Sometimes finding favor with God makes life much harder. You know the story. Gabriel informed Mary she would give birth to the Son of God. Many thoughts ran through her mind, not the least of which was how she, a virgin, could conceive.
What’s more, Mary knew the social and biblical fallout that occurs for a pregnant woman without a husband. How could she possibly explain that her pregnancy was an of God and not an act of passion?
Finding favor with God meant that she faced disfavor from people. Maybe finding favor with God isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
Christmas usually causes us to marvel at the virgin conception—and at the love of our God who would become Man so that He could die for our sins. But there’s another part of the Christmas story that amazes me just as much.
It comes from this amazing young woman.
Sometimes the best lessons come from the worst examples. Maybe you had a parent who disciplined out of anger. Or a pastor who wielded his Bible like a billy club. Or a boss who abused his or her authority.
It’s easy to dismiss lousy leaders as incompetent, arrogant, or uncaring—and unworthy of our attention. But it’s hard to examine their flaws and failures so as to apply their bad example to our own lives.
The Bible often makes good use of a bad example. Scripture records the failings of many—not like some grocery tabloid would—but to show us why we should make good choices (1 Cor. 10:6).
The Apostle John took up his pen and wrote for us 5 good lessons from a bad example.
Thankfully, these are 5 lessons we don’t have to learn the hard way.
Thanksgiving always brings bittersweet flavors. My mother died ten years ago this week. The loss was huge. In fact, we got the phone call on Thanksgiving morning.
Mom’s untimely death was tough enough, but having the memory perpetually linked with Thanksgiving has forced some reflection I never would have considered otherwise.
I’ve come to understand how loss in life is one of God’s greatest ways to cultivate a grateful heart.
Thankfulness comes from one simple word.
Thanksgiving and Christmas. Birthdays and anniversaries. National and religious holidays. These special days circle around each year to do more than remind us we were born or that we got married or it’s time to go shopping.
These celebrations prompt us to think about a person and about marriage and about patriotism and about the Lord. It’s the why, not just the what.
These special days urge us to stop and consider life’s essentials—those important things we might otherwise neglect. Or worse, forget.
The spiritual life has its cues as well.
In fact, God built memory triggers into His plan for you.
I heard them board the airplane before I saw them. A mother was pushing one toddler in front of her and dragging another behind. The only available seats were the three right in front of me.
Before this week, I had never considered childproof locks on airline seatbelts. Now, I’m certain there’s a market for them. I would have bought one.
(Picture: Meet Theo.)
For more than two straight hours I watched the younger son—who reminded me of Bugs Bunny’s Tasmanian devil—jump, flail, thrash, flap, flop, hop, laugh—but mostly, scream. I don’t remember the name of the older son.
But I’ll never forget the Tasmanian devil’s name: “Theo.” I know because I heard it 863 times.
Absolutely undaunted, the mother used her large voice without embarrassment to correct Theo. She also informed the rest of us what was about to happen.
Once after Theo took his crayon and marked on the wall of the airplane (see the mark on the wall at left?), she jerked him from the window seat and announced to the rest of us, “Sorry about the screaming for the next 10 minutes, folks!” She was right. Little Theo let us have it.
First, Second, and Third Reactions
- My first reaction was to wonder why the mother hadn’t brought along a gallon of Tylenol PM. (If not for Theo, then for the rest of us.)
- My second reaction to this irritation was—I confess—frustration and resentment. After all, I paid just as much for my loud seat as the lucky people in the quiet part of the plane.
- But my third reaction took my attitude in a completely different direction.
God boarded the plane at that moment and somehow found room in my narrow heart.
Of all the questions leveled against Christianity, few others cause such heated controversy: “Is Jesus the Only Way to God?” For many people, Jesus’ words equate exclusivity with arrogance:
I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. —John 14:6
The exclusivity of those words is unmistakable. Millions question: “How can Jesus be the only way to God? That’s not fair. It leaves out too many people.”
But if you think about it, the real question isn’t, “Is Jesus the Only Way to God?” but rather we should ask, “Is God holy”?
Here’s why that’s the real issue.
Years ago I met a man named Igor who told me a story I’ve never forgotten. As a child growing up in the Soviet Union, Igor always believed communism’s assumption that God does not exist.
Yet as a gifted medical student and scientist, Igor studied the intricacies of the human body and natural world and struggled over their implications. Such precision in nature demanded a Designer—something his deep-rooted atheism refused to embrace.
Then one day as he and a friend drove through a wintry countryside, Igor saw a distant snowman all alone in the middle of a field—and the truth struck him. He slammed on the brakes.
“Look!” he said, pointing to the snowman. “How did that get there?”
His friend replied with the obvious answer: “Somebody built it.”
“There was no way,” Igor told me, “the details of nature just happened by chance. I decided I must find the truth.”
Just as the snowman had to have been made by someone, so did nature.
There’s not much we can be sure of today. We live in a world of broken promises, broken families, backstabbing friends, and personal failures. And that’s just at church.
After a lifetime of disillusions, we’ve come to expect little else. We often hope for nothing in hopes we won’t be disappointed.
It’s easy to get sucked into the black hole of hopelessness. It happens because we live in an a culture that keeps God at arm’s length, one that claims His name but declines His Lordship.
God is a package deal. And when we refuse all of God then we miss all of what He has to offer. In refusing all of God we’re forced to fill those gaps with substitutes that disappoint and fail us.
But with God . . . ah, now that’s a worldview of a different color.
The Sovereign Lord, the Creator of the universe, offers true hope—and here’s why: He is the only one able to make good on His promises.
Here are 4 promises of God—cleverly disguised by the Apostle Paul as questions—that give you hope for your life.
Dawdling service at restaurants gets under my skin. (The only thing worse is fast food at a slow drive through.) At lunch not long ago we got dawdling service from our server. Here’s what happened.
I never let on to the waiter that I was miffed, yet inside my fuse was burning. Here’s why:
- The table next to us ate and left before we did, though we arrived at the same time.
- Our water glasses were often empty and the food order came out wrong.
- The waiter fouled up the bill.
- I was late getting back to work.
But then, just before we left, I felt like a complete idiot. The waiter made mention that it was his first day. You see, the problem wasn’t his incompetence.
It was my impatience.
Life hands us a line of slow servers. God shows us the best way to disarm our short fuse.
I had to smile when I read what Jason Kidd said after the Dallas Mavericks drafted him years ago: “We’re going to turn this team around 360 degrees!”
Life often feels like that, doesn’t it? A lot of effort with nothing gained.
At times, the Bible seems like a history book in which God makes and fulfills promises to the ancients, but the words somehow lack immediacy to our struggling lives. And yet, it’s funny how the anxieties that overwhelm our lives seem identical to those that biblical people struggled against.
Even though Scripture provides assurance of God’s promises, assurance doesn’t negate the stressful circumstances that force us to trust God.
Truth doesn’t make the hard parts of life go away. We still have to trust God with that truth.