I’ve heard it said that “the church is the only institution that shoots its wounded.” Sadly, the idea possesses a real grain of truth. It’s not unusual for local churches to botch a crisis situation, causing members to leave deeply hurt.
An article titled “Jacob and Our Wrestling Match with God” reflects on the significance of God changing Jacob’s name, arguing that the name change points to a character transformation. “Jacob,” which means “crooked,” becomes “Israel,” which likely means “One who wrestles with God [and] One who is straight (direct, honest) with God.”
Poet Carl Sandburg has said, “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” This thought rings true for many of us. Despite the diapers, frequent feedings, and sleepless nights, infants give renewed hope for the future.
I need to apologize most often to those to whom I’m closest—my family. They are the ones dearest to me but can also be the ones I’m most likely to hurt through my pride or selfishness. When this happens, I need to heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit to confess my wrongdoing, asking them and God to forgive me. Then I can be freed from the weight of my sin.
The administration of former US president Richard Nixon was plagued by scandals, the most infamous being the break-in at the Watergate office building. When addressing the various improprieties of his administration, Nixon famously used the phrase, “Mistakes were made.” This allowed him to admit that something had gone wrong without actually taking direct responsibility. Even after he resigned from office in the face of mounting pressure, Nixon never admitted to any criminal wrongdoing.
“I want to follow Jesus,” said my new Chinese friend. His wife nodded in agreement. At the end of a conference, I had felt prompted to share more about Jesus with this couple. After I had invited them to believe in Him, to my joy they had accepted. I encouraged them to pray in Chinese, assuring them God could understand their heart language. With tears in my eyes, I witnessed the couple talking with their Creator for the first time.
One day I had a strong desire to pray for a neighbor with whom I had a distant, broken relationship. I prayed, Jesus, if you want me to talk with him, have him come up to the front of his house in the next few minutes (he was in his backyard). Just thirty seconds later he came to the front of the house where we talked for the next thirty minutes! The joy of restoration now marks our growing friendship.
Although a man murdered nearly all of a woman’s family in the Rwandan genocide, they’re now next-door neighbors. He says, “Ever since I [confessed] my crimes and ask[ed] her for forgiveness, she has never once called me a killer. . . . She has set me free.”
For nearly a century, two towering ash trees have shaded our house and stood like sentinels watching over it. Within the last decade, however, one of the ashes suffered a mortal wound, and in the intervening years the rot and carpenter ants did their business. The arborist told us there was no saving the tree and we took it down. Since we wanted to plant another seedling (a weeping willow) in its place, we had to grind the stump completely out of the ground. “You’ll have to get rid of that stump,” the arborist said, “or nothing else will grow there.”
My friend was overjoyed. Following years of failed procedures, she was going to give birth to a daughter. With only weeks to go, however, my friend discovered her husband was having an affair. The weight of pain threatened to drown all hope of happiness.
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.
In March 2007, I was standing in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in northern Uganda gazing at hundreds of young refugees who were staring back at me. As I looked into their eyes, saw their malnourished frames, and witnessed their deplorable living conditions, the Holy Spirit filled me in a way I’d never experienced before. I sensed God was telling me, “I love these children. I love them!” And then, it was as if He extended this invitation: “Come love them with me.”
My son and I spent a few days with friends at their home in the beautiful northern region of New England in the US. Our visit followed my ninth consecutive year of fruitful but intense ministry in East Africa. Depleted and in need of recharging, I was grateful for the physical rest my friends’ hospitality provided.