Following a long season of loss, hardship, transition, and illness, my heart and mind were in a fragile place. Though my assurance that Jesus Christ is “our great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13) remained intact, I had many questions about what it meant to fully trust Him in the day-to-day aspects of life.
Four-year-old Seth had a penchant for adventure, and the sight of an empty laundry basket at the top of the stairs proved just too inviting. Climbing in, he launched himself down the sixteen steps, tumbling into the door beyond the landing. His mother raced to investigate.
Gales of laughter spill throughout the room as our daughter doubles over in delight after having bested her dad in their game of “got you.” Keeping points, they look for opportunities to scare each other. Though well into her teen years, my daughter finds great pleasure in scoring a point, while I find great joy in hearing the natural, unhindered delight of those I love.
When I was younger, shame or guilt would often overwhelm me. The trigger could be an obvious area where I had failed, and I simply could not shake the gloom as I desperately sought forgiveness. Other times, I endured a suffocating fear that something was wrong or that I needed to confess something. I assumed this weighty guilt was the Spirit’s conviction as I sank deeper into despair.
I had a friend who questioned his Christian workplace’s views of a particular disputable theological matter. Not long after voicing his concerns, he was labeled by co-workers as being theologically suspect. He no longer works for that ministry. But he recently found out that his accusers and the denomination with which the workplace was affiliated ended up agreeing with his stance. Unfortunately, he never received an apology from the group.
“My Tribute,” one of my favorite worship songs, addresses how to adequately respond to God’s undeserved mercy and grace. The lyrics note that although we can never thank Him enough, we can live in ways that please Him. Similarly, Paul describes our lives as the best way we can give thanks: “Give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). While that sacrifice means some believers will die for Jesus, all of us are called to live for Him.
The trailer for the epic World War II movie Saving Private Ryan contains these words: “In the last great invasion of the last great war, the greatest challenge for eight men was saving . . . one.” Jesus similarly told a parable about a shepherd who searched for one lost lamb. “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4). Christ told the story to illustrate how God won’t stop searching until He finds “the one” who’s lost, but I normally don’t see myself as “the one” needing to be found. I’m among those in the fold who think they are doing “just fine.” I’m the trained counselor who helps people, armed with the mission as a believer in Jesus to help and serve others who are lost.
When Robert Edmiston lost his job in the early 1970s, he used the money he received in severance pay to start International Motors. Edmiston went on to become one of the wealthiest business owners in the UK and one of the country’s most generous philanthropists. As a believer in Jesus, he felt compelled to use his wealth to start religious and educational charities that to this day bring hope to people around the world. With offices in Europe, Africa, North America, Latin America, and Asia Pacific, Robert Edmiston has donated hundreds of millions of dollars since 1988.
In 1983, a sixty-one-year-old potato farmer named Cliff Young showed up for a grueling, weeklong ultramarathon from Sydney to Melbourne—in overalls and work boots. He shuffled off the starting line as the much younger and athletic runners sprinted ahead. Soon he was miles behind. Spectators feared for his health. But that night, as the other runners slept, Cliff took a quick nap and kept going. Five days and five nights later he came in first—ten hours ahead of his closest competitor!
The council in Cassandra Boyson’s Seeker’s Trilogy was responsible for maintaining law and order in the name of the “Great One.” Instead, they were corrupt, singling out people they deemed different for cruel treatment. Slowly the surrounding society began to decay—reflecting the council’s immoral ways. Yet in a surprising twist, the Great One righted the wrongs of that world by providing a river that transformed all who came into contact with it.
I was power-trimming weeds beneath a large tree in our backyard when I felt a painful, burning jab to the back of my skull. Turning, I noticed several hornets buzzing around me. Having been already stung by one, I fled the scene. Later that night I discovered I had bumped the hornets’ watermelon-sized nest with my head! A sting had snapped me out of my clueless state, one that could have resulted in me being swarmed and stung repeatedly.
My adopted teenage son and I had the privilege of hosting two of his closest friends, Brock and Wesley (and their parents), in his native country of Uganda. Though our friends were spending just one week in East Africa, their plans were so ambitious that I said to Brock, “Your dad wants to do everything in seven days.” “It’s possible,” Brock replied. “God made the earth in seven days.” “Yes,” my son said with a smile, “but did God do all of these activities?”
Sam thought his teacher was a bit over the top with her interpretations of poetry. She could launch into a detailed explanation of why there are “five sibilant sounds in this phrase.” This would cause Sam to think, Don’t be ridiculous! The poet just used words with the letter S! Try writing a poem without that sound.
A woman named Wednesday was out walking when she saw a well-dressed woman coming toward her. The woman drifted in her path, pushing Wednesday to the edge of the sidewalk. As she brushed by, Wednesday noticed she was carrying a $60,000 Birkin handbag. She realized if she was going to be accepted in New York’s prestigious Upper East Side, she would have to get one.
Like many people with a guilt-inclined personality, accepting that the gospel is good news for me hasn’t come easy. Having grown up in the church, I knew the story, but could always think of why I might be exempt from sharing the joy of the gospel. I would worry about Jesus’ future separation between true and false believers (Matthew 25:31-46), troubled by the thought that even people who profess faith can be lost. I was haunted by the passage about the unforgivable sin (Matthew 12:30-32), wondering if perhaps I could push God too far away to return to Him. Christ coming again is supposed to be the best kind of news, but I sometimes wondered for how many people it would feel that way.