It’s popular today to dismiss all religions as merely an accident of birth. If a person is born in Pakistan, the odds are that she will be a Muslim. India produces Hindus, Thailand makes Buddhists, Brazilians tend to be Catholics, and so on. Have you wondered if the only reason you believe in Jesus is due to the influence of your parents or others? Is becoming a believer simply about being born in the right family?
For many years it was believed that Dr. David Livingstone, famed missionary to Africa, had just one convert. The man was a chief from Botswana named Sechele whom Livingstone wrote off, stating that the chief had backslidden. Sechele, however, might in fact have been one of Africa’s greatest evangelists. Missionaries arriving to work with the Zulu Ndebele tribe in 1859 were surprised to find that they already practiced regular Christian prayers. Sechele had taught them to read the Bible and many of the Bakwena had become believers in Jesus.
When my oldest daughter was very young, it was always difficult to get her to admit when she had done something wrong. She was skillfully evasive and seemed to have a knack for explaining away a bad situation. Her indiscretions were usually very minor—she was essentially a “good girl.” But her habit of never admitting her mistakes was a source of concern to us.
My daughter’s preschool teacher asked me to speak to the children about being a writer. Visiting parents were being presented to the class as “experts” in their professions. I agreed to talk to the children, although being an “expert” unnerved me a bit. I didn’t feel like an expert. That week, I’d been frustrated by a lack of good ideas and wondered if I would ever write anything of value again! I thought, You’re no expert. You’re not qualified to speak.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I pray for God to grant me a good parking spot when I pick up my children from school. I wonder if I do this because, deep down, I believe that God is able to take care of only the small things of life, and little more.
A member of my small congregation is now in his 9th decade. His zeal for God and for serving His purposes hasn’t diminished for more than 60 years. His body, however, is finally starting to slow down. This frustrates him, for he wants to be speaking to anyone and everyone about the love of Jesus. He wants to take part in evangelistic efforts, but he can rarely leave his house these days.
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.
Imagine this scene. Joseph leading a donkey-drawn carriage towards Bethlehem. Inside that carriage sits his pregnant wife, Mary. She was found to be pregnant before they had consummated their marriage! This would be the scandal of the town. Imagine the gossip and stares. Surely she was a promiscuous woman. And both of them are guilty of premarital sex!
During my last year of high school, I saved up my money in order to buy extravagant gifts for my family. When Christmas came, I blew the whole $1,100 on my parents, my sister, and my grandparents. I imagined that—with college looming—I might never have the chance to be as generous with my money again.
On July 21, 2013, media outlets worldwide held their collective breath as they waited for the birth of the child of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The baby was third in line to the British throne, and so when Prince George was born the next day there was hardly a newspaper or news program that didn’t herald the announcement front and center.
Last year, as we were headed to my sister’s house on Christmas Eve, my husband and I picked up a few last-minute items at a large grocery store. My musings on the variety of shoppers populating the store on this special night turned to dismay when I headed past an aisle where Christmas items had been stocked only days earlier. Gone were the splashes of green and red. Now pink and red heart-shaped items for Valentine’s Day filled the shelves.
Deep down, each of us longs to know what we’re here on earth to do—to have some sense of purpose and mission. Some people have a “life verse” from the Bible that gives them succinct focus. If you don’t have one of those, perhaps today’s passage is a good one to adopt.
Our two young boys wanted a nativity set, so we got a small one to place in their room. One night my wife went to tuck them in bed, only to find that Liam (age 5) had posted little plastic soldiers to guard the nativity. “They’re making sure baby Jesus is safe,” he announced.