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    Rescuing Villains

    The comic book hero is as popular as ever. In 2017 alone, six superhero movies accounted for more than $4 billion (US) in box office sales. But why are people so drawn to big action flicks?

    Maybe it’s because, in part, such stories resemble God’s Big Story. There’s a hero, a villain, a people in need of rescue, and plenty of riveting action.

    In this story, the biggest villain is Satan, the enemy of our souls. But there are lots of “little” villains as well. In the book of Daniel, for example, one is Nebuchadnezzar, the tyrannical king of much of the…

    Clear Communication

    While traveling in Asia, my iPad (containing my reading material and many work documents) suddenly died, a condition described as “the black screen of death.” Seeking help, I found a computer shop and encountered another problem—I don’t speak Chinese and the shop’s technician didn’t speak English. The solution? He pulled up a software program in which he typed in Chinese, but I could read it in English. The process reversed as I responded in English and he read in Chinese. The software allowed us to communicate clearly, even in different languages.

    Sometimes, I feel like I’m unable to communicate and express…

    Abby’s Prayer

    When Abby was a sophomore in high school, she and her mom heard a news story about a young man who’d been critically injured in a plane accident—an accident that took the lives of his father and stepmother. Although they didn’t know this person, Abby’s mom said, “We just need to pray for him and his family.” And they did.

    Fast forward a few years, and one day Abby walked into a class at her university. A male student offered her the seat next to him. That student was Austin Hatch, the plane crash victim Abby had prayed for. Soon they…

    Praying the Distance

    Kevin wiped a tear from his eye as he held out a slip of paper for my wife, Cari, to read. He knew Cari and I were praying for our daughter to return to faith in Jesus. “This note was found in my mother’s Bible after her death, and I hope it encourages you,” he said. At the top of the note were the words, “For my son, Kevin.” Below them was a prayer for his salvation.

    “I carry this with me in my own Bible today,” Kevin explained. “My mother prayed for my salvation for over thirty-five years. I was…

    Praying and Growing

    When my friend David’s wife developed Alzheimer’s disease, the changes it brought to his life made him bitter. He needed to retire early to care for her; and as the disease progressed, she required increasingly more care.

    “I was so angry at God,” he told me. “But the more I prayed about it, the more He showed me my heart and how I had been selfish for most of our marriage.” Tears welled in his eyes as he confessed, “She’s been sick ten years, but God has helped me see things differently. Now, everything I do out of love for her,…

    The Battle

    As artillery rounds fell around him with an earth-shaking whoomp, the young soldier prayed fervently, “Lord, if you get me through this, I’ll go to that Bible school Mom wanted me to.” God honored his focused prayer. My dad survived World War II, went to Moody Bible Institute, and invested his life in ministry.

    Another warrior endured a different kind of crisis that drove him to God, but his problems arose when he avoided combat. As King David’s troops fought the Ammonites, David was back at his palace casting more than just a glance at another man’s wife (see 2 Samuel 11).…

    Good Works Prepared

    When a burly stranger approached my wife and me on a street abroad, we shrunk back in fear. Our holiday had been going badly; we had been yelled at, cheated, and extorted from several times. Were we going to be shaken down again? To our surprise, the man just wanted to show us where to get the best view of his city. Then he gave us a chocolate bar, smiled, and left. That little gesture made our day—and saved the whole trip. It made us grateful—both to the man and to God for cheering us up.

    What had made the man…

    It’s Good to Ask

    My father has always had a directional sense I’ve envied. He’s just instinctively known where north, south, east, and west were. It’s like he was born with that sense. And he’s always been right. Until the night he wasn’t.

    That was the night my father got lost. He and my mother attended an event in an unfamiliar town and left after dark. He was convinced he knew the way back to the highway, but he didn’t. He got turned around, then confused, and ultimately frustrated. My mother reassured him, “I know it’s hard, but ask your phone for directions. It’s okay.”

    For…

    When God Says No

    When I was conscripted into the military at age 18, as all young Singaporean men are, I prayed desperately for an easy posting. A clerk or driver, perhaps. Not being particularly strong, I hoped to be spared the rigors of combat training. But one evening as I read my Bible, one verse leaped off the page: “My grace is sufficient for you . . .” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

    My heart dropped—but it shouldn’t have. God had answered my prayers. Even if I received a difficult assignment, He would provide for me.

    So I ended up as an armored infantryman, doing things I…

    Where the Battle is Won or Lost

    Our battles are first won or lost in the secret places of our will in God’s presence, never in full view of the world. The Spirit of God seizes me and I am compelled to get alone with God and fight the battle before Him. Until I do this, I will lose every time. The battle may take one minute or one year, but that will depend on me, not God. However long it takes, I must wrestle with it alone before God, and I must resolve to go through the hell of renunciation or rejection before Him. Nothing has any power over someone who has fought the battle before God and won there.

    Wrestling Before God

    Take up the whole armor of God . . . praying always . . . —Ephesians 6:13,18

    You must learn to wrestle against the things that hinder your communication with God, and wrestle in prayer for other people; but to wrestle with God in…

    Intercessory Prayer

    You cannot truly intercede through prayer if you do not believe in the reality of redemption. Instead, you will simply be turning intercession into useless sympathy for others, which will serve only to increase the contentment they have for remaining out of touch with God. True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance. Intercession means to “fill up . . . [with] what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Colossians 1:24), and this is precisely why there are so few intercessors. People describe intercession by saying, “It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.” That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective.

    The Unrivaled Power of Prayer

    We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. —Romans 8:26

    We realize that we are energized by the Holy Spirit for prayer; and we know what it is to pray in accordance with the Spirit; but we don’t often realize that the Holy Spirit Himself prays prayers in us which we cannot utter ourselves. When we are born again of…

    Your Way, Not Mine

    Kamil and Joelle were devastated when their eight-year-old daughter Rima was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. The disease led to meningitis and a stroke, and Rima lapsed into a coma. The hospital medical team counseled her parents to make arrangements for Rima’s funeral, giving her less than a 1 percent chance of survival.

    Kamil and Joelle fasted and prayed for a miracle. “As we pray,” Kamil said, “we need to trust God no matter what. And pray like Jesus—not my way, Father, but Yours.” “But I want so much for God to heal her!” Joelle answered honestly. “Yes! And…

    The Key of the Greater Work

    . . . I say to you, he who believes in Me, . . . greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father —John 14:12

    Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work. Yet we think of prayer as some commonsense exercise of our higher …

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