• Topic > Christian Ministry & the Church

    The Right Words

    In the past year or so, a number of authors have urged believers to take a fresh look at the “vocabulary” of our faith. One writer, for example, emphasized that even theologically rich words of faith can lose their impact when, through overfamiliarity and overuse, we lose touch with the depths of the gospel and our need for God. When that happens, he suggested, we may need to relearn the language of faith “from scratch,” letting go of our assumptions until we can see the good news for the first time.

    The invitation to learn to “speak God from scratch” reminds…

    Finding Joy in Praise

    When the famous British writer C. S. Lewis first gave his life to Christ, he initially resisted praising God. In fact, he called it “a stumbling block.” His struggle was “in the suggestion that God Himself demanded it.” Yet Lewis finally realized “it is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence” to His people. Then we, “in perfect love with God,” find joy in Him no more separable “than the brightness a mirror receives” from the “brightness it sheds.”

    The prophet Habakkuk arrived at this conclusion centuries earlier. After complaining to God about evils aimed at the…

    Companions in Christ

    The Harvard Study of Adult Development is a decades-long project that’s resulted in a greater understanding of the importance of healthy relationships. The research began with a group of 268 sophomores at Harvard University in the 1930s and later expanded to, among others, 456 Boston inner-city residents. Researchers have conducted interviews with the participants and pored over their medical records every few years. What they’ve discovered is that close relationships are the biggest factor in predicting happiness and health. It turns out that if we surround ourselves with the right people, we’ll likely experience a deeper sense of joy.

    This appears…

    Snow Muse

    Named for a tough blue-collar neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio, the grassroots musical group Over the Rhine sings about a transformation that takes place each year in the city. “Whenever we’d get our first real snowfall of the year, it felt like something sacred was happening,” explains band co-founder Linford Detweiler. “Like a little bit of a fresh start. The city would slow down and grow quiet.”

    If you’ve experienced a heavy snowfall, you understand how it can inspire a song. A magical quietness drapes the world as snow conceals grime and grayness. For a few moments, winter’s bleakness brightens, inviting our…

    We’re Not God

    In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis recommended asking ourselves some questions to find out if we’re proud: “How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, . . . or patronize me, or show off?” Lewis saw pride as a vice of the “utmost evil” and the chief cause of misery in homes and nations. He called it a “spiritual cancer” that eats up the very possibility of love, contentment, and even common sense.

    Pride has been a problem throughout the ages. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God warned the leader of Tyre,…

    Remember to Sing

    Nancy Gustafson, a retired opera singer, was devastated when she visited her mother and saw her decline from dementia. Her mom no longer recognized her and barely spoke. After several monthly visits, Nancy had an idea. She started singing Christmas carols. Her mother’s eyes lit up at the musical sounds, and she began singing too—for twenty minutes! Then Nancy’s mom laughed, joking they were “The Gustafson Family Singers!” The dramatic turnaround suggested the power of music, as some therapists conclude, to evoke lost memories. Singing “old favorites” has also been shown to boost mood, reduce falls, lessen visits to the…

    What’s Your Song?

    Most Americans knew little about Alexander Hamilton. Until 2015, when Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote his hit musical Hamilton. Now schoolchildren know Hamilton’s story by heart. They sing it to each other on the bus and at recess. He’s their favorite founding father.

    God knows the power of music, and He told Moses to “write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it” (Deuteronomy 31:19). God knew that long after Moses was gone, when He had brought Israel into the Promised Land, they would rebel and worship other gods. So He told Moses, “This song will testify…

    Sound the Trumpets

    “Taps” is a trumpet call played by the US military at the end of the day as well as at funerals. I was amazed when I read the unofficial lyrics and discovered that many of the verses end with the phrase “God is nigh” (God is near). Both before the dark of each night settles in or while mourning the loss of a loved one, the lyrics offer soldiers the beautiful assurance that God is near.

    In the Old Testament, sounding trumpets was also a reminder, to the Israelites, that God was near. In the middle of celebrating the feasts and…

    Christmas Awe

    I was in London one night for a meeting. It was pouring rain, and I was late. I rushed through the streets, turned a corner, and then stopped still. Dozens of angels hovered above Regent Street, their giant shimmering wings stretching across the traffic. Made of thousands of pulsing lights, it was the most amazing Christmas display I’d seen. I wasn’t the only one captivated. Hundreds lined the street, gazing up in awe.

    Awe is central to the Christmas story. When the angel appeared to Mary explaining she would miraculously conceive (Luke 1:26–38), and to the shepherds announcing Jesus’s birth (2:8–20),…

    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…

    Rivals or Allies?

    The city of Texarkana sits squarely on the state border between Texas and Arkansas. The city of 70,000 inhabitants has two mayors, two city councils, and two police and fire departments. The cross-town sporting rivalry between high schools draws an uncommonly high attendance, reflecting the deep allegiance each has to their own state’s school. More significant challenges arise as well, such as disputes over the shared water system, governed by two sets of state laws. Yet the town is known for its unity despite the line that divides it. Residents gather annually for a dinner held on State Line Avenue…

    Look Up!

    When filmmaker Wylie Overstreet showed strangers a live picture of the moon as seen through his powerful telescope, they were stunned at the up-close view, reacting with whispers and awe. To see such a glorious sight, Overstreet explained, “fills us with a sense of wonder that there’s something much bigger than ourselves.”

    The psalmist David also marveled at God’s heavenly light. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3–4).

    David’s humbling…

    United in Separation

    Thrown into a project with his colleague Tim, Alvin faced a major challenge: he and Tim had very different ideas of how to go about it. While they respected each other’s opinions, their approaches were so different that conflict seemed imminent. Before conflict broke out, however, the two men agreed to discuss their differences with their boss, who put them on separate teams. It turned out to be a wise move. That day, Alvin learned this lesson: Being united doesn’t always mean doing things together. 

    Abraham must have realized this truth when he suggested that he and Lot go their separate…

    A Parade of Colors

    For decades, London has been one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. In 1933, journalist Glyn Roberts wrote of England’s great capital, “I still think the parade of peoples and colours and tongues just about the best thing in London.” That “parade” is still in evidence today with the blended smells, sounds, and sights of a global community. The beauty of diversity is part of the breathtaking appeal of one of the world’s greatest cities.

    As with any city inhabited by human beings, however, London is not without its problems. Change brings challenges. Cultures sometimes clash. And that is…

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