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In Jesus’ Name

One of my favorite collections of photos is of a family dinner. Preserved in an album are images of Dad, his sons and their wives, and his grandchildren in a time of thanks-giving and intercession.

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The Heart Of Christmas

Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol was released on December 19, 1843, and has never been out of print. It tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a wealthy, sour, stingy man who says, “Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas,’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding!” Yet, one Christmas Eve, Scrooge is radically changed into a generous and happy man. With great humor and insight, Dickens’ book captures the universal longing for inner peace.

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My Friends And I

John Chrysostom (347–407), archbishop of Constantinople, said this about friendship: “Such is friendship, that through it we love places and seasons; for as . . . flowers drop their sweet leaves on the ground around them, so friends impart favor even to the places where they dwell.”

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A Work In Progress

Pablo Casals was considered to be the preeminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century. When he was still playing his cello in the middle of his tenth decade of life, a young reporter asked, “Mr. Casals, you are 95 years old and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice 6 hours a day?”

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A Ukrainian Christmas

The people of Ukraine include many wonderful elements in their observance of Christmas. Sometimes wisps of hay are placed on the dinner table as a reminder of the Bethlehem manger. Another portion of their celebration echoes the events of the night when the Savior entered the world. A Christmas prayer is offered and then the father in the household offers the greeting, “Christ is born!” The family then responds, “Let us glorify Him!”

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Story Stewards

Many people take great care to make sure their resources are used well after they die. They set up trusts, write wills, and establish foundations to guarantee that their assets will continue to be used for a good purpose after their life on earth is done. We call this good stewardship.

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A Special Birth

In the pages of Scripture, several baby-boy births stand out. Cain, the firstborn after creation. Isaac, the hope of Israel’s future. Samuel, the answer to a mother’s fervent prayer. All extremely important. All joyously expected. And all described exactly the same by the chroniclers of Scripture: In each case, we are told that the mother conceived and bore a son (Gen. 4:1; 21:2-3; 1 Sam. 1:20).

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Another Hero Of Christmas

For most of my life, I missed the importance of Joseph in the Christmas story. But after I became a husband and father myself, I had a greater appreciation for Joseph’s tender character. Even before he knew how Mary had become pregnant, he decided that he wasn’t going to embarrass or punish her for what seemed to be infidelity (Matt. 1:19).

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Snug As A Bug In A Rug!

When I was a child, my family lived in a house my father built in the cedar breaks west of Duncanville, Texas. Our house had a small kitchen-dinette area, two bedrooms, and a great room with a large stone fireplace in which we burned 2-foot-long cedar logs. That fireplace was the center of warmth in our home.

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Snake In A Box

At a nature center, I watched my friend’s rosy-cheeked toddler pat the side of a large glass box. Inside the box, a bull snake named Billy slithered slowly, eyeing the little girl. Billy’s body was as thick as my forearm and he sported brown and yellow markings. Although I knew Billy could not escape from his container, seeing a menacing-looking creature so close to a small child made me shudder.

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Wonders Of The Heart

Our heart beats about 100,000 times every day, pumping blood to every cell in our bodies. This adds up to about 35 million beats a year and 2.5 billion beats in an average lifetime. Medical science tells us that every contraction is similar to the effort it would take for us to hold a tennis ball in our palm and give it a good hard squeeze.

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Our Life Is A Primer

The New England Primer was published in the late 1600s. Throughout the colonies that would later become the United States, the book became a widely used resource.

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Stones Cry Out

Every year it seems that Christmas becomes more and more commercialized. Even in nations where the majority of people call themselves “Christian,” the season has become more about shopping than worshiping. The pressure to buy gifts and plan elaborate parties makes it increasingly difficult to stay focused on the real meaning of the holiday—the birth of Jesus, God’s only Son, the Savior of the world.

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Johnny’s Race

When 19-year-old Johnny Agar finished the 5k race, he had a lot of people behind him—family members and friends who were celebrating his accomplishment.

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Better Than Before

As infants, my children had nearly perfect skin. Their flesh was soft—they had no dry elbows or rough patches on their feet. Smooth and new, it contrasted with mine, which was marked by years of various scars and callouses.

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Human Chess

Chess is an ancient game of strategy. Each player begins with 16 pieces on the chessboard with the goal of cornering his opponent’s king. It has taken different forms over the years. One form is human chess, which was introduced around ad 735 by Charles Martel, duke of Austrasia. Martel would play the game on giant boards with real people as the pieces. The human pieces were costumed to reflect their status on the board and moved at the whim of the players—manipulating them to their own ends.

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Called By Name

At the beginning of the academic year, a school principal in our city pledged to learn the names of all 600 students in her school. Anyone who doubted her ability or resolve could look at her track record. During the previous year she had learned the names of 700 students, and prior to that, 400 children in a different school. Think of what it must have meant to these students to be recognized and greeted by name.

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Whose Side Are You On?

In the heat of the American Civil War, one of President Lincoln’s advisors said he was grateful that God was on the side of the Union. Lincoln replied, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

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Losing Our Way

An online survey conducted by a New York law firm reveals that 52 percent of Wall Street traders, brokers, investment bankers, and other financial service professionals have either engaged in illegal activity or believe they may need to do so in order to be successful. The survey concludes that these financial leaders “have lost their moral compass” and “accept corporate wrongdoing as a necessary evil.”

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Struggling With Addiction

Eric was struggling with an addiction, and he knew it. His friends and family members encouraged him to stop. He agreed that it would be best for his health and relationships, but he felt helpless. When others told him how they had quit their bad habits, he replied, “I’m happy for you, but I can’t seem to stop! I wish I had never been tempted in the first place. I want God to take the desire away right now.”

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For Sale— ”As Is”

A house listed for sale “As Is” usually means the seller is unable or unwilling to spend any money to repair it or make it attractive. Any necessary repairs or desired improvements are the responsibility of the buyer after the purchase is complete. “As Is” on a real estate listing is equivalent to saying, “Buyer beware. Home may require significant further investment.”

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Happy Ending

In its “plot,” the story of the Bible ends up very much where it began. The broken relationship between God and human beings has healed over at last, and the curse of Genesis 3 is lifted. Borrowing images from Eden, Revelation pictures a river and a tree of life (Rev. 22:1-2). But this time a great city replaces the garden setting—a city filled with worshipers of God. No death or sadness will ever darken that scene. When we awake in the new heaven and new earth, we will have at last a happy ending.

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Amani

Amani, which means “peace” in Swahili, is the name of a Labrador retriever pup that has some special friends. Amani lives with two young cheetahs at the Dallas Zoo. Zoologists placed the animals together so the cheetahs could learn Amani’s relaxed ways. Since dogs are generally at ease in public settings, the experts predict that Amani will be a “calming influence” in the cheetahs’ lives as they grow up together.

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A Lesson In Praise

Psalm 150 is not only a beautiful expression of praise, it’s also a lesson in praising the Lord. It tells us where to praise, why we’re to praise, how we’re to praise, and who should offer praise.

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God Whispers “Fish”

A number of years ago our sons and I enjoyed some days together drifting and fishing the Madison River in Montana with two fishing guides who also served as our boatmen.

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Resting In God

It was our last holiday together as a family before our eldest son went off to college. As we filled the back pew in the little seaside church, my heart filled with love as I glanced along the row of my five reasonably tidy children. “Please protect them spiritually and keep them close to You, Lord.” I prayed silently, thinking of the pressures and challenges each of them faced.

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Hope In Suffering

When I opened my Bible to read Jeremiah 1 through 4, the subhead ascribed to the book startled me: “Hope in Time of Weeping.” I almost cried. The timing was perfect, as I was walking through a season of weeping over the death of my mom.

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Outlasting Bitterness

During the Second World War, Corrie ten Boom’s family owned a watchmaking business in the Netherlands, and they actively worked to protect Jewish families. Eventually, the entire ten Boom family was sent to a concentration camp, where Corrie’s father died 10 days later. Her sister Betsie also died in the camp. While Betsie and Corrie were in the camp together, Betsie’s faith helped to strengthen Corrie’s.

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The Warmth Of The Sun

On a November day in 1963, the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson and Mike Love wrote a song quite unlike the band’s typically upbeat tunes. It was a mournful song about love that’s been lost. Mike said later, “As hard as that kind of loss is, the one good that comes from it is having had the experience of being in love in the first place.” They titled it “The Warmth of the Sun.”

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Dealing With Distractions

A restaurant owner in the village of Abu Ghosh, just outside Jerusalem, offered a 50-percent discount for patrons who turned off their cell phones. Jawdat Ibrahim believes that smartphones have shifted the focus of meals from companionship and conversation to surfing, texting, and business calls. “Technology is very good,” Ibrahim says. “But . . . when you are with your family and your friends, you can just wait for half an hour and enjoy the food and enjoy the company.”

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Can You Help?

The administrators of the high school in Barrow, Alaska, were tired of seeing students get into trouble and drop out at a rate of 50 percent. To keep students interested, they started a football team, which offered them a chance to develop personal skills, teamwork, and learn life lessons. The problem with football in Barrow, which is farther north than Iceland, is that it’s hard to plant a grass field. So they competed on a gravel and dirt field.

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Goodbye

When Max Lucado participated in a half-Ironman triathlon, he experienced the negative power of complaint. He said, “After the 1.2-mile swim and the 56-mile bike ride, I didn’t have much energy left for the 13.1-mile run. Neither did the fellow jogging next to me. He said, ‘This stinks. This race is the dumbest decision I’ve ever made.’ I said, ‘Goodbye.’” Max knew that if he listened too long, he would start agreeing with him. So he said goodbye and kept running.

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Rooted Love

When I think of all the wonders of God’s magnificent creation, I am especially awed by the giant sequoia tree. These amazing behemoths of the forest can grow to around 300 feet tall with a diameter that exceeds 20 feet. They can live over 3,000 years and are even fire resistant. In fact, forest fires pop the sequoia cones open, distributing their seeds on the forest floor that has been fertilized by the ashes. Perhaps the most amazing fact is that these trees can grow in just 3 feet of soil and withstand high winds. Their strength lies in the fact that their roots intertwine with other sequoias, providing mutual strength and shared resources.

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Defeated Adversary

The roaring lion is the legendary “king of the jungle.” But the only lions many of us see are the lethargic felines that reside in zoos. Their days are filled with lots of rest, and their dinner is served to them without the lions having to lift a single paw.

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Amazing Guide

When actors and actresses make a movie, it’s the director who sees the “big picture” and the overall direction. Actress Marion Cotillard admits she didn’t understand everything the director was doing in one of her recent films. She said, “I found it very interesting to allow myself to be lost, because I knew that I had this amazing guide. . . . You abandon yourself for a story and a director that will make it all work.”

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Windfall

Upon winning $314 million in a 2002 lottery, a happy business owner expressed noble desires. He wanted to start a charitable foundation, put laid-off workers back on the job, and do nice things for his family. Already wealthy, he told reporters the big win wouldn’t change him.

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Heartbreak And Hope

When American country singer George Jones died at the age of 81, his fans remembered his remarkable voice and his hard life and personal struggles. While many of his songs reflected his own despair and longing, it was the way he sang them that touched people deeply. Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot said, “His voice was made for conveying heartbreak.”

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Creeping Christmas?

I love Christmas. The celebration of the birth of Christ and the beauty and wonder of the season make it “the most wonderful time of the year” for me. In recent years, however, the season has been accompanied by a growing irritation. Every year “Christmas stuff” comes out earlier and earlier—creeping all the way back to early fall.

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The Final Picture

What started as an empty 11-acre field in Belfast, Northern Ireland, ended up as the largest land portrait in the British Isles. Wish, by artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, is made from 30,000 wooden pegs, 2,000 tons of soil, 2,000 tons of sand, and miscellaneous items such as grass, stones, and string.

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The Drinking Gourd

Prior to the American Civil War (1861–1865), fugitive slaves found freedom by following the Underground Railroad, a term for the secret routes from the South to the North and the abolitionists who helped them along the way. Slaves would travel at night for many miles, keeping on track by following the light of the “Drinking Gourd.” This was a code name for the collection of stars known as the Big Dipper, which points to the North Star. Some believe the fugitives also used encoded directions in the lyrics of the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd” to keep them from getting lost as they traveled.

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The Honor Of Following

While visiting Jerusalem, a friend of mine saw an old rabbi walking past the Wailing Wall. The interesting thing about the aged rabbi was the five young men walking behind him. They too were walking bent over, limping—just like their rabbi. An Orthodox Jew watching them would know exactly why they were imitating their teacher. They were “followers.”

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Tear Down The Wall

The years following World War II were labeled the Cold War as nations exchanged threats and jockeyed for power. The Berlin Wall, built in August 1961, stood for almost 3 decades as one of the most powerful symbols of the smoldering animosity. Then, on November 9, 1989, it was announced that citizens could cross freely from East to West Berlin. The entire wall was demolished the following year.

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Oranges Or Milk?

When I told my young daughter that a 3-month-old baby boy was coming to our house for a visit, she was delighted. With a child’s sense of hospitality, she suggested that we share some of our food with the baby; she thought he might enjoy a juicy orange from the bowl on our kitchen counter. I explained that the baby could drink only milk, but that he might like oranges when he was older.

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Multiply It

Amy had battled cancer for 5 years. Then the doctor told her that the treatments were failing and she had just a few weeks to live. Wanting some understanding and assurance about eternity, Amy asked her pastor, “What will heaven be like?”

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Horse Power

Think for a moment of the power, beauty, and majesty of a galloping horse—his head held high, his mane flying in the wind, and his legs working in unison to provide speed, power, and abandon.

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Less Than The Least

Unlike those who think highly of themselves, Jacob knew that he had been ruined by sin (Gen. 32:10). He thought himself a man unworthy of God’s grace. He had cheated his brother Esau out of his birthright (ch.27), and his brother hated him for it. Now, years later, Jacob was going to face Esau again.

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Perception Or Reality?

We often hear it said, “Perception is reality.” That idea for Americans may have dawned on September 26, 1960—the date of the first televised debate between two presidential candidates. In front of the cameras, John Kennedy appeared composed; Richard Nixon appeared nervous. The perception was that Kennedy would be a stronger leader. The debate not only turned that election, but it also changed the way politics is done in the US. Politics by perception became the rule of the day.

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Does God Care?

Minnie and George Lacy were faced with some questions: “Is Jesus enough? Is our relationship with Christ sufficient to sustain us? Will He be enough to help us want to go on living? Does He care?”

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Hands Off!

I remember bobbing for apples when I was a child, a game that required me to have my hands tied behind my back. Trying to grab a floating apple with my teeth without the use of my hands was a frustrating experience. It reminded me of the vital importance of our hands—we eat with them, greet with them, and use them to do just about anything that is vital to our existence.

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Mosaic

For 3 weeks every fall season, our city becomes an art gallery. Nearly 2,000 artists from around the world display their creations in galleries, museums, hotels, parks, city streets, parking lots, restaurants, churches, and even in the river.

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17 thoughts on “Mosaic

  1. jesus2007 says:

    Love it

  2. 5526oakmont says:

    What an honor and gift, that we His believers have had our flaws chipped away, being delicately shaped and transformed for His purpose. Today I pray that He use me to be the person He’s designed me to be. To be peaceful, patient, loving and caring. To do His will in Jesus holy name, Amen… Thank you Lord & Thank you Lord for my brothers & sisters in Christ!

  3. praise the lord says:

    Well bondserve your right on.

  4. bondserve says:

    As I thought on today’s message, what came to mind was how we as the church are made beautiful: A process made possible by Jesus’ redemptive work. I’ve learned that I must maintain a vertical view looking to Christ as the standard of holiness to which I must conform. This is well represented by the upright section of His cross pointing heavenward. The cross piece to which His hands were nailed extending horizontally, represents to me, my membership and relationship with others of His church. Much of our beauty comes through the good works He has ordained for us. Those works are the outward expression of the beauty He is creating within us.

    Remaining connected both vertically with Christ our head, and horizontally with our brothers and sisters in Christ, is key to being in the right place at the right time, doing the next right thing for God’s glory, as well as for our mutual edification/spiritual growth.

    I’ll have to work on expounding these thoughts more fully, and I’d be surprised if someone before me in history hasn’t made the same analogy. Yet, taking that symbol of our salvation a step further in the analogy, the point the two cross pieces are joined is near where the heart of Jesus would have been during His crucifixion. He is not only the head of the church, but it is from His heart of love which we draw what is needed to serve each other in love. And it is that same love which compels us to go forth to the unsaved and deliver the good news of salvation in Him: Such awesome love and grace!

    Essentially, all of the church’s good works flow from Christ. They are potentiated only through Him. Works done with wrong motive will have neither power nor beauty. I am so thoroughly dependent on Jesus, and must remain so: For His grace, His power, His love and direction. And to do the good works which He has before ordained that we should walk in them.

    Blessings to you!

  5. mruppert says:

    And that also reminds me of SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL by Bill Gaither.

  6. Rocky says:

    Julie Ackerman Link, You have such a beautiful way with words and expressions, thank you so much for sharing.

  7. praise the lord says:

    We are a part of that mosaic. Jesus wants us to spread the good news to all people.

    Acts9:13 “Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.
    14″And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”
    15But the Lord said to him, “Go for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.
    “For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My names sake.

    This is Paul who wrote this very scripture Ephesians 2:10-22.

    We have been created in CHRIST JESUS to do good works which were prepared beforehand for us so that we should walk in them.

    Therefore remember that you ( put your name in place of the you because this a personal message to all of us) once Gentiles in the flesh-who are called Uncircumcision by what its called the Circumcision made in the the flesh by hands-
    12that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in this world.13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ……
    16 and that He might reconcile them both (Jew and Gentile) to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enemity.17For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

    Like Paul we have been called to spread the good news and no matter what our past we are a new creation in Christ Jesus.

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