• 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

    Sweet Again

    Russian wedding customs are filled with beauty and significance. One such custom takes place during the reception as the toastmaster proposes a toast in honor of the couple. Everyone takes a sip of raised glasses and then begin shouting “Gor’ko! Gor’ko!,” meaning “Bitter! Bitter!” When the guests shout that word, the newlyweds must rise and kiss each other in order to make the drink sweet again.

    Isaiah prophesies that the bitter drink of desolation, ruin, and the curse upon the earth (ch. 24) will give way to the sweet hope of a new heaven and new earth (ch. 25). God will…

    Breath and Brevity

    Mom, my sisters, and I waited by Dad’s bed as his breaths became shallower and less and less frequent—until they were no more. Dad was a few days shy of eighty-nine when he slipped quietly into the life beyond where God awaited him. His departure left us with a void where he once resided and only memories and mementos to remind us of him. Yet we have the hope that one day we’ll be reunited.

    We have that hope because we believe Dad is with God, who knows and loves him. When Dad breathed his first breath, God was there breathing…

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    Christian Living

    Giving Our Best

    We stared at the piles of donated shoes as we entered a local homeless shelter. The director had invited our youth group to help sort through the heaps of used footwear. We spent the morning searching for matches and lining them up in rows across the concrete floor. At the end of the day, we threw away more than half of the shoes because they were too damaged to give to people. Though the shelter couldn’t stop people from giving poor quality items, they refused to distribute shoes that were in bad condition.

    The Israelites struggled with giving God their damaged…

    Breath and Brevity

    Mom, my sisters, and I waited by Dad’s bed as his breaths became shallower and less and less frequent—until they were no more. Dad was a few days shy of eighty-nine when he slipped quietly into the life beyond where God awaited him. His departure left us with a void where he once resided and only memories and mementos to remind us of him. Yet we have the hope that one day we’ll be reunited.

    We have that hope because we believe Dad is with God, who knows and loves him. When Dad breathed his first breath, God was there breathing…

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    Christian Ministry & the Church

    A Singer’s Heart

    The praise song drifted downstairs . . . at 6:33 on a Saturday morning. I didn’t think anyone was awake, but my youngest daughter’s scratchy voice proved me wrong. She was barely conscious, but there was already a song on her lips.

    My youngest is a singer. In fact, she can’t not sing. She sings when she wakes up. When she goes to the school. When she goes to bed. She was born with a song in her heart—and most of the time, her songs focus on Jesus. She’ll praise God anytime, anywhere.

    I love the simplicity, devotion, and earnestness of my daughter’s…

    Zax Nature

    In one of Dr. Seuss’s whimsical stories, he tells of a “North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax” crossing the Prairie of Prax. Upon meeting nose to nose, neither Zax will step aside. The first Zax angrily vows to stay put—even if it makes “the whole world stand still.” (Unfazed, the world moves on and builds a highway around them.)

    The tale offers an uncomfortably accurate picture of human nature. We possess a reflexive “need” to be right, and we’re prone to stubbornly cling to that instinct in rather destructive ways!

    Happily for us, God lovingly chooses to soften stubborn human hearts. The…

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    Christianity & Culture

    An Open, Generous Heart

    After Vicki’s old car broke down with no option for repair, she started scraping together money for another vehicle. Chris, a frequent customer of the restaurant where Vicki works at the drive-thru window, one day heard her mention she needed a car. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” Chris said. “I [had] to do something.” So he bought his son’s used car (his son had just put it up for sale), shined it up, and handed Vicki the keys. Vicki was shocked. “Who . . . does that?” she said in amazement and gratitude.

    The Scriptures call us to live with…

    Give It All You’ve Got

    Scaling. It’s a term used in the world of fitness that allows room for anyone to participate. If the specific exercise is a push-up, for example, then maybe you can do ten in a row but I can only do four. The instructor’s encouragement to me would be to scale back the push-up according to my fitness level at the time. We’re not all at the same level but we can all move in the same direction. In other words, she would say, “Do your four push-ups with all the strength you have. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. Scale the movement…

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    Ethical Issues

    Inside the Fire

    A wildfire in Andilla, Spain, scorched nearly 50,000 acres of woodland. When scientists entered the area they expected total devastation; and they did indeed see miles of blackened oaks, pines, and junipers. However, in the middle of the wreckage, a group of nearly 1,000 bright green cypress trees remained standing. The trees’ unusual ability to retain water had allowed them to safely endure the fire.

    In the days of King Nebuchanezzar’s reign in Babylon, a small cluster of friends survived the flames of the king’s wrath. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship a statue Nebuchadnezzar had created, and they told…

    Loving the Stranger

    When I moved to a new country, one of my first experiences left me feeling unwelcome. After finding a seat in the little church where my husband was preaching that day, a gruff older gentleman startled me when he said, “Move along down.” His wife apologized as she explained that I was sitting in the pew they always occupied. Years later I learned that congregations used to rent out pews, which raised money for the church and also ensured no one could take another person’s seat. Apparently some of that mentality carried on through the decades.

    Later, I reflected on how…

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    Evangelism & Missions

    An Open, Generous Heart

    After Vicki’s old car broke down with no option for repair, she started scraping together money for another vehicle. Chris, a frequent customer of the restaurant where Vicki works at the drive-thru window, one day heard her mention she needed a car. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” Chris said. “I [had] to do something.” So he bought his son’s used car (his son had just put it up for sale), shined it up, and handed Vicki the keys. Vicki was shocked. “Who . . . does that?” she said in amazement and gratitude.

    The Scriptures call us to live with…

    Borrowed Shoes

    In the chaos of fleeing his home during the California wildfires of 2018, Gabe, a high school senior, missed the state-qualifying cross-country race for which he’d been training. Missing this meet meant he wouldn’t have the chance to compete at the state meet—the culminating event of his four-year running career. In light of the circumstances, the state athletics board gave Gabe another chance: he’d have to run a qualifying time by himself, on a rival high school’s track, in “street shoes” because his running shoes were in the charred rubble of his home. When he showed up to “race,” Gabe…

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    Life Struggles

    False Confidence

    A few years ago, my doctor gave me a stern talk about my health. I took his words to heart and began going to the gym and adjusting my diet. Over time, both my cholesterol and my weight went down, and my self-esteem went up. But then something not so good happened: I began noticing other people’s dietary choices and judging them. Isn’t it funny that often when we find a scoring system that grades us well, we use it to lift ourselves up and put others down. It seems to be an innate human tendency to cling to self-made…

    If Only We Could . . .

    The Weeping Alaskan Cedar tree whipped from side to side in the storm’s strong winds. Regie loved the tree that had not only provided shelter from the summer sun but also protected her family from the neighbors’ gaze. Now the fierce storm was tearing the roots from the ground. Quickly, Regie, with her 15-year-old son in tow, ran to try to rescue the tree. With her hands and 90-pound frame firmly planted against it, she hoped with her son’s help to keep it from falling over. But they weren’t strong enough.

    God was King David’s strength when he called out to…

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    Marriage & Family

    Made for Each Other

    “I take care of him. When he’s happy, I’m happy,” says Stella. Merle replies, “I’m happy when she’s around.” Merle and Stella have been married for 79 years. When Merle was recently admitted to a nursing home, he was miserable—so Stella gladly brought him home. He’s 101, and she’s 95. Though she needs a walker to get around, she lovingly does what she can for her husband, such as preparing the food he likes. But she couldn’t do it on her own. Grandchildren and neighbors help with the things Stella can’t manage.

    Stella and Merle’s life together is an example of…

    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…

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    mission

    Relationships

    Instruments of Peace

    When World War I erupted in 1914, British statesman Sir Edward Grey declared, “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” Grey was right. When the “war to end all wars” finally ended, some 20 million had been killed (10 million of them civilians) and another 21 million injured.

    While not on the same scale or magnitude, devastation can also occur in our personal lives. The home, workplace, church, or neighborhood can also be shrouded by the dark specter of conflict. This is one of the reasons our God calls us…

    Turning from Conflict

    In his graveside tribute to a famous Dutch scientist, Albert Einstein didn’t mention their scientific disputes. Instead, he recalled the “never-failing kindness” of Hendrik A. Lorentz, a beloved physicist known for his easy manner and fair treatment of others. “Everyone followed him gladly,” Einstein said, “for they felt he never set out to dominate but always simply to be of use.”

    Lorentz inspired scientists to put aside political prejudice and work together, especially after World War I. “Even before the war was over,” Einstein said of his fellow Nobel Prize winner, “[Lorentz] devoted himself to the work of reconciliation.”

    Working…

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    Spiritual Growth

    Giving Thanks Always

    In the seventeenth century, Martin Rinkart served as a clergyman in Saxony, Germany, for more than thirty years during times of war and plague. One year he conducted over 4,000 funerals, including for his wife, and at times food was so scarce that his family went hungry. Although he could have despaired, his faith in God remained strong and he gave thanks continually. In fact, he poured his gratitude into “Nun danket alle Gott,” the song that became the well-loved English hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God.”

    Rinkart followed the example of the prophet Isaiah, who instructed God’s people to give…

    Borrowed Shoes

    In the chaos of fleeing his home during the California wildfires of 2018, Gabe, a high school senior, missed the state-qualifying cross-country race for which he’d been training. Missing this meet meant he wouldn’t have the chance to compete at the state meet—the culminating event of his four-year running career. In light of the circumstances, the state athletics board gave Gabe another chance: he’d have to run a qualifying time by himself, on a rival high school’s track, in “street shoes” because his running shoes were in the charred rubble of his home. When he showed up to “race,” Gabe…

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    When Life Hurts

    Facing the Battle

    Not long ago I met up with a group of friends. As I listened to the conversation, it seemed like everyone in the room was facing some significant battle. Two of us had parents fighting cancer, one had a child with an eating disorder, another friend was experiencing chronic pain, and another was facing major surgery. It seemed a lot for a bunch of people in their thirties and forties.

    First Chronicles 16 recounts a key moment in Israel’s history when the ark of the covenant was brought into the City of David (Jerusalem). Samuel tells us it happened in a moment…

    Taught by Turkeys

    Do you know what a group of turkeys is called? I didn’t. Had to look it up. It’s called a rafter. Why am I writing about turkeys? Because I’ve just returned from a weekend at a mountain cabin. Each day, I marveled at the train of turkeys parading past our porch.

    I’d never been turkey-watching before. They scratched fiercely with spectacular talons. Then they hunted and pecked at the ground. Eating, I assume. (This was my first turkey-observation time, so I’m not 100% positive.) The scrawny scrubs in the area didn’t look like they could sustain anything. Yet here were these…

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