Category  |  faith

Staying True

According to Christian tradition, Telemachus was a fourth-century monk who jumped into a Roman Coliseum to stop a gladiator fight, shouting, “In the name of Christ, forbear!” Telemachus was killed for his efforts, but his act of courage, compassion, and conviction triggered the end of the violent “games.” It’s said that Telemachus was divinely inspired to visit Rome, and he stayed true to his calling.

Write Your Epitaph

A famous epitaph that doubles as a pun can be found in the Boothill Graveyard in Tombstone, Arizona (US). It reads, “HERE LIES LESTER MOORE, FOUR SLUGS FROM A 44, NO LES NO MORE.” The Wells, Fargo & Co. station agent died in an Old-West gun battle with another man in the late 1800s.

In the End

The CEO quickly scanned the email from a company that makes and installs wooden doors. His community radio station needed new doors, but money was tight. Out of a sense of obligation, he hit the “reply” button and asked for a quote on a set of double doors. Moments later, he got a response. Turns out, Andrew hadn’t read the email all the way through to the end. The company had in fact offered the radio station a free set of doors!

What We Have

In one of Aesop’s Fables, a ravenous fox notices some grapes hanging on a vine. He leaps into the air, but he can’t reach the fruit. Dejected, he trots off and remarks, “Oh you aren’t even ripe yet! I don’t need any sour grapes.”

God’s Perspective

When I signed up to become a chaplain in the British Royal Navy as a middle-aged man, the venture could have appeared to be a silly idea—something I should have never attempted. Surely I could have earned a living in a much safer and less strenuous environment. And yet, I felt compelled to pursue what I believe was God’s calling—choosing to rely on Him to strengthen me along the way.

More than Walking on Water

While doing research for a sermon, I stumbled upon a curious creature—the “Jesus Christ lizard.” That’s another name for the common basilisk, a small lizard from South America that’s able to run on its rear legs on the surface of water. This might seem like a miracle, but the basilisk is able to accomplish this feat because of the skin between its toes, allowing it to float on the water for the briefest of moments. Without those flaps of skin, the common basilisk would be, well, common!

The Spirit’s Wind

It was October, a month in my part of the world when temperatures begin to dip and the leaves of many types of trees turn brilliant colors. The trees dazzled me with their autumn glory. Leaves sported deep reds, bright yellows, soft orange hues, and a beautiful color somewhere between green and yellow. I plopped down in the middle of a grove of trees to soak it all in. Then I lay down in a bed of leaves and gazed up at the blue sky. I was within a natural cathedral that swayed to and fro in the chilly fall wind.

Laying Down Your Life

In 2011 an earthquake and tsunami caused a catastrophic meltdown of three nuclear reactors in Japan. A massive evacuation ensued, displacing thousands, with a 20-kilometer radius marked as an “exclusion zone.”

Hidden Costs

A security agency set up an open Wi-Fi network in a public area in London. When people connected to the network, they were presented with the usual lengthy terms and conditions. But there was a hidden, devilish catch—a clause stating that users of the Wi-Fi were “giving permanent ownership of the user’s firstborn child” to the agency. Six people clicked right through the clause and accepted the terms.

Healing Prayer

After learning that a 7-year-old boy dying of leukemia wanted to be a police officer, several members of the Arizona Police made every effort to make his wish come true. Just days before he died, they made him an honorary officer—including his own law enforcement hat and junior-sized police uniform. That one wish launched a movement. Make-A-Wish, an international organization that grants the wishes of seriously ill children, was established in 1980.

Pleasing God in the Mundane

The title of Eugene Peterson’s book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction has its origins in a quote from the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Raised in a Christian family, Nietzsche turned to atheism and later surprisingly wrote, “The essential thing in heaven and earth is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results . . . in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”

Avoiding Mean Streets

In 2015, a 70-year-old woman and her husband were headed for a day by the ocean. Following the directions from a GPS app, the woman unexpectedly drove her car into a dangerous area. Instead of finding a beautiful Brazilian beach, the couple ended up in Caramujo, one of the most notorious slums in Niteroi. Someone opened fire on the car, and the woman was struck by a bullet. She later died in a local hospital. Sadly, following unwise directions led to her death.

When We See Jesus

One of my favorite hymns is When We See Christ. The chorus declares how it will be worth every struggle and challenge we encounter in life when we see Jesus face-to-face. And with that day in view, we can courageously live for Him today!

Overflowing Fruit

On an early morning walk, I spotted something blocking the path ahead of me. Several yards down the sidewalk, a massive bunch of tree branches had spilled over a white fence. The branches were weighed down with mature, red apples! The fruit was everywhere—far too many to count. As I neared the tree, I had to step off the sidewalk and move into the wet grass to get around the overflowing mass.

God’s Love Revealed

When I speak at high schools, one question I’m frequently asked is, “If God loves us, why do so many people suffer in the world?” In responding to my listeners, I challenge the idea that God best expresses His love to us by giving us things and simply making our lives easy. This inaccurate way of viewing how He operates exists and persists both inside and outside of the church.

Related Topics

faith > assurance

love, life, and religion

In the book Bono: A Self-Portrait in Conversation, the legendary U2 vocalist shared these thoughts on God’s love with author Michka Assayas. “My understanding of the Scriptures,” Bono says, “has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. . . . God is love, and as much as I respond in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion.”

you choose Q: will God forgive me if i keep on sinning?

Q: Does God continue to forgive if we keep on sinning in the same way again and again? I'm not able to overcome a specific temptation and find myself circling through forgiveness and sin again and again. Will God kill me as He did in Old Testament for sin? I am scared and worried.  —Ebenezer

A: A Christian is forgiven of his sins,…

trust and reality

The young man looked at me in wide-eyed fear. He could climb no further. “What happens,” he cried, “if I fall off the rock?” “The problem isn’t falling; the problem is hitting the ground,” I said, smiling. He sent an accusing stare in my direction.

faith > atheism

“there’s probably no God”

In February 2009, an atheist group in the UK purchased ad space on the side of 800 buses as well as 1,000 posters on London’s trains that read, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” A Christian group, the Trinitarian Bible Society, responded by launching a rival ad campaign splashing a Bible verse, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Psalm 53:1” (KJV)—along with details on how to obtain a Bible—on 183 buses in London.

hate to love

She hated anyone who believed in God. A self- proclaimed atheist, the young woman did everything she could to destroy the faith of believers in Jesus. She would even write vulgar things on the pages of their Bibles. But then, as the Holy Spirit worked in her life and Christians continued to reach out lovingly to her, her hard heart began to melt. Soon she considered herself an “agnostic.” Then came the day she fell to her knees and tearfully received Jesus as her Savior. Recently, I was privileged to have a part in her baptism. Faith had replaced disbelief. Love had conquered hate.

gentleness and respect

“And what he still has left of his faith is such an anemic, mushy, and watered-down bowl of pap that he really has become a joke—a caricature of religious conviction. Any atheist or New Ager could come up with such grotesque nonsense.”

There is a place for stating things bluntly. But these words from a Christian blogger, describing a pastor…

faith > baptism

of winds and wings

When he graced a room, the warmth of his presence was felt. The gentle breath of shalom was apparent. My uncle brought a calming effect that was palpable.

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.

the Spirit’s power

The effects of an ice storm led to the loss of electricity to my house one morning. Late that night, as we returned home from showering in a nearby athletic facility, we pulled into our street and saw our lights were back on. Yea! We hadn’t realized how dependent we were on electric power until we lost it, and we resolved not to take it for granted again.

faith > Christ's return

Write Your Epitaph

A famous epitaph that doubles as a pun can be found in the Boothill Graveyard in Tombstone, Arizona (US). It reads, “HERE LIES LESTER MOORE, FOUR SLUGS FROM A 44, NO LES NO MORE.” The Wells, Fargo & Co. station agent died in an Old-West gun battle with another man in the late 1800s.

In the End

The CEO quickly scanned the email from a company that makes and installs wooden doors. His community radio station needed new doors, but money was tight. Out of a sense of obligation, he hit the “reply” button and asked for a quote on a set of double doors. Moments later, he got a response. Turns out, Andrew hadn’t read the email all the way through to the end. The company had in fact offered the radio station a free set of doors!

Healing Prayer

After learning that a 7-year-old boy dying of leukemia wanted to be a police officer, several members of the Arizona Police made every effort to make his wish come true. Just days before he died, they made him an honorary officer—including his own law enforcement hat and junior-sized police uniform. That one wish launched a movement. Make-A-Wish, an international organization that grants the wishes of seriously ill children, was established in 1980.

faith > communion

True Fellowship

The word fellowship conjures up some rather strange associations in my mind. When I hear it spoken, I immediately think of coffee and donuts, along with the basement meeting spaces in churches where those coffee and donuts are served. Most strangely, I also think about the 2001 movie The Fellowship of the Ring. So somehow my concept of Christian community has become inextricably tied to a tale of men, dwarves, and elves dealing with “one ring to rule them all.”

A Large Portion

As I was putting my 11-year-old son to bed one night, we finally got around to talking about what had happened at church that morning. When we went forward to take communion, he used only one hand to break off the bread. As a result, he ended up with an exceptionally large piece—causing me and the administering elder to break into smiles.

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.

faith > creation

Real Stewardship

Rick Vuyst hosts a local call-in radio gardening show in my hometown. Vuyst, who identifies himself an “entre-manure,” weekly “soils” the airwaves with gardening advice. But don’t let his “cracked pot” puns fool you. If you’re having problems with your lawn or plants, this master gardener can help, often telling listeners who have called in, “Thank you very ‘mulch.’ ”

Lessons from the Young

On the way home from soccer practice last week, my 12-year-old son busily jotted his thoughts onto a notepad he had brought with him. When he finished, he handed it to me and said, “This is what I [created].”

Happiness & Joy

My wife, Merryn, and I spent last Christmas on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. With its snow-capped mountains and vivid landscape, it’s a truly beautiful place! One moment we drove through snowstorms, the next we saw double rainbows appear from end to end. To me, Mull is a place of fairytales.

faith > evil

The Line Between

Two government agents were assigned the case of “Dread Pirate Roberts.” This “pirate” was the anonymous operator of “the Silk Road,” a website that sold illegal drugs by using the virtual currency Bitcoin. The agents caught their man, but not before becoming criminals themselves. They allegedly sold the information about their investigation and blackmailed the “pirate,” transferring big bucks to their own bank accounts. Their story demonstrates how thin the line is between good and evil.

Know Too Much

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.

Overwhelming to Overcoming

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the problem of evil. I watch the news and see atrocities committed against the innocent (Psalm 73:3-16). People in my town, nation, and the world don’t have food to eat or access to good medical care. Natural disasters swallow people alive. Children face cruel words and actions. Wars break out with devastating effects. And then I receive news that a child or a young person I know has died before he or she has really had a chance to live, that families I know are breaking up, and that friends are in deep financial distress.

faith > fellowship with God

Pleasing God in the Mundane

The title of Eugene Peterson’s book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction has its origins in a quote from the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Raised in a Christian family, Nietzsche turned to atheism and later surprisingly wrote, “The essential thing in heaven and earth is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results . . . in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”

Filled with Praise

When I was a young believer in Jesus, I was encouraged to keep a thanksgiving journal. It was a little booklet I carried with me as a means to capture the daily happenings that filled my heart with gratitude. Sometimes I would pen my thanks items at the end of the week, following a time of reflection.

God with Us

The chorus from the Grammy award-winning song From a Distance gives the impression that God keeps His eye on us from a long way off.

faith > forgiveness

Hidden Costs

A security agency set up an open Wi-Fi network in a public area in London. When people connected to the network, they were presented with the usual lengthy terms and conditions. But there was a hidden, devilish catch—a clause stating that users of the Wi-Fi were “giving permanent ownership of the user’s firstborn child” to the agency. Six people clicked right through the clause and accepted the terms.

Korah’s Redemption

In the children’s book series How to Train Your Dragon, the protagonist Hiccup has a cousin named Snotlout who’s as mean as they get. Snotlout is determined to inherit the tribal chieftaincy in Hiccup’s place, and embarks on a number of schemes to sabotage his cousin. But Hiccup consistently chooses to reach out to Snotlout. Even after Snotlout’s father rejects him for his wickedness, Hiccup doesn’t give up on him. Eventually, Hiccup’s faith is rewarded as Snotlout shows the colors of a true friend.

We Have a Priest

Author William Willimon told the story of an encounter he had with a woman dying of cancer. Exhausted from her battle with the disease, she clutched the crucifix that had been given to her by her grandmother when she was a little girl. It was a symbol of what Jesus meant to her. When Willimon entered the room, he asked if he should summon a priest. The woman held out the crucifix toward him, which depicted the body of Jesus nailed to the cross. She then said, “Thank you—but I have a Priest.”

faith > God

What We Value

Abe lived in a country that was closed to the message of Jesus. We became friends in the first month I lived there, and he soon asked me to teach him the Bible. He gave his life to Christ during our second Bible study, and he eagerly devoured whatever I could teach him.

What We Talk About

In Britain we love to talk about the weather. We talk about it with people we know and with those we’ve just met. The subject is raised at the start of business meetings and over the dinner table. Sometimes touching on the weather is merely an icebreaker, a way to start or develop a conversation. Often, however, it’s merely a way of being somewhat friendly, but at the same time avoiding any real intimacy, depth of relationship, or feeling of commitment. So discussing whether it’s sunny or rainy keeps us at a distance but extends a form of friendliness.

God Won’t Fit

Years ago, when our youngest son was 5, Seth asked during breakfast, “What day is it? Am I going to school today?” “Yes, it’s Tuesday,” my wife answered. An excited smile broke across Seth’s face. “Tuesday?! Today is sharing day!” I asked Seth what he was supposed to share. “Something that begins with the letter D,” he said. I grinned. “Well . . . you could bring . . . Daddy.” “No,” Seth replied matter-of-factly, “you wouldn’t fit in my cubby.”

faith > heaven

Tasting Heaven

I wrote a book recently about recovering from broken dreams (Resurrection Year). It tells the story of my wife and I being unable to start a family. To our surprise, a TV producer read the book and sent a film crew to make a documentary of our story.

Paint Your Leaf

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.”

Foretastes of the Kingdom

When I was 10 years old, Baskin-Robbins opened a new ice cream store in my neighborhood. It didn’t serve the icy, generic brand of sweet treats that my mom occasionally bought at the grocery store. This was good ice cream—thick and creamy!

faith > hell

father of lies

Paulo Coelho’s book The Pilgrimage recounts the story of Coelho walking the famous Camino pilgrimage route between France and Spain with a guide. I bought the book, but I wasn’t prepared for what I read.

life and love

Life can be difficult. At times, burdens, disappointments, and uncertainties can seem too difficult to bear. Poet Annie Johnson Flint poignantly captured the struggles of life in her poem “One Day at a Time”:

the day

Recently, our family took a trip to visit my parents in a distant state. Our two boys love their “Grams” and “Pa,” so they were excited to see their grandparents. They were also excited to miss a week of school, to travel by aircraft, and because we had tickets for all of the guys in the family to attend a local university football game. As you can imagine, my boys counted the days leading up to the trip, something that was both excruciating and immensely exciting for them.

faith > Holy Spirit

The Spirit’s Wind

It was October, a month in my part of the world when temperatures begin to dip and the leaves of many types of trees turn brilliant colors. The trees dazzled me with their autumn glory. Leaves sported deep reds, bright yellows, soft orange hues, and a beautiful color somewhere between green and yellow. I plopped down in the middle of a grove of trees to soak it all in. Then I lay down in a bed of leaves and gazed up at the blue sky. I was within a natural cathedral that swayed to and fro in the chilly fall wind.

God with Us

The chorus from the Grammy award-winning song From a Distance gives the impression that God keeps His eye on us from a long way off.

Distance

Reasons? He has many. As he passes several churches during his drive to the park for his Sunday run, he enjoys his solitude. In fact, he reflects on how he can connect with God just as easily—if not more so—on his own. But deep layers of pain, a multitude of rehearsed excuses, and complicated explanations mask a simple reality: Church has not been a safe place for him.

faith > Jesus

Staying True

According to Christian tradition, Telemachus was a fourth-century monk who jumped into a Roman Coliseum to stop a gladiator fight, shouting, “In the name of Christ, forbear!” Telemachus was killed for his efforts, but his act of courage, compassion, and conviction triggered the end of the violent “games.” It’s said that Telemachus was divinely inspired to visit Rome, and he stayed true to his calling.

More than Walking on Water

While doing research for a sermon, I stumbled upon a curious creature—the “Jesus Christ lizard.” That’s another name for the common basilisk, a small lizard from South America that’s able to run on its rear legs on the surface of water. This might seem like a miracle, but the basilisk is able to accomplish this feat because of the skin between its toes, allowing it to float on the water for the briefest of moments. Without those flaps of skin, the common basilisk would be, well, common!

Laying Down Your Life

In 2011 an earthquake and tsunami caused a catastrophic meltdown of three nuclear reactors in Japan. A massive evacuation ensued, displacing thousands, with a 20-kilometer radius marked as an “exclusion zone.”

faith > miracles

Voice of Reason

Except for technological advances, the first century AD wasn’t much different than the 21st. The human condition can be depressingly consistent: injustice, exploitation, oppression, violence.

Are We Looking?

The movie Unbroken is based on the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner, World War II prisoner of war, and devout Christian. As the last scene of the movie was being filmed, a storm threatened to block the sunlight needed to shoot it. Director Angelina Jolie, impacted by Louis’ faith, did something she had never done before. In front of the whole film crew, the self-proclaimed agnostic dropped to her knees and prayed out loud for a miracle.

believing in Him

Marcus Mumford wouldn’t call himself a Christian. At least he declined to do so during a Rolling Stone magazine interview. In that conversation, the award-winning songwriter and musician said that the word Christian is linked with religious images he doesn’t like. He compared himself to people who claim to love Christ and say that Jesus is awesome, but who are not Christians.

faith > prayer

The Failure Wall

What if you were asked to write your failures on a wall for everyone to see? What if the person doing the asking was your boss? That’s exactly what happens every day at Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp. Jeff Stibel, chief executive officer, came up with the Failure Wall. Stibel encourages his employees to write their failures on the 10-by- 15-foot surface in order to succeed in their work and in life.

Voicing Lament

Most of us know someone for whom life has been particularly hard. Maybe they live with chronic pain, have faced the loss of a child, or have faced multiple adversities. Perhaps you’ve been in this place too. If so, you’ll know that dealing with these challenges can be spiritually depressing. We want God to intervene, but He hasn’t. And that can leave us feeling sad, lonely, and angry.

Sweet Music

O ur music practice was not going well. The team was tense because we were gaining no traction in selecting and practicing songs for an important event. Then it happened. A young woman said softly, “I think we should pray about this.” And with that, she called out to God to help us move forward in practicing and performing well for Him.

faith > prophecy

not fiction

Recently a store that’s part of a huge retail chain labeled its Bibles as “fiction.” A pastor shopping for a gift came across the Bibles and saw “Fiction” written on the price tag. So he took a pic and posted it on social media with the comment: “[Name withheld] has Bibles for sale under the genre of FICTION. Hmm.” The retailer has since apologized, saying the Bibles were mislabeled and the mistake had been corrected.

name game

As a Chinese man, when I told my father that I was giving my children Greek names, he reminded me to make sure they would be meaningful and nice-sounding. Most important, my kids were to have the same family name. Ah, so many first names to choose from!

Trouble in Town

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.”

faith > repentance

Showing the Way

A terrible storm with subsequent avalanches ravaged the Annapurna region of Nepal. The area is a popular one for hikers from around the world, and many were caught out on the mountains, leading to their death from the cold or the avalanches. Astonishingly, rescue attempts were hampered as crews were forced to assist new hikers to the area—those who still wanted to challenge the mountains despite the obvious dangers and repeated warnings. The likelihood of more avalanches was great, while high winds and impossible navigation over paths that had simply disappeared made it extremely dangerous.

Mistaken vs. Hard Hearts

It’s obvious,” my brother said. “A southerly wind is a wind that’s blowing toward the South.” I tried to protest. He rushed out and picked up a dictionary, returning with the gleeful smugness of the elder brother. “Read it and weep!” he said. When I read aloud the final phrase of the dictionary entry: “concerning winds, southerly means from a southern direction” he grabbed the book from me. He read the entry again, blinking in disbelief before stalking off dejectedly. He couldn’t accept the truth at first, even after reading it for himself. He had been convinced that he was right.

Loving a Prodigal

I’ve known and looked up to a special friend for many years. She’s a ministry leader and also the wife of a ministry leader. My admiration runs deep not because of the global ministry she helps to lead but because of the profound and sacrificial love that she, along with her husband, have lavished on their children, particularly a (former) prodigal son.

faith > resurrection

Surprising Victory

At the climax of the film Superman II, it looked as if villain General Zod had beaten the world’s superhero. Zod had coerced Superman into a crystal chamber that was designed to expose him to sunrays from their home planet Krypton—rays that would neutralize his superpowers. But Superman secretly reconfigured the chamber so that the power-draining sunrays were released on General Zod and his Kryptonian cronies instead!

April Fool

April Fool’s Day began in the late 16th century when the Gregorian calendar moved New Year’s Day from April 1 to January 1. Those who kept the old tradition were called fools, which began a new tradition of pulling pranks.A recent prank I’m aware of was the releasing of three pigs into a school building (but not before numbering them 1, 2, and 4). What a surprise for those looking for pig number 3!

Just Sleeping?

A euphemism is “a polite expression used in place of words or phrases that otherwise might be considered harsh or unpleasant to hear.” Instead of saying, “We ended our dog’s life,” we say, “We put our dog to sleep.”

faith > reverence for God

being found

Ihave a friend who has wounds so deep that she resists the compassionate love of others. Caring people have reached out to my friend. They would give their lives for her (in fact, in many ways they’ve done precisely that). Yet she runs from their love. She fears being loved. The love offered to her is so strong, and her heart so weak, that it terrifies her. It seems safer just to stay in her cocoon.

no lazy river

One of our favorite family vacation sites is a beautiful beach community located in an adjoining state. We like to go there during the “off season” when few tourists are around. Though the ocean water is a little chilly, we enjoy swimming in an indoor pool. Also, there’s a lazy river that surrounds the pool and holds a special appeal for our kids. They’ve tried to swim against its current over the years, only to be carried in the opposite direction.

what do you believe?

Near the climax of the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a villain shoots Indiana’s father to motivate the distressed son to enter a booby-trapped temple and retrieve the Holy Grail. “The healing power of the Grail is the only thing that can save your father now,” he said. “It’s time to ask yourself what you believe.” I deplore what the evil man did, but he was on to something: What we believe determines what we do.

faith > salvation

Laying Down Your Life

In 2011 an earthquake and tsunami caused a catastrophic meltdown of three nuclear reactors in Japan. A massive evacuation ensued, displacing thousands, with a 20-kilometer radius marked as an “exclusion zone.”

We Have a Priest

Author William Willimon told the story of an encounter he had with a woman dying of cancer. Exhausted from her battle with the disease, she clutched the crucifix that had been given to her by her grandmother when she was a little girl. It was a symbol of what Jesus meant to her. When Willimon entered the room, he asked if he should summon a priest. The woman held out the crucifix toward him, which depicted the body of Jesus nailed to the cross. She then said, “Thank you—but I have a Priest.”

Starting Over

As part of their training, all new presenters on the radio use a practice log—an exact replica of the live log except for one small difference in the file name. It’s a little like a flight simulator for pilots; you get to make mistakes without embarrassing or devastating consequences. It’s a great system for trainees, but if a seasoned presenter accidentally use the practice log to prerecord her radio program, it won’t be able to air.

faith > sanctification

Last Dance

Neuroscientists say our brains are flexible organs that harden over time. When one of our 100 billion neurons sends an electrochemical charge to another neuron, it opens a new path in the brain. If the neuron repeats this signal enough times, the path widens into a road and then a runway. The more we think about something, the more that thought becomes embedded in our brains. It might be easy to change our minds when experiencing a new thought. It’s more difficult when that thought has built a highway in our heads.

Oddly Honest

Do you have a problem with spicy food?” the owner asked as we entered his small neighborhood restaurant.

Little Things

Reality TV and me? Not a good fit. No one is going to make a reality TV show about my life anytime soon. My life consists simply of loving and caring for my husband and daughters, working at my church part-time, doing some writing, and trying my best to love others in my spheres of influence. From the world’s perspective, I’m not worthy of the bright lights.

faith > satan

Fighting Temptation

Mimi began working at a brothel in her early 20s. The big money began funding a lavish lifestyle, but working nights meant she lost touch with her friends. Soon things began spiraling out of control.

Never Stop Praying

Just over a year ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to be faithful in prayer. The New Year came and I was off to a good start. But as the days got busier, I struggled to stay focused during my morning prayers, and my body began begging for more sleep. Yawn.

Loving a Prodigal

I’ve known and looked up to a special friend for many years. She’s a ministry leader and also the wife of a ministry leader. My admiration runs deep not because of the global ministry she helps to lead but because of the profound and sacrificial love that she, along with her husband, have lavished on their children, particularly a (former) prodigal son.

faith > submission

Empty Spaces

I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit is attracted to empty spaces. Let me explain . . .

Washed

Steady rains had transformed the hardened terrain of our backyard into a soaked softness. Walking outside, I felt the coolness of the water and mud squishing between my toes. Our dogs had been digging in a small area, so I decided to move a few cement blocks to block the patch of ground from their reach. My work left me covered with moist dirt and grass. Deciding to wash before heading indoors, I watched the clear stream of water make my skin clean once again.

Sweet Music

O ur music practice was not going well. The team was tense because we were gaining no traction in selecting and practicing songs for an important event. Then it happened. A young woman said softly, “I think we should pray about this.” And with that, she called out to God to help us move forward in practicing and performing well for Him.

faith > the gospel

Overflowing Fruit

On an early morning walk, I spotted something blocking the path ahead of me. Several yards down the sidewalk, a massive bunch of tree branches had spilled over a white fence. The branches were weighed down with mature, red apples! The fruit was everywhere—far too many to count. As I neared the tree, I had to step off the sidewalk and move into the wet grass to get around the overflowing mass.

faith > truth

Source of Truth

Often, when I search for something on the Internet, I’m not sure I can trust the information I find. If I type a topic into a well-known search engine, I may end up on a website that features unverified information. Disclaimers warn that experts haven’t reviewed the content and so there’s no way to guarantee that it’s accurate, complete, or unbiased. No matter how authentic the material might seem, I know it’s unwise to trust it.

Ears to Hear

Joanne Milne experienced the world as a soundless place. Deaf for the first 39 years of her life, everything changed after she had cochlear implant surgery. The procedure enabled sound vibrations to rouse her auditory nerves. A nurse’s voice was the first noise she heard, and the experience brought her to tears. She said, “Hearing things for the first time is so, so emotional, from the ping of a light switch to running water. . . . I can already foresee how it’s going to be life-changing.”

Discerning Truth

In the Shakespearean play Othello, the main bad guy is named Iago. He pretends to be Othello’s closest friend, offering counsel and advice, but all the while he’s plotting his friend’s downfall behind the scenes. The play is carefully constructed so that it’s impossible for even the audience to grasp the underhanded deceit of Iago until the very last scene. He’s plausible right up until the end, and if his part is acted well, the audience will often gasp when his true nature is finally revealed, for the character’s deception is convincingly hidden by his words and actions.

faith > unity

Prejudice by Association

The sound of her name made me recoil. I knew the strong testimony of the well-known speaker and had no justifiable reason to avoid her podcasts. My disgust had nothing to do with her or the worthy cause she represented. I’d been hurt by someone who idolized her, so my prejudice came because of her association with that individual.

As One

Starting as dancing droplets on the windshield, the rain increased in intensity as we drove down the road. My husband turned on the windshield wipers but then quickly turned them off. He did this over and over. When I looked at him quizzically, he explained that the passenger side wiper had stopped moving in sync with the one on the driver’s side. Turning them on long enough for both to move would have resulted in them striking against each other.

Crossing the Line

The deaf community at the midsize American church was struggling. Two of their most faithful members had died. Their longtime interpreter was retiring, and the church was changing pastors.

faith > worship

5W1H—Worship 101!

5W1H. What’s that? Students of journalism are familiar with the “Five Ws and One H” method of fact gathering. This approach is also known as the Kipling Method, because of the poem Rudyard Kipling wrote that opens with these words:

Style Points

My pastor deftly delivers his sermons with the logical approach of a professor. Going verse by verse through a passage of the Bible, he carefully references other Scriptures to provide historical context. Despite rarely raising his voice, his passion for truth is evident.

The Sin of Pretending

In 2008, a man was killed in a car crash in New Zealand. The autopsy revealed he’d been driving without wearing a seatbelt, having installed a fake belt which went over one shoulder so that it appeared to any passing motorist or police car that he was actually wearing a real one. He was pretending to comply with the law, but according to the coroner his subterfuge cost him his life.