Category  |  faith

What Sets Us Free

Recently I did some major damage to my shoulder. Several tendons and ligaments were torn and I had to have physical therapy for a few months. The therapist made an interesting statement as he massaged and manipulated the injury site: “You have to get blood to the damaged areas; it’s the only way to heal it, even if it’s painful.” The only way to put right what is broken is to force blood into those areas, no matter how difficult the task, and allow the blood to carry away the scar tissue and heal the injury.

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.

Laughter

A group of villagers gathered around a massive rig in rural Uganda to watch as a well was being dug on their behalf. Twelve hours later, when the drilling machine struck water, the men, women, and children danced, laughed, and voiced their thanks to God for having a clean water source for the first time in their lives.

Powerful Patience

A few years ago, I drove to the Grand Canyon in the US. As we marveled at the natural beauty before us, we had to strain our eyes to see the little ribbon of water winding its way through the bottom of the massive canyon, one of the tributaries of the Colorado River. It was that tributary, some believe, that helped to patiently carve and make manifest the immense and majestic marvel we now viewed—the likes of which no human has ever been able to create!

Overwhelmed

Their faces are wrung with anguish. Bloodied survivors of a terrorist attack stumble out of their Kenyan campus. German families grimly gather at a crash site in the French Alps. Nepalese parents dig through rubble, desperately calling the name of their lost child. As long as we live in a fallen world, humans will have moments when it seems we can’t go on.

Greater

Howling winds, booming thunderclaps, and lightning flashes tend to make me nervous, even when I’m sheltered in a safe, dry place. Gentle rain showers I can handle. It’s the clamor and din of an intense storm that get me. So Jesus could well have been speaking to me when He asked His disciples, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).

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.

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.

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.

Jesus the Reconciler

I live in a region and neighborhood that share a tragic racial history. For instance, the daughter of one of my elderly neighbors was part of a civil suit to force area schools to obey federal law and desegregate. As I’ve spoken with my neighbors, I’ve had to grapple with the racial divide in my country, with the many ways people have yet to fulfill God’s mandate to be agents of reconciliation.

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.

Possible

When my sister left a high-paying government job after 14 years, many people were surprised. I believe God led her to the job (a long story), used it to train and equip her (another long story), and called her away from it (yet another lengthy tale). In fact, she had to leave her work with no new job in place. There wasn’t time to ponder, because she had loads of projects to finish and hand over. Yet, by God’s grace, she didn’t fret. She was fully convinced that God her Shepherd would provide for her (Psalm 23:1).

“Follow Me!”

Every year, hundreds of boys aged 3 to 8 play rugby in a tournament held across South Africa. Though it’s a tamer version of the adult game, children and parents still take it pretty seriously. For this is where a passion is forged for one of the most popular sports in South Africa. Young boys dream of one day playing for the national team. As they get older, however, the competition gets tougher and only the very best will play for the Springboks—the nation’s top squad.

Is Jesus Enough?

During the First World War, Oswald Chambers was walking past a woman’s house accompanied by his wife, Biddy. The woman was very sick, and Biddy asked, “I wonder what God is going to do?” Chambers replied, in essence, that he was more concerned about who God is versus what He would choose to do. Now these weren’t the words of a man indifferent to the suffering of another person. He merely spoke of his total reliance on the personality and character of God, rather than merely hoping for what He might do. Though concerned for the woman and her condition, the character of his Creator was enough for Chambers to rest in what would happen next.

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

the God who will come

My wife and I have arrived at that poignant age when we can’t believe how quickly time has passed—especially while looking at one of my favorite videos of our oldest son, taken when he was just 2 years old. Miska and I had gone out for a date, and the kid-sitter shot a short video of our boy clinging to the bottom ledge of the living room window. He was just tall enough to peek over the edge. As he watched us get in our car and drive away, he said, “Momma. Dadda.” There was an anxious longing in his voice. Our son was sad to see us go and eager for us to return.

What Are You Hoping For?

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?

new

Happy New Year! It’s time again to ring in another fresh set of 365 days.

faith > communion

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

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.

Behold Him

When was the last time you lingered in silence simply to delight in the beauty of God? One Christian artist thinks that “beholding” His beauty is essential in a Christian’s life. Writer Joseph Sunde, in a blog post titled “Beauty on a Bike Ride,” quoted artist Mako Fujimura as saying: “Perhaps the greatest thing we can do as a Christian community is to behold. Behold our God. Behold His creation.”

Stewards Unaware

Recently I met the captain of one of the boats featured on Wicked Tuna, National Geographic Channel’s reality television show. The show follows the lives of bluefin tuna fishermen living in the US. Bluefin tuna are some of the largest marine creatures. They can grow to 10 feet long and weigh more than 1,000 pounds. Sadly, illegal practices and over-fishing have seriously threatened their population.

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

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.

Good Influence

We have two 5-month-old puppies that are energetic and love to explore. Azusa, the female, is the one filled with true wanderlust. Seymour simply becomes her partner in crime when he tries to keep up in a wild game of chase. From the same litter, they sleep together, eat out of the same bowl, and nestle against each other for comfort. Seymour’s affinity to follow his sister out the door, however, shows that misplaced loyalty can lead one astray.

big shoulders

The Bible is not propaganda. Unlike some governments that share only positive reviews, Scripture records the words of people who are frustrated with God. Psalm 44 begins by remembering conquests that inspire trust in Him. “O God . . . our ancestors have told us of all you did in their day. . . . You crushed their enemies and set our ancestors free” (Psalm 44:1-2). The psalmist concluded, “You are my King and my God” (Psalm 44:4).

faith > forgiveness

What Sets Us Free

Recently I did some major damage to my shoulder. Several tendons and ligaments were torn and I had to have physical therapy for a few months. The therapist made an interesting statement as he massaged and manipulated the injury site: “You have to get blood to the damaged areas; it’s the only way to heal it, even if it’s painful.” The only way to put right what is broken is to force blood into those areas, no matter how difficult the task, and allow the blood to carry away the scar tissue and heal the injury.

Broken Instruments

A good friend broke my double bass—a large, expensive, stringed instrument used in orchestras and jazz bands. We were loading up the van before traveling to a gig and he carelessly set the bass down on an incline. The wind was blowing that night and the hollow, wooden instrument toppled, resulting in multiple breaks.

Jesus and the Junk

We all have that space in the home we would rather no one see—the messy garage, the cluttered study, or maybe, like me, it’s the yard. There are few things more beautiful than a well-kept lot with lush, perfectly mowed grass, neat hedges, and precision-trimmed roses. Our property’s hedges look more like an overgrown jungle and the grass is patchy and dry. So when our pastor’s wife, Mel, offered to help plant the roses she’d given me, I panicked! I was ashamed of our yard.

faith > God

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.”

Holy, Holy, Holy . . .

Theologian R. C. Sproul once wrote, “When the Bible calls God holy it means primarily that God is . . . separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be ‘other,’ to be different in a special way.”

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

Powerful Patience

A few years ago, I drove to the Grand Canyon in the US. As we marveled at the natural beauty before us, we had to strain our eyes to see the little ribbon of water winding its way through the bottom of the massive canyon, one of the tributaries of the Colorado River. It was that tributary, some believe, that helped to patiently carve and make manifest the immense and majestic marvel we now viewed—the likes of which no human has ever been able to create!

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.

True Sacrifice

The Giving Pledge,” formed in 2009 by billionaire founders Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, is a campaign to encourage the world’s wealthiest people to give away most of their cash to help others. Buffett himself is taking the lead and plans to donate 99 percent of his wealth by the time he dies. This is an incredibly generous act! But it’s interesting to note that his present worth is $72.3 billion, meaning that if he gives away 99 percent of his wealth, he’ll still have $700 million remaining.

faith > Jesus

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.

Overwhelmed

Their faces are wrung with anguish. Bloodied survivors of a terrorist attack stumble out of their Kenyan campus. German families grimly gather at a crash site in the French Alps. Nepalese parents dig through rubble, desperately calling the name of their lost child. As long as we live in a fallen world, humans will have moments when it seems we can’t go on.

Greater

Howling winds, booming thunderclaps, and lightning flashes tend to make me nervous, even when I’m sheltered in a safe, dry place. Gentle rain showers I can handle. It’s the clamor and din of an intense storm that get me. So Jesus could well have been speaking to me when He asked His disciples, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).

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 > obedience

What Sets Us Free

Recently I did some major damage to my shoulder. Several tendons and ligaments were torn and I had to have physical therapy for a few months. The therapist made an interesting statement as he massaged and manipulated the injury site: “You have to get blood to the damaged areas; it’s the only way to heal it, even if it’s painful.” The only way to put right what is broken is to force blood into those areas, no matter how difficult the task, and allow the blood to carry away the scar tissue and heal the injury.

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.

An Example to Follow

In the spring of 2015, the president of a large Chinese conglomerate gave more than 6,000 employees an all- expenses-paid trip to France. The group’s itinerary included a private tour of the Louvre museum and a shopping session at a luxury department store. The gift was in celebration of the company’s 20th year of operation. And what a gift it was—4,760 rooms booked in 79 hotels, along with 146 tour buses rented! It’s safe to say that the president of the conglomerate gave his employees an amazing gift and a wonderful example of generosity to follow.

faith > prayer

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.

Greater Work

In just a few short hours, my husband and I learned that— although our lives were soon to be united in marriage— we wouldn’t walk identical paths. We had been dating for over a year when each of our fathers entered the hospital on the same day, though in two different facilities. One man breathed raggedly in his final stages of cancer; the other lay bleeding internally on the operating table after an open-heart procedure—two lives hovering between heaven and earth. The next day, one remained; the other did not.

Don’t Hesitate

Scientists conducted a social experiment with two groups of commuters at a train station. They asked one group to start conversations with their seatmates. They instructed the other group to remain silent. The commuters who talked while traveling said they had a “more positive experience” than those who did not. Initially, commuters believed starting a conversation would be hard, but they found that most people were happily willing to talk.

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

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.

An Unopened Gift

A few years ago I received an email wishing me a happy Christmas. I was grateful for the message and thought nothing more of it until a few weeks later when I reread it. As I reviewed the words more carefully, I realized that I had missed the fact that the email contained a gift voucher with a limited time to redeem it!

Pride and Prejudice

Sadly, all of us—even the best of us—have prejudices. I was shocked to one day realize my own prejudice against a Christian denomination. I’d been deeply hurt by people in it, and any time the denomination’s name came up, words like “Pharisees,” “legalists,” and “unloving” came to mind. I basically thought, Can anything good come from that denomination?

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

Compelling Grace

My friends in my Bible discussion group chuckled when I shared how I was trying to avoid God. I smiled, but it was no joke. His promptings to overlook my demands for justice and extend grace filled me with resentment. I felt like shaking my fist (as the prophet Jonah might have done) and screaming, “You want me to go where, and do what?!”

Thirsty?

It seems to me that there are three primary things in life that make people feel good about themselves: wealth, good looks, and knowledge. With this trio a person can feel significant (because people will flock to you for good and bad reasons) and secure (because you think you have some semblance of control).

Portrait of Jesus

So what did Jesus look like? Did he resemble actor James Caviezel who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ? Probably not. Something like Warner Sallman’s famous portrait Head of Christ? Uh, no—don’t think so.

faith > sanctification

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.

Purpose

T he Purpose Driven Life has been on the New York Times advice book bestseller list for one of the longest periods in history. With more than 30 million copies sold, it’s obvious many readers have turned to it as a source for living with meaning.

Broken Down & Built Up

After winning the Masters in 1997, a pro golfer decided to change his swing, a decision that baffled golf experts. He wouldn’t win a major tournament for 2 years, but he eventually reestablished himself as the number one golfer in the world. The competitor asserted that unlearning his old swing was crucial, for he needed to get rid of bad habits in order to become a better golfer.

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

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.

“Follow Me!”

Every year, hundreds of boys aged 3 to 8 play rugby in a tournament held across South Africa. Though it’s a tamer version of the adult game, children and parents still take it pretty seriously. For this is where a passion is forged for one of the most popular sports in South Africa. Young boys dream of one day playing for the national team. As they get older, however, the competition gets tougher and only the very best will play for the Springboks—the nation’s top squad.

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

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.

Real Rest

During the long, harsh Alaskan winter, Denali National Park rangers rely on teams of sled dogs to help them patrol the vast, snowy wilderness. Dogsled patrols can last up to 6 weeks, and the dogs are always raring to go.