Tag  |  gods-sovereignty

Life and Loss

Since the early days of human existence it’s been a constant foe. Recently it came calling in a friend’s life as she lamented her children not walking with Jesus. Another friend bemoaned the death of what had been a loving marriage. A family member looked at me with teary eyes, trying to form words that couldn’t come due to dementia. Another family member, deep in the throes of grief because of her father’s death, said softly, “I can’t believe he’s gone.”

The Unhappy Sin

Essayist Joseph Epstein writes, “Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.” He goes on to say that envy makes us look “ungenerous, mean, and small-hearted.” There’s plenty of research to back up Epstein’s statement. In fact, psychologists have found that envy decreases life satisfaction and diminishes well-being. It’s correlated with depression and neuroticism, and the hostility envy breeds may actually make us physically sick.

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.

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).

Happy Ascension Day

Let me be the first to say to you, Happy Ascension Day! Today we commemorate when Jesus’ disciples witnessed their risen Lord being “taken up to heaven” (Luke 24:50-51). It’s understandable if you didn’t know about this special date. Generally speaking, it’s a day on the church calendar that often comes quietly and goes with little attention or fanfare.

Changing Our Tune

When my friend received a traffic ticket for speeding in a construction zone, he decided to contest it in court. As he put it, he was driving below the posted speed limit when another vehicle raced past him. The police officer’s radar gun had recorded the other car’s speed. But the judge would have none of it.

Certain Goodness

As my sister and I were growing up, our parents taught us about the love of Jesus and to enjoy intimate prayer with Him. As I grew older, sometimes life’s varied challenges pressed hard on me, and my prayers became requests based on need rather than tender dialogues with the One who delights in giving to His children (Matthew 7:11). In other words, my prayers were based on circumstances rather than on God’s character. Over time, I’ve learned to ask according not only to His will but also His goodness.

How Long, God?

Not long ago I was certain that God was moving my husband and me in a specific direction. Two different sources, without consulting one another, encouraged us to pursue the same opportunity. So we did. Doors flew open as we kept moving forward. We were encouraged and excited, for what we never thought would happen was coming together right before our very eyes. As we bathed the whole process in prayer, God seemed to be honoring our requests. Until the eleventh hour, that is. That’s when the final door was slammed shut in our faces. We were shocked, and felt cheated and tricked by God. There was absolutely no way to make our dream a reality.

Premature

Born at 34 weeks, he was 3 pounds of miracle. Tubes and wires extended from his diminutive body to monitor his steady progress. His vision was restricted by a soft gauze eye mask to protect his eyes from the bilirubin light. He often became frustrated with all the equipment restricting his movement. But when his dad reached through the small opening in the incubator to gently cup his son’s tiny head in his large hand, the mighty warrior in baby form grew still and drifted off to sleep.

God’s Good Nature

Occasionally I tell people that my wife attended university on a dodgeball scholarship. Some people naively react with, “Oh, really?” Others call me on it. “Dodgeball? Seriously? When did that become a scholarship sport?”

An Angry Prayer

The 1965 movie Shenandoah stars Jimmy Stewart as Charlie Anderson, an authoritarian father of seven who farms in the Shenandoah Valley. Set during the American Civil War, the film explores themes of war, family, and restoration.

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.”

Unplanned Change

Flying back from a weeklong trip to Brazil, my husband and I received an unexpected text. The message from the church’s financial secretary revealed that a certified letter from our county’s board of education had arrived. Having planted a church that met at a local high school, we knew the letter had something to do with our rental agreement. For more than a year, it had been the place our church family called home each Sunday. Our dismay grew when we received the contents of the letter—the board wasn’t going to renew our lease for the building past the end of the year, just 3 short months away.

The Right Question

I sat riveted to the screen as my alma mater completed a stunning comeback in a big football game. Just after scoring in the waning seconds, a player knelt and offered a prayer. No grandstanding; no look-at-me celebratory theatrics. Just a quick, humble prayer of gratitude to God before his overjoyed teammates swarmed him.

good ideas aren’t enough

My local church is always looking for ways to reach the young people in our community. Some of the ways we’ve considered have included having a toddler group for teenage mothers, hosting a barbecue for the local youth, opening up our church building as a youth drop-in center, and even helping out with a multi-church mobile youth club bus.

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> christian living

Genuine Love

I doubt that any word gets tossed around in our world with such frequency and flippancy as love. It’s common for us to justify selfish behavior or whitewash actions harmful to others all in the name of some weak notion of “love.” Too often our actions performed under the guise of love have nothing whatsoever to do with the reality of it.

Straight Up

Carefully lifting each piece of paper, I sorted the stacks on my desk—again. I searched through file drawers, bookcases, computer folders, and email messages while praying fervently that the missing item would be found. Disappointed and frustrated, I took a deep breath and informed my supervisor before emailing the originator of the document for another copy. My prayers were answered in an unexpected fashion when I received a message in reply letting me know that the item hadn’t yet been sent to me!

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.

> daily devotional

Seasons of Grief

Last year I received two pieces of extremely sad news within a few hours. First came the news that a dear friend died of a sudden heart attack. Steve, who was only 60 years old, was a good man who loved Jesus and his family. A few hours later brought the tragic news of a dearly loved couple whose marriage collapsed under the weight of an adulterous affair.

John’s Question

I had plans for how my life was supposed to work out,” my friend David said. “And when things didn’t go as planned, I became bitter and resentful.” Who can relate to David? I definitely can! Often I find myself imposing my expectations on God as rights, and then sulking when they aren’t realized.

Victory

King Pyrrhus had tasted victory against the Romans in the Battle of Asculum (279 BC). But the victory was bittersweet. Pyrrhus lamented, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” Why? Even though the Romans had sustained more losses in the battle, the depth of their army was far greater. So Pyrrhus knew that ultimate victory in war with Rome was impossible.

> ethics

rotten fruit

There’s a “quick sale” area in my local supermarket where fruit is offered at a huge discount. If not sold quickly, the fully ripened edibles will become soft, flabby, and infected with fungus.

judgment of justice

An acquaintance of mine, who is highly intelligent and has a philosophical bent, also carries antipathy toward God and religion. He enjoys being provocative, recently quoting the second-century philosopher Epicurus who said: “There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men.”

if My people

I was speaking with three friends about the lamentable condition of our country. They mentioned the continued practice of abortion, the rise of homosexual marriage, and the debt crisis. One friend cited 2 Chronicles 7:14, and said that our nation’s problems will only be solved when our country turns to God. I said that would be difficult to pull off, as our nation believes in the separation of church and state. We cannot compel Muslims, Buddhists, or atheists to worship Yahweh. Nor would we want to. Life goes badly—both for those inside and outside the church—whenever Christianity becomes the religion of the state.

> faith

John’s Question

I had plans for how my life was supposed to work out,” my friend David said. “And when things didn’t go as planned, I became bitter and resentful.” Who can relate to David? I definitely can! Often I find myself imposing my expectations on God as rights, and then sulking when they aren’t realized.

He Saw Something

It was with gut-wrenching horror that I watched the video of 21 Coptic Christians being forced to kneel on a Libyan beach before being beheaded by terrorists. Later, I learned that a relative of some of the men who were killed said that many of them cried out the name of Jesus with their dying breath—a testimony to their faith in Him. Though the terrorists had hoped for the opposite effect, they had actually strengthened the faith of the Coptic Church by proving that even imminent death couldn’t snatch away their brothers’ love for Christ!

Stay or Run Away?

Waiting in a long line to ride a roller coaster, I considered turning back several times. When it was finally my turn to board, the safety bar in the seat I was to occupy wouldn’t release properly. I was afraid of getting stuck, but I hopped in anyway. When the safety bar came down too tightly on my lap, I felt trapped and scared! I considered waving my hand and asking to be excused from the ride. But an attendant announced over the loudspeaker, “You can scream and you can shout, but there’s no way we’ll let you out.”

> health

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.

sweet sleep

Recent research concluded that Americans are among the world’s worst when it comes to sleep deprivation. The published statistics reveal: The US (along with France and Taiwan) ranks among the top three most sleep-deprived nations in the world. Indians (54 percent), Americans (49 percent), and Singaporeans (43 percent) reported not getting enough rest due to being too worried or stressed out. Most sleep-deprived Americans (66 percent), however, can’t sleep because they’re anxious about finances and paying their bills.

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.

> relationships

Mixed Bag

My pastor sat down in my church office and told me about a parishioner he had encountered years ago at another church. The woman, known for her criticism, felt that he did nothing right, and she shared those sentiments with others. His sermons weren’t the kind of preaching she liked. At best, she said, they were “mediocre.” She even asked him why he didn’t preach like some of the ministers on TV. When he met to talk with her about her criticisms, she didn’t back down. But even with all of the venom he received from the woman, my pastor could say to me, “There were many wonderful things she did for the church. We’re all mixed bags, Marlena, all mixed bags. Just remember that.”

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.

The Last Stop

My friend says our lives are like trains. We make various “stops” for school, college, job, marriage, and family. At each stop we spend time with others who have stepped off. When we graduate or change jobs, we say goodbye to the people at that junction and step back onto the train. Only a handful of people stay with us all the way to the end. These are the most important people in our lives, the people who receive most of our time and attention.