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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

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.

Cry for Help

David Willis hadn’t been in the bookshop long when he walked downstairs and found the lights were turned off and the doors were locked. He was trapped inside the store. Being in the age of social media, he cried out for help on Twitter: “Hi. I’ve been locked inside your Trafalgar Square bookstore for 2 hours now. Please let me out.” He was rescued not too long after his tweet!

Laying Burdens Down

It’s documented that children shouldn’t carry more than 10 to 15 percent of their total weight in their backpack. Researchers in Spain assessed the backpacks and back health of 1,403 students ages 12 to 17. They concluded that over 60 percent were carrying backpacks weighing more than 10 percent of their body weight. One in four reported suffering back pain for more than 15 days during the previous year. Other conditions included stress fractures in the back and nerve damage in the neck and shoulders.


Leslie Newbigin, a longtime missionary to India, tells the story of his visit to a village in the Madras diocese. The village had prepared music, fireworks, garlands, fruit, and dancing to welcome him. The congregation had presumed that he would come by the southern route, but Newbigin entered the village from the north. When the congregation found out, they quickly ran to welcome him. What a beautiful picture of what Jesus instructed people to do as He began His public ministry.

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.

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

Give Freely

In my corner of the world, one of the most popular Christmas practices is to decorate one’s home inside and outside. Many put up real or artificial pine trees, adorn them with all sorts of colorful ornaments, and top them off with an angel or star. Some string up enough lights on the outside of their houses to illuminate a small city. Others simply hang evergreen boughs over their windows and doors.

Protecting a Promise

I wonder what went through Joseph’s mind as the shepherds returned to their flocks. In the stillness of that night I imagine Jesus sleeping—snuggled in Mary’s arms. But did Joseph remain awake, turning events over in his mind? He had seen angelic visitations, heard the voice of God, and witnessed the miracle of a virgin birth. Then came another dream.

the least of these

On a recent trip into the city, I noticed people stationed on several street corners. Their clean, coordinated T-shirts announced a common goal—to help end homelessness. One of them approached me offering information. As I paused there on the street, I noticed a homeless man standing just a few feet away. I saw his scruffy outfit and downcast look. Although the advocates for the homeless were doing a good thing, they seemed oblivious to the man. No one spoke to him or offered him food.

> 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

show your colors

When I was asked to present the flag to the daughter of a Navy veteran at her father’s funeral, I readily accepted. As a veteran myself, and the son of a veteran, I knew the poignant power of a flag-draped coffin.

What Are You Hoping For?

Most of us have things we’re hoping for in life, but what are you ultimately hoping for? Paul told Titus to “look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed” (Titus2:13). Do you believe that Jesus will return to this earth? Do you want Him to come?

Whining and Trusting

Imagine having such a reputation as a whiner that your name becomes a synonym for complaining! That was the case with the prophet Jeremiah. His name provides the basis for the English word jeremiad, which means “lament” or “complaint.”

> 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

messages made public

Hackers broke into the servers of a major US movie studio and leaked large amounts of confidential information. They released movies, scripts, salaries, and troves of salacious emails. Mortified executives quickly apologized for their racist riffs and disparaging remarks about movie stars. But the damage had been done. One celebrity, having learned she was called a “minimally talented, spoiled brat,” said she could not promote her movie because she suddenly had the chicken pox. Worse, the leaked emails left the company vulnerable to blackmail. The hackers promised to release more gossipy texts unless the studio stopped the release of a controversial new movie.

compatibility in Christ

Get married. Make babies.” That’s the annual clarion call from the Singapore government due to a declining population challenge. As a single woman living in this small country, I know the message is targeted at me.

A Clam & A Gray-Haired Man

Ming lived for more than 500 years before her demise in 2006. The quahog (large clam) had been nestled near Iceland when researchers plucked her from the ocean floor. After prying the creature open—ending her existence—they initially thought she was a record-breaking 402 years old. But further research revealed that she began life in 1499 and made it to the ripe old age of 507! Fortunately, scientists learned much from Ming, including data on changing sea temperatures over the last half-millennium.

> Topic of the Day

> touch-your-world