One of the most memorable moments of my trip to the Philippines last January was sitting in on a young adults Sunday school class at Bethany Baptist Church in Makati. (I took the picture above from the upstairs balcony of this church.)
The text for the lesson was 2 Corinthians 8 about the Macedonian churches who, out of their poverty, were motivated and enabled by the grace of God to give joyfully to the advancement of the gospel.
In the morning church service, that church—comprised of Filipino Christians from the greater Manila area—gave three offerings. I am not exaggerating. The final offering was for five families in the church who were going through times of financial trial due to sickness or deaths in the family. When the pastor announced the amount of that offering (as he had announced the two previous offerings), I was amazed and humbled at the generosity of these Christians. Continue reading
Sometimes I imagine a conversation between an Israelite woman and a foreign guest in the Promised Land. The Israelite woman (whom we’ll call Sarah) was among those who spent four decades in the wilderness, and her new companion (we’ll call her Fatima) has recently trekked the same territory. They are eager to swap stories and compare experiences:
Sarah: Remember the sandstorms?
Fatima: Yeah, there’s nothing like being sand-blasted by hot, wind-driven sand. We had some days we couldn’t journey at all until the wind died down.
Sarah: Exactly. We had to watch for when the cloud or the pillar of fire moved from over the tabernacle.
Fatima: What? (She gives a suspicious glance and wonders if Sarah is okay.) We didn’t have a tabernacle. And we definitely didn’t have pillar of fire with us.
Sarah: That’s too bad. I mean, there were days I wanted to go forward when we couldn’t and days I wanted to stay when we had to move, but all in all, I was thankful for God’s presence with us.
Fatima: And you say this…this presence was in a pillar of fire? Continue reading
Perhaps you’ve heard that one of the best ways to overcome an inward focus (and the discouragement and depression that it can bring) is to serve others.
This is good advice. But what if your entire life is already built around serving others?
Let’s say that you’re a mother or a teacher or a caregiver or you serve in ministry…and practically everything you do is already either serving someone else or structured around the times and ways you serve.
And let’s say you’re finding yourself overwhelmed, and your emotions are turning in on you.
How is adding one more act of service supposed to feel like anything less than an extra burden? How is baking cookies for your neighbor, for instance, going to feel like anything other than one more thing to do for one more person?
And if baking cookies won’t help, what can you do to break out that self focus?
Here are thirteen ideas: Continue reading
It was Hudson Taylor who famously said, “God is not looking for men of great faith, only some common souls like you or me…willing to trust in His great faithfulness.”
If you want a front-row seat to a modern-day example of that quote, you need to pick up the newly-released autobiography by Dr. Edgar Feghaly, Forward in the Face of Fear: My Life for Christ in the Muslim World.
I first read this during the pre-publication editorial process, but only after two of my coworkers had already read it. They described stories to me that were over-the-top unbelievable. When they told me they had barely scratched the surface in what they had relayed and that the book was full of such stories, I held private doubts. Continue reading
Let’s assume that two things are true in your life:
- You know that only God’s Word is sufficient to win in your emotional struggles.
- You are in the midst of a struggle right now.
I hope the second isn’t true this moment. But if you’re like every other person on the face of this planet, there are times that it is.
In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of using God’s Word as the only sure escape from the emotional rollercoaster we all find ourselves on at times. But in this post, I’d like to give ten practical ways to bring God’s Word into focus during these times.
When your emotions feel out of control, how do you bring the truth of God’s Word into your reality? Continue reading
I’ll never forget my first rollercoaster ride. Neither will my sister, Michele—my unfortunate companion.
Poor Michele. She, who even at ten years old loved rollercoasters, didn’t know that during our hour-long wait in line, my second thoughts were multiplying. This was my first rollercoaster, and I was beginning to think this wasn’t such a great idea. By the time we were being seated, I was truly afraid.
As we pulled the lapbar down from above, I remember saying, “Why am I doing this? I want to get off.” But it was too late; we were already chugging up that first incline for the first drop.
Emotions are a little like roller coasters, aren’t they? Up and down and looping around. Even as you’re going up, you find your stomach bracing for the coming plunge. And that’s on the good days.
Then there are the really scary days when the coaster takes us upside down, and we feel like we’re turning inside out. Sometimes we get stuck spiraling through loops of anxiety, depression, anger, or other emotions from which we fear we’ll never escape. Continue reading
Do you ever feel like you’re going in circles?
Repeating the same struggles.
Relearning the same lessons.
Remembering the same truths.
Regaining old victories.
Over and over and over.
How can we be growing in grace and increasing in the knowledge of God when we’re simply traveling in circles? Continue reading
There is a single phrase I really love to hear at the beginning of a weekly discipleship meeting with a young Christian: “I have a question.” It means the person sitting across from me is personally engaging in understanding and applying truth.
On this particular occasion, it was late in the month of December—the week before Christmas, if I remember correctly—when the recently-saved Christian I was meeting with began our discipleship meeting with that statement. It was her first Christmas after being saved as an adult a few months previously, so much was new to her.
I’m not usually taken off guard by questions of young Christians, but this one surprised even me: “Who is Emmanuel?”
Before I could answer, she continued, “I mean, we’ve been singing about Him in church a lot this month. Who is He?” Continue reading
I purchased my first goat as a thirteen-year-old fresh out of the city suburbs. I had no idea what I was in for.
I named my new pet Sarah Jane, but my mom called her, “the big, black villain”—mostly due to her size and color. Mostly.
Exactly one day after my purchase, Sarah Jane had four kids. And I had my hands full. Sarah Jane nursed two of the kids, and I bottle fed the other two.
Bottle feeding goat kids is fun. They’re energetic, cute, and always look like they’re up to something. Healthy kids attack a bottle the moment it’s within leap reach. They drain it quickly and use every trick they know to coax for more.
But one morning, when the kids were two weeks old, one of them showed no interest in her bottle. Zero. Her ears drooped, and she made little effort even to be petted. I remember the concern that gripped my heart as I called the farm where I had purchased her mother. Continue reading
Every week, I have the exciting opportunity to sit across the table from a young Christian and study God’s Word during our church’s discipleship time. At the end of each lesson, I usually ask the lady I’m studying with what stood out to her the most and if she has any questions we didn’t already answer.
I’ll never forget the time when, after our lesson on the Bible itself, the new Christian across from me answered my first question with, “I didn’t know God wrote the Bible.”
She came from a background that accepted religious tradition for truth, so, in one sense, her answer wasn’t surprising. But still…
A few days later, I relayed the conversation to a friend. Her response struck me with as much food for thought as the young Christian’s. “Sometimes,” she said with tears in her eyes, “I think we forget that too.” Continue reading