Archives: December 2012

no different?

Conned out of a large sum of money by a business partner, who claimed to be deacon in a church, my friend’s anger and disenchantment ran deep. He said, “How can a Christian do this kind of thing? I trusted him. Now I know he’s no different from a non-Christian!”

after the honeymoon

The honeymoon is over. Life is settling back to routine—a new one. Now you have a partner to live with. It’s no longer just about your preferences and habits. You need to learn to tango with him or her in a new paradigm. That’s where we start stepping on each other’s toes. And that’s where Song of Solomon 5:2-3 comes in.

listening

I have recently noticed that I am adept at a skill that should not be celebrated. I pretend to listen. Whether it’s a loss of focus because we’re planning what to say next in a heated debate or the random derailed train of thought amidst a casual conversation, I doubt that I’m the only one who excels in this gifting. Sometimes, realizing I have no idea what has been said, I will listen more carefully in the hopes of covering my lack of attention; other times, I simply tell on myself because I have no idea where the conversation has been.

unhappy at work

I have a friend who had been unhappy at work. He told me that no matter how hard he tried, his boss was completely unreasonable. Ultimately, he was fired. An acquaintance who knows both my friend and his boss told me he feels that it was my friend’s issues that led to his dismissal. So what’s the truth? My guess is that it’s a mixture of the two viewpoints. But here’s one thing we can know without question: Being unhappy in one’s work can lead to some sad results.

a prophet and a roaring God

Amos is one of the most intriguing biblical characters, tucked away in the neglected corner of the Minor Prophets. I’ve struggled with the prophet partly because my son Seth once had a stuffed monkey named Amos. My main difficulty, however, has been that Amos is true to his calling as a prophet.

December 26, 2012

What are a few of your spiritual goals for 2012? Why?

you are owned

It’s devastating to be owned by another human. Slaves suffer unimaginable heartbreak and abuse because their lives are not their own. Another person tells them where they will live, what they will do, even whom they will marry. They have no say. Being owned is so harsh that even today, when we want to express the domination of one person over another, we are apt to say something like “Susan owns Tom,” meaning that he pretty much does whatever she wants.

a king born for all

Scene one: A stable in Bethlehem, Judea. There, a group of shepherds kneel before a baby sleeping in a feeding trough (Luke 2:8-20). The society of the day despises these grimy, unclean shepherds, and they can’t believe they’re here. How could they have been given such a privilege?

close to the cradle

The angels were on the verge of a brawl. As characters in our church’s nativity scene, a multitude of small girls outfitted in white gowns and halos had assembled around the cradle. Unfortunately, some eager cherubs decided that they wanted a better look at the baby. Pushing and elbowing ensued. Finally, one little girl turned to the audience and cried, “Mommy!” just before the nativity director ushered everyone off the stage.

good men

The opening line of the 1984 song “Holding Out for a Hero” asks, “Where have all the good men gone?” That’s a fair question in a world that has seen more than its share of passive or violent males.

great expectations

Most parents have great expectations for their children. I’m sure the world’s first parents, Adam and Eve, had high hopes for their first child. We see this in Eve’s response: “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” (Genesis 4:1). The reformist Martin Luther taught that this rendering does not quite capture the intensity of the optimism Eve had for her firstborn. Knowing of God’s promise of a Savior (Genesis 3:15), Eve honestly believed that her son was the promised Messiah. There’s a sense in which Eve said: “I have the man from the Lord!” Or as found in the NASB footnotes: “I have gotten a man, the Lord.” One Bible expositor translated it as, “Here he is. The Redeemer is here.”

tough times ahead

You’ve sent out countless resumes. Yet employment still seems elusive. You’ve led a healthy lifestyle. Yet the cancer marker is abnormally high. You’ve tried to be a good parent. Yet your child is choosing not to follow God. The list goes on.

no longer acting

A gifted local actor was asked to play the part of Scrooge in an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for my friend’s church. The revised story included a scene where his crusty character broke down, confessed his sin, and received Jesus as his Savior. Each play practice, the actor struggled with the scene—for he was not a believer in Christ. On opening night, however, as he was spoke the scripted words of repentance and acceptance of God’s gift of salvation, the Holy Spirit moved in his heart and he gave his life to Jesus!

waiting in worship

I’ve never been exceptionally good at waiting. While I’ve learned that waiting can only be productive if I have set the desires of my heart on the things of God, lately He’s been working on my attitude in the waiting.

you choose Q: why do Christians die of cancer, while unbelievers live?

Q: Why does it seem like people who are not Christians have cancer and live, and ones who are Christians get cancer and die? I'm confused.  —Patricia

A: Some religions teach that the suffering we experience in this life is retribution for things we did in former lives. A big difference between Christianity and these other religions is that it doesn’t…

Related Topics

> christian living

No Floating

I was power-trimming weeds beneath a large tree in our backyard when I felt a painful, burning jab to the back of my skull. Turning, I noticed several hornets buzzing around me. Having been already stung by one, I fled the scene. Later that night I discovered I had bumped the hornets’ watermelon-sized nest with my head! A sting had snapped me out of my clueless state, one that could have resulted in me being swarmed and stung repeatedly.

Limited View

The spot began as a small discoloration on the baseboard adjacent to one of our bedroom doors. Unsure of what caused it, we dismissed it as an unidentified spill. After a lengthy stretch of rainy days, however, the three-inch spot had not only grown, but the baseboard on the opposite side of the door began to yellow as well. The bowing wood and the musty smell of damp carpet hastened our investigation, and we discovered that our original assessment had neglected to capture the full picture. Overflow from the rain had seeped into the doorframe of our back porch, resulting in damage that had now become plain to see.

Upending

A backyard bash was underway when a man carrying a gun approached and demanded money from the partygoers. The partiers would have handed their money to the bandit, but no one had any cash! So they offered what they did have—a drink. Surprisingly, the crook accepted and joined their party. An unexpected response changed everything.

> daily devotional

Living For Jesus

“My Tribute,” one of my favorite worship songs, addresses how to adequately respond to God’s undeserved mercy and grace. The lyrics note that although we can never thank Him enough, we can live in ways that please Him. Similarly, Paul describes our lives as the best way we can give thanks: “Give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). While that sacrifice means some believers will die for Jesus, all of us are called to live for Him.

The One

The trailer for the epic World War II movie Saving Private Ryan contains these words: “In the last great invasion of the last great war, the greatest challenge for eight men was saving . . . one.” Jesus similarly told a parable about a shepherd who searched for one lost lamb. “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4). Christ told the story to illustrate how God won’t stop searching until He finds “the one” who’s lost, but I normally don’t see myself as “the one” needing to be found. I’m among those in the fold who think they are doing “just fine.” I’m the trained counselor who helps people, armed with the mission as a believer in Jesus to help and serve others who are lost.

A Word to the Wealthy

When Robert Edmiston lost his job in the early 1970s, he used the money he received in severance pay to start International Motors. Edmiston went on to become one of the wealthiest business owners in the UK and one of the country’s most generous philanthropists. As a believer in Jesus, he felt compelled to use his wealth to start religious and educational charities that to this day bring hope to people around the world. With offices in Europe, Africa, North America, Latin America, and Asia Pacific, Robert Edmiston has donated hundreds of millions of dollars since 1988.

> ethics

Imitate My Father

The idea of immigrants competing with locals for jobs is a political hot potato in many countries. Some citizens resent the newcomers because they perceive them as stealing jobs, competing for scarce services, and causing overcrowding. With unfamiliar customs and languages, the immigrants are sometimes accused of disturbing and even threatening the social fabric of the native born. So how should believers in Jesus respond to the aliens living in their midst?

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.”

> faith

Not a Sprint

In 1983, a sixty-one-year-old potato farmer named Cliff Young showed up for a grueling, weeklong ultramarathon from Sydney to Melbourne—in overalls and work boots. He shuffled off the starting line as the much younger and athletic runners sprinted ahead. Soon he was miles behind. Spectators feared for his health. But that night, as the other runners slept, Cliff took a quick nap and kept going. Five days and five nights later he came in first—ten hours ahead of his closest competitor!

Author Intent

Sam thought his teacher was a bit over the top with her interpretations of poetry. She could launch into a detailed explanation of why there are “five sibilant sounds in this phrase.” This would cause Sam to think, Don’t be ridiculous! The poet just used words with the letter S! Try writing a poem without that sound.

A Laughing Faith

I remember where I was sitting in the cramped living room of our apartment when Miska told me she was pregnant with our first son, Wyatt. I must have sat mute for several moments because Miska asked, “Are you okay? What are you thinking?” In theory, I wanted to be a dad someday, but it had seemed like a distant possibility. But here it was . . . I was going to be a dad, and I was dumbstruck.

> health

Gaps

A battle rages where I live—a rivalry between two universities. The rivalry manifests itself primarily in athletic competition. My alma mater proudly displays the letter “S” as its logo. The S stands for State, as in Michigan State University. The other school brandishes a distinctive “M,” which represents the University of Michigan.

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.

> 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.