Today is the first day of spring in the northern half of the world. If you live in Australia, it’s the first day of autumn—the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere and the autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere. Today, the sun shines directly on the equator, and the hours of daylight and nighttime are nearly equal around the world.
New seasons are important for many people. Some count down the day because of what they hope the new season will bring. Perhaps you’ve been marking off a calendar for spring in Wisconsin to signal the end of another winter. Or maybe you live in Melbourne, and you can’t wait for autumn to bring relief from the Australia sun.
We also go through seasons of life that don’t have to do with the weather. The author of Ecclesiastes told us there is a season for every activity under the sun—a time appointed by God during which we live our lives (3:1–11).
Moses spoke of a new season in his life after he led the people of Israel through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 31:2), and he had to give up his leadership role to Joshua. And Paul faced a lonely season while he was under house arrest in Rome—asking for visitors but realizing that God was “at my side” (2 Timothy 4:17).
Regardless of the season of life, let’s give thanks to God for His greatness, His help, and His companionship.
One of the benefits of cell phone technology is that we now have virtually unlimited access to others. As a result, many people talk on the phone or text even while driving—sometimes resulting in terrible car crashes. To avoid such disasters, many areas of the world have made distracted driving illegal. In the United States, highway signs are popping up to remind drivers of special cell phone zones where they can pull off the road to safely talk and text to their heart’s delight.
While it is a good idea to restrict mobile phone communication for drivers, there is another kind of communication that has no restrictions: Prayer. God invites us to call on Him whether we are coming, going, or sitting still. In the New Testament, Paul’s words advise each person who wants to communicate with God to “pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17). Paul brackets this divine open-door policy by encouraging us to “rejoice always” (v. 16) and to “give thanks in all circumstances” (v. 18). God calls us to joy and thanksgiving—expressions of faith in God through Christ anchored in continual prayer.
God is available for our quick cry or for a lengthy conversation. He welcomes us into a relationship with Him, a constant and endless sharing of our joys and gratitude, needs, questions, and concerns (Heb. 4:15–16). We are always in the prayer zone.
A few years ago, a friend of mine lost track of her young son while walking through a swarm of people at Union Station in Chicago. Needless to say, it was a terrifying experience. Frantically, she yelled his name and ran back up the escalator, retracing her steps in an effort to find her little boy. The minutes of separation seemed like hours, until, suddenly—thankfully—her son emerged from the crowd and ran to the safety of her arms.
Thinking of my friend who would have done anything to find her child fills me with a renewed sense of gratitude for the amazing work God did to save us. From the time God’s first image bearers—Adam and Eve—wandered off in sin, He lamented the loss of fellowship with His people. He went to great lengths to restore the relationship by sending His one and only Son “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Without the birth of Jesus, and without His willingness to die to pay the price for our sin and to bring us to God, we would have nothing to celebrate at Christmastime.
So this Christmas, let’s be thankful that God took extreme measures by sending Jesus to reclaim our fellowship with Him. Although we once were lost, because of Jesus we have been found!
I had the privilege of serving as my mom’s caregiver during her treatments at a live-in cancer care center. Even on her hardest days, she read Scripture and prayed for others before getting out of bed.
She spent time with Jesus daily, expressing her faith through her dependence on God, her kind deeds, and her desire to encourage and pray for others. Never realizing how much her smiling face glowed with the Lord’s loving grace, she shared God’s love with the people around her until the day He called her home to heaven.
After Moses spent forty days and forty nights communing with God (Ex. 34:28), he descended Mount Sinai. He had no idea his intimate connection with the Lord actually changed his appearance (v. 29). But the Israelites could tell Moses had spoken with the Lord (vv. 30-32). He continued meeting with God and influencing the lives of those around him (vv. 33-35).
We might not be able to see how our experience with God changes us over time. Our slow transformation will definitely not be as physically apparent as Moses’s beaming face. But as we spend time with God and surrender our lives to Him more and more each day, we can reflect His love. God can draw others closer to Him as the evidence of His presence shows in and through us.
Even though it was just a replica, the tabernacle set up in southern Israel was awe-inspiring. Built life-size and as close as possible to the specifications laid out in Exodus 25–27 (without actual gold and acacia wood, of course), it stood tall in the Negev desert.
When our tour group was taken through the “Holy Place” and into the “Most…
Although the world is connected electronically like never before, nothing beats time together in person. As we share and laugh together, we can often sense—almost unconsciously—the other person’s emotions by watching their facial movements. Those who love each other, whether family or friends, like to share with each other face to face.
We see this face-to-face relationship between the Lord and Moses, the man God chose to lead His people. Moses grew in confidence over the years of following God, and he continued to follow Him despite the people’s rebelliousness and idolatry. After the people worshiped a golden calf instead of the Lord (see Exod. 32), Moses set up a tent outside of the camp in which to meet God, while they had to watch from a distance (33:7–11). As the pillar of cloud signifying God’s presence descended to the tent, Moses spoke on their behalf. The Lord promised that His Presence would go with them (v. 14).
Because of Jesus’s death on the cross and His resurrection, we no longer need someone like Moses to speak with God for us. Instead, just as Jesus offered His disciples, we can have friendship with God through Christ (John 15:15). We too can meet with Him, with the Lord speaking to us as one speaks to a friend.
On the two-hour drive home from a family member’s wedding, my mom asked me for the third time what was new in my job. I once again repeated some of the details as if telling her for the first time, while wondering what might possibly make my words more memorable. My mom has Alzheimer’s, a disease that progressively destroys the memory, can adversely affect behavior, and eventually leads to the loss of speech—and more.
I grieve because of my mom’s disease but am thankful she is still here and we can spend time together—and even converse. It thrills me that whenever I go to see her she lights up with joy and exclaims, “Alyson, what a pleasant surprise!” We enjoy each other’s company; and even in the silences when words escape her, we commune together.
This perhaps is a small picture of our relationship with God. Scripture tells us, “The
Does having a friend nearby make pain more bearable? Researchers at the University of Virginia conducted a fascinating study to answer that question. They wanted to see how the brain reacted to the prospect of pain, and whether it behaved differently if a person faced the threat of pain alone, holding a stranger’s hand, or holding the hand of a close friend.
Researchers ran the test on dozens of pairs, and found consistent results. When a person was alone or holding a stranger's hand while anticipating a shock, the regions of the brain that process danger lit up. But when holding the hand of a trusted person, the brain relaxed. The comfort of a friend’s presence made the pain seem more bearable.
Jesus needed comfort as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew what He was about to face: betrayal, arrest, and death. He asked His closest friends to stay and pray with Him, telling them that His soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow” (Matt. 26:38). But Peter, James, and John kept falling asleep.
Jesus faced the agony of the garden without the comfort of a hand to hold. But because He bore that pain, we can be confident that God will never leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Jesus suffered so that we will never have to experience separation from the love of God (Rom. 8:39). His companionship makes anything we endure more bearable.
When my son changed grades in school he lamented, “I want my teacher for life!” We had to help him realize that changing teachers is a part of life. We may wonder: Is there any relationship that can last a lifetime?
Jacob, the patriarch, found out there is one. After living through many dramatic changes and losing loved ones along the way, he realized there had been a constant presence in his life. He prayed, “May the God . . . who has been my shepherd all my life to this day . . . bless these boys” (Genesis 48:15–16).
Jacob had been a shepherd, so he compared his relationship to God as that of a shepherd and his sheep. From the time a sheep is born, through its growth to old age, the shepherd cares for it day and night. He guides it during the day and protects it during the night. David, also a shepherd, had the same conviction, but he highlighted the eternal dimension to it when he said, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).
Changing teachers is a part of life. But how good it is to know that we can have a relationship for life. The Shepherd of our lives has promised to be with us every day of our earthly lives (Matt. 28:20). And when life here ends, we will be closer to Him than ever.