The myth of the Chinese New Year festival tells of a demon, Nian, who lived in the mountains. On the first day of the year, Nian would come into the village, steal the children, and eat livestock and grain. One day, an old man visited the village and gave the horrified people a solution. They were to hang red signs on their doors and make loud music—things the demon didn’t like. The Chinese word for New Year Guo Nian (过年) literally means “pass over Nian” or “overcome Nian.”
Over the past few years, we’ve experienced a great deal of political upheaval. While such turmoil isn’t new, many are wrestling with what kind of leaders to trust and how to hold our leaders accountable for governing in ways that are good for everyone—not merely for a select few who hold the purse strings or wield power.
A terrible storm with subsequent avalanches ravaged the Annapurna region of Nepal. The area is a popular one for hikers from around the world, and many were caught out on the mountains, leading to their death from the cold or the avalanches. Astonishingly, rescue attempts were hampered as crews were forced to assist new hikers to the area—those who still wanted to challenge the mountains despite the obvious dangers and repeated warnings. The likelihood of more avalanches was great, while high winds and impossible navigation over paths that had simply disappeared made it extremely dangerous.
Mortality motivates and eternity influences. These two things motivated and influenced Puritan leader Richard Baxter, who is credited with saying, “The face of death, and nearness of eternity, did much to convince me what books to read, what studies to prefer and prosecute, what company and conversation to choose. It drove me early into the vineyard of the Lord, and taught me to preach as a dying man to dying men.” Baxter’s mortality made him discriminating as to how to use his time. When we look at the Scriptures, it’s clear that they influenced his understanding.
In an interview on a popular website, an author was asked about her divorce and remarriage. The divorce had devastated her and her ex-husband, she said. She had believed marriage was a lifelong commitment and still did, and she had sought pastoral guidance as to whether remarriage to her new husband was right. I finished the article and scrolled down to the comments section.
The workers knew something wasn’t right. A crack in the exterior wall of an 8-story building in Bangladesh was a tell-tale sign that the edifice, still under construction, was pretty sketchy. Sadly, the structure tumbled down the next day, resulting in the death of more than 150 people and injuring more than a thousand others. Eventually, it was determined that a faulty foundation contributed to the big collapse.
They say that justice is blind, but recent research suggests that justice likes to snack as well! In 2010, a team of researchers tracked the rulings of eight judges during 1,100 parole-board hearings over 10 months. Nearly 65 percent of the prisoners were granted parole during hearings held right after the judges had eaten breakfast. Over the next few hours, the chances of getting a favorable parole hearing plummeted. But the prisoners’ chances of parole increased to 65 percent again after the judges’ mid-morning snack or lunch.
My conversation with the woman had turned from the care of our Maltese poodle to her ex-husband and her estranged mother. “I can’t forgive my mother; she abused me terribly. And my husband abandoned me when I was ill.” Although she longed to be free of the two people who had left her among the walking wounded, she couldn’t forgive them and so bitterness clung to her like a rotting stench—seeping through her pained words and weary eyes.
Q: Why does God seem to act differently in the Old Testament than He does in the New Testament? How would you respond to nonbelievers that call God a murderer and a perpetrator of genocide, based on Old Testament accounts? In the Old Testament we see God primarily as a God of judgment and wrath, but in the New Testament…
The other day I read two passages in Deuteronomy and Numbers with similar messages. They caused me to recognize more deeply the consequences of disobeying God and failing to heed His warnings. Put succinctly: Moving forward without God’s leading, permission, or assistance, regardless of how we justify our words or actions, will lead to His judgment.
Senseless violence and dark injustice can make for a steady rain in life—dampening spirits in mists of gray. In the summer of 2013, a 17-year-old from a rough neighborhood jumped in front of his mother to protect her from an attack. The bullet struck and killed him, leaving his mother clutching his lifeless body in front of their home. The boy’s brother, who witnessed the crime, said later, “I lost a big piece of my heart that night.”
Q: Does God continue to forgive if we keep on sinning in the same way again and again? I'm not able to overcome a specific temptation and find myself circling through forgiveness and sin again and again. Will God kill me as He did in Old Testament for sin? I am scared and worried. —Ebenezer
A: A Christian is forgiven of his sins,…
Widows were the epitome of the destitute and desperate in ancient Jewish society. In his gospel, Luke often wrote of widows and their journeys of faith: the prophetess Anna who saw the newborn Messiah (Luke 2:36-38); the widow of Zarephath who ministered to Elijah (Luke 4:26; 1 Kings 17:18-19); the widow of Nain whose only son was raised from the dead by Jesus (Luke 7:11-15); and the poor widow who gave two small copper coins (Luke 21:1-4). Luke also records Jesus telling a parable about a persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), encouraging His listeners “to always pray and never give up” (Luke 18:1).
Recently, our family took a trip to visit my parents in a distant state. Our two boys love their “Grams” and “Pa,” so they were excited to see their grandparents. They were also excited to miss a week of school, to travel by aircraft, and because we had tickets for all of the guys in the family to attend a local university football game. As you can imagine, my boys counted the days leading up to the trip, something that was both excruciating and immensely exciting for them.