Tag  |  justification

Be Prepared

Just as her friends were doing, my daughter Melissa was busily preparing for adulthood. At school, she was getting ready for college by taking the right courses and had signed up for the ACT college entrance test.

The Devil In Court

The Devil and Daniel Webster” is a short story by Stephen Vincent Benet. In it, Jabez Stone, a New England farmer, has such “bad luck” that he sells his soul to the devil to become prosperous. Eventually, the devil comes to collect Jabez’s debt. But the eminent lawyer Daniel Webster is called in to defend him. Through a skillful series of arguments, Webster wins the case against the devil, and Jabez is saved from perdition.

Prisoners Of Sin

A 2008 report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said, “At any given time there are more than 10 million people imprisoned worldwide.” Since some prisoners are being released while new ones are being sentenced every day, there are more than 30 million total prisoners worldwide each year. Statistics like these have caused many people to work for prison reform and a reexamination of sentencing laws.

The Only Place To Start

When a publishing company asked me to write an endorsement for a new book, I said I’d be glad to. It appeared to be a helpful effort directed to young people, challenging them to live for God in a changing world. But as I read the book, something troubled me. Although it had lots of Scripture and great spiritual advice, it didn’t explain that the starting point for any relationship with God is salvation through Jesus Christ.

Lassa Fever

When Lily Pinneo, a missionary nurse, was in West Africa, she contracted a deadly disease called Lassa fever. After Lily was flown to New York for medical treatment, her temperature soared to 107°F. To reduce the fever, doctors packed her in ice and fed her intravenously. The fever subsided. After 9 weeks, she had lost 28 pounds and most of her hair. Yet somehow, she survived.

Liberating Truth

An unmarried missionary had been disparaging herself. She was unhappy with her life in general, but she was especially displeased with what she felt was her low level of spiritual growth.

Speeding Ticket

I had been driving in Singapore for 34 years when I received my first summons for speeding! It was not the first time I had exceeded the speed limit, but it was the first time I had been fined for doing so.

Running For Nothing

As my friend Roger Weber started the 2006 Chicago Marathon, he noticed something on the ground. It was a runner’s chip—the device each runner puts on his or her shoe to record progress at various timing stations during the race. Apparently, one poor runner would be traversing the next 26.2 miles on foot with nothing to show for it.

Who Are You?

Identity theft is a big problem in the age of credit cards and the Internet. It’s not hard for someone to retrieve your vital information and pose as you. If that were to happen, however, it would not change the essence of who you are. The thief would not steal your true identity—just some superficial information about you.

Walking Tall

During my basic training in the Army, our drill sergeant worked hard week after week to transform us from a group of slouching civilians into a company of men who stood straight and walked tall. It was not an easy job. When he finally said, “You’re looking good!” we felt proud of who we were and how we had changed.

Two Gardens

Two gardens are mentioned prominently in the Bible: the garden of Eden and the garden of Gethsemane. God placed the first man, Adam, in the garden of Eden; Jesus went into Gethsemane to restore what the first man had lost.

House Of Symbols

Our neighbor was startled when two young men walked into her home uninvited. She screamed, and they ran out. Yet no one would accuse her of failing to be hospitable. If you enter someone’s house, you come in on that person’s terms.

'They Wouldn’t Let Me!'

A woman was trapped on the top floor of a burning building. Flames and smoke blocked every way of escape. When firefighters arrived, one of the men scrambled up a ladder to the window where the woman was screaming for help, and with outstretched arms he offered to save her. But when she looked down and saw the great distance to the ground below, she panicked and drew back into the room.

There When You Need It

When I donated blood some time ago, a nurse gave me a card to read while a pint of the vital red fluid was flowing out of my vein. The card showed the percentages of people who have different blood types. Here are some of them:

No Snatching

In the mid-1950s, General Motors displayed more at their auto shows than just cars. At one show in Miami, GM featured a display of a million one-dollar bills, as well as the Hope Diamond (the largest blue diamond in the world).

Get The Point!

One thing you have to say about the apostle Paul-he was not a man to mince words. It didn't matter who it was-a judge, a ruler, or his fellow apostle Peter-Paul said what had to be said. In Galatians 2:16, he made the same point three times: No one is justified by the works of the law.

Two Bethlehems

The birth of Jesus Christ was unlike any other. Mary's was an "other world" conception. The angel told her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you" (Luke 1:35). The child conceived in her was from outside our world. And it had to be so, because the boy born to Mary was Immanuel, "God with us" (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23).

Greater Grace

One morning, when our granddaughter Julia was quite young, she and her Nana were reading the Bible together. They came to the familiar verse, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

The Ultimate Physician

Physicians can cure many illnesses, both physical and mental. But only Jesus can bring about the healing that makes bad people good.

It's Your Choice

As Joshua was nearing the end of his life, he gathered the children of Israel together at Shechem. And there, from the lips of a man who was close to death, came an appeal that throughout the centuries has moved the hearts of many. Joshua said, "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15).

"Nothing Is Ever Sure"

In November 1975, the huge freighter Edmund Fitzgerald sank in the cold waters of Lake Superior during a fierce storm. Only a week before the tragedy, chief steward Robert Rafferty had written to his wife, "I may be home by November 8. However, nothing is ever sure." The prophetic irony of his words was noted in a newspaper article listing the 29 crew members who perished in the disaster.

Changed Lives Are Possible

Lord Kenneth Clark, internationally known for his television series Civilization, lived and died without faith in Jesus Christ. In his autobiography, he wrote about an overwhelming religious experience he had while visiting a beautiful church.

A Winner Either Way

Lois had just undergone cancer surgery and was alone with her thoughts. She had faced death before, but it had always been the death of people she had loved—not her own.

No Change

All around us, life is changing at a dizzying pace. Even in the church, change is happening so fast that it can be tough to keep up.


A New York City man who sold books and magazines on the street was freed after being trapped for 2 days under a mountain of paper in his apartment. The man's collection of printed materials, which he had stacked wall to wall and floor to ceiling, collapsed and buried him alive. Emergency workers filled 50 garbage bags as they dug through the debris just to reach him.

Rest In Peace

A man has created a safety bed which he claims will provide protection against hurricanes, tornadoes, thieves, kidnappers, and terrorists. The inventor's Web site calls it "the safest rest you've ever had."

From Sunset To Sunrise

Kariel was riding home from a children's program at church with her neighbor friends. Admiring the sunset, she said to Gini, the driver, "That sunset is so beautiful it looks like heaven!" So Gini asked her, "Do you know how to get to heaven?" Kariel, who was only 5, answered confidently, "You have to have Jesus as your Savior—and I do!" Then she began to ask her friends in the van if they knew Jesus too.

Good Question

"Finding the right questions is as crucial as finding the right answers," says devotional writer Henri Nouwen. Yet how easy it is to run ahead of God's Spirit as we talk to unbelievers about Christ, giving pre-packaged answers before we listen to their questions.

Only One Door

Old Testament scholar Sir George Adam Smith says that when he visited the Holy Land he came upon a shepherd and his sheep standing before a stockade. There was no door in that protective enclosure, only an opening the width of a man's body.

Child's Play

After a surprise storm blanketed the Middle East with snow, a newspaper photo showed four armed men smiling as they built a snowman outside the battered walls of a military headquarters. The wintry weather also caused a protest to be canceled and delayed a debate over parliamentary matters of pressing importance. Men wearing long robes and women in traditional black dresses and headscarves were seen playing in the snow. There's something about snow that brings out the child in all of us.

The Ethics Of Good News

If a scientist discovered the cure for cancer, we would expect the discovery to be shared with the world. Basic ethics requires that good news not be kept secret.

The Blackness Of Midnight

When I was a young boy, our family visited an old abandoned copper mine. Having descended into the mine, our guide suddenly turned off his flashlight and we were enveloped by an oppressive blackness. It seemed as though we could feel the darkness.

Celebrate The Baby

Why do we celebrate Jesus' birthday so differently from other birthdays? When it's time to honor historical figures who have a day set aside for them, we don't think about them as babies. We don't have pictures of cute little Abe Lincoln in his log cabin in Kentucky. No, we remember him for his contributions as an adult.

Earth Walk

After the Apollo XV mission, Colonel James Irwin related some of the high points of his experience. He told of their weightless bodies floating free in the space capsule, the rising crescent of the earth as seen from the moon, and the triumphal splashdown before a watching world.

Believing Is Trusting

Occasionally I meet people who know they have a spiritual need but are reluctant to make a personal commitment to Christ. Although they have seen what faith in Christ has done for others, they are confused by the advice they get from some good churchgoing people.

A Pleasant Diversion

A friend was looking for a church to join and told me she had found just what she was looking for: "I like this church because I don't have to change my lifestyle of partying. It doesn't make me feel guilty or require anything of me. I feel good about myself when I'm there."

Give Thanks And Remember

One of today's most popular syndicated newspaper columns is "Dear Abby." Started in 1956 by Abigail Van Buren, the advice column is written today by her daughter Jeanne Phillips. In a recent edition, she included this Thanksgiving Prayer written many years before by her mother:

"Just As I Am"

Charlotte Elliott learned an important lesson about Jesus one sleepless night in 1834. She was an invalid, so when her family held a bazaar in Brighton, England, to raise money to build a school, she could only watch from afar.

As Is

The beat-up old car sits on the used-car lot, rusty and forsaken. Years of abuse and hard driving have taken their toll on the formerly shiny automobile.

The War Is Over!

The bitter conflict had finally ended between the North and the South. The soldiers of the US Civil War were free to return to their families. But a number of them remained hidden in the woods, living on berries. They either didn't hear or didn't believe that the war was over, so they continued enduring miserable conditions when they could have been back home.


What do regular coffee, acoustic guitars, and black-and-white television have in common? All are what journalist Frank Mankiewicz calls "retronyms"—words or phrases created because a familiar word needs to be distinguished from a term that refers to a new development or invention.


A skeptic once said to me, "I'll believe in Jesus if He comes down and appears visibly above my house." Not necessarily!

For Sinners Only

Many non-Christians know the hymn "Amazing Grace" but may not know what grace means. One day when evangelist D. L. Moody was studying the meaning of God's grace, he dashed into the street and shouted to the first man he saw, "Do you know grace?" Mystified, the man replied, "Grace who?" No doubt Moody then explained grace —that God has compassion on sin-sick people and freely offers them forgiveness and new life through faith in Christ.
I heard of a man who had lived a troubled life and died without understanding the message of God's grace. A minister had talked to him and encouraged him to come to church, but his response was, "I'm too undeserving." He didn't know that God's grace is for the undeserving.

Master Of Redemption

As I glanced through the mail, some words on a card from a charitable organization caught my eye: WE NEED YOUR DISCARDS! The meaning was straightforward and simple: Whatever you don't want, we'll take. Those household items you call rubbish, rejects, throwaways, and junk, we'll use to help people in need.

So Near And Yet So Far

Back in Canada's early days, pioneers were taking shelter in Fort Babine. When supplies were nearly exhausted, Victor Clark and a young guide left the fort and walked to the town of Hazelton to get food.

A Storm Is Coming!

We were in a small boat on the far side of the lake and the fish were biting when we heard a rumble of thunder in the distance. Looking up, we saw a mass of dark clouds in the west.

Finding God

Tourists rarely take great photographs. They seldom make the effort to be at the right spot at the right time to get the right angle of light in the right weather conditions. To capture beautiful outdoor pictures, professional photographers are careful to view the scene from different angles, during different seasons, and at different times of day.
This makes me wonder if the reason some people don't have a clear picture of the beauty and glory of God is that they make snap judgments. They come to wrong conclusions about God based on a bad church experience, or an encounter with someone who claims to be a Christian but isn't living like one. They misjudge what the Lord is like and turn away from Him, feeling disillusioned.

How Long?

It took years before she finally said yes. A Welshman had fallen in love with one of his neighbors and wanted to marry her. But they had quarreled, and she refused to forgive. Shy and reluctant to face the offended woman, the persistent suitor slipped a love letter under her door every week.

A Mysterious Equation

Professor John Nash of Princeton University is a math genius who has spent his life in the abstract world of numbers, equations—and delusions. Nash suffers from schizophrenia, a mental illness that can result in bizarre behavior and broken relationships. With medical help and the love of his wife, he learned to live with his illness and later won the Nobel Prize.

Starting Over

The little boy looked up at his mother and asked, "Mama, do you know why God made us?"

With God All The Time

It was the summer between Melissa's sophomore and junior years of high school. She and her friend Mandy were in Spain on a trip with their Spanish class, and they stayed up one night in their hotel room for a serious discussion. They had just seen a report on the BBC about some teens who had died in an accident, and they started talking about death.

Does He Care?

If you are ever tempted to write yourself off as insignificant among the billions of people on earth, consider this: You are a one-of-a-kind creation of God (Psalm 139:13-14). That's true even of identical twins. There never has been and never will be another person exactly like you.

Turnaround Expert

Members of The Turnaround Management Association are rarely asked to join successful companies. Instead, these skilled professionals are called into ailing businesses to help get them back on their feet.

Christmas Choice

The glitter of bright decorations, the sound of joyous Christmas carols, the happy children, and the cheerful "Merry Christmas" greetings sometimes give the impression that everybody is glad that Jesus came to our planet. But that isn't true today, and it never was.

A Light In The Darkness

An artist was painting a winter scene. Snow blanketed the ground and the pine trees. Night was falling, and the landscape was enveloped in semi-darkness. A log cabin was barely visible in the shadows. The whole scene was one of gloom.

Salmon Run

Salmon fascinate me. Each August I drive a few miles north of my home in Idaho and watch them make their weary way through the last stages of their spawning run to the sandbars along Lake Creek. I always think of the long journey they've taken.

A Good Account

As a young boy I watched my dad write checks and wished that I could do it. What I didn't realize was that there had to be money in an account to back them up.

Tenant Of The Tunnel

For 16 years, John Kovacs was a "tenant of the tunnel." Along with a few others, John lived underground in an abandoned railroad tunnel in New York City. When Amtrak bought the tunnel and prepared to reopen it, John was forced to look for a place to live above ground.

Nice Is Not The Point

Your two closest neighbors are Ernestine Quibbles and George Smiley. Ernestine has a sharp tongue and is quick to inform you when your kids' soccer ball goes into her yard. George, the nicest man you've ever met, is always friendly. He loves to play ball with your boys. He gives you vegetables from his garden, and he helps you whenever you need it.

The Name

If you were to select some of the most influential figures in the whole sweep of the ages, men and women who have affected millions of lives, what names would be on your list? I think one name that would appear on all our lists, without exception, would be the name of Jesus.

More Than A Contract

We are all accustomed to contracts. We are often required to sign them, whether we're closing a business deal, taking out a bank loan, buying a car, leasing an apartment, or purchasing a major appliance. Contracts, formal or informal, specify what happens if one of the parties fails to live up to an agreement.

Caught Red-Handed

A small plane loaded with cocaine valued at $20 million was intercepted by federal agents as it flew over the Florida coast. Suddenly, bales of cocaine began falling out of the sky. One dropped in a church parking lot. Another hit a housetop. Several others came down in the Everglades.

Calvary's Deepest Pain

After washing His disciples' feet and celebrating the Passover with them, Jesus led them into a familiar garden and "began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed" (Matthew 26:37). Going a bit farther with Peter, James, and John, He said, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me" (v.38).

His Pain

The Old Testament book of Judges is a somewhat depressing account of God's people locked in a recurring cycle of rebellion, punishment, repentance, and deliverance. After every divine intervention, the process was repeated. It was always their pain that caused God's people to call on Him: "The children of Israel said to the Lord, 'We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems best to You; only deliver us this day, we pray'" (Judges 10:15).

The Wrong Standard

A little boy announced, "I'm like Goliath. I'm 9 feet tall." "What makes you say that?" asked his mother. The child replied, "Well, I made a ruler and measured myself with it, and I am 9 feet tall!"

A Storm Is Coming!

Several years ago in Florida, I watched the ominously black sky as a howling wind drove the rain in stinging sheets across angrily churning baywaters. A hurricane was approaching! All day long, radio and TV stations gave urgent instructions on how to guard against the destructive winds and surging tides of the impending storm.

Life's Final Deadline

We're all confronted with deadlines. Bills must be paid, licenses renewed, tax returns filed— the list goes on and on.


For 11 years a Massachusetts man kept his secret hidden from others. No one suspected that anything was wrong. Even at home his behavior appeared normal. He would sit down with the newspaper every night after dinner, and not even his wife knew of his problem.

A Person Is The Pathway

The pilot of a military plane was forced to parachute into a jungle in southeast Asia. How could he possibly find his way out? A local man saw what had happened and came to the pilot's rescue, slashing through the tangled underbrush. The frightened pilot cried out, "Where's the road? Where's the way out?" The rescuer shouted back, "No road! I'm the way! Follow me!" The pilot trusted the man, who led him through the jungle to safety.

It's Too Easy

I read about an instant cake mix that was a big flop. The instructions said all you had to do was add water and bake. The company couldn't understand why it didn't sell—until their research discovered that the buying public felt uneasy about a mix that required only water. People thought it was too easy. So the company altered the formula and changed the recipe to call for adding water and an egg to the mix. The idea worked, and sales jumped dramatically.

New Life On Death Row

We see two opposite responses to Jesus from the two thieves who were crucified next to Him: One blasphemed, the other believed (Luke 23:39-42). We rejoice over the conversion of the one and Christ's words to him: "Today you will be with Me in Paradise" (v.43). Now, as then, Jesus saves those who truly repent—even at "the eleventh hour."

Three Crosses

There were three crosses on Calvary's hill. On one was a man dying in sin—he did not accept Jesus. On another was a man dying to sin—he trusted Jesus as Savior and Lord (Luke 23:40-43). And on the middle cross was One dying for sin. He could die for others because He was God's Son and had no sin of His own. The center cross made all the difference for those two men hanging beside Jesus—the difference between an eternal hell and an eternal heaven.

Scammed By Spam

Have you ever been scammed by spam? Spam is a computer term that refers to junk mail on the Internet. It's a common problem for people who use personal computers. Sometimes it's harmless, but sometimes it's not.

You Matter To God

American author Julia Ward Howe is remembered chiefly for her poem "Battle Hymn Of The Republic." According to her daughter, Howe once invited her friend US Senator Charles Sumner to meet a rising young actor. But he declined her invitation, saying, "I don't know that I should care to meet him. I have outlived my interest in individuals." Julia later wrote in her diary, "Fortunately, God Almighty had not, by last accounts, gotten so far."

God Can Save Anyone!

Today, as always, there is an urgent need for us to pray for "all who are in authority" (1 Timothy 2:2). But does the word all include the most wicked of leaders? Are there ever people in positions of power and influence who are beyond the help of prayer?

At The Well

A guide in Israel was preparing to lead a tour into the desert. His instructions to the group were simple and clear: "If you do not have these two items, I will not allow you to accompany us. You must have a broad-brimmed hat and a full bottle of water. These will protect you from the sun, and from the thirst caused by wind and dryness."

Yes Or No?

If God were to give professing believers a quiz on Christianity, many would score well. They would be able to answer "Yes, it's true" to questions such as: Did Christ die for your sins? Did He rise from the dead? Is He coming back to earth?

Who's Going To Heaven?

A poll for U.S. News & World Report asked 1,000 adults their opinion about who would likely make it into heaven. At the top of that list, to no one's surprise, was a well-known religious figure. Several celebrities were also listed. But it was surprising to me that of the people being surveyed, 87 percent thought they themselves were likely to get into heaven.

The Judge's Compassion

During his years as mayor of New York City, Fiorello La Guardia sometimes presided as judge in a night court. In one case, a man was found guilty of stealing a loaf of bread. He pleaded that he had committed that theft to feed his starving family. "The law is the law," La Guardia declared. "I must therefore fine you $10." When the man sadly confessed that he had no money, the judge took $10 out of his wallet and paid the fine. He also asked each person in the courtroom to contribute 50 cents to help the man.

New Clothes

Two men were talking not long after they had become Christians. One was a poor man from a godless background; the other was from an affluent religious environment. After each man told of his conversion, the man with the religious background asked the other, "Why do you suppose you responded the first time you heard the gospel, while so many years passed before I did?"

A Wonderful Life

Each December, millions of people around the world watch Frank Capra's 1946 film It's A Wonderful Life. Although it wasn't a hit when it debuted, it has become a Christmas classic.


An elderly man thought he had committed the unpardonable sin. Overwhelmed with guilt, he mistakenly thought he had done something that God would not forgive.

Related Topics

> Biblical Studies

On a Hill Far Away

I often find myself thinking back to the years when my children were young. One particular fond memory is our morning wake-up routine. Every morning I’d go into their bedrooms, tenderly call them by name, and tell them that it was time to get up and get ready for the day.

When I read that Abraham got up early in the morning to obey God’s command, I think of those times when I woke up my children and wonder if part of Abraham’s daily routine was going to Isaac’s bed to waken him—and how different it would have been on that particular morning. How heart-rending for Abraham to waken his son that morning!

Abraham bound his son and laid him on an altar, but then God provided an alternate sacrifice. Hundreds of years later, God would supply another sacrifice—the final sacrifice—His own Son. Think of how agonizing it must have been for God to sacrifice His Son, His only Son whom He loved! And He went through all of that because He loves you.

If you wonder whether you are loved by God, wonder no more.

The Tree Of Love

The corkscrew willow tree stood vigil over our backyard for more than 20 years. It shaded all four of our children as they played in the yard, and it provided shelter for the neighborhood squirrels. But when springtime came and the tree didn’t awaken from its winter slumber, it was time to bring it down.

And Then You Laugh

Noise. Vibration. Pressure. Fireball. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield used these words to describe being launched into space. As the rocket raced toward the International Space Station, the weight of gravity increased and breathing became difficult. Just when he thought he would pass out, the rocket made a fiery breakthrough into weightlessness. Instead of lapsing into unconsciousness, he broke into laughter.

> Christian Beliefs

It’s What We Do

My father was critically injured when he took a bullet in the leg as a second lieutenant leading his men on Hill 609 in North Africa during World War II. Dad was never again 100 percent physically. I was born several years after this, and when I was young I didn’t even know he had been wounded. I found out later when someone told me. Although he felt constant pain in his leg, my dad never complained about it, and he never used it as an excuse for not providing for our family.

My parents loved the Savior and raised us to love, trust, and serve Him. Through good times and bad, they simply trusted God, worked hard, and loved us unconditionally. Proverbs 14:26 says that “Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge” (niv). My dad did that for our family. No matter what difficulties he faced, he provided a safe place for us spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

We parents can provide a safe haven for our families with the help of our perfect heavenly Father, whose love for His children is deep and eternal.

Reflecting God’s Glory

The 12th-century Chinese artist Li Tang painted landscapes animated with people, birds, and water buffalo. Because of his genius with fine line sketches on silk, Li Tang is considered a master of Chinese landscape art. For centuries, artists from around the world have depicted what they see in God’s art gallery of creation: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). The Bible tells us that our creativity as human beings comes from being made in the image of the Master Creator (Gen. 1:27).

God chose artists who worked with wood, gold, silver, bronze, and gems to create the furnishings, utensils, altars, and garments that were to be used when the ancient Israelites worshiped Him in the tabernacle  (Ex. 31:1-11). These artistic renderings of spiritual realities prompted and guided the priests and the people in their worship of the Lord who had called them to be His people.

Through many types of artistic expression, we reflect the beauty of creation and honor the Creator and Redeemer of this marvelous world.

Baking with Jess

One morning as Lilia prepared for work, her 4-year-old daughter Jess set to work too. The family had purchased a conveyor toaster, and the concept of cycling bread through the small countertop oven fascinated Jess. Minutes later, Lilia discovered a loaf and a half of toast piled on the counter. “I’m a very good baker!” Jess declared.

It’s no miracle that an inquisitive girl could turn bread into toast. But when Jesus transformed a boy’s five loaves and two fish into a meal for thousands, the crowd on the hillside recognized the miraculous nature of the event and wanted to make Him king (see John 6:1-15).

Jesus’ kingdom, of course, is “not of this world” (John 18:36), and so He slipped away. When the crowd found Him the next day, Christ identified a flaw in their motives: “You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (6:26). They mistakenly thought “King” Jesus would give them full stomachs and national freedom. But Jesus counseled them, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life” (v. 27).

An earthbound view will cause us to treat Jesus as a means to an end. He is, in fact, our Bread of Life.

> Christian Living

Behind the Scenes

The outreach activities of our church culminated with a city-wide service. As the team that had organized and led the events—comprised of our youth music group, counselors, and church leaders—walked onto the stage, we all excitedly applauded and poured out our appreciation for their hard work.

One man, however, was hardly noticeable, yet he was the leader of the team. When I saw him a few days later, I thanked and congratulated him for his work and said, “We hardly noticed you during the program.”

“I like to work in the background,” he said. He was not concerned with getting recognition for himself. It was time for those who did the work to receive appreciation.

His quiet demeanor was an entire sermon to me. It was a reminder that when serving the Lord, I need not seek to be recognized. I can give honor to God whether or not I’m openly appreciated by others. A Christ-first attitude can subdue any petty jealousies or unhealthy competition.

Jesus, who is “above all” (John 3:31), “must become greater; I must become less” (v.30). When we have this attitude, we will seek the progress of God’s work. It is Christ, not us, who should be the focus of all we do.

Love Comes First

One evening my friend showed me one of the three decorative plaques that would be part of a wall arrangement in her living room. “See, I’ve already got Love,” she said, holding up the plaque with the word written on it. “Faith and Hope are on order.”

So Love comes first, I thought. Faith and Hope soon follow! 

Love did come first. In fact, it originated with God. First John 4:19 reminds us that “We love [God] because he first loved us.” God’s love, described in 1 Corinthians 13 (known as the “love chapter”), explains a characteristic of real love when it says, “Love never fails” (v. 8).

Faith and hope are essential to the believer. It is only because we are justified by faith that “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). And hope is described in Hebrews 6 as “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (v. 19).

One day we will have no need of faith and hope. Faith will become sight and our hope will be realized when we see our Savior face to face. But love is eternal, for love is of God and God is love (1 John 4:7-8). “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”—it’s first and last (1 Cor. 13:13).

Purpose in Routine

A rolling-ball clock in the British Museum struck me as a vivid illustration of the deadening effects of routine. A small steel ball traveled in grooves across a tilted steel plate until it tripped a lever on the other side. This tilted the plate back in the opposite direction, reversed the direction of the ball and advanced the clock hands. Every year, the steel ball traveled some 2,500 miles back and forth, but never really went anywhere.

It’s easy for us to feel trapped by our daily routine when we can’t see a larger purpose. The apostle Paul longed to be effective in making the gospel of Christ known. “I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air” (1 Cor. 9:26 niv). Anything can become monotonous—traveling, preaching, teaching, and especially being confined in prison. Yet Paul believed he could serve Christ his Lord in every situation.

Routine becomes lethal when we can’t see a purpose in it. Paul’s vision reached beyond any limiting circumstance because he was in the race of faith to keep going until he crossed the finish line. By including Jesus in every aspect of his life, Paul found meaning even in the routine of life. 

And so can we.

> Christian Ministry & the Church

Power In Praise

Willie Myrick was kidnapped from his driveway when he was 9 years old. For hours, he traveled in a car with his kidnapper, not knowing what would happen to him. During that time, Willie decided to sing a song called Every Praise. As he repeatedly sang the words, his abductor spewed profanity and told him to shut up. Finally, the man stopped the car and let Willie out—unharmed.

God’s World

I knew my son would enjoy receiving a map of the world for his birthday. After some shopping, I found a colorful chart of the continents, which included illustrations in every region. A birdwing butterfly hovered over Papua, New Guinea. Mountains cascaded through Chile. A diamond adorned South Africa. I was delighted, but I wondered about the label at the bottom of the map: Our World.

Enjoying His Meal

It’s not about the table, whether it’s square or round. It’s not about the chairs—plastic or wooden. It’s not about the food, although it helps if it has been cooked with love. A good meal is enjoyed when we turn off the TV and our cell phones and concentrate on those we’re with.

> Christianity & Culture

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.”

The Power To Change

Educator and best-selling author Tony Wagner is a firm believer in “disruptive innovation” that changes the way the world thinks and works. In his book Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, he says, “Innovation occurs in every aspect of human endeavor,” and “most people can become more creative and innovative—given the right environment and opportunities.”

Disposable Culture

More than ever, we live in a disposable culture. Think for a minute about some of the things that are made to be thrown away—razors, water bottles, lighters, paper plates, plastic eating utensils. Products are used, tossed, and then replaced.

> Ethical Issues

I’ve Come to Help

Reporter Jacob Riis’s vivid descriptions of poverty in 19th-century New York City horrified a generally complacent public. His book How the Other Half Lives combined his writing with his own photographs to paint a picture so vivid that the public could not escape the certainty of poverty’s desperate existence. The third of fifteen children himself, Riis wrote so effectively because he had lived in that world of terrible despair.

                 Shortly after the release of his book, he received a card from a young man just beginning his political career. The note read simply, “I have read your book, and I have come to help. Theodore Roosevelt.” (This politician later became a US President.)

            True faith responds to the needs of others, according to James (1:19-27). May our hearts be moved from inaction to action, from words alone to deeds that back them up. Compassionate action not only aids those mired in life’s difficulties, but it may also make them open to the greater message from our Savior who sees their need and can do so much more for them.

Speak Up

When I hear stories about young people who have been bullied, I notice there are always at least two levels of hurt. The first and most obvious comes from the mean-spirited nature of those actually doing the bullying. That’s terrible on its own. But there’s another, deeper hurt that may end up being even more damaging than the first: The silence of everyone else.

It hurts the one being bullied because they’re stunned that no one will help. That often makes bullies more brazen, leading them to intensify their meanness. Worse, it heightens the embarrassment, false shame, and loneliness of the victim. So it is imperative to speak up for others and speak out against the behavior (see Prov. 31:8a).

Jesus knows precisely what it feels like to be bullied and to be left to suffer completely alone. Without cause, He was arrested, beaten, and mocked (Luke 22:63-65). Matthew 26:56 says that “all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” Peter, one of His closest friends, even denied three times that he knew Him (Luke 22:61). While others may not understand fully, Jesus does.

When we see others being hurt, we can ask Him for the courage to speak up.

A Letter from the Battlefield

For more than two decades, Andrew Carroll has been urging people not to throw away the letters written by family members or friends during a time of war. Carroll, director of the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University in California, considers them an irreplaceable link to tie families together and open a door of understanding. “Younger generations are reading these letters,” Carroll says, “and asking questions and saying, ‘Now I understand what you endured, what you sacrificed.’ ”

When the apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome and knew his life would soon end, he wrote a letter to a young man whom he considered a “son in the faith,” Timothy. Like a soldier on the battlefield, Paul opened his heart to him: “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).

When we read the letters in the Bible that the heroes of the Christian faith have left for us and grasp what they endured because of their love for Christ, we gain courage to follow their example and to stand strong for those who come after us.

> Evangelism & Missions

Who Is My Neighbor?

Mary enjoyed her midweek church group meeting when she and several friends gathered to pray, worship, and discuss questions from the previous week’s sermon. This week they were going to talk about the difference between “going” to church and “being” the church in a hurting world. She was looking forward to seeing her friends and having a lively discussion.

As she picked up her car keys, the doorbell rang. “I’m so sorry to bother you,” said her neighbor Sue, “but are you free this morning?” Mary was about to say that she was going out when Sue continued, “I have to take my car to the repair shop. Normally I would walk or cycle home, but I’ve hurt my back and can’t do either at the moment.” Mary hesitated for a heartbeat and then smiled. “Of course,” she said.

Mary knew her neighbor only by sight. But as she drove her home, she learned about Sue’s husband’s battle with dementia and the utter exhaustion that being a caregiver can bring with it. She listened, sympathized, and promised to pray. She offered to help in any way she could.

Mary didn’t get to church that morning to talk about sharing her faith. Instead she took a little bit of Jesus’ love to her neighbor who was in a difficult situation.

Faithful Service

Having served in World War I, C. S. Lewis was no stranger to the stresses of military service. In a public address during the Second World War, he eloquently described the hardships a soldier has to face: “All that we fear from all the kinds of adversity . . . is collected together in the life of the soldier on active service. Like sickness, it threatens pain and death. Like poverty, it threatens ill lodging, cold, heat, thirst, and hunger. Like slavery, it threatens toil, humiliation, injustice, and arbitrary rule. Like exile, it separates you from all you love.”

The apostle Paul used the analogy of a soldier suffering hardship to describe the trials a believer may experience in service to Christ. Paul—now at the end of his life—had faithfully endured suffering for the sake of the gospel. He encourages Timothy to do the same: “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3).

Serving Christ requires perseverance. We may encounter obstacles of poor health, troubled relationships, or difficult circumstances. But as a good soldier we press on—with God’s strength—because we serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who sacrificed Himself for us!

Tears of a Teen

As I sat with four teenagers and a 20-something homeless man at a soup kitchen in Alaska, I was touched by the teens’ compassion for him. They listened as he talked about what he believed and then they gently presented the gospel to him—lovingly offering him hope in Jesus. Sadly, the man refused to seriously consider the gospel.

As we were leaving, one of the girls, Grace, expressed through her tears how much she didn’t want the man to die without knowing Jesus. From the heart, she grieved for this young man who, at least at this point, was rejecting the love of the Savior.

The tears of this teen remind me of the apostle Paul who served the Lord humbly and had great sorrow in his heart for his countrymen, desiring that they trust in Christ (Rom. 9:1-5). Paul’s compassion and concern must have brought him to tears on many occasions.

If we care enough for others who have not yet accepted God’s gift of forgiveness through Christ, we will find ways to share with them. With the confidence of our own faith and with tears of compassion, let’s take the good news to those who need to know the Savior.

> Life Struggles

Beyond Disappointment

Perhaps you’ve seen the video of the little boy who learns he’s getting another sister. In the middle of his meltdown he laments, “It’s always girls, girls, girls, girls!”

The story gives an amusing glimpse into human expectations, but there’s nothing funny about disappointment. It saturates our world. One story from the Bible seems especially steeped in disappointment. Jacob agreed to work 7 years for the right to marry his boss’s daughter Rachel. But after fulfilling his contract, Jacob got a wedding night surprise. In the morning he discovered not Rachel but her sister Leah.

We focus on Jacob’s disappointment, but imagine how Leah must have felt! What hopes and dreams of hers began to die that day as she was forced to marry a man who did not love or want her? 

Psalm 37:4 tells us, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Are we to believe that God-fearing people are never disappointed? No, the psalm clearly shows that the writer sees injustice all around him. But he takes the long view: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (v. 7). His conclusion: “The meek will inherit the land” (v. 11).

In the end, it was Leah whom Jacob honored and buried in the family grave plot with Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah (Gen. 49:31). And it was through the lineage of Leah—who in life thought she was unloved—that God blessed the world with our Savior. Jesus brings justice, restores hope, and gives us an inheritance beyond our wildest dreams.

Grey Power

Dutch artist Yoni Lefevre created a project called “Grey Power” to show the vitality of the aging generation in the Netherlands. She asked local schoolchildren to sketch their grandparents. Lefevre wanted to show an “honest and pure view” of older people, and she believed children could help supply this. The youngsters’ drawings reflected a fresh and lively perspective of their elders—grandmas and grandpas were shown playing tennis, gardening, painting, and more!

Caleb, of ancient Israel, was vital into his senior years. As a young man, he infiltrated the Promised Land before the Israelites conquered it. Caleb believed God would help his nation defeat the Canaanites, but the other spies disagreed (Josh. 14:8). Because of Caleb’s faith, God miraculously sustained his life for 45 years so he might survive the wilderness wanderings and enter the Promised Land. When it was finally time to enter Canaan, 85-year-old Caleb said, “Just as my strength was then, so now is my strength” (v. 11). With God’s help, Caleb successfully claimed his share of the land (Num. 14:24).

God does not forget about us as we grow older. Although our bodies age and our health may fail, God’s Holy Spirit renews us inwardly each day (2 Cor. 4:16). He makes it possible for our lives to have significance at every stage and every age.

Darkness and Light

When I was a boy, I delivered newspapers to about 140 homes on two streets that were connected by a cemetery. Since I delivered a morning newspaper, I had to be out at 3:00 a.m. walking through that cemetery in the darkness. Sometimes I would be so frightened that I would actually run! I was afraid until I was standing safely under a streetlight on the other side. The scary darkness was dispelled by the light.

The psalmist understood the connection between fear and darkness, but he also knew that God is greater than those fears. He wrote, “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness” (Ps. 91:5-6). Neither terrors of night nor evil in the darkness need to drive us to fear. We have a God who sent His Son, the Light of the World (John 8:12).

In the light of God’s love and grace and truth, we can find courage, help, and strength to live for Him.

> Marriage & Family

His Choice

When our children were small, I often prayed with them after we tucked them into bed. But before I prayed, I sometimes would sit on the edge of the bed and talk with them. I remember telling our daughter Libby, “If I could line up all the 4-year-old girls in the world, I would walk down the line looking for you. After going through the entire line, I would choose you to be my daughter.” That always put a big smile on Libby’s face because she knew she was special.

Bring The Boy To Me

I don’t believe in God and I won’t go,” Mark said.

The Girl In The Yellow Coat

It was her yellow raincoat that caught my attention, and quickly I became increasingly interested in this cute freshman with long, brown hair. Soon I worked up my courage, interrupted Sue as she walked along reading a letter from a guy back home, and awkwardly asked her for a date. To my surprise, she said yes.

> Relationships

Coming Alongside

When my sister Carole was diagnosed with breast cancer, our family worried. That diagnosis, with its surgeries and treatments, caused us to fear for her well-being, which drove our family to prayer on her behalf. Over the ensuing months, Carole’s updates were honest about the challenges. But we all celebrated when the report came back that the surgery and treatments had been successful. Carole was on the road to recovery!

Then, less than a year later, my sister Linda faced the same battle. Immediately, Carole came alongside Linda, helping her understand what to expect and how to prepare for what she would face. Carole’s experience had equipped her to walk with Linda through her own trial.

This is what Paul calls for in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, where we read, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Thankfully, the Lord doesn’t waste anything. Our struggles not only give us an opportunity to experience His comfort, but they also open the door for us to share that comfort with others in their struggles.

Faultfinders Anonymous

Like many people, when I read a newspaper or magazine I notice the misteaks in grammar and spelling. (You saw that, didn’t you!) I’m not trying to find errors; they leap off the page at me! My usual reaction is to criticize the publication and the people who produce it. “Why don’t they use ‘spell check’ or hire a proofreader?”

            You may have a similar experience in your area of expertise. It seems that often, the more we know about something, the more judgmental we become over mistakes. It can infect our relationships with people as well.

            Yet Philippians 1:9 expresses a different approach. Paul wrote, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment.” God’s plan is that the more we know and understand, the more we love. Rather than cultivating a critical spirit and pretending we don’t notice or don’t care, our understanding should nourish empathy. Criticism is replaced by compassion.

            Instead of our being faultfinders, the Lord calls us to be “filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (v. 11).

            When the Lord fills our hearts, we can overlook mistakes, hold our criticism, and love others, no matter how much we know about them! 

Whose Mess?

“Could they not carry their own garbage this far?” I grumbled to Jay as I picked up empty bottles from the beach and tossed them into the trash bin less than 20 feet away. “Did leaving the beach a mess for others make them feel better about themselves? I sure hope these people are tourists. I don’t want to think that any locals would treat our beach with such disrespect.”

The very next day I came across a prayer I had written years earlier about judging others. My own words reminded me of how wrong I was to take pride in cleaning up other people’s messes. The truth is, I have plenty of my own that I simply ignore—especially in the spiritual sense.

I am quick to claim that the reason I can’t get my life in order is because others keep messing it up. And I am quick to conclude that the “garbage” stinking up my surroundings belongs to someone other than me. But neither is true. Nothing outside of me can condemn or contaminate me—only what’s inside (Matt. 15:19-20). The real garbage is the attitude that causes me to turn up my nose at a tiny whiff of someone else’s sin while ignoring the stench of my own.

> Retirement

Age Is Not a Factor

After owning and working at his dental lab for 50 years, Dave Bowman planned to retire and take it easy. Diabetes and heart surgery confirmed his decision. But when he heard about a group of young refugees from Sudan who needed help, he made a life-changing decision. He agreed to sponsor five of them.

As Dave learned more about these young Sudanese men, he discovered that they had never been to a doctor or a dentist. Then one day in church someone mentioned the verse, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). He couldn’t get the verse out of his mind. Sudanese Christians were suffering because they needed medical care, and Dave sensed that God was telling him to do something about it. But what?

Despite his age and bad health, Dave began exploring the possibility of building a medical center in Sudan. Little by little, God brought together the people and the resources, and in 2008 Memorial Christian Hospital opened its doors to patients. Since then, hundreds of sick and injured people have been treated there.

Memorial Christian Hospital stands as a reminder that God cares when people suffer. And often He works through people like us to share His care—even when we think our work is done.

> Spiritual Growth

God's Compass

During World War II, small compasses saved the lives of 27 sailors 300 miles off the coast of North Carolina. Waldemar Semenov, a retired merchant seaman, was serving as a junior engineer aboard the SS Alcoa Guide when a German submarine surfaced and opened fire on the ship. The ship was hit, caught fire, and began to sink. Semenov and his crew lowered compass-equipped lifeboats into the water and used the compasses to guide them toward the shipping lanes closer to shore. After three days, the men were rescued.

The psalmist reminded God’s people that His Word was a trustworthy “compass.” He likened it to a lamp. In that day, the flickering light cast by an olive oil lamp was only bright enough to show a traveler his next step. To the psalmist, God’s Word was such a lamp, providing enough light to illuminate the path for those pursuing God (Ps. 119:105). When the psalmist was wandering in the dark on a chaotic path of life, he believed that God, through the guidance of His Word, would provide direction.

When we lose our bearings in life, we can trust our God who gives His trustworthy Word as our compass, using it to lead us into deeper fellowship with Him.

Baby Steps

My baby is learning to walk. I have to hold her, and she clings to my fingers because she is still unsteady on her feet. She is afraid of slipping, but I’m there to steady her and watch over her. As she walks with my help, her eyes sparkle with gratitude, happiness, and security. But sometimes she cries when I don’t let her take dangerous paths, not realizing that I am protecting her.

Like my baby girl, we often need someone to watch over us, to guide and steady us in our spiritual walk. And we have that someone—God our Father—who helps His children learn to walk, guides our steps, holds our hand, and keeps us on the right path.

King David knew all about the need for God’s watchful care in his life. In Psalm 18 he describes how God gives us strength and guidance when we are lost or confused (v. 32). He keeps our feet steady, like the feet of the deer that can climb high places without slipping (v. 33). And if we do slip, His hand is there for us (v. 35).

Whether we are new believers just learning to walk in the faith or we are further along in our walk with God, all of us need His guiding, steadying hand.

Continuing with Christ

As a child, my favorite week of the summer was the one I spent at a Christian youth camp. At the end of the week, I’d sit elbow-to-elbow with friends in front of an enormous bonfire. There, we would share what we had learned about God and the Bible and sing. One song I still remember focused on deciding to follow Jesus. The chorus contained an important phrase: “no turning back.”

When Elisha decided to follow the prophet Elijah, Elisha did something incredible that made it difficult, impossible really, for him to return to his prior occupation of farming. After going home and having a farewell banquet, Elisha “took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them” (1 Kings 19:21). Leaving his way of life, he burned up his plowing equipment. He roasted the freshly butchered meat over the blaze and fed everyone present. Then “[Elisha] arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant” (v. 21).

Giving ourselves to God, who deserves our devotion, often comes with a price. At times, it means making difficult decisions about relationships, finances, and living arrangements. However, nothing compares with what we gain when we continue on with Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25).

> When Life Hurts

When Things Don’t Go Well

The first words that many people like to quote when misfortune hits are: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). But that’s hard to believe in hard times. I once sat with a man who had lost his third son in a row, and I listened as he lamented, “How can this tragedy work for my good?” I had no answer but to sit silently and mourn with him. Several months later, he was thankful as he said, “My sorrow is drawing me closer to God.”

Tough as Romans 8:28 may be to understand, countless testimonies give credence to the truth of it. The story of hymn writer Fanny Crosby is a classic example. The world is the beneficiary of her memorable hymns, yet what worked together for good was born out of her personal tragedy, for she became blind at the age of 5. At only age 8, she began to write poetry and hymns. Writing over 8,000 sacred songs and hymns, she blessed the world with such popular songs as “Blessed Assurance,” “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” and “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior.” God used her difficulty to bring good for her and us and glory for Him.

When tragedy befalls us, it’s hard to understand how anything good can come from it, and we won’t always see it in this life. But God has good purposes and always remains with us.

God’s Good Heart

Roger had been through a lot. He had open-heart surgery to repair a leaky valve. Then, within just a couple of weeks, doctors had to perform the surgery again because of complications. He had just begun to heal with physical therapy when he had a biking accident and broke his collarbone. Added to this, Roger also experienced the heartbreak of losing his mother during this time. He became very discouraged. When a friend asked him if he had seen God at work in any small ways, he confessed that he really didn’t feel he had.

            I appreciate Roger’s honesty. Feelings of discouragement or doubt are part of my life too. In Romans, the apostle Paul says, “We can rejoice . . . when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (5:3-4 nlt). But that doesn’t mean we always feel the joy. We may just need someone to sit down and listen to us pour out our hearts to them, and to talk with God. Sometimes it takes looking back on the situation before we see how our faith has grown during trials and doubts.

            Knowing that God wants to use our difficulties to strengthen our faith can help us to trust His good heart for us.

Desert Places

Dry. Dusty. Dangerous. A desert. A place where there is little water, a place hostile to life. It’s not surprising, then, that the word deserted describes a place that is uninhabited. Life there is hard. Few people choose it. But sometimes we can’t avoid it.

In Scripture, God’s people were familiar with desert life. Much of the Middle East, including Israel, is desert. But there are lush exceptions, like the Jordan Valley and areas surrounding the Sea of Galilee. God chose to “raise His family” in a place surrounded by wilderness, a place where He could make His goodness known to His children as they trusted Him for protection and daily provision (Isa. 48:17-19).

Today, most of us don’t live in literal deserts, but we often go through desert-like places. Sometimes we go as an act of obedience. Other times we find ourselves there through no conscious choice or action. When someone abandons us, or disease invades our bodies, we end up in desert-like circumstances where resources are scarce and life is hard to sustain.

But the point of going through a desert, whether literally or figuratively, is to remind us that we are dependent on God to sustain us—a lesson we need to remember even when we’re living in a place of plenty.