• Topic > Spiritual Growth

    The Essence of Prayer

    When Abraham Lincoln became president of the United States, he was tasked with leading a fractured nation. Lincoln is viewed as a wise leader and a man of high moral character, but another element to his makeup, perhaps, was the foundation for everything else. He understood that he was inadequate for the task at hand. His response to that inadequacy? Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

    When we come to grips…

    Where’s God?

    In Martin Handford’s book Where’s Waldo? a series of children’s puzzle books first created in 1987, the elusive character wears a red and white striped shirt and socks with a matching hat, blue jeans, brown boots, and glasses. Handford has cleverly hidden Waldo in plain sight within the busy illustrations filled with crowds of characters at various locations around the world. Waldo isn’t always easy to see, but the creator promises readers will always be able to find him. Though looking for God isn’t really like looking for Waldo in a puzzle book, our Creator promises we can find Him, too.

    Through…

    Little Foxes

    A pilot couldn’t fit his tea into the cupholder so he set it on the center console. When the plane hit turbulence the drink spilled onto the control panel, shutting off an engine. The flight was diverted and landed safely, but when it happened again to a crew from a different airline two months later, the manufacturer realized there was a problem. The plane cost US$300 million, but its cupholders were too small. This seemingly small oversight led to some harrowing moments.

    Small details can wreck the grandest plans, so the man in the Song of Songs urges his lover to…

    Warts and All

    Oliver Cromwell, known as the “Protector of England,” was a military commander in the seventeenth century. It was common practice during those days for people of importance to have their portraits painted. And it wasn’t unusual for an artist to avoid depicting the less attractive aspects of a person’s face. Cromwell, however, wanted nothing to do with a likeness that would flatter him. He cautioned the artist, “You must paint me just as I am—warts and all—or I won’t pay you.” 

    Apparently, the artist complied. The finished portrait of Cromwell displays a couple of prominent facial warts that in the present…

    Willing to Wait

    Waiting can be a culprit in stealing our peace. According to computer scientist Ramesh Sitaraman, few things “inspire universal frustration and ire” in internet users as waiting for a sluggish web browser to load. His research says that we’re willing to wait an average of two seconds for an online video to load. After five seconds, the abandonment rate is about twenty-five percent, and after ten seconds, half of the users desert their efforts. We’re certainly an impatient bunch! 

    James encouraged believers in Jesus to not abandon Jesus while they were waiting for “the video” of his second coming to load.…

    Encouraged in God

    In 1925 Langston Hughes, an aspiring writer working as a busboy at a hotel in Washington D.C., discovered that a poet he admired (Vachel Lindsey) was staying as a guest at the hotel. Hughes shyly slipped Lindsey some of his own poetry, which Lindsey later praised enthusiastically at a public reading. Lindsey’s encouragement resulted in Hughes receiving a university scholarship, furthering him on his way to his own successful writing career.  

    A little encouragement can go a long way, especially when God is in it. Scripture tells of an incident when David was on the run from King Saul, who…

    Getting What We Want

    Aaron Burr anxiously awaited the result of the tie-breaking vote from the US House of Representatives. Deadlocked with Thomas Jefferson in the 1800 race for the presidency, Burr had reason to believe that the House would declare him the winner. However, he lost, and bitterness gnawed at his soul. Nurturing grievances against Alexander Hamilton for not supporting his candidacy, Burr killed Hamilton in a gun duel less than four years later. Outraged by the killing, his country turned its back on him, and Burr died a dour old man.

    Political power plays are a tragic part of history. When King David…

    A Humble Posture

    “Keep your hands behind your back. You’ll be fine.” That’s the loving admonition Jan’s husband always gave before she ventured off to speak to a group. When she found herself trying to impress people or seeking to control a situation, she’d adopt this posture because it put her in a teachable, listening frame of mind. She used it to remind herself to love those before her and to be humble and available to the Holy Spirit.

    Jan’s understanding of humility is rooted in King David’s observation that everything comes from God. As David said to God, “You are my Lord; apart from…

    Live to Serve

    After ten-year-old Chelsea received an elaborate art set, she discovered that God used art to help her feel better when she was sad. When she found out that some kids didn’t have art supplies readily available, she wanted to help them. So when it was time for her birthday party, she asked her friends not to bring her gifts. Instead, she invited them to donate art supplies and help fill boxes for children in need.

    Later, with her family’s help, she started Chelsea’s Charity. She began asking more people to help her fill boxes so she could help more kids. She has…

    God’s Plans for You

    For six years, a woman tried to make herself the “perfect minister’s wife,” modeling herself after her adored mother-in-law (also a pastor’s wife). She thought that in this role she couldn’t also be a writer and painter, but in burying her creativity she became depressed and contemplated suicide. Only the help of a neighboring pastor moved her out of the darkness as he prayed with her and assigned her two hours of writing each morning. This awakened her to what she called her “sealed orders”—the calling God had given her. She wrote, “For me to be really myself—my complete self—every…

    Words that Endure

    In the early nineteenth century, Thomas Carlyle gave a manuscript to philosopher John Stuart Mill to review. Whether accidentally or intentionally, the manuscript got tossed into a fire. It was Carlyle’s only copy. Undaunted, he set to work rewriting the lost chapters. Mere flames couldn’t stop the story, which remained intact in his mind. Out of great loss, Carlyle produced his monumental work The French Revolution.

    In the waning days of ancient Judah’s decadent kingdom, God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you” (Jeremiah 36:2). The message revealed God’s…

    No Such Thing as Ordinary

    When Anita passed away in her sleep on her ninetieth birthday, the quietness of her departure reflected the quietness of her life. A widow, she had been devoted to her children and grandchildren, and to being a friend to younger women in church.

    Anita wasn’t particularly remarkable in talent or achievement. But her deep faith in God inspired those who knew her. “When I don’t know what to do about a problem,” a friend of mine said, “I don’t think about the words of a famous preacher or author. I think about what Anita would say.”

    Many of us are like Anita—ordinary…

    What’s Your Name?

    Someone said we go through life with three names: the name our parents gave us, the name others give us (reputation), and the name we give ourselves (character). The name others give us matters, as “a good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1). But reputation can be wrong. Character matters more.

    There’s yet another name that matters most. Jesus told the Christians in Pergamum that though their reputation had suffered some well-deserved hits, He had a new name reserved in heaven for those who fight back and conquer temptation.…

    Joyful Learning

    In the city of Mysore, India, there’s a school made of two refurbished train cars connected end-to-end. Local educators teamed up with the South Western Railways Company to buy and remodel the discarded coaches. The units were essentially large metal boxes, unusable until workers installed stairways, fans, lights, and desks. Workers also painted the walls and added colorful murals inside and out. Now, sixty students attend classes there because of the amazing transformation that took place.

    Something even more amazing takes place when we follow the apostle Paul’s command to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). As…

    Move Your Fence

    The village vicar couldn’t sleep. As World War II raged, he’d told a small group of American soldiers they couldn’t bury their fallen comrade inside the fenced cemetery next to his church. Only burials for church members were allowed. So the men buried their beloved friend just outside the fence.

    The next morning, however, the soldiers couldn’t find the grave. “What happened? The grave is gone,” one soldier told the reverend. “Oh, it’s still there,” he told him. The soldier was confused, but the churchman explained. “I regretted telling you no. So, last night, I got up—and I moved the fence.”

    God…