• Biblical Studies

    Led by His Word

    At the BBC in London, Paul Arnold’s first broadcasting job was making “walking sounds” in radio dramas. While actors read from scripts during a walking scene, Paul as stage manager made corresponding sounds with his feet—careful to match his pace to the actor’s voice and spoken lines. The key challenge, he explained, was yielding to the actor in the story, “so the two of us were working together.”

    A divine version of such cooperation was sought by the author of Psalm 119, which emphasizes living by the precepts of God’s Word. As Psalm 119:1 says: “Blessed are those whose ways are…

    Growing into Giving

    “I got you a present!” my two-year-old grandson shouted excitedly as he pressed a box into my hands. “He picked it out all by himself,” my wife smiled.

    I opened the box to find a Christmas ornament of his favorite cartoon character. “Can I see it?” he asked anxiously, as soon as I unwrapped it. He played with “my” present for the rest of the evening and as I watched him, I smiled.

    I smiled because I remembered gifts I had given loved ones in the past, like the album I gave my older brother one Christmas when I was in high…

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    Christian Beliefs

    The One Who Saves

    He was called “one of the bravest persons alive,” but he wasn’t what others expected. Desmond was a soldier who declined to carry a gun. Serving as a medic, in one battle he single-handedly rescued seventy-five injured soldiers from harm, including some who once called him a coward and ridiculed him for his faith. Running into heavy gunfire, Desmond prayed continually, “Lord, please help me get one more.” He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism.

                God’s Word tells us that Jesus was even more misunderstood. On a day foretold by the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9), Jesus entered…

    What Comes Next?

    On the night of April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King gave his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” In it, he hints that he might not live a long life. He said, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. . . . [But] I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” The…

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    Christian Living

    Our Deepest Longings

    As a young man, Duncan had been afraid of not having enough money, so in his early 20s, he began ambitiously building his future. Climbing the ladder at a prestigious Silicon Valley company, Duncan achieved vast wealth. He had a bulging bank account, a luxury sports car, and a million-dollar California home. He had everything he desired; yet he was profoundly unhappy. “I felt anxious and dissatisfied,” Duncan said. “In fact, wealth can actually make life worse.” Piles of cash didn’t provide friendship, community or joy—and often brought him only more heartache.

    Some people will expend immense energy attempting to amass…

    Blessed Bread

    When our oldest child became a teenager, my wife and I gave her a journal that we’d been writing in since her birth. We’d recorded her likes and dislikes, quirks and memorable one-liners. At some point the entries became more like letters, describing what we see in her and how we see God at work in her. When we gave it to her on her thirteenth birthday, she was mesmerized. She’d been given the gift of knowing a crucial part of the origins of her identity.

    In blessing something as common as bread, Jesus was revealing its identity. What it—along with…

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    Christian Ministry & the Church

    Amazing Skill

    The leader of our college singing group directed the group and accompanied us on the piano at the same time, skillfully balancing those responsibilities. At the close of one concert, he looked particularly weary, so I asked him if he was okay. He responded, “I’ve never had to do that before. Then he explained. “The piano was so out of tune I had to play the whole concert in two different keys—my left hand playing in one key and my right hand in another!” I was blown away by the startling skill he displayed, and I was amazed at the One…

    Pure Worship

    Jose pastored a church known for its programs and theatrical productions. They were great, yet he worried the church’s busyness had slipped into a business. Was the church growing for the right reasons or because of its activities? Jose wanted to find out, so he canceled all extra church events for one year. His congregation would focus on being a living temple where people worshiped God.

    Jose’s decision seems extreme, until you notice what Jesus did when He entered the temple’s outer courts. The holy space that should have been full of simple prayers had become a flurry of worship business.…

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    Christianity & Culture

    Cheerful Givers

    About six years ago, my wife received a small rebate from something she’d purchased. It wasn’t something she had expected, it just showed up in the mail. About the same time, a good friend shared with her the immense needs of women in another country, entrepreneurial-minded women trying to better themselves by way of education and business. However, as is often the case, their first barrier was financial.

    My wife took that rebate and made a micro-loan to a ministry devoted to helping these women. When the loan was repaid, she simply loaned again, and again, and so far has made…

    Amazing Skill

    The leader of our college singing group directed the group and accompanied us on the piano at the same time, skillfully balancing those responsibilities. At the close of one concert, he looked particularly weary, so I asked him if he was okay. He responded, “I’ve never had to do that before. Then he explained. “The piano was so out of tune I had to play the whole concert in two different keys—my left hand playing in one key and my right hand in another!” I was blown away by the startling skill he displayed, and I was amazed at the One…

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    Ethical Issues

    When God Intervenes

    In a poem titled This Child Is Beloved, Omawumi Efueye, known affectionately as Pastor O, writes about his parents’ attempts to end the pregnancy that would result in his birth. After several unusual events that prevented them from aborting him, they decided to welcome their child instead. Omawumi’s awareness of God’s intervention in preserving his life motivated him to give up a lucrative career in favor of full-time ministry. Today, he faithfully pastors a London church.

     Like Pastor O, the Israelites experienced God’s intervention at a vulnerable time in their history. While traveling through the wilderness, they came within sight of…

    Failure Is Impossible

    “Failure is impossible!” These words were spoken by Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906), known for her immovable stance on women’s rights in the US. Though she faced constant criticism and later an arrest, trial, and guilty verdict for voting illegally, Anthony vowed to never give up the fight to gain women the right to vote, believing her cause was just. Though she didn’t live to see the fruit of her labor, her declaration proved true. In 1920, the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution gave women the right to vote.

    Failure wasn’t an option for Nehemiah either, mainly because he had a Powerful…

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    Evangelism & Missions

    The Bill Is Paid

    “What happened to you?” asked Zeal, a Nigerian businessman, as he bent over a hospital bed in Lagos. “Someone shot me,” replied the young man, his thigh bandaged. Although the injured man was well enough to return home, he wouldn’t be released until he settled his bill—a policy that many government hospitals in the region follow. After consulting with a social worker, Zeal anonymously covered the bill through the charitable fund he’d earlier set up as a way to express his Christian faith. In return, he hopes that those receiving the gift of release will one day give to others…

    Every Opportunity

    Ever caught a dragon? I hadn’t until my son convinced me to download a trending game on my phone. Producing a digital map mirroring the real world, the game allows you to catch colorful creatures near you.

    Unlike most mobile games, this one requires movement. Anywhere you go is part of the game’s playing field. The result? I’m doing a lot more walking! Anytime my son and I play, we strive to maximize every opportunity to nab the critters that pop up around us.

    It’s easy to focus on, even obsess over, a game that’s crafted to captivate users. But as I was…

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    Life Struggles

    Slow for a Reason

    In a BBC video series on The Life of Mammals, host David Attenborough climbs a tree to take a humorous look at a three-toed sloth. Getting face-to-face with the world’s slowest moving mammal, he greets it with a “boo!” Failing to get a reaction, he explains that going slow is what you do if you are a three-toed sloth living primarily on leaves that are not easily digested and not very nutritious.

    In a rehearsal of Israel’s history, Nehemiah reminds us of another example and explanation for going slow (9:9–21), but this one isn’t comical. According to Nehemiah, our God is…

    Better than Life

    Though Mary loved Jesus—life was hard, real hard. Two sons preceded her in death as did two grandsons, both victims of shootings. And Mary herself suffered a crippling stroke that left her paralyzed on one side. Yet, as soon as she was able she made her way to church services where it was not uncommon for her—with fractured speech—to express praise to the Lord with words like, “My soul loves Jesus, bless His name!”

    Long before Mary expressed her praise to God, David penned the words of Psalm 63. The heading of the psalm notes that David wrote it “when…

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    Marriage & Family

    Will You Come Back?

    Ron and Nancy’s marriage was deteriorating rapidly. She had an affair, but after some time she admitted her sin to God. She knew what He wanted her to do but it was difficult. She shared the truth with Ron. Instead of asking for a divorce, Ron chose to give Nancy a chance to win his trust back by showing that she’d changed. In a miraculous way God restored their marriage.

    Ron’s actions are a picture of God’s love and forgiveness shown toward sinners like you and me. The prophet Hosea understood this well. He was commanded by God to marry an…

    All for Nothing

    Heroin addiction is poignantly tragic. Users build tolerance, so larger hits are required for the same high. Soon the dosage they seek is more than enough to kill them. When addicts hear someone has died from an exceptionally strong batch, their first thought may not be fear but “Where can I get that?”

    C. S. Lewis warned of this downward spiral in Screwtape Letters, his imaginative look at a demon’s explanation of the art of temptation. Start with some pleasure—if possible one of God’s good pleasures—and offer it in a way God has forbidden. Once the person bites, give less of it…

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    mission

    Relationships

    Two Are Better

    In the 1997 Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii, two women fought to stay on their feet as they hobbled toward the finish line. Exhausted, the runners persevered on wobbly legs, until Sian Welch bumped into Wendy Ingraham. They both dropped to the ground. Struggling to stand, they stumbled forward, only to fall again about twenty meters from the finish line. When Ingraham began to crawl, the crowd applauded. When her competitor followed suit, they cheered louder. Ingraham crossed the finish line in fourth place. She slumped into the outstretched arms of her supporters. Then she turned and reached out to her…

    Nearby Neighbors

    Our neighborhood, like many others, uses a website to help neighbors connect immediately with those surrounding them. In my neighborhood, members warn one another of mountain lion sightings and wildfire evacuation orders, as well as supply one another with child care when the need arises. It has even proven to be a resource for locating runaway pets. By leveraging the power of the internet, those living near one another are connecting again in ways that are often lost in today’s fast-paced world.

    Being in relationship with those who live nearby was also important long ago, in the days of King Solomon.…

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    Spiritual Growth

    Praying Like Jesus

    Every coin has two sides. The front is called “heads” and, from early Roman times, usually depicts a country’s head of state. The back is called “tails,” a term possibly originating from the British ten pence depicting the raised tail of a heraldic lion.

    Like a coin, Jesus’s prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, possesses two sides. In the deepest hours of His life the night before He went to die on a cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup, yet not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). When Jesus says, “take this cup,” that’s…

    Fruit Juice

    A thrift-store bargain, the lamp seemed perfect for my home office—the right color, size, and price. Back at home, however, when I plugged in the cord, nothing happened. No light. No power. No juice.

    No problem, my husband assured me. “I can fix that. Easy.” As he took the lamp apart, he saw the trouble immediately. The plug wasn’t connected to anything. Without wiring to a source of power, the “perfect” pretty lamp was useless.

    The same is true for us. Jesus told His disciples. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you,…

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    When Life Hurts

    The Would-Be Woodcutter

    One year, when I was in college, I cut, stacked, sold, and delivered firewood. It was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done. So I have a good deal of empathy for the hapless logger in the 2 Kings 6 story.

    Elisha’s school for prophets had prospered, and their meeting place had become too small. Someone suggested they go into the woods, cut logs, and enlarge their facilities. Elisha agreed and accompanied the workers. Things were going remarkably well until someone’s axhead fell into the water.

    Some have suggested that Elisha simply probed in the water with his stick until he…

    The Picture of Despair

    During the Great Depression in the United States, famed photographer Dorothea Lange snapped a photo of Florence Owens Thompson and her children. This well-known photograph, “Migrant Mother,” is the picture of a mother’s despair in the aftermath of the failed pea harvest. Lange took it in Nipomo, California, while working for the Farm Security Administration, hoping to make them aware of the needs of the desperate seasonal farm laborers.

    The book of Lamentations presents another snapshot of despair—that of Judah in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem. Before the army of Nebuchadnezzar swept in to destroy the city, the people…

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