Tag  |  gods-presence

Our Real and Present God

In 2005, two researchers coined “moral therapeutic deism” (MTD) as a description for the prevailing religious views of younger Americans. MTD is a constellation of beliefs that can be summed up this way: God exists and provides a moral way of ordering your life so that you can fulfill the ultimate goal of your life—to be happy and feel good about yourself. Although God is mostly removed and uninvolved in your life, He will welcome you to heaven when you die if you’ve been good.

Pizza and God’s Presence

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.

“For God’s Sake!”

As I read the news account of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Ecuador in 2016, the exclamation of one young man stood out: “For God’s sake, help me find my family!”

Into the Dark Unknown

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.

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.

Is God Necessary?

A few years ago, writer Maureen Dowd was in Australia to promote her book Are Men Necessary? At one event, Dowd and a female interviewer were on stage when a member of the audience asked if a podium blocking her view could be moved. In an instant, two men heaved aside the heavy podium as the audience began to laugh. “Are men necessary?” the interviewer quipped, “I think the question has been answered.”

Surviving the Fire

Most people and animals escaped the flames of a fire that destroyed the Canadian town of Fort McMurray. A black cat named Tux, however, was left behind. Firefighters eventually found the feline, unharmed, inside an overturned stove. The firefighters suggested that an explosion must have blown an opening in the appliance, allowing Tux to jump inside. This safe place allowed him to survive the blaze.

Choosing to Forget

“It was a bit painful. I didn’t want to go back into my life and imagine things that I hadn’t understood so far.” Those words from Ian McKellen, the actor who is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Gandalf in the movie trilogies The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, help explain why he cancelled a book contract for his autobiography. It was too painful.

Living Houses of Prayer

A new kind of conversion is taking place in England and Europe. Due to a steady decline of Christian belief and the high costs of maintaining churches, the ancient structures are being converted into bars and other commercial buildings. Some are even being used as mosques.

There Is Hope

“When you hear the hard news, there are two diverging roads from which to choose. One’s despair—don’t go there. There is hope!” I wrote those lyrics as part of a song that shares what I’ve learned through a lengthy battle with cancer. Today I was talking with a thirty-year-old husband whose wife just found out she has breast cancer. As I strived to give him comfort and counsel, what I shared can be summed up in these words: Because of God, there is hope.

He’s with You

Friends often remind me, “You’re not alone.” “God is with you,” they say. “Yes,” I answer. “He is.” Yet there are times—mostly when I’m pressed to accomplish a daunting task without anyone physically present to help me, or when I’m alone for extended periods of time—that I wonder, “Is God here with me?” And, if so, “What does His presence truly mean?”

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!

A Little Farther

One of my favorite Old Testament professors once shared this startling statistic: 40 percent of the psalms in the Bible are songs of lament in which the authors present their heartache and pain to God. But in the catalog of modern worship music, only 5 percent of songs could be considered lament, even by the most generous standards. My prof believes that part of the reason we don’t know how to lament is because modern worship tends to focus more on celebration and less on lamentation.

God Came for a Visit

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).

Presence in the Seasons

For seven years, I was at home fulltime with our kids. While I did freelance work to bring in some income, I enjoyed the flexibility and routine of that season. Meals were normally served on time, I was able to deep clean my house regularly, and I enjoyed throwing baby showers and other ways of blessing others. When I returned to fulltime work, my state of normal changed, and I had to shift my expectations.

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> christian living

Model It

It was a regular Monday evening at a senior care facility. Hamburgers were on the menu, and an 87-year-old named Patty was eating hers when she began to choke. But just in the nick of time, another resident came to the rescue and did the Heimlich maneuver on her—saving the day. That resident was none other than 96-year-old Dr. Henry Heimlich himself, the doctor who is widely credited with inventing the procedure. For Patty’s sake, it was a good thing that Dr. Heimlich actually modeled what he taught!

Battle Strategy

At the height of an African government’s struggle with a terrorist rebel group, the president turned to the church for help. As people began to pray, an army chaplain declared that the war wouldn’t be won in battle, but through prayer. Thus began “Operation Gideon.” A team of intercessors gathered for several weeks of prayer and fasting. In time, a systematic breakdown of the rebel group’s influence occurred.

Cheerful Hospitality

After Mary and Jim married and moved into their first apartment, they decided to set aside a room in which to host others. I became a beneficiary of their warm hospitality on a teaching trip. They welcomed me, a stranger, into their home and showered me with love.

> daily devotional

Evidence of Kindness

Several children and their parents filed into a room in which a neo-natal nurse sat. The kids were carrying pictures of themselves as premature infants—years ago, they had been cared for by the nurse. Before the group surprised her, she had watched a video in which the parents expressed how thankful they were for her role in saving their children’s lives. After the reunion, the nurse remarked, “I love what I do. It’s a ministry for me. I believe God has put me [here] for a purpose, and He has given me a love for these babies and these parents.”

Humble Beginnings

It’s estimated that Howard Schultz, until recently the executive chairman of Starbucks, is worth three billion dollars. One might assume that such a successful businessman had been born into wealth and privilege, but nothing could be further from the truth. Schultz was born and raised in Bayview, a notoriously dangerous housing project in New York City. But far from resenting his childhood neighborhood, he credits his upbringing with keeping him grounded and connected to those around him.

Into His Image

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” This sentiment from Anne Lamott often comes back to me in situations of potential conflict. If I find myself assuming God feels exactly the same way I do about most situations, it’s safe to say my view of God is mixed with a good deal of myself! Only one Person has known the mind of God fully; we His followers always understand imperfectly (1 Corinthians 13:12).

> 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

In Preparation

My friend Phil began chemo treatments in December 2016 for an aggressive form of lymphoma cancer. By God’s grace, he’d been prepared for this challenge in many ways. His wife had battled cancer several years before, and he had seen me go through several treatments in my own battle with an aggressive lymphoma. He had also just changed jobs, and the benefits and community support there were just what the doctor ordered. Most of all, he had been enjoying deep relationship with God.

Perfect Plans

The rejection letter I received from the university’s registrar sent me spiraling into shock and disbelief. In the midst of my sadness and confusion, I was grateful that one of my cousins had encouraged me to apply to another school. Fortunately, I was accepted by that university. While I didn’t understand why I was unable to attend my dream school, I recognized that God wasn’t surprised. He knew everything about my situation and had my best in mind.

Seeing Is Disbelieving

There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true,” said philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. The story of the Israelites illustrates how easy it is to be fooled into believing what’s false and to disbelieve the truth.

> health

Evidence of Kindness

Several children and their parents filed into a room in which a neo-natal nurse sat. The kids were carrying pictures of themselves as premature infants—years ago, they had been cared for by the nurse. Before the group surprised her, she had watched a video in which the parents expressed how thankful they were for her role in saving their children’s lives. After the reunion, the nurse remarked, “I love what I do. It’s a ministry for me. I believe God has put me [here] for a purpose, and He has given me a love for these babies and these parents.”

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.

> 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.”