II Peter 1:3-8 is encouraging and challenging. First, everything we need for life and godliness has been provided by God’s power. It is available; we must access it. Second, because God has made godliness possible, we are to work hard at adding challenging characteristics to our life—faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Third, we are told the result of this hard work is that our knowledge of Christ will not be wasted. To be productive as a Christian is a joint effort—God’s provision and our choice to put it on and walk in it.

Yesterday I came across one of my favorite OT passages (Exodus 35:30-35). God chose Bezalel, filled him with the Spirit of God, filled him with capability with all kinds of crafts including designing, stonework, woodwork, and embroidery, and then to top it off God gave him the ability to teach it to others! As a result, the sanctuary was built as God desired it to be built. You have abilities and gifts that God chose for you. They may not all appear spiritual at first glance, but they all can be used by God for His purposes!

This month God is leading me to focus on prayer in ministry. I’m not a good role model for prayer, but God is not done with me. Oswald Chambers said that for as long as we are self-sufficient, we will not pray. John Bunyan wrote, “You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” God is making us aware in numerous environments that we are not self-sufficient, and we can’t accomplish anything until we have prayed. Let us pray for revival, our churches, our nation.

Today is the anniversary of the U.S. House of Representatives passing the 13th amendment abolishing slavery in the United States in 1865. How horrific that it took us that long to figure out enslaving another person is wrong. We haven’t really learned. Sex trafficking is an epidemic. Drug dealers work to make others a slave to the addiction. Greedy desires can lead to debt that enslaves people. Worse yet, we sometimes choose to enslave ourselves until we lose the freedom of possessing self-control. Christ came to set captives free. Let us be part of that mission!

I bought a new pair of tennis shoes this week. The old pair are over four years old and they still look great. But my feet hurt when I wear them. As soon as I put the new pair on, I knew why. The arch support was completely gone in my old ones. I turned them over and looked at the soles and all the grip had worn off. But the tops look good! Sometimes we can look good too, but life isn’t as good without the arch support of friends nor as safe without the grip of God.

God is practical and wants what is best for us. The command to forgive is part of God’s desire for the very best for us. The value of forgiveness is primarily for the victim rather than the perpetrator. A lack of forgiveness halts healing and wholeness. Forgiveness doesn’t diminish or ignore the sin against us. Forgiveness means finding freedom to have better things on the forefront of our minds. We still remember the event to protect ourselves in the future, to learn from it, and to creatively move forward in life as a victor instead of a victim.

We all want to live in Hebrews 11—that is, the first part of the chapter! That is where people had faith and accomplishments, successes and victories resulted. We easily forget how many struggles some of these heroes of faith dealt with on the way to their shining moment. Then there are the “others.” They had faith—perhaps even more commendable faith—because they had faith when the results didn’t look good from any earthly perspective. They were afflicted, destitute and mistreated. Success and failure are how we rate things. God rates faith regardless of success or failure.