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    Turn and Run

    Ali was a beautiful, smart, and talented teenager with loving parents. But after high school something prompted her to try heroin. Her parents noticed changes in her and sent her to a rehabilitation facility after Ali eventually admitted the impact it was having on her. After treatment, they asked what she would tell her friends about trying drugs. Her advice: “Just turn and run.” She urged that “just saying no” wasn’t enough.

    Tragically, Ali relapsed and died at age twenty-two of an overdose. In an attempt to keep others from the same fate, her heartbroken parents appeared on a local news…

    It’s Slippery Out Here!

    Years ago, when I was learning to ski, I followed my son Josh down what appeared to be a gentle slope. With my eyes on him I failed to notice he turned down the steepest hill on the mountain, and I found myself careening down the slope, completely out of control. I cratered, of course.

    Psalm 141 addresses a similar deceit by which we find ourselves slipping down sin’s slope. Prayer is one of the ways we stay alert to those slopes: “Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil” (141:4) is a plea that echoes the Lord’s…

    Another Chance

    At the Second Chance Bike Shop near our neighborhood, volunteers rebuild cast-off bicycles and donate them to needy kids. Shop founder Ernie Clark also donates bikes to needy adults, including the homeless, the disabled, and military veterans struggling to make it in civilian life. Not only do the bicycles get a second chance but sometimes the recipients get a new start too. One veteran used his new bike to get to a job interview.

    Second chances can transform a person’s destiny, especially when the second chance comes from God. The prophet Micah extoled such grace during a time the nation of…

    A Sad Story

    Painfully, the evil that has long been swept under the rug—sexual abuse of many women by men who had power over them—has come to light. Enduring vile headline after headline, my heart sank when I heard proof of abuse by two men I admired. The church has our own sordid scandals. These days are a reckoning.

    King David faced his own reckoning. Samuel tells us that one afternoon, David “saw a woman bathing” (2 Samuel 11:2). And David wanted her. Though Bathsheba was the wife of one his loyal soldiers (Uriah), David took her anyway. When Bathsheba told David she was…

    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…

    In-Service Training

    A manager at a company in Brazil requested a short written report from the custodians in her building. Each day she wanted to know who cleaned each room, which rooms were left untouched, and how much time employees spent in each room. The first “daily” report arrived a week later, partially completed.

    When the manager looked into the matter, she discovered most of the cleaning employees could not read. She could have fired them, but instead she arranged for them to have literacy lessons. Within five months, everyone was reading at a basic level and continued in their jobs.

    God often uses…

    Honest to God

    My three-year-old grandson’s day was off to a rotten start. He couldn’t find his favorite shirt. The shoes he wanted to wear were too hot. He fussed and fumed at his grandmother and then sat down to cry.

    “Why are you so upset?” I asked him. We talked for a while and after he calmed down, I gently inquired, “Have you been good for Grandma?” He looked thoughtfully at his shoes and responded, “No, I was bad. I’m sorry.”

    My heart went out to him. Instead of denying what he had done, he was honest. In the following moments we asked Jesus…

    Vanity on Fire

    In February 1497, a Monk named Girolama Savonarola started a fire. Leading up to this, he and his followers spent several months collecting items that they thought might entice people to sin or neglect their religious duties—including artwork, cosmetics, instruments, and dresses. On the appointed day, thousands of vanity items were gathered at a public square in Florence, Italy, and set on fire. The event has come to be known as the Bonfire of the Vanities.

    Savonarola might have found inspiration for his extreme actions in some shocking statements from the Sermon on the Mount. “If your right eye causes you…

    In Our Weakness

    Although Anne Sheafe Miller died in 1999 at the age of 90, she nearly passed away in 1942 after developing septicaemia following a miscarriage and all treatments proved to be unsuccessful. When a patient at the same hospital mentioned his connection to a scientist who’d been working on a new wonder drug. Anne’s doctor pressed the government to release a tiny amount for Anne. Within a day, her temperature was back to normal! Penicillin had saved Anne’s life.

    Since the fall, all human beings have experienced a devastating spiritual condition brought about by sin (Romans 5:12). Only the death and resurrection…

    Objects in Mirror

    “Must. Go. Faster.” That’s what Dr. Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum, says in an iconic scene from the 1993 movie Jurassic Park as he and two other characters flee in a Jeep from a rampaging tyrannosaurus. When the driver looks in the rearview mirror, he sees the raging reptile’s jaw—right above the words: “OBJECTS IN MIRROR MAY BE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR.”

    The scene is a masterful combination of intensity and grim humor. But sometimes the “monsters” from our own past feel like they’ll never stop pursuing us. We look in the “mirror” of our lives and see our mistakes…

    Divine Escape

    Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mystery The Clocks features antagonists who commit a series of murders. Although their initial plot targeted a single victim, they found it necessary to take more lives in order to cover up the original crime. When confronted by Poirot, one of the conspirators confessed, lamenting, “It was only supposed to be the one murder.”

    Like the schemers in the story, the chief priests and Pharisees of Jesus’s day formed a conspiracy of their own. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38–44), they called an emergency meeting and plotted to take His life (11:45–53). But they didn’t…

    The Crooked Steeple

    Turns out that crooked church steeples make people nervous. When we visited with some friends, they shared how, after a fierce windstorm, their church’s proud steeple was . . . crooked, causing some alarm.

    Of course, the church quickly repaired the flagging spire, but the humorous image got me thinking. Often church is seen as a place where everything is expected to look perfect; it’s not seen as a place where we can show up… crooked. Right?

    But in a fallen, broken world, all of us are “crooked,” each with our own collection of natural weaknesses. We might be tempted to keep…

    A Kind Critique

    During a landscape painting class I took, the teacher, a highly experienced professional artist, assessed my first assignment. He stood silently in front of my painting, one hand cupping his chin. Here we go, I thought. He’s going to say it’s terrible.

    But he didn’t.

    He said he liked the color scheme and the feeling of openness. Then he mentioned that the trees in the distance could be lightened. A cluster of weeds needed softer edges. He had the authority to criticize my work based on the rules of perspective and color, yet his critique was truthful and kind.

    Jesus, who was perfectly qualified…

    Washed Clean

    I couldn’t believe it. A black gel pen had hidden itself in the folds of my white towels and survived the washing machine, only to explode in the dryer. Ugly black stains were everywhere. My white towels were ruined. No amount of bleach would be able to remove the dark stains.

    As I reluctantly consigned the towels to the rag pile, I was reminded of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah’s lament describing the damaging effects of sin. By rejecting God and turning to idols (Jeremiah 2:13), Jeremiah declared that the people of Israel had caused a permanent stain in their relationship with…

    Who Is That?

    When a man installed a security camera outside his house, he checked the video feature to ensure that the system was working. He was alarmed to see a broad-shouldered figure in dark clothing wandering around his yard. He watched intently to see what the man would do. Somehow, though, the interloper seemed familiar. Finally he realized he was not watching a stranger roam his property, but a recording of himself in his own back yard!

    What might we see if we could step out of our skin and observe ourselves in certain situations? When David’s heart was hardened and he needed…

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