“Do you want to see what’s inside?” my friend asked. I had just complimented her on the old-fashioned rag doll her daughter held in her small arms. Instantly curious, I replied that yes, I very much wanted to see what lay inside. She turned the doll face down and pulled open a discreet zipper sewn into its back. From within the cloth body, Emily gently removed a treasure: the rag doll she’d held and loved throughout the years of her own childhood more than two decades prior. The “outer” doll was merely a shell without this inner core to give it strength and form.
Paul describes the truth of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection as a treasure, carried about in the frail humanity of God’s people. That treasure enables those who trust in Him to bear up under unthinkable adversity and continue in their service. When they do, His light—His life—shines brightly through the “cracks” of their humanness. Paul encourages us all to not “lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:16) because God strengthens us to do His work.
Like the “inner” doll, the gospel-treasure within us lends both purpose and fortitude to our lives. When God’s strength shines through us, it invites others to ask, “What’s inside?” We can then unzip our hearts and reveal the life-giving promise of salvation in Christ.
At the end of the year, the burden of tasks uncompleted can weigh us down. Responsibilities at home and work may seem never-ending, and those unfinished today roll into tomorrow. But there are times in our journey of faith when we should pause and celebrate God’s faithfulness and the tasks completed.
After the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas, “they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed” (Acts 14:26). While much work remained in sharing the message of Jesus with others, they took time to give thanks for what had been done. “They gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (v. 27).
What has God done through you during the past year? How has He opened the door of faith for someone you know and love? In ways we can’t imagine, He is at work through us in tasks that may seem insignificant or incomplete.
When we feel painfully aware of our unfinished tasks in serving the Lord, let’s not forget to give thanks for the ways He has worked through us. Rejoicing over what God has done by His grace sets the stage for what is to come!
When you travel by air, before the flight takes off an airline employee presents a safety briefing, which explains what to do if there is a loss of cabin pressure. Passengers are told that oxygen masks will drop from the compartment above and they are to put one on themselves before helping others. Why? Because before you can help anyone else, you need to be physically alert yourself.
When Paul wrote to Timothy, he stressed the importance of maintaining his own spiritual health before helping and serving others. He reminded Timothy of his many responsibilities as a pastor: There were false teachings to contend with (1 Tim. 4:1–5) and wrong doctrines to correct (vv. 6–8). But to discharge his duties well, what was most important was to “watch [his] life and doctrine closely [and] persevere in them” (v. 16). He must take care of his own relationship with the Lord first before he could attend to others.
What Paul told Timothy applies to us too. Each day we encounter people who do not know the Lord. When we tank up on our spiritual oxygen first through time in God’s Word, prayer, and the enabling of the Holy Spirit, we will get our relationship right with God. Then we will be spiritually alert to help others.
When our children were young, they loved trying to catch the “helicopter seeds” that fell from our neighbor’s silver maple trees. Each seed resembles a wing. In late spring they twirl to the ground like a helicopter’s rotor blades. The seeds’ purpose is not to fly, but to fall to earth and grow into trees.
Before Jesus was crucified, He told His followers, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified . . . unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (vv. 23–24).
While Jesus’s disciples wanted Him to be honored as the Messiah, He came to give His life so we could be forgiven and transformed through faith in Him. As Jesus’ followers, we hear His words, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me” (vv. 25–26).
Helicopter seeds can point us to the miracle of Jesus, the Savior, who died that we might live for Him.
“How can you be so kind if you don’t even know me!”
By making the wrong decisions, Linda had ended up in jail in a country not her own. For six years she remained in prison, and when she was set free she didn’t have anywhere to go. She thought her life was over! While her family gathered money to buy her ticket home, a kind couple offered her lodging, food, and a helping hand. Linda was so touched by their kindness that she willingly listened as they told her the good news of a God who loves her and wants to give her a second chance.
Linda reminds me of Naomi, a widow in the Bible who lost her husband and two sons in a foreign land and thought her life was over (Ruth 1). However, the Lord hadn’t forgotten Naomi, and through the love of her daughter-in-law and the compassion of a godly man named Boaz, Naomi saw God’s love and was given a second chance (4:13–17).
The same God cares for us today. Through the love of others we can be reminded of His presence. We can see God’s grace in the helping hand of people we may not even know well. But above all, God is willing to give us a fresh start. We just need, like Linda and Naomi, to see God’s hand in our everyday lives and realize He never stops showing us His kindness.
Tham Dashu sensed something was missing in his life. So he started going to church—the same church his daughter attended. But they never went together. In earlier days, he had offended her, which drove a wedge between them. So, Tham would slip in when the singing started and leave promptly after the service ended.
Church members shared the gospel story with him, but Tham always politely rejected their invitation to put his faith in Jesus. Still, he kept coming to church.
One day Tham fell gravely ill. His daughter plucked up the courage and wrote him a letter. She shared how Christ had changed her life, and she sought reconciliation with her dad. That night, Tham put his faith in Jesus and the family was reconciled. A few days later, Tham died and entered into the presence of Jesus—at peace with God and his loved ones.
The apostle Paul wrote that we are to “try to persuade others” about the truth of God’s love and forgiveness (2 Cor. 5:11). He said that it is “Christ’s love [that] compels us” to carry out His work of reconciliation (v. 14).
Our willingness to forgive may help others realize that God desires to reconcile us to Himself (v. 19). Would you lean on God’s strength to show them His love today?
The US Masters Golf Tournament began in 1934, and since then only three players have won it two years in a row. On April 10, 2016, it appeared that 22-year-old Jordan Spieth would become the fourth. But he faltered, on the last nine holes and finished in a tie for second. Despite his disappointing loss, Spieth was gracious toward tournament champion Danny Willett, congratulating him on his victory and on the birth of his first child, something “more important than golf.”
Writing in the New York Times, Karen Krouse said, “It takes grace to see the big picture so soon after having to sit through a trophy ceremony and watch someone else have his photograph taken.” Krouse continued, “Spieth’s ball-striking was off all week, but his character emerged unscathed.”
Paul urged the followers of Jesus in Colossae to “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:5–6).
As those who have freely received God’s grace, it is our privilege and calling to demonstrate it in every situation of life—win or lose.
As a group of teenagers visited a home for the elderly in Montego Bay, Jamaica, one young woman noticed a lonely looking man at the end of the room. He appeared to have little left in this world but a bed to sleep on—a bed from which he could not move because of his disability.
The teen began right away to share the story of God’s love for us and read some Bible passages to him. “As I shared with him,” she would say later, “I started to feel his eagerness to hear more.” Responding to his interest, she explained the wonder of Jesus’s sacrificial death for us. “It was hard for this man, who had no hope and no family,” she recalled, “to understand that Someone he’s never met would love him enough to die on the cross for his sins.”
She told him more about Jesus—and then about the promise of heaven (including a new body) for all who believe. He asked her, “Will you dance with me up there?” She saw him begin to imagine himself free of his worn-out body and crippling limitations.
When he said he wanted to trust Jesus as his Savior, she helped him pray a prayer of forgiveness and faith. When she asked him if she could get a picture with him, he replied, “If you help me sit up. I’m a new man.”
Praise God for the life-changing, hope-giving, available-to-all gospel of Jesus Christ! It offers new life for all who trust Him (Col. 1:5, 23).
When our son Xavier was a toddler, we took a family trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. As we entered the building, I pointed to a large sculpture suspended from the ceiling. “Look. A humpback whale.”
Xavier’s eyes widened. “Enormous,” he said.
My husband turned to me. “How does he know that word?”
“He must have heard us say it.” I shrugged, amazed that our toddler had soaked up vocabulary we’d never intentionally taught him.
In Deuteronomy 6, God encouraged His people to be intentional about teaching younger generations to know and obey the Scriptures. As the Israelites increased their knowledge of God, they and their children would be more likely to grow in reverence of Him and to enjoy the rewards that come through knowing Him intimately, loving Him completely, and following Him obediently (vv. 2–5).
By intentionally saturating our hearts and our minds with Scripture (v. 6), we will be better prepared to share God’s love and truth with children during our everyday activities (v. 7). Leading by example, we can equip and encourage young people to recognize and respect the authority and relevance of God’s unchanging truth (vv. 8–9).
As God’s words flow naturally from our hearts and out of our mouths, we can leave a strong legacy of faith to be passed down from generation to generation (4:9).
Waldo is the cartoonish star of “Where’s Waldo,” a now-classic best-selling children’s book series. Waldo hides himself in the crowded painted scenes on each page, inviting children to find where he’s hiding. Parents around the world love the moments of sweet discovery when their children’s faces signal they’ve found Waldo. They also enjoy the occasions when they’re invited to help find Waldo.
Shortly after Stephen, a deacon in the early church, was stoned to death for proclaiming Christ (see Acts 7), a widespread persecution broke out against Christians, causing many to flee Jerusalem. Another deacon, Philip, followed these fleeing Christians into Samaria, where he proclaimed Christ and it was well received (8:6) While there, the Holy Spirit sent Philip on a special mission to “the desert road.” It must have seemed a strange request given the fruit his preaching was producing in Samaria itself. Imagine Philip’s joy, then, when he met and helped the Ethiopian court official find Jesus in the pages of Isaiah (vv. 26–40).
We, too, are often given the chance to help others “find Jesus” throughout the Scriptures so they may know Him more fully. Like a parent witnessing the joy of discovery in their child’s eyes and like Philip helping the Ethiopian find Jesus, it can be exhilarating for us to witness the moment of discovery in those around us. As we go through our days, may we prepared to share Christ as the Spirit leads us, whether they be people we know well or those we meet even just once.
I received a wonderful email from a woman who wrote, “Your mom was my first-grade teacher at Putnam City in 1958. She was a great teacher and very kind, but strict! She made us learn the 23rd psalm and say it in front of the class, and I was horrified. But it was the only contact I had with the Bible until 1997 when I became a Christian. And the memories of Mrs. McCasland came flooding back as I re-read it.”
Jesus told a large crowd a parable about the farmer who sowed his seed that fell on different types of ground—a hard path, rocky ground, clumps of thorns, and good soil (Matt. 13:1–9). While some seeds never grew, “the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it” and “produces a crop yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (v. 23).
During the twenty years my mother taught first grade in public schools, along with reading, writing, and arithmetic she scattered seeds of kindness and the message of God’s love.
Her former student’s email concluded, “I have had other influences in my Christian walk later in life, of course. But my heart always returns to [Psalm 23] and her gentle nature.”
A seed of God’s love sown today may produce a remarkable harvest.
During court proceedings, witnesses are more than onlookers or spectators. They are active participants who help determine the outcome of a case. The same should be true of the witnesses the Bible says we are to be. We are active participants in a matter of absolute importance—the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
When John the Baptist came to tell people about Jesus, the light of the world, he did so by declaring his knowledge of Jesus. And John the disciple, who recorded the events, testified of his experience with Jesus: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The apostle Paul would elaborate on this idea as he told young Timothy, “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2).
All Christians have been summoned before the courtroom of the world. The Bible says we are not mere spectators but active participants. We testify to the truth about Jesus’ death and resurrection. John the Baptist was the voice of one calling in the desert. Our voices can be heard in our workplace, neighborhood, church, and among our family and friends. We can be active witnesses, telling them about the reality of Jesus in our lives.
Author Rita Snowden tells a delightful story about visiting a small village in Dover, England. Sitting outside a café one afternoon enjoying a cup of tea, she became aware of a beautiful scent. Rita asked a waiter where it was coming from, and was told it was the people she could see passing by. Most of the villagers were employed at a nearby perfume factory. As they walked home, they carried the fragrance that permeated their clothes out into the street.
What a beautiful image of the Christian life! As the apostle Paul says, we are the aroma of Christ, spreading His fragrance everywhere (2 Cor. 2:15). Paul uses the image of a king returning from battle, his soldiers and captives in tow, wafting the smell of celebratory incense in the air, declaring the king’s greatness (v. 14).
According to Paul, we spread the aroma of Christ in two ways. First, we spread it through our words: telling others about the One who is beautiful. Second, through our lives: doing deeds of Christlike sacrifice (Eph. 5:1–2). While not everyone will appreciate the divine fragrance we share, it will bring life to many.
Rita Snowden caught a scent and was driven to seek its source. As we follow Jesus we too become permeated with His fragrance, and we carry His aroma into the streets through our words and deeds.
Grandpa and Grandma Harris didn’t have a lot of money, yet they managed to make each Christmas memorable for my cousins and me. There was always plenty of food, fun, and love. And from an early age we learned that it was Christ who made this celebration possible.
We want to leave the same legacy to our children. When we got together last December to share Christmas with family, we realized this wonderful tradition had started with Grandpa and Grandma. They couldn’t leave us a monetary inheritance, but they were careful to plant the seeds of love, respect, and faith so that we—their children’s children—might imitate their example.
In the Bible we read about Grandma Lois and mom Eunice, who shared with Timothy genuine faith (2 Timothy 1:5). Their influence prepared this man to share the good news with many others.
We can prepare a spiritual inheritance for those whose lives we influence by living in close communion with God. In practical ways, we make His love a reality to others when we give them our undivided attention, show interest in what they think and do, and share life with them. We might even invite them to share in our celebrations! When our lives reflect the reality of God’s love, we leave a lasting legacy for others.
The Viral Texts project at Northeastern University in Boston is studying how printed content in the 1800s spread through newspapers—the social media network of that day. If an article was reprinted 50 times or more, they considered that “viral” for the industrial age. Writing in Smithsonian Magazine, Britt Peterson noted that a nineteenth-century news article describing which followers of Jesus were executed for their faith appeared in at least 110 different publications.
When the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, he commended them for their bold and joyful witness to Jesus. “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere” (1 Thess. 1:8). The message of the gospel went viral through these people whose lives had been transformed by Jesus Christ. In spite of difficulties and persecution, they could not remain silent.
We convey the story of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ through kind hearts, helping hands, and honest words from all of us who know the Lord. The gospel transforms us and the lives of those we meet.
May the message ring out from us for all to hear today!
When I married my English fiancé and moved to the United Kingdom, I thought it would be a five-year adventure in a foreign land. I never dreamed I’d still be living here nearly twenty years later, or that at times I’d feel like I was losing my life as I said goodbye to family and friends, work, and all that was familiar. But in losing my old way of life, I’ve found a better one.
The upside-down gift of finding life when we lose it is what Jesus promised to His apostles. When He sent out the twelve disciples to share His good news, He asked them to love Him more than their mothers or fathers, sons or daughters (Matt. 10:37). His words came in a culture where families were the cornerstone of the society and highly valued. But He promised that if they would lose their life for His sake, they would find it (v. 39).
We don’t have to move abroad to find ourselves in Christ. Through service and commitment—such as the disciples going out to share the good news of the kingdom of God—we find ourselves receiving more than we give through the lavish love the Lord showers on us. Of course He loves us no matter how much we serve, but we find contentment, meaning, and fulfillment when we pour ourselves out for the well-being of others.
Raucous laughter marked the guests in my father's hospital room: Two old truck drivers, one former country/western singer, one craftsman, two women from neighboring farms, and me.
"...and then he got up and busted the bottle over my head," the craftsman said, finishing his story about a bar fight.
The room bursts into laughter at this now-humorous memory. Dad, struggling for breath as his laughing fought with his cancer for the air in his lungs, puffs out a reminder to everybody that “Randy is a preacher" so they need to watch what they say. Everything got quiet for about two seconds; then the whole room exploded as this news makes them laugh harder and louder.
Suddenly, about forty minutes into this visit, the craftsman clears his throat, turns to my dad, and gets serious. "No more drinking and bar fights for me, Howard. Those days are behind me. Now I have a different reason to live. I want to tell you about my Savior."
He then proceeded to do just that, over my father's surprisingly mild protests. If there's a sweeter, gentler way to present the gospel message, I've never heard it.
My dad listened and watched, and some years later believed in Jesus too.
It was a simple testimony from an old friend living a simple life, reminding me again that simple isn't naïve or stupid; it's direct and unpretentious.
Just like Jesus. And salvation.
Each year for several weeks around Christmas, Singapore’s tourist belt, Orchard Road, is transformed into a wonderland of lights and colors. This light-up is designed to attract tourists to spend their money at the many stores along the street during this “golden month of business.” Shoppers come to enjoy the festivities, listen to choirs sing familiar Christmas carols, and watch performers entertain.
The first Christmas “light-up” ever was not created by electrical cables, glitter, and neon lights but by “the glory of the Lord [that] shone around” (Luke 2:9). No tourists saw it, just a few simple shepherds out in their field. And it was followed by an unexpected rendition of “Glory to God in the Highest” by an angelic choir (v. 14).
The shepherds went to Bethlehem to see if what the angels said was true (v. 15). After they had confirmed it, they could not keep to themselves what they had heard and seen. “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (v. 17).
Many of us have heard the Christmas story often. This Christmas, why not share the good news with others that Christ—“the true light that gives light to everyone”—has come (John 1:9).
I live in a small Mexican city where every morning and evening you can hear a distinctive cry: “Bread!” A man with a huge basket on his bike offers a great variety of fresh sweet and salty breads for sale. I used to live in a bigger city, where I had to go to the bakery to buy bread. So I enjoy having fresh bread brought to my door.
Moving from the thought of feeding physical hunger to spiritual hunger, I think of Jesus’s words: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:51).
Someone has said that evangelism is really one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread. Many of us can say, “Once I was spiritually hungry, spiritually starving because of my sins. Then I heard the good news. Someone told me where to find bread: in Jesus. And my life changed!”
Now we have the privilege and the responsibility of pointing others to this Bread of Life. We can share Jesus in our neighborhood, in our workplace, in our school, in our places of recreation. We can talk about Jesus in the waiting room, on the bus, or on the train. We can take the good news to others through doors of friendship.
Jesus is the Bread of Life. Let’s tell everybody the great news.
Not long ago I went to a seamstress to have some clothing altered. As I entered her shop I was encouraged by what I saw on the walls. One sign read, “We can mend your clothes but only God can mend your heart.” Near it was a painting of Mary Magdalene weeping in anguish as the risen Christ was about to reveal Himself to her. Another sign asked, “Need prayer? Let us pray with you.”
The owner told me that she had run this small business for 15 years. “We’ve been surprised how the Lord has worked here through the statements of faith we have posted in different places. A while back someone trusted Christ as their Savior right here. It is amazing to watch God work.” I told her I too was a Christian and commended her for telling others about Christ in her workplace.
Not all of us are able to be so bold in our workplace, but we can find many creative and practical ways of showing others unexpected love, patience, and kindness wherever we are. Since leaving that shop, I’ve been thinking about how many ways there are to live out our Lord’s statement: “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14).
When I served as an intern for a Christian magazine, I wrote a story about a person who had become a Christian. In a dramatic change, he said goodbye to his former life and embraced his new Master: Jesus. A few days after the magazine hit the street, an anonymous caller threatened, "Be careful, Darmani. We are watching you! Your life is in danger in this country if you write such stories."
That was not the only time I have been threatened for pointing people to Christ. On one occasion a man told me to vanish with the tract I was giving him or else! In both cases, I cowered. But these were only verbal threats. Many Christians have had threats carried out against them. In some cases simply living a godly lifestyle attracts mistreatment from people.
The Lord told Jeremiah, "You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you" (Jer. 1:7), and Jesus told His disciples, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves" (Matt. 10:16). Yes, we may encounter threats, hardships, and even pain. But God assures us of His presence. "I am with you," He told Jeremiah (Jer. 1:8), and Jesus assured His followers, "I am with you always" (Matt. 28:20).
Whatever struggles we face in our attempt to live for the Lord, we can trust in the Lord's presence.
The much-prayed-for film night at the church youth club had finally arrived. Posters had been displayed all around the village and pizzas were warming in the oven. Steve, the youth pastor, hoped that the film—about gang members in New York who were brought face-to-face with the claims of Jesus by a young pastor—would bring new recruits to the club.
But he hadn’t realized that a key football match was being shown on television that evening, so attendance was much smaller than he had hoped for. Sighing inwardly, he was about to dim the lights and begin the film when five leather-clad members of the local motorbike club came in. Steve went pale. The leader of the group, who was known as TDog, nodded in Steve’s direction. “It’s free and for everyone, right?” he said. Steve opened his mouth to say, “Youth club members only” when TDog bent down and picked up a bracelet with the letters WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) stamped on it. “This yours, mate?” he asked. Steve nodded, hot with embarrassment, and waited while the new guests found a seat.
Have you ever been in Steve’s situation? You long to share the good news about Jesus, but you have a mental list of the “right” people who would be acceptable? Jesus was often criticized by the religious authorities for the company He kept. But He welcomed those everyone else avoided, because He knew they needed Him most (Luke 5:31–32).
A perfumer who works in New York declares that she can recognize certain combinations of scents and guess the perfumer behind a fragrance. With just a sniff she can say, “This is Jenny’s work.”
When writing to the followers of Christ in the city of Corinth, Paul at one point used an example that would have reminded them of a victorious Roman army in a conquered city burning incense (2 Cor. 2:14). The general would come through first, followed by his troops and then the defeated army. For the Romans, the aroma of the incense meant victory; for the prisoners, it meant death.
Paul said we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ’s victory over sin. God has given us the fragrance of Christ Himself so we can become a sweet-smelling sacrifice of praise. But how can we live so we spread this pleasing fragrance to others? We can show generosity and love, and we can share the gospel with others so they can find the way to salvation. We can allow the Spirit to display through us His gifts of love, joy, and kindness (Gal. 5:22-23).
Do others observe us and say, “This is Jesus’ work”? Are we allowing Him to spread His fragrance through us and then telling others about Him? He is the Ultimate Perfumer—the most exquisite fragrance there will ever be.
Evie was one of 25 American teenagers in a high school choir who traveled to Jamaica to sing, witness, and show God’s love to people of a different culture and generation. And for Evie, one day of that trip was particularly memorable and joy-filled.
That day, the choir went to a nursing home to sing and visit with the residents. After they sang, Evie sat down with a young woman who lived at the home, a woman in her early 30s. As they began to chat, Evie felt that she should talk about Jesus—who He was and what He did for us. She showed her verses in the Bible that explained salvation. Soon the woman said she wanted to trust Jesus as her Savior. And that’s just what she did.
Because of Evie’s decision to start a conversation about Jesus, our group celebrated a new birth into God’s family that day.
Mark 16:15 tells us that what Evie did is what is expected of all believers. Here’s how The Message paraphrases that verse: “Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all.”
May we never underestimate the wonder of what it means for anyone, anywhere to hear the good news and to say yes to our Savior.
When her friends say thoughtless or outrageous things on social media, Charlotte chimes in with gentle but firm dissent. She respects the dignity of everyone, and her words are unfailingly positive.
A few years ago she became Facebook friends with a man who harbored anger toward Christians. He appreciated Charlotte’s rare honesty and grace. Over time his hostility melted. Then Charlotte suffered a bad fall. Now housebound, she fretted over what she could do. About that time her Facebook friend died and then this message arrived from his sister: “[Because of your witness] I know he’s now experiencing God’s complete and abiding love for him.”
During the week in which Christ would be killed, Mary of Bethany anointed Him with expensive perfume (John 12:3; Mark 14:3). Some of those present were appalled, but Jesus applauded her. “She has done a beautiful thing to me,” He said. “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial” (Mark 14:6-8).
“She did what she could.” Christ’s words take the pressure off. Our world is full of broken, hurting people. But we don’t have to worry about what we can’t do. Charlotte did what she could. So can we. The rest is in His capable hands.
In 1989, Vaclav Havel was elevated from his position as a political prisoner to becoming the first elected president of Czechoslovakia. Years later at his funeral in Prague in 2011, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who herself was born in Prague, described him as one who had “brought the light to places of deep darkness.”
What Havel’s introduction of light did in the political arena of Czechoslovakia (and later the Czech Republic), our Lord Jesus did for the whole world. He brought light into existence when He created light out of darkness at the dawn of time (John 1:2-3 cf. Gen 1:2-3). Then, with His birth, He brought light to the spiritual arena. Jesus is the life and light that darkness cannot overcome (John 1:5).
John the Baptist came from the wilderness to bear witness to Jesus, the light of the world. We can do the same today. In fact that is what Jesus told us to do: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
In our world today—when good is often considered bad and bad is seen as good, when truth and error are switched around—people are looking for direction in life. May we be the ones who shine the light of Christ into our world.
World War II had ended. Peace had been declared. But young Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda of the Japanese Imperial Army, stationed on an island in the Philippines, didn’t know the war had ended. Attempts were made to track him down. Leaflets were dropped over his location, telling him the war was over. But Onoda, whose last order in 1945 was to stay and fight, dismissed these attempts and leaflets as trickery or propaganda from the enemy. He did not surrender until March 1974—nearly 30 years after the war had ended—when his former commanding officer traveled from Japan to the Philippines, rescinded his original order, and officially relieved Onoda of duty. Onoda finally believed the war was over.
When it comes to the good news about Jesus Christ, many still haven’t heard or don’t believe that He has “destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). And some of us who have heard and believed still live defeated lives, trying to survive on our own in the jungle of life.
Someone needs to tell them the glorious news of Christ’s victory over sin and death. Initially, they may respond with skepticism or doubt, but take heart. Imagine the freedom they’ll find when Christ illumines their mind with the knowledge that the battle has been won.
The year was 1975 and something significant had just happened to me. I needed to find my friend Francis, with whom I shared a lot of personal matters, and tell him about it. I found him in his apartment hurriedly preparing to go out, but I slowed him down. The way he stared at me, he must have sensed that I had something important to tell him. “What is it?” he asked. So I told him simply, “Yesterday I surrendered my life to Jesus!”
Francis looked at me, sighed heavily, and said, “I’ve felt like doing the same for a long time now.” He asked me to share what happened, and I told him how the previous day someone had explained the gospel to me and how I asked Jesus to come into my life. I still remember the tears in his eyes as he too prayed to receive Jesus’ forgiveness. No longer in a hurry, he and I talked and talked about our new relationship with Christ.
After Jesus healed the man with an evil spirit, He told him, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19). The man didn’t need to preach a powerful sermon; he simply needed to share his story.
No matter what our conversion experience is, we can do what that man did: “[He] went away and began to tell . . . how much Jesus had done for him.”
Tenacity and audacity—Elisha had heaps of both. Having spent time with Elijah, he witnessed the Lord working through the prophet by performing miracles and by speaking truth in an age of lies. Second Kings 2:1 tells us that Elijah is about to be taken “up to heaven,” and Elisha doesn’t want him to leave.
The time came for the dreaded separation, and Elisha knew he needed what Elijah had if he was going to successfully continue the ministry. So he made a daring demand: “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit” (2 Kings 2:9). His bold request was a reference to the double portion given the firstborn son or heir under the law (Deut. 21:17). Elisha wanted to be recognized as the heir of Elijah. And God said yes.
Recently one of my mentors—a woman who spread the good news of Jesus—died. Having battled ill health for years, she was ready to enjoy her eternal feast with the Lord. Those of us who loved her were grateful at the thought of her newfound freedom from pain and that she could enjoy God’s presence, but we grieved the loss of her love and example. Despite her departure, she did not leave us alone. We too had God’s presence.
Elisha gained a double portion of Elijah’s spirit—a tremendous privilege and blessing. We who live after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus have the promised Holy Spirit. The triune God makes His home with us! Amy Boucher Pye
Bob and Evon Potter were a fun-loving couple with three young sons when their life took a wonderful new direction. In 1956 they attended a Billy Graham Crusade in Oklahoma City and gave their lives to Christ. Before long, they wanted to reach out to others to share their faith and the truth about Christ, so they opened their home every Saturday night to high school and college students who had a desire to study the Bible. A friend invited me and I became a regular at the Potters’ house.
This was a serious Bible study that included lesson preparation and memorizing Scripture. Surrounded by an atmosphere of friendship, joy, and laughter, we challenged each other and the Lord changed our lives during those days.
I stayed in touch with the Potters over the years and received many cards and letters from Bob who always signed them with these words: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). Like John writing to his “dear friend Gaius” (v. 1), Bob encouraged everyone who crossed his path to keep walking with the Lord.
A few years ago I attended Bob’s memorial service. It was a joyful occasion filled with people still walking the road of faith—all because of a young couple who opened their home and their hearts to help others find the Lord.
Which of the five senses brings back your memories most sharply? For me it is definitely the sense of smell. A certain kind of sun oil takes me instantly to a French beach. The smell of chicken mash brings back childhood visits to my grandmother. A hint of pine says “Christmas,” and a certain kind of aftershave reminds me of my son’s teenage years.
Paul reminded the Corinthians that they were the aroma of Christ: “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:15). He may have been referring to Roman victory parades. The Romans made sure everyone knew they had been victorious by burning incense on altars throughout the city. For the victors, the aroma was pleasing; for the prisoners it meant certain slavery or death. So as believers, we are victorious soldiers. And when the gospel of Christ is preached, it is a pleasing fragrance to God.
As the aroma of Christ, what perfumes do Christians bring with them as they walk into a room? It’s not something that can be bought in a bottle or a jar. When we spend a lot of time with someone, we begin to think and act like that person. Spending time with Jesus will help us spread a pleasing fragrance to those around us.
In 1940, Dr. Virginia Connally, age 27, braved opposition and criticism to become the first female physician in Abilene, Texas. A few months before her 100th birthday in 2012, the Texas Medical Association presented her with its Distinguished Service Award, Texas’ highest physician honor. Between those two landmark events, Dr. Connally has enthusiastically embraced a passion for spreading the gospel around the world through her many medical mission trips while living a life of service to God and to others—one day at a time.
Dr. Connally’s pastor, Phil Christopher, said, “Every day for her is a gift.” He recalled a letter in which she wrote, “Every tour, trip, effort, I wonder if this will be my last and ultimate? Only God knows. And this is enough.”
The psalmist wrote, “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24 nkjv). So often we focus on the disappointments of yesterday or the uncertainties of tomorrow and miss God’s matchless gift to us: Today!
Dr. Connally said of her journey with Christ, “As you live a life of faith, you’re not looking for the results. I was just doing the things that God planted in my life and heart.”
God made today. Let’s celebrate it and make the most of every opportunity to serve others in His name.
A woman from Grand Rapids, Michigan, fell asleep on the couch after her husband had gone to bed. An intruder sneaked in through the sliding door, which the couple had forgotten to lock, and crept through the house. He entered the bedroom where the husband was sleeping and picked up the television set. The sleeping man woke up, saw a figure standing there, and whispered, "Honey, come to bed." The burglar panicked, put down the TV, grabbed a stack of money from the dresser, and ran out.
The thief was in for a big surprise! The money turned out to be a stack of Christian pamphlets with a likeness of a $20 bill on one side and an explanation of the love and forgiveness God offers to people on the other side. Instead of the cash he expected, the intruder got the story of God’s love for him.
I wonder what Saul expected when he realized it was Jesus appearing to him on the road to Damascus, since he had been persecuting and even killing Jesus’ followers? (Acts 9:1-9). Saul, later called Paul, must have been surprised by God’s grace toward him, which he called “a gift”: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power” (Eph. 3:7).
Have you been surprised by God’s gift of grace in your life as He shows you His love and forgiveness?
An industrial design graduate from a Singapore university was challenged in a workshop to come up with a novel solution to a common problem using only ordinary objects. She created a vest to protect one’s personal space from being invaded while traveling in the crush of crowded public trains and buses. The vest was covered with long, flexible plastic spikes normally used to keep birds and cats away from plants.
Jesus knew what it was like to lose His personal space in the commotion of crowds desperate to see and touch Him. A woman who had suffered from constant bleeding for 12 years and could find no cure touched the fringe of His robe. Immediately, her bleeding stopped (Luke 8:43-44).
Jesus’ question, “Who touched me?” (v. 45) isn’t as strange as it sounds. He felt power come out of Him (v. 46). That touch was different from those who merely happened to accidentally touch Him.
While we must admit that we do sometimes wish to keep our personal space and privacy, the only way we help a world of hurting people is to let them get close enough to be touched by the encouragement, comfort, and grace of Christ in us.
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.
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.
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.
Recently my 5-year-old grandson, Dallas, asked, “Why did Jesus die on the cross?” So we had a little talk. I explained to him about sin and Jesus’ willingness to be our sacrifice. Then he ran off to play.
A few minutes later, I overheard him talking to his 5-year-old cousin, Katie, explaining to her why Jesus died. Katie said to him, “But Jesus isn’t dead.” Dallas replied, “Yes. He’s dead. Grampy told me. He died on the cross.”
I realized I hadn’t completed the story. So we had another talk as I explained to Dallas that Jesus rose from the dead. We went over the story again until he understood that Jesus is alive today, even though He did die for us.
What a reminder that people need to hear the whole gospel. When a man from Ethiopia asked Philip about a portion of Scripture he did not understand, Philip “opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35).
Tell others the good news about Jesus: that we are all sinners needing salvation; that the perfect Son of God died to save us; and that He rose from the grave, showing His power over death. Jesus, our Savior, is alive and is offering now to live His life through us.
When someone wants to know about Jesus, let’s make sure to tell the whole story!
Sheryl is a voracious reader. While others are watching television or playing video games, she is deeply engrossed in the pages of a book.
Much of this zeal can be traced back to her early childhood. Her family often visited a great aunt and uncle who owned a bookstore. There, Sheryl would sit on Uncle Ed’s lap as he read to her and introduced her to the wonders and delights of books.
Centuries ago a young man named Timothy had his steps guided on the road to learning. In Paul’s last recorded letter, he acknowledged that Timothy was first introduced to the Bible by his grandmother and mother (2 Tim. 1:5). Then Paul exhorted Timothy to continue in the Christian way because “from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures” (2 Tim. 3:14-15).
For the believer, learning about the spiritual life should never cease to delight us and help us grow. Reading and study can be a big part of that, but we also need others to encourage and teach us.
Who has helped you grow in your faith? And who in turn can you help? That’s a great way to enhance our appreciation of God and strengthen our relationship with Him.
Ivisit two elderly women from time to time. One has no financial worries, is fit for her age, and lives in her own home. But she can always find something negative to say. The other is crippled with arthritis and rather forgetful. She lives in simple accommodations, and keeps a reminder pad so she won’t forget her appointments. But to every visitor to her tiny apartment, her first comment is always the same: “God is so good to me.” Handing her the reminder pad on my last visit, I noticed that she had written the day before “Out to lunch tomorrow! Wonderful! Another happy day.”
The cozy little village of Rjukan, Norway, is a delightful place to live—except during the dark days of winter. Located in a valley at the foot of the towering Gaustatoppen Mountain, the town receives no direct sunlight for nearly half of the year. Residents had long considered the idea of placing mirrors at the top of the mountain to reflect the sun. But the concept was not feasible until recently. In 2005, a local artist began “The Mirror Project” to bring together people who could turn the idea into reality. Eight years later, in October 2013, the mirrors went into action. Residents crowded into the town square to soak up the reflected sunlight.
A US congressman, John Lewis, was 23 years old when he participated in the historic 1963 civil rights “March on Washington” led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Half a century later, journalist Bill Moyers asked Lewis how he was affected by Dr. King’s I Have A Dream speech that day. Mr. Lewis replied, “You couldn’t leave after hearing him speak and go back to business as usual. You had to do something, you had to act. You had to move. You had to go out and spread the good news.”
I can’t do it,” Robert said, throwing his pencil down in despair. “It’s just too hard!” Reading, writing, and spelling seemed impossible to our dyslexic 9-year-old. At last, a solution was offered. But it was tough. We had to do reading and spelling practice with him for 20 minutes every evening—without exception. Sometimes we just didn’t feel like doing it, and at times we despaired of seeing progress. But we were committed to getting Robert’s reading age and his chronological age to match, so we battled on.
One day when Ann was visiting her husband in the hospital, she began talking with a caregiver who was assisting him. Ann enjoys engaging people in conversation wherever she is, and she also looks for ways to talk to people about Jesus. Ann asked the caregiver if he knew what he wanted to do in the future. When he said he wasn’t sure, she suggested that it’s important to know God first so He can help with such decisions. He then pulled up the sleeve of his shirt to reveal “I am redeemed!” tattooed across his arm.
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.
In many countries, health laws prohibit reselling or reusing old mattresses. Only landfills will take them. Tim Keenan tackled the problem and today his business employs a dozen people to extract the individual components of metal, fabric, and foam in old mattresses for recycling. But that’s only part of the story. Journalist Bill Vogrin wrote, “Of all the items Keenan recycles . . . it’s the people that may be his biggest success” (The Gazette, Colorado Springs). Keenan hires men from halfway houses and homeless shelters, giving them a job and a second chance. He says, “We take guys nobody else wants.”
Caution, the moving walkway is ending. Caution, the moving walkway is ending.” If you’ve ever used an automated walkway at an airport, you’ve heard this kind of announcement repeatedly.
When noted author Studs Terkel was looking for a topic for his next book, one of his friends suggested “death.” While he was resistant at first, the idea gradually began to take shape, but its voice became all too real when Mr. Terkel’s wife of 60 years passed away. Now the book was also a personal search: a yearning to know what lies beyond, where his loved one had just gone. Its pages are a poignant reminder of our own search for Jesus and the questions and concerns we have about eternity while we walk our faith journey.
On the clock tower of my alma mater is an Art Deco bas-relief sculpture titled The Sower. The inscription beneath it is from Galatians 6:7, “Whatsoever a man soweth.” Michigan State University remains a leader in agricultural research, but despite many improvements in farming techniques and crop production, this fact remains: Seeds of corn will not produce a crop of beans.
I don’t know how it works where you live, but when I have to call for a repair for one of my appliances, the company says something like, “The repairman will be there between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.” Since I don’t know when the repair person will arrive, all I can do is wait.
In J. R. R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit, the wizard Gandalf explains why he has selected a small hobbit like Bilbo to accompany the dwarves to fight the enemy. He says, “Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”
Although 70 percent of the world is covered by water, less than 1 percent of it is drinkable by humans. Water conservation and sanitation are crucial matters in many parts of the world, as all life depends on having sanitary water.
By one estimate, more than 14 trillion frequent-flyer miles have been accumulated by people worldwide. It all started in the early 1980s, when airlines began the first frequent-flyer programs to encourage repeat business by rewarding customers for their loyalty. Accumulated miles could be redeemed for free travel, goods, and services, so it wasn’t long before people began planning their travel based as much on personal reward as on price or schedule.
Lauren Kornacki is glad she took that summer CPR class, but she probably never thought she would have to use it so soon and on someone she loves. Her father was repairing his car when the jack slipped and the car fell on him. Lauren, a 22-year-old, reportedly heroically lifted the 3,300-pound car enough to pull him from underneath! Then she kept him alive with CPR until the paramedics arrived.
The story is told of a young boy who, during a bygone era, was aboard a passenger train attempting to make money selling apples. He made his way through the train car, saying, “Apples! Would you like to buy an apple?” When he got to the rear of the car, he still had a bagful of apples and no money.
My grandfather, my father, and his brothers were all tough men who, understandably, didn’t appreciate people who “got up in their faces about faith.” When my father, Howard, was diagnosed with a rapid and deadly cancer, I was so concerned that I took every opportunity to talk to him about Jesus’ love. Inevitably he would end the discussion with a polite but firm: “I know what I need to know.”
Following the death of computer pioneer Steve Jobs in 2011, more than one million people from around the world posted tributes to him online. The common theme was how Jobs had changed their lives. They said they lived differently because of his creative innovations, and they wanted to express their appreciation and their sorrow. The screen of one tablet computer said in large letters: iSad.
The lone tree in the field across from my office remained a mystery. Acres of trees had been cut down so the farmer could grow corn. But one tree remained standing, its branches reaching up and spreading out. The mystery was solved when I learned the tree was spared for a purpose. Farmers long ago traditionally left one tree standing so that they and their animals would have a cool place to rest when the hot summer sun was beating down.
While riding on a train a few years after the American Civil War, General Lew Wallace of the Union Army encountered a fellow officer, Colonel Robert Ingersoll. Ingersoll was one of the 19th century’s leading agnostics, and Wallace was a man of faith. As their conversation turned to their spiritual differences, Wallace realized that he wasn’t able to answer the questions and doubts raised by Ingersoll. Embarrassed by his lack of understanding about his own faith, Wallace began searching the Scriptures for answers. The result was his confident declaration of the person of the Savior in his classic historical novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.
I’ll never forget the Easter Sunday in 1993 when Bernhard Langer won the Masters golf tournament. As he stepped off the 18th green to receive the green jacket—one of golf’s most coveted prizes—a reporter said, “This must be the greatest day of your life!” Without missing a beat, Langer replied: “It’s wonderful to win the greatest tournament in the world, but it means more to win on Easter Sunday—to celebrate the resurrection of my Lord and Savior.”
My husband and I had recently moved into our house when a man dropped off a large box of strawberries on our front sidewalk. He left a note saying he wanted us to share them with our neighbors. He meant well, but some children discovered the box before any adults did and had a strawberry-throwing party at our white house. When we returned home, we saw children we knew watching us from behind a fence. They had “returned to the scene of the crime” to see how we would react to the mess. We could have just cleaned it up ourselves, but to restore our relationship, we felt it was important to talk with them and require their help in cleaning our strawberry-stained house.
In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a remarkable natural wonder—a pool about 40 feet deep and 300 feet across that Native Americans called “Kitch-iti-kipi,” or “the big cold water.” Today it is known as The Big Spring. It is fed by underground springs that push more than 10,000 gallons of water a minute through the rocks below and up to the surface. Additionally, the water keeps a constant temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that even in the brutally cold winters of the Upper Peninsula the pool never freezes. Tourists can enjoy viewing the waters of Big Spring during any season of the year.
I was surprised to see a nationally distributed news article commending a group of teenage snowboarders who hold weekly church services on a Colorado ski slope. In the Summit Daily News, Kimberly Nicoletti’s story captured a wide audience with her account of teens who love to snowboard and to tell how Jesus changed their lives. Undergirding the teenagers is a Christian youth organization equipping them to demonstrate God’s love.
Reading the book of Judges, with its battles and mighty warriors, can sometimes feel like reading about comic book superheroes. We have Deborah, Barak, Gideon, and Samson. However, in the line of judges (or deliverers), we also find Othniel.
Missionary Egerton Ryerson Young served the Salteaux tribe in Canada in the 1700s. The chief of the tribe thanked Young for bringing the good news of Christ to them, noting that he was hearing it for the first time in his old age. Since he knew that God was Young’s heavenly Father, the chief asked, “Does that mean He is my Father too?” When the missionary answered, “Yes,” the crowd that had gathered around burst into cheers.
At the First Battle of the Marne during World War I, French lieutenant general Ferdinand Foch sent out this communiqué: “My center is giving way, my right is retreating. Situation excellent. I am attacking.” His willingness to see hope in a tough situation eventually led to victory for his troops.
At the age of 86, Ken Deal concluded more than 3 decades of volunteer jail and prison ministry with a final Sunday sermon. His message to the inmates was about serving the Lord while incarcerated. Many of the examples he used came from prisoners, some serving life sentences. In a place everyone wants to leave, he encouraged them to grow and to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others.
A television commercial I enjoy at Christmastime shows two neighbors in a friendly competition with each other to see who can spread the most Christmas cheer. Each keeps an eye on the other as he decorates his house and trees with lights. Then each upgrades his own property to look better than the other’s. They then start competing over who can give the most extravagantly to other neighbors, running around cheerfully sharing gifts.
In December each year, a neighborhood of 13 families near where we live sets up a dazzling display of 300,000 Christmas lights. People drive for miles and wait in line for hours to see the flashing, colorful lights and hear the music that is programmed to go with it. The sound-and-light display is so elaborate that it requires a network of 64 computers to keep everything synchronized.
In 1867 on a farm in South Africa, 15-year-old Erasmus Jacobs saw a stone glistening in the sun. The shining rock was eventually reported to a neighbor, who wanted to buy it from the family. Not knowing its value, Erasmus’ mother told the neighbor, “You can keep the stone, if you want it.”
Yves Congar was just 10 years old when World War I began and the French town where he lived was invaded by the German army. His mother encouraged him to keep a diary, and what resulted was a lucid description of a military occupation, complete with written narrative and colored sketches. His diary recorded a disaster from a child’s perspective. What he witnessed had such a profound effect on him that he felt called to bring others the hope of Christ.
Many people who come to Marc Salem’s stage shows think he can read minds. But he makes no such claim, saying he is not a psychic or magician, but a close observer of people. He told writer Jennifer Mulson, “We live in a world that’s mostly invisible to us because we’re not paying attention to things . . . . I’m very sensitive to what people give off” (The Gazette, Colorado Springs).
When I was a teen, I witnessed an auto accident. It was a shocking experience that was compounded by what followed. As the only witness to the incident, I spent the ensuing months telling a series of lawyers and insurance adjustors what I had seen. I was not expected to explain the physics of the wreck or the details of the medical trauma. I was asked to tell only what I had witnessed.
I love the YouTube video of people in a food court of a mall, who in the midst of their ordinary lives were suddenly interrupted by someone who stood up and boldly began singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.” To the surprise of everyone, another person got up and joined the chorus, and then another, and another. Soon the food court was resounding with the celebrative harmonies of Handel’s masterpiece. A local opera company had planted their singers in strategic places so that they could joyfully interject the glory of God into the everyday lives of lunching shoppers.
Movers and shakers” are people climbing the ladder of influence and success. Luke 3 mentions seven prominent leaders who exercised control in the society of their time. Roman Emperor Tiberias Caesar held the power of life and death over people in his far-flung empire. Pontius Pilate represented Rome as governor of Judea; while Herod, Philip, and Lysanias kept people in line at the regional level. Annas and Caiaphas served as high priests, taking their religious authority seriously.
On a mild fall evening when the sky was dark and the moon was full, thousands of people in my hometown gathered along the banks of the river to light sky lanterns. They released them into the darkness, and watched as the lights rose to join the moon in a dazzling display that turned the night sky into a sparkling work of art.
While serving as a maid in London, England, in the early part of the 20th century, Gladys Aylward had other dreams. Her goal was to be a missionary to China. Having been rejected by a Christian missionary organization as “unqualified,” Gladys decided to go there on her own. At the age of 28, she used her life savings to purchase a one-way ticket to Yangcheng, a remote village in China. There she established an inn for trade caravans where she shared Bible stories. Gladys served in other villages as well and became known as Ai-weh-deh, Chinese for “virtuous one.”
A story is told that Queen Victoria of the UK was deeply moved during a church service. Afterward, she asked her chaplain, “Can one be absolutely sure in this life of eternal safety?” He did not have an answer. But an evangelist named John Townsend heard about the Queen’s question, and after much prayer he sent her a note: “With trembling hands, but heartfelt love, and because I know that we can be absolutely sure now of our eternal life in the Home that Jesus went to prepare, may I ask your Most Gracious Majesty to read the following passages of Scripture: John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10?”
The fifth book of the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, records the beginnings of the Christian church under the leadership of the people Jesus had appointed. Some scholars have suggested that this book could also be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit, because the Spirit’s power supplied courage for the apostles in the face of every hardship.
In 1987, our family moved to California to take up the pastorate of a church in the Long Beach area. The day we flew into town, my secretary picked us up at the airport to take us to our house. As we pulled into traffic, the very first thing I saw was a bumper sticker that read: “Welcome To California . . . Now Go Home!” It was not exactly a warm and cheery welcome to sunny southern California!
A missionary recently visited the Bible study I was attending. She described what it had been like to pack up her household, part with friends, and relocate to a distant country. When she and her family arrived, they were greeted with a flourishing drug-trade and hazardous roadways. The language barrier brought on bouts of loneliness. They contracted four different stomach viruses. And her oldest daughter narrowly escaped death after falling through a railing on an unsafe stairwell. They needed prayer.
Edward Payson was a famous preacher in a bygone era. One stormy Sunday, he had only one person in his audience. Some months later, his lone attendee called on him: “I was led to the Savior through that service,” he said. “For whenever you talked about sin and salvation, I glanced around to see to whom you referred, but since there was no one there but me, I had no alternative but to lay every word to my own heart and conscience!”
In an interview with Wired magazine, filmmaker George Lucas was asked how he wanted to be remembered. He replied: “I’ll be remembered as a filmmaker. . . . Hopefully some of the stories I told will still be relevant. . . . If you’ve raised children, you know you have to explain things to them, and if you don’t, they end up learning the hard way. . . . So the old stories have to be reiterated again in a form that’s acceptable to each new generation. I don’t think I’m ever going to go much beyond the old stories, because I think they still need to be told.”
James Madison, fourth president of the United States, was instrumental in the drafting of the US constitution. He warned against creating laws “so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.” Based on some of the complicated government forms I’ve read, that’s advice that still needs to be heeded a little more often!
Many years ago, when a young friend asked if he could borrow our car, my wife and I were hesitant at first. It was our car. We owned it, and we depended on it. But we soon felt convicted to share it with him because we knew that God wanted us to care for others. So we handed the keys over to him, and he traveled to a church 30 miles away to conduct a youth rally. The meeting was used by the Lord to bring teens to Christ.
Watchman Nee was arrested for his faith in Christ in 1952, and he spent the rest of his life in prison. He died in his jail cell on May 30, 1972. When his niece came to collect his few possessions, she was given a scrap of paper that a guard had found by his bed. On it was written his life’s testimony:
The Mission Point Lighthouse was built in 1870 on a peninsula in Northern Michigan to warn ships of sand bars and rocky shores along Lake Michigan. That lighthouse got its name from another kind of lighthouse, a mission church, which was built 31 years earlier.
For 2 decades, ecologist Mike Hands has worked to help farmers in Central America adopt more effective methods of growing their crops. It’s difficult, however, for them to abandon their long tradition of “slash and burn” agriculture, even though they know it destroys the soil and pollutes the air.
My friend was having a conversation with a man who didn’t have much good to say about the Christian faith. My friend knew that if he were to sound too “religious,” he would jeopardize any chance to witness. So, in the middle of their discussion, he said, “Hey, Bob, do you know where sinners go?”
El Bulli restaurant, 2 hours north of Barcelona, is so popular that customers must reserve a table 6 months in advance. But noted Spanish chef Ferran Adrià decided to close the doors of his award-winning restaurant for 2 years so he and his staff could have time to think, plan, and innovate. Adrià told Hemispheres Magazine, “If we are winning all the prizes, why change? Working 15 hours a day leaves us very little time to create.” In the midst of great success, they took time out for what is most important to them.
It was my first day of class at the Moscow Bible Institute where I was teaching Russian pastors. I began by asking the students to give their names and where they served, but one student shocked me as he boldly declared, “Of all the pastors, I am the most faithful to the Great Commission!” I was taken aback momentarily until, smiling, he continued, “The Great Commission says we are to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. I pastor north of the Arctic Circle in a village nicknamed ‘The End of the Earth’!” Everyone laughed and we continued with the session.
Not long ago my wife’s car needed to be towed. When I explained to the man at the towing company how to find our home, I instructed him to tell the driver not to follow his global positioning system (GPS). Because another street with the same name as ours was separated from our home address by a field, special instructions were necessary. He assured me he would pass on my directions.
Lachlan Macquarie, governor of New South Wales from 1810–1821, had a way of making everyone feel included in the new colony. When the “exclusives” (free settlers, civil servants, and military officers) shunned the society of the “emancipists” (transported convicts given conditional or absolute pardon), Governor Macquarie insisted that they be treated as social equals.
Because of his arthritis, Roger could no longer handle the winters of Illinois, so he moved to tropical Bangkok, Thailand. One day he remembered his grandmother’s favorite song, “What You Are”: What you are speaks so loud that the world can’t hear what you say; they’re looking at your walk, not listening to your talk; they’re judging from your actions every day.
Recently I had a conversation with a woman who had experienced a very difficult situation. The stress had affected her health, so she had to visit the doctor frequently. But with a smile on her face, she told me that she has been able to use this painful circumstance as an opportunity to share Christ with her doctor.
Joe Morris flavors his ice cream with ingredients ranging from chocolate and strawberries to green tea and dried chipotle peppers. He’s one of three ice-cream makers for a successful Texas company known for its quality, creativity, and innovation. But Joe hasn’t forgotten why he does it.
It’s perfectly natural for fear and doubt to creep into our minds at times. “What if heaven isn’t real after all?” “Is Jesus the only way to God?” “Will it matter in the end how I lived my life?” Questions like these should not be given quick or trite responses.
The term “viral video” refers to a short clip posted on the Internet that spreads rapidly as the link is sent from one person to another. The video may be funny, inspiring, or thought provoking, and it can quickly spread around the world and be seen by millions of people. It’s an advertiser’s dream, but few marketing experts are able to exploit it. Lacy Kemp wrote: “How do you make something spread like wildfire? The answer is that you can’t. It’s not something to plan for or else everyone would be doing it. It has to be awesome enough on its own to get there.”
Here in New England where I live, baseball is a near-religious pursuit. Even if it were against the law to talk about the Boston Red Sox while at work, the fans couldn’t stop—they love their team that much.
Before my husband and I travel, we go to the bank and trade in our US dollars for the currency of the country we’ll be visiting. We do this so we can pay for expenses while we’re away from home.
In his book Stuntman! My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life, Hal Needham reflects on taking risks. Needham has slugged it out in fist fights, raced cars at high speed, walked on wings of airborne planes, fallen off horses, and has even been set on fire! He risked his life to entertain film audiences and to distinguish himself as a top Hollywood stuntman.
Statistics are tricky. While numbers give us information, sometimes they can also desensitize us to the people those numbers represent. This hit me recently as I read a statistic: Every year 15 million people die from hunger. That’s chilling, and for those of us who live in cultures of plenty, it’s hard to fathom. In 2008, nearly 9 million children died before their fifth birthday, with a third of those deaths related to hunger. These are staggering numbers, but they are much more than numbers. They are individuals loved by God.
For many years, Allen Funt’s Candid Camera television program delighted viewers by using a hidden camera to catch the often hilarious reactions of ordinary people to unexpected situations. Their approach, according to his son Peter was: “We believe people are wonderful, and we’re out to confirm it.” Peter feels the perspective of some other similar shows is that “people are stupid, and we’re going to find ways to underscore that.”
A church in Naperville, Illinois, is basking in excitement about its brand-new bells in the belfry above its sanctuary. When the church was built many years ago, they didn’t have the money to purchase bells. However, for its 25th anniversary they were able to raise the funds to hang three bells in the vacant space. Even though they are stunning, there is one problem: the congregation will never hear the bells ring. Although they look real, they are artificial.
It was just a routine baggage inspection, but there was nothing ordinary about the contents of the suitcase. The Swiss customs agent who examined it discovered 14 original drawings by Pablo Picasso. The artwork, which was contained in a sketchbook, was estimated to be worth as much as $1.5 million, yet the passenger indicated “nothing to declare” to customs authorities.
Charles Finney, a 29-year-old lawyer, was concerned about his soul’s salvation. On October 10, 1821, he retreated to a wooded area near his home for a time of prayer. While there, he had a profound conversion experience. He wrote: “The Holy Spirit . . . seemed to go through me, body and soul. . . . Indeed it seemed to come in waves of liquid love.”
Although my culinary skills remain undeveloped, occasionally I use a box of premixed ingredients to make a cake. After adding eggs, vegetable oil, and water, I stir it all together. To bake a palate-pleasing cake, it’s vital to have the correct balance of the right ingredients. That helps me picture the relationship of the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:36-38) and the Great Commission (28:19-20) as we spread the gospel.
Quaker John Woolman was an itin- erant preacher who waged his own personal campaign to end slavery in colonial America. Woolman met with slave-holders to speak of the injustice of holding other human beings as property. Although Woolman did not eradicate slavery completely, he did persuade many masters to free their slaves. His success was due to individual, personal persuasion.
Jerry McMorris began reading the Wall Street Journal 50 years ago as a student at the University of Colorado. His appreciation for that publication and for his alma mater led him to donate hundreds of WSJ subscriptions for CU’s business school students. McMorris told the Colorado Springs Gazette: “The Journal gave me a good, broad perspective of what was going on in the business world, and I got into the habit of reading it at the start of my business day. It helps get across to students real business-world issues.”
My occupation is words. Whether I am writing or editing, I am using words to convey ideas so that readers can understand. I can usually see what’s wrong with someone else’s writing (though sometimes not with my own) and figure out how to fix it.
In some cultures, the title below your name on your business card is very important. It identifies your rank. The way you are treated depends on your title as compared with others around you.
As 19-year-old Amelia waited in her doctor’s office, she recognized the familiar hymn “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling” playing over the speaker. It made her smile when she remembered the words. Perhaps a song with the lyrics “shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming” was not the most appropriate background music for a doctor’s office!
Recently, I listened to an audiobook by a militant advocate for atheism. As the author himself read his own work with spiteful sarcasm and contempt, it made me wonder why he was so angry.
Imagine standing shoulder to shoulder with onlookers by a dirt road. The woman behind you is on her tiptoes, trying to see who is coming. In the distance, you glimpse a man riding a donkey. As He approaches, people toss their coats onto the road. Suddenly, you hear a tree crack behind you. A man is cutting down palm branches, and people are spreading them out ahead of the donkey.
Felipe Massa of Brazil should have won the Formula One Grand Prix in Singapore in September 2008. But as he drove off from a refueling stop while in the lead, the fuel hose was still attached. By the time his team removed the hose, he had lost so much time that he finished 13th.
Norena’s South Florida home was severely damaged during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. She received an insurance settlement, and the repair work began. But the contractors left when the money ran out, leaving an unfinished home with no electricity. For 15 years, Norena got by with a tiny refrigerator and a few lamps connected to extension cords. Surprisingly, her neighbors didn’t seem to notice her dilemma. Then, acting on a tip, the mayor got involved and contacted an electrical contractor who restored power to her house within a few hours.
As my wife and I were walking through a shopping mall, we came to a T-shirt stand. While browsing the shirts and their often humorous sayings, I noticed one with a disturbing message. It read, “So Many Christians, So Few Lions.” That shirt, with its reference to the first-century practice of throwing Christians to the lions in the Coliseum in Rome, wasn’t at all funny.
Itold my doctor who is an agnostic that he should be glad God created us. Seeing a needle in his hands, I wondered, Perhaps I should keep quiet. But I added, “If we are still evolving, then you wouldn’t know the exact spots to place those needles.” He asked, “Do you really believe in God?” I replied, “Of course. Aren’t we intricately made?” I was thankful for this opportunity to begin to witness to my doctor.
I read about Captain Ray Baker who flew for the Strategic Air Command during the Vietnam War. The Air Force trained him, along with the other pilots, to run out of their barracks to their planes at the sound of a buzzer. Many times during dinner he had to drop his utensils and bolt to his bomber. He had been trained to respond to the call with immediate obedience. He was so well-trained that one day while on furlough, he ran out of a restaurant when he heard a buzzer.
I was excited about going to the baseball park to watch the Detroit Tigers play the Chicago White Sox. I proudly put on my Tigers T-shirt that morning before going to the opposing team’s stadium. But I had to wear a sweatshirt over my team’s shirt because it was cool outside. So I was disappointed that no one at U.S. Cellular Field could see which team I was there to cheer for. No one knew I was a Tigers’ fan. After a 3-hour rain delay, the game finally started and I could cheer for my team and get my loyalty out in the open.
The book The Preacher and the Presidents chronicles the ministry of evangelist Billy Graham. Spanning presidents from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush, Graham often had an open door to the White House. Yet despite his unusual sphere of influence, Graham repeatedly credited the grace of God working through him for his influence—not any personal talent he might possess.
The miracles that God worked through Moses challenged the many gods of Pharaoh. Yet, in another time, there was a Pharaoh who promoted the belief in one deity. Pharaoh Akhenaten pointed to the rising and setting sun as the great deity who gave life to the earth. His religious symbol for Aton, the sun god, was represented by a single disc of light with emanating rays. Though this Pharaoh’s idea came closer to the one God of the Bible, it was still idolatry.
There was a time when a certain West Coast city may have been one of the most hostile places to the gospel in America. Posters in coffee shops advertised witchcraft meetings where you could learn to cast a spell on your enemies.
News that a solar eclipse would take place on July 22, 2009, brought an alarming prediction. It was predicted that the eclipse would sufficiently affect gravitational pull, causing tectonic plates to “pop a seam,” resulting in a sizable earthquake and a subsequent devastating tsunami in Japan. The US Geological Survey responded that no scientists “have ever predicted a major earthquake. They do not know how, and they do not expect to know how, anytime in the foreseeable future.”
Hans Geiger, Marie Curie, Rudolf Diesel, Samuel Morse, and Louis Braille share something in common. They all invented or discovered something significant that bears their name. Their names, along with many others, appear in the “Encyclopedia Britannica’s Greatest Inventions,” a list of “325 innovations that have had profound effects on human life.”
People tend to remember negative images more than they do positive ones, according to an experiment conducted at the University of Chicago. While people claim that they want to turn away from the barrage of bad news in the media—reports on tragedies, diseases, economic downturns—this study suggests that their minds are drawn to the stories.
One of the great privileges of serving at Moody Bible Institute was hearing about graduates who had impacted the world for Christ. Their stories of sacrifice, perseverance, and passion for the gospel were inspiring.