Our Blessings, His Love
In 2015, a woman discarded her deceased husband’s computer at a recycling center, a logical decision since the computer had been made in 1976. But more important than when it had been made was who made it. It was one of 200 computers hand built by Apple founder Steve Jobs, and was worth an estimated quarter of a million dollars! Sometimes knowing the true worth of something means knowing who made it.
Knowing that it’s God who made us shows us how valuable we are to Him (Genesis 1:27). Psalm 136 catalogs key moments from His people—ancient Israel: how they had been freed from captivity in Egypt (vv. 11–12), journeyed through the wilderness (v. 16), and were given a new home in Canaan (vv. 21–22). But each time a moment of Israel’s history is mentioned, it’s paired with this repeated refrain: “His love endures forever.” This refrain reminded the people of Israel that their experiences weren’t random historical events. Each moment had been orchestrated by God, and were a reflection of His enduring love for those He had made.
Far too often, I allow moments of God at work and His kind ways to simply pass by, failing to recognize that every perfect gift comes from my heavenly Father (James 1:17) who made me and loves me. May you and I learn to connect every blessing in our lives to God’s enduring love for us
It’s Up to God
Nate and Sherilyn enjoyed their stop at an omakase restaurant while visiting New York City. Omakase is a Japanese word that translates, “I will leave it up to you,” which means customers at such restaurants let the chef choose their meal. Even though it was their first time to try this type of cuisine and it sounded risky, they loved the food the chef chose and prepared for them.
That idea could carry over to our attitude toward God with our prayer requests: “I will leave it up to You.” The disciples saw that Jesus “often withdrew to lonely places” to pray (Luke 5:16), so they asked Him one day to teach them how to pray. He told them to ask for their daily needs, forgiveness, and the way out of temptation. Part of His response also suggested an attitude of surrender: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
We can pour out our needs to God because He wants to hear what’s on our hearts— and He delights to give. But being human and finite, we don’t always know what’s best, so it only makes sense to ask with a humble spirit, in submission to Him. We can leave the answer to Him, confident that He’s trustworthy and will choose to prepare what’s good for us.
Lava in Paradise
All is quiet, save for slowly stretching tentacles of hissing lava nipping at the edges of the tropical foliage. Residents, fearful for their homes, stand grim-faced yet amazed. Most days they call this “paradise.” On this day, however, the fiery fissures in Hawaii’s Puna district reminded everyone that God forged these islands via untamable volcanic power.
The ancient Israelites encountered an untamable power too. When King David recaptured the ark of the covenant (2 Samuel 6:1–4), a celebration broke out (v. 5)—until a man died suddenly when he grabbed hold of the ark to steady it (vv. 6–7).
This may tempt us to think of God as being as capricious as a volcano, just as likely to create as He is to destroy. However, it helps to remember that God had given Israel specific instructions for how to handle the things set apart for worshiping Him (see Numbers 4). Israel had the privilege of drawing near to God, but His presence was too overwhelming for them to approach Him carelessly.
Hebrews 12 recalls a mountain “burning with fire,” where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. That mountain terrified everyone (vv. 18–21). But the writer contrasts that scene with this: “You have come to . . . Jesus the mediator of a new covenant” (vv. 22–24). Jesus—God’s very Son—made the way for us to draw near to His untamable yet loving Father.
“Prayers are deathless.” These are the attention-grabbing words of E. M. Bounds (1835–1913), whose classic writings on prayer have inspired people for generations. His comments about the power and enduring nature of our prayers continue with these words: “The lips that uttered them may be closed to death, the heart that felt them may have ceased to beat, but the prayers live before God, and God's heart is set on them and prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; they outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world.”
Have you ever wondered if your prayers—particularly those birthed out of difficulty, pain, and suffering—ever make it to God? Bounds’s insightful words remind us of the significance of our prayers and so does Revelation 8:1–5. The setting is heaven (v. 1), the throne room of God and the control center of the universe. Angelic attendants stand in God’s presence (v. 2) and one angel, like the priests of old, offers Him incense along with the prayers of “all God’s people” (v. 3). How eye-opening and encouraging to have this picture of the prayers offered on earth rising to God in heaven (v. 4). When we think that our prayers may have been lost in transit or forgotten, what we see here comforts us and compels us to persist in our praying, for our prayers are precious to God!
That Was Awesome!
It was the seventh-grader’s first cross-country meet, but she didn’t want to run. Although she’d been preparing for the event, she was afraid of doing poorly. Still, she started the race with everyone else. Later, one by one the other runners finished the two-mile course and crossed the finish line—everyone except the reluctant runner. Finally, her mom, who was watching eagerly to see her daughter finish, saw a lone figure in the distance. The mother went to the finish line, preparing to comfort a distraught competitor. Instead, when the young runner saw her mom, she exclaimed, “That was awesome!”
What can be awesome about finishing last? Finishing!
The girl had tried something difficult and had accomplished it! Scripture honors hard work and diligence, a concept often learned through sports or music or other things that require perseverance and effort.
Proverbs 12:24 says, “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.” And later we read, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (14:23). These wise principles—not promises—can help us serve God well.
God’s plan for us always included work. Even before the fall, Adam was to “work [the Garden] and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). And any effort we make should be done “with all [our] heart” (Colossians 3:23). As believers in Jesus, let’s work in the strength He gives us—and leave the results to Him.