Recently, my wife and I embarked on a plan to reach out to people who are different from us—spiritually, ethnically, and otherwise. Why take on this challenge? We’ve experienced the grace and blessing of God, and we want to bless Him by loving others who are also made in His image. It’s interesting, however, that even as we’ve strived to bless Him, we’ve been greatly blessed by God through these new relationships!
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.
The workers knew something wasn’t right. A crack in the exterior wall of an 8-story building in Bangladesh was a tell-tale sign that the edifice, still under construction, was pretty sketchy. Sadly, the structure tumbled down the next day, resulting in the death of more than 150 people and injuring more than a thousand others. Eventually, it was determined that a faulty foundation contributed to the big collapse.
My three sons have grown up and spread their wings, so I’ve become more and more thankful for texting. It’s one way I can stay in touch with them. Even though one lives an hour’s drive from me and another is 3 hours away, we can still digitally discuss the stuff of life.
In November 2014, a couple asked a waiter named Carlos for a dish that wasn’t on the menu. As former restaurant workers themselves, they were impressed by him and how he fulfilled their recipe request. The man asked Carlos what he would do if he had the money and time he needed. “I work two jobs. I don’t really have time,” he replied. He did, however, let on that his car needed a $1,500 repair job. Later, Carlos found a $1,500 tip on the table. He said of the generous couple, “Thank God for you and for what you’ve done. . . . It couldn’t have come at a much better time, so I’m eternally grateful.”
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.
Fire requires oxygen and fuel in tandem to keep burning—something that’s important to know in my part of the world when winter snowstorms come calling! If you don’t have enough oxygen flowing to the logs you’ve set ablaze, the fire will die down. And if you run out of wood, you’ll soon be trying to warm your hands over cooling ashes!
Recently I had the privilege of speaking at a summer camp for boys, aged 9 to 12. During that week, the Holy Spirit moved and twelve campers received Jesus as their Savior. On the last night, one 9-year-old boy—who had received salvation during the camp—approached me and said, “You changed my life!” I smiled and replied, “I’m so happy, but God is the One who truly changed your life!” I knew it was God who had done the work in the precious boy’s heart.
For all its warts and challenges, the church is still the body of Christ—the means that God has established for His kingdom to grow on earth. Renowned pastor and theologian John Stott wrote: “The church lies at the center of the purpose of God. God’s purpose, conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, to be perfected in a future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to call out a people for himself to build his church.”
In 2014, a man opened fire with a handgun during a meeting with his caseworker and psychiatrist at a hospital. Sadly, the caseworker was mortally wounded, while the psychiatrist—who returned fire with his own handgun—received minor injuries. The gunman, who was subdued at the scene, indicated that he opened fire because he’d been offended by the hospital’s “no guns” policy.
During his final pizza delivery of the night, three young men robbed and pistol-whipped 19-year-old Brady (causing a gash on his head that required 70 stitches). Fast forward 5 years. In June 2014, Brady and one of the young men who had assaulted him are the best of friends! Brady, a believer in Jesus, reached out to Marcellous—extending forgiveness and friendship. Marcellous credits Brady for helping him to finish high school and leaving gang-life behind.
A 2013 article in Unfinished magazine details the exciting growth of Christianity in the “new India.” With more than 71 million believers in Jesus, the country is now the 8th largest Christian nation in the world. But even though faith in Christ is spreading “at a rapid rate among middle and high caste Indians and young people,” there are challenges for the new believers. “With great receptivity to Christianity also comes alarming religious animosity, resulting in persecution and violent resistance.”
The Bible is full of contrasts. We read that our holy “God is a devouring fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). But a few chapters later we find that God “lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him” (Deuteronomy 7:9). John also wrote, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Fire burns and is dangerous. Love delights and protects. So how can God be both holy and love?