• Topic > Spiritual Growth

    Haystack Prayers

    Samuel Mills and four of his friends often gathered together to pray for God to send people into the world to share the good news of Jesus. One August day in 1806, after returning from their prayer meeting, they got caught in a thunderstorm and took refuge in the shelter of a haystack. Their weekly prayer gathering then became known as the Haystack Prayer Meeting, which resulted in a global mission movement. Today the Haystack Prayer Monument stands at Williams College in Massachusetts as a reminder of what God can do in answer to prayer.

    Our heavenly Father is delighted when…

    The Main Actor

    I once heard about a student taking a class in preaching at a prominent seminary. The student, a young man who was a bit full of himself, delivered his sermon with eloquence and evident passion. He sat down self-satisfied, and the professor paused a moment before responding. “That was a powerful sermon,” he said. “It was well-organized and moving. The only problem is that God was not the subject of a single one of your sentences.”

    The professor highlighted a problem all of us struggle with at times: We can talk as if we’re the primary actor (emphasizing what we do,…

    Do What It Says

    Brian was scheduled to be an usher at his brother’s wedding, but he was a no-show. Understandably, family members were disappointed, including his sister Jasmine who was the Scripture reader for the occasion. At the ceremony she flawlessly read from the well-known Scripture passage about love in 1 Corinthians. But after the wedding when her father asked her to deliver a birthday gift to Brian, she hesitated. She found it harder to live the words about love than to read them. Before the evening was over, however, she had a change of mind and admitted, “I can’t stand and read…

    Growing to Know

    “You’re going to be an exchange student!” I was seventeen and thrilled to hear I was approved to study in Germany. But it was only three months before my departure, and I had never taken a class in German.

    The days that followed found me cramming—studying for hours and even writing words on my hands to memorize them.

    Months later I was in a classroom in Germany, discouraged because I didn’t know more of the language. That day a teacher gave me wise advice. “Learning a language is like climbing a sand dune. Sometimes you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. But…

    Better Than Ever

    The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is a spectacular building. Its architecture is spellbinding, and its stained-glass windows and splendid interior features are breathtaking. But after centuries of standing sentry over the Paris landscape, it is falling apart. Time and pollution have taken their toll, and it is time for this glorious structure to be repaired.

    So the people who love this eight-century-old landmark are coming to its rescue. In a recent year, the French government set aside more than six million dollars to help restore the church. Its supporting flying buttresses must be shored up. Many of its exterior stonework…

    Blue Lines

    Downhill skiing racecourses are often marked by swaths of blue paint sprayed across the white, snowy surface. The crude arcs might be a visual distraction for spectators but prove to be vital to both the success and safety of the competitors. The paint serves as a guide for the racers to visualize the fastest line to the bottom of the hill. Additionally, the contrast of the paint against the snow offers racers depth perception, which is critical to their safety when traveling at such high rates of speed.

    Solomon begs his sons to seek wisdom in hopes of keeping them safe…

    Walking Backward

    I stumbled upon footage from a British newsreel crew who filmed six-year-old Flannery O’Connor on her family farm in 1932. Flannery, who would go on to become an acclaimed US writer, caught the crew’s curiosity because she’d taught a chicken to walk backwards. Apart from the novelty of the feat, I thought this glimpse of history was a perfect metaphor. Flannery, due to both her literary sensibilities and her spiritual convictions, spent her thirty-nine years definitely walking backwards—thinking and writing in a counter-cultural way. Publishers and readers were entirely baffled by how her biblical themes ran counter to the religious…

    It’s Slippery Out Here!

    Years ago, when I was learning to ski, I followed my son Josh down what appeared to be a gentle slope. With my eyes on him I failed to notice he turned down the steepest hill on the mountain, and I found myself careening down the slope, completely out of control. I cratered, of course.

    Psalm 141 addresses a similar deceit by which we find ourselves slipping down sin’s slope. Prayer is one of the ways we stay alert to those slopes: “Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil” (141:4) is a plea that echoes the Lord’s…

    A Lasting Legacy

    Thomas Edison invented the first practical electric light bulb. Jonas Salk developed an effective polio vaccine. Amy Carmichael penned many of the hymns we sing in worship. But what about you? Why were you put on earth? To what end will you invest your life?

    Genesis 4 tells us that Eve “became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.” After holding Cain for the first time, Eve announced, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man” (Genesis 4:1). In an effort to explain the surprising experience of the very first birth, Eve uses a phrase dripping with dependency…

    Live. Pray. Love.

    Influenced by devout Christian parents, track star Jesse Owens lived as a courageous man of faith. During the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Owens, one of the few African-Americans on the US team, received four gold medals in the presence of hate-filled Nazis and their leader, Hitler. He also befriended fellow athlete Luz Long, a German. Surrounded by Nazi propaganda, Owens’ simple act of living out his faith impacted Luz’s life. Later, in a letter to Owens, Luz Long wrote: “That hour in Berlin when I first spoke to you, when you had your knee upon the ground, I knew…

    Life Changes

    Stephen grew up in a rough part of East London and fell into crime by the age of ten. He said, “If everyone’s selling drugs and doing robberies and fraud, then you’re going to get involved. It’s just a way of life.” But when he was twenty, he had a dream that changed him: “I heard God saying, Stephen, you’re going to prison for murder.” This vivid dream served as a warning, and he turned to God and received Jesus as his Savior—and the Holy Spirit transformed his life.

    Stephen set up an organization that teaches inner-city kids discipline, morality, and…

    A Legacy of Faith

    Long before the decisive moment when Billy Graham came to faith in Christ at age sixteen, his parents’ devotion to Christ was evident. They’d both come to faith while growing up within a Christian family. After their marriage, Billy’s parents continued that legacy by lovingly nurturing their children, including praying and reading Scripture and attending church faithfully with them. The solid foundation Graham’s parents laid for Billy was part of the soil God used to bring him to faith and, eventually, to his calling as a bold evangelist.

    The apostle Paul’s young protégée Timothy also benefited from a strong spiritual foundation.…

    Who We Are

    I’ll never forget the time I took my future wife to meet my family. With a twinkle in their eyes, my two elder siblings asked her, “What exactly do you see in this guy?” She smiled and assured them that by God’s grace I had grown to be the man she loved.

    I loved that clever reply because it also reflects how, in Christ, the Lord sees more than our past. In Acts 9, He directed Ananias to heal Saul, a known persecutor of the church whom God had blinded. Ananias was incredulous at receiving this mission, stating that Saul had…

    Ready for Restoration

    While stationed in Germany in the army I purchased a brand-new 1969 Volkswagen Bug. The car was a beauty! The dark green exterior complemented the brown leatherette interior. But as the years took their toll, stuff began to happen, including an accident that ruined the running board and destroyed one of the doors. With more imagination, I could have thought, “My classic car was a perfect candidate for restoration!” And with more money, I could have pulled it off. But that didn’t happen.

    Thankfully the God of perfect vision and unlimited resources doesn’t give up so easily on battered and broken…

    In-Service Training

    A manager at a company in Brazil requested a short written report from the custodians in her building. Each day she wanted to know who cleaned each room, which rooms were left untouched, and how much time employees spent in each room. The first “daily” report arrived a week later, partially completed.

    When the manager looked into the matter, she discovered most of the cleaning employees could not read. She could have fired them, but instead she arranged for them to have literacy lessons. Within five months, everyone was reading at a basic level and continued in their jobs.

    God often uses…

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