Category  |  Christian Living

A Parade of Colors

For decades, London has been one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. In 1933, journalist Glyn Roberts wrote of England’s great capital, “I still think the parade of peoples and colours and tongues just about the best thing in London.” That “parade” is still in evidence today with the blended smells, sounds, and sights of a global community. The beauty of diversity is part of the breathtaking appeal of one of the world’s greatest cities.

As with any city inhabited by human beings, however, London is not without its problems. Change brings challenges. Cultures sometimes clash. And that is one of the reasons no city built by human hands can compare to the wonder of our eternal home.

When the apostle John was transported into the presence of God, diversity was one of the elements of heavenly worship, as the redeemed sing, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9–10).

Imagine heaven—a parade of every people group in the world celebrating the wonder of being children of the living God—together! As believers in Jesus, may we celebrate that diversity today.

Not Taking Advantage

Several inmates were collecting roadside garbage to reduce their jail time when their supervisor, James, collapsed. They rushed to his aid and realized he was having a medical emergency. One inmate borrowed James’s phone to call for help. The sheriff’s department later thanked the inmates for helping get their supervisor prompt medical attention, especially because they could have instead neglected him—to his great detriment as he was having a stroke—or used the situation to their own advantage to escape. 

The kindness of the inmates’ actions is not unlike those of Paul and Silas when they were imprisoned. After they’d been stripped, beaten, and thrown into prison, an earthquake struck so violently that it loosed their chains and shook the prison doors off their hinges (Acts 16:23–26). When the jailer awoke, he naturally assumed the prisoners had fled and so he prepared to take his own life (to preempt what would’ve been his punishment for their escape). When Paul shouted, “We are all here!” the jailer was so moved by their actions—uncharacteristic of prisoners—that he became curious about the God they worshiped, ultimately coming to believe in Him too (vv. 27–34). 

The way we treat others reveals what we believe and value. When we don’t take advantage of opportunities or situations that might hurt others, our actions might just prompt them to wonder about the God we know and love.

Renewed Strength

Psychiatrist Robert Coles once noticed a pattern in those who burn out while serving others. The first warning sign is weariness. Next comes cynicism about things ever improving, then bitterness, despair, depression, and finally burnout.

After writing a book about recovering from broken dreams, I once entered a busy season of conference speaking. Helping people find hope after disappointment was richly rewarding, but came at a cost. One day, about to step on stage, I thought I was going to faint. I hadn’t slept well, a vacation hadn’t fixed my weariness, and the thought of hearing another person’s problems afterward filled me with dread. I was following Coles’ pattern.

Scripture gives two strategies for beating burnout. In Isaiah 40, the weary soul is renewed when it hopes in the Lord (vv. 29–31). I needed to rest in God, trusting Him to work, rather than pushing on in my own dwindling strength. And Psalm 103 says God renews us by satisfying our desires with good things (v. 5). While this includes forgiveness and redemption (vv. 3–4), provisions of joy and play come from Him too. When I reworked my schedule to include more prayer, rest, and hobbies like photography, I began to feel healthy again.

Burnout begins with weariness. Let’s stop it going further. We will serve others best when our lives include both worship and rest.

The Kindness Man

Disillusioned and wanting a more meaningful life, Leon quit his job in finance. Then one day he saw a homeless man holding up a sign at a street corner: KINDNESS IS THE BEST MEDICINE. Leon says, “Those words rammed straight into me. It was an epiphany.” 

Leon decided to begin his new life by creating an international organization to promote kindness. He travels around the world, relying on strangers to provide him with food, gas, and a place to stay. Then he rewards them with good deeds of his own such as feeding orphans or building on to a school for underprivileged children. He says, “It’s sometimes seen as being soft. But kindness is a profound strength.” 

Christ’s very essence as God is goodness, so kindness naturally flowed from Him. I love the story of what Jesus did when He came upon the funeral procession of a widow’s only son (Luke 7:11–17). The grieving woman most likely was dependent on her son for financial support. We don’t read in the story that anyone asked Jesus to intervene. Purely from the goodness of His nature (v. 13), Jesus was concerned and brought her son back to life. The people said of Him, “God has come to help his people” (v. 16).

Just a Spark

“We’re in the library, and we can see the flames right outside!” She was scared, we could hear it in her voice. We know her voice—she’s our daughter. At the same time we knew her college campus was the safest place for her and her almost 3,000 fellow students. The 2018 Woolsey Fire spread quicker than anyone anticipated—most of all fire personnel. The record heat and dry conditions in the California canyon, along with the legendary Santa Ana winds, were all the rather small sparks needed to ultimately burn 97,000 acres, destroy over 1,600 structures, and kill three people. In the photos taken after the fire was contained, the usual lush coastline resembled the barren surface of the moon.         

In the book of James, the author starts out naming small but powerful things: “bits in the mouths of horses” and the rudders of ships (James 3:3-4). And while familiar, these examples are somewhat removed from us. But then he names something a little closer to home, something small that every human being possesses—a tongue. And while this chapter is first directed specifically to teachers (v. 1), the application quickly spreads to each of us. The tongue, small as it is can lead to disastrous results.

Our small tongues are powerful, but our big God is more powerful. His help on a daily basis provides the strength to rein in and guide our words.

The Favorite

My husband’s brother lives about 1,200 miles away in the mountains of Colorado. Despite the distance, Gerrits has always been a beloved family member because of his great sense of humor and kind heart. However, as long as I can remember, his siblings have good-naturedly joked about his favored status in their mother’s eyes. Several years ago, they even presented him with a T-shirt sporting the words “I’m Mom’s Favorite.”

While we all enjoyed the silliness of our siblings, true favoritism is no joking matter. In Genesis 37, we read about Jacob who gave his son Joseph an ornate coat—an indication to his other children that Joseph was special (v. 3). Without a hint of subtlety, the coat’s message shouted: “Joseph is my favorite son.”

          Displaying favoritism can be crippling in a family. Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, had favored him over her son Esau, leading to a schism between the two brothers (25:28). The dysfunction was perpetuated when Jacob favored his wife Rachel (Joseph’s mother) over his wife Leah, creating discord and heartache (29:30–31). No doubt this pattern was the unhealthy basis for Joseph’s brothers to despise their younger brother, even considering his murder (37:17–20).

          When it comes to our relationships, we may sometimes find it tricky to be objective. But our goal must be to treat everyone without favoritism and to love every person in our life as our Father loves us (John 13:34).

Navigating Life’s Rapids

“Everybody on the left, give me three strong forward strokes!” our whitewater raft guide shouted. Those on the left dug in, pulling our raft away from a churning vortex. For several hours, we'd learned the importance of listening to our guide's instructions. His steady voice enabled six people with little rafting experience to work together to plot the safest course down a raging river.

Life has its share of whitewater rapids, doesn't it? One moment, it's smooth sailing. Then, in a flash, we're paddling like mad to avoid suddenly swirling whirlpools. Those tense moments make us keenly aware of our need for a skilled guide, a trusted voice to help us navigate turbulent times.

In Psalm 32, God promises to be that voice: “I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go” (v. 8). Backing up, we see that confessing our sins (v. 5) and prayerfully seeking Him (v. 6) play a role in hearing Him too. Still, I take comfort in the fact that God promises, “I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (v. 8), a reminder that His guidance flows from His love. Near the end of the chapter, the psalmist concludes, “The Lord's unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts him” (v. 10).

And as we trust Him, we can rest in His promise to guide us through life's rockiest passages.

Beat Again

In 2012, Phillips, Craig and Dean released their song “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.” It was inspired by the true story of a heart surgeon. After removing a patient’s heart to repair it, the surgeon returned it into the chest and began gently massaging it back to life. But the heart wouldn’t restart. More intense measures followed, but the heart still wouldn’t beat. Finally, the surgeon knelt next to the unconscious patient and spoke to her: “Miss Johnson,” he said, “this is your surgeon. The operation went perfectly. Your heart has been repaired. Now tell your heart to beat again.” Her heart began to beat.

The idea that we could tell our physical heart to do something might seem strange, but it has spiritual parallels. “Why, my soul, are you downcast?” the psalmist says to himself. “Put your hope in God” (Psalm 42:5). “Return to your rest, my soul,” says another, “for the Lord has been good to you” (116:7). After beating Israel’s enemies in war, Deborah, a judge, revealed that she tRandy Phillips, the Story Behind ‘Tell Your Heart to Beat Again’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdPp7ofeBMAoo had spoken to her heart during battle. “March on, my soul,” she told it, “be strong!” (Judges 5:21), because the Lord had promised victory (4:6–7).

Our capable Surgeon has mended our heart (Psalm 103:3). So, when fear, depression, or condemnation come, perhaps we too should address our souls and say: March on! Be strong! Feeble heart, beat again.

Eternal Eyes

Eternal eyes, that’s what my friend Madeline prays her children and grandchildren would have. Her family has gone through a tumultuous season that ended with the death of her daughter. As the family grieves from this horrific loss, Madeline longs for them to be less and less nearsighted—consumed by the pain of this world. And to be more and more farsighted—filled with hope in our loving God.

The apostle Paul and his co-workers experienced great suffering at the hands of persecutors and even from believers who tried to discredit them. Yet, they had their eyes fixed on eternity. Paul boldly acknowledged that “we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Although they were doing God’s work, they lived with the reality of being “hard pressed on every side,” “perplexed,” “persecuted,” and “struck down” (vv. 8–9). Shouldn’t God have delivered them from these troubles? But instead of being disappointed, Paul built his hope on the “eternal glory” that supersedes momentary troubles (v. 17). He knew God’s power was at work in him and had complete assurance that “the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus” (v. 14).

When the reality around us feels shaky, may we turn our eyes to God—the eternal Rock that will never be destroyed.

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