Archives: January 2013

let go

I spent the summer of 1992 tumbling, somersaulting, and plowing over the waters of Strom Thurmond Lake in South Carolina. Belying any grand designs, I was simply trying to learn how to water-ski. A painful endeavor, it revealed the deep level of determination I carry within me. One of my greatest errors lay in my refusal to let go of the rope and admit defeat when I had fallen. It was not a pretty sight.

risk it

What’s one thing you hope to hear God say to you in heaven? I’m guessing it’s these words: “Well done, My good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). This verse is quoted so often that it’s invaluable that we understand its meaning.

you choose Q: I feel depressed and angry, how can I get out of this hole?

Q: "I feel depressed and angry. How can I get out of this hole?"  —Olga

A: Anger like sorrow is a normal human emotion. It’s not necessarily a sin to be angry, and at times, not getting angry is sin.

As God’s children, we are to love what God loves, and to be angry what God is angry with. God gets angry…

squash the beef

During a promotional event, two 73-year-old former Canadian Football League players got into a fistfight on stage. They had a “beef” (a grudge or feud between friends, family members, or enemies) dating back to a controversial championship football game in November 1963. After one of the senior citizens knocked the other off the stage, the crowd yelled at him to “let it go!” In essence, they were telling him to “squash the beef.”

January 28, 2013

What has helped you grow in your love for God?

faith and death

One of the most powerful scenes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy is the time when the fellowship must go through the mines of Moria, into the dark caverns underneath the mountain. They descend into this subterranean world where many had died from the evil powers lurking beneath the earth. Fearful, Frodo wondered if they must travel into this harrowing place. Gandalf told him and his companions that it was the only way.

expecting fruit

My neighbor planted some apple tree seedlings. Several years later, the mature trees bore fruit. But there was a problem. The first bushel of apples my neighbor picked contained some unwanted guests . . . uh, pests. Worms were found, leading his wife to conclude that a few bad apples do indeed spoil the whole bunch! Since that fateful day, the only things that have munched on my neighbor’s apples are wild deer (and worms).

human chameleon

Chinese performance artist Liu Bolin is known as “the invisible man” or “the human chameleon” because he blends himself into his surroundings. To do this, he covers his entire body in paint which perfectly matches his chosen backdrop. Liu has painted himself into real-life scenes which include graphitized walls, supermarket shelves, and even telephone booths.

work

The first thing you notice are the nets. They stretch tautly between buildings, hung to catch workers who might attempt to leap to their deaths. This is Foxconn, the behemoth factory in Shenzhen, China, where throngs of young Chinese manufacture iPads, iPhones, and computers for the world. As the nets attest, the job isn’t always fulfilling.

serve your oppressor

A few years ago some young men stole my car. They crashed it, damaging it beyond repair, and I was never compensated for it. I even had to pay to have the car towed away from the crash site! By rights, those thieves should have replaced what they stole.

dinner and a sinner

Several years ago, while vacationing in Washington, DC, my family noticed a large crowd forming in front of a popular downtown theater. The word on the street was that Colin Powell, the United States Secretary of State at the time, was coming to the theater that evening to watch a play. We quickly learned that watching high-ranking public officials come and go was a favorite pastime of tourists.

freely given

At the end of a long day, I took a quick moment to get a jumpstart on my work email—striving to preempt any surprises I might face at 8 o’clock the next morning. Frustration ebbed throughout my tired mind as I read an email that contained complaints and feelings of entitlement from a student known to be immature in his responses to life’s challenges. I wanted to send back a veiled sting of reproach, but instead I crawled into bed to think through my response. Getting to the root of my frustrations, I nixed my first inclinations and seized the opportunity to model grace.

January 21, 2013

Recent  research reveals that divorce has had a profound effect on children and their lack of interest in attending church and seeking God. Why do you feel this is the case?

rebuilding the altar

Each New Year promises the opportunity to start afresh—the prospect of a new beginning. The Israelites had been a rebellious and disobedient people. After 70 years of exile, they were allowed to return home to Judea. They were also given the necessary help and resources to rebuild their temple (Ezra 1). They could start afresh with God. But how do you start afresh with Him?

keep all

I love knowledge. As a child, after stumbling across a picture Bible in the library, I wanted to read the real Bible. I had the impression that it was simply a thick book with tiny words, full of information like an encyclopedia. But as I read the real Bible, I realized that knowledge is good but wisdom is much, much better.

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

one amazing Savior

Margaret Felten is one amazing mom. When I was a child, she offered hugs and kisses when I skinned a knee or was feeling sad and confused. Later, she showed me what sacrifice and godly wisdom is all about—modeling a Christlike path for me to follow. In my adult years, she stood with my wife, Lynn, and me, praying for us as we faced life’s battles. When I fought a life-threatening illness she refused to miss a single treatment—sitting with Lynn and me in the hospital room, lighting it up with her tender smile and loving ways. Now, in her golden years, Mom continues to radiate a love for God and others.

disappointment & growth

Roger Bannister was considered the favorite for the 1500m race at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. He planned to retire if he won gold, but an unusual schedule at the Games affected his chances and he came in fourth. Instead of quitting, however, his disappointment spurred him on to continue competing. Two years later he went on to change sporting history. On the 6th of May in 1954 at the Iffley Road track in Oxford, England, Roger Bannister became the first man to run a mile in less than 4 minutes.

finding our identity

If you imagine that enemies captured you and forced you to change your diet, your college major, and your name, which one would hurt the most? Daniel accepted his new name, Belteshazzar, even though it invoked a pagan god. He accepted his new education “in the language and literature of Babylon,” even though it meant he had to study pagan creation myths (Daniel 1:4).

> 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