Our Authors

View All
Lisa M. Samra

Lisa M. Samra

Lisa desires to see Christ glorified in her life and in the ministries where she serves. Born and raised in Texas, Lisa is always on the lookout for sweet tea and brisket. She graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas and earned a Master of Biblical Studies degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. Lisa now lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, Jim, and their four children. In addition to writing, she is passionate about facilitating mentoring relationships for women, and developing groups focused on spiritual formation and leadership development. Lisa has been blessed to travel extensively and often finds inspiration from experiencing the beauty of diverse cultures, places, and people. Lisa enjoys good coffee, running, and reading—just not all at the same time.

Articles by Lisa M. Samra

Hallelujah!

Astonishingly, it took Handel only twenty-four days to write the orchestral music for the Messiah oratorio—today perhaps the world’s most famous musical composition, one performed thousands of times every year around the world. The magnificent work reaches its climax nearly two hours after it begins with the most famous part of the oratorio, the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

As the trumpets and timpani announce the beginning of the chorus, voices layer on top of each other as the choir sings the words of Revelation 11:15: “And he shall reign for ever and ever.” It is a triumphant declaration of the hope of eternity in heaven with Jesus.

Many of the words in Messiah come from the book of Revelation, the apostle John’s account of a vision he had near the end of his life describing events culminating with the return of Christ. In Revelation, John returns again and again to the theme of the return of the resurrected Jesus to earth—when there will be great rejoicing with the sound of choirs (Revelation 19:1–8). The world will rejoice because Jesus will have defeated the powers of darkness and death and established a kingdom of peace.

One day, all the people of heaven will sing together in a magnificent choir proclaiming the majesty of Jesus and the blessing of His forever reign (Revelation 7:9). Until then, we live, work, pray, and wait in hope.

Rediscovered

In 1970, a car executive visiting Denmark learned that a 1939 Buick Dual Cowl Phaeton was owned by a local resident. Since the car never actually went into production, it was a rare find—a one-of-kind vehicle. Delighted with the discovery, the executive bought the car and spent his time and money to have it restored. Currently, this unique car is featured in a world-renowned collection of classic vehicles.

Hidden treasures can take many forms, and in the book of 2 Chronicles we read about another discovery of a lost treasure. Eighteen years into his reign as king of Israel, Josiah began to repair the temple in Jerusalem. During the process, the priest Hilkiah found the “Book of the Law in the temple” (2 Chronicles 34:15). The Book of the Law, the first five books of the Old Testament, had likely been hidden away decades earlier to keep it safe from invading armies. Over time it had been simply forgotten.

When King Josiah was told about this discovery, he realized the importance of the find. Josiah called all the people of Israel together and read the entire Book of the Law so they could commit themselves to keep all that was written in it (vv. 30–31).

Still important for our lives today, we have the amazing blessing of access to all sixty-six books of the Bible, a treasure of infinite worth.

 

Crushed and Beautiful

At first glance I dismissed the painting Consider the Lilies by Makoto Fujimura as a simple, monochromatic painting featuring a lily seemingly hiding in the background. However, the painting came alive when I learned it was actually painted with more than eighty layers of finely crushed minerals in a style of Japanese art known as Nihonga, a style Fujimura calls “slow art.” Looking closely reveals layers of complexity and beauty. Fujimura explains that he sees the gospel echoed in the technique of making “beauty through brokenness,” just as Jesus’ suffering brought the world wholeness and hope.

God loves to take aspects of our lives where we’ve been crushed and broken and to create something new and beautiful. King David needed God’s help to repair the brokenness in his life caused by his own devastating actions. In Psalm 51, written after admitting to abusing his kingly power to take another man’s wife and arrange the murder of her husband, David offered God his “broken and contrite heart” (v. 17) and pleaded for mercy. The Hebrew word translated “contrite” is nidkeh, meaning “crushed.”

For God to refashion his heart (v. 10), David had to first offer Him the broken pieces. It was both an admission of sorrow and trust. David entrusted his heart to a faithful and forgiving God, who lovingly takes what’s been crushed and transforms it into something beautiful.

Useless Without Love

After taking the pieces for my special-order table from the box and laying them out before me, I noticed something wasn’t quite right. The beautiful top for the table and other parts were accounted for, but I was lacking one of the legs. Without all of the legs, I couldn’t assemble the table, rendering it useless.

It’s not just tables that are useless when missing one vital piece. In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul reminded his readers that they were missing one essential component. The believers possessed many spiritual gifts but lacked love.  

Using exaggerated language to emphasize his point, Paul wrote that even if his readers had all knowledge, if they gave away every single thing they owned, and even if they willingly suffered hardship, without the essential foundation of love, their actions would all amount to nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1–3). Paul encouraged them to always infuse their actions with love, movingly describing the beauty of a love that always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres (vv. 4–7).

As we use our spiritual gifts, perhaps to teach, encourage, or serve in our faith communities, remember that God’s design always calls for love. Otherwise, it’s like a table missing a leg. It can’t achieve the true purpose for which it was designed.

No Greater Love

Commemorations of the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day in 2019 honored the more than 156,000 troops who took part in the largest seaborne invasion in history to liberate Western Europe. In his prayer broadcast over the radio that day, President Roosevelt asked for God’s protection, praying, “They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate.”A willingness to put one’s self in harm’s way to restrain evil and liberate the oppressed brings to mind Jesus’s words: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). These words come in the midst of Jesus teaching His followers to love each other. But He wanted them to understand the cost and depth of this type of love: a love exemplified when one willingly sacrifices his or her life for another person. Jesus’s call to sacrificially love others is the basis of His command to “love each other” (v. 17).

Perhaps we could show sacrificial love by giving time to care for the needs of an aging family member. We could put the needs of a sibling first by doing their chores during a stressful week at school. We might even take extra shifts with a sick child to allow our spouse to sleep. As we sacrificially love others, we demonstrate the greatest expression of love.

Food from Heaven

In August 2020, residents of Olten, Switzerland, were startled to find that it was snowing chocolate! A malfunction in the ventilation system of the local chocolate factory had caused chocolate particles to be diffused into the air. As a result, a dusting of edible chocolate flakes covered cars and streets and made the whole town smell like a candy store.

When I think of delicious food “magically” falling from the heavens, I can’t help but think of God’s provision for the people of Israel in Exodus. Following their dramatic escape from Egypt, the people faced significant challenges in the desert, especially a scarcity of food and water. And God, moved by the plight of the people, promised to “rain down bread from heaven” (Exodus 16:4). The next morning, a layer of thin flakes appeared on the desert ground. This daily provision, known as manna, continued for the next forty years.

When Jesus came to earth, people began to believe He was sent from God when He miraculously provided bread for a large crowd (John 6:5–14). But Jesus taught that He himself was the “bread of life” (John 6:35), sent to bring not just temporary nourishment but eternal life (v. 51).

For those of us hungry for spiritual nourishment, Jesus extends the offer of unending life with God. May we believe and trust that He came to satisfy those deepest longings.

Gratitude on Earth Day

Earth Day is an annual event observed on April 22. In recent years, more than one billion people in about two hundred countries have taken part in educational and service activities. Each year, Earth Day is a reminder of the importance of caring for our amazing planet. But the mandate to care for the environment is far older than this…

His Cross of Peace

Somber eyes peer out from the painting Simon of Cyrene, by contemporary Dutch artist Egbert Modderman (Mark 15:21). Simon was pulled from the watching crowd and forced to help Jesus carry His cross. In the painting, Simon’s eyes reveal the immense physical and emotional burden of this responsibility.

Mark tells us that Simon was from Cyrene, a big city in North Africa that had a large population of Jews during Jesus’ time. Most likely Simon had journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Then he found himself in the middle of this unjust execution, but was able to perform a small but meaningful act of assistance to Jesus (Mark 15:21).

Earlier in the gospel of Mark, Jesus tells His followers, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (8:34). On the road to Golgotha, Simon literally did what Jesus figuratively asks His disciples to do: he took up the cross given to him and carried it for Jesus’s sake.

We too have “crosses” to bear—perhaps an illness, a challenging ministry assignment, the loss of a loved one, or persecution for our faith. As we carry these sufferings by faith, we point people to the sufferings of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. It was His cross that gave us peace with God and strength for our own journey.

Chatty Bus

In 2019, the Oxford Bus Company launched the instantly popular “Chatty Bus,” a bus with designated people on board willing to talk with interested passengers. The route was initiated in response to government research which found that thirty percent of Britons go at least one day each week without a meaningful conversation.

Many of us have likely experienced the loneliness that comes from not having someone to talk to in a time of need. As I reflect on the value of important conversations in my life, I'm especially reminded of discussions that were full of grace. Those times brought me joy and encouragement, and they helped to cultivate deeper relationships.

At the end of his letter to the Colossian church, Paul encouraged his readers with principles of authentic living for believers in Jesus, including ways our conversations can exhibit love to everyone we encounter. The apostle wrote, “Let your conversation be always full of grace” (4:6), reminding his readers that it is not simply the presence of words but the quality of those words—“full of grace”—that would allow them to be a true encouragement to others.

The next time you have the opportunity to connect deeply in conversation—with a friend, co-worker, or even a stranger seated next to you on a bus or in a waiting room—look for ways your time together might bring blessing into both of your lives.