Archives: November 2012

generational investment

Standing quietly in the back, I am moved by the sight. Arms reach upward, voices carry throughout the room, and a tireless energy reverberates to the sound of the drum. Passionate and full of promise, they are far more than a group of teenagers. They are sons and daughters of God—the generation now, not next.

eutychus’ example

I must admit I was having a hard time staying awake. The guest speaker had been monotonously droning on for 45 minutes. According to the outline provided, he wasn’t even halfway through the sermon! “It isn’t my fault if I fall asleep,” I whispered to my wife. “Don’t be a Eutychus!” she replied, even as she poked me with her pen to keep me awake.

harmony

A group of young adults had spent many hours studying Scripture together and serving side-by- side. Needless to say, there was a close bond forming between them. But an issue threatened to break up their camaraderie. They couldn’t see eye-to-eye on how it should be handled. Suddenly, they weren’t as united as before. A few of them decided to get everyone together for a dinner to clear the air. They all learned some important lessons about unity—a key idea in Psalm 133.

life . . . with God

Every month, more than 500,000 people Google “meaning of life.” Why am I here? They find answers ranging from “Life has no meaning” to “The meaning of life is whatever you make it.”

November 26, 2012

What’s a good way to encourage a friend who’s feeling down due to the loss of a family member or friend?

oblivious

Dante Autullo had no idea that a 3.5-inch nail was embedded in his brain. He was totally oblivious. Having accidentally shot himself in the head with a nail gun in January 2012, Autullo thought he had only suffered a small cut . . . so he went back to work! Later, he started to feel nauseous and doctors subsequently found the nail lodged in the center of his brain. Amazingly, Dante came through surgery with no side effects, but with a new titanium plate in his skull.

ghost car

In 1939, General Motors created a “ghost car”—a transparent vehicle with a body made of Plexiglas. The see-through outer shell of the Pontiac Deluxe Six revealed a custom chrome-plated dashboard, a spare tire lodged in the trunk, and even the door-locking mechanisms. The “ghost car” debuted at the New York World’s Fair and then traveled to various dealerships before finding a semi-permanent parking spot inside the Smithsonian Institute. In 2011, it sold at an auction for $308,000.

history’s steady tune

George Jellinek, former host of The Vocal Scene radio program, says “the history of a people is found in its songs.” Years ago, music was a crucial way for slaves in the US to recount their stories, and music was central to the way the Civil Rights movement retold its vision. If you want to know a culture or its people, you have to know the music they used to pass along their stories. This is how the people in ancient Israel used the Psalms—their stories and prayers helped them to remember God, particularly in the long years when God was silent.

the glory of Jesus

Wedding receptions. I’m not opposed to attending them. But, honestly, if I can avoid going to one, you’ll get no complaints from me. (Note: This does not apply to the day when either of my daughters marry!)

queen for a day

Following a meeting at Mildmay Uganda—a specialized center that provides holistic outpatient care for HIV and AIDS patients—I was summoned by Mildmay’s public relations director. “We are welcoming the Queen of England to Mildmay tomorrow,” she said. “Our pediatric patients are preparing to demonstrate their native costumes and traditional dances for Her Majesty. Would you kindly serve as the queen for the children’s final dress rehearsal?”

more

Tom Brady has model-like good looks, is married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen, and has led his football team to three championships. But it’s still not enough. Brady confessed during an interview, “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey, man, this is what is.’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think, ‘God, it’s got to be more than this.’ I mean this isn’t—this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be.” The interviewer asked, “What’s the answer?” Brady responded, “I wish I knew. I wish I knew.”

when walls fall

Every Monday evening at 8:30 p.m., the walls of my house begin to vibrate. Far from any earthquake tremors, my house instead responds to the sound of my husband and the young men in his small group as they begin their time of worship in song. As I sit upstairs, I love to hear their deep voices resonating throughout the house. It’s the sound of strength.

November 19, 2012

What are you thankful for today?

was i there?

I’ve never experienced what it means to be opposed or persecuted for my religious beliefs. Without a doubt, I’m thankful that I live in a country where there’s both freedom and safety to practice my faith. Yet, in more than 50 countries around the world, no less than 200 million Christians are vigorously opposed and ruthlessly persecuted. Many thousands have died horrible deaths, simply because they loved Jesus.

lousy comforters

I’m often tongue-tied when I attend a funeral or visit someone in the hospital. As soon as I open my mouth, it concerns me that I’m sounding like one of Job’s friends. They were better comforters when they kept their mouths shut rather than when they opened them (Job 2:11-13). Their advice and consolation to Job sounded like the exact words I might have spoken. They argued forcefully and their arguments seemed so pious, leading Philip Yancey to comment: “If today we had only Job 3–37, we would judge the three friends as the true heroes of the book.” But God was angry with them (Job 42:7).

Related Topics

> christian living

Running the Race

In 2005 Dean Karnazes ran 350 miles in eighty hours—setting the world record for distance running without sleep. Ten years later, Rob Young, nicknamed the “Marathon Man,” broke the record by covering nearly 374 miles in eighty-eight hours. Young, who had endured abuse by his father as a child, said he ran with two goals in mind: to test the limits of human endurance and to help the world become a better place for kids.

Is This Heaven?

In the fantasy-drama Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella heard a mysterious voice whispering from his cornfield: “If you build it, he will come.” In time, Ray realized the voice was calling him to build a baseball field among his rows of cornstalks. When he built the ball field, major-league baseball players from the past miraculously emerged from the remaining cornstalks to play ball.

Tongues Afire

Over the past month or so, my wife and I have had some hard conversations. Places of deep hurt have become visible again. As we’ve talked, amid much sadness, I’ve had to reckon with a lasting wound I left on her heart. Years ago, before we were married, Miska and I endured a significant conflict. In that turmoil, I spoke words to her that were foolish and immature, words that lodged into the most tender and vulnerable places of her heart. I didn’t speak in anger or malice, but rather with ignorance and stupidity. I’ve asked her forgiveness multiple times, and she has freely forgiven me. Still . . . the wound is there. My words can’t be taken back.

> daily devotional

Unappreciated?

Have you ever gone out of your way to do something kind for others, only to have them ignore your effort? You stayed up past midnight to finish a report for your boss or planned a special getaway for your family. You were excited to please them, but ended up disappointed when they didn’t even say thank you.

Covenant Relationship

Two different friends from different spheres of my life—one a man, one a woman—told me about their unfaithful spouses during the same week. Both felt betrayed and angry. They wondered if they would ever feel whole again.

Gifts from God

Police were sent to a home in response to a report of domestic child abuse. When they arrived at the house, they found a scared four-year-old girl with a black eye, swollen cheek, and bruises covering a majority of her tiny frame. The officers were devastated when they asked her to say her name and she meekly replied, “Idiot.”

> 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

Entering into God’s Rest

My son and I spent a few days with friends at their home in the beautiful northern region of New England in the US. Our visit followed my ninth consecutive year of fruitful but intense ministry in East Africa. Depleted and in need of recharging, I was grateful for the physical rest my friends’ hospitality provided.

You Have a Choice

You mean, I can choose to believe in Jesus?” my young Nepali friend asked in surprise as I was giving her a ride to the grocery store. She was an international student at the same university I was attending and had been coming for several months to a weekly Bible study. As we were discussing her thoughts regarding the study, she suddenly became shocked by the realization that she could choose what to believe. She had grown up in a culture where faith was something she was born into, with no choice given to her.

Philip Flunked

In college, I had the, ahem, joy of taking a class about the history of the English language. The professor would ramble on and on about his life and all kinds of odd facts during his lectures. We listened intently, however, because his tests were famously difficult. He didn’t simply ask us to recall facts, he required us to think differently. The questions were designed to ensure that we could apply our knowledge in unique ways.

> health

Hope for Today

Someone close to me recommitted his life to God, began taking his wife and young daughter to church, and was seeking to follow Jesus faithfully. Within weeks, however, his world began to fall apart. His daughter was admitted to the hospital with a chest infection, his business partner refused to pay him, and his wife asked for some time apart. He looked drained and weary when I offered to pray for him, saying he’d rather not have any help from God. From the moment he’d chosen to serve the Lord again, he said it felt as if a huge target had been placed on his back and the Enemy was having a field day.

Something More Powerful

When France’s ministry of health realized that 17.8 percent of French women smoked while pregnant, they came up with a plan. For a trial period of thirty-six months, seventeen French hospitals paid women up to 300 euros to stop smoking during their pregnancies. Of the 612 participants, 22.5 percent of the women gave up their cigarettes.

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.

> relationships

Covenant Relationship

Two different friends from different spheres of my life—one a man, one a woman—told me about their unfaithful spouses during the same week. Both felt betrayed and angry. They wondered if they would ever feel whole again.

Gifts from God

Police were sent to a home in response to a report of domestic child abuse. When they arrived at the house, they found a scared four-year-old girl with a black eye, swollen cheek, and bruises covering a majority of her tiny frame. The officers were devastated when they asked her to say her name and she meekly replied, “Idiot.”

The Grand Project of Salvation

The Swedish writer Fredrick Backman’s 2012 debut novel A Man Called Ove is the tale of a man who sees no reason to live. After the death of his wife (the one person who brought him laughter, intimacy, and joy) and after losing his job, Ove plots his suicide. But then he’s drawn into the larger story around him: There’s a pregnant woman who needs his support, a neighbor in conflict with authorities who are trying to force him into a nursing home, and a young man estranged from his father. Ove discovers reasons to live as he moves beyond himself and toward others.