Archives: November 2012

generational investment

Standing quietly in the back, I am moved by the sight. Arms reach upward, voices carry throughout the room, and a tireless energy reverberates to the sound of the drum. Passionate and full of promise, they are far more than a group of teenagers. They are sons and daughters of God—the generation now, not next.

eutychus’ example

I must admit I was having a hard time staying awake. The guest speaker had been monotonously droning on for 45 minutes. According to the outline provided, he wasn’t even halfway through the sermon! “It isn’t my fault if I fall asleep,” I whispered to my wife. “Don’t be a Eutychus!” she replied, even as she poked me with her pen to keep me awake.

harmony

A group of young adults had spent many hours studying Scripture together and serving side-by- side. Needless to say, there was a close bond forming between them. But an issue threatened to break up their camaraderie. They couldn’t see eye-to-eye on how it should be handled. Suddenly, they weren’t as united as before. A few of them decided to get everyone together for a dinner to clear the air. They all learned some important lessons about unity—a key idea in Psalm 133.

life . . . with God

Every month, more than 500,000 people Google “meaning of life.” Why am I here? They find answers ranging from “Life has no meaning” to “The meaning of life is whatever you make it.”

November 26, 2012

What’s a good way to encourage a friend who’s feeling down due to the loss of a family member or friend?

oblivious

Dante Autullo had no idea that a 3.5-inch nail was embedded in his brain. He was totally oblivious. Having accidentally shot himself in the head with a nail gun in January 2012, Autullo thought he had only suffered a small cut . . . so he went back to work! Later, he started to feel nauseous and doctors subsequently found the nail lodged in the center of his brain. Amazingly, Dante came through surgery with no side effects, but with a new titanium plate in his skull.

ghost car

In 1939, General Motors created a “ghost car”—a transparent vehicle with a body made of Plexiglas. The see-through outer shell of the Pontiac Deluxe Six revealed a custom chrome-plated dashboard, a spare tire lodged in the trunk, and even the door-locking mechanisms. The “ghost car” debuted at the New York World’s Fair and then traveled to various dealerships before finding a semi-permanent parking spot inside the Smithsonian Institute. In 2011, it sold at an auction for $308,000.

history’s steady tune

George Jellinek, former host of The Vocal Scene radio program, says “the history of a people is found in its songs.” Years ago, music was a crucial way for slaves in the US to recount their stories, and music was central to the way the Civil Rights movement retold its vision. If you want to know a culture or its people, you have to know the music they used to pass along their stories. This is how the people in ancient Israel used the Psalms—their stories and prayers helped them to remember God, particularly in the long years when God was silent.

the glory of Jesus

Wedding receptions. I’m not opposed to attending them. But, honestly, if I can avoid going to one, you’ll get no complaints from me. (Note: This does not apply to the day when either of my daughters marry!)

queen for a day

Following a meeting at Mildmay Uganda—a specialized center that provides holistic outpatient care for HIV and AIDS patients—I was summoned by Mildmay’s public relations director. “We are welcoming the Queen of England to Mildmay tomorrow,” she said. “Our pediatric patients are preparing to demonstrate their native costumes and traditional dances for Her Majesty. Would you kindly serve as the queen for the children’s final dress rehearsal?”

more

Tom Brady has model-like good looks, is married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen, and has led his football team to three championships. But it’s still not enough. Brady confessed during an interview, “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey, man, this is what is.’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think, ‘God, it’s got to be more than this.’ I mean this isn’t—this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be.” The interviewer asked, “What’s the answer?” Brady responded, “I wish I knew. I wish I knew.”

when walls fall

Every Monday evening at 8:30 p.m., the walls of my house begin to vibrate. Far from any earthquake tremors, my house instead responds to the sound of my husband and the young men in his small group as they begin their time of worship in song. As I sit upstairs, I love to hear their deep voices resonating throughout the house. It’s the sound of strength.

November 19, 2012

What are you thankful for today?

was i there?

I’ve never experienced what it means to be opposed or persecuted for my religious beliefs. Without a doubt, I’m thankful that I live in a country where there’s both freedom and safety to practice my faith. Yet, in more than 50 countries around the world, no less than 200 million Christians are vigorously opposed and ruthlessly persecuted. Many thousands have died horrible deaths, simply because they loved Jesus.

lousy comforters

I’m often tongue-tied when I attend a funeral or visit someone in the hospital. As soon as I open my mouth, it concerns me that I’m sounding like one of Job’s friends. They were better comforters when they kept their mouths shut rather than when they opened them (Job 2:11-13). Their advice and consolation to Job sounded like the exact words I might have spoken. They argued forcefully and their arguments seemed so pious, leading Philip Yancey to comment: “If today we had only Job 3–37, we would judge the three friends as the true heroes of the book.” But God was angry with them (Job 42:7).

Related Topics

> christian living

Well, That’s Just Perfect!

The seminar speaker emphasized a positive mental approach to everything. And I’m okay with that, for the most part.

No Expert

My daughter’s preschool teacher asked me to speak to the children about being a writer. Visiting parents were being presented to the class as “experts” in their professions. I agreed to talk to the children, although being an “expert” unnerved me a bit. I didn’t feel like an expert. That week, I’d been frustrated by a lack of good ideas and wondered if I would ever write anything of value again! I thought, You’re no expert. You’re not qualified to speak.

The Cookie Jar

A little boy’s mother baked a batch of cookies and placed them in a cookie jar, instructing her son not to touch them until after dinner. Soon she heard the lid of the jar move, and she called out, “Son, what are you doing?” A meek voice called back, “My hand is in the cookie jar resisting temptation.” It’s funny to think of a person trying to resist temptation with their “hand in the cookie jar.” This is as much a challenge in our culture today, as it was for the Ephesians.

> daily devotional

no worries

How often do you find yourself worrying about something? We worry about tomorrow, the economy, our jobs, and friendships. We worry about our kids, our parents, and our health.

rules and grace

Firefighters recently chose not to take action as a man was drowning in the San Francisco Bay. According to the interim fire chief overseeing the responding team, one of the things that prevented them from taking action was a regulation that prevents firefighters from entering into the water. The rescue workers were frustrated because they desperately wanted to take action, but they were prevented from doing so by policy. This preoccupation with rules is a form of legalism, something we find far too often in the church today.

dangerous friends

One of our sons has endured bullies on his elementary school bus. Two weeks ago, he walked into the kitchen after school and with a quivering lip said, “I don’t want to ride the bus anymore.” It’s been hard for him to learn how to protect himself while also staying open to forgiveness (if the bullies show repentance) and the possibility of extending friendship to them.

> ethics

rotten fruit

There’s a “quick sale” area in my local supermarket where fruit is offered at a huge discount. If not sold quickly, the fully ripened edibles will become soft, flabby, and infected with fungus.

judgment of justice

An acquaintance of mine, who is highly intelligent and has a philosophical bent, also carries antipathy toward God and religion. He enjoys being provocative, recently quoting the second-century philosopher Epicurus who said: “There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men.”

if My people

I was speaking with three friends about the lamentable condition of our country. They mentioned the continued practice of abortion, the rise of homosexual marriage, and the debt crisis. One friend cited 2 Chronicles 7:14, and said that our nation’s problems will only be solved when our country turns to God. I said that would be difficult to pull off, as our nation believes in the separation of church and state. We cannot compel Muslims, Buddhists, or atheists to worship Yahweh. Nor would we want to. Life goes badly—both for those inside and outside the church—whenever Christianity becomes the religion of the state.

> faith

rules and grace

Firefighters recently chose not to take action as a man was drowning in the San Francisco Bay. According to the interim fire chief overseeing the responding team, one of the things that prevented them from taking action was a regulation that prevents firefighters from entering into the water. The rescue workers were frustrated because they desperately wanted to take action, but they were prevented from doing so by policy. This preoccupation with rules is a form of legalism, something we find far too often in the church today.

taste and see

A friend posted a crockpot recipe on her Facebook page. The meal looked good, so I downloaded the recipe—intending to use it one day. The following week, another friend said she was looking for some good slow-cooker meals to prepare, so I emailed her the crockpot recipe I had seen on Facebook. She, in turn, forwarded it to several friends who passed it on as well.

Whose Opinion Matters?

I carefully crafted a Scripture lesson for my church youth group. After I presented it, a young man in the group said, “I believe you could have done a better job.” I was hurt. But then I recalled a phrase once spoken by a longtime worker in the church: “We call ourselves servants of God, but when we’re treated like one we get upset.”

> health

Your Body

I like to write out my thoughts before I type them. But when I use an old pen that rolls roughly across the paper, my thoughts thump along in fits and starts. When I can’t squeeze the ink out, I can’t squeeze the words out, and I quickly toss the pen aside for a better one. A free-flowing pen opens my mind, and the words often come pouring out as fast as I can write them.

who sinned?

God has told me why your skin cancer hasn’t been healed,” the woman said to my friend. Really? he thought. Having suffered through two failed operations to remove the cancer from his face, my friend was desperate for a reason why. “God has told me it’s one of three things,” she continued. One of three? my friend thought. Even God doesn’t know for sure? “It’s either a generational curse passed down from your parents . . . ” It’s my parent’s fault? “Or it’s a secret sin in your life . . .” Which one? (My friend can be cheeky.) “Or you lack the faith to be healed.”

hope deferred

As any couple trying to have a child knows, every 28 days you’re looking for signs of success. For many couples, this expectation is met with disappointment for a few months until conception occurs. But for others, this monthly cycle of raised and dashed hopes can last for years. Proverbs 13:12 describes such an experience well: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

> relationships

alone in the dark

Gravity tells the story of Dr. Ryan Stone—a brilliant biomedical engineer on her first space shuttle mission. Her partner for the journey is veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski. During a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalski completely alone, tethered to nothing but each other, and ominously spiraling out into blackness.

small spark

In 2004, a man went over a dry, brown patch of grass while mowing his lawn. A blade on the mower struck a rock and created a spark, which resulted in a fire that soon raged out of control. The resulting catastrophe, known as the Bear Fire, blackened 10,484 acres of land and destroyed more than 80 homes. To put out the blaze required the efforts of 33 fire crews and 42 fire engines.

True Success

What’s your definition of success? People have said, “It’s being happy,” “Reaching my goals,” “Seeing people receive salvation.” One friend said, “Success is God’s prosperity in all areas of my life: spiritual, physical, financial, and relational.”

> Topic of the Day

> touch-your-world