Are you close to someone who seems particularly far from God? It might help to keep in mind that this person is probably not less reachable than Paul, who claimed he was the worst of sinners because he had persecuted God’s people (1 Timothy 1:12-16). Paul realized if God could save him, He could reach anyone.
I once heard about a first-time author who came to Jesus due to the stunning success of his book. The way he saw it, God escalated the book’s accomplishment beyond the merits of his talent in order to get his attention. Humbled, the author responded by seeking God and ultimately believing in Christ. What makes this story so unusual is that success more often has the opposite effect; after initial demonstrations of gratitude, we tend to forget God in the midst of plenty.
A ministry leader once tried an interesting communication experiment. Holding giant whiteboards and some markers, he engaged passersby on his city’s streets. On one whiteboard, people were asked to write what they wanted to tell the church. The messages weren’t very kind. On the other board, people were asked to write, “What do you want to say to Jesus?” To Him they wrote surprisingly tender messages such as, “I miss you,” “I’m sorry,” and “I love you.”
As my mom and I entered the indoor prayer garden our church recently built, I suddenly felt the sweet peace and presence of the Holy Spirit. The room had plants, a paved walkway with Scriptures displayed, a small waterfall, and a lit cross on the wall. In contrast to this peaceful, awe-inspiring sanctuary, just outside we could see contractors working on a different part of the building—with dust, tools, noisy machines, and everything else one might expect to find at a construction site.
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.
Our faces can give clues to our life experiences. They reveal our emotions, hint at our age, and indicate whether or not we’ve led difficult lives. They can also hint at whether or not we’ve been with God. I once had a co-worker at my workplace ask why I was so joyful and smiling all the time. His question caught me off guard; I wasn’t aware my face was revealing anything. I paused, and then answered, “Jesus.” He laughed off my reply and then asked, “No, really, why?” I reiterated, “Jesus.”
When I read the road sign announcing “Construction for the next 50 miles,” I groaned. Really? Construction had already been going on for the past three years and now it would be for the foreseeable future—up to three more years! Every day since, as I drive this stretch of pavement under repair, I wonder if it will ever be finished. Deep down I know it will be, yet when I’m stopped in painfully slow traffic, it’s hard to believe the interstate will ever be free of orange barrels and single lanes.
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.
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.”
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.
I happened upon a website featuring sculptures made out of old toys, plastic spoons, typewriters, soda cans, and even hangers. In an introduction to these garbage-turned-artwork pieces, Vitaly Friedman wrote this about the artists: “These talented individuals see possibility in the things we throw away every day. Instead of heading to the art supply store they just collect common trash and turn it into works of amazing art.”
I once supervised a woman who constantly demonstrated that her greatest strength was also her greatest weakness. She had passion and drive to do a great job but often got carried away in her zeal and had to be reined in.
Agriculture is a vital sector in the South African economy. So when it was blighted by a harsh drought in 2015, it seemed that the entire nation mobilized in earnest prayer and drastic action. When ordinary people saw heartbreaking images of starving animals and desperate farmers on TV, they filled water bottles and drove hundreds of kilometers to deliver them to the thirsty. Farmers who had grain and hay bales stocked their trucks and shared with those in need. When calamity struck, the community sought God and rallied for much-needed relief.
According to the experts, I’m part of the demographic known as Generation X. Maybe you are too. Born between 1965 and 1980, we’ve been described as being cynical about life, fearful of commitment, and spiritually lost. Ouch!
After the initial performance of Handel’s Messiah in Dublin on April 13, 1742, George Frideric Handel received acclaim much greater than any expectation he could have imagined. The Dublin News-Letter gushed how the oratorio “far surpass[ed] anything of that Nature which has been performed in this or any other Kingdom.” In a letter Handel penned to a friend soon afterwards, however, he wrote, “I should be sorry if I only entertained them. I wished to make them better.”