• Topic > Spiritual Growth

    Shining Light

    I felt nervous about a five-week prayer class I agreed to teach at a local church. Would the students like it? Would they like me? My anxiety was ill-focused, leading me to over-prepare lesson plans, video slides, and class handouts. Yet with a week to go, I still hadn’t encouraged many people to attend.
    In prayer, however, I was reminded that the class was a service that shined light on God. Because the Holy Spirit would use the class to point people to our heavenly Father, I could set aside my nervousness about public speaking. When Jesus taught His disciples in…

    Plod On!

    God loves to use people the world might overlook. William Carey was raised in a tiny village in the 1700s and had little formal education. He had limited success in his chosen trade and lived in poverty. But God gave him a passion for sharing the good news and called him to be a missionary. Carey learned Greek, Hebrew, and Latin and eventually translated the first New Testament into the Bengali language. Today he is regarded as a “father of modern missions,” but in a letter to his nephew he offered this humble assessment of his abilities: “I can plod.…

    How to Wait

    Frustrated and disappointed with church, seventeen-year-old Trevor began a years-long quest for answers. But nothing he explored seemed to satisfy his longings or answer his questions.

    His journey did draw him closer to his parents. Still, he had problems with Christianity. During one discussion, he exclaimed bitterly, “The Bible is full of empty promises.”

    Another man faced disappointment and hardship that fueled his doubts. But as David fled from enemies who sought to kill him, his response was not to run from God but to praise Him. “Though war break out against me, even then I will be confident,” he…

    On Our Hearts

    After a young boy faced some challenges in school, his dad began to teach him a pledge to recite each morning before school: “I thank God for waking me up today. I am going to school so I can learn . . . and be the leader that God has created me to be.” The pledge is one way the father hopes to help his son apply himself and deal with life’s inevitable challenges.

    In a way, by helping his son to commit this pledge to memory, the father is doing something similar to what God commanded the Israelites in the…

    Playing the Fool

    My most humiliating experience ever was the day I addressed the faculty, students, and friends of a seminary on its fifty-year anniversary. I approached the lectern with my manuscript in hand and looked out on a vast crowd, but my eye fell on the distinguished professors seated in the front row, garbed in academic gowns and looking very serious. I immediately took leave of my senses. My mouth dried up and detached itself from my brain. I fumbled the first few sentences and then for some reason, I began to improvise. Then, since, I had no idea where I was…

    Prayer Eggs

    Just outside my kitchen window, a robin built her nest under the eaves of our patio roof. I loved watching her tuck grasses into a safe spot and then hunker down to incubate the eggs. Each morning I checked her progress but each morning, there was nothing. Robin eggs take two weeks to hatch.

    Such impatience isn’t new for me. I’ve always strained against the work of waiting, especially in prayer. My husband and I waited nearly five years to adopt our first child. Decades ago, author Catherine Marshall wrote, “Prayers, like eggs, don’t hatch as soon as we lay them.”

    The…

    Simply Ask

    Her doctor said her detached retinas couldn’t be repaired. But after living for fifteen years as a humble blind person—learning Braille, and using a cane and service dog—a Montana woman’s life changed when her husband asked another eye doctor a simple question: could she be helped? The answer was yes. As the doctor discovered, the woman had a common eye condition, cataracts, which the doctor removed from her right eye. When the eye patch came off the next day, her vision was 20/20. A second surgery for her left eye met with equal success.

    A simple question also changed the life…

    Love Passed Down

    My daughter has become fascinated with Nancy Drew. In the last three weeks, she’s read at least a dozen of the novels featuring the girl sleuth. She comes by her love of detective stories honestly: I loved Nancy Drew too, and the blue-bound copies that my mom read in the 1960s still line a shelf in her house.

    Seeing this affection passed down makes me wonder what else I’m passing down. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that when he thought of Timothy, he was reminded of the “sincere faith” that lived in Timothy’s grandmother and mother. I hope…

    Deep-Rooted Faith

    The Holy Oak stood next to Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church in New Jersey for more than 600 years until it had to be removed. At its prime, the twisting branches spanned high and wide. Cool breezes rustled its green leaves and acorns. The sun peeked through wind-blown gaps, creating dancing glimmers of light in the shade below its canopy. But beneath the ground’s surface lay its true magnificence—its root system. An oak’s main root grows vertically, securing a reliable supply of nourishment. From that taproot, a mass of roots spreads horizontally to supply the tree with a lifetime of moisture…

    Straight Ahead

    It used to take the steady eye and the firm hand of a farmer to drive a tractor or combine down straight rows. But even the best eyes would overlap rows, and by end of day even the strongest hands would be fatigued. But now there is autosteer, a GPS-based technology that allows for accuracy to within one inch when planting, cultivating, and spraying. It’s incredibly efficient. Plus, it’s hands-free. Just imagine sitting in a mammoth combine and instead of gripping the wheel, you’re gripping a roast beef sandwich. An amazing tool to keep you moving straight ahead.

    You may recall…

    How to Rebuild

    It was nighttime when the leader set out by horseback to inspect the work that lay ahead. As he toured the destruction all around him, he saw city walls that had been destroyed and gates that had been burned. In some areas, the vast debris made it tough for his horse to get through. Saddened, the rider turned toward home.

    When it came time to report the damage to the officials of the city, he began by saying, “You see the trouble we are in” (Nehemiah 2:17). He reported that the city was in ruins, and the protecting city wall had…

    Truly Humble, Truly Great

    As the American Revolution concluded with England’s improbable surrender, many politicians and military leaders maneuvered to make General George Washington a new monarch. The world watched, wondering if Washington would stick to his ideals of freedom and liberty when absolute power was within his grasp. England’s King George III saw another reality, however. He was convinced that if Washington resisted the power pull and returned to his Virginia farm, he would be “the greatest man in the world.” The king knew that the greatness evidenced in resisting the allure to power is a sign of true nobility and significance. 

    Paul knew…

    Useful Temptation

    Fifteenth-century monk Thomas à Kempis, in the beloved classic The Imitation of Christ, offers a perspective on temptation that might be a bit surprising. Instead of focusing on the pain and difficulties temptation can lead to, he writes, “[temptations] are useful because they can make us humble, they can cleanse us, and they can teach us.” Kempis explains, “The key to victory is true humility and patience; in them we overcome the enemy.”

    Humility and patience. How different my walk with Christ would be if that were how I naturally responded to temptation! More often, I react with shame, frustration, and impatient…

    Keepers of the Light

    They call them “Keepers of the Light.”

    At the lighthouse on the cape of Hatteras Island just off the North Carolina coast of the United States, there’s a memorial to those who’ve tended the light stations there since 1803. Shortly after the existing structure was moved inland because of shoreline erosion, the names of the keepers were etched on the old foundation stones and arranged into an amphitheater shape facing the new site. That way—as a placard explains—today’s visitors can follow in the historical keepers’ footsteps and “watch over” the lighthouse as well.

    Jesus is the ultimate light-giver. He said, “I am…

    Photobombing Jesus

    When my pastor asked our class a difficult question about the life of Jesus, my hand shot up. I had just read the story, so I knew this one. And I wanted the others in the room to know that I knew it too. After all, I’m a Bible teacher. How embarrassing it would be to be stumped in front of them! Now I was embarrassed by my fear of embarrassment. So I lowered my hand. Am I this insecure?

    John the Baptist shows a better way. When his disciples complained that people were beginning to leave him and follow Jesus,…

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