Wanda was a 20-year-old who was living at home but had no real responsibilities. She had a job with a decent income and spent her free time hanging out with friends. All of that collapsed when she became pregnant.
Leslie Newbigin, a longtime missionary to India, tells the story of his visit to a village in the Madras diocese. The village had prepared music, fireworks, garlands, fruit, and dancing to welcome him. The congregation had presumed that he would come by the southern route, but Newbigin entered the village from the north. When the congregation found out, they quickly ran to welcome him. What a beautiful picture of what Jesus instructed people to do as He began His public ministry.
Adam had eaten of the forbidden fruit and it was now time for him to face the music. God walked through the garden and “called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ ” (Genesis 3:9). Later, when God came to confront Cain for killing Abel, He asked, “Where is your brother?” (Genesis 4:9). This reminds us that those who reject God are apt to wound others.
Andrew Leisewitz is a loving husband, father, and elder in our church. He’s also an internationally respected veterinary professor. But even professors have to pay tolls on some roads in South Africa. One day Andrew left his wallet at home, so he had to go from car to car asking for money at the toll booth. The booth clerks and most of the drivers were unsympathetic to his dilemma. In that moment, it didn’t matter that Andrew is a well-respected professor; he had to humble himself and ask for help.
When our washing machine malfunctioned, it spewed water through a heating vent and into our basement—drenching wallboard and carpeting. To prevent mold, we had to hire a company that set up special fans inside our house. The company’s motto read: “We will make it like new.”
Steven and his dad regularly took their motorcycles for a ride along the East coast of South Africa, past the bathers and the fishermen, till they reached the deserted sand and sea. One day, after climbing their favorite sand dune, they competed to see who could make it back down in the least amount of jumps. On the 18th jump, Steven heard a bloodcurdling scream from behind. His father had landed on a hidden tree stump and sheared off part of his heel. The experience has left Steven cautious with his own children, allowing them to play on sand dunes, but warning them never to jump down one.
Marcus was a convicted criminal on death row. He had previously apologized to the family of the teenager he raped and murdered. Now, just before he was executed by lethal injection, he said, “I’m going home to be with Jesus.” Apparently, during his time in prison he had received Jesus as his Savior. His words remind me of a certain criminal who died next to Jesus 2,000 years ago.
How badly would someone have to betray you before you turned your back on him forever? What if he told you that he loved you, would even die for you, but shortly thereafter adamantly denied that he even knew you? I’m guessing you’d turn your back on that person, or at least give him the cold shoulder for a few months.
Do you have a dark secret that you’ve kept from others? Maybe you did something you think is so bad that if people found out about it they would have nothing to do with you. Perhaps you’re hooked on watching porn or you struggle with substance abuse. Maybe you’re carrying deep hatred for someone who hurt you.
As Timothy McVeigh faced execution for a terrorist act that killed 168 people, he released as his last statement the oft-quoted poem Invictus. It says in part, “I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul,” and concludes with these lines:
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.
Zechariah lived out a twofold identity as both priest and prophet. The grandson of the priest Iddo and the head priest of his family (Zechariah 1:1; Nehemiah 12:1,16), he was prophetically called to encourage the people of Judah with God’s words (Zechariah 1:13-17). In addition, he told them to repent (Zechariah 1:3-4), renew their efforts for God (Zechariah 8:12-13), and follow His ways (Zechariah 7:8-10).
The other day I read two passages in Deuteronomy and Numbers with similar messages. They caused me to recognize more deeply the consequences of disobeying God and failing to heed His warnings. Put succinctly: Moving forward without God’s leading, permission, or assistance, regardless of how we justify our words or actions, will lead to His judgment.
Attempting a quadruple toe loop, Olympic skater Jeremy Abbott swiveled into the air and fell. He careened into the rink’s wall and lay clutching his side. Amazingly, Jeremy then stood up and resumed skating. The rest of his routine included two extremely difficult, yet well-executed maneuvers. In the end, his perseverance after a serious mistake won the crowd’s heart.