“How can you sing joyful songs during this difficult time?” our relatives asked. It was the night before my brother’s funeral, and we were singing his favorite worship songs. My brother David had tragically and unexpectedly died a few days before. He was just eighteen years old when he drowned in the Danube River. Our family and the entire community were in shock. But there was a glimmer of hope in all of this. David was a believer in Jesus, and we knew that one day we would see him again.
When John Lasseter of Pixar Studios was asked about the limitations of working with animation, he said, “The more organic something is . . . the harder it is to recreate with a computer.” In contrast, a review of some organic photography gushed, “One canvas in magenta red has curling squares of what looks like skin or material; another has furry brown hairs sprouting on green and orange stripes; and on a third, lip-like shapes float on a gray-white background.” The reviewer was describing photos of tree bark.
In the sixties, a mystical, upbeat pair of tunes lent voice to the better aspirations of a growing counterculture. “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” anticipated an era governed by peace and love.
It was a bad day—and it culminated with me turning too sharply into our driveway and subsequently hitting our neighbour’s parked car in an effort to avoid another one. It was my fault. Great, I thought. There goes more money I don’t have. I’d scraped our bumper and cracked the driver’s side mirror. Although our van took the brunt of it, I’d also dented and scraped one of our neighbour’s passenger-side doors. Immediately, I knocked on the door of my neighbour’s home and confessed what I had done. “Oh don’t worry about it,” he said. “My car is old anyway.”
A common belief about God is that if we can do enough ‘good’ things, we earn His favour. Naturally, the next question becomes: How much is enough? When can we be sure we’ve done enough good things? Well, we can’t! But thankfully, such a concept isn’t found in the Bible. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 2:8-9).
Families of kidnap victims often refuse to pay ransom without “proof of life”, evidence such as a phone call or video that shows their loved one is well. True believers in Jesus reveal a different kind of ‘proof of life’—evidence of lives transformed by their new life in Christ.
Following World War I, there was no more accomplished golfer than Bobby Jones. In 1930, he achieved the Grand Slam by winning the US Open, British Open, US Amateur, and British Amateur championships—all in the same year! The golfing world was stunned, however, when shortly following those victories Jones decided to retire from golf. He didn’t decide to hang up the spikes because his skills had diminished in any way. Instead, the talented athlete made his decision because he had accomplished the greatest feat in golf at the time and had nothing left to prove. He simply chose to give his golf career a rest.
“But how are we going to go on without you?” my youth group student asked on my last day as the pastor. I was touched, but I also knew that God loved these kids and would provide the perfect pastor for them, which is precisely what happened. Only weeks after my departure, a replacement was hired who was actually far better qualified than me for youth work. As much as I hate to admit it, my leaving was probably the best thing for that ministry!
Water cascades from the top of the Taughannock Falls into a basin 215 feet below. The flow originates from an expansive trench in a wall of sedimentary rock. Trees fringe the top of the wall. During autumn, they adorn the scene with orange, yellow, and red. In the winter, the waterfall’s spray coats the surrounding rock with ice, turning everything a shimmering silver and white.
When a boyfriend and I ended our dating relationship, I lamented, “I’ll never meet another man who enjoys grilling food like he did.” As shallow (and embarrassing) as that sounds, I thought I’d forfeited my opportunity to be with a gourmet chef. A few weeks later though, while in a store that sold a variety of grills, it dawned on me that my former boyfriend wasn’t the only gifted griller out there!
The story of the criminal crucified with Jesus is one of Scriptures’ most dramatic conversion stories (Luke 23:32-43). About to die, the man had no time to clean up his life. Yet, because he believed in Jesus, he went to be with Him (Luke 23:42-43).
“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.
Recently, several books have helped me grapple with systemic injustices woven into many social systems. One book cataloged how our criminal justice system can often be stacked against those at the margins. Another shared how the working poor have often been neglected and abused while those in power have profited from their misfortune. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when we wade into this disturbing information. And these are only two urgent issues. What are we to do? How are we to make things right?
Loneliness. Lynsi Snyder felt it engulf her at age eighteen when her father died. Trying to fill the void, she abused substances, was married and divorced three times, and ended up still feeling alone and like a “piece of trash.”