Tag  |  holiness

The Cookie Jar

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.

the stings of life

A 71-year-old woman was outside her home when a swarm of killer (Africanized) bees began stinging her. Neighbors called firefighters who rushed to the rescue—only to find the woman covered in a “suit of bees.” A blanket was thrown over her and she was carried into a neighbor’s house. Surprisingly, she survived more than 1,000 stings!

being found

Ihave a friend who has wounds so deep that she resists the compassionate love of others. Caring people have reached out to my friend. They would give their lives for her (in fact, in many ways they’ve done precisely that). Yet she runs from their love. She fears being loved. The love offered to her is so strong, and her heart so weak, that it terrifies her. It seems safer just to stay in her cocoon.

no lazy river

One of our favorite family vacation sites is a beautiful beach community located in an adjoining state. We like to go there during the “off season” when few tourists are around. Though the ocean water is a little chilly, we enjoy swimming in an indoor pool. Also, there’s a lazy river that surrounds the pool and holds a special appeal for our kids. They’ve tried to swim against its current over the years, only to be carried in the opposite direction.

personal responsibility

My friend’s eyes revealed what I was feeling— fear! We two 13-year-olds had behaved poorly and were now cowering before the camp director. The man, who knew our dads well, raised the decibels as he shouted, “You, the son of Dick Thomas, and you, the son of Ray Felten, how could you have done this?” Needless to say, we wanted to crawl under the table—feeling the weight of personal responsibility for our offense, and having remorse over the shame we had brought to our fathers.

a piece of my heart

Senseless violence and dark injustice can make for a steady rain in life—dampening spirits in mists of gray. In the summer of 2013, a 17-year-old from a rough neighborhood jumped in front of his mother to protect her from an attack. The bullet struck and killed him, leaving his mother clutching his lifeless body in front of their home. The boy’s brother, who witnessed the crime, said later, “I lost a big piece of my heart that night.”

the big “i”

I recently attended a meeting of leaders that could have become contentious and disastrous. It could have resulted in more fireworks than Chinese New Year! Thankfully, however, difficult issues were addressed with honesty and transparency. The big “I”—integrity—led individuals to speak words of truth, love, and forgiveness.

bad religion

In his landmark books Soul Searching and Souls in Transition, sociologist Christian Smith surveyed American young adults and found that most held to what he called “Therapeutic Moralistic Deism.” They’re deists because they believe God doesn’t interfere in our lives unless we need His help to solve a problem. They’re moralistic because they believe God wants us to be good and kind to each other. And their view is therapeutic because it makes them feel good about themselves.

His kids

Two teenage Chinese brothers are living with us as they attend school in the US. Since we have three biological sons, my wife and I call Dongyao and Dongpeng our “Chinese sons.” They have loving parents in China, but we’re also striving to love them well. We now have five kids!

hear the Word

Paul’s closing remarks indicate how his letters were presented. The church gathered to hear the letter read out loud and, when they had heard it, the letter was copied by hand before it was sent on to another city. So the average Christians heard God’s Word with their ears before seeing it with their eyes.

spiritual self-examination

Yed Anikpo created an app called Heartpoints to help Christians track their spiritual progress. Users of the app can review their daily history to rejoice over victories and to repent of sins. According to Anikpo, “Heartpoints [can] help us capture [what] makes up our walk today so that we can examine it and use [it] to inform . . . our pilgrimage tomorrow.”

remaining true

A young man wavered between two worlds. Would he roll with the gangs in his neighborhood, or walk with Christ? Although his father struggled with addiction and his mother suffered from schizophrenia, his grandmother prayed for and encouraged him to follow Jesus. Christian hip-hop artist FLAME admits that there was a time in his life that he tried to fit into both worlds. But today he has a degree in biblical counseling and is attending seminary. And his top-selling albums contain street-savvy beats and inspiring Christian messages.

reverent fear

The ocean was churning. Massive waves were causing the huge vessel to list from side to side. As I stood and looked out a window, I was amazed at the power and fury of the storm. The beating of the raindrops on the metal deck matched the rapid beating of my heart as the ship was buffeted by fierce elements.

clean start

For many years my wife and I put off doing some major remodeling to our home. Finally, the carpeting that was more that 35 years old and the kitchen cabinet doors that were falling apart caught up with us. So this year we employed operation clean start! It was out with the old and in with the new as the main floor of our home received an extreme makeover. Now that the process of restoration is nearly finished, it’s amazing to see and experience the difference!

diluted faith

I usually think about salt in the context of what I consume, like when my doctor repeatedly “nudges” me to nix using so much of the stuff. But salt isn’t just something we sprinkle on french fries. In the ancient context, it also preserved food, was used in offerings, and was rubbed on newborn babies as an act of purification (Leviticus 2:13; Ezekiel 16:4). With that in mind, salt is a symbol of our unique character as believers in Jesus—that we are set apart, blessed, useful, and holy.