Two siblings went down truly divergent paths. One turned his back on Jesus and eventually spent years in prison. The other lived out the grace and love of God, compassionately caring for family, those inside the body of Christ, and those on the outside. Two lives marked by actions that spoke loudly.
As I first listened to the Christian song “Through Your Eyes” by Britt Nicole, the image my mind conjured up was of a sinful me cowering before a spotless God ablaze in holiness. The thought of Him seeing me through His pure and perfect eyes left me squirming and uncomfortable—certain He wouldn’t find much good there. When the lyrics finally registered, however, I realized that my guilt had caused me to miss the song’s message of hope. Although I can often only see my failures, God sees something beautiful and goes out of His way to wake me up to that fact.
In American football, the start of a play is usually hard-hitting as players strive to overpower their opponents. But at the close of a middle school game in 2016, the quarterback simply stood up and started casually walking toward his opponent’s goal line. The opposing team was tricked by his calm demeanor and let him walk for twenty yards before realizing what was going on, and by then it was too late. The quarterback scored and his team won the game—all because he started the play in a way that no one expected.
In his book Hitler’s Cross, Pastor Erwin Lutzer shares these heart-wrenching words from a man who lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust: “We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it, because, what could anyone do to stop it? A railroad track ran behind our small church and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance and then the wheels coming over the tracks. . . . We knew the time the train was coming and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more.”
Hearing rave reviews from her circle of friends—all believers in Jesus—about a TV show they’d been watching, my friend decided to check it out. After just two episodes, however, she was taken aback by the program’s explicit sexual content. She chose to no longer watch the show due to her convictions, but wondered how to handle future discussions about it. Thinking through her concerns, she wondered why the show sustained drawing power for her friends.
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.
Our pastor wasn’t pleased that his newspaper had been arriving late each morning—for two weeks. So he impatiently stood at his front door, ready to verbally pounce on the newspaper deliveryman and unleash his anger over the tardy papers. Before he did, however, he thought better of it. Instead, he asked, “How’s it going, Tom?” When he did, he found out that Tom’s house had burned to the ground two weeks before. He and his family were homeless. Tom had recently picked up extra work on a local farm to earn more money. Now he had to wake up even earlier than usual. It had been the worst two weeks of his life.
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.
One of the most exciting journeys I’ve ever embarked on was relocating to the United States as a teenager. I was anxious to experience everything the US had to offer, but also nervous about fitting in at my new school. Although not everything went according to plan, I eventually settled in and began a new phase of my life.
The film Bridge of Spies tells the true story of a lawyer who was selected by his government to defend an arrested foreign spy. As the lawyer strived for a fair trial, he found himself caught in a moral quandary. With both countries standing on the brink of nuclear war, his government wasn’t interested in a rigorous defense. They simply wanted the spy convicted and sent to the electric chair.
Poets have long used the seasons as metaphors for our lives. Spring is seen as a time of new beginnings and potential; summer is a time of growth and success; autumn is the harvest season when we reap the fruits of our labors; and winter is a time of endings and rest.
What will you be like as a Christian 10 years from now?” asked Billy Graham of the Urbana conference attendees in 1984. “Many will be walking with Christ and serving Him in various capacities in the world, but for others there will be tragedy because 10 years from now they will have lost their burning zeal and love for Christ. Not necessarily because they wanted to or because they set their hearts in rebellion against God’s will, but because they set their life by the world’s agenda.”
When I signed up to become a chaplain in the British Royal Navy as a middle-aged man, the venture could have appeared to be a silly idea—something I should have never attempted. Surely I could have earned a living in a much safer and less strenuous environment. And yet, I felt compelled to pursue what I believe was God’s calling—choosing to rely on Him to strengthen me along the way.
In 2015, a 70-year-old woman and her husband were headed for a day by the ocean. Following the directions from a GPS app, the woman unexpectedly drove her car into a dangerous area. Instead of finding a beautiful Brazilian beach, the couple ended up in Caramujo, one of the most notorious slums in Niteroi. Someone opened fire on the car, and the woman was struck by a bullet. She later died in a local hospital. Sadly, following unwise directions led to her death.
Move to a new home, or stay at the old address? This question filled my mind for several days as my husband and I discussed the possibilities. A handful of problems were obvious when we toured a prospective home. For instance, a pipe in the basement jutted up from the floor into the middle of a room. And there was an odd odor in the cellar. Still, there were new cupboards and beautiful windows that would let sunlight pour in.