Wednesday Book Review – The Last Arrow

So far, I’ve posted only positive books reviews.  That’s partly because if a book doesn’t quickly capture my attention, I drop it.  There are just too many books to read, so why waste my time on something that doesn’t hold my interest, and why tell you about a book in which I’m not interested????

Once in a very great while, though, among all the great books I read, I come across a book that stands head and shoulders above the rest – a book that is just life-changing.  The Last Arrow by Erwin Raphael McManus is one of those books.

Erwin Raphael McManus describes himself as an author, futurist, filmmaker, and designer.  His author profile says that he is known as “an iconoclast, artist, and cultural thought leader who is recognized for his integration of creativity and spirituality.  He is the founder and Lead Pastor of Mosaic, a Los Angeles based church of faith recognized as one of America’s most influential and innovative churches.”

And he is an amazing inspirational author.


The Last Arrow begins with a scene that unfolded in McManus’ life in December 2016 – sitting in a doctor’s office and hearing the dreaded words, “You have cancer.”  From there, the book touches on McManus’s journey, different events that are part of his life’s journey, and the testimonies of friends and acquaintances who have encountered Jesus and gone “all in” for the Kingdom of God.

The concept for the book comes from a story about Elisha near the end of his life.  King Jehoash of Israel wants Elisha’s blessing and direction.  He visits Elisha, who is on his deathbed.  Elisha orders him to shoot an arrow out of the window of the room, and then prophesies victory over the Arameans.  Next, Elisha commands him to strike the ground with the remaining arrows.  Jehoash complies, striking the ground three times, but Elisha becomes angry and tells him that he should have struck the ground five or six times – because then he would have completely defeated his enemies.  Instead, Elisha tells him, because he only struck the ground three times, he would only defeat his enemies three times.

What a bizarre story!  The king apparently didn’t know any better; but something in his actions showed a lack of faith and perseverance that were necessary to complete victory.

McManus uses this story, and others from the life of Elisha, to demonstrate the power of living our lives full-out for God – of spending every arrow we have in this life, leaving nothing for the next life.  Because, after all, we will not need arrows in heaven.  The victory will be won.

McManus focuses on some important themes in living our lives in such a way that we hold nothing back – his chapter titles demonstrate this.  They include:  Save Nothing for the Next Life; Choose the Future; Set Your Past on Fire; Act Like Your Life Depends on It; Stand Your Ground; Find Your People; and Know What You Want, among others.

The book is chock full of stories, testimonies, and challenges to get out of our comfort zones and to fully engage with both Jesus and our culture so that we can leave a legacy with our lives.  You’ll read, for example:

  • Erwin’s spur-of-the-moment trip to Brazil for the World Cup Final that resulted in him having an opportunity to share his faith with a Brazilian family;
  • How God was able to us 9/11 to increase Erwin’s opportunities to serve Him because Erwin chose to live in faith rather than in fear;
  • How God used Erwin’s wife and daughter to minister to a family who is helping free women from human trafficking; and
  • How God used a trip to Beirut to challenge Erwin out of his comfort zone.

But of everything he writes in the book, perhaps the dedication challenged me the most:

“Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. – Psalm 127:4

To my arrows: Aaron Christopher McManus, who has never backed down from a fight, and to Mariah McManus Goss, who is as fearless as she is fierce.

Long after I rest my bow and have struck my last arrow, there will still be arrows flying true: their names are Aaron and Mariah. The trajectories of their lives will take them far beyond the ground I have taken. If they were once my arrows, they are now my archers. I dedicate this book to them and the future they represent.

Aaron and Mariah: You are the tip of the spear. You are the future. This is your fight. I pulled the bow back as far as I could and gave you all the strength I had to send you into flight. Fly far and true. Cross enemy lines. Hit the mark. Set captives free. Keep striking until the battle’s won. —Dad”

I want to live my life like that.  I want to be a Dad like that.  If that stirs your passion, stop reading whatever you are reading now and pick up a copy of The Last Arrow by Erwin Raphael McManus.

Wednesday Book Review – Room of Marvels

One of the truths of life that we don’t like to admit or even talk about is that life is a journey of loss.

Over the years, as we grow up and then grow older, there are many things lost – lost innocence, lost friendships, lost loved ones, lost pets, lost prized possessions, lost opportunities, lost potential, lost seasons of life, lost vehicles, and so many more people, things, and experiences.

The realization that we can never return to a relationship or experience, that we will never again see a particular person, never again be able to drive that first car, and so on, can be devastating. As country artist Brad Paisley puts it, “there’s a last time for everything.”

Some losses are much more painful than others, obviously. James (Jim) Bryan Smith, an author and college professor, experienced three great personal losses in a very short period of time in his life.

First, his daughter Madeline. Before Madeline was even born, testing revealed severe birth defects and a rare chromosomal disorder. Jim and his wife were told to plan a funeral before their daughter was born. Miraculously, though, Madeline had a healthy delivery. She lived for about two and a half years, although she was constantly being medically monitored and treated. But following what was supposed to be a routine, simple surgery, Madeline coded and then died.

Six months after the loss of Madeline, Jim’s best friend, singer and songwriter Rich Mullins, was killed in an auto collision.

And then six months later, Jim’s mother, who was seventy but in excellent health, died of a sudden heart attack.

Room of Marvels is a fictional account of Jim’s struggle to reconcile what he taught and believed – that God is good, better than we understand – with the reality of the devastating losses he and his wife experienced in such a short period of time. It begins with a character who represents Jim taking a spiritual retreat at a monastery, searching for answers and feeling hopeless. He realizes that he feels like a complete hypocrite – while he writes and teaches that God is good, he no longer believes it because of his own pain and loss.

While on this retreat, Jim experiences an ongoing dream/vision in which he visits heaven and encounters a number of people. Some are friends, some are family. Some are people he knew, some are people he never met. Some were people whose lives he had impacted knowingly or unknowingly; some were people who had impacted his life, knowingly or unknowingly.

In the process of meeting these people, talking with them, discovering stories, playing checkers, remembering forgotten moments of his life, and discovering the beauty, grace, and love of heaven, Jim finds that his heart is being transformed. He discovers that he can be free to be his true self; that he no longer has to wear masks to try to impress God or others; and that God’s goodness and love for him are beyond what he ever even imagined.

2 Corinthians 4:17 (NJB) tells us that “The temporary, light burden of our hardships is earning us for ever an utterly incomparable, eternal weight of glory.” As James Bryan Smith puts it in the conclusion of this book, “heaven changes everything we suffer on this earth.”

If you have ever suffered a devastating loss, if you have ever wondered how God could be good and allow difficult things to come into our lives, if you have ever suffered and asked “why” then I highly recommend this book for you. Room of Marvels contains a message of hope and transformation that we all need to hear.

You can purchase the Kindle Edition here.

Fear or Faith?

Everyone who has walked with Jesus for any length of time knows that we’re not supposed to fear anything or anyone.

After all, the Bible is filled with “fear not’s.”

And it seems like every time the disciples were afraid, Jesus asked them why they had so little faith.

The truth is that when the sun is shining and life is going well, it’s easy to “fear not.”  It’s also easy to tell others who are dealing with fear to just straighten up and stop fearing.

But the sun doesn’t always shine in our lives.  And the older you get, the more you realize that life doesn’t always go well.  In fact, the older you get, the more you realize that so many things that you thought had control over are really outside of your grasp.

Life can change in an instant.


On Tuesday, I had to make a trip with one of my best friends.  On our way into Altoona, we found traffic slowed to a crawl on I-99.  It looked like a car had rear-ended a trailer being towed by a pickup truck, knocking the ATV, a generator, gas cans, and other items off of the trailer.  The car was sitting in the median strip, its hood knocked back over the windshield of the car, the front bumper of the car smashed in.  Beside the car, a woman was on a stretcher.  EMT’s were leaning over her, working on her and getting ready to move her to an ambulance.

I don’t know who the woman was or what her story was.  We never saw who the driver of the pickup truck was.  But I’m sure neither of them were planning on being in that accident when they got up that morning.

My friend and I had been talking about how I’m dealing with facing surgery and some other stressors that have been going on in life.  Then we saw the accident.

It was a reminder that life can change in an instant.  And there is so much over which we have no control.

As we talked, he reminded me, however, that we CAN control how we respond.  We CAN control how we face whatever comes our way.  We CAN control where we focus our attention.

We can focus our attention on uncertainty, on the darkness that is at work in this world, on the situations that are beyond our control, on the people that seek to control us, on fear and on all that causes fear.

Or, we can focus our attention on the One Who is unchanging, the One who holds all things in His hands, the One whose hands were pierced on our behalf, the One who is Light in this dark world and who shines in the darkness, the One who works to bring good out of every situation that is beyond our control, the One to whom every knee will one day bow – the One who has conquered death and the grave and fear.  The One who loves us perfectly – the One whose love can drive away all fear, if we will walk in the revelation of that perfect love.

We can choose fear.

It’s easy to choose fear.  All you have to do is look at the news, look at the economy, look at the uncertainty, look at our own frailty, look at the divisiveness around us, look at the dangers that surround us.

Or we can choose faith in the One who walks with us through the deepest valleys, into the darkest shadows – the One who casts all fear away.

It’s easy to choose Jesus.  All you have to do is look to Him.  Look to Him in silence, in solitude, in His Word, in listening to and participating in worship, in obedience, in submission.  Just begin to look – He will give you the strength to look up.

What will you choose today?

If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  The paperback version is NOW AVAILABLE for $6.99 plus postage!  For ordering information, contact me at

It’s All Up To You

In one of John Maxwell book “Developing the Leader Within”, he quoted the following:

We cannot choose how many years we will live, but

We can choose how much life those years will have.

We cannot control the beauty of our face, but

We can control the expression on it.

We cannot control life’s difficult moments, but

We can choose to make life less difficult.

We cannot control the negative atmosphere of the world, but

We can control the atmosphere of our minds.

Too often, we try to choose and control things we cannot.

Too seldom, we choose to control what we can…our attitude.

How true that is, and how powerful once we understand it.

There are two important truths here:

    • There is not much that I cannot control in life, but
    • I CAN control my own attitude.

I know people – and I’m sure you do – who spend their entire lives trying to control.  Trying to control their spouses and children and grandchildren, trying to control other peoples’ perceptions of them, trying to control other peoples’ actions, trying to control their lives, trying to control what the future will look like.

And it’s all futile. 

The discouraging truth is that we begin life with no control, we gain some control over our lives as we become adults and make our own decisions, but ultimately, aging is a process of increasingly losing control of different aspects of our lives.  Depressing, isn’t it?  And yet, it’s the human condition.  It happens to all of us, and no matter who we are, how influential or powerless we are, how wealthy or poor we are, how spiritual or unspiritual we are, how well we plan or how poorly we plan, it will happen to each one of us.

But the good news is that while I cannot control what happens to me, I can control what happens in me.  No one can choose my attitude but me; no one can control my response to life’s situations but me.

positive thinking or think negative positivity or negativity opt

Viktor Frankl was a Doctor of Neurology and Psychology.  In 1942, he and his wife were forced by the Nazis to abort their first baby.  In 1944, they are sent to Auschwitz, where he is separated from his wife, mother, and brother.  After Auschwitz was liberated by U.S. Troops, he learned that his wife was transported to Bergen-Belsen, where she died at the age of 24; and that his mother and brother were murdered at Auschwitz.  Despite all of these experiences, Frankl went on to write the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” – the book in which he wrote these powerful words:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Wow.  Consider the weight of those words after all that he himself experienced.  No one can take from you the freedom to choose your attitude.

None of us knows what today will hold, what we will face in the coming days or hours.

None of us can control most of what may happen to us.

But every one of us can control our own attitude.  Every one of us can choose how we will face this day, and all that it brings to us.

What attitude will you choose today?

If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  The paperback version is NOW AVAILABLE for $6.99!  For ordering information, contact me at

Your Attitude Can Make the Difference!

One of my favorite passages of Scripture about attitude is located at the beginning of the book of Joshua.  Moses has just died; Joshua has taken over leadership of the nation of Israel – a nation of wandering nomads, who have spent 40 years without a homeland because of their lack of faith and disobedience.  God begins to speak words of encouragement to Joshua, preparing him for the challenge that lies ahead as they face their first hurdles – crossing the Jordan river, and then conquering the city of Jericho, the stronghold at the entrance to the Promised Land.

God encourages Joshua to be strong, to be courageous, to be obedient, to ground himself in the Book of the Law that God had given to Israel through Moses.  And then God gave this command and promise to Joshua:  ”This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9, NLT)


Can You Believe I Posted A Picture of a CAT?????!!!!

Isn’t it interesting that a part of what God was instructing Joshua to do was to protect his heart – to be careful of his attitudes?  Why was that?

I think it’s because Israel originally refused to enter the Promised Land 40 years before this because they let attitudes of fear and discouragement plague their minds.  And so, when faced with the opportunity to trust God’s provision and protection and enter the land, they instead let fear turn them to discouragement.  Without firing a single arrow or slingshot, they gave up – because their own attitudes defeated them.

And so, when we fast-forward 40 years, we find God telling Joshua to pay special attention to his attitude – to be brave and courageous, to be encouraged, to not give in to the temptation to fear or to be overwhelmed by the task before them.

Now, here’s the important thing to understand about attitude.  Attitude didn’t forge any physical weapons for Israel; it didn’t make their warriors any stronger; it didn’t give them greater speed or endurance; and it didn’t give Joshua an advantage in tactics.  It didn’t relieve them of the responsibility to walk into the land and face their enemies.

What attitude DID do for Joshua and for Israel was to give them the will and the ability to go on in the face of overwhelming odds.  Attitude gave them the faith to trust God when circumstances seemed to be against them.

To use an over-worn cliché, attitude was the wind beneath their wings.

And attitude can be the same thing, do the same things, for you and for me today.

What kind of attitude will empower you to get through whatever life throws at you today?  This attitude:  Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I don’t know what this day will hold, for you or for me.  I don’t know the challenges that we will face, or the blessings that may come our way.

But I know this – no matter what, God is good.  And because of that, you and I can be strong and courageous.  We can face our day with attitudes of faith, and not fear.  We can choose to be encouraged.  Because God will be with us, wherever we are. 

What attitude will you choose as you face today?

If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  The paperback version is NOW AVAILABLE!  For ordering information, contact me at

The Power of Positive Thinking

In the fall of 1984, I began working at Chick-fil-A in Westmoreland Mall, Greensburg, PA for a man named Bill Forster.

Bill and his wonderful wife Teri had a number of significant positive impacts on my life.  For example, Bill challenged me to apply to a new scholarship program that Chick-fil-A had established at Berry College in Rome, Georgia.  Bill and Teri supported me in that whole process, encouraged me to go for it, and didn’t complain when it meant I left the store to move to Georgia.  That set up a whole chain of events in my life, including a change in career direction, significant spiritual growth, amazing opportunities while in college, and even meeting Jewel.  I can honestly say that without Bill and Teri, I would never have met Jewel and married her, and we would never have had Bethany.

That’s a pretty significant impact for a couple to have on someone’s life!  And I know a number of other people who worked with Bill and Teri whose lives were changed positively because of their influence.

But I want to focus in on one significant area of impact that they had on me in today’s blog:  my attitude.


I grew up in Christian home with the world’s greatest Dad and Mom and younger brother.  I was privileged to be taught God’s Word from an early age, to memorize Scripture, to make wise choices (which I didn’t always do!), and to live my life in such a way that I would honor the Lord Jesus.  I was blessed with a lot of truth, and that foundation still stands strong today.

One area that I had never really considered, though, was my attitude.  I’m not sure why; I guess I just never put it together.  But Bill and Teri helped put it together for me.  They modeled it for me every time I saw them, or worked side-by-side with them.  It didn’t matter what they were going through, what the store was going through, or what life brought along – Bill and Teri always, and I mean always, had a positive attitude about life, about their ability to face life with God’s help, and about God’s blessings on their lives.

One night at work, after we had a brief discussion about some of my plans for the future, Bill gave me a copy of a cassette tape (that was a LONG time ago!) by Zig Ziglar on setting and reaching life goals.  That tape was a game-changer for me.  It opened my eyes to a new way of thinking and planning, to new possibilities in my journey with Jesus, and it helped me understand that I had made some assumptions about following Jesus that weren’t true.  I had somehow in my own mind arrived at a place of thinking that setting goals and wanting to be successful was counter to the Kingdom of God.  Zig and Bill and Teri helped me understand that God wants us to be fruitful, and that while fruit looks different in different professions and in different peoples’ lives, there was nothing selfish in wanting to excel wherever I was.  In fact, bettering myself would equip me to help others do the same at a higher level.  For teaching me that and for opening doors in my life and in my thinking, I will be forever grateful to Bill and Teri.

I also learned (again, I don’t know how I missed this, but I did) that I am responsible for my own attitude.  No one else can choose my attitude for me; and I can choose to have a positive, expectant, faith-filled attitude regardless of my circumstances or I can choose to let life and other people dictate my attitude.  It’s my choice.  My mind; I control what I feed it, and what I focus my thoughts on.  Up until that point, I had spent a significant part of my teen years with the attitude that “if I don’t expect much, then I won’t be disappointed.”  As a result, I had a horrible attitude about a lot of things.

I’ve learned since then that a positive attitude is a huge advantage in life.  How I think doesn’t change my circumstances, but it changes my perspective on those circumstances, it changes how I approach those circumstances, it changes how I approach God in the midst of my circumstances, and it changes how I portray Jesus to others in my circumstances!

The Bible actually has a lot to say about how we think and how our thoughts affect our lives, as well as the lives of those we encounter.  Over the next few weeks, I’m planning to dedicate several blogs to the power of positive thinking.  Don’t let the terminology close your mind to what the possibilities that God’s Word can open up to you!

We’ll dive in on Wednesday’s blog.  In the meantime, I’d like to leave you with 3 questions to consider.  Feel free to comment below, if you’d like to dialogue:

  • Who has had the greatest impact on your attitude in life?
  • How would describe your overall attitude about life – positive?  Negative?  Neutral?
  • How would the person who knows you best describe your attitude about life?  (Sometimes others can see things in us and about us that we become blind to over time.)

I’m looking forward to sharing with you some of the things I’ve learned, and am learning.  In the meantime, remember that you and I can “do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV)!

If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  The paperback version is NOW AVAILABLE!  For ordering information, contact me at

In the Waiting

When it comes to feeling forgotten by God, to dealing with painful situations, to seeking answers to nagging questions and doubts, to suffering, and to other difficult life issues, waiting is no fun.  In fact, it can often feel like waiting increases the anxiety, the stress, and the pain of the situation.  Our minds tend to go places when we have to wait – worst-case scenarios, imaginary conversations, the most scary of “what-if’s.”  But there is a better way.

As I’ve dealt with my current physical issues, I’ve tried to walk a line in this blog between being vulnerable about some of the things I’m going through while avoiding either making it all about me or turning this into a “woe is me” kind of emotional purge.  (Hopefully I’ve been somewhat successful in that.  It’s a little hard sometimes to be objective about your own stuff!)

Yesterday, I underwent some procedures/testing that I had been waiting on for a couple of weeks, hoping for some simple, obvious answers to my problems.  But it didn’t work out that way.  Instead, some fairly serious things were ruled out; some new possibilities were introduced; and some other potential serious issues were left unanswered, pending biopsy results.  So here I am – a little further on the journey, but still waiting.


What do you do when you’re in a place like that?  There’s nothing you can do to control it; nothing you can do to change it.  You just have to wait.

Here’s the thing about waiting – it’s not optional.  It’s a part of life.  Sometimes it’s harder than at other times, but it is unavoidable.

We often cannot choose whether or not we have to wait.  But we can always choose HOW we wait.  No matter the circumstances.

My perspective on waiting has changed as I’ve observed friends who have had to wait for some very hard things.  Friends who have waited for medical diagnosis after attempted solution after trips to the ER after more diagnoses after more attempted solutions after more trips to the ER in what has seemed like an endless cycle.  Friends who have waited for God’s direct healing intervention.  Other friends who have endured most of their family battling debilitating illnesses over a period of several years.  Friends who have cried out to God for healing in their marriages, done everything they could to fight for reconciliation, only to see their lifelong partner walk away without a backwards glance.  Friends who have suffered great financial losses, who have lost jobs, who have had their worlds turned upside down in one way or another.  All of them people who were asking God to change their circumstances; all of them people who waited and waited and waited.  And as I prayed with them and prayed for them, I watched almost every single one of them wait with grace, with gratitude for what they DID have rather than bitterness over what they did NOT have.  And I learned from their example.

As I am forced to wait, I remember my friends and they spur me on to wait with gratitude, to trust God no matter what.

I’ve also learned from the psalms.  I love the example of David as a person who faced many disappointments and challenges in life.  Here was a man who was anointed king of Israel and then spent fifteen years running for his life before he was recognized as king by his own tribe.  It was another seven years – twenty-two years total – before he was actually crowned king of all Israel.  Talk about waiting!  And not just waiting, but waiting while on the run.  Waiting and choosing to honor the man who wanted him dead, the man whose position he had been promised by God.  Waiting for years and years and years with unfulfilled promises from God – and in all that time, he never took offense at God. 

When you read the psalms that David wrote during that time, you find that David cried out to God; he prayed for deliverance; he prayed for vengeance on his enemies; he asked God “why”; he was honest – even brutally honest – with God.  But he never took offense at God.  He never turned away from God.  He kept trusting God and believing the best of God.  He kept finding his rest, his strength, his security, and his hope in God.

That’s the choice we face.  You’ve no doubt heard it said that suffering can make us better or it can make us bitter.  In David’s case, it prepared him to become king.  That’s because of the way in which David waited on the Lord through all of his trials.

I don’t know about you, but that’s how I want to learn to wait. 

The good news is that it’s never too late to start.  Whatever we may be enduring, however difficult, however uncertain, however long we’ve had to wait – God is always waiting on us to turn to Him, to trust in Him.

And so this morning, as I wait, I pray words that David wrote somewhere around 3000 years ago.  If you are waiting today, I encourage you to join me:  “I stand silently to listen for the One I love, waiting as long as it takes for the Lord to rescue me.  For God alone has become my Savior.  He alone is my Safe Place; His wrap-around presence always protects me.  For he is my Champion Defender; there’s no risk of failure with God.  So why would I let worry paralyze me, even when troubles multiply around me?   Psalms 62:1-2 (Psalms:The Passion Translation)

If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

Breakfast for 107

As the sun began to peek over the horizon, George’s stomach growled.  He frowned at the distraction and looked up for a moment from his Bible.  Ignoring the obvious would not cause the problem to disappear.

The cupboards were bare.  There was nothing left.  Dinner last night had been meager, but at least there was a little for each plate.  But he and his family could no more feed on the memories of last night’s meal than they could on the empty plates that would soon be set out for breakfast.  And on top of that, there was no money left – no way to purchase food.

Sighing, he looked down at his Bible one more time and re-read the familiar words:  “In everything give thanks:  for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  In everything – that felt like an overwhelming challenge at the moment, considering the lack of food and the great need that faced him.

George wasn’t just facing his own hunger.  It wasn’t only his plate that needed to be filled.  He and his wife Mary, who had been married for almost ten years now, had over one hundred children to feed everyday.  Over the past several years, convinced that they were doing what God wanted them to do by caring for the poor and the destitute, they had simply started bringing home orphans as they encountered them, providing a loving home for them.  George and Mary’s growing reputation for loving provision for orphans resulted in them occasionally finding abandoned newborns on their front porch.  While some neighbors were angry and protested over what they saw as an affront to their quiet Bristol, England neighborhood, others responded with donations of food, toys, and even money.  Two more houses had been added to accommodate all the children.

Through all of this, God had always provided.  But today was a new day, and with it came new challenges.  The challenge today, of course, was breakfast.  How to feed over one hundred hungry children before sending them all off to school, when there was no food to be found, and no money in George’s pocket?

George was concerned – but at the same time, he wasn’t worried.  He had learned over the past few years that somehow, God always provided.  George and Mary had made a decision to never ask for help – and up to this morning, they never had.  George had simply prayed every time there was a need – and in one way or another, God had provided every time.  From friends, neighbors, family members, even complete strangers – somehow, as George trusted and prayed, God provided.  Every time.

Today should be no different, thought George.  He bowed his head and spent some time in prayer, laying out before his Father what He already knew – that His children needed their daily bread.  Finally, after sensing the Father’s peace, George raised his head, stood up, and headed off to help Mary with the Herculean task of getting over one hundred children ready for school.

About an hour and a half later, the moment of truth had arrived.  George and Mary and all one-hundred-plus children were seated at several long tables.  On the tables in front of them were empty pitchers, glasses, serving dishes, and plates.

What would George do?

He breathed deeply, recalling the words he had read earlier that morning:  “In everything give thanks…”  Putting a smile on his face that more confident than his heart felt, he spoke to the children.  “Children, you know we must be in time for school.  Let us pray.”  Taking the hands of those next to time, he bowed his head and prayed, “Dear Father, we thank Thee for what Thou art going to give us to eat.  In Jesus’ name I pray…”  His “Amen” was drowned out by a loud knocking at the door.

Jumping to his feet, he rushed to open the door, Mary right behind him. Who could be at the door at such an early hour?

It was Jonathan, the town baker.  With a huge grin on his face, he said, “Mr Müller, I couldn’t sleep last night.  Somehow I felt you didn’t have bread for breakfast, and the Lord wanted me to send you some.  So I got up at 2 a.m. and baked some fresh bread, and I have brought it to you!”

Gratefully, George and several of the boys helped Johann carry in the bread and distribute it to everyone.  George thanked Johann and sat down with his large family to share the gift of daily bread that God had provided.

George Muller Orphanage

A Group of the Müller’s Children

The children began talking among themselves as the meal began.  But only a moment had passed before a loud knock again sounded at the door.  Who could it be this time?  George jumped up again and raced to the door, flung it open, and found William, the neighborhood milkman, standing there with a scowl on his face.  Perplexed, George asked William, “What is wrong?”

“My milk cart has broken down right out here in front of your orphanage, George.  I cannot take my milk to market, and it will spoil and go to waste if I leave it.  I have to empty my cart to lighten the load so I can take it to be repaired.  I have to do something with all this milk – and since it’s right out front, well, I thought I might as well donate it to you for breakfast.  Could you possibly use it this morning?”

George responded with a smile, grateful for God’s creative provision.  “Can we ever!”

*                              *                             *

The above is just one of hundreds of instances of God’s provision in the life of George Müller, as recorded in his personal journals.  George and Mary Müller established 117 schools and cared for over 10,000 orphans in their lifetime – all through the power of prayer.

Each week during our series on prayer, I will include one true-life story as part of our devotionals as a way of illustrating a simple truth about prayer.  I hope you enjoy them and find them helpful.

Super Tuesday and The Issue of Healing

Unless you live (1) under a rock, (2) somewhere in the Judean wilderness, (3) in someplace where you can’t get the news, cell service, or wifi (in which case you wouldn’t be reading this!), then  you know that yesterday was “Super Tuesday” – a huge day in primary voting in preparation for the Presidential election in November.

Super Tuesday, other primaries, even the election itself are a reminder to us as American citizens that we have a voice in our country’s direction and even destiny – a voice that millions of people down through history never had the opportunity to have.  And it’s a reminder to many of us that the freedom to vote has been paid for by the blood, sweat, and tears of men of women who have sacrificed even to the death so that we can live in freedom.

You may not think in these terms, but the truth is that our relationship with God, we also have a voice.  We may not literally cast a ballot and vote, but our actions and our choices and our responses to God have a powerful impact on what we experience – or don’t experience – of God’s mercy and love.

Today’s passage, found in Luke 4:14-44, is fairly long, so I won’t reprint it here.  Please take a moment to either click on the link here, or to open your Bible and read the passage.  I know it’s a little longer than what we usually consider, but there’s a lot going on there.

So here’s a quick summary – Jesus is walking in the power of the Spirit, teaching and doing miracles and drawing crowds.  He returns to His hometown of Nazareth, reads the Sabbath Scripture from Isaiah, and publicly points out that He was the fulfillment of this.  According to Matthew 13’s account of this incident, they “took offense” at Him.  (Interesting, isn’t it – at first they were amazed at His teachings and His wisdom; then as they talked about the fact that they had watched Him grew up, knew His family, etc., they let the wonder be stolen away and took offense at His claims.)  They became furious and ran Him out of town.  Then He travelled to Capernaum, where His teachings were well-received.  But in Capernaum, they didn’t take offense at Him.  He cast out demons, healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever, and then the whole town brought their sick and demonized family members and friends, and He healed the sick and cast out the demons.


A portion of present-day Nazareth

My point is that Jesus did the exact same thing in two places – Nazareth, and Capernaum.  In Nazareth, they let their amazement become judgment and offense, and they ran Him out of town.  In Capernaum, their amazement led them to seek more from Him.

We have the incredible power of making choices.  God has given us this freedom, and we exercise it every day.  It’s pretty obvious to us as Christians that God has given us the choice to believe in Jesus or not (John 3:16 reminds us that salvation is for “whoever believes in Him…”)  But we often forget that we can also choose how much – or how little – of God’s blessings we experience.

Let me explain.

Healing is a wonderful thing and a frightening thing.  Everyone wants to be healed when they’re sick; everyone who has a loved one who is suffering wants them to be healed.  But the reality is this:

(1) Healing can look really strange and can be offensive.  Jesus did some bizarre things when He healed people – spitting in the dirt to make mud; spitting in a blind man’s eyes; casting out demons; telling cripples to walk; touching lepers.  And healing can look strange today – sometimes when the Holy Spirit is working, people do strange things like fall over or jerk around; it’s even more strange when bones grow or move.

(2) Healing can become something that we’re either afraid to pursue, or like the Nazarenes, become offended at and avoid.  This brings us back to probably the most difficult issue with healing – not everyone is healed.  There are people reading this today who either are suffering, or have loved ones who are suffering or dying, and the thought of healing fills you both with hope and with despair.  (“What if they aren’t healed?  Why are they dying?  Why hasn’t God healed them?  Why did that person get healed and not me?”)  All of those are valid questions.  The problem is that when we let our questions lead us into doubt, fear, or even anger, we can become offended at God and choose (sometimes without even realizing it) to “opt out” of healing.  In other words, we give up.  We stop asking for prayer, stop praying for healing, become offended at God as the Nazarenes were offended at Jesus, and even become angry when someone brings up the subject of healing.

Here’s the thing:  when we take offense, we end up choosing to “run Jesus out of town.”  We stop seeking Him; we stop praying for healing and talking about healing.  We stop looking for what He’s doing.  We stop being grateful for what we do have, and we end up focusing only on what we do not have.

God is the Healer.  It’s one of His names.  And Jesus paid the price not only for our sins to be forgiven, but for our sicknesses to be healed.  So when we choose offense and we choose to not pursue Jesus and pursue healing, we are choosing to forfeit part of what Jesus paid for on the cross.

I understand the frustration of not experiencing healing.  I understand the pain and sorrow of watching someone you love suffer.  I understand the pain of trying to reconcile God’s love with someone not being healed.

But here’s what I know – if Jesus paid the price for it, then it’s worth us contending for it.  It’s worth fighting for.  It’s worth learning more about healing, it’s worth pursuing Jesus more, it’s worth more prayer and fasting.  It’s worth “voting” – choosing – that no matter what my experience is telling me right now, I’m going to keep pushing and contending and fighting for what God has promised – healing.  And it’s worth loving and caring for those who haven’t yet experienced healing.

Because God is good.  Always.  And I want to choose to focus on His goodness.  I don’t want to be like the Nazarenes.  I don’t want to choose to take offense, and in so doing, push Jesus away.

I want more of Him.  I need more of Him.

So I will choose Him.

How about you?

Faith and Healing

Most people who know anything at all about healing in the Bible associate faith with healing in some way or another.  That idea has even been ingrained into our culture – most of us have heard of “faith healers” or “faith healing” or some other variant on the same idea.

The truth is that faith DOES play an important role in healing.  There were times that Jesus was amazed at peoples’ faith and healed in response to their faith.  There were also times that Jesus was amazed at the lack of faith that people had.  In fact, in His own hometown of Nazareth, Jesus either could not or would not do many miracles because of their lack of faith, depending on which translation you read.  (You can read about it in Matthew 13:53-58 or Mark 6:1-6 if you’d like.)  In the story of the paralytic whose friends lowered him through the roof to Jesus, we are told that Jesus forgave the man’s sins and healed him when he saw “their” faith – the faith of the man’s friends.

Now, of course, God is all-powerful.  He doesn’t need our faith in order to heal anyone.

He doesn’t even need us to pray in order to heal anyone.

But since He’s committed to growing us and sanctifying us, in many cases God has chosen to partner with us.  And although He’s God and can do what He wants, He sometimes waits for us to show faith.  Or to pray.

So faith is pretty important.  In fact, Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God.”

Which is why we’re going to direct our attention to the issue of faith this week.

Last week, we focused on God as our Father and His willingness to heal.  This week, as we continue to consider healing, our focus will shift to Faith.

But one warning before we dive in – although faith is important, it’s not an end in itself.

Faith isn’t the issue.  In fact, healing isn’t really the issue.

The issue is Jesus.

He’s the One we’re pursuing.  He’s the One we want to be like.  He’s the One who is our model.

The only reason we’re talking about healing and trying to learn about it is that it is something that Jesus did fairly regularly, and that He told us to do.

And the only reason faith is important is that us brings us closer to Him.

So as we read and think about faith this week, as we consider passages that build our faith in Jesus as our Healer, as we join with the disciples in praying “Lord, increase our faith” remember that while faith is important, it’s only important in that it brings us closer to Jesus.

This Week’s Readings:

  • Monday – Matthew 9:1-8
  • Tuesday – Matthew 15:21-28
  • Wednesday – Luke 4:14-44
  • Thursday – Luke 17:11-19
  • Friday – Isaiah 53:1-8

Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes from hearing the word of God.  As we read and hear what God says to us this week, may our faith in His Son Jesus increase.