Could you pray for us?” asked the French woman sitting next to me on the airplane. We were experiencing violent turbulence. Just minutes earlier this med student and I had been having a lively discussion about God and science. With my broken French and her broken English, I had used a Chinese-English pamphlet to share the good news about Jesus with her. To my new friend, the gospel message seemed like a fairy tale; but when our airplane began to dip and shake, her inclination was to ask God for help, allowing me the opportunity to share my faith and pray with her.
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.
The movie Stranger than Fiction depicts a man who begins hearing a voice inside his head. Harold becomes unglued as he notices the voice describing the everyday details of his life with extraordinary accuracy, “and with a better vocabulary.”
Gary Alexander had the job of demolishing some buildings that were more than a hundred years old. After reducing the structures to rubble, he noticed part of a wall still standing. These words were scrawled on the bricks: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47
Two passages in Luke 1 are often called “songs” because of their similarity to the Old Testament psalms. The Magnificat of Mary (Luke 1:46-55) is well known. But the “Benedictus” (Luke 1:67-79), which is taken from blessed or praise, the first word in the Latin translation, is less known. Filled with Old Testament quotations and allusions, the Benedictus speaks of the work of the Messiah and the work of His messenger (Luke 1:69,80).
In spite of my many fatherly mess-ups (and lately I feel as if I’ve had more than a few), my deepest hope for my two sons is that they will know I love them, and that my love comes from God. If you want to prod me to tears, get me to talk about my hopes for my sons. There are few places where I could feel more anxiety than when I consider the uncertain future: Will they grow up to be good men? Will they follow truth and life? But what I do know, without doubt, is that I love my boys fiercely—that I have always done so and will always love them.
Psychologists and counselors agree that one’s observable actions of another person, not just his or her spoken or written words, provide the evidence that the person truly loves you. We’ve heard it over and over that God is love (1 John 4:8), and that He loves us with an unfailing love (Jeremiah 31:3; Ephesians 2:4). But how can we be sure that God’s love is real?
Emmett J. Scanlan, the actor who played Saul in the TV series A.D. The Bible Continues did a fantastic job of painting a passionate portrait of his character. His portrayal of Saul’s efforts to eliminate believers in Jesus made me wince. I had trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that this man would become the beloved apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament!
Our best conversations sometimes happen while we’re doing something else. It can be awkward to say, “Tell me about your deepest joys and fears.” But such important topics as these can arise naturally while we’re traveling together, building a shed, or even washing dishes. The task somehow helps us converse more freely. Perhaps we’re less stressed because we’re not focused solely on the conversation.
Nothing moved him anymore. Though he ran one of the top skateboard teams in the world and had enjoyed lots of money, drugs, sex, and had dove headlong into every pleasure he chose, Ryan Ries felt empty.
On an early morning walk, I spotted something blocking the path ahead of me. Several yards down the sidewalk, a massive bunch of tree branches had spilled over a white fence. The branches were weighed down with mature, red apples! The fruit was everywhere—far too many to count. As I neared the tree, I had to step off the sidewalk and move into the wet grass to get around the overflowing mass.