Do the fires in your life forge you into greatness, or do you fail in the heat?
The Navy Exchange at the base in Rhode Island had a plaque which read, “Some people are lost in the fires, other people are forged in them – Marines.” The finest swords are heated again and again to burn and melt away impurities that weaken the steel, making it brittle, prone to shatter, and worthless for war.
Life is full of fires, including everything from health to money to relationships. The flames of suffering burn throughout every life, waxing and waning as the days pass. No moment is completely free of pain. Ultimately, these fires will consume the mortal coil of every one of us.
During our earthly walk, some people are damaged or are even destroyed by their fires, while others grow stronger. Some fail while others are forged. A few become truly great. What makes the difference? Four factors characterize those who are forged in their infernos.
Continue reading “Failing or Forging”
Despite our modern conveniences and unparalleled wealth, life in the world is often gray. God wants more from us and more for us. Following Him is the path to color, joy, love, and the abundant life.
“My eyes are dull, my mind is numb, my strength is weak, my heart beats slowly, and my love runs cold. I can neither laugh nor cry. I am neither asleep nor awake. I am not here, at least in my attention, but I am not somewhere else either. Everyone around me looks at their cell phones, absorbed in texting people who are not here, watching videos that may amuse them, playing games to pass the time, or reading articles about topics that they find mildly interesting. Pleasures become less pleasurable. Hours grind by with me sitting alone watching an endless cycle of movies, games, and amusements in which others do things that I wish that I was doing. I am too afraid to act, lest I hurt my body and spirit. More and more, I use alcohol and drugs to help me feel what I no longer feel without them.”
Continue reading “The Gray Life”
Life is exhausting, and ministry sometimes makes it worse. How can Christians be revived on our life’s journey?
Followers of Christ grow weary and sometimes fall away:
- Normal ups and downs of life and ministry – To be human is to encounter sickness, injury, and disappointment. Things break, opportunities vanish, relationships wither, and hopes fade. In ministry, people we love and serve angrily resist and reject. We labor for years with seemingly little effect.
- Major hurtful events and people in our lives – Sometimes even friends and loved ones succumb to the pressure of the world and reject us and our faith. Sometimes they end their own lives.
- Discrimination against and persecution of Christians in the United States (academic, political, economic) – We lose our jobs and other opportunities due to the practice of our faith. Christian schools are threatened with loss of accreditation, and Christians are seen as unfit for political office because of their beliefs. Christians have become criminals simply for reading a Bible passage or saying something that others don’t like. For example, H.R.5 – Equality Act 2019 – LGBTQ rights states “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.” Whatever one thinks about LGBTQ rights, religious beliefs would be no defense to prosecution (and persecution). Christians who believe what the Bible states about LGBTQ issues are specifically targeted.
Non-Christians encounter issues one and two, but increasingly Christians are facing problem three as well. It is so easy to despair. Amidst these challenges, how can believers in Jesus Christ be revived?
Continue reading “Reviving the Saints”
God transforms our hardest days, our “Good Fridays,” into the glorious victories of Easter. But He does so in His time and way, and we must trust Him.
“How was your day?” Nancy asked as I trudged in the door from work.
“Good,” I replied, with drawn face, slumped shoulders, and a shuffling gait.
Nancy frowned, “You look like it was awful.”
“No,” I said, “Every day above ground is a good day.”
“Mark, I am your wife. You need to tell me the truth – not just lies that you think that I want to hear.”
“Today was good, in the same way that Good Friday was good. Jesus died a horrific death, but God worked wondrous acts and eternal salvation from it,” I answered.
Nancy gave up the questions and followed me to the bedroom. I changed my clothes and laid on the bed where she gave me a back rub. Finally in a safe place with people who cared, the tension rolled out of my muscles. The gates to my heart, shut tight at work since I had to be, or at least appear to be, the perfect doctor and leader, cracked open. Soon Nancy brought love into my dark castle, and we began to heal.
Continue reading “Good Friday”
We need deep roots in faith, family, and friends, to allow us to weather the storms of life. Otherwise, we will fall.
On Thursday, November 15, a ferocious ice storm hit southern West Virginia, downing trees, knocking out power, and causing major property damage across several counties. Our family lost power for over 30 hours, and six large trees came down in our yard. The children were cross, sitting in a cold, dark house and unable to get on the internet. More importantly, they were unsettled. To them, electrical power is a fundamental fact of life. It is always there – you flip a switch and…shazam! When you need power, it is suddenly there. They could not imagine living like my grandmother, raised in rural southern Arkansas, whose only power was fire in candles, oil lamps, and stoves… or sunlight.
Continue reading “Deep Roots”
The world tells us that we are helpless against the insults of others. It insists that every hardship leaves a wound that will never heal. Our forebears thought differently, and better.
“Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me.” I am old enough to remember a time when parents taught this pithy little rhyme to their children, and society at large believed it. We live in a new day, in which many Americans consider emotional injury as deadly, and more enduring, than physical injury. News accounts of emotional abuse, cyber bullying, and their mental health consequences such as depression, anxiety, and even suicide, pull at our heart strings. Girls, the lonely, and the young are at greater risk. Colleges, including those which my children attend, have safe spaces, trigger warnings, and strict rules against insensitivity and inflicting emotional trauma.
Continue reading “Sticks and Stones”
What do we do when crisis comes? What should we do? How can others help?
Carolyn, a friend in her 90s, approached me at church after the morning worship service a few Sundays ago. She and her husband Alan had had a terrible week. The previous Tuesday she was hit by another car while driving, destroying her vehicle but leaving her mercifully with only a few bumps and bruises. On Friday there had been an electrical fire in her house. She and her husband were safe but their home was badly damaged. They were living in a nearby hotel and needed prayer. The couple, another friend and I prayed together immediately, and my family has lifted them up before the Lord several times in the past few weeks.
Continue reading “When Crisis Comes”