Jesus—God’s Ultimate Missionary

Years ago some American missionaries stayed in our home. They told us about an animated evangelist they saw try to communicate to a Russian audience—through a less-than-animated translator.

Jesus—God's Ultimate Missionary

(Photo: The Moscow skyline, by Dmitry Azovtsev)

The evangelist began, “Okay folks, tonight I want you to tell the Holy Spirit something! I want you to say, ‘Yeeessss!’” (pronounced with three syllables).

But instead of translating the passionate “Yeeessss!” the interpreter flatly translated, “Da.” And when the evangelist hollered, “Now, give God a hand!” the interpreter translated the words literally—and the audience stared at one another in confusion. (“Give Him what?”)

The words were translated, sure, but their meaning failed to connect.

Jesus, on the other hand, was a perfect translator. Here’s how.

Hanukkah—When Jesus Claimed to Be God

On a wintry day in Jerusalem, Jesus walked in Solomon’s Colonnade—the long, covered, columned portico on the east side of the Temple—overlooking the Kidron Valley.

Hanukkah—When Jesus Claimed to Be God

(Photo: Solomon’s Colonnade lay along the eastern wall of the Temple. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The conversation Jesus had that day occurred at Hanukkah—a celebration the Jews referred to as “the Feast of the Dedication” (John 10:22).

The feast had historical significance, which heightened the passion of those in Jerusalem. They encircled Jesus to ask Him a simple question.

His reply gave them more than they bargained for.

Today, some say Jesus never claimed to be God. But His words during that Hanukkah left little doubt.

What to Do When It’s Not Really the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The songs play it. The movies portray it. Even our church services have their part to play. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Yeah, well what if it isn’t? For many people, holidays bring up painful memories.

(Photo by Photodune)

(Photo by Photodune)

Sore spots from childhood or the loss of loved ones hit hard during this sentimental season. While many people celebrate the joys of Christmastime, others suffer lonely holidays.

During one of the most desperate times of King David’s life, the anointed future king of Israel found himself running from two separate enemies—hardly a time to celebrate. With the Philistines to the west and King Saul to the east, a distressed David sought refuge in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1–2).

David felt very alone.

His situation offers encouragement to us during lonely holidays.

5 Reasons to Get the Best Training for Ministry You Can

Years ago I devoured the massive autobiography of Billy Graham, entitled, Just As I Am. Near the end of the book, Billy wrote one sentence I’ll never forget.

5 Reasons to Get the Best Training for Ministry You Can

(Photo by Photodune)

In a section of the book where he lists his regrets, he wrote:

I would do many things differently. For one thing, I would speak less and study more. —Billy Graham

When I was young in the ministry, I resisted furthering my training. After all, I already had a ministry position. So why would I pursue more education and training? I’m done, I thought. Better to get busy making a difference.

Then one verse in the Bible hit me square between the eyes.

The Question We Ought to Ask When Hurting

It’s been a rough week. This year, our Thanksgiving found us at a hospital, visiting a close relative who had surgery for cancer. It’s strange how Thanksgiving has held many bittersweet flavors in my life.

The Question We Ought to Ask When Hurting

(Photo By Artur Pokusin. Courtesy of Unsplash.com)

I’ve been lost in nostalgia for several reasons.

  • Eleven years ago on Thanksgiving Day we discovered my mother had died.
  • Last week I spoke with another woman who had surgery for cancer the next day.
  • Today marks the birthday of a longtime friend of ours who died from cancer several years ago.

That’s why, in part, when I asked you last week to tell me in one word what you’re thankful for, my one-word answer to that question was HOPE.

When we’re struggling or suffering, there’s one question we need to answer.

Did You Know There was a Peace Offering for Thanksgiving?

For many people, reading about the sacrifices of ancient Israel is a real yawner. But as we approach Thanksgiving, one sacrifice rises from the ashes of antiquity to offer encouragement.

Did You Know There was a Peace Offering for Thanksgiving?

(Photo by Photodune)

In the days of ancient Israel, a special offering, different from the ones required for sin, allowed a person to give God thanks for something the Lord had done.

Rituals are apparently irrational acts which become rational when their significance is explained. —Northrop Frye

Hidden behind the veil of ritual and strangeness are principles of timeless value for your life.

17 Lessons I’ve Learned My First 25 Years in Ministry

I have been in fulltime Christian ministry for 25 years. (Hard to believe.) I have served as a music minister, a senior pastor, a writer, and as a leader in a parachurch ministry.

16 Lessons I've Learned My First 25 Years in Ministry

(Photo by Photodune)

The last quarter century has taught me lessons I’ll never forget. I learned them in the trenches of time, disappointment, and even failure.

Although some of these principles may seem to apply to those in vocational ministry, all have application to us as believers. Whether we’re parents, singles, marrieds, or even disillusioned with church—these apply.

In no particular order (except the first one), here are 17 of them.

A Conversation about Priorities I’ll Never Forget

I got my first suicide-threat phone call during my first year when I served as a pastor. I drove to the neighborhood and found the address in a row of massive homes with fine-trimmed lawns.

A Conversation about Priorities I'll Never Forget

(Photo: By Whipwhopwoo. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

I rang the doorbell and a woman with a severe look cracked the door and eyed me without saying a word.

I began the brief conversation. “Hello, uh, I received a call about . . .”

“He’s around back,” she interrupted. The door slammed. I made my way to the back of the mansion and saw one of the several garage doors open. Inside, I found a man sitting on an upside-down bucket.

His bloodshot eyes looked up at me.

How to Find the Rest of Your Life

Last week I had an unusual experience. Cathy and I rented a car and drove through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for several days. We had no agenda but rest.

How to Find the Rest of Your Life

(The beautiful Biltmore estate in North Carolina.)

For an achiever like me, a vacation can feel like a waste of time. Usually my vacations mean time off from my regular work to do chores around the house or to do a writing project.

But last week was strange. I actually took a vacation to rest.

  • I turned off my work email and never opened it. (Yeah, the swelling number of emails showing in my Mail icon tempted me.)
  • I got a full night’s sleep every night.
  • I even found some roses to smell. (Real roses.)

But it was tough at times. Why do we struggle so much with rest?

I think it’s a spiritual issue.

4 Views of Jerusalem Every Visitor Should See

I doubt you’ll meet a person who goes to Israel without seeing Jerusalem. It’s the most important city in history, and it offers so much to see. But often, it’s seen only from this view.

4 Views of Jerusalem Every Visitor Should See

(Photo: Jerusalem from the east. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

There are many great views of Jerusalem. Like looking at the various facets of a diamond, each direction offers a different perspective on the same city.

Here are 4 views of Jerusalem every visitor should see—from the north, south, east, and west.

Good news: 3 of the views are free.