Almost everyone loves to hear stories of God “showing up.” We feel trapped by circumstances, we pray in desperation, and a providential answer arrives just in time. We know it’s God, and it’s easy to praise Him—for a while.
My daughter posed an excellent question to me: What’s the connection between Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job? The first two seem so . . . contradictory. And the book of Job is a saga all its own!
As my wife tried to get home from visiting our daughter over the holidays, bad weather shut down numerous flights. After 2 days, she had a fistful of boarding passes for planes that couldn’t leave the ground, and she joined thousands of weary travelers scrambling for places to stay.
Our two young boys wanted a nativity set, so we got a small one to place in their room. One night my wife went to tuck them in bed, only to find that Liam (age 5) had posted little plastic soldiers to guard the nativity. “They’re making sure baby Jesus is safe,” he announced.
While away from home on a lengthy work assignment, I attended a church quite different from my one back home. For instance, my adopted church observed communion (the Lord’s Supper) every time they met. Instead of the pastor or elders serving, ordinary members of the church shared responsibility for distributing the bread and wine.
When a supervolcano erupts—and thankfully that’s extremely rare—it leaves behind a massive basin known as a caldera. But they are so huge we tend to overlook them completely. As geophysicist Bob Smith described the 45-mile wide Yellowstone caldera, “The size is so immense that people don’t appreciate it.”
Our 5-year-old son lives by a simple credo: Never, ever be bored! He’s always investigating, always testing, usually grubby, never still—not even in his sleep. Liam doesn’t share his father’s fear of heights or snakes, nor does he possess his mother’s good sense. His favorite phrase typically occurs too late for Mom, Dad, or older siblings to intervene. “Watch this!” he’ll announce as he begins his incautious leap to . . . wherever.
I was enjoying singing with others during the worship service. Then a woman sang a solo. I don’t recall the song. But I do remember thinking: boring lyrics! Predictable religious clichés! Ah, just give me good old, Christian easy-listening music. (I confess my inappropriate sarcasm and snarkiness.)
Just 5 and 7 years old, Liam and Elias eagerly awaited darkness and a fireworks display. Dancing with anticipation in a meadow, they pacified their impatience by marveling at the pyrotechnic sideshows of fellow holiday celebrants. Cherry bombs, sparklers, Roman candles, and fireworks of dubious legality violated the dusk.
A pastor wanted to break his church out of their formal traditions and nudge them in a fresh direction. He sensed that the congregation’s formality was discouraging the local community from walking through the church’s doors. So he began to take small steps to help them change.
One year, spring in the US arrived with unseasonably balmy temperatures that broke records and elevated spirits. But the mid-80 temps (30 C) came with a price. Soon a cold snap hit, freezing all the blossoms. The budding flowers withered. Fruit farms were devastated. Food prices rose substantially.
Jess likes money. In her brief 4½ years on the planet, she has already learned that she can play her aunts and uncles for spare change. Cuteness and intelligence comprise a formidably lucrative combination. Her parents, quite naturally, are concerned over this. “Don’t ask for money,” they tell her. “You should earn it by doing chores.”
Many Christians are masters at conflict-avoidance. Perhaps we confuse “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) with “blessed are those who avoid unpleasant situations.” But conflict and confrontation weave their way throughout the fabric of the Bible.
Pastor Kofi has helped to plant 25 churches in Ghana and Burkina Faso, as well as a home for orphans and a school with 1,000 students. But he doesn’t have much money to manage all this.
Poised at the door of the church auditorium, I hesitated. Why? I realized that I didn’t want to go to church. It’s not that I didn’t want to go to any church at all. I simply no longer wanted to go to this church. My wife felt the same way. A few weeks later, after 20 years as members, we made the agonizingly painful decision to leave. But leaving is not the same as quitting.