• Topic > Christian Beliefs > Salvation >

    The Greatest Mystery

    Before I came to faith in Christ, I had heard the gospel preached but wrestled with Jesus’s identity. How could He offer forgiveness for my sins when the Bible says only God can forgive sins? I discovered I wasn’t alone in my struggles after reading J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. Packer suggests that for many unbelievers the “really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man . . . as truly and fully divine as He was human.” Yet this is the truth that makes salvation possible.

    When the apostle Paul refers to Christ as “the image of…

    Demonstrating Grace

    “In moments where tragedy happens or even hurt, there are opportunities to demonstrate grace or to exact vengeance,” the recently bereaved man remarked. “I chose to demonstrate grace.” Pastor Erik Fitzgerald’s wife had been killed in a car accident caused by an exhausted firefighter who fell asleep while driving home, and legal prosecutors wanted to know whether he would seek the maximum sentence. The pastor chose to practice the forgiveness he often preached about. To the surprise of both him and the firefighter, the men eventually became friends.

    Pastor Erik was living out of the grace he’d received from God, who…

    The Only King

    As five-year-old Eldon listened to the pastor talk about Jesus leaving His heavenly kingdom and coming to earth, he gasped when the pastor thanked Him in prayer for dying for our sins. “Oh, no! He died?” the boy said in surprise.

    From the start of Jesus’s life on earth, there were people who wanted Him dead. Wise men came to Jerusalem during the reign of King Herod inquiring, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). When the king heard this, he…

    God Waited

    When Denise Levertov was just twelve, long before she became a renowned poet, she had the gumption to mail a package of poetry to the great poet T. S. Eliot. She then waited for a reply. Surprisingly, Eliot sent two pages of hand-written encouragement. In the preface to her collection The Stream and the Sapphire, she explained how the poems “trace [her] own movement from agnosticism to Christian faith.” It’s powerful, then, to recognize how one of the later poems (“Annunciation”) narrates Mary’s surrender to God. Noting the Holy Spirit’s refusal to overwhelm Mary and the Spirit’s desire for Mary to…

    The Big Shuffle

    In The Call of Service, author Robert Coles, exploring our reasons for serving, tells the moving story of an older woman’s service to others. As a bus driver, she showed great care toward the children she drove to school each day—quizzing them on homework and celebrating their successes. “I want to see these kids make it in life,” she said…

    A Christmas Visitor

    On Christmas Eve, 1944, a man known as “Old Brinker” lay dying in a prison hospital, waiting for the makeshift Christmas service led by fellow prisoners. “When does the music start?” he asked William McDougall, who was imprisoned with him in Muntok Prison in Sumatra. “Soon,” replied McDougall. “Good,” replied the dying man. “Then I’ll be able to compare them with the angels.” 

    Although decades earlier Brinker had moved away from his faith in God, in his dying days he confessed his sins and found peace with Him. Instead of greeting others with a sour look, he would smile, which “was…

    Water into Hope

    Tom and Mark’s ministry refreshes lives. This is clear in the video they share of a group of fully clad children laughing and dancing in the refreshing water of an open shower—their first ever. The men work with indigenous churches to install water filtration systems on wells in Haiti, easing and lengthening lives as diseases connected to contaminated water are prevented. Access to clean, fresh water gives the people hope for their future.

    Jesus referred to “Living Water” in John 4 to capture a similar idea of a continual source of refreshment. Tired and thirsty, Jesus had asked a Samaritan woman…

    Free from Condemnation

    As a couple drove their trailer through dry Northern California, they felt a tire blow and heard the scrape of metal against pavement. The sparks ignited the 2018 Carr Fire—a wildfire that burned nearly 230,000 acres, destroyed more than 1,000 homes, and resulted in the deaths of several people.

    God’s Special Treasure

    Imagine a vast throne room. Seated confidently on the throne is a great and powerful king. He is surrounded by all manner of attendants, each on their best behavior. Now imagine a box that sits at the king’s feet. From time to time the king reaches down and runs his hands through the contents. And what’s in the box? Jewels, gold, and gemstones particular to the king’s tastes. This box holds the king’s private treasures, a collection that brings him great joy. Can you see that image in your mind’s eye?

    The Hebrew word for this treasure is segulah, and it…

    The Older Brother

    Author Henri Nouwen recalls his visit to a museum in St Petersburg, Russia, where he spent hours reflecting on Rembrandt’s portrayal of the prodigal son. As the day wore on, changes in the natural lighting from a nearby window left Nouwen with the impression that he was seeing as many different paintings as there were changes of light. Each seemed to reveal something else about a father’s love for his broken son.

    Nouwen describes how, at about four o’clock, three figures in the painting appeared to “step forward.” One was the older son who resented his father’s willingness to roll out…

    Scar Stories

    The butterfly flitted in and out of my mother’s panda-faced pansies. As I child, I longed to catch it. I raced from our backyard into our kitchen and grabbed a glass jar, but on my hasty return, I tripped and hit the concrete patio hard. The jar smashed under my wrist and left an ugly slash of flesh that would require eighteen stitches to close. Today the scar crawls like a caterpillar across my wrist, telling the story of both wounding and healing.

    When Jesus appeared to the disciples after His death, He brought His scars. John reports Thomas wanting to…

    Seeds of Grace

    For nearly four decades, a man in India has worked to bring a scorched, sandy wasteland back to life. Seeing how erosion and changing ecosystems had destroyed the river island he loved, he began to plant one tree at a time, bamboo then cotton. Now, lush forests and abundant wildlife fill more than 1,300 acres. However, the man insists the rebirth was not something he made happen. Acknowledging the amazing way the natural world is designed, he marvels at how seeds are carried to fertile ground by the wind. Birds and animals participate in sowing them as well, and rivers…

    A Feast of Love

    In the Danish film Babette’s Feast, a French refugee appears in a coastal village. Two elderly sisters, leaders of the community’s religious life, take her in, and for fourteen years Babette works as their housekeeper. When Babette comes into a large sum of money, she invites the congregation of twelve to join her for an extravagant French meal of caviar, quail in puff pastry, and more.

    As they move from one course to the next, the guests relax; some find forgiveness, some find love rekindled, and some begin recalling miracles they’d witnessed and truths they’d learned in childhood. “Remember what we were…

    A Ready Remedy

    Following the park guide, I scribbled notes as he taught about the plants of the Bahamian primeval forest. He told us which trees to avoid. The Poison wood tree, he said, secretes a black sap that causes a painful, itchy rash. But not to worry! The antidote could usually be found growing right next it. “Cut into the red bark of the Gum Elemi tree,” he said, “and rub the sap on the rash. It will immediately begin to heal.”

    I nearly dropped my pencil in astonishment. I hadn’t expected to find a picture of salvation in the forest. But in…

    A Ready Remedy

    Following the park guide, I scribbled notes as he taught about the plants of the Bahamian primeval forest. He told us which trees to avoid. The Poison wood tree, he said, secretes a black sap that causes a painful, itchy rash. But not to worry! The antidote could usually be found growing right next it. “Cut into the red bark of the Gum Elemi tree,” he said, “and rub the sap on the rash. It will immediately begin to heal.”

    I nearly dropped my pencil in astonishment. I hadn’t expected to find a picture of salvation in the forest. But in…

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