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    Does What We Do Matter?

    I dropped my forehead to my hand with a sigh, “I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done.” My friend’s voice crackled through the phone: “You have to give yourself some credit. You’re doing a lot.” He then listed the things I was trying to do—maintain a healthy lifestyle, work, do well in graduate school, write, and attend a Bible study. I wanted to do all these things for God, but instead I was more focused on what I was doing than how I was doing it—or that perhaps I was trying to do too much.

    Paul reminded…

    An Old Clay Pot

    I’ve acquired a number of old clay pots over the years. My favorite was excavated from a site dated during Abraham’s time (circa fifteenth century BC). It’s at least one item in our home that is older than I! It’s not much to look at: stained, cracked, chipped, and in need of a good scrubbing. It’s very fragile. I keep it to remind me that I’m just a man made out of mud. Though fragile and weak, I carry an immeasurably precious treasure—Jesus. “We have this treasure [Jesus] in jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

    Paul continues: “We are hard pressed…

    Shining the Light

    Stephen told his parents that he needed to get to school early every day, but for some reason he never explained why it was so important. Yet they made sure he arrived at Northview High School by 7:15 each morning.

    On a wintry day during his junior year, Stephen was in a car accident that sadly took his life. Later, his mom and dad found out why he’d been going to school so early. Each morning he and some friends had gathered at the school entrance to greet other students with a smile, a wave, and a kind word. It made…

    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…

    Written on the Heart

    As a professor, I’m often asked by students to write letters of recommendation for them—for leadership positions, study-abroad programs, graduate schools, and even jobs. In each letter, I have a chance to praise the student’s character and qualifications.

    When Christians traveled in the ancient world, they often carried with them similar “letters of commendation” from their churches. Such a letter ensured that the traveling brother or sister would be welcomed hospitably.

    The apostle Paul didn’t need a letter of recommendation when he spoke to the church in Corinth—they knew him. In his second letter to that church, Paul wrote that he preached…

    The Lost Envelope

    We were on the way home from a visit with family in another state when I found it. I was pumping gas when I noticed a dirty, bulky envelope on the ground. I grabbed it, dirt and all, and looked inside. To my surprise, it contained one hundred dollars.

    Hazardous Materials

    The sound of a siren increased to an ear-piercing level as an emergency vehicle sped by my car. Its flashing lights glared through my windshield, illuminating the words “hazardous materials” printed on the side of the truck. Later, I learned it had been racing to a science laboratory where a 400-gallon container of sulfuric acid had begun to leak. Emergency workers had to contain the substance immediately because of its ability to damage whatever it came in contact with.

    As I thought about this news story, I wondered what would happen if sirens blared every time a harsh or critical word…

    God Talk

    A study conducted by the Barna Group in 2018 found that most Americans don’t like to talk about God. Only seven percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters regularly — and practicing Christians in America aren’t that different. Only thirteen percent of regular churchgoers say they have a spiritual conversation about once a week.

    Perhaps it’s not surprising that spiritual conversations are on the decline. Talking about God can be dangerous. Whether because of a polarized political climate, because disagreement might cause a rift in a relationship, or because a spiritual conversation might cause you to realize a change…

    The Approval of One

    When the legendary composer Guiseppi Verdi (1813–1901) was young, a hunger for approval drove him toward success. Warren Wiersbe wrote of him, “When Verdi produced his first opera in Florence, the composer stood by himself in the shadows and kept his eye on the face of one man in the audience—the great Rossini. It mattered not to Verdi whether the people in the hall were cheering him or jeering him; all he wanted was a smile of approval from the master musician.”

    Whose approval do we seek? A parent? A boss? A love interest? For Paul, there was but one answer.…

    Fruitful to the End

    Although Lenore was ninety-four years young, her mind was sharp, her smile was bright, and her contagious love for Jesus was felt by those whose lives she touched. It wasn’t uncommon to find her in the company of the youth of our church; her presence and participation were sources of joy and encouragement. Lenore’s life was so vibrant that her death caught us off guard. Like a runner with energy at the end of the race, she sprinted across life’s finish line. Her energy and zeal were such that, just days before her death, she completed a sixteen-week course that…

    This Is Me

    The powerful song, “This is Me,” is an unforgettable showtune featured in The Greatest Showman, the smash movie musical loosely based on the life of P.T. Barnum and his traveling circus. The lyrics, sung by characters in the film who’d suffered verbal taunts and abuse for failing to conform to societal norms, describe words as destructive bullets and knives that leave scars.

    The song’s popularity points to how many people bear the invisible, but real, wounds caused by weaponized words.

    James understood the potential danger of our words to cause destructive and long-lasting harm, calling the tongue “a restless evil, full of…

    Finding a Quiet Life

    “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We all heard some variation of that question as children. Some of us continue to hear it as adults. The question is born in curiosity, and the specific answer is often heard as an indication of ambition. My answers morphed over the years, starting with a cowboy, then a truck driver, followed by a soldier, and I entered college set on becoming a doctor. However, I cannot recall one time that someone suggested or I consciously considered pursuing “a quiet life.”

    Yet that is exactly what Paul told the believers in…

    Worth the Wait

    Outside the Shibuya train station in Tokyo is a statue commemorating an Akita dog named Hachiko. Hachiko is remembered for unusual faithfulness to his owner, a university professor who commuted from the station daily. The dog accompanied him on his walk there in the morning and came back to meet him every afternoon just as his train arrived.

    One day the professor didn’t return to the station; sadly, he’d died at work. But for the rest of his life—more than nine years—Hachiko showed up at the same time as the afternoon train. Day after day, regardless of weather, the dog waited…

    God’s Heart for Hypocrites

    “I’d be very disappointed if one of our team members did that,” said a cricket player, referring to a South African cricketer who’d cheated in a match in 2016. But only two years later, that same player was caught in a nearly identical scandal.

    Few things rankle us more than hypocrisy. But in the story of Judah in Genesis 38, Judah’s hypocritical behavior nearly had deadly consequences. After two of his sons died soon after marrying Tamar, Judah had quietly abandoned his duty to provide for her needs (vv. 8–11). In desperation, Tamar disguised herself by wearing a prostitute’s veil, and Judah…

    Don’t Feed the Trolls

    Ever heard the expression, “Don’t feed the trolls”? “Trolls” refers to a new problem in today’s digital world—online users who repeatedly post intentionally inflammatory and hurtful comments on news or social media discussion boards. But ignoring such comments—not “feeding” the trolls—makes it harder for them to derail a conversation.

    Of course, it’s nothing new to encounter people who aren’t genuinely interested in productive conversation. “Don’t feed the trolls” could almost be a modern equivalent of Proverbs 26:4, which warns that arguing with an arrogant, unreceptive person risks stooping to their level.

    And yet . . . even the most seemingly stubborn person…

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