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
I hate it when my shoes wear out. Come to think of it, they probably wear out because I hate shopping for shoes so much that I wear the ones I have to death. At any rate, I don’t enjoy shopping for shoes, and I have my reasons.
First, there’s the whole issue of style. Some people are born with a good sense of style when it comes to footwear, and others aren’t. I place myself in the second category. So does my sister. So do my friends. When I’m shopping with them and point out a shoe that catches my eye, invariably the observation elicits a stifled smile or an outright laugh.
Then there’s the issue of size. I have a good three-sizes (if you include half sizes) range on shoe size, and I wrestle with which one fits just right. I’ve been tricked by shoes more than once. In the store, they feel great, but the next day, not so much. Needless to say, I’m wary. Continue reading
I almost drowned once. It was at a friend’s birthday party, of all places. I think I was six. Thankfully, I was rescued, but I still remember that sense of helplessness as I was engulfed in the water and knew I couldn’t swim.
(Days later, I remember telling my sister, “I should have just gone down to the bottom and walked back to the shallow end of the pool.” Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy when you’re drowning.)
Do you know what it feels like to drown?
I’m guessing you do. Maybe you didn’t slip into the deep end of a pool, but you’re over your head in responsibilities. In grief. In fear. In need.
How do you even pray then? Continue reading
Do you ever feel that God has hidden His face from you?
Probably not. I don’t either, of course. (I don’t think respectable Christians feel that way.)
But sometimes the psalmists felt it. Their words describe it as an experience with a pain scale ranging from desperate to terrifying: Continue reading
Some years ago, I attended a church retreat in which one of the sessions was a Q&A with the keynote speaker with the questions submitted anonymously.
If you’ve ever answered an anonymous Q&A, you know what a challenge the questions can be. The upside is that people are generally more transparent in what questions they are willing to ask. The downside is that it’s difficult to know the context or slant of the questions.
One of the questions in that particular retreat had to do with fighting a besetting sin. I can’t remember the specifics of the question (other than the obvious note of discouragement in it), and I can’t remember the full answer from the speaker. But I do remember the final two sentences of his answer: Continue reading
I woke up this morning with the keen realization that 2014 is almost over. It’s a lazy sort of morning with few plans, so I took several minutes to reflect on the incredible blessings of God’s goodness and grace this past year before peeling myself out from the covers.
It’s been the sort of year that makes me deeply thankful to belong to the Good Shepherd. As I think back over the months, they’ve had their challenges, but each month has been overflowing with God’s grace and kindness.
As I opened my Bible for my morning reading, vital dots began to connect between the blessings of 2014 and the book in my hands. Continue reading
One of the most shocking biographies I remember reading was that of William Cowper.
Even if you don’t recognize his name, you’ve probably sung his hymns (including “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood”) or used the phrase he coined, “God moves in a mysterious way.”
It’s been years since I read his biography, but in recent research, I came across his name and reflected for a few minutes on some of the most extraordinary and meaningful aspects of his life.
Cowper’s salvation testimony is remarkable because he was saved as a direct result of admittance to a mental asylum after failed suicide attempts. The doctor who treated Cowper was a born again Christian who shared the gospel with him. The night and day difference in Cowper’s life after his salvation is undeniable.
Most of us would be very comfortable with Cowper’s testimony if it ended there. But it didn’t. Although he didn’t struggle mentally to the same degree after his salvation as he had before, he did battle mental illness (including severe depression and two more mental breakdowns) for the rest of his life. Continue reading
Thanksgiving is more than a holiday; it is an action—thanks giving.
Of course, everyone—saved and unsaved alike—has much to be thankful for. We all enjoy what Spurgeon called the “common mercies” of God. And most people try to practice gratitude.
But those of us who know the Lord know who we are grateful to. We don’t simply “give thanks”; we “give thanks unto the Lord for He is good” (Psalm 136:1).
So what do we give thanks to the Lord for? Everything. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
Because, however, it is difficult to genuinely give thanks for everything all at the same time, here is a simple acrostic of ten things we who know the Lord have reason to give Him thanks: Continue reading