When my husband plays the harmonica for our church praise team, I have noticed that he sometimes closes his eyes when he plays a song. He says this helps him focus and block out distractions so he can play his best—just his harmonica, the music, and him—all praising God.
Some people wonder if our eyes must be closed when we pray. Since we can pray at any time in any place, however, it might prove difficult to always close our eyes—especially if we are taking a walk, pulling weeds, or driving a vehicle!
There are also no rules on what position our body must be in when we talk to God. When King Solomon prayed to dedicate the temple he had built, he knelt down and “spread out his hands toward heaven” (2 Chron. 6:13–14). Kneeling (Eph. 3:14), standing (Luke 18:10-13) and even lying face down (Matt. 26:39) are all mentioned in the Bible as positions for prayer.
Whether we kneel or stand before God, whether we lift our hands heavenward or close our eyes so we can better focus on God—it is not the posture of our body, but of our heart that is important. Everything we do “flows from [our heart]” (Prov. 4:23). When we pray, may our hearts always be bowed in adoration, gratitude, and humility to our loving God, for we know that His eyes are “open and [His] ears attentive to the prayers” of His people (2 Chron. 6:40).
Needing a break, I went for a walk in the nearby park. As I headed down the path, a burst of green caught my attention. Out of the mud appeared shoots of life that in a few weeks would be cheerful daffodils, heralding spring and the warmth to come. We had made it through another winter!
As we read through the book of Hosea, it can feel in parts like an unrelenting winter. For the Lord gave this prophet the unenviable task of marrying an unfaithful woman as a picture of the Creator’s love for His people Israel (1:2-3). Hosea’s wife, Gomer, broke their wedding vows, but Hosea welcomed her back, yearning that she would love him devotedly (3:1-3). So too the Lord desires that we love Him with a strength and commitment that won’t evaporate like the morning mist.
How do we relate to God? Do we seek Him mainly in times of trouble, searching for answers in our distress but ignoring Him during our seasons of celebration? Are we like the Israelites, easily swayed by the idols of our age, including such things as busyness, success, and influence?
Today, may we recommit ourselves to the Lord, who loves us as surely as the flowers bud in the spring.
Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1
The weeks after Christmas are the busiest time of year in the US for merchandise returns as people trade unwanted gifts for what they really want. Yet you probably know a few people who always seem to give the perfect gift. How do they know just what another person values and what is right for the occasion? The key to successful gift-giving is not money; it’s listening to others and taking a personal interest in what they enjoy and appreciate.
This is true for family and friends. But what about God? Is there anything meaningful or valuable that we can give to God? Is there anything He doesn’t already have?
Romans 11:33–36, a song of praise to God for His great wisdom, knowledge, and glory, is followed by a call to give ourselves to Him. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (12:1). Instead of being shaped by the world around us, we are to be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (v. 2).
What’s the best gift we can give to God today? In gratitude, humility, and love we can give ourselves completely to Him—heart, mind, and will. It’s just what the Lord is longing to receive from each of us.
On a recent airline flight the landing was a little rough, jostling us left and right down the runway. Some of the passengers were visibly nervous, but the tension broke when two little girls sitting behind me cheered, “Yeah! Let’s do that again!”
Children are open to new adventures and see life with humble, wide-eyed wonder. Perhaps this is part of what Jesus had in mind when He said that we have to “receive the kingdom of God like a little child” (Mark 10:15).
Life has its challenges and heartaches. Few knew this better than Jeremiah, who is also called “the weeping prophet.” But in the middle of Jeremiah’s troubles, God encouraged him with an amazing truth: “The faithful love of the
God’s fresh mercies can break into our lives at any moment. They are always there, and we see them when we live with childlike expectation—watching and waiting for what only He can do. Jeremiah knew that God’s goodness is not defined only by our immediate circumstances and that His faithfulness is greater than life’s rough places. Look for God’s fresh mercies today.
Cade Pope, a 12-year-old boy from Oklahoma, mailed out 32 handwritten letters—one to each executive in charge of a National Football League (NFL) team in the US. Cade wrote, "My family and I love football. We play fantasy football and watch [the] games every weekend. . . . I am ready to pick an NFL team to cheer on for a lifetime!"
Jerry Richardson, owner of the Carolina Panthers football team, responded with a handwritten note of his own. The first line read: “We would be honored if our [team] became your team. We would make you proud.” Richardson went on to commend some of his players. His letter was not only personal and kindhearted—it was the only response that Cade received. Not surprisingly, Cade became a loyal fan of the Carolina Panthers.
In Psalm 86, David spoke about his allegiance to the one true God. He said, “When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. Among the gods there is none like you,
The day before my husband was to return home from a business trip my son said, “Mom! I want Daddy to come home.” I asked him why, expecting him to say something about the presents his daddy usually brings back or that he missed playing ball with him. But with solemn seriousness he answered, “I want him to come back because I love him!”
His answer made me think about our Lord and His promise to come back. “I am coming soon,” Jesus says (Rev. 22:20). I long for His return, but why do I want Him to come back? Is it because I will be in His presence, away from sickness and death? Is it because I am tired of living in a difficult world? Or is it just because when you’ve loved Him so much of your life, when He has shared your tears and your laughter, when He has been more real than anybody else, you want to be with Him forever?
I’m glad my son misses his daddy when he’s away. It would be terrible if he didn’t care at all about his return or if he thought it would interfere with his plans. How do we feel about our Lord’s return? Let us long for that day earnestly and passionately. Let us long for that day passionately, and earnestly say, “Lord, come back! We love You.”
Love does more than make “the world go round,” as an old song says. It also makes us immensely vulnerable. From time to time, we may say to ourselves: “Why love when others do not show appreciation?” or “Why love and open myself up to hurt?” But the apostle Paul gives a clear and simple reason to pursue love: “These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Follow the way of love” (1 Cor. 13:13–14:1).
“Love is an activity, the essential activity of God himself,” writes Bible commentator C. K. Barrett, “and when men love either Him or their fellow-men, they are doing (however imperfectly) what God does.” And God is pleased when we act like Him.
To begin following the way of love, think about how you might live out the characteristics listed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. For example, how can I show my child the same patience God shows me? How can I show kindness and respect for my parents? What does it mean to look out for the interests of others when I am at work? When something good happens to my friend, do I rejoice with her or am I envious?
As we “follow the way of love,” we’ll find ourselves often turning to God, the source of love, and to Jesus, the greatest example of love. Only then will we gain a deeper knowledge of what true love is and find the strength to love others like God loves us.
Each year on June 18 the great Battle of Waterloo is recalled in what is now Belgium. On that day in 1815, Napoleon’s French army was defeated by a multinational force commanded by the Duke of Wellington. Since then, the phrase “to meet your Waterloo” has come to mean “to be defeated by someone who is too strong for you or by a problem that is too difficult for you.”
When it comes to our spiritual lives, some people feel that ultimate failure is inevitable and it’s only a matter of time until each of us will “meet our Waterloo.” But John refuted that pessimistic view when he wrote to followers of Jesus: “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).
John weaves this theme of spiritual victory throughout his first letter as he urges us not to love the things this world offers, which will soon fade away (2:15-17). Instead, we are to love and please God, “And this is what he promised us—eternal life” (2:25).
While we may have ups and downs in life, and even some battles that feel like defeats, the ultimate victory is ours in Christ as we trust in His power.
Like others in the blogging community, I’d never met the man known to us as BruceC. Yet when his wife posted a note to the group to let us know that her husband had died, a string of responses from distant places showed we all knew we had lost a friend.
BruceC had often opened his heart to us. He talked freely about his concern for others and what was important to him. Many of us felt like we knew him. We would miss the gentle wisdom that came from his years in law enforcement and his faith in Christ.
In recalling our online conversations with BruceC, I gained a renewed appreciation for words written by a first-century witness of Jesus. In the first New Testament letter the apostle Peter wrote to readers scattered throughout the Roman Empire, “Though you have not seen [Christ], you love him” (1 Pet. 1:8).
Peter, as a personal friend of Jesus, was writing to people who had only heard about the One who had given them reason for so much hope in the middle of their troubles. Yet, as a part of the larger community of believers, they loved Him. They knew that at the price of His own life, He had brought them into the everlasting family of God.