Tag  |  gods-character

The Root of Unity

Few boxing rivalries are as legendary as the one between Joe Louis, an African-American boxer, and Max Schmeling, a German fighter who was a favorite of Hitler’s (although Schmeling personally had no love for the Nazi regime). The two men were promoted as bitter rivals, but the truth is that the two later became close friends. Schmeling even helped pay for Louis’ funeral in 1981. Very different from one another, they shared a friendship that went beyond the bounds of sameness.

The Details of Love

When my wife and I chose her engagement ring, I suggested she pick out whatever setting she wanted. But I asked her if I could select the center stone, so that I could personally choose a special representation of my love for her. I wanted to demonstrate my commitment to her with a beautiful symbol of our life together that she would cherish—just as we both celebrate the relationship God has given us.

Nesting Near the Altar

A mother bird began a construction project on top of an outdoor light near our garage. During the building process, she dropped bits of debris everywhere. She also dive-bombed our children as they played in the driveway. When we realized she would need to find another place to live, my husband gently moved her nest into the grass. She tried to rebuild twice in the same spot before finally relocating. Despite the bird’s tenacity, she was no match for a couple who didn’t want to share an address!

More than Feelings

Looking quizzically at my phone, I smiled as I discerned the message my daughter had texted. It wasn’t the words; it was the emoji. How in the world had such a small graphic managed to perfectly capture my teenage daughter’s sigh of impatience, roll of her eyes, and slightly annoyed tone of voice when saying my name? But there it was—the exasperated emoji!

The Who of Prayer

If you watch Orthodox Jews pray at the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, you might wonder about the leather band wrapped around their forearms and the box strapped to their heads. The objects are called the tefillin, worn during a prayer ritual that some believe dates back to the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 6:6-8). The process to don the tefillin is very elaborate and must be performed in an exacting manner. This illustrates that in Jesus’ time, Jewish prayer was very focused on the “how”—praying in a specific way.

A Better Question

When he was a child, Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel’s mother would greet him the same way each day after school. She never asked, “What did you learn today?” Rather, she always asked: “Did you have a good question today?”

Happy at You

My 3-year-old daughter caught me staring at her. “Mommy, why are you looking at me like that?” “Because I love you and delight in you,” I said. “God looks at you that way too.” “You mean, God looks happy at me?” she earnestly inquired. “Yes!” I said. “God always looks happy at you,” I emphasized. “Then I look happy at Jesus, at you, at daddy, and [my] sisters,” she concluded. When she finished, I think she could see me beaming with happiness. I want my three daughters to know deep down that God delights in them and loves them “with an everlasting love” (Psalm 37:23, 149:4; Jeremiah 31:3).

Finding Refuge

Who do you turn to in moments of deep distress? Some seek the counsel and comfort of family—a spouse, parents, siblings; and some call on close friends. We appreciate the words of advice, but mostly the comforting presence of those who know us. It’s reassuring to know that we don’t have to go it alone.

Worship and Service

Over the years, I’ve spent countless hours alone in the woods. As I’ve sat motionless, robins have perched on my knees, mice have nibbled at my bootlaces, an owl once landed inches from my shoulder, and a roebuck advanced to within a couple yards of me—apparently thinking I was an adversary.

Two-Winged Sun

For 5 years, an ancient clay seal remained in a dark closet in Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology. Dug up at the foot of the southern part of Jerusalem’s old city wall, initial examination failed to establish the true identity of the nearly 3,000-year-old object.

What Is God?

A pastor resigned because he wanted to press the “very edges of religion and faith and God.” As science discovers unfathomable mysteries and as society challenges traditional beliefs, it can become difficult to think about God as we always have. The pastor confessed, “I don’t even know if we know what we mean by God anymore.”

Kindness and Hospitality

Recently, three of my son’s soccer teammates spent the weekend with us. On Saturday, the boys decided to paddle their canoes to the home of some friends of mine. Though they weren’t expecting guests, the Andersons showered the boys with hospitality when they arrived at their dock.

Every Kind of Gift

Recently, I’ve had to intervene in several blowups between my two sons. The result of such events inevitably leads to their losing the privilege of spending time with friends, loss of their allowances, and more. They’re learning that the failure to work out their differences peaceably can be costly. Thankfully, I’ve also had opportunities to lavish generosity on both boys, to surprise them with a gift they would never have expected. I’m trying to teach them that both my correction and my generosity are gifts from me to them. Both emerge from my love toward them and for them.

The Job Paradox

A wise man once said, “Conflict is never about what’s happening on the surface—there’s always much more at stake.” Chances are that Job would have agreed with that statement. He found himself thrust suddenly and forcefully into heartbreak of catastrophic proportions. His livestock, fields, servants, and children were all destroyed in one day.

Begging the Question?

People sometimes say “That begs the question” when referring to something that raises a query. But begging the question actually means to put forth an argument with a premise that assumes the conclusion. In other words, the reasoning is circular and therefore illogical.

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> christian living

Actions Speak

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.

Careful Living

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, is a marvel to behold. Clad all in stainless steel, the 630-foot arch is the tallest of these types of structures in the entire world. When it was constructed in the 1960s, both feet of the arch were erected simultaneously, and joined at their very center. But had the construction of either foot of the arch been off by even a fraction, the two halves of the arch would have missed making a perfect union. Such a marvel of engineering required incredibly careful planning and thorough execution.

Honor by Example

Darkness wrapped the jet in a quiet comfort, while a few reading lights remained on. Though it was late in the evening and passengers were trying to sleep, the loud chatter of two young women could be heard above the hum of the plane’s engine. Suddenly, an older woman seated in front of them turned around and sharply exclaimed, “Would you two be quiet!” Taken aback, they looked around to see who had heard and began laughing disrespectfully. Turning to glare once more, the disrupted sleeper settled back in her seat.

> daily devotional

Making Plans

Andre-Francois Raffray was a middle-aged lawyer who found a bargain. A ninety-year-old widow named Jeanne Calment offered her French apartment en viager, or “for life.” If Raffray paid her $500 US per month for her remaining days, he would inherit her apartment when she died. But as months turned into years, Calment kept living and Raffray kept paying. Finally, after thirty years and a lot of money, Raffray died! Jeanne Calment celebrated her 120th birthday and shrugged, “In life, one sometimes makes bad deals.”

Looking Back

Winston Churchill once said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But the original thought may be traced to the philosopher George Santayana, who wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It’s true; you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.

Actions Speak

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.

> ethics

Imitate My Father

The idea of immigrants competing with locals for jobs is a political hot potato in many countries. Some citizens resent the newcomers because they perceive them as stealing jobs, competing for scarce services, and causing overcrowding. With unfamiliar customs and languages, the immigrants are sometimes accused of disturbing and even threatening the social fabric of the native born. So how should believers in Jesus respond to the aliens living in their midst?

rotten fruit

There’s a “quick sale” area in my local supermarket where fruit is offered at a huge discount. If not sold quickly, the fully ripened edibles will become soft, flabby, and infected with fungus.

judgment of justice

An acquaintance of mine, who is highly intelligent and has a philosophical bent, also carries antipathy toward God and religion. He enjoys being provocative, recently quoting the second-century philosopher Epicurus who said: “There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men.”

> faith

Semper Gumby

Since 1883, semper fidelis (always faithful) has been the motto of the US Marine Corps. The toy figure Gumby, based on an animated character from a TV show, has been with us since the 1950s.

A Heart of Gratitude

In his memoir Townie, novelist Andre Dubus III shared that his father, also a renowned writer, would write every single morning. After he finished, “He’d count how many words he’d gotten and record the number. After each total, whether it was fifteen hundred or fifty, he wrote ‘Thank you.’ ” This writer had learned the art of gratitude, and it shaped his work—allowing him to see and then write about rich experiences of hope, humanity, and grace.

Unscripted

After walking into a sandwich shop, I sensed the Holy Spirit nudging me to reach out to the young man who took our order. Unsure of how to start, I gathered my food and followed my husband to the patio area. Shortly after we sat down, the same young man came outside to sweep the area. I set aside my fear and began an unscripted conversation. In this unexpected moment, God provided the opportunity for us to discuss how Jesus’ love and the power of the Holy Spirit could help the young man overcome the situations he was facing.

> health

Gaps

A battle rages where I live—a rivalry between two universities. The rivalry manifests itself primarily in athletic competition. My alma mater proudly displays the letter “S” as its logo. The S stands for State, as in Michigan State University. The other school brandishes a distinctive “M,” which represents the University of Michigan.

Hope for Today

Someone close to me recommitted his life to God, began taking his wife and young daughter to church, and was seeking to follow Jesus faithfully. Within weeks, however, his world began to fall apart. His daughter was admitted to the hospital with a chest infection, his business partner refused to pay him, and his wife asked for some time apart. He looked drained and weary when I offered to pray for him, saying he’d rather not have any help from God. From the moment he’d chosen to serve the Lord again, he said it felt as if a huge target had been placed on his back and the Enemy was having a field day.

Something More Powerful

When France’s ministry of health realized that 17.8 percent of French women smoked while pregnant, they came up with a plan. For a trial period of thirty-six months, seventeen French hospitals paid women up to 300 euros to stop smoking during their pregnancies. Of the 612 participants, 22.5 percent of the women gave up their cigarettes.

> relationships

Next Generation Faith

Graeme was part of a group of self-proclaimed Satanists at my school. By God’s grace, he came to Jesus during an outreach event, began growing in his faith, and eagerly attended church youth groups. But one day I noticed he looked quite sad. When I asked why, he said his parents didn’t approve of his newfound faith. They wanted him to go back to his former way of life that included partying.

Covenant Relationship

Two different friends from different spheres of my life—one a man, one a woman—told me about their unfaithful spouses during the same week. Both felt betrayed and angry. They wondered if they would ever feel whole again.

Gifts from God

Police were sent to a home in response to a report of domestic child abuse. When they arrived at the house, they found a scared four-year-old girl with a black eye, swollen cheek, and bruises covering a majority of her tiny frame. The officers were devastated when they asked her to say her name and she meekly replied, “Idiot.”