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.
Uncle Mark (not his real name) had his big toe removed because his arteries had become blocked after years of smoking 60 cigarettes a day. My husband and I used the traumatic event to talk to our kids about the consequences of destructive habits. We realized just how much Uncle Mark’s story had impacted them when a few days later we heard our son telling another family member to quit smoking or his big toe would need to be cut off!
When I was hiking in a park with my grandfather, our trail lassoed a lake at the bottom of a valley. As we walked, several smaller paths broke away from the main trail. Each time we came to a fork in the road, my grandfather let me choose which way to go. I always picked the steepest, rockiest, most difficult choice. My grandfather sighed a few times, but he took on the most challenging path for my sake.
What do soldiers, athletes, and farmers have in common? Discipline. Soldiers go through drills day in and day out. They want to be battle ready. Athletes undergo strict training so they can compete in the race. Farmers work from the rising of the sun until it sets, patiently toiling in hope of a bountiful harvest.
In a speech given during the commencement of a newly formed missions agency, my friend—who heads up the ministry—spoke of its mission and vision. He also gave everyone a clear picture of its goals and plans.
Nehemiah was grieved at the report of the dire state of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:3). He shared God’s heart for the holy city, but could do nothing about it in his position as a cupbearer for the king in far-off Susa. Then, his opportunity to make a difference came in a most unexpected way: by risking his life in making a request of the king (Nehemiah 2:4-5). A cupbearer wasn’t even permitted to express unhappiness on his face, let alone describe his grief because of the state of his far-off home. To say anything was to court death. But Nehemiah did.
Have you felt the crushing weight of despair? Perhaps a performance review was negative, a cancer screening was positive, or your spouse wanted a divorce. Suddenly, your life seemed pretty much over.
Senseless violence and dark injustice can make for a steady rain in life—dampening spirits in mists of gray. In the summer of 2013, a 17-year-old from a rough neighborhood jumped in front of his mother to protect her from an attack. The bullet struck and killed him, leaving his mother clutching his lifeless body in front of their home. The boy’s brother, who witnessed the crime, said later, “I lost a big piece of my heart that night.”
During a visit to an art institute, I observed a German suit of armor made in 1521. None of the other defensive ensembles seemed as complete as this one. It featured vented metal to cover the face; a curved breastplate to deflect blows; metal that continued down the arms, hands, and covered each finger; leg shields that were seamlessly fitted to metal shoes. The craftsman had imagined every possible offensive strike and addressed each in his design.
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.
We often connect Lazarus' story in John 11:1-44 to the story found in Luke 10:38-42 that reveals the difference between how Mary and Martha responded to Jesus . . .
Mary is pictured as the one who sits at Jesus feet listening to what He has to say and Martha is pictured as the one who focuses on serving.