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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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).
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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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 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.
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."
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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."
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.