In February 2015, a terrorist group in the Middle East released a video showing the gruesome beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians (all men) on a beach in Libya. It is reported that prior to losing their lives, many were mouthing the name of Jesus, calling out to Him. It’s also reported that none of them denied their faith in Jesus. When our Christian brothers left their homes and families in Egypt to find work in Libya, they had no idea that they would become martyrs who stained the sea red with their blood.
When my wife, Miska, and I were dating and our relationship grew serious, marriage became the obvious next step. For more than a year, however, I hesitated and pushed the conversation aside. We even broke up twice as our communication faltered and expectations diverged. Through several difficult conversations, I had to face how afraid I was of commitment. I loved Miska, but I wanted to keep my options open. And I found myself haunted by all the “what ifs” and all the unknown future possibilities. My fear of commitment wasn’t unusual, but it was immature. Love requires a risk. To say yes to one person, we must say no to others.
Author Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes, “It’s bad enough for me to make choices that hurt my own relationship with God. How much more serious is it to be the cause of someone else deciding to sin? . . . I choose the pathway of holiness for God’s sake and for my own sake.”
A wistful sigh escaped from the young mother as she made lunch for her daughter. Staring at the empty basket on the table in their cramped living space, she thought, We can’t even afford fruit. Then she said out loud, “If we could just have a basket of fruit, I would feel rich!”
In C. S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy (from the Chronicles of Narnia series), Shasta embarked on a long journey from his village to escape being sold as a slave. As he traveled, he became aware of something following him:
In 2014, a man opened fire with a handgun during a meeting with his caseworker and psychiatrist at a hospital. Sadly, the caseworker was mortally wounded, while the psychiatrist—who returned fire with his own handgun—received minor injuries. The gunman, who was subdued at the scene, indicated that he opened fire because he’d been offended by the hospital’s “no guns” policy.
As a preacher, I’m rightly concerned with the content of each of my Sunday sermons. I must confess, however, that I can fall into the trap of being overly concerned with what people think of my message—not whether or not the message is clearly understood or whether the people and the Lord Himself are blessed by what I say. I can become more concerned with the goal of having church members like what I say and approve of my message. Sometimes a furrowed brow in the congregation, especially from someone I know and respect spiritually, can seriously interrupt my flow and cause me no small amount of consternation.
Christmas cards and nativity scenes depict the wise men visiting the Christ-child. But I think the story is bigger than the way it’s presented. The wise men’s journey is also a paradigm for our spiritual journey.
As my wife tried to get home from visiting our daughter over the holidays, bad weather shut down numerous flights. After 2 days, she had a fistful of boarding passes for planes that couldn’t leave the ground, and she joined thousands of weary travelers scrambling for places to stay.
When I see the moon at its thinnest stage, I sometimes think of a passage I read in Flannery O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal. The writer composed these poetic words for God: “You are the slim crescent of a moon . . . and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon . . . I do not know you God, because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.”
I talked with a former British elite forces soldier who had faced many battles and emerged unscathed. He said, “I don’t believe in God.” I challenged him by saying these familiar words: “There are no atheists on the battlefield.”
As the story goes, a man was hiking alone when he slipped and fell down a steep cliff. In desperation, he grabbed a tree limb and began shouting for help. Finally, he heard a booming voice answer, “Yes, I’m here.” The hiker was elated. “Who are you?” “It’s the Lord.” “Oh, thank you, Lord!” the hiker gasped. “What do you want me to do?” “Let go.” The terrified hiker couldn’t release the only security he thought he had, so finally he meekly asked, “Is there anyone else up there?” Life is tough. Circumstances often seem unfair, and there are times when we feel close to death. It’s usually in the midst of these moments of desperation that God urges us to “let go” of our feeble solutions and trust Him. In 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, Paul shares an intimate account of the difficult time he had in Asia and of how he felt close to death. He also reminds his readers, however, that God is our source of comfort and that we can use our growth through trials to help others (2 Corinthians 1:3-6).
At the beginning of the classic book The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins was enjoying a comfortable and predictable life in his home in the Shire—until the mysterious Gandalf dropped in for a surprise visit. Gandalf turned to Bilbo and said, “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.” Bilbo replied, “I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! We don’t want any adventures here, thank you.”
Sleep. It’s one of the most underrated pleasures in life. There’s nothing like a good night’s rest or napping on a rainy day. My bed feels like a refuge—a small sanctuary from the cares of life.