Month: November 2021

We Need Our Church Community

I grew up the firstborn son of a Southern Baptist preacher. Every Sunday the expectation was clear: I was to be in church. Possible exceptions? Maybe if I had a significant fever. But the truth is, I absolutely loved going, and even went a few times feverish. But the world has changed, and the numbers for regular church attendance are not what they used to be. Of course, the quick question is why? The answers are many and varied. Author Kathleen Norris counters those answers with a response she received from a pastor to the question “Why do we go…

A Great Light

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Singaporeans stayed home to avoid being infected. But I blissfully continued swimming, believing it was safe.

My wife, however, feared that I might pick up an infection at the public pool and pass it on to her aged mother—who, like other seniors, were more vulnerable to the virus. “Can you just avoid swimming for some time, for my sake?” she asked.

At first, I wanted to argue that there was little risk. Then I realized that this mattered less than her feelings. Why would I insist on swimming—hardly an essential thing—when it made her worry unnecessarily?

In Romans…

Trusting God in Opposition

Raised in a tribe in the Philippines opposed to belief in Christ, Esther received salvation through Jesus after an aunt prayed for her during Esther’s battle with a life-threatening illness. Today, Esther leads Bible studies in her local community in spite of threats of violence and even death. She serves joyfully, saying “I can’t stop telling people about Jesus because I ‘ve experienced the power, love, goodness, and faithfulness of God in my life.”

Serving God in the face of opposition is a reality for many today just as it was for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three young Israelites living in captivity…

Insult to Injury

During the Golden Age of radio, Fred Allen (1894–1956) used comedic pessimism to bring smiles to a generation living in the shadows of economic depression and a world at war. His sense of humor was born out of personal pain. Having lost his mother before he was three, he was later estranged from his father who struggled with addictions. He once rescued a young boy from the traffic of a busy New York City street with a memorable, “What’s the matter with you, kid? Don’t you want to grow up and have troubles?”

The life of Job unfolds in such troubled…

Bold Faith

After Prem Pradham’s (1924–1998) plane was shot down during World War II, he was wounded in the leg by ground fire while parachuting to safety. As a result, he walked with a limp for the rest of his life. He once noted, “I have a lame leg. Isn’t it strange of God that He called [me] to preach the gospel in the Himalaya Mountains?” And preach in Nepal he did—but not without opposition that included imprisonment in “dungeons of death” where prisoners faced extreme conditions. In a span of fifteen years, Prem spent ten years in fourteen different prisons. His…

Mighty Warrior

Diet Eman was an ordinary, shy young woman in the Netherlands—in love, working, and enjoying time with family and friends—when the Germans invaded in 1940. As Diet (pronounced Deet) later wrote, “When there is danger on your doorstep, you want to act almost like an ostrich burying its head in the sand.” Yet Diet felt God calling her to resist the German oppressors, which included risking her life to find hiding places for Jews and other pursued people. This unassuming young woman became a warrior for God.  

We find many stories in the Bible similar to Diet’s, stories of God…

A Thankful Heart

Seneca, the great philosopher of ancient Rome (4 bc–ad 65), was once accused by the empress Messalina of adultery. After the Senate sentenced Seneca to death, the emperor Claudius instead exiled him to Corsica, perhaps because he suspected the charge was false. This reprieve may have shaped Seneca’s view of thankfulness when he wrote: “. . . homicides, tyrants, thieves, adulterers, robbers, sacrilegious men, and traitors there always will be, but worse than all these is the crime of ingratitude.”

The Will of God

God’s will is sometimes hard. He asks us to do the right things. He calls us to endure hardship without complaining; to love awkward people; to heed the voice inside us that says, You mustn’t; to take steps we’d rather not take. So we must tell our souls all day long: “Hey soul, listen up. Be silent: Do what Jesus is asking you to do.”

 “My soul waits in silence for God only” (Psalm 62:1 nasb). “My soul, wait in silence for God only” (62:5 nasb). The verses are similar, but different. David says something about his soul; then says something to…

Sharing Hope

As Emma shared how God helped her embrace her identity as His beloved child, she weaved Scripture into our conversation. I could barely figure out where the high school student stopped speaking her words and began quoting the words of God. When I commended her for being like a walking Bible, her brow furrowed. She hadn’t been intentionally reciting Scripture verses. Through daily reading of the Bible, the wisdom found in it had become a part of Emma’s everyday vocabulary. She rejoiced in God’s constant presence and enjoyed every opportunity He provided to share His truth with others. But Emma isn’t…

True Worshipers

She finally had the chance to visit the church. Inside, in the deepest part of the basement, she reached the small cave or grotto. Candles filled the narrow space and hanging lamps illuminated a corner of the floor. There it was—a fourteen-pointed silver, covering a raised bit of the marble floor. Bethlehem’s Grotto of the Nativity—the place marking the spot where, according to tradition, Christ was born. Yet the writer Annie Dillard found herself less than impressed, realizing God was much bigger than that spot.   

Still, such places have always held great significance in our faith stories. Another such place…

Labrador Angel

In 2019, Cap Dashwood and his sweet black lab companion, Chaela (“la” Dashwood’s abbreviation for “Labrador angel”), accomplished something remarkable: reaching a mountain summit each day for 365 consecutive days.

Dashwood has a moving story to tell. He left home at sixteen, explaining simply, “Bad family life.” But these past wounds led him to find healing elsewhere. He explains, “Sometimes when you’re disappointed by people, you turn to something else. You know?” For Dashwood, mountain climbing and the unconditional love of his black lab companion has been a big part of that “something else.”

For those of us, like myself, who deeply…

He Fills the Empty

Psychologist Madeline Levine noticed the fifteen-year-old girl’s “cutter disguise”—a long sleeve T-shirt pulled halfway over her hand commonly used by people who engage in self-harm. When the young girl pulled back her sleeve, Levine was startled to find that the girl had used a razor to carve “empty” on her forearm. She was saddened, but also grateful the teen was open to receiving the serious help she desperately needed.

The teen in some way represents many people who have carved “empty”—perhaps not on their forearms, but on their hearts. John wrote that Jesus came to fill the empty and to offer…

When You Can’t Go On

In 2006, my dad was diagnosed with a neurological disease that robbed him of his memory, speech, and control over body movements. He became bedridden in 2011 and continues to be cared for by my mom at home. The beginning of his illness was a dark time. I was fearful: I knew nothing about caring for a sick person, and I was anxious about finances and my mom’s health.

 The words of Lamentations 3:22 helped me get up many mornings when the light was as gray as the state of my heart: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not…

KIDLET

NEW BEGINNINGS

Who is your favourite celebrity? What would you do if you got to meet them in reality? Maybe you would get their autograph, or maybe you would click a quick ‘selfie’ with them. Whatever you end up doing we are sure that this will be a very precious memory for you.

I wonder how the wise men and the shepherds…

God Heals Our Brokenness

Collin and his wife, Jordan, wandered through the craft store, looking for a picture to hang in their home. Collin thought he’d found just the right piece and called Jordan over to see it. On the right side of the ceramic artwork was the word grace. But the left side held two long cracks. “Well, it’s broken!” Jordan said as she started looking for an unbroken one on the shelf. But then Collin said, “No. That’s the point. We’re broken and then grace comes in—period.” They decided to purchase the one with the cracks. When they got to the checkout, the…

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