I’ve known and looked up to a special friend for many years. She’s a ministry leader and also the wife of a ministry leader. My admiration runs deep not because of the global ministry she helps to lead but because of the profound and sacrificial love that she, along with her husband, have lavished on their children, particularly a (former) prodigal son.
A few years ago I received an email wishing me a happy Christmas. I was grateful for the message and thought nothing more of it until a few weeks later when I reread it. As I reviewed the words more carefully, I realized that I had missed the fact that the email contained a gift voucher with a limited time to redeem it!
Sadly, all of us—even the best of us—have prejudices. I was shocked to one day realize my own prejudice against a Christian denomination. I’d been deeply hurt by people in it, and any time the denomination’s name came up, words like “Pharisees,” “legalists,” and “unloving” came to mind. I basically thought, Can anything good come from that denomination?
David Willis hadn’t been in the bookshop long when he walked downstairs and found the lights were turned off and the doors were locked. He was trapped inside the store. Being in the age of social media, he cried out for help on Twitter: “Hi. I’ve been locked inside your Trafalgar Square bookstore for 2 hours now. Please let me out.” He was rescued not too long after his tweet!
Imagine having such a reputation as a whiner that your name becomes a synonym for complaining! That was the case with the prophet Jeremiah. His name provides the basis for the English word jeremiad, which means “lament” or “complaint.”
Wanda was a 20-year-old who was living at home but had no real responsibilities. She had a job with a decent income and spent her free time hanging out with friends. All of that collapsed when she became pregnant.
Leslie Newbigin, a longtime missionary to India, tells the story of his visit to a village in the Madras diocese. The village had prepared music, fireworks, garlands, fruit, and dancing to welcome him. The congregation had presumed that he would come by the southern route, but Newbigin entered the village from the north. When the congregation found out, they quickly ran to welcome him. What a beautiful picture of what Jesus instructed people to do as He began His public ministry.
Adam had eaten of the forbidden fruit and it was now time for him to face the music. God walked through the garden and “called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ ” (Genesis 3:9). Later, when God came to confront Cain for killing Abel, He asked, “Where is your brother?” (Genesis 4:9). This reminds us that those who reject God are apt to wound others.
Andrew Leisewitz is a loving husband, father, and elder in our church. He’s also an internationally respected veterinary professor. But even professors have to pay tolls on some roads in South Africa. One day Andrew left his wallet at home, so he had to go from car to car asking for money at the toll booth. The booth clerks and most of the drivers were unsympathetic to his dilemma. In that moment, it didn’t matter that Andrew is a well-respected professor; he had to humble himself and ask for help.
Steven and his dad regularly took their motorcycles for a ride along the East coast of South Africa, past the bathers and the fishermen, till they reached the deserted sand and sea. One day, after climbing their favorite sand dune, they competed to see who could make it back down in the least amount of jumps. On the 18th jump, Steven heard a bloodcurdling scream from behind. His father had landed on a hidden tree stump and sheared off part of his heel. The experience has left Steven cautious with his own children, allowing them to play on sand dunes, but warning them never to jump down one.
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.
How badly would someone have to betray you before you turned your back on him forever? What if he told you that he loved you, would even die for you, but shortly thereafter adamantly denied that he even knew you? I’m guessing you’d turn your back on that person, or at least give him the cold shoulder for a few months.
Do you have a dark secret that you’ve kept from others? Maybe you did something you think is so bad that if people found out about it they would have nothing to do with you. Perhaps you’re hooked on watching porn or you struggle with substance abuse. Maybe you’re carrying deep hatred for someone who hurt you.
As Timothy McVeigh faced execution for a terrorist act that killed 168 people, he released as his last statement the oft-quoted poem Invictus. It says in part, “I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul,” and concludes with these lines: