Imagine receiving clothes you chose to never wear, cars you didn’t ever drive, or houses you never lived in. What would be the point? If we’re not going to use those things, we might as well not possess them.
Sometimes we can feel guilty about our prayer lives. No matter how much we pray, we’re sure it’s never enough. We think we should pray more, but the phone’s ringing or emails are piling up or our toddler just squeezed syrup in her hair. What can we do? Consider this: You just might be praying more than you think!
Theologian Stanley Hauerwas has observed that many believers in Jesus “think they have a relationship with God that they go to church to have expressed. . . . I think that’s to get it exactly backwards.” A local church isn’t merely a gathering of people who already have a relationship with Jesus. Meeting together is central to that relationship.
The idolatry of ancient Israel’s neighbors led the psalmist to write, “Their idols are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see” (Psalm 115:4-5). In essence, he was asking, “Why would a person feel the need to worship and bring a sacrifice to an idol? Who would devote their lives to a god they know is false—somehow hoping it would bless them?”
A well-known fashion retailer announced the opening of a new store that contains a spa, bar, hair salon, and stylists who guide shoppers in selecting personalised wardrobes that can be ordered online. The store has everything—except merchandise. The retailer has removed its racks of clothes “to keep shoppers from feeling overwhelmed by too much choice”.
My faith was once rattled by a telephone pole. I noticed its rough timber and shuddered, recalling that Jesus was nailed to a cross of wood. Suddenly I wondered, What if He wasn’t? How do I know the Bible is true? A wave of nausea washed over me until I snapped out of it, reminding myself of the many reasons I believe in Jesus.
I ran into a former professor at a conference. I had only taken one class with him nearly thirty years before, so I was stunned when he told me he prays for me and two others who live near me. He prays for his former students by region, because he loves us and wants us to flourish in our faith.
What’s the goal of forgiveness? When we’ve been wounded by another, why should we forgive? It’s often said that we forgive for ourselves, to break out of our prison of bitterness. It’s pointed out that not forgiving is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person dies, that our rage continues to give the offender power over us.
Families of kidnap victims often refuse to pay ransom without “proof of life”, evidence such as a phone call or video that shows their loved one is well. True believers in Jesus reveal a different kind of ‘proof of life’—evidence of lives transformed by their new life in Christ.
Jesus’ life was full of surprises that defied everyone’s expectations. From an obscure village, He emerged as a miracle-working teacher who built His kingdom with sinners and the sick. Then, when His purposes seemed defeated by His shocking crucifixion, this apparent defeat was reversed with His resurrection only three days later!
I hate goodbyes. Especially if I’m close to the one with whom I’m parting ways. I can only imagine the disciples’ pain when Jesus said goodbye, although He assured them He’d see them again soon (John 16:16).
The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” Answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” A student misquoted this as, “Our purpose is to glorify God and endure Him forever.” The mistake is funny, but isn’t that sometimes how we secretly feel about eternity? What will we do there except sing praise songs? How wonderful for the first million years. But . . . forever?
I know a leader who learned sympathy when he lost his job. He admitted it’s easier to humbly love when life has knocked you down. When, as he would say, “You’ve got blood in your mouth.” I also know a pastor whose heart was softened by the death of his son. This pastor wouldn’t say it was worth it—and he’d be right—but his grief has made him a more compassionate shepherd.
I felt like quitting. I’d given all I had, and it wasn’t enough. I’d failed, and I didn’t feel like trying again. I wanted to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head, and sleep until forever. How could I possibly keep going?
What makes you angry? A traffic jam, stubbed toe, disrespectful slight, someone who didn’t keep an appointment with you, or a surprise assignment that will take all night? Anger is emotional frustration. It often arises when our path is blocked, when someone or something is standing in our way.