• Topic > Christian Ministry & the Church

    God Knows

    A couple who stopped to admire a large abstract painting noticed open paint cans and brushes underneath it. Assuming it was a “work in progress” that anyone could help create, they stroked in some color and left. The artist, though, had purposefully left the supplies there as part of the finished work’s display. After reviewing video footage of the incident, the gallery acknowledged the misunderstanding and didn’t press charges.

    The Israelites who lived east of the Jordan created a misunderstanding when they built a massive altar next to the river. The western tribes viewed this as rebellion against God—everyone knew the…

    Useless Without Love

    After taking the pieces for my special-order table from the box and laying them out before me, I noticed something wasn’t quite right. The beautiful top for the table and other parts were accounted for, but I was lacking one of the legs. Without all of the legs, I couldn’t assemble the table, rendering it useless.

    It’s not just tables that are useless when missing one vital piece. In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul reminded his readers that they were missing one essential component. The believers possessed many spiritual gifts but lacked love.  

    Using exaggerated language to emphasize his point, Paul…

    Surviving and Thriving

    The Croods, an animated caveman family, believe that “the only way to survive is if the pack [their small family] stays together.” They are afraid of the world and others, so when looking for a safe place to live they’re filled with fear after discovering a strange family already in the area they’ve chosen. But they soon learn to embrace the differences of their new neighbors, draw strength from them, and survive together. They find that they actually enjoy them and that they do need others to live life fully.

    It can be risky to be in relationship—people can and do hurt…

    Something Deep and Binding

    Amina, an Iraqi immigrant, and Joseph, an American from birth, attended a political protest on opposite sides. We’ve been taught to believe that those who are separated by ethnicity and politics carry unbridled animosity toward each other. However, when a small mob accosted Joseph, trying to set his shirt on fire, Amina rushed to his defense. “I don’t think we could be any further apart as people,” Joseph told a reporter, “and yet, it was just kinda like this common ‘that’s not OK’ moment.” Something deeper than politics knit Amina and Joseph together.

    Though we often have genuine disagreements with one…

    Wise Counsel

    While attending seminary, I was working full-time. Add to that a chaplaincy rotation and an internship at a church. I was busy. When my father visited me, he said, “You’re going to have a breakdown.” I shrugged off his warning thinking he was of another generation, and he didn’t understand goal-setting.

    I didn’t have a breakdown. But I did experience a very rough, dry season in which I fell into depression. Since then, I’ve learned to listen to warnings—especially from loved ones—more carefully.

    That’s what Moses did. He was diligently working, serving as Israel’s judge (Exodus 18:13). Yet, he chose to listen…

    Built Together to Serve

    In rural Amish culture, the building of a barn is a social event. It would take months for a single farmer and his family to construct a barn, but the Amish, doing it together, make quick work of it. Lumber is stocked ahead of time; tools are prepped. On the designated day, the entire Amish community gathers early morning, divvies up tasks, and together pitches in to raise a barn. In some cases, a barn is built in a single day.

    This is a good picture of God’s vision for the church and our role in it. The Bible says, “All…

    Witness Marks

    “See that?” The clock repairman pointed his flashlight beam on a small, fine mark roughly engraved inside the old grandfather clock he was working on in our home. “Another repairman could have put that there almost a century ago,” he said. “It’s called a ‘witness mark,’ and it helps me know how to set the mechanism.”

    Before the age of technical bulletins and repair manuals, “witness marks” were used to help the person making a future repair to align moving parts with precision. They were more than just time-saving reminders; they were often left as a simple kindness to the next…

    Lost to the Past

    Upset with the corruption and extravagance plaguing his kingdom, Korea’s King Yeongjo (1694–1776) decided to change things. In a classic case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, he banned the traditional art of gold-thread embroidery as excessively opulent. Soon, knowledge of that intricate process vanished into the past.

    In 2011, Professor Sim Yeon-ok wanted to reclaim that long-lost tradition. Surmising that gold leaf had been glued onto mulberry paper and then hand-cut into slender strands, she was able to recreate the process, reviving an ancient art form.

    In the book of Exodus, we learn of the extravagant measures employed to…

    For Others’ Sake

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Singaporeans stayed home to avoid being infected. But I blissfully continued swimming, believing it was safe.

    My wife, however, feared that I might pick up an infection at the public pool and pass it on to her aged mother—who, like other seniors, were more vulnerable to the virus. “Can you just avoid swimming for some time, for my sake?” she asked.

    At first, I wanted to argue that there was little risk. Then I realized that this mattered less than her feelings. Why would I insist on swimming—hardly an essential thing—when it made her worry unnecessarily?

    In Romans…

    Current Battles

    When you plug in your toaster, you benefit from the results of a bitter feud from the late nineteenth century. Back then, inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla battled over which was the best kind of electricity for development: direct current (DC), like the current that goes from a battery to a flashlight; or alternating current (AC), which we get from an electrical outlet.

    Eventually, Tesla’s AC ideas powered through and have been used to provide electricity for homes, businesses, and communities around the world. AC is much more efficient at sending electricity across great distances and proved to be the…

    Like a Symphony

    I surprised my wife with concert tickets to listen to a performer she’d always wanted to see. The gifted singer was accompanied by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and the setting was the matchless venue at Red Rocks—an open-air amphitheater built between two three hundred-foot rock formations at more than 6,000 feet above sea level. The orchestra played a number of well-loved classical songs and folk tunes. Their final number was a fresh treatment of the classic hymn, “Amazing Grace.” The beautiful, harmonized arrangement took our breath away!

    There’s something beautiful about harmony—individual instruments playing together in a way that creates a…

    Jesus Is Our Peace

    A monk named Telemachus lived a quiet life, but his death at the end of the fourth century changed the world. Visiting Rome from the East, Telemachus intervened in the blood sport of the gladiatorial arena. He jumped over the stadium wall and tried to stop the gladiators from killing each other. But the outraged crowd stoned the monk to death. The emperor Honorius, however, was moved by Telemachus’ act and decreed the end of the 500-year practice of gladiator games.

    When Paul calls Jesus “our peace,” he refers to the end of hostility between Jews and gentiles (Ephesians 2:14). God’s…

    The Greatest Symphony

    When BBC Music Magazine asked one hundred fifty-one of the world’s leading conductors to list twenty of what they believed to be the greatest symphonies ever written, Beethoven’s Third, Eroica, came out on top. The work, whose title means “heroic,” was written during the turmoil of the French revolution. But it also came out of Beethoven’s own struggle as he slowly lost his hearing. The music evokes extreme swings of emotion that express what it means to be human and alive while facing challenges. Through wild swings of happiness, sadness, and eventual triumph Beethoven’s Third Symphony is regarded as a timeless tribute…

    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…

    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…