The village vicar couldn’t sleep. As World War II raged, he’d told a small group of American soldiers they couldn’t bury their fallen comrade inside the fenced cemetery next to his church. Only burials for church members were allowed. So the men buried their beloved friend just outside the fence.
The next morning, however, the soldiers couldn’t find the grave. “What happened? The grave is gone,” one soldier told the reverend. “Oh, it’s still there,” he told him. The soldier was confused, but the churchman explained. “I regretted telling you no. So, last night, I got up—and I moved the fence.”
God may give fresh perspective for our life challenges too—if we look for it. That was the prophet Isaiah’s message to the downtrodden people of Israel. Instead of looking back with longing at their Red Sea rescue, they needed to shift their sight, seeing God doing new miracles, blazing new paths. “Do not dwell on the past,” He urged them. “See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18–19). He is our source of hope during doubts and battles. “I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”—providing “drink to my people, my chosen . . . people” (vv. 20–21).
Refreshed with new vision, we too can see God’s fresh direction in our lives. May we look with new ways to see His new paths. Then, with courage, may we step onto new ground, bravely following Him.
The Dan Hotel in Jerusalem became known by a different name in 2020—“Hotel Corona.” The government dedicated the hotel to patients recovering from COVID-19, and the hotel became known as a rare site of joy and unity during a difficult time. Since the residents already had the virus, they were free to sing, dance, and laugh together. And they did! In a country where tensions between different political and religious groups runs high, the shared crisis created a space where people could learn to see each other as human beings first—and even become friends.
It’s natural, normal even, for us to be drawn toward those we see as similar to us, people we suspect share similar experiences and values to our own. But as the apostle Paul often emphasized, the gospel is a challenge to any barriers between human beings that we see as “normal” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Through the lens of the gospel, we see a bigger picture than our differences—a shared brokenness and a shared longing and need to experience healing in God’s love.
If we believe that “one died for all,” then we can also no longer be content with surface-level assumptions about others. Instead, “Christ’s love compels us” (v. 14) to share His love and mission with those God loves more than we can imagine—all of us.
I wrote a letter to our children as each became a teenager. In one I talked about our identity in Christ, remembering that when I was a teenager, I felt unsure of myself, lacking confidence. I had to learn that I was God’s beloved—His child. I said in the letter, “Knowing who you are comes down to knowing Whose you are.” For when we understand that God has created us and we commit to following Him, we can be at peace with who He has made us to be. And we also know that He changes us to be more like Him each day.
A foundational passage from Scripture about our identity as God’s children is Deuteronomy 33:12: “Let the beloved of the
Knowing this identity is important equally for everyone—teenagers, those in the middle of life, and those who have lived a long time. When we understand that God created us and watches over us, we can find security, hope, and love.
While my classmates and I used to skip the occasional lecture in university, everyone always made sure to attend Professor Chris’ lecture the week before the year-end exams. That was when he would unfailingly drop big hints about the exam questions he’d set.
I always wondered why he did that, until I realized that Prof Chris genuinely wanted us to do well. He had high standards, but he would help us meet them. All we had to do was turn up and listen so we could prepare properly.
It struck me that God is like that too. God can’t compromise His standards, but because He deeply desires us to be like He is, He’s given us the Holy Spirit to help us meet those standards.
In Jeremiah 3:11–14, God urged unfaithful Israel to acknowledge their guilt and return to Him. But knowing how stubborn and weak they were, He would help them. He promised to cure their backsliding ways (v. 22), and He sent shepherds to teach and guide them (v. 15).
How comforting it is to know that no matter how big the sin we’re trapped in or how far we’ve turned from God, He’s ready to heal us of our faithlessness! All we need to do is to acknowledge our wrong ways and allow His Holy Spirit to begin changing our hearts.
Shortly after Dwight Moody (1837–99) came to faith in Christ, the evangelist resolved not to let a day pass without sharing God’s good news with at least one person. On busy days, he’d sometimes forget his resolution until late. One night, he was in bed before he remembered. As he stepped outside, he thought, No one will be out in this pouring rain. Just then he saw a man walking down the street. Moody rushed over and asked to stand under his umbrella to avoid the rain. When granted permission, he asked, “Have you any shelter in the time of storm? Could I tell you about Jesus?”
Moody embodied a readiness to share how God saves us from the consequences of our sins. He obeyed God’s instructions to the Israelites to proclaim His name and “make known among the nations what he has done” (Isaiah 12:4). Not only were God’s people called to “proclaim that his name is exalted” (v. 4) but they were also to share how the
Perhaps we heard about God’s love when, as Moody did, someone left their comfort zone to talk with us about Jesus. And we too, each in our own way, can let someone know about the One who saves.
As I drove home after lunch with my best friend, I thanked God out loud for her. She knows me and loves me in spite of things I don’t love about myself. She’s one of a small circle of people who accept me as I am—my quirks, habits, and screw-ups. Still, there are parts of my story I resist sharing even with her and others that I love—times where I’ve clearly not been the hero, times I’ve been judgmental or unkind or unloving.
But God does know my whole story. He’s the One I can freely talk to even if I’m reluctant to talk with others.
The familiar words of Psalm 139 describe the intimacy we enjoy with our Sovereign King. He knows us completely! (v. 1). He’s “familiar with all [our] ways” (v. 3). He invites us to come to Him with our confusion, our anxious thoughts, and our struggles with temptation. When we’re willing to yield completely to Him, He reaches out to restore and rewrite the parts of our story that make us sad because we’ve wandered from Him.
God knows us better than anyone else ever can and still . . . He loves us! When we daily surrender ourselves to Him and seek to know Him more fully, He can change our story for His glory. He’s the Author who’s continuing to write it.
Sam’s father had to flee for his life during a military coup. With the sudden loss of income, the family could no longer afford the crucial medicine that kept Sam’s brother alive. Seething at God, Sam thought, What have we done to deserve this?
A follower of Jesus heard about the family’s troubles. Finding he had enough money to cover the medicine, he bought a supply and took it to them. The life-saving gift from a stranger had a profound impact. “This Sunday, we will go to this man’s church,” his mother declared. Sam’s anger began to subside. And eventually, one by one, each member of the family would put their faith in Jesus.
When James wrote about the necessity of a lifestyle of integrity accompanying a profession of faith in Christ, he singled out the need to care for others. “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food,” James wrote. “If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (2:16–17).
Our actions demonstrate the genuineness of our faith. Significantly, those actions can influence the faith-choices of others. In Sam’s case, he became a pastor and church-planter. Eventually he would call the man who helped his family “Papa Mapes.” He now knew him as his spiritual father—the one who showed them the love of Jesus.
She slammed the door. She slammed the door again. I went to the garage, grabbed a hammer and a screwdriver, and walked to my daughter’s room. Calmly, I whispered, “Sweetheart. You have to learn to control your temper.” And then I removed her door from the hinges, and carried it to the garage. My hope was that removing the door would help her remember the importance of self-control.
In Proverbs 3:11–12, the wise teacher invites readers to accept God’s discipline. The word discipline, could be translated, “correction.” As a good and loving Father, God speaks through His Spirit and the Scriptures to correct self-destructive behavior. God’s discipline is relational—rooted in His love and His desire for what’s best for us. Sometimes God’s discipline looks like consequences. Sometimes God prompts someone to point out our blind spots. Often, it’s uncomfortable, but God’s discipline is a gift.
But we don’t always see it that way. The wise man cautions, “do not despise the Lord’s discipline.” Sometimes we fear God’s discipline. At other times we misinterpret bad things in our lives as God’s discipline. This is far from the heart of a loving Father who disciplines because He delights and corrects because He loves.
Instead of fearing God’s discipline, may we learn to accept it. When we hear God’s voice of correction in our hearts, or experience conviction when reading Scripture, may we thank God that He delights in us enough to lead us to what’s best.
“Uncle Arthur, do you remember the day you took me to the barbershop and the supermarket? I was wearing tan khakis, a blue-plaid oxford shirt, a navy-blue cardigan, brown socks, and brown Rockport shoes. The date was Thursday, October 20, 2016.” My nephew Jared’s autism-related challenges are offset by his phenomenal memory that can recall details like days and dates and the clothes he was wearing years after an event took place.
Because of the way he’s wired, Jared possesses the kind of memory that reminds me of the all-knowing, loving God—the Keeper of time and eternity. He knows the facts and won’t forget His promises or His people. Have you had moments when you’ve questioned whether or not you’ve been forgotten by God? When others appear to be healthier or happier or more successful or otherwise better off?
Ancient Israel’s less-than-ideal situation caused her to say, “The