Archives: May 2013

one before the other

The question I felt needed to be answered affirmatively before I married Miska was this: Can I live without her? My intentions were romantic and chivalrous, but my focus was dead wrong. I discovered that there was probably nobody that I literally could not live without. In time, I found the better question to ask myself: Do I want to live without Miska?

mirror, mirror

When it comes to physical appearance, we’re constantly bombarded with advice. And truth be told, the suggestions found on magazine covers, in TV commercials, and voiced by store clerks—among other sources—bother me. They’re all trying to nudge me to pursue that perfect look.

40 days

Forty is a significant number in the Bible. The great flood of Genesis was the result of 40 days of rain (Genesis 7:4). Moses was with God for 40 days receiving the Law (Exodus 24:18). Spies explored the land for 40 days (Numbers 13:25). The Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years (Numbers 32:13). Jonah warned of judgment in 40 days (Jonah 3:4). Jesus was tempted for 40 days as He began His ministry (Luke 4:2), and He appeared to the disciples for 40 days as He concluded it (Acts 1:3). So one Bible teacher suggests that when you see the number 40 in Scripture, it means that God is doing something significant.

May 28, 2013

What is the best advice you would give to a couple who are getting married?

worry less

According to the World Health Organization, Americans are more prone to anxiety than people in other nations. The study revealed that 31 percent of Americans suffer from this disorder at some point in their lifetime. The chief culprits that lead to this anxiety are money, work, and the pressure to achieve and succeed. According to the study, Americans’ anxiety is five times higher than that of people in Third World nations.

make the time

Are you busy? We can easily become overwhelmed with all the responsibilities that loom over us on any given day. We have calendar apps, appointment reminders, and handy lists to keep us organized. I enjoy finding new ways to use my time wisely and stay on task, but I have to be careful not to put my trust in my plans over the One who holds the plan. More importantly, I need to understand that while life often “just happens,” I must approach it with intentionality.

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.”

the greatest gift

My 9-year-old Ugandan son and I often list the things he’s done the past few years—activities that he could not have done if he were still orphaned and living in extreme poverty. In his village, he never would have received a formal education, eaten sushi, gone surfing, read books, flown in an airplane, played tennis, or even had running water and electricity in his home.

where are you looking?

Saulo was 16 when he drove the getaway car for a robbery that ended in murder. Now 32, Saulo says, “I remember sitting in the county jail, and it really sunk in: ‘Wow, I’m not going home,’ and [I] realized what I did. I didn’t want to live. I couldn’t believe what I did.”

relative peace

A 60-year-old man, atop a John Deere tractor, charged at his 69-year-old brother-in-law who was harvesting hay astride his own tractor. The collision resulted in a damaged tire and the tractor-crasher’s arrest. One law enforcement official commented, “We’ve responded on prior occasions to calls because of differences between the families.” While it’s a bit unclear what the man hoped to accomplish by confronting and crunching his brother-in-law, the story shows that family feuds can escalate to ridiculous levels if they’re not resolved.

knowing our place

I recently read of a man who started a church and saw it grow and flourish over the years. But unlike some pastors whose fingers have to be pried from the pulpit, this man began grooming a younger man to take over his church. Why? Because he felt God was calling him to do so. And, at just 51 years old, this healthy, dynamic pastor humbly moved on as his 30-year-old protégé took his place.

not broken

As someone who has logged a lot of time in the coastal waters of Florida, I’ve always enjoyed seeing bottlenose dolphins up close in the wild. That’s one reason I was particularly drawn to the movie Dolphin Tale.

May 20, 2013

What encouraging words from a pastor, teacher, or mentor proved to be life-changing for you? Why?

read this! from an ODJ reader in Indonesia . . .

indonesia"I am really thankful for your ministries, especially for ODJOur Daily Journey helps me to meditate on God's words and make concrete acts through the questions in 'next' section.  . . . I really enjoy using ODJ." —Yolanda, Indonesia

youth ministry 101

If you read some recent books on youth ministry, it’s hard not to get the sense that this part of church ministry is experiencing some major struggles. And nearly everyone has an opinion about how youth ministry should be improved. Parents, youth workers, and young people themselves have expectations and demands that don’t always overlap. So, what should we do?

Related Topics

> christian living

Is This Heaven?

In the fantasy-drama Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella heard a mysterious voice whispering from his cornfield: “If you build it, he will come.” In time, Ray realized the voice was calling him to build a baseball field among his rows of cornstalks. When he built the ball field, major-league baseball players from the past miraculously emerged from the remaining cornstalks to play ball.

Tongues Afire

Over the past month or so, my wife and I have had some hard conversations. Places of deep hurt have become visible again. As we’ve talked, amid much sadness, I’ve had to reckon with a lasting wound I left on her heart. Years ago, before we were married, Miska and I endured a significant conflict. In that turmoil, I spoke words to her that were foolish and immature, words that lodged into the most tender and vulnerable places of her heart. I didn’t speak in anger or malice, but rather with ignorance and stupidity. I’ve asked her forgiveness multiple times, and she has freely forgiven me. Still . . . the wound is there. My words can’t be taken back.

Sarcasm & Sincerity

Sarcasm can cause us to laugh. But it can also become a shield. Why open ourselves to rejection when we can make sure that no one ever knows the real us? Ironically, such insincerity actually leaves us more vulnerable.

> daily devotional

Generous Hearts

I opened a letter from our mortgage lender and, instead of a bill, found a check! Our escrow account had accrued a surplus, and the bank had sent us a check for the amount. The previous month had been overly busy, and I had been unable to take on any freelance work during those weeks. But we strived to remain faithful in our giving, and now God had provided. I was holding a check with a value that exceeded what we had lost due to my inability to work more hours.

Persecuted but Growing

There are few events of greater historical significance in the 20th century than China’s Cultural Revolution. The Communist Party instituted changes at every level of society to enforce its ideology. These included the persecution of the nation’s Christians, with many sent to labor camps. It’s estimated that the Cultural Revolution resulted in the death of 30 million Chinese people and forced the church underground. But decades later, it turns out that the efforts to wipe out Christianity had the opposite effect. Experts believe that there are more Christians worshiping in underground churches in China than there are total believers in the US!

Autumn Moments

Poets have long used the seasons as metaphors for our lives. Spring is seen as a time of new beginnings and potential; summer is a time of growth and success; autumn is the harvest season when we reap the fruits of our labors; and winter is a time of endings and rest.

> 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

Real Faith

I attended a boarding school in Nigeria where the older students ruled over all of us younger students. Once, I misplaced a bowl that belonged to a rather cranky older student. Having been given the ultimatum to find and return the bowl by the next morning, I crawled into bed with a heart full of dread. I whispered a prayer asking God for help before dropping into a troubled sleep. Imagine my awe the next day when the bowl mysteriously showed up in the student’s drawer!

If It’s Really You . . .

A non-Christian organization has established a hotline for people who are struggling with spiritual doubts. While the exact goal of this call-in center seems a bit fuzzy, its founder made an interesting observation: “Many people feel isolated or rejected when they begin to ask questions. . . . If churches suddenly started welcoming doubters [for food and fellowship], the hotline project wouldn’t be necessary.”

Lessons from the Young

On the way home from soccer practice last week, my 12-year-old son busily jotted his thoughts onto a notepad he had brought with him. When he finished, he handed it to me and said, “This is what I [created].”

> health

Real Rest

During the long, harsh Alaskan winter, Denali National Park rangers rely on teams of sled dogs to help them patrol the vast, snowy wilderness. Dogsled patrols can last up to 6 weeks, and the dogs are always raring to go.

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.

> relationships

Distance

Reasons? He has many. As he passes several churches during his drive to the park for his Sunday run, he enjoys his solitude. In fact, he reflects on how he can connect with God just as easily—if not more so—on his own. But deep layers of pain, a multitude of rehearsed excuses, and complicated explanations mask a simple reality: Church has not been a safe place for him.

Sarcasm & Sincerity

Sarcasm can cause us to laugh. But it can also become a shield. Why open ourselves to rejection when we can make sure that no one ever knows the real us? Ironically, such insincerity actually leaves us more vulnerable.

You’re Called

Martin Luther challenged the medieval idea that only priests, monks, and nuns possessed a divine call. He said that just as people are made right with God by salvation in Jesus, they’re also called to serve Him in whatever jobs they do. In this way “the entire world [will] be full of service to God, not only the churches but also the home, the kitchen, the cellar, the workshop, and the field of townsfolk and farmers.”