Life seems straightforward in the laws of the Old Testament. Obey God and get blessed. Disobey Him and expect trouble. It’s a satisfying theology. But is it that simple?
King Asa’s story seems to fit the pattern. He led his people away from false gods and his kingdom thrived (2 Chron. 15:1-19). Then late in his reign, he depended on himself instead of God (16:2-7) and the rest of his life was marked by war and illness (v. 12).
It’s easy to look at that story and draw a simple conclusion. But when the prophet Hanani warned Asa, he said that God will “strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (16:9). Why do our hearts need strengthening? Because doing the right thing may require courage and perseverance.
Job got the starring role in a cosmic tragedy. His crime? “He [was] blameless and upright” (Job 1:8). Joseph, falsely accused of attempted rape, languished in prison for years—to serve God’s good purposes (Gen. 39:19–41:1). And Jeremiah was beaten and put in stocks (Jer. 20:2). What was the prophet’s offense? Telling the truth to rebellious people (26:15).
Life is not simple, and God’s ways are not our ways. Making the right decision may come at a cost. But in God’s eternal plan, His blessings arrive in due time.
C. S. Lewis and his older brother, Warren (Warnie), endured several terms at Wynyard, an English boarding school for boys. The headmaster was a cruel man who made life unbearable for everyone there. Decades later, Warnie wrote in his understated dry wit, “I am now sixty-four and a bit, and have never yet been in a situation in which I have not had the consolation of reflecting that at any rate I was better off than I was at Wynyard.” Most of us can recall a similar dark and difficult time in our lives and be grateful that we’re better off now than we were then.
Psalm 40:1-5 records a low point of David’s life when he cried out to the Lord who rescued him. God brought him up from “the slimy pit” and “the mud and mire” and set his feet on a rock (v. 2). “He put a new song in my mouth,” David says, “a hymn of praise to our God” (v. 3).
But deliverance from depression and despair are seldom one-time events. Psalm 40 continues with David’s renewed plea for God’s mercy, lovingkindness, and truth to deliver him from his own sin and the threats of his enemies (vv. 11-14).
Along with David, we can say at every low point, “I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer” (v. 17).
When I was a boy, I delivered newspapers to about 140 homes on two streets that were connected by a cemetery. Since I delivered a morning newspaper, I had to be out at 3:00 a.m. walking through that cemetery in the darkness. Sometimes I would be so frightened that I would actually run! I was afraid until I was standing safely under a streetlight on the other side. The scary darkness was dispelled by the light.
The psalmist understood the connection between fear and darkness, but he also knew that God is greater than those fears. He wrote, “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness” (Ps. 91:5-6). Neither terrors of night nor evil in the darkness need to drive us to fear. We have a God who sent His Son, the Light of the World (John 8:12).
In the light of God’s love and grace and truth, we can find courage, help, and strength to live for Him.
Earthquakes are prevalent in the Pacific Rim region known as the “Ring of Fire.” Ninety percent of the world’s earthquakes and 81 percent of the world’s largest earthquakes occur there. I learned that many buildings in the city of Hong Kong have been built on granite, which could help minimize damage in the event of an earthquake. The foundation of buildings is especially important in earthquake-prone regions of the world.
Crunch. Crunch. Whoosh! In the early days of film, Foley artists created sounds to support the story’s action. Squeezing a leather pouch filled with cornstarch made the sound of snow crunching, shaking a pair of gloves sounded like bird wings flapping, and waving a thin stick made a whoosh sound. To make movies as realistic as possible, these artists used creative techniques to replicate sounds.
When our children were small, I often prayed with them after we tucked them into bed. But before I prayed, I sometimes would sit on the edge of the bed and talk with them. I remember telling our daughter Libby, “If I could line up all the 4-year-old girls in the world, I would walk down the line looking for you. After going through the entire line, I would choose you to be my daughter.” That always put a big smile on Libby’s face because she knew she was special.
The story is told that in the late 1800s a group of European pastors attended D. L. Moody’s Bible conference in Massachusetts. Following their custom, they put their shoes outside their room before they slept, expecting them to be cleaned by hotel workers. When Moody saw the shoes, he mentioned the need to others because he knew their custom. But he was met with silence. Moody collected all the shoes and cleaned them himself. A friend who made an unexpected visit to his room revealed what Moody had done. The word spread, and the next few nights others took turns doing the cleaning.
For many years I’ve maintained a file folder labeled “Speaking.” It has become thick with articles, quotations, and illustrations that might be useful. Recently I went through it to discard things that are out of date. I found it difficult to throw away many of the items, not because I haven’t used them in a talk but because I haven’t put them into practice. I closed the folder thinking, “These aren’t words to talk about; these are words to live by.”