What’s your definition of success? People have said, “It’s being happy,” “Reaching my goals,” “Seeing people receive salvation.” One friend said, “Success is God’s prosperity in all areas of my life: spiritual, physical, financial, and relational.”
I carefully crafted a Scripture lesson for my church youth group. After I presented it, a young man in the group said, “I believe you could have done a better job.” I was hurt. But then I recalled a phrase once spoken by a longtime worker in the church: “We call ourselves servants of God, but when we’re treated like one we get upset.”
He shouldn’t have been there, but the pain and isolation made him desperate. Was this the sum total of his life—to scream “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever anyone came near him? To wear torn clothes to signal his diseased state . . . to feel so alone?
Dale’s neighborhood is home to many newcomers to his country. He loves the cultural richness but has felt a disconnection from it. So recently he prayed: “Lord, please use me to reach my neighborhood.” And he felt God’s simple, gentle nudge: Be a friend.
Recently, after I had a terse interaction with my oldest son, my wife brought me aside and said, “I think you were a little hard on him. You really swelled up and charged into the situation with a lot of force.” It wasn’t that my son didn’t need to be corrected (he did), but the way I dealt with him didn’t express the gentleness my son needed.
Taking his dark, weathered hands in mine, we bowed to pray. As a custodian (him) and as a teacher (me), our different life experiences intersected in my tiny office this week. His mother had been sick for some time, and the disease that had previously been confined to one area had now spread to her entire body. Confident of God’s ability to heal, we prayed for Him to restore her body—and we also asked for the miracle of comfort that supersedes death. Tonight, her son sits by her bedside and knows he will soon have to say goodbye. For now, anyway.
Leprosy was one of the most feared diseases in Jesus’ day. It sentenced a person who was afflicted with it to an isolated and lonely existence. Jewish ceremonial laws forbid people from having physical contact with lepers. It required those with the disease to live “outside the camp,” isolated from their family and neighbors (Leviticus 14:2-3). If lepers were to venture out into the general public, they were to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” so that people would know to keep their distance (Leviticus 13:45-46).
For all the good Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can bring to our lives, including allowing us to keep in touch with family and friends, these social media sites can also be stumbling blocks. One of my friends has started limiting the amount of time she spends on social media because she found herself becoming increasingly consumed with the lives of her online friends. Yep, she struggles with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram nosiness. But she’s not the only one.
A Protestant denomination is proposing a new liturgy for christenings. The old ceremony asked parents and godparents two questions: “Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?” and “Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbor?” The new liturgy summarizes both in one question: “Do you reject evil, in all its many forms and all its empty promises?”
As a missionary served in Estonia, many deaf people received salvation in Jesus. The new believers began praying fervently for the ability to hear, and, miraculously, two were healed! But then, as the missionary recalls, “Immediately these two brothers were on the outside of the deaf community.” That’s when the remaining deaf believers in Jesus recognized their deafness was a gift—something that allowed them to reach a segment of society in a personal way.
The Germans have a word for it: schadenfreude. It means to take joy in another’s misery. We can sometimes feel schadenfreude when someone else slips up. A politician we don’t admire stumbles over his words. A famous person who has great wealth suddenly goes bankrupt. Part of us feels sad, but we might also secretly enjoy the turn of events.
During Valentine’s Day each year, nearly $18.6 billion dollars are spent—$1.6 billion of which is spent on candy and $4.4 billion spent on jewelry! We’re so driven by consumerism these days that we can come to believe that romantic love revolves around gifts. We can even begin to think that the best way to know if someone really cares about us is if they’re willing to buy something we want (and even better, something really expensive!).
In C. S. Lewis’ book Prince Caspian, the Pevensie children are once again summoned from our world back to Narnia—this time to help Prince Caspian. At first, Lucy is the only one in all of Narnia who can see and hear Aslan—the great lion and creator king of Narnia. Initially, she sees brief flashes, but soon young Lucy is convinced that she sees him.