Category  |  salvation

rules and grace

Firefighters recently chose not to take action as a man was drowning in the San Francisco Bay. According to the interim fire chief overseeing the responding team, one of the things that prevented them from taking action was a regulation that prevents firefighters from entering into the water. The rescue workers were frustrated because they desperately wanted to take action, but they were prevented from doing so by policy. This preoccupation with rules is a form of legalism, something we find far too often in the church today.

true beauty

Beauty isn’t skin deep—not for the believer or for those who don’t know Jesus. A movement to see beauty in women of all shapes and sizes and the call to reject the false standards of entertainment and advertising continues to grow. From marketing campaigns using larger-sized models to local groups teaching young girls to be confident without wearing makeup, the message is clear: You are beautiful and you are powerful . . . simply by being you.

freely given, but costly

If you have the cash, you can buy almost anything you want. According to Michael Sandel, author of What Money Can’t Buy, a person can purchase access to the car pool lane while driving alone for $8, a prison-cell upgrade for $90 a night, an amusement park Front of the Line Pass for $149, your doctor’s cell phone number for $1,500, and the right to shoot an endangered black rhino for $250,000. Yes, if you have the money, you can buy almost anything . . .

stairway to heaven

While traveling in Paris, my husband and I decided to enjoy the view atop the Arch of Triumph. Choosing adventure over ease, we elected to climb the 284 stairs to reach the sky-high destination instead of taking the elevator. A good part of the climb required us to step up ever-higher in what seemed like an endless spiral staircase. When we emerged at the apex, we relished the panoramic view of the city—a view made possible by our 162-foot ascent!

works of art

Carrie Stuart Parks is a talented writer and an award-winning artist. But you may want to think twice before signing up to become her next work of art. Parks is an FBI-trained forensic artist. Most of her “artwork” is comprised of the drawings she has made of criminals through eyewitness accounts and the human faces she has rendered after viewing the remains of unidentified victims.

Spacious

In 2003, the Crafton family—dad, mom, two daughters, and a son—sold their home and possessions and set out on a sailing voyage in which they traveled 30,000 miles over 83 months. The family says the experience, something not practical or possible for most of us, drew them closer together and made their lives feel more open and spacious. Before setting sail, parents Tom and Kathleen realized that their successful careers and two houses, though providing the external symbols of success, weren’t making for the life they desired. So they headed for open waters.

True Success

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.”

Beware “Kitsch Jesus”

Kitsch Jesus” is very popular. In paintings and posters, he’s portrayed as having straight teeth, perfect skin, bright blue eyes, and long, flowing hair. He’s often in soft focus, sitting in a peaceful sunlit field and is almost always gazing lovingly at the lamb he cradles in his arms. “Kitsch Jesus” wears long, white robes even when he’s painted in a modern setting, and occasionally he holds a shepherd’s staff. “Kitsch Jesus” rarely has a care in the world and never sports a furrowed brow. He’s a lavender-scented, greeting-card Jesus who is all pixies and daisies and skipping through the fields.

Faith Full

Rather than use the closing “Faithfully yours,” many Ugandans end their correspondence with “Faith full,” followed by their name. Each time I’m the recipient of a letter with that closing (which is often in a country where many people still communicate with pen and paper), I ponder what it truly looks like to be “faith full”—to have a heart that brims with confidence in the Lord.

A Dream

Cornelius was praying when he had a vision of an angel who told him to invite the apostle Peter to his home (Acts 10:2-6). The Roman officer sent his servants to find the apostle, making it clear that Cornelius and his family were ready to hear Peter’s message (Acts 10:22). Having had his own divine guidance (Acts 10:9-21), Peter went with them, shared the gospel, and Cornelius’ whole family became believers (Acts 10:23-48). The event is one beautiful, divinely arranged appointment.

Divine Adoption

Adopting two boys from Russia opened Russell Moore’s eyes to the privilege of being a child of God. People would ask, “Are they really brothers?” “Have you met their real mom?” Moore simply replied, “Of course they’re brothers. They’re both in our family. And their real mom is my wife.”

Dealing With Skepticism

Organized religion is not for me,” a friend said to me recently. I have been praying for this friend’s salvation for more than 15 years, and every time we get together I pray that God will use me to lead her closer to Jesus. But she still seems so skeptical, and I’m afraid of saying anything that might sour our relationship.

decisive

The line between victory and defeat can be quite slim. Did the winning shot leave his hands before the buzzer sounded? Did the goalie deflect the ball early enough or did it slip across the line? Relieved victors often say “a win is a win,” but they realize the contest could have gone either way.

home with Jesus

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.

scum like us

I hate them. They’re _______!” (He used a euphemism for scum.) As I continued to converse with the teen, it became clear that he strongly disliked a certain group of students at school because of the way they talked and acted. The offending ones were unpleasant for him to be around and my young friend had no love for them. Although a believer in Jesus, he couldn’t stand to be around people he viewed as scum.