3 Words that Change Everything

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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

6 Practical Ways to Increase Your Hunger for God’s Word

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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

The Most Important Thing We Forget about the Bible

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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.”

What?! 

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

5 Extraordinary Ways God Leads Ordinary People

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Over the years, the Lord has used biographies to strengthen my faith and encourage my effort. Thus, biographies always have a place on my upcoming reading list.

Often, when I mention benefits of reading biographies in a teaching setting, someone will ask for recommendations. I’ve never really compiled a list, so I’ll usually just mention one or two that have been a recent blessing to me.

Well, today I have a recommendation: Where Only God Could Lead: the life story of Don Sisk.

This newly-released biography by Cary Schmidt is published by Striving Together, so I got a behind-the-scenes editorial pass to read it before it was published. I knew I’d enjoy it, but I didn’t realize just how encouraging and faith building it would be. Continue reading

If The Shoe Doesn’t Fit…

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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

How to Pray When You’re Overwhelmed

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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

The Ugly Truth about Spiritual Victory

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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

Your Journey to Victory in 2015

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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