Archives: March 2017

Protected and Safe

Molly DeLuca was playing in her backyard with the German shepherd her family had recently adopted. Suddenly, the canine leaped in front of her and began jumping up and down. He was protecting Molly from a rattlesnake that had slithered onto the scene. Later, the dog was rushed to the veterinarian where the family learned that he’d been bitten three times by the reptile. Amazingly, he made a complete recovery.

Connecting the Dots

In the 1850s, cholera was a global scourge capable of devastating entire cities. When a particularly terrible outbreak hit the Soho neighborhood of London, Dr. John Snow realized that the outbreak centered around a certain water pump. Snow then noticed that rather than this being an isolated case, the fiercest outbreaks always seemed to focus around these water sources. By connecting the outbreaks to infected pumps, Dr. Snow was able to establish that cholera was spread by contaminated water—a landmark step towards eradicating its terrible effects.

Responding to Suffering

People often blame God for their suffering. In 2016, one plaintiff even filed a legal request for a restraining order against his Creator. The man, who actually appeared in court for the case, told the judge that over the past three years, God “had been very negative towards him” (no specifics were recorded).

Laying Down Our Lives

In May 2016, a teacher was eating at a restaurant with his wife when he saw a man attack a waitress with a knife. George Heath left his wife’s side and leapt into action—running at the attackers and wrapping his arms around him in an effort to keep the man from hurting anyone else. Heath’s efforts to protect the others in the restaurant proved successful. He was able to detain the suspect until police arrived. Sadly, however, the brave teacher died just minutes later. A stab wound during his heroic rescue attempt led to his death.

“Brutiful”

During my sister-in-law’s lengthy hospital stay, battling an advanced form of cancer, our family spent many hours in a “family room” just down the hall from her room. We befriended a family whose mother had been diagnosed with the same disease. When both women entered hospice within days of each other, the two families shared tears and hugs. As I talked with a daughter of the mother, she said their experience had been “brutiful”—both brutal and beautiful. Similar to my family’s experience, God’s love and light had consistently peeked through the darkness of their family’s grief and pain.

The First Day—Again

Imagine you’re a Jewish child, nourished from a young age by the words of the Torah. You can recite the Torah’s opening lines describing how, just before the dawn of God’s magnificent acts of creation, darkness covered the deep and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters (Genesis 1:2). Those mysterious words signaled that something stunning was about to happen. God was doing something new. You’d hear the story of that first day of creation, the inauguration of God’s creation week when He said, “Let there be light”—and light flooded the earth (John 20:3). Adam and Eve in the garden, beginning the great adventure of human life. What stunning possibilities, what hope! You would know well this story—the story of how God’s new world began to flourish.

Clueless at the Light

Ahead of me, two rows of cars waited for the traffic light to turn from red to green. Beside us, in the turn lane, a third line of vehicles awaited a green arrow so they could turn left.

Stinging Words

Many years ago, a relative repeatedly attacked my faith in Jesus. His words and criticism—bathed in cynicism—deeply hurt me. Although he passed away more than a decade ago, and I’ve forgiven him, there are still times I feel as if this relative is standing next to me—belittling me for following Jesus.

Everyone Has a Story

The speaker at our conference asked us to gather in groups of three with people we had never met. He told us to each take one minute to tell the others about ourselves and share the story of one person we wanted God to bless. One man said he wanted God to bless his wife who was battling cancer while she cared for her invalid mother. Another praised God for healing his wife’s cancer but said he was concerned for his adult son who was far from God.

Gateway of Hope

You have to stick with that movie, even when it gets rough.” My friend pulled The Shawshank Redemption from the DVD player as he spoke. “The rough stuff is what makes the ending so hopeful.”

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.

Source of All Life

Talking plants? Recent studies have shown that plants can communicate through airborne chemicals and underground networks of fungi. They can even warn neighboring plants about dangers in their environment. And we’ve gone millennia without knowing this!

Trapped in Sin

A police officer rescued a deer whose head had become lodged within a discarded light globe. The officer’s first attempt to pull the plastic object off the frightened animal’s head failed, although it came free during a second try. Officials estimate that the animal had been caught with the globe on its head for at least one full day!

Hope Beyond Discouragement

Jordan is a third-generation farmer who is taking over his father’s apple orchards. Recently we were talking about all the agricultural metaphors in the Bible. “On the farm, I learn so many spiritual lessons,” he said. As we conversed further, we discussed John 12:24—in which Jesus talks about the harvest that results from a single seed being buried in the ground. The wisdom found in that verse was encouraging, because during that season of life I was feeling emotionally dead—like a seed buried in the ground.

Play Your Part

Maurice Andre was one of the best trumpet players the world has known. He once said that a good trumpet player had to be “like a matador in a bull ring.” He continued, “I see flutists and oboists go on the stage gingerly. If you do that with the trumpet you’re finished.” I believe he was saying that only a certain personality type possesses what it takes to succeed as a trumpet player. Trumpeters can’t hide; every note is heard by every listener! If you don’t have the God-given disposition to handle that, it can truly destroy you.

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> christian living

Model It

It was a regular Monday evening at a senior care facility. Hamburgers were on the menu, and an 87-year-old named Patty was eating hers when she began to choke. But just in the nick of time, another resident came to the rescue and did the Heimlich maneuver on her—saving the day. That resident was none other than 96-year-old Dr. Henry Heimlich himself, the doctor who is widely credited with inventing the procedure. For Patty’s sake, it was a good thing that Dr. Heimlich actually modeled what he taught!

Battle Strategy

At the height of an African government’s struggle with a terrorist rebel group, the president turned to the church for help. As people began to pray, an army chaplain declared that the war wouldn’t be won in battle, but through prayer. Thus began “Operation Gideon.” A team of intercessors gathered for several weeks of prayer and fasting. In time, a systematic breakdown of the rebel group’s influence occurred.

Cheerful Hospitality

After Mary and Jim married and moved into their first apartment, they decided to set aside a room in which to host others. I became a beneficiary of their warm hospitality on a teaching trip. They welcomed me, a stranger, into their home and showered me with love.

> daily devotional

Evidence of Kindness

Several children and their parents filed into a room in which a neo-natal nurse sat. The kids were carrying pictures of themselves as premature infants—years ago, they had been cared for by the nurse. Before the group surprised her, she had watched a video in which the parents expressed how thankful they were for her role in saving their children’s lives. After the reunion, the nurse remarked, “I love what I do. It’s a ministry for me. I believe God has put me [here] for a purpose, and He has given me a love for these babies and these parents.”

Humble Beginnings

It’s estimated that Howard Schultz, until recently the executive chairman of Starbucks, is worth three billion dollars. One might assume that such a successful businessman had been born into wealth and privilege, but nothing could be further from the truth. Schultz was born and raised in Bayview, a notoriously dangerous housing project in New York City. But far from resenting his childhood neighborhood, he credits his upbringing with keeping him grounded and connected to those around him.

Into His Image

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” This sentiment from Anne Lamott often comes back to me in situations of potential conflict. If I find myself assuming God feels exactly the same way I do about most situations, it’s safe to say my view of God is mixed with a good deal of myself! Only one Person has known the mind of God fully; we His followers always understand imperfectly (1 Corinthians 13:12).

> 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

In Preparation

My friend Phil began chemo treatments in December 2016 for an aggressive form of lymphoma cancer. By God’s grace, he’d been prepared for this challenge in many ways. His wife had battled cancer several years before, and he had seen me go through several treatments in my own battle with an aggressive lymphoma. He had also just changed jobs, and the benefits and community support there were just what the doctor ordered. Most of all, he had been enjoying deep relationship with God.

Perfect Plans

The rejection letter I received from the university’s registrar sent me spiraling into shock and disbelief. In the midst of my sadness and confusion, I was grateful that one of my cousins had encouraged me to apply to another school. Fortunately, I was accepted by that university. While I didn’t understand why I was unable to attend my dream school, I recognized that God wasn’t surprised. He knew everything about my situation and had my best in mind.

Seeing Is Disbelieving

There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true,” said philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. The story of the Israelites illustrates how easy it is to be fooled into believing what’s false and to disbelieve the truth.

> health

Evidence of Kindness

Several children and their parents filed into a room in which a neo-natal nurse sat. The kids were carrying pictures of themselves as premature infants—years ago, they had been cared for by the nurse. Before the group surprised her, she had watched a video in which the parents expressed how thankful they were for her role in saving their children’s lives. After the reunion, the nurse remarked, “I love what I do. It’s a ministry for me. I believe God has put me [here] for a purpose, and He has given me a love for these babies and these parents.”

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.

> relationships

Next Generation Faith

Graeme was part of a group of self-proclaimed Satanists at my school. By God’s grace, he came to Jesus during an outreach event, began growing in his faith, and eagerly attended church youth groups. But one day I noticed he looked quite sad. When I asked why, he said his parents didn’t approve of his newfound faith. They wanted him to go back to his former way of life that included partying.

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.”