Tag  |  relationships

Why Pray Together?

There’s a prayer meeting at my church tonight. Instead of feeling energized by the thought of praying with others, an unexplained tiredness falls heavy on me. Maybe I should go home to rest. I won’t be missing much, will I?

the front porch

In some hills of the USA’s mid-South, much of life is lived on the front porch. Neighbors stop by unannounced for a glass of sweet tea or cup of coffee. No invitation is ever necessary.

Glow Worms

In response to a critic, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once replied, “We are all worms, but I do believe that I am a glow-worm.”

Bigger Than You Imagine

God loves us. Most of us know this. But how many of us feel it? Paul knew that understanding God’s love was a difficult proposition. He believed supernatural revelation was required even to get started (Ephesians 3:16,18). God’s love is so large and our comprehension so small. How can we ever truly understand His love for us?

Face To Face

Technology is helpful, but it can also hinder communication. As the apostle John told Gaius, it’s hard to fully convey all that is in our heart when we’re not with the other person (3 John 1:13-14). If John were writing his third epistle today, he might sign off: “I don’t want to call, text, or tweet my thoughts. I hope to come over soon, and then we’ll talk face to face.”

better than myself

Charles complained to his friend about some lower back pain. He was seeking a sympathetic ear, but his friend gave him an honest assessment. “Your back isn’t your problem,” he pointed out. “It’s your stomach. Your stomach is so big it’s pulling on your back.”

small steps

Reconciliation. It’s God’s heart for people to be restored in relationship with one another across differences in culture, race, and class. This is vital, but sometimes it feels so big that we don’t know where to start.

the risk of love

The Grant Study has followed the lives of more than 250 Harvard graduates for 70 years to learn what makes people happy. It revealed that positive emotions make us more vulnerable than negative ones—in part because they expose us to rejection and heartbreak. One man had received a box of 100 loving letters from his patients when he retired from practicing medicine. Eight years later he proudly showed the box to a researcher and began to cry, “I don’t know what you’re going to make of this, but I’ve never read [them].”

no regrets

Take a guess: What do you think are the top five regrets of the dying? A palliative nurse listed her findings in a book. Here they are:

great expectations

Most of us have an innate desire to help others. We work overtime to ensure that the company meets an important deadline. The sound engineer makes sure the new church sound system is ready for the Sunday service. A young man loses his job and his father offers to pay his rent. These stories remind us that we occasionally underestimate our influence. In contrast, we can also use our positions or authority to negatively impact those who love and respect us—sometimes even inadvertently.

the tale of three men

Once there were three men who served in the same community—Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius.

don’t judge?

Do not judge others” may be the most popular verse in the world. It’s the one phrase from the Bible that everyone seems to know—and often misapply. A former politician continued to text inappropriate photos of himself to strangers even after he apologized and resigned in disgrace. He angrily told a disgusted voter that he had no right to judge him. Pope Francis, when asked about gay priests, replied, “Who am I to judge?” I believe he meant that it’s not his job to judge people’s sins, but many mistook it as an endorsement of a homosexual lifestyle.

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.

coffee house

A pastor wanted to break his church out of their formal traditions and nudge them in a fresh direction. He sensed that the congregation’s formality was discouraging the local community from walking through the church’s doors. So he began to take small steps to help them change.

one diverse family

A question I often hear (and also ask myself) regarding diversity is this: “God calls us to reach out to those who are different from us, but how far are we supposed to go?” Is it enough to serve and minister to people who are different, or are we called to do more?

Related Topics

> christian living

Well, That’s Just Perfect!

The seminar speaker emphasized a positive mental approach to everything. And I’m okay with that, for the most part.

No Expert

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.

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.

> daily devotional

finding our identity

If you imagine that enemies captured you and forced you to change your diet, your college major, and your name, which one would hurt the most? Daniel accepted his new name, Belteshazzar, even though it invoked a pagan god. He accepted his new education “in the language and literature of Babylon,” even though it meant he had to study pagan creation myths (Daniel 1:4).

no worries

How often do you find yourself worrying about something? We worry about tomorrow, the economy, our jobs, and friendships. We worry about our kids, our parents, and our health.

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.

> 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

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.

taste and see

A friend posted a crockpot recipe on her Facebook page. The meal looked good, so I downloaded the recipe—intending to use it one day. The following week, another friend said she was looking for some good slow-cooker meals to prepare, so I emailed her the crockpot recipe I had seen on Facebook. She, in turn, forwarded it to several friends who passed it on as well.

Whose Opinion Matters?

I carefully crafted a Scripture lesson for my church youth group. After I presented it, a young man in the group said, “I believe you could have done a better job.” I was hurt. But then I recalled a phrase once spoken by a longtime worker in the church: “We call ourselves servants of God, but when we’re treated like one we get upset.”

> health

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.

who sinned?

God has told me why your skin cancer hasn’t been healed,” the woman said to my friend. Really? he thought. Having suffered through two failed operations to remove the cancer from his face, my friend was desperate for a reason why. “God has told me it’s one of three things,” she continued. One of three? my friend thought. Even God doesn’t know for sure? “It’s either a generational curse passed down from your parents . . . ” It’s my parent’s fault? “Or it’s a secret sin in your life . . .” Which one? (My friend can be cheeky.) “Or you lack the faith to be healed.”

hope deferred

As any couple trying to have a child knows, every 28 days you’re looking for signs of success. For many couples, this expectation is met with disappointment for a few months until conception occurs. But for others, this monthly cycle of raised and dashed hopes can last for years. Proverbs 13:12 describes such an experience well: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

> relationships

alone in the dark

Gravity tells the story of Dr. Ryan Stone—a brilliant biomedical engineer on her first space shuttle mission. Her partner for the journey is veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski. During a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalski completely alone, tethered to nothing but each other, and ominously spiraling out into blackness.

small spark

In 2004, a man went over a dry, brown patch of grass while mowing his lawn. A blade on the mower struck a rock and created a spark, which resulted in a fire that soon raged out of control. The resulting catastrophe, known as the Bear Fire, blackened 10,484 acres of land and destroyed more than 80 homes. To put out the blaze required the efforts of 33 fire crews and 42 fire engines.

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.”

> Topic of the Day

> touch-your-world