In his short story “Leaf by Niggle,” J. R. R. Tolkien describes a kindhearted, perfectionistic painter who failed to complete the landscape that became his life’s work. Because he was kind, Niggle often helped his neighbors rather than work on his painting. And because he fretted over details, he only managed to paint the first leaf on the first tree. He died with apparently little to show for his life. His “one beautiful leaf” was placed in the town museum “and was noticed by a few eyes.”
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?
Kim Nguyen was preparing for her doctoral exams in Old Testament when she learned that she would need surgery on her eyes. She should have recovered in 2 weeks, but 6 months later she still couldn’t see. She feared that her dream of teaching the Bible was slipping away. How could she write her dissertation if she couldn’t see? How would she find work to pay back her student loans?
I was thinking about some friends who are facing trials. Jake is about to lose his job because he won’t compromise his convictions. Sheryl has been unemployed and soon her government assistance will run out. Sam had surgery to fuse together two vertebrae in his spine, but now he’s feeling numbness on his right side.
When I visited the land of Israel, I was surprised by the small size of the Sea of Galilee. This was no sea, but merely a lake some 21 kilometers long and 13 kilometers wide. I could easily see across to the other side. How could a storm on this tiny body of water terrify the disciples? Talk about a tempest in a teapot! I scoffed at their fear—until I saw the size of an ancient boat.
The outgrow never we gospel. What’s wrong with that sentence? It violates the rules of grammar and syntax. Writers may sometimes break rules for effect but if they want to be understood, they’ll never graduate beyond grammar.
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?
I teach for a living, so it may surprise you that I write these words: Not all knowledge is good. There are some things that are better not to know. Take scientist Ron Fouchier, who developed a strain of the bird flu that could kill 60 percent of the humans it infected. His research was set to be published before the US government stepped in. Do we really want to give terrorists the recipe for killing us? Fouchier said he simply wanted to see what was possible.
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” That quote from author Francis Chan points out the false view we can possess as we consider what success is all about. Is it found in what we own, what we’ve accomplished, or in our status? Is that really how we know that we’re winning in life? What if we’re playing the wrong game?
Yesterday I received a double dose of bad news. In the span of 5 minutes, the words in two emails left me disappointed and doubting that a project I had worked on for years would come to fruition. I wanted to quit. What’s the use? I felt like going back to bed and starting the day over again.
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).
How do you discover God’s will in disputable matters? One believer in Jesus orders a glass of wine in a restaurant, while another believes drinking alcohol is wrong. One invites you to see a movie that someone else will not view due to its violence and profanity. So how do you make a decision on whether or not to do something when even mature Christians disagree over it?
Adam had eaten of the forbidden fruit and it was now time for him to face the music. God walked through the garden and “called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ ” (Genesis 3:9). Later, when God came to confront Cain for killing Abel, He asked, “Where is your brother?” (Genesis 4:9). This reminds us that those who reject God are apt to wound others.
By God’s grace, my family has few financial worries. We have everything we need, and most everything we want. This frightens me, because it sounds exactly like the church in Laodicea. They said, “I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!” But Jesus replied, “And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).