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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

Love That Forgives

Eighty years of marriage! My husband’s great-uncle Pete and great-aunt Ruth celebrated this remarkable milestone on May 31, 2021. After a chance meeting in 1941 when Ruth was still in high school, the young couple were so eager to get married that they eloped the day after Ruth graduated. Pete and Ruth believe God brought them together and has guided them all these years.

Reflecting on eight decades of marriage, Pete and Ruth both agree that one key to sustaining their relationship has been the decision to choose forgiveness. That’s a significant choice. Anyone in a healthy relationship understands that we all regularly need forgiveness for the ways we hurt each other, whether through an unkind word, a broken promise, or a forgotten task.

In a section of Scripture written to help believers in Jesus live together in unity, Paul refers to the essential role forgiveness plays in daily relationships. After urging his readers to choose “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12) in their relationships, Paul adds the encouragement to “forgive one another if any of you has a grievance” (v. 13). Most importantly, all their interactions with each were to be guided by love (v. 14).

Relationships that model the characteristics outlined by Paul are a blessing. Though few of us will mark eighty years of marriage, may God help all of us work to cultivate healthy relationships characterized by love and forgiveness.

Legacy of Faith

In 2019, research exploring the spiritual heritage of Christians in the US revealed that mothers and grandmothers have a significant influence on spiritual development. Nearly two-thirds of people who claim a legacy of faith credited their mother and one-third acknowledged that a grandparent, usually a grandmother, also played a significant role. 

The report’s editor remarked, “Over and over, this study speaks to the enduring impact of mothers in . . . spiritual development.” It’s an impact we also discover in Scripture. 

In Paul’s letter to his protégé Timothy, he acknowledged that Timothy’s faith was modeled to him by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5). It’s a delightful personal detail highlighting the impact of two women on one of the leaders of the early church. Their influence can also be seen in Paul’s encouragement to Timothy to “continue in what you have learned . . . and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures” (3:14–15). 

A strong spiritual heritage is a precious gift. But even if our upbringing lacked the kind of positive influences that helped form Timothy’s faith, there are likely others in our life who have had a profound impact in helping to shape our spiritual development. Most important, we all have the opportunity to model sincere faith to those around us and leave a lasting legacy.

Christmas Light

To my eyes, the Christmas tree looked to be ablaze in fire! Not because of artificial strings of lights but from real fire. Our family was invited to a friend’s “altdeutsche tradition”—the old German way—celebration, featuring delicious traditional desserts and a tree with real, lit candles. (For safety, the freshly cut tree was lit one night only.)

As I watched the tree appear to burn, I thought of Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush. While tending sheep in the wilderness, Moses was surprised by a flaming bush that was somehow not consumed by the flames. As Moses approached the bush to investigate, God called to him. The message from the burning bush was not one of judgment but of rescue for the people of Israel. God had seen the plight of His people who were enslaved in Egypt and had “come down to rescue them” (Exodus 3:8).

While God rescued the Israelites from the Egyptians, all of humanity still needed rescue—not just from physical suffering, but also from the effects that evil and death brought into our world. Hundreds of years later, God responded by sending down Light, His son Jesus, (John 1:9-10), sent not “to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (John 3:17).

Walk On

Walk On is the fascinating memoir of Ben Malcolmson, a student with virtually no football experience who became a “walk on”—a non-recruited player—for the 2007 University of Southern California Rose Bowl champion team. A college journalist, Malcolmson decided to write a first-person account of the grueling tryout process. To his disbelief, he won a coveted spot on the team.

After joining the team, Malcolmson’s faith compelled him to find God’s purpose for him in this unexpected opportunity. But his teammates’ indifference to discussions of faith left him discouraged. As he prayed for direction, Malcolmson read the powerful reminder in Isaiah where God says: “My word . . . will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). Inspired by Isaiah’s words, Malcolmson anonymously gave every player on the team a Bible. Again, he was met with rejection. But years later, Malcolmson learned one player had read the Bible he’d been given—and shortly before his tragic death had demonstrated a relationship with and hunger for God, who he discovered in the pages of that Bible.

It’s likely that many of us have shared Jesus with a friend or family member, only to be met with indifference or outright rejection. But even when we don’t see results right away, God’s truth is powerful and will accomplish God’s purposes in His timing.

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.