Tag  |  the-church

Simple Tables

I have a friend who has spent most of his life with people who live on society’s margins: People experiencing poverty or homelessness, those who wrestle with addictions or simply exist outside the mainstream, anyone who might be considered an outcast. “That’s where I seem to fit,” my friend says. “On the edges.” He helps believers in Jesus learn how to be in true friendship with those who are different. “This kind of friendship isn’t as complicated as we like to make it,” my friend insists. “Often it’s as simple as knowing someone’s name and how they like their coffee.”

Greater Gifts

Today Mother’s Day is celebrated in my corner of the world. We take our moms out to eat, send them cards, and post our love for them on social media sites. I’ve noticed that most people don’t praise their mom for being a dynamic speaker, an inspirational leader, or an accomplished musician. We love our moms for much simpler things.

No Lone Rangers

My country esteems “rugged individualism”—the idea that truly strong people do things on their own. The icon of this peculiar value was the Lone Ranger, a famous fictional cowboy of radio and the silver screen, and a solitary masked hero that protected others from harm. But it’s interesting to note that the Lone Ranger was hardly alone. He had a trusty horse named Silver and a constant companion named Tonto. Because of this, the supposedly “Lone” Ranger had more friends than many people do!

Loving Beyond Borders

I first experienced the beauty of the global body of Christ when I traveled from South Africa to Malaysia as a teacher. In that country, with its varying religions and cultural beliefs, I found a spiritual home away from home. From the moment I stepped into the little church down the road, I was warmly welcomed and treated like family. Thousands of kilometers away from where I grew up, I met people with the same spirit and the same love for Jesus.

Torn Apart in Aisle 9

My heart heavy, I was tempted to park my grocery cart and interrupt their conversation. Though I hadn’t heard the entirety of their acidic discussion, I caught enough to know the four shoppers were deeply dissatisfied with individuals at their local church. Ironically, not one of them looked any happier for their venting. I didn’t know them, those they were talking about, or even their church, but I grieved over this verbal ripping apart of the body of Christ in a public store aisle.

Prejudice by Association

The sound of her name made me recoil. I knew the strong testimony of the well-known speaker and had no justifiable reason to avoid her podcasts. My disgust had nothing to do with her or the worthy cause she represented. I’d been hurt by someone who idolized her, so my prejudice came because of her association with that individual.

Foretastes of the Kingdom

When I was 10 years old, Baskin-Robbins opened a new ice cream store in my neighborhood. It didn’t serve the icy, generic brand of sweet treats that my mom occasionally bought at the grocery store. This was good ice cream—thick and creamy!

The End of All Wars

In 1893, the inventor of the machine gun was asked if his invention would make wars even more devastating. He replied that he believed they would make wars impossible. Many inventors and great scientists have said similar things over the years, only to discover that this was not the truth. Scientific progress has not slowed the beat of war, but has only made it far more deadly than it had ever been before.

First

Seemingly unaware of leaflets littering the sidewalk and placards dotting the corners of the intersection, the pedestrians around me continued their normal pace of life on this national election weekend. As a foreigner, I saw a distinct similarity between the smiling faces of the candidates staring from their two-dimensional advertisements and those from my home country. All promised change and hope.

Chosen Instruments

My daughter is only 5 years old, but she’s a self- declared “artist.” One day we talked about paintbrushes. I selected two and handed them to her. The first brush was slim, with bristles that ended in a fine point. The other brush was larger and thicker. I explained that artists typically use bigger brushes to fill in large areas, while tiny brushes work better for small spaces and creating details. Painting involves choosing the right tool at the right time in the artistic process.

I Got This

I had been doing well in my university classes and assumed that my upcoming logic exam was no big deal. A lukewarm sense of complacency settled over me. You might sum up my attitude as “I got this!”

two things we need

Fire requires oxygen and fuel in tandem to keep burning—something that’s important to know in my part of the world when winter snowstorms come calling! If you don’t have enough oxygen flowing to the logs you’ve set ablaze, the fire will die down. And if you run out of wood, you’ll soon be trying to warm your hands over cooling ashes!

teaching lines

I overheard my 11-year-old son telling his grandmother about one of his classes at school. “On our first day of Studio Art,” he said, “our teacher told us to draw self-portraits. Mine was bad. Everyone’s was bad. The next day she taught us how to use lines, and everyone’s self-portraits improved.”

At the Center

For all its warts and challenges, the church is still the body of Christ—the means that God has established for His kingdom to grow on earth. Renowned pastor and theologian John Stott wrote: “The church lies at the center of the purpose of God. God’s purpose, conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, to be perfected in a future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to call out a people for himself to build his church.”

Crossing the Line

The deaf community at the midsize American church was struggling. Two of their most faithful members had died. Their longtime interpreter was retiring, and the church was changing pastors.

Related Topics

> 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

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.

Starting Over

As part of their training, all new presenters on the radio use a practice log—an exact replica of the live log except for one small difference in the file name. It’s a little like a flight simulator for pilots; you get to make mistakes without embarrassing or devastating consequences. It’s a great system for trainees, but if a seasoned presenter accidentally use the practice log to prerecord her radio program, it won’t be able to air.

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.

> 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

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.”

Memorials

Early in our marriage, my wife, Kristen, and I hiked a mountain trail. The day was full of color, with a hot, yellow sun overhead, lush evergreens on each side, and copper-colored soil beneath our feet. We came upon a tree on which numerous hikers had carved their initials. Filled with the joy of our new life together and the beauty of the natural world, we felt like leaving a memorial too. Using the teeth of my car key, I scratched “A + K” into the bark.

> 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.