In The Newlywed Game, a popular game show in the US that ran from 1966 up until 2013, newly married couples were asked questions to determine how well the spouses knew each other. As I reflected on the program, I was reminded of how amazing it is that we have an intimate relationship with God—who both knows us perfectly and helps us to know Him.
Soccer fans around the world are known for being passionate about their teams, but Boca Juniors, a team from Argentina, may have some of the most enthusiastic followers. Besides typical expressions of support like jerseys, colorful wigs, and face paint, entire stadiums of Boca Juniors fans will even go so far as to set off fireworks simultaneously in an amazing pyrotechnic display, all to communicate one simple fact: “We love our team!”
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.
Fear is not a Christian habit of mind,” the novelist Marilynne Robinson has remarked. Yet fear is one of the most powerful and consistent forces in human behavior. Even outward obedience can be driven more by fear than love. What does it even mean, we might wonder, to live without being motivated by fear?
My friend was walking through a sculpture park when she saw the sculptor Rodin’s statue of Eve, which captures the moment Eve understood what she had done against God. My friend wept at Eve’s desperate, twisting figure, shattered by shame and fear, hanging her head and raising her hand in an attempt to block Him from smiting her.
Like many people with a guilt-inclined personality, accepting that the gospel is good news for me hasn’t come easy. Having grown up in the church, I knew the story, but could always think of why I might be exempt from sharing the joy of the gospel. I would worry about Jesus’ future separation between true and false believers (Matthew 25:31-46), troubled by the thought that even people who profess faith can be lost. I was haunted by the passage about the unforgivable sin (Matthew 12:30-32), wondering if perhaps I could push God too far away to return to Him. Christ coming again is supposed to be the best kind of news, but I sometimes wondered for how many people it would feel that way.
“Pastor, the results came out positive. My wife has breast cancer.” When a congregation member broke this news to me one Sunday morning, I was speechless. What could I possibly say to comfort my friend in light of this bitter news? After a moment of silence, I quickly remembered the words that most comforted me when my own wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. And so with a level voice, I replied, “I want you to know that I’m here for both of you, no matter what.” He wore the same expression of gratitude that I had worn years before when a friend encouraged me with those identical words.
My parents didn’t have much money, so when Dad gave me a small pocketknife, I treasured it. The gift came with one caveat though. Because I was only eight years old, I couldn’t use it—I could only carry it in my pocket!
The World in Crisis, and No Genius in Sight” read an editorial headline of The Wall Street Journal in July 2016. The article was written against the backdrop of a world watching to see who would win the presidential election in the US; investors and economists speculating the impact of Brexit (the UK’s exit from the European Union) on the world’s economy; the dark cloud of terrorism looming over Europe; and waves of refugees looking for safe haven.
Jasper Fu drives two hours a day for Uber, an app-based taxi service. He doesn’t do it for the money, since he already has a fulltime job. He says he does it because it’s a good way to “talk to people.” Chinese culture encourages quiet restraint, so it can seem inappropriate to walk up to a stranger and start a conversation. It’s different when you’re picking them up in your car. Jasper says, “Under no other circumstance can I find a stranger to talk with me for like 10 to 20 minutes.”
The old lumberjack always strode with a purpose. But not today. Today the world clawed at his soul. As the gruff Swedish immigrant trudged up the hill to his family farm, tears rolled down his cheeks. The date was December 7, 1941, and Axel Gustafson had just heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. His sons would be going to war.
Not placing an order at a pizzeria may have saved Kirk Alexander’s life. When Alexander, who’d been purchasing pizza almost daily since 2009, hadn’t placed an order in more than a week, the restaurant’s manager asked a delivery driver to go to the customer’s house and check on him. Sure enough, Alexander didn’t answer the door—even though his lights and TV were on. Thanks to the driver’s 911 call, Alexander—who required “immediate medical attention”—received treatment and survived.
At the outset of World War II, a man—who would eventually rescue 669 children from Nazi slaughter—helped two Jewish boys secure passage on a train escaping Czechoslovakia. After the war, the boys received a final letter from their parents who had died in a concentration camp.
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.