• Topic > Christian Ministry & the Church

    Dancing Before the Lord

    A number of years ago, Carolyn and I visited a small church where during the worship service a woman began to dance in the aisle. She was soon joined by others. Carolyn and I looked at each other and an unspoken agreement passed between us: “Not me!” We come from church traditions that favor a staid liturgy, and this other form of worship was well beyond our comfort zone.

    But if Mark’s story of Mary’s “waste” means anything at all, it suggests that our love for Jesus may express itself in ways that others find uncomfortable (Mark 13:1–9). A year’s wages…

    Made for Each Other

    “I take care of him. When he’s happy, I’m happy,” says Stella. Merle replies, “I’m happy when she’s around.” Merle and Stella have been married for 79 years. When Merle was recently admitted to a nursing home, he was miserable—so Stella gladly brought him home. He’s 101, and she’s 95. Though she needs a walker to get around, she lovingly does what she can for her husband, such as preparing the food he likes. But she couldn’t do it on her own. Grandchildren and neighbors help with the things Stella can’t manage.

    Stella and Merle’s life together is an example of…

    Sweeter Than Honey

    His topic was racial tension. Yet the speaker remained calm and collected. Standing on stage before a large audience, he spoke boldly—but with grace, humility, kindness, and even humor. Soon the tense audience visibly relaxed, laughing along with the speaker about the dilemma they all faced: how to resolve their hot issue, but cool down their feelings and words. Yes, how to tackle a sour topic with sweet grace.

    King Solomon advised this same approach for all of us: “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). In this way, “The hearts of…

    In Tune with the Spirit

    As I listened to the piano tuner work on the elegant grand piano, I thought about the times when I’d heard that very same piano pour out the incredible sound of the “Warsaw Concerto” and the rich melody of “How Great Thou Art.” But now the instrument desperately needed to be tuned. While some notes were right on pitch, others were sharp or flat, creating an unpleasant sound. The piano tuner’s responsibility wasn’t to make each of the keys play the same sound but to assure that each note’s unique sound combined with others to create a pleasing harmonious whole.

    Even…

    The Man Who Couldn’t Talk

    Sitting in his wheelchair at a senior citizens home in Belize, a man joyfully listened as a group of American high school teenagers sang about Jesus. Later, as some of the teens tried to communicate with him, they discovered he couldn’t talk. A stroke had robbed him of his ability to speak.

    Since they couldn’t carry on a conversation with the man, the teens decided to sing to him. As they began to sing, something amazing happened. The man who couldn’t talk began to sing. With enthusiasm, he belted out “How Great Thou Art” right along with his new friends.

    It was…

    Community Memory

    In his book Restless Faith, theologian Richard Mouw talks about the importance of remembering the lessons of the past. He quotes sociologist Robert Bellah, who said that “healthy nations must be ‘communities of memory. ’” Bellah extended that principle to other societal bonds, such as families. Remembering is an important part of living in community.

    The Scriptures teach the value of community memory as well. The Israelites were given the Passover feast to remind them of what God had done to rescue them from slavery in Egypt (see Exodus 12:1–30). Still today, Jewish people around the world revisit that rich community…

    Let Us Praise!

    When the alarm on Shelley’s phone goes off every day at 3:16 in the afternoon, she takes a praise break. She thanks God and acknowledges His goodness. Although she communicates with God throughout the day, Shelley loves to take this break in her schedule because it helps her celebrate her intimate relationship with Him.

    Inspired by her joyful devotion, I decided to set a specific time each day to thank Christ for His sacrifice on the cross and to pray for those who have yet to be saved. I wonder what it would be like if all believers in Jesus stopped…

    Amazing Skill

    The leader of our college singing group directed the group and accompanied us on the piano at the same time, skillfully balancing those responsibilities. At the close of one concert, he looked particularly weary, so I asked him if he was okay. He responded, “I’ve never had to do that before. Then he explained. “The piano was so out of tune I had to play the whole concert in two different keys—my left hand playing in one key and my right hand in another!” I was blown away by the startling skill he displayed, and I was amazed at the One…

    Pure Worship

    Jose pastored a church known for its programs and theatrical productions. They were great, yet he worried the church’s busyness had slipped into a business. Was the church growing for the right reasons or because of its activities? Jose wanted to find out, so he canceled all extra church events for one year. His congregation would focus on being a living temple where people worshiped God.

    Jose’s decision seems extreme, until you notice what Jesus did when He entered the temple’s outer courts. The holy space that should have been full of simple prayers had become a flurry of worship business.…

    More than Meets the Eye

    Attend any rodeo with riding and roping competition and you’ll see them—competitors with four fingers on one hand and a nub where their thumb should be. It’s a common injury in the sport—a thumb gets caught between a rope on one end and a decent-sized steer pulling on the other, and the thumb is usually the loser. It’s not a career-ending injury, but the absence of a thumb changes things. Without using your thumb, try to brush your teeth or button a shirt or comb your hair or tie your shoes or even eat. That little overlooked member of your…

    Divided in Love

    When public debate erupted over a controversial Singapore law, it divided Christians with differing views. Some called others “narrow-minded” or accused them of compromising their faith.

    Controversies can cause sharp divisions among God’s family, bringing much hurt and discouraging people. I’ve been made to feel small over personal convictions on how I apply the Bible’s teachings to my life. And I’m sure I’ve been equally guilty of criticizing others I disagree with.

    I wonder if the problem lies not in what or even how we express our views, but in the attitudes of our hearts when we do so. Are we just…

    When Life Is Hard

    Physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, I curled up in my recliner. Our family had followed God’s leading and had moved from California to Wisconsin. After we arrived, car broke down and left us without a vehicle for two months. Meanwhile, my husband’s limited mobility after an unexpected back surgery and my increasing chronic pain complicated our unpacking. We uncovered costly problems with our new-to-us, old home. Our senior dog suffered with high-maintenance health issues. And though our new pup brought me great joy, raising a furry ball of energy was far more work than I anticipated. My attitude soured. How…

    Raise Praise

    You can generally tell where a map was drawn by what lies in its middle. We tend to think our home is the center of the world, so we put a dot in the middle and sketch out from there. Nearby towns might be fifty kilometers to the north or half a day’s drive to the south, but all are described in relation to where we are. The Psalms draw their map from God’s earthly home in the Old Testament, so the center of biblical geography is Jerusalem.

    Psalm 48 is one of many psalms that praises Jerusalem. This “city of…

    A Lifestyle of Praise

    Wallace Stegner’s mother died at the age of fifty. When Wallace, a novelist and short story writer, was eighty, he finally wrote her a note – “Letter, Much Too Late” – in which he praised the virtues of a woman who grew up, married, and raised two sons in the harsh history of the early Western United States. She was the kind of wife and mother who was an encourager, making the best of situations, especially those that were less than desirable. One of his enduring memories is the strength his mother displayed by way of her voice. Stegner wrote:…

    Don’t Forget the Giver

    It was just before Christmas, and her kids were having a difficult time with gratitude. In other words, they were pretty much “give me” instead of “thank you.” She knew how easy it was to slip into that kind of thinking—what with all the commercialism of the season. But she also knew she wanted something better for the hearts of her children. So she went through the house and placed a bright red bow on light switches, the pantry and refrigerator doors, the washing machine and dryer, and the water faucets. With each bow there was a handwritten note: “Some…

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