The casting agent enters the room with her top picks for the show’s leading man and lady. The new series will follow the spellbinding story of a clan that builds a powerful, world-impacting family tree. This is the pilot, and it is crucial to make the right call on the individuals who will fall in love and launch this Kennedy-like family of influence and fame.
Producers and writers alike have waited breathlessly for this moment, the moment when who they have envisioned as the leading characters will be finally realized in an actor and actress. But when they turn to see who has been tapped for these most special of roles, the thud of their collective jaws hitting the majestic mahogany conference table muffles their mutual groans.
There before their wide eyes, instead of the expected vibrant, young couple with gleaming white teeth and tanned and toned bodies, stand a 75-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman. Not what they had pictured for their production.
And yet, this is what God has chosen. His screenplay called for a couple to launch a new nation, one that would impact the entire world. As he would say, a nation through whom “all the nations of the earth would be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).
Abram and Sarai stand there, adorned perhaps by dusty old robes and crowned with wispy white hair and loosely fitting skin and as befuddled as anyone else. God chose them to begin a nation. An unlikely pair, especially after factoring in the fact that Sarai was barren. How could God expect to start a nation with a woman who could not bear children?
To complicate the story line, it will be 25 more years before they actually have their child of promise. By that time Abram and Sarai will be 100 years old and 90 years old, respectively (and their names will be changed to Abraham and Sarah). Perhaps Social Security checks will help this special couple decorate the baby’s tent and they’ll be able take naps when the baby does. And the rest, as they say, is history. His story.
God picks people you and I wouldn’t necessarily select to take part in his story. In fact, sometimes we are shocked who plays the starring roles in his stories. Unlike the way we do business, he taps people, not merely because of their abilities, but for their availability. God searches for people who are open to be used by him. Since he uses only those who are willing to be used for his purposes, there is no doubt that it is he who is doing the wonder- working. Let there be no doubt, throughout history he is the one making things happen.
That’s good news, isn’t it? In the business world, you may not have a great pedigree. In academics, you may not be a Rhodes Scholar. You may not have a lot of money and you may have average looks. But you may be sitting in a pretty good position to be a top pick for God’s work.
VOLUME IV, Number 51
My Prayer For You This New Year
May God make your year a happy one! Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain, But by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes; Not by making your path easy, But by making you sturdy to travel any path; Not by taking hardships from you, But by taking fear from your heart; Not by granting you unbroken sunshine, But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows; Not by making your life always pleasant, But by showing you when people and their causes need you most, And by making you anxious to be there to help.
This may not seem like a very uplifting prayer and you may never well be hoping that I would quit praying for you but I know that often times we pray that God will completely take us out of our trails and the hardships that we face instead of asking him to strengthen us through them. While hardships and trails are unpleasant they are what makes us into the person we’ve always wanted to become.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4, NIV)
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5, ESV)
"For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13, NLT).
VOLUME IV, Number 50
A Most Generous Christmas Bonus
For a third year running, FORTUNE Magazine has named Hilcorp one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For." This year, they certainly proved themselves worthy by awarding each of their 1,380 employees a $100,000 Christmas bonus. That’s right—$100,000 per employee, regardless of their position in the company! The bonuses allow the entire Hilcorp team to share in the company’s success.
This is not the first time Hilcorp has offered extravagant bonuses (a few years ago it offered its employees the choice of a $50,000 car or $35,000 in cash), and no doubt it won’t be the last. The recipients seem to be truly grateful. “It’s just a true gift, and I think myself, along with everyone, is not going to give less than 100 percent each day,” receptionist Amanda Thompson told Fox 4 News in Houston.
Hilcorp's generosity really is a “true gift.” But what about the original Christmas bonus program?
Two thousand plus years ago, God presented Himself to all mankind as the truest of all true gifts. He came to live with us and to die for us so that He could offer us the bonus of all bonuses—eternal life, offered equally to everyone, regardless of our position, rank, or status.
If the employees of Hilcorp can be so motivated by $100,000 to give “100 percent each day” back to the company, how much more ought we give of ourselves 100 percent in service and gratitude to the One who gave it ALL for us!
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
VOLUME IV, Number 49
It’s Always Darkest Before…
Despair.com has a poster which reads, “Despair: It always gets darkest just before it fades to pitch black.” Too many people live without hope, going from one dark event to another. I wonder if that is how the Jews felt in the time just before Jesus' birth?
They had been a privileged people, one of the only groups allowed to self-rule, to self-tax and to be free from military service in the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar had granted these rights because Judaism was older than Rome itself. But then came Octavius who instituted a census, which was to occur every fourteen years, and it did for the next two centuries. So what's the big deal about a census? Ancient Empires took censuses in order to tax or to conscript.
This simple event was a signal to the Jewish people that their favored status was in the process of being revoked and that they, like everyone else, were nothing more than a conquered, defeated people. Simply having Romans in the land would have seemed pretty dark, but having them prepare to tax and conscript would have felt like pitch black. It would be a return to slavery, a proverbial return to Egypt.
But in this dark situation, as Luke proceeds in his nativity narrative, the angels appear and announce the Good News! A Savior, a Messiah, a Lord has been born, and with His coming, favor was being restored.
Contrary to the Despair.com assertion, it wasn't darkest just before it faded to pitch black. It was darkest just before "The Light of the World" dispelled the night!
"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).
VOLUME IV, Number 48
A Broken Promise is more Than a Broken Promise
MAGNA, UT - A $40,000 anonymous pledge to help 15-year-old Alexis with her fight against brain cancer turned out to be too good to be true. According to CNN: The Goulds were told the money was donated by a local businessman who was supposed to be sending over a check to Primary Children’s Hospital. But as treatments for Alexis began, it became evident there was no account to charge. For the Goulds, it was a setback but not one they're dwelling on now. Instead, they're focusing on Alexis' recovery.
Fortunately, while the promised pledge fell through, Alexis has received numerous gifts from others.
Being human, we all possess the capacity to empathize with those who are suffering. Unfortunately, being human means we also have the capacity to break the promises our empathy moves us to make. We do this all the time; to our spouses, to our kids, to our bosses, and even to young cancer patients . Thankfully, Jesus is a different kind of human being—there has never been another one like Him. He is both God and man, bearing all of the best qualities of both. As a fellow human being, He responds to us with empathy. As God, He can never, and will never, lie to us, or break any of His promises.
We are not Jesus; however, we can strive to be more like Him. In your own life, don’t promise more than you are able to deliver. Make your promises few but sure. Remember that you are merely human, that promises are as easy to break as they are to make, and that when you break a promise you break a hope.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
“But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned” (James 5:12).
VOLUME IV, Number 47
Does Religion Start Wars?
In the wake of the senseless massacre of human life in Paris, I have heard a familiar refrain. A lot of people seem to be of the opinion that religion is the problem. They tell us that if we just do away with religion, wars would cease. They tout the John Lennon philosophy, made popular in the song "Imagine." But what those who hold this opinion have failed to take into account is that the 20th century was the bloodiest century in the history of mankind, and that the atrocities of that century were committed by anti-religious movements, led by men like Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Lenin, Chiang Kai-shek, Hideki Tojo, and Pol Pot. These men were not religiously motivated, yet they ruthlessly slaughtered millions of people:
Joseph Stalin - 42,672,000 Mao Zedong (Tse-tung) - 37,828,000 Adolf Hitler - 20,946,000 Chiang Kai-shek - 10,214,000 Vladimir Lenin - 4,017,000 Hideki Tojo - 3,990,000 Pol Pot - 2,397,000 This wasn't that long ago. How have we forgotten so quickly?
Philip and Axelrod's three-volume ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WARS chronicles some 1,763 wars that have been fought in the course of human history. The authors only categorize 123 of these wars as being religiously motivated, with 66 of these 123 being waged in the name of Islam. That means that ALL RELIGIONS COMBINED – minus Islam – have caused only 3.23% OF ALL WARS!
Instead of blaming religion as the common denominator of war, it would make more sense to focus on the common denominator between Islamic Jihadists and men like Mao, Stalin and Hitler, etc., which would be hate. Throughout history, hateful men have waged war. Some perpetrated their hateful actions in the name of religion, others did not. Nevertheless, it is hate, not religion, that is the common denominator.
Conversely, let us not forget the countless millions who have been inspired by religion to love and serve humanity. While jihadists are blowing people up, Christians and other religiously motivated people are working in leper colonies in third-world-countries, feeding starving children in the mountains of Peru, providing warm beds to the homeless in countless shelters the world over. Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another," thus providing us with a common denominator by which to judge true religion (John 13:35).
VOLUME IV, Number 46
You Were There…
A story is told of a woman whose husband lay in bed dying, going in and out of a coma. One day, he awakened and reached out to draw her close. As she sat next to him, he began to whisper his remembrances.
“You have been right there beside me through all the rough times. You were there when I got fired. You were there when my business failed. You were there when we lost the house. And you’ve been right here by my side as my health has failed and I lay dying.” Finally he paused and asked, “You know what?”
“What, dearest?" she asked as she wiped a tear from her eye.
“I think you’re bad luck,” he muttered as he turned his head slipping back to sleep.
It's important to learn to focus on the positives in others. If we choose to focus on the negative, it won't matter how much good there might be, we'll find plenty to complain about.
But sometimes it can be a challenge even to find that one praiseworthy thing. Take the Apostle Paul as an example. In his opening remarks to the church that had given him nothing but trouble, he wrote, "I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus" (1 Corinthians 1:4).
When Paul couldn't think of a single good thing for which to praise the Corinthians, he thanked God for how good God had been to them! Likewise, for each of us, there's always something positive we can find to say. Look hard enough and you'll find it, too.
VOLUME IV, Number 45
They Couldn’t But He Did
At a recent charity event in England, magician Anthony Britton--in an attempt to mimic Harry Houdini’s failed “Buried Alive” stunt--allowed himself to be buried beneath 6 feet of dirt. Before the buckets of dirt began to shower down on him, he was handcuffed and shackled. But just like Houdini, Britton was unable to dig his way out. He almost died, needing to be extricated from the grave and revived by paramedics.
Lucky to be alive, Britton told the following story of his harrowing experience to NPR’s Arun Rath:
“To start off with, it's painful. There's no coffin there, there's no casket — nothing there to protect your body. I remember the first bucket of soil hit me — it was a bit of a shock. … Each bucket that went on to you — obviously the crushing that is coming from the front, you know, underneath you. It's coming from the sides of you, it's going on top of you.
“For some reason, I think the soil shifted or something, and I got my right arm trapped. It was trapped between my body and the actual soil itself. So, at that point, it was, ‘Crikey, I can't move my right arm.’
“Anyway, I felt myself going unconscious, and I was just trying to focus on, ‘You've got to do this, you've got to escape the grave.’ To keep myself calm, believe it or not, I was actually, in my head, singing the song of ‘Great Balls of Fire,’ by the wonderful Jerry Lee Lewis …”
But you know, it just got to the point where I'd given it my entire best shot. I had nothing left in my body. ... I could feel myself going under. At that point, everyone knew exactly what to do — and they got to me as quick as they could. Fortunately, Britton would walk away from his near death experience with just a few scrapes and bruises and a cracked rib.
If it’s so difficult to release one’s self from a tomb after being buried "alive," try doing it after being buried dead. That was the challenge facing Jesus as they laid his lifeless body in the tomb. Yet He rose from the grave without the aid of an extrication team or paramedics. Despite the increased impossibility, Jesus accomplished what no one, not even Houdini, could—the resurrection from death to life, which has given us hope for eternal life.
"For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
VOLUME IV, Number 44
Avoid a Collision with Trouble
What are the odds that you might have a collision with a deer, elk or moose? According to recent data from State Farm, in 2015 your odds of a collision are 1 out of 169. However, those odds double during breeding season, which takes place from October through December. If you live in West Virginia, the odds are much worse, peaking out at 1 in 44. But here’s a bit of good news; for the ninth year in a row, Hawaii has rounded out the bottom of the list with odds of 1 in 8,765.
Trouble is more likely to happen where trouble dwell. Therefore, if you want to avoid trouble, don’t hang out there! In this case, that would be West Virginia. Instead, get to Hawaii and stay there.
Spiritually speaking, we are called to use great caution when venturing into dangerous, worldly territory. Clearly, it is often unavoidable, since we are called to be in the world but not of it. Yet Scripture declares, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers” (Psalm 1:1). To this point, we can learn a thing or two from
State Farm's advise:
Use extra caution in known deer zones Be on guard when in the company of the unsaved. "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company ruins good morals'” (I Corinthians 15:33); "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm" (Proverbs 13:20).
Always wear your seatbelt Put on the whole armor of guard. “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm ... For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world ... Therefore, put ... on the belt of truth and ... pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere" (Ephesians 6:10-18).
At night, when there is no oncoming traffic, use high beams Allow the Word of God to be a light to your feet. "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path" (Psalm 119:105).
Avoid swerving when you see a deer Don't be fearful as you approach trouble: hold your ground. "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).
And as for the additional facts you should know, State Farm adds the following:
Deer are on all roads: "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
Deer are unpredictable: "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12).
The hours between dusk and dawn are high risk times: "But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him” (John 11:10); "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14).
VOLUME IV, Number 43
Marriage is Like a Ten Ton Mac Truck
When conducting marriage services, one preacher likes to explain that one aspect of marriage is that it makes you come face to face with who you really are, by using the analogy of a bridge.
Think of an old bridge over a stream. Imagine that there are structural defects in the bridge that are hard to see. There may be a hairline fracture that a very close inspection would reveal, but to the naked eye there is nothing wrong. But now see a ten-ton Mack truck drive onto the bridge. What will happen? The pressure from the weight of the truck will open those hairline fractures so they can be seen. The structural defects will be exposed for all to see because of the strain the truck puts on the bridge. Suddenly, you can see where all the flaws are. The truck didn’t create the weakness; it revealed them.
Marriage doesn’t create your weaknesses, it reveals them. Having our weaknesses exposed is not a bad thing. Knowing the truth about yourself has hugely transformative potential. As Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
So rather than engage your spouse in the age old battle for who's wrong and who's right, allow your marriage to reveal the truth about yourself. Then the truth, having been heeded, will strengthen those areas of weakness.
VOLUME IV, Number 42
Hiroshima’s tourism board used the Google mapping feature to create a street view of their city, its restaurants and shops. The mapping included the usual features on interactive online maps, camera angle functions and details about local shops.
What’s unusual was the board’s decision to record their city at the height and from the perspective of a cat! They also chose to provide an interactive experience with 11 cats that live in the city.
While some will no doubt find it fascinating to see a city from a cat's perspective, one has to wonder: What would it be like to see your city from God’s perspective?
A cat’s perspective is from low to high, while God’s superior perspective is better described as from high to low. In fact, we might imagine God "looking down" at us, judging us unworthy of His love or attention. But nothing could be further from what we read in John 3:16; “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
According to this verse, we are all viewed from the vantage point of the Cross of Christ. And from that vantage point, He sees us through eyes that are full of love and compassionate.
Want a different perspective on your city, your world? Try viewing it from the most fascinating perspective of all—the height and perspective of a God of love.
VOLUME IV, Number 41
The Lost One
A couple were out walking their Jack Russell Terrier, Charlie, in the mountains. A squirrel walked passed and Charlie broke free, pulling his leash behind him. Just that quickly, the couple realized Charlie was gone.
They stopped and asked some hikers if they had seen Charlie, but no luck. They stopped by the ranger station and asked if anyone had found Charlie, but they hadn't. They called their Bible study back home and asked them to pray for Charlie. They called the local radio station to ask them to announce that Charlie was missing. This was no small matter. There were coyotes in the hills.
Through the course of the day, the community mobilized. A biker road through the hills calling Charlie's name. Rangers drove the mountain roads looking for the dog. Members of the Bible study actually drove in to help search. As the sun was setting, it looked like the dog might be gone. Then they got a call. Campers had found Charlie hiding underneath a car that was parked exactly where they had parked that morning.
The couple describe this as the most profound experience of community they've ever had.
What if the church were united around the search for lost people? In the book of Acts, the community gathered and united for the mission of reaching a lost world, and it was the most profound experience of community they had ever had.
"Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:46-47).
VOLUME IV, Number 40
Shoan Sibary has confessed to the DAILY MAIL, "I get rid of dogs as soon as they stop being cute puppies." Indeed, she has given away four dogs in four years.
I’m a serial dogamist. In the early stages of the relationship I’m head over heels. I attend all the puppy classes. I don’t even begrudge picking up dog poo.
There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my new canine companion. But the moment things get complicated and they develop a problem, I don’t covet a dog-free existence like any other sane person might. Instead, I start wondering if there is another, more suitable dog out there.
Maybe one that is less bouncy, less barky, less inclined to moult everywhere. And so the new search begins and I cannot rest until I have found a replacement puppy to lie adoringly at my feet.
Isn’t every commitment like a puppy waiting to turn into a real dog? We begin our commitments with enthusiasm and anticipation, until responsibility kicks in. Everybody loves the puppy stage, but every puppy eventually becomes a real dog.
The French proverb, "You need to not only want what you want, you need to want what your want leads to,” finds perfect application here. Real love, committed love, not only wants what it wants, it wants what that want leads to.
Love that fades with effort is puppy love. Love that fulfills its obligations is real love. Don’t discard your relationships when someone starts molting. To enjoy long-term committed relationships we must accept the long-term responsibilities that come with them. Bottom line: A mature relationship involves a real dog.
"Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good" (Romans 12:9, NLT).
VOLUME IV, Number 39
William Barclay (1907-1978) was a Scottish minister, author and professor who produced the well-known set of New Testament commentaries that bear his name. He provided a wealth of knowledge on biblical times and cultural context even though his theology doesn't square with evangelical convictions about Christ, salvation and miracles. Such background is important for this story.
During a week of lectures on the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), Barclay shared about the experience of losing his 21-year-old daughter. She, and the man she would have married, both drowned in a yachting accident. Barclay explained that even though God did not stop that accident, He did still the storm in the hearts of his wife and him.
He later received an anonymous letter from a listener in Northern Ireland who wrote, "Dear Dr. Barclay, I know now why God killed your daughter; it was to save her from being corrupted by your heresies." Barclay responded by saying, "If I had had that writer's address, I would have written back, not in anger - the inevitable blaze of anger was over in a flash - but in pity."
The things we believe to be wrong will not be corrected by caustic attacks, but by the manifestation of God's Spirit that includes kindness so powerful that no law could ever stand against it (Galatians 5:22-23).
VOLUME IV, Number 38 Kidney 4 Wife
When Larry Swilling's wife of 58 yrs needed a kidney, he refused to sit idly by as her chances for survival diminished with each passing day. His love for her compelled him to get creative, think outside the box, and take to the streets in search of a donor.
He purchased materials and fashioned a sandwich board which read, "Need Kidney 4 Wife." Then he proceeded to walk about town, talking to anyone who would listen. The first day he walked 15 miles in 97 degree heat. A few days later he walked 54--nearly a mile for every year they'd been married!
His story was picked up by a local news team, and soon went viral. Offers for kidney donations started pouring in by the thousands from all over the world. Finally, a match was found! Surgery was able to take place thanks to Larry's commitment to the love of his life--his wife, Jimmie Sue.
True love finds a way! Larry was willing to go to some pretty creative and great lengths to care for and protect his wife. God Himself had to get pretty creative in finding a solution to help, us, his ailing beloveds. But He didn't have to look very far to find a suitable donor. He only had to look as far as His Only Begotten Son, who gave Himself as a "ransom for many."
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:25, cf. Matthew 20:28).
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25).
VOLUME IV, Number 37 We Are Fireflies I remember when I was a kid my brother and I would get a couple of mason jars and run around the front yard trying to catch fireflies. It was an intriguing game. Standing in the dark waiting for them to light up and as soon as they do start running in its direction until they go out again. Then waiting once more for them to light up. Fireflies have always mesmerized me.
As an adult, I have learned a few neat things about fireflies. First, at every state of life, a firefly can produce light. Even when they are eggs, the egg is able to chemically produce the same light that the larvae, pupae and adults produce. Second, fireflies are the most efficient light producers. Whereas, an incandescent light bulb emits 90% of its energy in heat and only 10% in light, a firefly is super efficient, emitting 100% of its energy as light.
As Christians, we are the fireflies of the human population. Ephesians 4:8 declares, "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light..." Like the firefly, at every stage of our Christian life, from our infancy to our promotion to glory, we are light. We illumine the world with Christ that is in us, making his name known.
So the next time you wonder if you have a purpose in life, remember Ephesians 4:8 and remember the firefly, then go out and illumine the world as you walk with Jesus.
VOLUME IV, Number 36 Marriage is Like Canoeing
You might compare the single life and the married life to someone who is crossing a body of water. You can take a kayak (usually a one-seater) and have full control of where you go and how fast you get there. Or, you can take a canoe with two seats. If you've ever been in a canoe you know that you have to work together. If you don't, you will end up going around in circles or zig-zagging across the water. It can be frustrating.
Canoes are known for tipping over when those in them don't know what they're doing. But when you are in a canoe with a person who works with you, you have someone to share the burden of paddling, someone to share the journey with.
The single life has its advantages. Like the person in the kayak, you have full control of where you go and what you do. You can give your full attention to God. But the married life also is a blessing. Yes, like taking two in a canoe, it will require work, cooperation, and communication. But you'll have a partner to share the journey with, to encourage one another, rejoice together, cry together, and to work together until you reach the destination.
"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21).
VOLUME IV, Number 35 I Know How You Feel!
Every baseball player dreams of making it to the majors, but to set a record within the first week would be something really special. Chase Wright, a rookie pitcher for the New York Yankees, tied a Major League Baseball record in the first week he was called up from Double-A ball—though probably not in the way he had hoped.
On Sunday night, April 22, 2007, Wright gave up a record four consecutive home runs to the Boston Red Sox, allowing the Red Sox to sweep their division rivals in their first meeting of the season.
Wright tied the record previously held by Paul Foytack, who gave up four consecutive homers in 1963. Rather than berate the young pitcher, Yankee skipper Joe Torre said, "It's just another piece of experience for that kid. It has nothing to do with what he's going to be or what's going to happen in the future. I still think he's going to be special. He's a pretty tough kid."
While Torre's confidence was certainly encouraging to Wright, he received some support in the mail from someone who can empathize. Paul Foytack, Wright's partner in baseball infamy, mailed Wright a letter of encouragement the next morning. "He's kind of young to be going through that," Foytack said. "Hopefully, he'll take it to heart."
There was only one other person on the planet who knew exactly how Chase felt, and that was Paul Foytack. Not only that, but Paul was the one person whose words of encouragement would mean the most to Chase.
God equips us, through the most disappointing experiences of our lives, for the ministry of encouragement. By weaving a greater capacity to identify with the HURTING, God empowers us to empathize with the very people who are in need of our empathy.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
VOLUME IV, Number 34 Man Faces Jail for Selling His Dirty Socks
When is a crime really a crime? That’s a great question when it comes to this bizarre and complex news story.
It all began July 8, 2015 when Michael Suarez of Ypsilanti, Michigan, arranged to sell a pound of marijuana for the sum of $2800. He and a couple of friends were to deliver the drugs in the wee hours of the morning to a couple who were waiting at a local mobile home park.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Suarez and his accomplices didn’t bring marijuana to the drug drop at all—instead, they brought a backpack full of dirty socks! Upon delivery of the backpack, Suarez and friends received payment of $2800 and quickly sped away.
Racing from the scene, Suarez ran a stop sign and was promptly pulled over by a vigilant police officer. Then, during the traffic stop, the officer was approached by a man claiming to have been robbed by Suarez. Upon search of Suarez’ vehicle, the officer found the $2800 in cash made as payment for the backpack full of dirty socks. It did not escape the officer’s attention, however, that the man crying “Thief!” had actually intended to buy a pound of pot!
The whole thing played out in Lenawee County Circuit Court where Michael Suarez pleaded guilty to “false pretenses between $1,000-$20,000,” while his accomplices pleaded guilty to attempted possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. In the meantime, the “buyers” of the bag of socks face charges of attempting to purchase an illegal substance.
You may need a flow chart to keep up with all that happened in this case. But the important thing to keep in mind is that no one was ever in possession of an illegal substance. Everything that happened could have been perfectly legal but, in the American justice system, motive matters.
We all know and accept this as justice in a human court. But what happens when this same principle is applied in the justice system of Heaven? Will you argue that you’ve never committed adultery when God knows how lustful you’ve been? Will you argue that you’ve never killed anyone when God knows how hateful you’ve been?
If intent matters in a human courtroom, how much more will it come into play in the courtroom of Heaven?
"Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God" (1 Corinthians 4:5).
"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:8).
VOLUME IV, Number 33 Can’t Give Your Worries Away
Worry is something that almost every single one of us struggles with. We worry about tomorrow; we worry about past mistakes catching up with us; we worry about finances and more other things. Worry is an expensive habit. Of course, it might be worth it if it worked but it doesn’t. Our anxieties are futile. Jesus said, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matt. 6:27). Worry has never brightened a day, solved a problem, or cured a disease.
Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983), a Dutch Christian who, along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II and ended up being sent to a concentration camp herself, said this about worry: “Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time.”
If anyone had a reason to worry about tomorrow it would have been Corrie ten Boom, sitting in a concentration camp not know what tomorrow will bring. Will she even make it through the night or was there hope that some day she will be free. These are questions that she no doubt wondered but she understood that worrying about tomorrow was futile because today has enough troubles.
Jesus even said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is it own trouble” (Matt. 6:34).
Let us not be bond to the fears and worries of tomorrow but rather live for today. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.”
VOLUME IV, Number 32 A 5 Year Old Learns What a Proposal Feels Like When a 5 year old is dying of cancer, what can be done to make up for all that she will miss? This was the challenge facing Ryan and Heidi, whose daughter, Lila May Schow, was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma and is not expected to make it to this Thanksgiving.
Springing into action, her parents decided they would not allow the cancer to rob their daughter of the important celebrations of life. So they planned a fairy tale ball, which included every major celebration a girl has to look forward to -- a prom, a birthday bash and a wedding!
To this end, a large facility was secured and transformed into a princess' castle for the day. Lila arrived on a horse-drawn carriage, wearing a custom-made princess gown and tiara. She was received by a large crowd of family and friends. In a celebration full of meaningful moments, the most important came when her father "proposed" to her ... get this ... so that she would know what a proposal felt like!
"My beloved spoke and said to me, 'Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me'" (Song of Solomon 2:10). With these words, the bride of Solomon was swept away by her bridegroom. As she drank in the significance of each moment of her betrothal, she felt completely covered in the love of her soon-to-be husband. It was a beautiful moment. She exulted, "My beloved is mine and I am his ... He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love" (Song of Solomon 2:4, NASB).
That's what Ryan and Heidi wanted for their daughter. They wanted her to know what it's like to be the object of absolute devotion. They wanted her to know what it's like to be promised unending love. They wanted her to know what it's like to belong to the love of another.
And so her father proposed to her in a beautiful banquet hall. They didn't want their daughter to depart from this world without knowing what a proposal felt like.
What a blessed little girl, to have parents that love her and know how to communicate that love.
As we reflect on the purpose of Christ's coming and of His sacrifice, we are likewise blessed to know that we have a God Who loves us and knows how to communicate that love.
Jesus went to the cross because He wanted you to know what it's like to be the object of absolute devotion. He rose from the grave because He wanted you to know what it's like to be promised unending love. He did all of this so that no matter what circumstances you might face, you could still know what it's like to belong to the love of another.
Jesus doesn't want you to depart from this world without knowing what a proposal feels like.
Will you accept His proposal of love?
VOLUME IV, Number 31
I was reading one review after another in order to pick an audio book, when I noticed something puzzling. After reading several very positive reviews, I would always come across others that made the same book sound like the worst thing that had ever been written. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here’s an example of the reviews on the same book:
"Wow! I couldn't stop reading … 5 stars for sure!" "Amazing writing. I highly recommend to anyone who loves suspense and mystery." "The story is fresh, suspenseful, interesting, and very realistic."
And then there were others who offered a very different take: "I had to read the entire thing twice, the plot was so thick, so filled with seemingly unrelated things." "So many bad things happen in this book ... pointlessly." "It's so bad that it becomes almost comical ... " "So boring it’s painful. Don't waste your time!"
Same story, two very different responses. I couldn't believe these two groups of people had read the same book. This wasn’t unique to this one title. I found similar disagreement on every book on the best seller list. Why does the same piece of literature elicit such varied responses?
We see this kind of response in every area of life. People can look at the same situation, same church, same person, and come up with so many different responses. Why? I think it all depends on what’s in the heart. Are you looking for failures, mistakes, and weaknesses or are you trying to find the good in things?
What goes into someone's mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them." Matthew 15:11
VOLUME IV, Number 30
The Most “Urgent” Things in Life Aren’t Always the Most Important
Wayne Wester received an education he wasn't expecting while working on his doctorate. He made a commitment to his wife that he would be available for their children's bedtime routine and if his schedule ever prevented that from happening, he would never miss more than three bedtimes in a row.
One night, after a horrendous day of church work, he felt the crunch of a massive paper due at midnight. In the midst of his feverish rush to finish the paper on time, his wife called and gently reminded him that he was about to miss the fifth night in a row of tucking his children in for bed. After trying to justify his need for work, she simply said, "Well, just do what you think is best."
Feeling no better five minutes later, he called home to strengthen his case for not coming home but his wife held her ground and replied, "Wayne, just quit typing wherever you are in that paper. Submit it as it is, and come home to pray with your daughter before she falls asleep!" He stewed for a few minutes and then did exactly what she suggested. He wrote, "The End" right where he was in the paper and then headed home.
Dr. Wester still earned his degree and became a wiser, better man because of it. Wester wrote, "I realized that the 'urgent' things in life aren't always the most important."
Life becomes hectic, at times, and we often forget what is most important. When we lose sight of what is most important those closest to us suffer. At times we need to set everything else aside and remember what is truly most important in our lives.
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." Galatians 6:7-10
VOLUME IV, Number 29 The Complaining Monk
A man joined a monastery where the monks were only allowed to speak two words a year, and those to the abbot. At the end of each year they were given an audience and said their two words. Naturally they were expected to be something along the lines of “Jesus loves” or some other eternal truth. However at the end of his first year the novice offered, “Bed hard” and at the end of the second year, “Food bad” and at the end of the third year his two words were, “I quit”.
“I’m not surprised,’ said the abbot, ‘you’ve done nothing but whinge ever since you came here.”
It’s hard to become committed to something when all you do is find the faults in it. That’s why so many people hop from church to church is that they are always looking for the faults and the truth of the matter is that if you look for faults you are going to find faults. The church is filled with imperfect people who will stumble and who will fall at times.
So instead of looking for the faults in others and looking for the faults within the church we should learn to be grateful for the brothers and sisters we have. It’s only when we learn gratitude that we will stop looking for the faults and start to become a productive member. I believe that’s why the Scriptures constantly remind us to be grateful and keep away from complaining or grumbling.
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:9 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”James 5:9
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing…”Philippians 2:14
VOLUME IV, Number 28:
Cleaning Fairy Arrested for Unsolicited Housework
"'Cleaning fairy' arrested after shoveling snow without permission" By Kim Palmer, Reuters , published on Yahoo News,
Thu, Jan 24, 2013
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The Ohio woman dubbed "the cleaning fairy" by local media because she broke into a home and cleaned it without permission, was arrested on Tuesday after police found her shoveling snow from a driveway without the owner's consent, police said.
Police in Elyria, a city 30 miles southwest of Cleveland, arrested Susan Warren, 53, on an outstanding warrant stemming from the separate incident last year where she entered a suburban Cleveland home, did some light cleaning and left a note charging the owner $75. …
According to Sherry Bush, the owner of the home, she called Warren to question if she had cleaned the wrong home by mistake and was told by Warren that there was no mistake, that she "does this all the time" and thought she was doing Bush a favor.
It would seem that both the homeowners and the police found the unsolicited cleanings much more an intrusion than a "favor."
No one considers it a "favor" when someone forces something, even a good thing, on them. Rather than gratitude, it will only lead to resentment.
There is no better "favor" than the salvation that God offers to the world as an absolutely free gift. Nevertheless, God isn't in the business of forcing favors we don't want. Rather, His offer is as gracious as the gift itself.
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).
VOLUME IV, Number 27
Surprised Woman Finds Giant Gem in Crater of Diamonds
MURFREESBORO, AR – “An 8.5
2-carat white diamond was found Wednesday (June 24) by Bobbie Oskarson of Longmont, Colorado, at Arkansas’s Crater of Diamonds State Park, according to park officials. Clear white and icicle shaped, this gem is the fifth largest diamond found by a park visitor since the state park was established at Arkansas’s diamond site in 1972. Twenty minutes into her search, she found the diamond in a couple scoops she had dug from a small mound of dirt. … She named her gem the Esperanza Diamond, both her niece’s name and the Spanish word for “hope.” At this time, Oskarson plans to keep the gem.”
The park works hard to ensure that visitors have every opportunity to find buried treasure, regularly turning over the earth to loosen it and bring more gems close to the surface. As a result, Oskarson is hardly the first to find a valuable gem in this unique park. There have been 227 certified park finds already just this year! And while her diamond is quite large, over the years there have been several finds even larger. In fact, the largest diamond ever discovered in the U.S. was unearthed at this same location in 1924.
Just imagine, an 8.52 carat diamond, laying there just below the surface, free for the taking! But no one should really be that surprised. After all, it's called "Crater of Diamonds State Park!" Hundreds, if not thousands, of lay-miners have found precious gems of all kinds (not just diamonds) in this treasure rich park.
Now imagine something even more wonderful. The treasure of God's love and forgiveness, offered to all, free for the taking! But no one should really be that surprised to hear testimony after testimony from millions of seekers who have discovered the hope of new and abiding life in Christ. After all, Jesus called it "Eternal Life!"
So what are you waiting for? Lay claim to your own "Esperanza"--the hope--of eternal life!
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field" (Matthew 13:44).
"And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son"
(1 John 5:11).
VOLUME IV, Number 26 Hate is No Match for Love
“Chris Singleton, whose mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, died during the shooting rampage in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday [6/17/15], delivered a powerful message to the world on Thursday evening: No matter how much hate there is in the world, it’s no match for love,” reports the HUFFINGTON POST.
Singleton is a 2nd year baseball player at Charleston Southern University, a faith-based school affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. His coach and teammates stood beside him as he addressed reporters just hours after learning of his mother’s murder. “Love is stronger than hate,” said Singleton. “So if we just love the way my mom would, then the hate won’t be anywhere close to where the love is.”
Singleton’s mom was one of nine victims of shooter Dylann Roof who opened fire in a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where she was on the pastoral staff.
Young Singleton later added, “We already forgive him for what he’s done, there’s nothing but love from our side of the family.”
REUTERS reported that family members of the other victims shared similar expressions of grace and forgiveness, even as they addressed the shooter via video feed at his initial bond hearing.
Dylann Roof had hoped, by his brazen action, to ignite a race war. He had hoped to be the “hero” of his own hate-filled fantasy who would once and for all solidify division and enmity but his plan didn’t work because hate is no match for love.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21, NIV).
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45, KJV).
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9, NIV).
VOLUME IV, Number 25 Famous Men and Who Mentored Them
Esquire magazine posed the following question to fifty famous men: "Who made you the man you are today?" Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III relates how "God put a lot of people in my life that have helped me … My dad sacrificed a lot for our family. He didn't have shoes when he was growing up, so he couldn't play basketball, and he made sure I had as many shoes as I needed to play sports."
Actor Samuel L. Jackson talked about being shaped by the women who raised him, and by teachers as well: "I had English teachers in junior high and high school who encouraged me to read different things than I was reading—to read Shakespeare and Beowulf—and to expand my horizons in that particular way."
Senator Marco Rubio learned from his grandfather "to dream and aspire." Actor Kevin Bacon credits his mother with teaching him and his brother compassion and honesty. Music powerhouse Quincy Jones is grateful to Count Basie for teaching him that you have to experience the valleys of failure—where you find out who you really are—to get to the mountaintop of success. Interestingly, country music star Dierks Bentley says that his wife and children made him the man he is today: "[Fatherhood] tears away the person you were before, builds you up to become the person you have to become, makes you learn a lot of skills—a lot of man skills."
We all can point to someone in our life that has been a mentor to us and has taught us many great lessons. My grandfather, with all his imperfections, taught me how to be a man and how to treat a lady. While teaching me how to fish and build things with my hands he also taught me great life lessons.
Now it’s our turn to be a mentor to others. To teach them life lessons that will shape who they are and what they become and the greatest place you can start is within your home.
VOLUME IV, Number 24 "Isn't it wonderful to live here so I can help people?” Despite owning a home perched atop a high cliff with a scenic ocean view in Sydney, Australia, Don and Moya Ritchie live on a plot of real estate that can best be described as something out of a bad dream. The rocky cliff is known as The Gap--the most notorious suicide destination in the country.While most people would surely move away, the Ritchies have stayed for almost 50 years, saving an estimated 160 people from taking the leap.
Every morning Mr. Ritchie wakes up and looks out the window to see if anyone is "standing alone too close to the precipice." If he senses someone may be contemplating suicide, he approaches them and asks if they'd like to talk over a cup of tea. "I'm offering them an alternative," he says.
The retired life insurance salesman says he's not "burdened" by the reality of what happens in close proximity to his house. Instead, he and his wife of 58 years have learned to look at it as a calling. He says it's wonderful to have saved so many, to have "sold them" on life.
"I think," says Moya, "isn't it wonderful that we live here and we can help people?"
Where do you live and who is it that needs your help? Like the Ritchies, most of us don't have to go searching for people in need, they're right outside our door. They may not be treading the precipice of a literal cliff, but they do walk precariously close to the edge of eternity.
God has given every believe a message to share with a lost and dying world. It’s a message of hope, which promises eternal life to all who believe. Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone" (Mark 16:15). Paul added, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
Wherever you are, not matter how grim the need, say with Moya, "Isn't it wonderful to live here so I can help people?"
VOLUME IV, Number 23
Encouraging Communication within Marriage
In February 12, 1994 U.S. News & World
Report had this: “In
order to uncover the processes that destroy unions, marital researchers study
couples over the course of years, and even decades, and retrace the
star-crossed steps of those who have split up back to their wedding day. What
they are discovering is unsettling. None of the factors one would guess might
predict a couple's durability actually does: not how in love a newlywed couple
say they are; how much affection they exchange; how much they fight or what
they fight about. In fact, couples who will endure and those who won't look
remarkably similar in the early days.
when psychologists Cliff Notarius of Catholic University and Howard Markman of
the University of Denver studied newlyweds over the first decade of marriage,
they found a very subtle but telling difference at the beginning of the
relationships. Among couples who would ultimately stay together, 5 out of every
100 comments made about each other were putdowns. Among couples who would later
split, 10 of every 100 comments were insults. That gap magnified over the
following decade, until couples heading downhill were flinging five times as
many cruel and invalidating comments at each other as happy couples. ‘Hostile
putdowns act as cancerous cells that, if unchecked, erode the relationship over
time,’ says Notarius, who with Markman co-authored the new book We Can Work
It Out. ‘In the end, relentless unremitting negativity takes control and
the couple can't get through a week without major blowups.’”
Putdowns have no place within
a Christian’s life, especially within marriage. Speaking to all Christians, but
can also apply to married couples, Paul says, “Let no corrupting talk come out
of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion,
that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians
3:29) and “Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10b).
If we try to apply these principles within our marriage, how much stronger will
VOLUME IV, Number 22: God's Glory Is Stitched In Your Genes
Lecrae Devaughn Moore (1979 - ), simply known as Lecrae, is an American Christian rapper, songwriter, record producer and actor. He is the president, co-owner and co-founder of the independent record label Reach Records, and the co-founder and president of the non-profit organization ReachLife Ministries.
At a conference appearance (PASSION 2015), Lecrae told the story of a recent trip to Hollywood during which he stopped into a department store to buy a T-shirt. Not a fancy silk or diamond studded shirt—just a plain cotton T-shirt. As he pulled one from the rack, he noticed the price tag and thought to himself that it must be mis-marked. So he pulled another only to find the same price on the tag. In unbelief, he approached the salesperson to question the exorbitant price—$640! The salesperson told him the price was correct—$640 was the “special” sale price!
He began to question what could possibly be so special about this T-shirt to warrant such a value. “Am I going to be healed of some disease when I put this on? Am I going to get some kind of super-power?”
“It’s the designer’s name on it that adds value to it,” she replied.
After telling his story he asked all those attending the conference, “Do you know how valuable you are because of Whose name is on you? God’s glory is stitched in your genes, and you are here to glorify Him!”
Indeed, we are made in the very image of the Living God. He has designed us. He has created us to do His will and His work.
“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27, NLT).
“For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
VOLUME IV, Number 21 When Life Calls for a Transfusion
If you ever find yourself, either by virtue of illness or injury, in need of a blood transfusion, you’d better hope your local blood bank has a good supply of a compatible blood type.
According to INFO PLEASE:
“Human blood is grouped into four types: A, B, AB, and O. Each letter refers to a kind of antigen, or protein, on the surface of red blood cells. For example, the surface of red blood cells in Type A blood has antigens known as A-antigens.
“Each blood type is also grouped by its Rhesus factor, or Rh factor. Rhesus refers to another type of antigen, or protein, on the surface of red blood cells. The name Rhesus comes from Rhesus monkeys, in which the protein was discovered. Blood is either Rh positive (Rh+) or Rh negative (Rh-). About 85% of Americans have Rh+ blood.
“Blood types become very important when a blood transfusion is necessary. In a blood transfusion, a patient must receive a blood type that is compatible with his or her own blood type—that is, the donated blood must be accepted by the patient's own blood. If the blood types are not compatible, red blood cells will clump together, making clots that can block blood vessels and cause death.
“Type O Negative blood is considered the ‘universal donor’ because it can be donated to people of any blood type.”
Has your life ever left you drained and depleted, in need of a transfusion? Whether you’ve lost your boyfriend, your job, your health, or your fortune, God can replenish any loss. He is the only “universal donor”--capable of meeting any need!
It has been said that God can take the place of anything, but nothing can take the place of God. No matter who you are or what you're going through, a fully compatible love that meets all need is waiting in endless supply.
"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them" (1 John 4:16).
Real Value of
A study found that a Mom’s time spent with her kids could
actually be harmful if she was stressed or anxious. “Mothers’ stress,
especially when mothers are stressed because of the juggling with work and
trying to find time with kids, that may actually be affecting their kids
poorly,” said co-author Kei Nomaguchi, a sociologist at Bowling Green State
The Proverbs 31 woman stands as an example of a working mom who
operated vineyards, sewed clothing, and looked after all the needs of her
household, all while raising a family. Like the modern mother, her days were
long and her time was precious. For the mother who strives to be the best wife
and mother she can be, these pressures just can't be avoided. But there is one
burden that every mother would do well to unload.
If this study calls moms (and dads) to anything, it’s to stop
bearing the weight of unrealistic expectations and guilt. Work when you must,
nurture whenever and however you can. But DON’T punish yourself for not being
able to do it all! It’s the anxiety, the lack of trust in God's sovereign
care that will cause the most harm to you and to your children.
It's good for them to see more of you, so long as more time
means they see more of your faith.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and
lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and
my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
“BE STILL and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
VOLUME IV, Number 19 Motherhood
Actress Sarah Drew, who has appeared on Grey's Anatomy and in the film Mom's Night Out, had this to say about her new role as a mother:
“The stay-at-home mom [or any mom] has the terrifying, holy charge of raising up little eternal beings into people who will encounter the world either through kindness and grace, or with malice and indifference. I cannot think of a more important job. And yet, our culture rolls our eyes at these women. Our culture says they've "given up" on doing anything [important] with their lives.
“The greatest thing motherhood is teaching me is how to be present … It's very easy for me to get buried in my phone. To check emails and texts and my Twitter feed … When I am not present in my life, I miss out on the beauty that is surrounding me. I forget to be grateful, and instead whine and complain about how things aren't going according to plan. Meanwhile, my son, who is fully present, is busy laughing with glee at the leaves he's chasing and at the game he has invented.”
Mother’s don’t miss the chance to be present in your child’s life because, as I’ve heard, they’ll be grown up before you know it and you’ll be wishing for these moments back.
VOLUME IV, Number 18 I Wish My Teacher Knew… “I wish my teacher knew I don’t have a friend to play with me.”
“I wish my teach knew I don’t have pencils at home to do my homework.”
“I wish my teacher knew how much I miss my dad because he got deported to Mexico when I was 3 years old …”
“I wish my teacher knew sometimes my reading log is not signed because my mom is not around a lot.”
These are just a few of the heart wrenching notes which Kyle Schwartz, a 3rd grade teacher at Doull Elementary School in Denver, CO, received from her students. The notes were in response to an assignment which Schwartz designed in an effort to better know her students and their needs. The instructions were simple: Complete this thought--I wish my teacher knew ...
"As a new teacher, I struggled to understand the reality of my students' lives and how to best support them. I just felt like there was something I didn't know about my students."
Students were given the choice to remain anonymous or sign their names if they felt comfortable. Most not only signed their names, but were willing (anxious even) to read their responses in front of the class.
"Building community in my classroom is a major goal of this lesson. After one student shared that she had no one to play with at recess, the rest of the class chimed in and said, 'we got your back.' The next day during recess, I noticed she was playing with a group of girls. Not only can I support my students, but my students can support each other."
Schwartz is sharing the results of her assignment on social media in the hopes of encouraging other teachers around the country to give their students a forum for transparently sharing their inner thoughts and struggles.
How well do we understand those sitting beside of us every Sunday morning? Our pews are filled with people hiding behind their bulletins and fake smiles, struggling silently with life’s challenges. Perhaps it’s fear of judgment, or maybe it’s fear that no one would really care anyway.
We need to develop an environment of safety and transparency so I would be better able to support you and you would be better able to support each other.
“Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2)
VOLUME IV, Number 17 Three Stages of Discipleship Part III
Stage 3 of Discipleship: Transformational
Transformation occurs two ways. First, a disciple is transformed by the strength and power that comes through Jesus Christ. Putman points to this stage of discipleship when Jesus calls Peter and Andrew (Matt. 4:19) and says, “…and I will make you…”1 The transformation to be able to become “fishers of men” did not come from within but rather through Christ. Hagner puts it this way: “The invitation is accompanied by the promise that Jesus will equip them (ποιήσω, “make”) for the new work to which he calls them; their obedience is followed by the promise of provision.”2 This provision must be understood by a disciple because if it is not then he/she runs the risk of, what Dallas Willard would call, “the gospel of sin management.”3 Dempsey even refers to this problem when he states, “Far too many of us assume that discipleship is merely the transfer of information leading to behavior modification.”4
The major problem with “the gospel of sin management” or “behavior modification” is that the disciple only deals with the symptom (sin) rather than the main problem (humanities sinful nature). While the disciple may have found creative ways to deal with his/her sin, he/she is never truly transformed. Sin management is something that many try to do on their own without ever relying on the strength and power of Christ. When this approach is taken too far, Christianity is boiled down to nothing more than another self-help group. However, Christianity is much more than a self-help group because a Christian’s main source of strength does not come from within but rather from a power higher than themselves, namely Jesus Christ.
While the main source of strength should be from Christ that does not mean a disciple should not strive to live a holy life. There are many things Christ commanded his followers to do and he even says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15). The purpose of obedience and a self-disciplined life is spiritual growth that directs the disciple toward becoming like Christ in word, thought, attitude, and action.5 This is achieved by practicing the spiritual disciplines, which include: Bible study, journaling, memorization, meditation, silence, solitude, prayer, fasting, and giving.6
Bibliography: 1. Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington, DiscipleShift. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 48. 2. Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1–13, vol. 33A, Word Biblical Commentary, (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 76. 3. Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God. (New York, NY: Harper, 1998), 41. 4. Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013), 49. 5. Jonathan Falwell, InnovateChurch. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 97. 6. Dave Earley & Rod Dempey, Disciple Making is…, 27.
VOLUME IV, Number 16 Three Stages of Discipleship Part II
Stage 2 of Discipleship: Relational
Relationships are at the heart of discipleship. There are two main relationships at the core of Christian discipleship: relationship with God, and relationship with others (including those within the church and outside the church). Discipleship starts with a call and God has shown throughout history that he desires a relationship with his people. In the Old Testament God called Abraham to leave his homeland and go to a place he would show him. In the New Testament Jesus called his disciples to follow him. Today Jesus is still calling the world, through his disciples, to follow him. This call is a call into an intimate relationship with him.
The second relationship at the core of Christian discipleship is a disciple’s relationship with others. Not only is a disciple suppose to edify and encourage fellow brothers and sisters but he/she is also to reach out to the unchurched. Putman stated that a disciple of Jesus is saved for a purpose and that purpose is to become a “fisher of men.”1 Leon Morris put it this way; “Jesus’ disciples would not only learn from him but would bring others into living contact with God.”2 The job of a disciple is not just to follow Jesus but also to reach out and make more disciples. In essence, a disciple is God’s representative on this earth.3
Bibliography: 1. Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington, DiscipleShift. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 49. 2. Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 85. 3. Walter A. Elwell and Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.
VOLUME IV, Number 15 Three Stages of DiscipleshipPart I Three Stages of Discipleship For the next three weeks I want to look at the three main stages to Christian discipleship that Dempsey and Putman point out. Dempsey defines these three stages in three separate words: sacrificial, relational, and transformational.1 While Putman illustrates these three stages by breaking Matthew 4:19 into three different parts: “follow me”, “and I will make you”, “fishers of men”.2 These three stages sum up the essence of discipleship.
Stage 1 of Discipleship: Sacrificial This first stage of discipleship involves counting the cost of following Jesus. Jesus made sure his disciples knew the cost of following him (Matt. 8:18-22; Lk. 14:25-33). The purpose of Jesus’ full discloser was to weed out the would-be disciples who were weak in their commitment.3Many who followed Jesus followed him because of the miracles he performed rather than being truly committed to him. This was painfully obvious when Jesus’ teachings became more difficult to accept and many, that were following him, turned back and left (John 6:60, 66). So a committed disciple of Christ must count the cost of following him and have a willingness to pay whatever that cost may be. The cost could be a person’s time, energy or future plans.4 But most of all a disciple must be willing to take up his/her cross and follow Christ. Thomas à Kempis said, “Jesus now has many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who bear His Cross.”5 True discipleship is costly because it requires a person’s all.
Bibliography: 1. Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013), 26-28. 2. Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington, DiscipleShift. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 46-51. 3. Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI;Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), 277. 4. Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…,26. 5. Thomas à Kempis. The Imitation of Christ. (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-LogosPublishers, 1999), 96.
VOLUME IV, Number 14
A Lesson from Little Phillip Little Philip, born with Down's syndrome, attended a third-grade Sunday School class with several eight-year-old boys and girls. Typical of that age, the children did not readily accept Philip with his differences, according to an article in Leadership magazine. But because of a creative teacher, they began to care about Philip and accept him as part of the group, though not fully. The Sunday after Easter the teacher brought Leggs pantyhose containers, the kind that look like large eggs. Each receiving one, the children were told to go outside on that lovely spring day, find some symbol for new life, and put it in the egg-like container. Back in the classroom, they would share their new-life symbols, opening the containers one by one in surprise fashion.
After running about the church property in wild confusion, the students returned to the classroom and placed the containers on the table. Surrounded by the children, the teacher began to open them one by one. After each one, whether flower, butterfly, or leaf, the class would ooh and ahh. Then one was opened, revealing nothing inside. The children exclaimed, "That's stupid. That's not fair. Somebody didn't do their assignment." Philip spoke up, "That's mine." "Philip, you don't ever do things right!" the student retorted. "There's nothing there!" I did so do it," Philip insisted. "I did do it. It's empty. the tomb was empty!" Silence followed. From then on Philip became a full member of the class.
He died not long afterward from an infection most normal children would have shrugged off. At the funeral this class of eight-year-olds marched up to the altar not with flowers, but with their Sunday school teacher, each to lay on it an empty pantyhose egg.
The empty tomb is truly a sign of new life because it symbolizes the hope that we have. Since the tomb is empty and Jesus raised from the grave we too, one day will rise with him. 1 Thessalonians 4:14: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”
VOLUME IV, Number 13 Fire Extinguisher Company Burns to the Ground
NBC News Chicago reports:
A building on Chicago's Southwest Side that contains a fire extinguisher manufacturing business went up in flames late Thursday (3/19/15), prompting a hazardous materials response that required more than 150 firefighters.
A portion of the building, on the 4000 block of South Pulaski Road, near Interstate 55 -- the Stevenson Expressway -- collapsed under the intense flames. The fire ultimately elevated to three alarms, requiring the help of 156 firefighters and 26 pieces of equipment. …
A fire official said getting enough water to the structure proved difficult. "We had one engine feed another engine to another engine until we got water on the fire," said 1st Deputy Fire Commissioner Charles Stewart.
Let me get this straight, a building designed to manufacture fire extinguishers made no provision for putting out its own fire.
It's a great thing to offer counsel and advice to others, but just because you know how to help someone else put their fires out doesn't mean that you're immune to catching on fire yourself.
"Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted" (Galatians 6:1).
VOLUME IV, Number 12 Unscripted Scene in Tom Hanks Film
Six-time Oscar nominated film Captain Phillips received widespread acclaim, but surprisingly the film's powerful final scene was improvised on set and (other than lead man Tom Hanks) without professional actors. In this high stakes thriller, Hanks plays Captain Richard Phillips, a real-life Merchant Marine taken hostage during a 2009 Somali pirate hijacking of his cargo ship. After a dramatic rescue operation by Navy SEALs, in the film Hanks (Phillips) is brought safely aboard the real USS Truxtun missile destroyer, where he's taken down to the ship's infirmary and checked out by the ship's real hospital medic—Navy Hospital Corpsman Danielle Albert.
Hanks described how they decided to run the unscripted final scene in the ship's infirmary:
It wasn't in the schedule. It hadn't been scouted. It wasn't lit. But we went down [to the ship's actual infirmary]—and we had the actual crew of the ship that we were shooting on—and said, "What would you do to someone that came in here?" And they said, "Well, we'd lay them down here, and we'd do this and this and this." So [we] said, "'Well, shall we give a try?"
We had, literally, the crew of the infirmary. They didn't know they were going to be in a movie that day. They thought they might be dress extras walking around in the background, and here they are—boom—with cameras that are going to be on them.
The first take I remember completely falling apart because these people had never been in a movie before, and they could not get past the horrible self-consciousness of everything that was going on around them. But we just stopped, and Paul said, "Don't worry about it … If it doesn't work, we won't use it. So let's just try it again and see what happens." At that point, those people were really quite amazing. The freedom in order to give it a shot was so liberating. And everybody was up for it. So it really made itself.
Like many of us, the producers of this film had a script for how things should go. But like Abraham, Moses, Ruth, the disciples (think of Christ's resurrection), sometimes we're forced to go "off script" in life so we can follow Christ.
Without Pain May Not Be the Best After All
Imagine if Jesus had taken away not only our sin debt at the
cross, but also all suffering and pain. We would exist in this world without
any first hand knowledge of suffering. Pain would be a historical subject, but
not something experiential. Would we ever really know what Jesus went through
I know none of us can fully grasp the depth of humiliation,
agony and suffering Jesus experienced as He hung on that cross, but we can
imagine at least some of it. We've all experienced some degree of
pain, loss, and suffering in our lives. If we hadn't, Jesus suffering would be
Take it a step further and consider the cure. If we never even
touched the edges of the sufferings of Christ, would we be able to appreciate
the freedom the cross brings? Would we feel the weight lifted, the guilt paid
for, or the shame taken away? Would we long for the promises of the cross,
including the day Jesus wipes away every tear?
"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that
has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that
you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed" (1 Peter 4:12-13).
Have you ever walked into a factory? The noise is usually
deafening. You have to wear ear plugs just to avoid bodily harm.
Can you imagine taking a nap near an assembly line? The sounds
of air compressors, pistons and other loud machines would make it nearly
impossible. It takes a lot of noise to produce a car.
On the contrary, have you ever walked into an orchard? The
still, the calm, the birds singing all evoke a great sense of peace and
Can you imagine stretching out under the shade of the vines and
just resting? It doesn't take much noise to produce fruit.
When man produces what he produces, it is accompanied by an over
abundance of noise, commotion and little rest. But not so with what God
When Jesus told us He is the vine and we are the branches, He
intended us to remember that He is the one doing all the work, He
is the one producing the fruit through us. What does the branch do besides act
as a go between? It's the vine that does all the work! The branch bears fruit
by remaining at rest in the vine. Likewise, you and I bear fruit by remaining
at rest in Christ.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me
and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing"
July 2010, the University of Sheffield's Department of Physics and Astronomy
announced that they had discovered the brightest star ever found in the
universe. While the mass of the star is only about 265 times that of our
sun, its brightness is disproportionately greater. This is due to its
star, initially cataloged as R136a1, is not just twice as bright as our
sun, it's not 10 times brighter, it's not a hundred times brighter, it's not a
thousand times brighter, and it's not even a million times brighter. R136a1 is
a full ten million times brighter than our sun! My retinas hurt just thinking
star R136a1 will be given a real name. I would like to suggest that it be
called, “The Jesus Star,” for among those who have born witness to the light of
God's glory, none have shined brighter than He.
Himself declared, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these
things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright
(Revelation 22:16). And just as with R136a1, His brightness is due to the
extreme weight of His glory. Indeed, He is the brightest star in our
universe. We would all do well to bask in the light of His glory.
"And the Word
became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the
only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
IV, Number 8
Cold Dead Hands
In similar, though rather humorous fashion, the 1997 farcical
comedy, MEN IN BLACK, portrayed a scene in which a farmer, disturbed by a load
noise, exits his house only to discover that an alien has crash landed in his
When asked to drop his shotgun, the farmer replied, "You can
have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers."
The alien calmly responded, "Your proposal is
Since the time when Eve first held the forbidden fruit in her
hands, we have clutched the want for power and control with a deadly grip, in
essence telling God, "You can take it from me when you pry it from my
cold, dead hands." To which God responded, "Your proposal is
Since then, as the Apostle Paul explained it, "... sin
entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death
came to all people, because all sinned (Romans 5:12).
Nevertheless, God promises, "If by the Spirit you put to
death the misdeeds of the body, you will live" (Romans 8:13).
We can only fully experience life as we loosen our grip of
control, "die daily" to the power of self and sin, and allow the
Spirit of God to manifest the life of Christ in and through us.
VOLUME IV, Number 7
Choosing to Pay With Love
Rowena Lindsay wrote an article called “McDonald’s ad campaign banks on a new payment method: love.” She writes:
“In an effort to rebrand itself, McDonald's new advertising campaign Choose Lovin' now includes an option to pay for meals with acts of kindness,” reports CSM:
The fast-food chain will be selecting 100 customers per store and giving them the opportunity to pay for their meal with acts of love.
From Feb. 2 to Feb. 14, between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., an estimated 1 million randomly selected McDonalds customers can opt to pay for their meal by doing such things as calling their mom to tell her they love her, doing a little dance, or hugging a family member to spread the lovin’.
Even one of the largest companies in the world has its limits when it comes to spreading "the lovin'." Not only are there date and time restrictions, but even the selection for the opportunity to pay with “love” is limited and random. What’s more, not even all McDonalds restaurants are participating in the campaign.
Aren't you glad no such restrictions are placed on God's love campaign?
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35-39).
Not only does God’s love mot have restriction but the idea of "purchasing" things with love is hardly exclusive to McDonalds. God also believes in redeeming things with love. But instead of a phone call to mom or giving a little hug to pay for a hamburger, Jesus gave His very life as payment for the sins of humanity.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends” (John 15:13).
VOLUME IV, Number 6
The Sound of Pounding Footsteps
In a debate between social critic Dennis Prager and Oxford atheistic professor Jonathan Glover, Prager asked:
"If you, Professor Glover, were stranded at the midnight hour in a desolate Los Angeles street and if, as you stepped out of your car with fear and trembling, you were suddenly to hear the weight of pounding footsteps behind you, and you saw ten burly men who had just stepped out of a dwelling coming toward you, would it or would it not make a difference to you to know that they were coming from a Bible study?"
While atheists are unwilling to admit that the world needs what Christianity has to offer, they'd most assuredly prefer to be discovered in the wrong place, at the wrong time, by the "pounding footsteps" of young men who are followers of Christ.
Knowing Christ makes a difference--to everyone!
"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (Romans 10:15).
"For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people" (1 Peter 2:15).
IV, Number 5
I Am a
Winston Churchill was notoriously hard to work for. He was
demanding, impatient, and oftentimes, downright rude.
On one occasion, a servant was bold enough to stand up to the
man, taking strong issue with Churchill’s behavior.
Churchill, it is variously reported, responded saying, “You were
very rude to me, you know.”
“Well,” replied the servant, “you were very rude to me, too.”
“Yes,” said Churchill, “but I am a great man.”
While some suggest the comment was made, at least to some
degree, tongue in cheek, others, like Churchill biographer William Manchester,
suggest that it was serious and in keeping with his difficult temperament.
Winston Churchill, prime minister of England both during WWII
and again from 1951-55, was indeed a “great” man by any worldly standard. He is
rightly reputed to be one of the greatest wartime leaders of the modern era.
But “greatness” does not necessarily translate into “goodness.”
“Many,” said the great preacher Charles Spurgeon, “wishing to be
great have failed to be good.”
In God’s Kingdom, greatness is not measured by accomplishment,
but by character—character marked by humility, servanthood, and most
importantly, agape love.
No doubt, Churchill, though flawed by perfectionism and
impatience, was at heart a deeply caring and compassionate man. Nevertheless,
accomplishment and position are no excuses for thinking oneself “better” than
"Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, 'Anyone
who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all'” (Mark
9:35, cf. Matthew 20:26; Matthew 23:11).
Marathoner Dies with Her Shoes On
Eighty-six year old Joy Johnson, a veteran of 25 New York City
marathons, died with her running shoes on. Johnson, who was the oldest runner
in the 2013 marathon, fell at the 20-mile marker in the event. She crossed the
finish line at about eight hours. After the race she returned to her hotel
room, lay down with her shoes on, and never woke up.
Amazingly, Johnson didn't run her first marathon until she was
sixty-one years old. The only hint of the sport was the verse from Isaiah 40:31, which hung on the kitchen wall in
her family farm, home in rural Minnesota: "But they who wait for the
Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles.
They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
Ironically, the career gym teacher, Johnson was a stranger to
personal exercise until she took a three-mile walk in 1986. Then she started
jogging and competing in 10-K races. By 1988 she had competed in her first New
York City Marathon. Three years later she recorded her best time at age
sixty-four with a time of 3 hours and 55 minutes.
A few years ago she told a reporter about her exercise regimen.
She would wake up at 4 A.M., drink her coffee while reading her Bible, and then
set out on an eight-mile pre-dawn run. "When you wake up it can either be
a good day or a bad day," Ms. Johnson said. "I always say, 'It's
going to be a good day.'"
Often times our attitudes determine whether we are going to have
a good day or a bad day. We need to have the same attitude the psalmist had in
Psalm 118, he said, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and
be glad in it.” If we can understand that God is sovereign, no matter what
difficulties we may face, even our bad days won’t seem so bad because we know
the Lord will help us through and He can bring light into our darkness.
VOLUME IV, Number 3
Playing Monopoly With Life
you know that every year more Monopoly money is printed than real money? When I
first heard this, I found it difficult to believe. Then, after I thought about
it, I realized that I had a lot more Monopoly money than I did real money!
monopoly money is of no use in the real world. Not because of the inferior
paper on which it is printed, or the cheap ink which is used to manufacture it,
but because it lacks the backing of the United States Treasury. It is the
authority of the government that gives the dollar it’s value. If the Treasury
Department were to decide to back Monopoly money, then things would be
different. Until that happens, I’ll continue to be richer at play than in real
the same way, when it comes to what is important in life, there is only one
authority with the right to determine the value and meaning of things, and that
authority belongs to God. Whatever God approves has real value and meaning.
Conversely, whatever God opposes is counted as debt to those who live
accordingly. We fool ourselves when we presume to have the right to decide what
matters in life. Our frail declarations amount to nothing more than play money.
can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is
dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not
been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true
riches?” (Luke 16:10-11).
VOLUME IV, Number 2 Billions In Unused Gift Cards Stashed in Drawers
Have you ever been given a gift that you’ve simply failed to use? Millions of people do every day.
“People are letting cash slip away that they could be using,” says John Kiernan, a senior analyst with CardHub:
Kiernan, citing CardHub numbers, estimates that some $44 billion in unredeemed gift-card value has been accumulating since 2008.
“I’m not surprised by that number at all,” adds Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards. “People get these cards and often put them away in a drawer and then forget about them. And that’s too bad.”
As God's children, we have been given many invaluable gifts. God's love has been deposited in our lives in a salvation that brings us forgiveness and healing. We have also been enriched with spiritual gifts that enable us to share God's love in specific ways, so that others might also know the power of God's love and healing.
Yet, every day, we fail to use these gifts or make full use of their great value. We have the riches of the Kingdom of Heaven at our disposal, and the calling of God to use them to impact our world. But like so many consumers, we put the gifts and callings of God away in a drawer and forget about them.
Pull them out. Redeem them. Experience the riches of your new life in Christ.
"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19, NLT).
"Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity" (Colossians 4:5, NLT).
VOLUME IV, Number 1 Summarize Your Life in Six Words
If you had to summarize your life in six words, what would they be? Several years ago an online magazine asked that question. It was inspired by a possibly legendary challenge posed to Ernest Hemingway to write a six-word story that resulted in the classic "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." The magazine was flooded with so many responses that the site almost crashed, and the responses were eventually turned into a book. Not Quite What I Was Planning is filled with six-word memoirs by writers "famous and obscure." Here are some of the memoirs that range from funny to ironic to inspiring to heartbreaking:
•"One tooth, one cavity; life's cruel." •"Savior complex makes for many disappointments." •"Cursed with cancer. Blessed with friends." (This one was written by a nine-year-old boy with cancer). •"The psychic said I'd be richer." •This one was only five words: "One long train to darkness." •"Tombstone won't say: 'Had health insurance.'" •"Not a good Christian, but trying." •"Thought I would have more impact."
The challenge of the six-word limitation is its demand to focus on what matters most, to capture briefly something of significance. How would you summarize your life, or just last year, or maybe this upcoming year, in six words? I hope it sounds something life, “I am now a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).