Archives: May 2013

one before the other

The question I felt needed to be answered affirmatively before I married Miska was this: Can I live without her? My intentions were romantic and chivalrous, but my focus was dead wrong. I discovered that there was probably nobody that I literally could not live without. In time, I found the better question to ask myself: Do I want to live without Miska?

mirror, mirror

When it comes to physical appearance, we’re constantly bombarded with advice. And truth be told, the suggestions found on magazine covers, in TV commercials, and voiced by store clerks—among other sources—bother me. They’re all trying to nudge me to pursue that perfect look.

40 days

Forty is a significant number in the Bible. The great flood of Genesis was the result of 40 days of rain (Genesis 7:4). Moses was with God for 40 days receiving the Law (Exodus 24:18). Spies explored the land for 40 days (Numbers 13:25). The Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years (Numbers 32:13). Jonah warned of judgment in 40 days (Jonah 3:4). Jesus was tempted for 40 days as He began His ministry (Luke 4:2), and He appeared to the disciples for 40 days as He concluded it (Acts 1:3). So one Bible teacher suggests that when you see the number 40 in Scripture, it means that God is doing something significant.

May 28, 2013

What is the best advice you would give to a couple who are getting married?

worry less

According to the World Health Organization, Americans are more prone to anxiety than people in other nations. The study revealed that 31 percent of Americans suffer from this disorder at some point in their lifetime. The chief culprits that lead to this anxiety are money, work, and the pressure to achieve and succeed. According to the study, Americans’ anxiety is five times higher than that of people in Third World nations.

make the time

Are you busy? We can easily become overwhelmed with all the responsibilities that loom over us on any given day. We have calendar apps, appointment reminders, and handy lists to keep us organized. I enjoy finding new ways to use my time wisely and stay on task, but I have to be careful not to put my trust in my plans over the One who holds the plan. More importantly, I need to understand that while life often “just happens,” I must approach it with intentionality.

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.”

the greatest gift

My 9-year-old Ugandan son and I often list the things he’s done the past few years—activities that he could not have done if he were still orphaned and living in extreme poverty. In his village, he never would have received a formal education, eaten sushi, gone surfing, read books, flown in an airplane, played tennis, or even had running water and electricity in his home.

where are you looking?

Saulo was 16 when he drove the getaway car for a robbery that ended in murder. Now 32, Saulo says, “I remember sitting in the county jail, and it really sunk in: ‘Wow, I’m not going home,’ and [I] realized what I did. I didn’t want to live. I couldn’t believe what I did.”

relative peace

A 60-year-old man, atop a John Deere tractor, charged at his 69-year-old brother-in-law who was harvesting hay astride his own tractor. The collision resulted in a damaged tire and the tractor-crasher’s arrest. One law enforcement official commented, “We’ve responded on prior occasions to calls because of differences between the families.” While it’s a bit unclear what the man hoped to accomplish by confronting and crunching his brother-in-law, the story shows that family feuds can escalate to ridiculous levels if they’re not resolved.

knowing our place

I recently read of a man who started a church and saw it grow and flourish over the years. But unlike some pastors whose fingers have to be pried from the pulpit, this man began grooming a younger man to take over his church. Why? Because he felt God was calling him to do so. And, at just 51 years old, this healthy, dynamic pastor humbly moved on as his 30-year-old protégé took his place.

not broken

As someone who has logged a lot of time in the coastal waters of Florida, I’ve always enjoyed seeing bottlenose dolphins up close in the wild. That’s one reason I was particularly drawn to the movie Dolphin Tale.

May 20, 2013

What encouraging words from a pastor, teacher, or mentor proved to be life-changing for you? Why?

read this! from an ODJ reader in Indonesia . . .

indonesia"I am really thankful for your ministries, especially for ODJOur Daily Journey helps me to meditate on God's words and make concrete acts through the questions in 'next' section.  . . . I really enjoy using ODJ." —Yolanda, Indonesia

youth ministry 101

If you read some recent books on youth ministry, it’s hard not to get the sense that this part of church ministry is experiencing some major struggles. And nearly everyone has an opinion about how youth ministry should be improved. Parents, youth workers, and young people themselves have expectations and demands that don’t always overlap. So, what should we do?

Related Topics

> christian living

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.

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.

> daily devotional

Far Greater Love

During a major sports competition, a male sprinter jumped the gun, resulting in a false start and immediate disqualification from the event. His responses included tearing off his sprinter’s bib, writhing on the ground, and weeping in a curled-up position at the side of the track. A female sprinter was running well in her event when she slipped coming over a hurdle on a rain-slicked track and fell to the ground. Her race for all intents and purposes was over, but she got up and finished it with a look of calm determination on her face.

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.

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.

> 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.