Archives: December 2012

no different?

Conned out of a large sum of money by a business partner, who claimed to be deacon in a church, my friend’s anger and disenchantment ran deep. He said, “How can a Christian do this kind of thing? I trusted him. Now I know he’s no different from a non-Christian!”

after the honeymoon

The honeymoon is over. Life is settling back to routine—a new one. Now you have a partner to live with. It’s no longer just about your preferences and habits. You need to learn to tango with him or her in a new paradigm. That’s where we start stepping on each other’s toes. And that’s where Song of Solomon 5:2-3 comes in.

listening

I have recently noticed that I am adept at a skill that should not be celebrated. I pretend to listen. Whether it’s a loss of focus because we’re planning what to say next in a heated debate or the random derailed train of thought amidst a casual conversation, I doubt that I’m the only one who excels in this gifting. Sometimes, realizing I have no idea what has been said, I will listen more carefully in the hopes of covering my lack of attention; other times, I simply tell on myself because I have no idea where the conversation has been.

unhappy at work

I have a friend who had been unhappy at work. He told me that no matter how hard he tried, his boss was completely unreasonable. Ultimately, he was fired. An acquaintance who knows both my friend and his boss told me he feels that it was my friend’s issues that led to his dismissal. So what’s the truth? My guess is that it’s a mixture of the two viewpoints. But here’s one thing we can know without question: Being unhappy in one’s work can lead to some sad results.

a prophet and a roaring God

Amos is one of the most intriguing biblical characters, tucked away in the neglected corner of the Minor Prophets. I’ve struggled with the prophet partly because my son Seth once had a stuffed monkey named Amos. My main difficulty, however, has been that Amos is true to his calling as a prophet.

December 26, 2012

What are a few of your spiritual goals for 2012? Why?

you are owned

It’s devastating to be owned by another human. Slaves suffer unimaginable heartbreak and abuse because their lives are not their own. Another person tells them where they will live, what they will do, even whom they will marry. They have no say. Being owned is so harsh that even today, when we want to express the domination of one person over another, we are apt to say something like “Susan owns Tom,” meaning that he pretty much does whatever she wants.

a king born for all

Scene one: A stable in Bethlehem, Judea. There, a group of shepherds kneel before a baby sleeping in a feeding trough (Luke 2:8-20). The society of the day despises these grimy, unclean shepherds, and they can’t believe they’re here. How could they have been given such a privilege?

close to the cradle

The angels were on the verge of a brawl. As characters in our church’s nativity scene, a multitude of small girls outfitted in white gowns and halos had assembled around the cradle. Unfortunately, some eager cherubs decided that they wanted a better look at the baby. Pushing and elbowing ensued. Finally, one little girl turned to the audience and cried, “Mommy!” just before the nativity director ushered everyone off the stage.

good men

The opening line of the 1984 song “Holding Out for a Hero” asks, “Where have all the good men gone?” That’s a fair question in a world that has seen more than its share of passive or violent males.

great expectations

Most parents have great expectations for their children. I’m sure the world’s first parents, Adam and Eve, had high hopes for their first child. We see this in Eve’s response: “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” (Genesis 4:1). The reformist Martin Luther taught that this rendering does not quite capture the intensity of the optimism Eve had for her firstborn. Knowing of God’s promise of a Savior (Genesis 3:15), Eve honestly believed that her son was the promised Messiah. There’s a sense in which Eve said: “I have the man from the Lord!” Or as found in the NASB footnotes: “I have gotten a man, the Lord.” One Bible expositor translated it as, “Here he is. The Redeemer is here.”

tough times ahead

You’ve sent out countless resumes. Yet employment still seems elusive. You’ve led a healthy lifestyle. Yet the cancer marker is abnormally high. You’ve tried to be a good parent. Yet your child is choosing not to follow God. The list goes on.

no longer acting

A gifted local actor was asked to play the part of Scrooge in an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for my friend’s church. The revised story included a scene where his crusty character broke down, confessed his sin, and received Jesus as his Savior. Each play practice, the actor struggled with the scene—for he was not a believer in Christ. On opening night, however, as he was spoke the scripted words of repentance and acceptance of God’s gift of salvation, the Holy Spirit moved in his heart and he gave his life to Jesus!

waiting in worship

I’ve never been exceptionally good at waiting. While I’ve learned that waiting can only be productive if I have set the desires of my heart on the things of God, lately He’s been working on my attitude in the waiting.

you choose Q: why do Christians die of cancer, while unbelievers live?

Q: Why does it seem like people who are not Christians have cancer and live, and ones who are Christians get cancer and die? I'm confused.  —Patricia

A: Some religions teach that the suffering we experience in this life is retribution for things we did in former lives. A big difference between Christianity and these other religions is that it doesn’t…

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> christian living

Where’s Your Garden?

My friend enjoys painting, but this sensitive soul often feels guilty when she’s working in her studio. She wonders whether she should be doing something more “Christ-like” with her time. How can I be taking up my cross if I’m doing something I enjoy? Have I become too focused on the stuff of this world?

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.

> daily devotional

Shine Brightly

Shane (name changed to protect his identity) took a big job at a well-known company. Within a few months of overseeing its operations, he discovered some dark financial secrets. Doing his job, he delved into a morass of monetary fraud. As he exposed the impropriety, an unexpected thing happened. He was brought before the board of the company and threatened. Shane, a believer in Jesus, stood his ground. His integrity shone brightly even though he was released by the company’s board under false pretenses.

Fighting Temptation

Mimi began working at a brothel in her early 20s. The big money began funding a lavish lifestyle, but working nights meant she lost touch with her friends. Soon things began spiraling out of control.

An Angry Prayer

The 1965 movie Shenandoah stars Jimmy Stewart as Charlie Anderson, an authoritarian father of seven who farms in the Shenandoah Valley. Set during the American Civil War, the film explores themes of war, family, and restoration.

> 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

Shine Brightly

Shane (name changed to protect his identity) took a big job at a well-known company. Within a few months of overseeing its operations, he discovered some dark financial secrets. Doing his job, he delved into a morass of monetary fraud. As he exposed the impropriety, an unexpected thing happened. He was brought before the board of the company and threatened. Shane, a believer in Jesus, stood his ground. His integrity shone brightly even though he was released by the company’s board under false pretenses.

Lottie’s Legacy

The legacy of Lottie Moon lives on more than a hundred years after her death. Originally from the US, she traveled to China as a missionary and later established the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which has raised more than $1.5 billion (US) for missions since 1888. Many received salvation in Jesus during her years of ministry, but she endured difficult circumstances in the process. She suffered discrimination as a single woman and also faced illness, famine, and war. Lottie remained resolute, however, as she continued to share the good news and urged others to do the same.

Tested and Trustworthy

Recently, while I shopped for an appliance, a store salesman showed me two models. The less expensive one was a knockoff—a cheap imitation. The other had a sticker affixed attesting to its value and quality. Because it had been vigorously tested to stringent industry standards, I was assured of its safety and reliability.

> health

sweet sleep

Recent research concluded that Americans are among the world’s worst when it comes to sleep deprivation. The published statistics reveal: The US (along with France and Taiwan) ranks among the top three most sleep-deprived nations in the world. Indians (54 percent), Americans (49 percent), and Singaporeans (43 percent) reported not getting enough rest due to being too worried or stressed out. Most sleep-deprived Americans (66 percent), however, can’t sleep because they’re anxious about finances and paying their bills.

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.”

> relationships

Prejudice by Association

The sound of her name made me recoil. I knew the strong testimony of the well-known speaker and had no justifiable reason to avoid her podcasts. My disgust had nothing to do with her or the worthy cause she represented. I’d been hurt by someone who idolized her, so my prejudice came because of her association with that individual.

Discerning Truth

In the Shakespearean play Othello, the main bad guy is named Iago. He pretends to be Othello’s closest friend, offering counsel and advice, but all the while he’s plotting his friend’s downfall behind the scenes. The play is carefully constructed so that it’s impossible for even the audience to grasp the underhanded deceit of Iago until the very last scene. He’s plausible right up until the end, and if his part is acted well, the audience will often gasp when his true nature is finally revealed, for the character’s deception is convincingly hidden by his words and actions.

What’s Your Fragrance?

A colleague approached me in front of some coworkers and asked, “So what’s your attitude, as a Christian, to euthanasia?” Everyone stopped their conversation and all eyes were on me. I spent 20 minutes not in debate, but trying to share the aroma of Christ with those who didn’t know Him: His love, compassion, unchanging character, and absolute righteousness. As I shared about Jesus and His love, I prayed that my coworkers would get a whiff of the character of God—not the erudite arguments of a theologian.

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> touch-your-world