Jesus taught that the world seen from God’s viewpoint is tilted in favor of the oppressed. This teaching emerges in the Sermon on the Mount and other statements of Jesus: the first will be last (Matt. 19:30; Mark 10:31; Luke 13:30), and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 14:11; 18:14). But why would God single out the oppressed for special attention?
Before they were a week old, the eaglets were fighting over food. Neither was strong enough to hold up his head for more than a few seconds, so the pair looked like fuzzballs with bobble-heads attached. But whenever the parents brought food to the nest, the bigger eaglet was quick to peck down his brother to keep him from getting a single bite. His aggression would have been understandable if food was scarce, or if the parents couldn’t be trusted to supply what he needed. But nothing could be further from the truth. The eaglets were being fed fish many times their size; there was more than enough for both of them.
In 1935, the debate team of Wiley College, a small and unranked black school in Texas, unexpectedly defeated the all-white championship team from the University of Southern California. This was a classic case of the unknown triumphing over a national giant.
Historian Cassius Dio recorded a revealing event from the life of Hadrian, the Roman Emperor from ad 117–138: “Once, when a woman made a request of [Hadrian] as he passed by on a journey, he at first said to her, ‘I haven’t time,’ but afterwards, when she cried out, ‘Cease, then, being emperor,’ he turned about and granted her a hearing.”
Giraffes have the shortest sleep cycle of any mammal. They sleep only between 10 minutes and 2 hours in a 24-hour period and average just 1.9 hours of sleep per day. Seemingly always awake, the giraffe has nothing much in common with most humans in that regard. If we had so little sleep, it would probably mean we had some form of insomnia. But for giraffes, it’s not a sleep disorder that keeps them awake. It’s just the way God has made them.
When my brother-in-law was a missionary in Mali, West Africa, he was involved in a traffic accident. A man had wandered into the road in front of Chuck’s motorcycle. The cycle struck the man and sent Chuck and the bike sliding along the ground for more than 200 feet. Shortly after Chuck regained consciousness in the hospital, his doctor told him he had been “really lucky.” Chuck smiled and replied, “God is good.”
I’ll never forget my first experience using an automatic car wash. Approaching it with the dread of going to the dentist, I pushed the money into the slot, nervously checked and rechecked my windows, eased the car up to the line, and waited. Powers beyond my control began moving my car forward as if on a conveyor belt. There I was, cocooned inside, when a thunderous rush of water, soap, and brushes hit my car from all directions. What if I get stuck in here or water crashes in? I thought irrationally. Suddenly the waters ceased. After a blow-dry, my car was propelled into the outside world again, clean and polished.
Have you ever felt like giving up? Elijah did. The Lord had just used him to show the nation of Israel that the Lord is God (1 Kings 18). Yet, the threats of Queen Jezebel so alarmed him that he ran to Beersheba, 100 miles south (19:3). Then he walked another 150 miles south to Horeb, the mountain of God.
A year ago today, 155 people on US Airways Flight 1549 thought they were going to die. During take-off from New York City, their plane struck a flock of geese, disabling both engines. In a powerless glide, the captain maneuvered over the densely populated area, then announced: “Brace for impact.” Less than 90 seconds later, the crippled plane made a water landing in the frigid Hudson River, where boats and ferries quickly arrived to rescue the passengers and crew, all of whom survived. People called it the “miracle on the Hudson” and praised the pilot and crew. One grateful passenger said simply, “We have a second chance in life.”
Has God ever asked you to do something that seemed unreasonable? Something that took you into the territory of the unknown? What if He asked you to refuse a long-awaited promotion or resist a longed-for relationship? What if He called you to a remote part of the world or asked you to release your children to serve Him in a faraway place?
Longtime California pastor Ray Stedman once told his congregation: “On New Year’s Eve we realize more than at any other time in our lives that we can never go back in time. . . . We can look back and remember, but we cannot retrace a single moment of the year that is past.”
A shredder ate hundreds of pieces of paper and other items in New York City on December 28 last year. Organizers of the second annual “Good Riddance Day” encouraged people to bring to Times Square their bad memories and suffering of 2008 and feed them into the industrial-strength shredder or toss them into an extra-large dumpster.
In my early years as a pastor, I served in small churches where finances were often tight. Sometimes our family finances felt the weight of that pressure. On one occasion, we were down to the last of our food and payday was still several days away. While my wife and I fretted about how we would feed our kids in the next few days, our doorbell rang. When we opened the door, we discovered two bags of groceries. We had not told anyone of our plight, yet our provider God had led someone to meet that need.
As I sat in the dentist’s chair, I braced myself for the drilling that would begin my root canal. I was ready for the worst, and my body language and facial expression exposed my sense of dread. The dentist looked at me and smiled, saying, “It’s okay, Bill. Try to relax.”
A gripping photograph of an old woman sitting in a pile of garbage made me ponder. She was smiling as she ate a packet of food she had foraged from the garbage dump. It took so little for the woman to be satisfied.
In his classic book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W. Phillip Keller gives a striking picture of the care and gentleness of a shepherd. In verse 3 when David says, “He restores my soul,” he uses language every shepherd would understand.
Sometimes we are overwhelmed by life. The crushing waves of disappointment, endless debt, debilitating illness, or trouble with people can cause hopelessness, depression, or despair. It happened to Jesus’ disciples. And it has happened to me.
In George MacDonald’s fairy tale Lilith, giants live among normal people. These giants must conduct their daily affairs very carefully. When they sleep, their snoring is disruptive. When they turn over, houses may be crushed under their weight.
You can learn a lot about a person by what his or her T-shirt says. Recently, one of these messages caught my attention as I walked through a local shopping mall. A young woman wore a bright red T-shirt that said, “Love Is for Losers.” Maybe she thought it was clever or provocative, even funny. Or perhaps she had been hurt by a relationship and had pulled away from others rather than risk being hurt again. Either way, the T-shirt got me thinking.
On the way home from a family camping trip, 6-year-old Tanya and her dad were the only ones still awake in the car. As Tanya looked at the full moon through the car window, she asked, “Daddy, do you think I can touch the moon if I stand on my tiptoes?”
On April 25, 1915, soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli peninsula expecting a quick victory. But fierce resistance by the Turkish defenders resulted in an 8-month stalemate during which thousands on both sides were wounded or killed.
A Chinese festival called Qing Ming is a time to express grief for lost relatives. Customs include grooming gravesites and taking walks with loved ones in the countryside. Legend has it that it began when a youth’s rude and foolish behavior resulted in the death of his mother. So he decided that henceforth he would visit her grave every year to remember what she had done for him. Sadly, it was only after her death that he remembered her.
A wise Bible teacher once said, “Sooner or later God will bring self-sufficient people to the place where they have no resource but Him—no strength, no answers, nothing but Him. Without God’s help, they’re sunk.”
When Jesus sent His disciples out, He gave them this promise: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Literally, the word always means “all the days,” according to Greek scholars Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown.
Recording artist James Taylor exploded onto the music scene in early 1970 with the song “Fire and Rain.” In it, he talked about the disappointments of life, describing them as “sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.” That was a reference to Taylor’s original band Flying Machine, whose attempt at breaking into the recording industry had failed badly, causing him to wonder if his dreams of a musical career would ever come true. The reality of crushed expectations had taken their toll, leaving Taylor with a sense of loss and hopelessness.
Our grandson Cameron was born 6 weeks prematurely. Undersized and in danger, he became a resident of the hospital’s neonatal unit for about 2 weeks until he gained enough weight to go home. His biggest challenge was that, in the physical exercise of eating, he burned more calories than he was taking in. This obviously hindered his development. It seemed that the little guy took two steps backward for every step of progress he made.
Almost everyone will at some time in their life be affected by depression, either their own or someone else’s. Some common signs and symptoms of depression include feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, worthlessness, and helplessness. Although we cannot say for certain that characters in the Bible experienced depression, we can say that some did exhibit a deep sense of despondency, discouragement, and sadness that is linked to personal powerlessness and loss of meaning and enthusiasm for life.
In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the central character is Ebenezer Scrooge. As a boy, I enjoyed watching the old black-and-white version of that movie with Alastair Sim portraying Scrooge. Sim did a phenomenal job presenting the heartless, miserly, self-centered Scrooge. I still look in the television schedule each Christmas to learn when I can watch that particular rendition of Dickens’ tale.
One of the joys of being with kids is holding their hands. We do it to keep them safe while crossing the street, or to keep them from getting lost in a crowd. And whenever they stumble and lose their footing, we grab their little hands tighter to keep them from falling.
Make haste to help me, O Lord!” the psalmist David prayed (Ps. 70:1). Like him, we don’t like to wait. We dislike the long lines at super-market checkout counters, and the traffic jams downtown and around shopping malls. We hate to wait at the bank or at a restaurant.
In the 18th century, silhouettes (shadow profiles traced and cut from black paper) were a popular alternative to costly portraits. The word took its name from the French controller general of finance, Étienne de Silhouette. During the Seven Years War against England, he tried to raise revenues by heavily taxing the wealthy. Victims of his high taxes complained and used the word silhouette to refer to their wealth being reduced to a mere shadow of what it once was.
Our family likes to hike, and we’ve had some grand adventures together. But when our boys were small, our enthusiasm caused us to walk too fast and too far, and their legs often grew weary. They couldn’t keep up the pace, despite their determined efforts and our assurance that the end of the trail was just over the next hill.
My wife and I like to rollerblade. Near the end of one of our favorite routes is a long hill. When we first started taking this route, I tried to encourage Sue by saying, “Are you ready for the hill?” just before pushing our way to the top. But one day she said, “Could you please not say that? You make it sound like a huge mountain, and that discourages me.”
Augustine said that God “judged it better to bring good out of evil, than not to permit any evil to exist.” Thus God takes the worst evil that men and women can do to us and turns it into good. Even the wrath of ungodly men brings praise to Him (Ps. 76:10).
The children of Israel had not gone far from the shore of the Red Sea when the realities of their new freedom began to register. They no longer enjoyed the ample food and water supply of Egypt. Now, after traveling 3 days into the wilderness, the large crowd had no water. And when they finally arrived at the oasis of Marah, the water was bitter (Ex. 15:23).
Ben Carpenter has muscular dystrophy and gets around in an electric wheelchair. One day as he was crossing an intersection, the light changed and a semi-truck caught the handles of Ben’s wheelchair in its grille. Unaware, the driver started down the road, and before long Ben was being pushed along at 50 miles per hour. Soon the rubber on the wheelchair’s tires began to burn off.
When rainy-season storms caused flooding in a nature preserve in Thailand, seven elephant calves became unlikely victims. As they tried to ford a river at their usual crossing point, dangerous currents swept them over a 250-foot waterfall. Wildlife advocates said the loss could have been prevented. A spokesperson for the Thailand Wildlife Fund complained that the protective barriers, which had been built at the crossing where four other young elephants had died earlier, were useless.
Whenever a preacher begins to talk about worry, I sense a pair of eyes staring at me. Without even turning my head, I know that my husband is looking at me to see if I’m paying attention.
For 3 months I had a ringside seat— or should I say a bird’s-eye view— of God’s amazing handiwork. Ninety feet above the floor of Norfolk Botanical Garden, workers installed a webcam focused on the nest of a family of bald eagles, and online viewers were allowed to watch.
Twig by twig a cardinal constructed a bowl-shaped home in the bush outside my office window. Soon she laid an egg and kept it warm until it hatched. I named the little bird Michael. Although he was tiny, he had a huge appetite. His parents worked hard to keep him fed and safe. In a few months, Michael was ready to leave, and I was there to witness the amazing event.
While in Chile for a Bible conference, I was resting at the hotel when a rugby match came on the television. Though I don’t fully understand rugby, I enjoy it and admire the courage it takes to play such a dangerous sport.
In August 2004, Hurricane Charley brought fierce destruction to areas of Florida. During the storm, 25-year-old Danny Williams went outside to seek protection in one of his favorite places, a shed under the protective branches of a banyan tree. But the tree fell on the shed and killed Williams. Sometimes, the places we look to for security can be the most dangerous.
After a long journey from Hong Kong, which involved a 7-hour layover compounded by a 3-hour delay, we arrived in Chicago. We missed the last flight to Grand Rapids, our destination, by just 20 minutes. The airline arranged hotel rooms for us, and we took a shuttle for a short night’s rest. We must have been a pretty sorry sight to the hotel staff. One of them looked at us, shook his head, and simply said, “Distressed travelers.” Perhaps in the travel industry that is a common term, but it was new to me. And it felt appropriate after 2 hard days of travel.
Visiting Alaska for the first time, I was excited that we were staying at the Mt. McKinley Lodge. As we were checking in, I caught a glimpse of a mass of rock through a large picture window, and I hurried out to the deck facing the mountain.
I know I’m not supposed to worry, but I’m a little concerned about something. Perhaps it’s because of a new situation in our family. As I look around, I can’t help but have a bit of anxiety. You see, my wife and I recently found out that we were going to be grandparents. This led me to think about the kind of world our grandchild will grow up in.
The psalmist wrote, "Be still, and know that I am God" (46:10). Paul exhorted the Philippians to "be anxious for nothing" (Phil. 4:6). And Peter instructed his readers to cast all their cares on God (1 Peter 5:7).
Life was tough for Datha and her family. At age 39, she had a heart attack and bypass surgery and learned that she had coronary artery disease. A year later, her 15-year-old daughter Heather became paralyzed as the result of a car accident. Datha quit her job to take care of Heather, and the bills started piling up. Soon they would be facing eviction. Datha was so angry with God that she stopped praying.
Trouble comes our way, according to Psalm 93, in relentless waves that surge and pound against our souls and break upon them with furious force. “The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice,” and they are deafening (v.3).
Our family was at Disney World a few years ago when God handed us one of His little blessings. Disney World is a huge place—107 acres huge, to be exact. You could walk around for days without seeing someone you know. My wife and I decided to do our own thing while our children sought out the really cool stuff. We parted at 9 a.m. and were planning a rendezvous around 6 p.m.
Most homes are built to keep its inhabitants safe from ill effects of the weather, but not the dwellings built for Succoth. During this Jewish holiday, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, worshipers live in dwellings made of leaves and branches. One requirement is that the stars must be visible through the "roof."
On August 27, 1960, US Air Force Captain Joseph Kittinger Jr. sat in a gondola suspended from a high-altitude balloon. When the balloon reached 102,800 feet above the surface of Earth (more than 19 miles), Kittinger jumped out. Four minutes and 36 seconds later his main parachute opened at 18,000 feet, but not before he had attained a velocity of 614 miles per hour! Kittinger carefully planned his record-setting descent.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the southern United States, displaced families and individuals were often referred to in the media as “refugees.” For some, this term was viewed as insulting, so it prompted reporters to scramble for another word that would not be perceived as negative. They decided on the word evacuees.
The Babylonian armies had Jerusalem surrounded. Resistance was futile. Jeremiah the prophet had already warned the leaders that the city would fall. Now he languished in prison for prophesying the truth.
Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) was the founder of the China Inland Mission and a great servant of God. But after the ferocious Boxer Rebellion of 1900, in which hundreds of his fellow missionaries were killed, Taylor was emotionally devastated and his health began to fail. Nearing the end of life’s journey, he wrote, “I am so weak that I cannot work. I cannot read my Bible; I cannot even pray. I can only lie still in God’s arms like a child and trust.”
When writing on the life of Simon Peter, songwriter and author Michael Card described the apostle as “a fragile stone.” It is a term filled with contrast, yet one that aptly describes Peter.
Unlike David in 2 Samuel 16, we like to take revenge, silence our critics, insist on fairness, and set everything right. But David told those who wanted to defend him: “Let [Shimei] alone, and let him curse; for so the Lord has ordered him” (v.11).
During a small-group exercise at a seminar, we were asked to introduce ourselves without referring to our occupations. The challenge was to explain who we are instead of telling what we do. It was not easy to focus on being instead of doing.
God knows and numbers the stars, yet He is concerned about you and me, even though we’re broken by sin. He binds our shattered hearts with sensitivity and kindness, and He brings healing into the depths of our souls. The greatness of God’s power is the greatness of His heart. His strength is the measure of His love. He is a tender and mighty God.
The children of Israel were to make tassels on the corners of their garments with “a blue thread in the tassels” (Numbers 15:38). The tassels reminded them to “do all My commandments, and be holy for your God” (v.40). The blue thread—the color of the heavens above—spoke of His immeasurable power and saving grace.
In the comic strip Peanuts, Lucy had just broken the news to Linus that children cannot live at home forever. Eventually they grow up and move away. Then she said that when he left she would get his room. But Linus quickly reminded her that at some time she too would have to leave home. When this realization hit Lucy, she was shocked, but she quickly came up with a solution. She turned the TV up loud, crawled into her beanbag chair with a bowl of ice cream, and refused to think about it.
The National Weather Service advises that if you’re ever caught out in the open during a severe lightning storm, you should kneel down, bend forward, and put your hands on your knees. Then, if lightning strikes nearby, your body will be less likely to serve as a conductor. Maximum safety depends on keeping a low physical profile.
Pastor Stuart Silvester told me of a conversation he had with an acquaintance who frequently flew his small private plane in and out of Toronto International Airport. He asked the pilot if he ever encountered problems taking off and landing a small craft at an airport that was dominated by so many large jets. His friend responded, “My plane may be small, but I have the same rights, the same privileges, and the same access to that airport as anyone else—even the jumbo jets!”
After a pre-concert rehearsal in New York City’s Carnegie Hall, Randall Atcheson sat on stage alone. He had successfully navigated the intricate piano compositions of Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt for the evening program, and with only minutes remaining before the doors opened, he wanted to play one more piece for himself. What came from his heart and his hands was an old hymn by Elisha Hoffman:
In 1803, Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark to lead an expedition across an unexplored America to the Pacific coast. The expedition was called “Corps of Discovery”—and it lived up to its name. It cataloged 300 new species, identified nearly 50 Indian tribes, and traversed terrain that had never been seen by Europeans.
Profitable Bible study involves more than just opening to a chapter and reading what's there. Here are seven guidelines to help you make the most of your study of the Bible.
Set aside a regular time. Unless you schedule it, you'll neglect it.
Before you start reading, ask God for help and understanding.
Carefully think about what you are reading. Not all of the Bible's treasures lie like pebbles on the surface. To mine the gold, you have to dig.
Seek to understand what the author was saying to the first people who read the book or letter before you decide how to apply it today.
Write down at least one truth or principle you can put into practice.
Try different translations of the Bible. If you find yourself skimming over familiar words, a new translation may focus your mind on the passage in a new way.
Don't get discouraged. Some parts of the Bible are more interesting than others, and some you may not understand at all. But there's enough that you can understand, and it will revolutionize your life if you apply it.
Can you imagine a child on Christmas morning leaving his presents unopened? Yet, millions of people are doing something like that by ignoring or rejecting Jesus Christ as their Savior. Everyone has a gift with a tag that reads: TO: (your name) FROM: God. But it can be opened only by repentance and faith.
About this time last year, a job became available in the church my wife and I attend. Just over a week before Christmas, my mother-in-law, Lenore Tuttle, died at the age of 85. When she went home to be with Jesus, she left a void not only in our family but also in our church. We were now without one of our most faithful prayer warriors.
Feeling secure is a high priority in this unsafe, volatile world. A private investigation agency in Florida promises to "work diligently to restore the sense of security and safety that you and your family deserve."
It turns out that we humans reason largely by means of our hearts and not by our heads. As French mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal noted long ago, "The heart has reasons that reason does not know."
A woman who prepared meals for hungry farm workers during the harvest season would watch them consume every bit of food on the table. Then she'd say, "Good. I fixed just the right amount."
During the US Civil War, fierce fighting was taking place near Moorefield, West Virginia. Because the town was close to enemy lines, it would be controlled one day by Union troops, and the next by Confederates.
After winning a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, wrestler Rulon Gardner took off his shoes, placed them in the center of the mat, and walked away in tears. Through that symbolic act, Gardner announced his retirement from the sport which had defined his life for many years.
I heard about a woman who kept a box in her kitchen that she called her "Worry Box." Every time something troubled her, she would write it down on a piece of paper and put it in the box. She resolved not to think about her problems as long as they were in the box. This enabled the woman to put her troubles completely out of mind. She knew they could be dealt with later.
Old age is the season when we can give ourselves to "soul-making," as the Quakers say. We can concentrate on getting to know God better and cultivating character traits that make us more like Him. Age breaks down our strength and energy and strips us of our busyness. It's God's way of getting us to slow down so we'll take more time for Him. We can think more deeply about life, about ourselves, and about others.
When you shift your mind into neutral and just let it idle, where do your thoughts go? Do you worry about money? We are to be careful with money, but Jesus taught that we are not to be full of care about it. If you have put your faith in the Lord, you don't have to worry about life's necessities. God Himself has assumed responsibility for your food and clothing—and all your needs.
When 8-year-old Jacob visited his Grampa in the hospital, he came with his own custom-made "Get Well" card. It was an 81/2" x 11" piece of stiff white paper folded in half. On the front he had written, "Hope you feel better soon." On the inside, in large block letters, was this message:
I will be with you
wherever you go.
As a seminary student I was often impressed by stories of Christians who made a great impact for God. So I asked the Lord to give me the same spiritual insight and power they had. On the surface that looks like a noble request. But one day I realized that it was actually a self-centered prayer. So instead of asking God to make me like someone else, I began asking Him to show me what He wanted me to do.
In the tender song of Moses found in today's Bible reading, God is portrayed as a dedicated mother eagle who can be trusted by her young, even in the scary experience of their learning to fly (Deuteronomy 32:11-12).
A missionary in Peru went to visit a group of believers one evening. She knew that the house where they were meeting was located on a cliff and the path would be treacherous. She took a taxi as far as it could go, and then she began the hazardous ascent to the house on foot. The night was dark and the way was very difficult. As she rounded a bend, she suddenly came upon several believers carrying bright lanterns. They had come out to light the way. Her fears were relieved, and she ascended the path easily.
When we are experiencing deep sorrow or difficult circumstances, we may feel offended if someone suggests that something good can emerge from our adversity. A well-meaning person who tries to encourage us to trust God's promises may be perceived as insensitive or even unrealistic.
Our friends were traveling from Georgia to Illinois in a rented van. About halfway to their destination, their van was damaged when it hit a huge hole in the road. Other cars were disabled as well, and it was a rather chaotic scene.
The participants at a conference in a church in Nebraska were given helium-filled balloons and told to release them at a point in the worship service when they felt like expressing their joy. All through the service, balloons ascended one by one. But when the meeting was over, one-third of the people had not released their balloons. I wonder if they couldn't think of any reason to praise God.
A team led by an Australian astronomer calculated the number of stars in the known universe to be 70 sextillion—7 followed by 22 zeros. That unfathomable number is said to be more than the grains of sand in every beach and every desert on earth. The calculation was the by-product of research on the development of galaxies. One team member said, "Finding the number of stars is not really the research we were doing, but it was a nice result to play around with."
Arctic sea birds called guillemots live on rocky coastal cliffs, where thousands of them come together in small areas. Because of the crowded conditions, the females lay their eggs side by side in a long row. It's incredible that a mother bird can identify the eggs that belong to her. Studies show that even when one is moved some distance away, she finds it and carries it back to its original location.
Author George MacDonald wrote, "God has come to wipe away our tears. He is doing it; He will have it done as soon as He can; and until He can He would have them flow without bitterness; to which end He tells us it is a blessed thing to mourn because of the comfort that is on its way."
Tennis superstar Arthur Ashe died of AIDS, which he contracted from a blood transfusion during heart surgery. More than a great athlete, Ashe was a gentleman who inspired and encouraged many with his exemplary behavior on and off the court.
The builders of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) like to show us their products in mind-boggling situations. High on a mountain crag, where no truck could seemingly go. Or in a swamp so impassable you'd need a hovercraft to negotiate it. We're supposed to think that SUVs are invincible.
No one expected the second anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to be as emotionally charged as the first. But that changed at Ground Zero in New York City when a group of 200 young people began reading the names of those who had died at the World Trade Center. The readers were the sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews of the victims. The 2,792 names, precious to those who read them, brought a fresh reminder of those they had loved and lost.
In May 2003, a powerful earthquake struck northern Algeria. TV news images showed distraught people searching the rubble for survivors, while others numbly visited hospitals and morgues to see if their loved ones were alive or dead. Families stood together weeping and crying out for help. Their burden of uncertainty and grief could be seen, heard, and felt.
I recall walking along a Texas creek many years ago with my brother-in-law Ed and his 3-year-old son David. David had been collecting smooth, round stones from the stream while we walked. He called them“ piggies,” because their rounded shape reminded him of little pigs.
The thought of being surrounded by sharks is not pleasant. I've spent enough time fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, I've read enough articles about their razor-sharp teeth, and I've seen enough films of shark attacks to know how dangerous they can be. But I've also been surrounded by sharks and felt perfectly safe.
Sea World in Florida has an underwater exhibit that allows you to be in a tank with thousands of pounds of living sharks. A plexiglass corridor makes it possible for you to pass through an aquarium housing scores of them. Guided tours allow you to enter the world of these predators, to sense their presence and power, and yet to be safely shielded from attack.
I'm usually a happy person. Most of the time I can take on as much work as anyone can give me. But some days there just seems to be too much to do. The schedule may be so full of meetings, appointments, and deadlines that there's no room to breathe. Life often contains too much work, parenting, home improvement, and other responsibilities for one person to handle.
A friend of actress and comedienne Gracie Allen once sent a small, live alligator to her as a gag. Not knowing what to do with it, Gracie put it in the bathtub and then left for an appointment. When she returned home, she found a note from her maid. "Dear Miss Allen: Sorry, but I have quit. I don't work in houses where there is an alligator. I would have told you this when I started, but I never thought it would come up."
Did you ever think of a prayer meeting as a miracle? That thought came to my mind one evening at church after we divided into small prayer groups. As someone in each group prayed, I heard several people talking to God at the same time. It sounded like a jumble of words. But that's the miracle. God was hearing each prayer—along with millions of others being lifted to Him around the world in many different languages.
A poor man in Ireland was plodding along toward home, carrying a huge bag of potatoes. A horse and wagon finally drew up alongside him on the road, and the driver invited the man to climb aboard. After getting on the wagon, he sat down but continued to hold the heavy bag.
When King David looked back on his life, he remembered some painful experiences. In Psalm 40, he recalled one especially severe difficulty, a time when he felt as if he had sunk deep into "the miry clay" (v.2).
An intriguing painting is on display in the Louvre in Paris. It portrays Faust (the legendary German magician who bartered away his soul to the devil) sitting across from Satan at a chessboard. Satan is gloating over what appears to be the checkmate of Faust's king. The magician's expression is that of a beaten man.
When a helicopter crashed in a cold, mountainous wilderness, the pilots survived but were seriously injured. The frozen afternoon stretched toward an even more freezing night. The situation seemed hopeless—until a rescue helicopter appeared, its searchlights illuminating the darkness. It spotted the wreckage, landed nearby, and carried them off to safety.
Charlie Brown, the comic strip character, identified with the underdog, probably because he always felt like one. In one scene he was building a birdhouse when the cynical Lucy came by. "I'm building it for sparrows," Charlie told her. Lucy said, "For sparrows? Nobody builds birdhouses for sparrows." "I do," replied Charlie Brown. "I always stick up for the underbird."
Jesus is just as real today as He was when He walked on this earth. Even though He doesn't move among us physically, by the Holy Spirit He is here, there, everywhere—a continuous, living presence—outside of us and inside of us.
The construction of the Great Wall of China began in the third century BC. Often called the "eighth wonder of the world," it is approximately 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) long. The Great Wall was built to protect the people against raids by nomadic peoples and invasions by rival states.
During Antarctica's 9-month winter, the continent is engulfed in darkness and the temperature sinks to -115 °F (-82 °C). Flights are halted from late February to November, leaving workers at scattered research stations isolated and virtually cut off from outside help. Yet, during 2001, two daring rescue missions penetrated the polar winter and airlifted people with serious medical conditions to safety.
A man had transformed an over grown plot of ground into a beautiful garden and was showing a friend what he had accomplished. Pointing to a bed of flowers, he said, "Look at what I did here." His companion corrected him, "You mean, 'Look at what God and I did here.'" The gardener replied, "I guess you're right. But you should have seen the shape this plot was in when He was taking care of it by Himself."
The Bible tells us that God knows our every thought and every word on our tongue (Psalm 139:1-4). And when we don't know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit "makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26).
When my son Stephen was 8, he was invited to stay overnight at a cousin's house. It was his first time away from home and it all sounded like an exciting adventure. But when my wife and I took him there, he started getting that homesick feeling. With tears glistening in his eyes and his voice quivering, he said, "Mommy, I don't feel so good. I'd better go home with you."
When God called Moses to serve, he replied, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue" (Exodus 4:10).
After a man shot and killed two people at Los Angeles International Airport in 2002, some began insisting that armed guards be placed at every check-in area. Others said that individuals should be screened before entering an airport terminal. But a consultant on airport security said, "If you move the checkpoint, all you're going to do is push the problem to another part of the airport. There will always be a public area that is vulnerable to these kinds of attacks."
I sometimes ask people, "Where does it say in the Bible, 'God helps those who help themselves'?" Most say they're not sure, but the concept is so familiar that they think it must be somewhere in God's Word.
A young Christian was working at his first job, the night shift at a refrigerator assembly plant, trying to earn money for Bible college. The people he worked with were pretty rough, and he was laughed at for being a Christian. The harassment occurred at every break and gradually became more and more vulgar.
If you're frustrated with the health care system and would like a personal physician who is always on call, you can have one—for a price. Two Seattle doctors are charging wealthy patients $20,000 a year for primary healthcare. They make house calls, give personal, unhurried treatment, and say the service they provide is like other perks available to people with money. Whatever we think of the medical ethics involved, it's a level of care most of us would like to have if we could afford it.
The meaning of the words Alpha and Omega —terms that refer to the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet—is fairly easy to understand. Like A and Z, they simply mean "the beginning" and "the end."
I was watching an eagle in flight when for no apparent reason it began spiraling upward. With its powerful wings, the great bird soared ever higher, dissolved into a tiny dot, and then disappeared.
The Midianites and their allies had invaded Israel. It was the time of the judges, and Gideon could muster only 32,000 men against an army "as numerous as locusts" (Judges 7:12). Then God cut the army down to 300 (vv.2-7). Gideon was afraid, so God sent him into the enemy camp at night. Crouching behind cover, the Israelite captain heard one soldier tell another about a dream (vv.13-14). A loaf of barley bread had tumbled into the Midianite camp, destroying one of its tents. His friend saw it as a sure sign that Gideon would win the battle.
Several years ago my wife Carolyn and I were hiking on Mount Rainier in Washington when we came to a swollen, glacial stream. Someone had flattened one side of a log and dropped it across the river to form a crude bridge, but there was no handrail and the log was slippery.
A British factory worker and his wife were excited when, after many years of marriage, they discovered they were going to have their first child. According to author Jill Briscoe, who told this true story, the man eagerly relayed the good news to his fellow workers. He told them God had answered his prayers. But they made fun of him for asking God for a child.
Erma Bombeck wrote a column about the conflicts that sometimes occur as siblings divide family items after a parent has died. Whether it's the mixing bowls, grandma's quilts, or the Christmas ornaments, people are often convinced that they alone should have a certain item. Bombeck said she never wanted a TV set or a tote bag to remember her parents, because their true legacy to her was the way they lived, not what they left behind.
Hagar, Sarah's handmaid, was being treated unkindly by Sarah, so she fled into the wilderness. As Hagar stood beside a spring in that desolate and lonely place, the Angel of the Lord visited her. He assured her that God Himself was aware of her situation. Hagar responded, "You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees" (Genesis 16:13). She found great comfort in knowing that the Lord God saw her and knew about her distress.
Several years ago my wife and I were walking in London when we came across a road named Godliman Street. We were told that a man once lived there whose life was so saintly that his street became known as "that godly man's street." This reminded me of an Old Testament story.