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    Responding to Suffering

    People often blame God for their suffering. In 2016, one plaintiff even filed a legal request for a restraining order against his Creator. The man, who actually appeared in court for the case, told the judge that over the past three years, God “had been very negative towards him” (no specifics were recorded).

    Stinging Words

    Many years ago, a relative repeatedly attacked my faith in Jesus. His words and criticism—bathed in cynicism—deeply hurt me. Although he passed away more than a decade ago, and I’ve forgiven him, there are still times I feel as if this relative is standing next to me—belittling me for following Jesus.

    All of Me

    Young Isaac Watts found the music in his church sadly lacking, and his father challenged him to create something better. Isaac did. His hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” has been called the greatest in the English language and has been translated into many other languages.

    Watts’s worshipful third verse ushers us into the presence of Christ at the crucifixion.

                See from His head, His hands, His feet,

                Sorrow and love flow mingled down.

                Did e’er such love and sorrow meet

                Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

    The crucifixion Watts describes so elegantly stands as history’s most awful moment. We…

    Begin Where You Are

    I came across a solitary flower growing in a meadow today—a tiny purple blossom “wasting its sweetness in the desert air,” to borrow from the poet Thomas Gray’s wonderful line. I’m sure no one had seen this particular flower before, and perhaps no one will see it again. Why this beauty in this place? I thought.

    Nature is never wasted. It daily displays the truth, goodness, and beauty of the One who brought it into being. Every day, nature offers a new and fresh declaration of God’s glory. Do I see Him through that beauty, or do I merely glance at it…

    Songs in the Night

    Keith Getty, cowriter of the classic modern hymn “In Christ Alone,” says that believers in Jesus “want to sing deep things about God.” He would like to see local churches using a rich repertoire of both traditional and new songs—music that can truly carry us through life and its challenges. Getty encourages pastors to select forty to fifty songs they want their people to grow old singing, then make sure they sing them at least twice each year.

    Necessity of Suffering

    A chrysalis was hanging from a branch. Inside, a butterfly seemed to be struggling. Curious to witness its emergence, an observer waited. Time passed, however, and the insect was still trapped in its self-made prison. So the person made a small tear in the chrysalis—hoping to relieve the butterfly’s struggle and suffering. It soon died, for the struggle to be free is essential to making a butterfly strong enough to survive. Without adversity, it won’t achieve maturity.

    Worship

    Worship is giving God the best that He has given you. Be careful what you do with the best you have. Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love-gift.

    Someone to Celebrate

    Many manger scenes depict the wise men, or magi, visiting Jesus in Bethlehem at the same time as the shepherds. But according to the gospel of Matthew, the only place in Scripture where their story is found, the magi showed up later. Jesus was no longer in the manger in a stable at the inn, but in a house. Matthew 2:11 tells us, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

    Realizing that the…

    God’s gift of grace

    In the busyness and stress of the holiday season, it’s helpful to take a break and remember why we celebrate. Join us for a refreshing Christmas edition of “Words to Live By.” We’ll enjoy heartfelt reflections on the mystery of God’s grace! Discover the joy of our Savior’s arrival.  

    Surround Sound

    Walt Disney Studios was the first to introduce a new concept in listening to movies. It was called “stereophonic sound” or surround sound, and it was developed because producers wanted the movie-going audience to hear the music in a new way.

     But this wasn’t the first use of “surround sound.” Thousands of years earlier, Nehemiah introduced the idea at the dedication of the rebuilt wall of Jerusalem. “I had the leaders of Judah go up on top of the wall,” he explained. “I also assigned two large choirs to give thanks” (Neh. 12:31). The two choirs began at the southern part…

    Does My Worship Please God?

    I am easily distracted by just about anything. In some cases, the distraction is temporary and does not really affect whatever I am doing.

    Worship and Service

    Over the years, I’ve spent countless hours alone in the woods. As I’ve sat motionless, robins have perched on my knees, mice have nibbled at my bootlaces, an owl once landed inches from my shoulder, and a roebuck advanced to within a couple yards of me—apparently thinking I was an adversary.

    The Gates of Worship

    When you enter some of the greatest cities in the world, you can encounter famous gates such as the Brandenburg Gate (Berlin), the Jaffa Gate (Jerusalem), and the gates at Downing Street (London). Whether the gates were built for defensive or ceremonial purposes, they all represent the difference between being outside or inside certain areas of the city. Some are open; some are closed to all but a few.

    The gates into the presence of God are always open. The familiar song of Psalm 100 is an invitation for the Israelites to enter into the presence of God through the temple…

    Blood and Worship

    The meat section of my grocery store is clean and pleasant. Festive music plays as I select refrigerated trays of pork, beef, and chicken. Each package is shrink-wrapped in clear plastic, with only an occasional smudge of blood. But no matter how much the store tries to conceal it, its meat section is built on death.

    5W1H—Worship 101!

    5W1H. What’s that? Students of journalism are familiar with the “Five Ws and One H” method of fact gathering. This approach is also known as the Kipling Method, because of the poem Rudyard Kipling wrote that opens with these words:


    September 2019: Christian Living

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