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marvin williams

marvin williams

Marvin was the Associate Pastor of Youth and Education at New Hope Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan from 1994–1999. He then served as an assistant preaching pastor at Calvary Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan (1999–2002)—filling the role of main communicator for the popular Saturday Night services. After that time, he became one of the leaders and pastors of Tabernacle Community Church in Grand Rapids. Today, he is Senior Teaching Pastor at Trinity Church in Lansing, Michigan. Marvin is adjunct faculty in the English Department at Grand Rapids Community College. He is also a regular writer for Our Daily Bread. He enjoys speaking regularly to college, high school, and middle school audiences. He has been a short-term missionary to Ghana, West Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Africa, and Moscow. Marvin, with his beautiful and smart wife, Tonia, and three children—Marvin Jr., Micah, and Mikayla—live near Lansing, Michigan.

Articles by marvin williams

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.

freely given, but costly

If you have the cash, you can buy almost anything you want. According to Michael Sandel, author of What Money Can’t Buy, a person can purchase access to the car pool lane while driving alone for $8, a prison-cell upgrade for $90 a night, an amusement park Front of the Line Pass for $149, your doctor’s cell phone number for $1,500, and the right to shoot an endangered black rhino for $250,000. Yes, if you have the money, you can buy almost anything . . .

swearing not to swear

A private high school has instituted a “no foul language” pledge—only to female students. According to the school’s principal, the girls had been using the foulest language. (Hmm, I’m guessing the boys were guilty too!) So they were asked to raise their right hands and say: “I do solemnly swear not to use profanities of any kind within the walls and properties of Queen of Peace High School.” So, in essence, the students swore not to swear (to speak profanity).

Justice and Snacks

They say that justice is blind, but recent research suggests that justice likes to snack as well! In 2010, a team of researchers tracked the rulings of eight judges during 1,100 parole-board hearings over 10 months. Nearly 65 percent of the prisoners were granted parole during hearings held right after the judges had eaten breakfast. Over the next few hours, the chances of getting a favorable parole hearing plummeted. But the prisoners’ chances of parole increased to 65 percent again after the judges’ mid-morning snack or lunch.

Dreams Deferred

Larry Carter was stunned at how much a child’s ability to dream had changed in just a few decades. When he was a boy, his Little League baseball coach asked him and his teammates if they had the dream of becoming a professional baseball player. Nearly every boy raised his hand. His coach said if they hoped to fulfill that dream, they would have to work hard now. The team was so inspired that they practiced and played hard and went undefeated for the next few seasons.

Fatal Hesitation

In the fall of 2003, a string of wildfires claimed two dozen lives in the US. The flames had spread fast, and firefighters begged people to leave their homes in Southern California. But many hesitated. Some wanted to take the time to pack clothes, while others wanted to battle the inferno with garden hoses.

Encouraging Words

The headmaster of a British primary school wrote a letter to encourage his students after a long and hard week of testing. He said, “The school is proud of you as you have demonstrated a huge amount of commitment and tried your very best during a tricky week. These tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who drew up the tests do not know each of you. . . . These people do not know you try, every day, to be your very best. Remember that there are many ways of being smart.”

a hit to the heart

Commotio cordis, which normally leads to cardiac arrest, is caused by an abrupt and blunt hit to the chest. Often it occurs as an object strikes an individual near the heart during the “window of vulnerability”—a 10- to 30-millisecond moment between heartbeats. The medical condition, usually experienced by boys and young men as they play sports, often results in death.

not about me

How much money does a person have to make to be a success? How many awards must an individual receive in order to be deemed successful? According to New York Times columnist David Brooks, even if you achieve Hall of Fame success status like some great athletes, it might not be enough. Brooks said some athletes simply can’t see past themselves:

what is a koala?

I recently read an article that lists 12 common half-truths many of us have accepted as facts. Here are a few: peanuts aren’t really nuts (they’re legumes), a palm tree isn’t a tree (it’s a plant), a koala bear isn’t really a bear (it’s a marsupial), and a penny is actually worth more than one cent—costing about two cents to make. Whether they are of consequence or not, we find ourselves swimming in half-truths.

two houses

In 2010, researchers simulated a category 3 hurricane to test the strength of two houses—one built according to normal construction standards for the region and the other built with a reinforced roof and floors. The researchers turned on giant fans to create wind gusts of 110 miles per hour for more than 10 minutes.

The Source Of Life

In 2012, thanks to a rapper named Drake and the supercharged vehicle of social media, “YOLO” became a popular acronym. It stands for “You Only Live Once.” Though the message of YOLO is test the limits, it became a justification to live life irresponsibly. The answer to drunk driving, parking illegally, disrespecting parents, and missing class was simply YOLO. Its underlying meaning is that my life is mine and I get to live it how I want to.

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.

getting in trouble

One day during class, Adrionna Harris noticed something disturbing—one of her young classmates cutting himself with a small razor. As she perceived it to be a grave situation, she did what she thought was the right thing to do—stepped in, took the razor from him, and threw it away. But instead of receiving praise, her compassionate act earned her a 10-day suspension. Asked if she would do it again, Adrionna replied: “Even if I got in trouble, it didn’t matter because I was helping him . . . I would do it again even if I got suspended.”

stay awake

A German bank employee was in the middle of transferring 62.40 euros from a customer’s bank account when he suddenly nodded off. His “power-nap” took place while his finger was still on the “2” key, resulting in a 222-million euro (300 million dollars US) transfer into the customer’s account. The sleepy state of the worker nearly became a nightmare for the bank, all because he wasn’t being alert.

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

called to love

A friend and I once did an 8-day walk in the north of England. Much of our second day’s walk was done in view of Dunstanburgh Castle, a giant 14th-century fort now in ruins. The castle was built by Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, with a purpose: to declare Thomas’ wealth and glory. In many ways he succeeded. Seven centuries later, the castle keeps Thomas’ name alive. But in the most important sense he failed. A sign in front of the castle remembers Thomas as an “arrogant and unpopular” man.

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.

> 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