or good."

The psalmist David sings of the remedy for our fears and unhappiness. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4). Happiness is doing things God’s way, a fact that can be verified every day. “Those who look to him are radiant,” writes David (v. 5). Just try it and you’ll see. That's what he means when he says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good” (v. 8).

We say, "Seeing is believing." That's how we know things in this world. Show me proof and I'll believe it. God puts it the other way around. Believing is seeing. "Taste and then you will see."

Take the Lord at His word. Do the very next thing He is asking you to do and you will see. He will give you grace to do the right thing and more: He will give you Himself—the only source of goodness—and with it, enduring happiness.

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