Almost three months after I moved to Southern California, I innocently asked a co-worker, who was a SoCal native, where would be the best spot to visit the ocean. “I have a couple days free, and I’ve been wanting to see the ocean. Where should I go?”
“You mean, you’ve never seen the ocean? Like, you don’t mean just not here in L.A., but no ocean anywhere?”
“I’m from Illinois. We don’t have the ocean there.”
“You’ve never seen the ocean? Never?”
Whatever, I thought to myself. It’s not like I’ve never seen anything that is memorable. I mean, look, she’s never seen unending acres of corn!
That was on Tuesday. Continue reading
Is it just me, or do you sometimes have an “off day” too?
As much as I want to wake up every day ready to take the world on and, by the end of the day, have a completed to-do list, all with actions that truly made a difference for eternity, no less; that’s just not the way it always happens.
Years ago, I read a quote by Jim Elliot about not doing life by half measures: “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
That quote resonated with me, as does Colossians 3:23: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”
I don’t want to live by half-measures. I don’t want to just go through motions. I want to give my all from my soul. Continue reading
You and I both know that faith is more than a feeling. It’s action. Steps. Moving forward. Progress.
Wait…is it all that?
And are all of those so easily defined without feelings? After all, how do you know if you’re making progress? And what if it takes more faith to wait than to act?
I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we’d have to admit that faith and feelings get pretty tangled in our hearts. And that sometimes we don’t really do faith at all; we are content to simply feel faith without changing our actions.
So what does doing faith look like, with or without feelings?
Think of the great faith heroes of the Bible and history. I’m pretty sure Abraham wasn’t “feeling faith” as he climbed Mount Moriah with Isaac. And I’m going to guess that Gladys Aylward wasn’t “feeling faith” as she led one hundred children across Communist territory while she was burning with fever.
Not only is faith more than a feeling, but it isn’t defined by feelings. Will you read that sentence again?
Faith isn’t defined by feelings, and they aren’t required for it to be faith.
So if faith isn’t a feeling, what is it? Or more specifically, what does it do? 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
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
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
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