What is there about babies that makes us smile? Many people will stop everything at the sight or sound of a baby and will flock to gaze at the little one. I noticed this when I visited my dad at a nursing home. Though most of the residents were wheelchair-bound and suffered from dementia, the visit of a family with a baby almost unfailingly brought a spark of joy to their eyes that—tentatively at first but then undoubtedly—became a smile. It was amazing to watch.
Perhaps babies bring a smile because of the wonder of a new life—so precious, tiny, and full of promise. Seeing a baby can remind us of our awesome God and the great love He has for us. He loved us so much that He gave us life and formed us in our mother’s womb. “You formed my inward parts,” the psalmist says, “You covered me in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13).
Not only does He give us physical life but He also offers us spiritual rebirth through Jesus (John 3:3-8). God promises believers new bodies and life eternal when Jesus returns (1 Cor. 15:50-52).
Physical life and spiritual rebirth—gifts to celebrate from our Father’s hand.
In His own image God created man,
He formed his body from the dust of earth;
But more than that, to all who are in Christ
He gives eternal life by second birth. —Hess
I will praise You . . . ; marvelous are Your works. —Psalm 139:14
In David’s inspired reflections on the presence of God everywhere, we see an eloquent description of the child’s development within the mother’s womb. “My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret” (v.15). God’s providential oversight of the development of new life is a testimony to the image of God in humans. God cares about us and our need for rescue. It was because of this love that He became a man and purchased redemption for all who place their trust in Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection.
Following the death of computer pioneer Steve Jobs in 2011, more than one million people from around the world posted tributes to him online. The common theme was how Jobs had changed their lives. They said they lived differently because of his creative innovations, and they wanted to express their appreciation and their sorrow. The screen of one tablet computer said in large letters: iSad.
Gratitude fuels expression, which is exactly what Psalm 107 describes: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy” (v.2). The theme of this psalm is people in great trouble who were delivered by the Lord. Some were homeless and in need (vv.4-5); some had rebelled against God’s Word (vv.10-11); others were at their wits’ end when they cried out to God (vv.26-27). All were rescued by God. “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (vv.8,15,21,31).
When we consider the greatness of God’s love, His grace in sending Jesus Christ to die for us and rise again, and what He has delivered us from, we cannot keep from praising Him and wanting to tell others how He changed our lives!
O God, my heart is filled with praise for all that You
have done for me. You have changed the focus
and purpose of my life because You sent Your Son.
Our gratitude to God for salvation fuels our witness to others.
When I was a child, one of my favorite pastimes was playing on the teeter-totter in the nearby park. A kid would sit on each end of the board and bounce each other up and down. Sometimes the one who was down would stay there and leave his playmate stuck up in the air yelling to be let down. But the cruelest of all tricks was getting off the teeter-totter and running away when your friend was up in the air—he would come crashing down to the ground with a painful bump.
Sometimes we may feel that Jesus does that to us. We trust Him to be there with us through the ups and downs of life. However, when life takes a turn and leaves us with bumps and bruises, it may feel as if He has walked away leaving our lives to come painfully crashing down.
But Lamentations 3 reminds us that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end” (v.22 esv) and that God is faithful to the end even when everything seems to be falling apart. This means that in the midst of our pain, even though we may be lonely, we are not alone. And though we may not feel His presence, He is there as our trusted companion who will never walk away and let us down!
Thank You, Lord, that we can trust in Your
faithful presence even when we feel alone.
Help us to wait patiently for You to manifest
Your steadfast loving presence.
When everyone else fails, Jesus is your most trusted friend.
In Lamentations 3 we see the tribulations of God’s people. They are described in terms of physical suffering, painful injury, and imprisonment. Judah’s journey is portrayed in harrowing terms of terrible obstacles, wild animals, a wound to the heart, and bitter food. And the spiritual devastation can be seen in these words: “You have moved my soul far from peace” (v.17). Yet despite the despair of the moment, the promise of restoration and renewal are given: “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning” (vv.22-23).
A few days ago, I spied my old friend Bob vigorously pedaling a bike at our neighborhood gym and staring down at a blood pressure monitor on his finger.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Looking to see if I’m alive,” he grunted.
“What would you do if you saw you were dead?” I countered.
“Shout hallelujah!” he replied with a radiant smile.
Over the years I’ve caught glimpses of great inner strength in Bob: patient endurance in the face of physical decline and discomfort, and faith and hope as he approaches the end of his life journey. Indeed he has found not only hope, but death has lost its power to tyrannize him.
Who can find peace and hope—and even joy—in dying? Only those who are joined by faith to the God of eternity and who know that they have eternal life (1 Cor. 15:52,54). For those who have this assurance, like my friend Bob, death has lost its terror. They can speak with colossal joy of seeing Christ face to face!
Why be afraid of death? Why not rejoice? As the poet John Donne (1572–1631) wrote, “One short sleep past, we wake eternally.”
For the Christian, dying is the last shadow of earth’s night before heaven’s dawn.
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is more concerned with dealing with problems than it is with teaching doctrinal truth to the church. However, in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul’s focus is not on problem-solving but on the vital importance of the doctrine of the resurrection. Obviously, the resurrection of Christ is one of the central truths of the Christian faith, so it is not surprising that the apostle would want his friends to grasp its reality and significance.
I was traveling with some men when we spotted a family stranded alongside the road. My friends immediately pulled over to help. They got the car running, talked with the father and mother of the family, and gave them some money for gasoline. When the mother thanked them over and over, they replied, “We’re glad to help out, and we do it in Jesus’ name.” As we drove away, I thought how natural it was for these friends to help people in need and acknowledge the Lord as the source of their generosity.
Peter and John exhibited that same joyful generosity when they healed a lame man who was begging outside the temple in Jerusalem (Acts 3:1-10). This led to their arrest and appearance before the authorities who asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Peter replied, “If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man . . . let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole” (Acts 4:7-10).
Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) and a powerful context in which to genuinely speak to others about the Lord.
Lord, help me to love with both words and deeds,
To reach out to others and meet their needs;
Lord, burden my heart for those lost in sin,
With mercy and love that flows from within. —Fitzhugh
One act of kindness may teach more about the love of God than many sermons.