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Desires of The Heart

I’ve used my Scripture Meditation Plan for decades. It begins with a psalm of the day, and last Thursday’s was Psalm 37. It is best known for this one sentence: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (And this isn’t coming from a used car salesman.) A friend from University quoted that verse every day. His father was infamous for being...

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What Can I Learn from Cancer?

Four weeks ago, my doctor told me that recent tests indicate a high likelihood I have kidney cancer.  The tests were the result of an appointment I made because I felt run down. I thought I should take a sleep test or maybe a melatonin. Cancer was the furthest thing from my mind. Since then, the weeks were filled with doctor visits, a bit of googling, a few degrading procedures and...

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Finding Meaning in Suffering

Elisabeth Elliot is best known for being a widowed-missionary, speaker, adjunct professor, and author of over twenty books. She is least known for her one and only novel, No Graven Image. It’s a book about twenty-five-year-old Margaret, a linguist who gives up family, money, and marriage to be a missionary in South America. She works for years with a primitive tribe that has no...

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Happy Further’s Day

I dislike Hallmark Holidays. Yet I love to give flowers to my wife on Valentine’s day, and I like to honor my parents on Mother’s and Father’s Day (after all, they put up with my innumerable character deficiencies). But I’ve never once posted an article about those holidays. Last Father’s Day I saw a dozen articles on blogs and Facebook. The articles included things...

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He Loves Me … He Loves Me Not

A friend of mine used to begin every prayer: “Father, I love you.” When I first heard him, I thought it was cool. After a couple years, something began to seem strange. I liked that he loved God, but his inflexible, unwavering, rigid preface to every prayer felt weird. I wanted to ask him why he started prayer with those exact words, but he was also an irritable person. If...

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Don’t Believe Your Own Headlines

In ninth grade, my brother Andy’s locker partner (the school drug supplier) had a bad trip on LSD. The bad trip continued in a small series of scary flashbacks, and Kevin asked Andy if God had anything to say about it. My brother had just had a Sunday school lesson about the Four Spiritual Laws. He even had a copy of the tract. Together Andy and Kevin read the pamphlet, and Kevin prayed...

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What About That GTO?

When I grew up in Detroit, the population was over 1,200,000 people. I spent the next forty years living in Ann Arbor, population of about 120,000. Last summer, my wife and I moved to Brooklyn MI, population 1,188. Which is 25% smaller than my high school graduating class. A few weeks ago we ordered takeout from Harold’s Place, a restaurant near our house. As I sat at the bar waiting...

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Should Christians Fear Thinking?

Four years ago, I met with a pastor who talked about problems in his church. I asked him what he thought he should do. He said, “Watch it! ‘Thinking’ puts you into the devil’s territory.” (He really said that; I kid you not.) His answer hinted at one of his church’s problems. I figured he was an anomaly, like when you phone Comcast, and a real person answers the phone. But a...

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Trusting Doubt

My friend was recently fired from a job when he was blamed him for a mistake the boss had made. He said to me, “All is good.” The next week his wife totaled one of their two cars. My friend said, “I trust God that everything will work out for the good.” When we met for coffee, I asked how he was doing, and he snapped, “Of course I’m okay. I’m keeping a positive attitude. I...

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Does Prayer Work?

Someone recently asked me to write an endorsement for his upcoming book on intercessory prayer. He read my book on Hearing God in Conversation and wrote a positive review on Amazon. His manuscript was easy to read, witty, and personal, with terrific stories. What’s not to like? The book said that most Christians think the essence of prayer is petitionary, asking God for stuff....

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Easter and the Death of a Son

Twenty-three years ago, my sister Becky lost her son in an accident as he walked home from school. Is there any greater sadness for any parent than the early death of a child? I think not. This is what Easter holds for us, in the words of my sister. ***** When my ten-year-old son, Robert, was struck by a truck and killed, I saw and experienced, for the first time in my life, the power and...

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Do We Know What We Worship?

In 1930, legendary economist John Maynard Keyes wrote an essay about our future lifestyle in the twenty-first century. He predicted that industrial progress would reduce our workload to 15 hours a week. Keyes may have been a brilliant economist, but he was a pathetic prophet. In fact, for many, the workweek over the last thirty years has increased. In 1980, the highest earners worked the...

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Torches of Freedom

Four score and eleven years ago—in 1928—George Washington Hill had a problem: he wanted more women to smoke cigarettes. But smoking was scorned as a crutch for “fallen women and prostitutes.” He was president of the American Tobacco Company, and he thought that if he could get women to smoke, it would be “like opening a gold mine right in our front yard.” Hill hired public...

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Your Lovers Will Despise You

During its first fifteen years, my software company only worked with domestic clients. In the late nineties, we landed Oxford University Press (a terrific feather in our cap), and a few years later, a French company approached us. Actually, they approached two U.S. software companies. For the next six months, both companies passionately courted the French company, but in the end, they...

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Rewiring My Fears

After four years of trying to sell our old house, we finally moving into our new house last August. To prepare it for retreats, I’ve been immersed in chores: creating a new kitchen, installing new cabinets, making a desk, and rewiring about twenty light switches to link them to Alexa. All things I’ve done before: plumbing, carpentry, and wiring. Now that the house-updates are done, I...

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Gifts and Gods

When I fly, I never talk to the person next to me. I sit quietly and read a book while they sit quietly and watch a video, just as God ordained airline passengers to behave. But every once in a while, I accidentally slip into a conversation that causes me to question my silent-flying philosophy. Last week I flew home from a Hearing God Conference in Colorado. The man next to me asked me if I...

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Intimate Theology

Intimate Theology

Two years ago I met with a man who had left his job to pursue mission work. He had devoted his remaining years to helping other people create a legacy of their lives: to end well and to leave behind bushels of fruit. Yet he was frustrated by the seeming fruitlessness of his own mission. When he talked with friends, they were more concerned with careers, finances, children, and marriages. He...

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Meeting Jesus in Mystery

I recently read an article in which the author rejects any kind of fear of God. He especially hates the beavers’ descriptions of Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: “I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion” [says Susan]. “That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs Beaver. “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking,...

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Shut Down by a Sneer

Six weeks ago, I flew back from a Hearing God retreat in Seattle. I sat next to a young man—thirty-ish—who was returning home from a job interview. He scoffed at the interview process, saying he was interrogated by a bunch of “suits.”   “Suits?” I asked, “Surely no one actually wore a coat and tie.” “Naw, they were just puffed up buffoons, hot air balloons, all show and no...

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Our Biggest Problem Is Our Heroism

On my twelfth birthday, I received four birthday cards, each with a personal message. My grandfather, my parents, my oldest brother, and an elder at church each took time to pray for me, and each of them wrote something remarkably similar. They said, “When I prayed for you, I sensed God say, ‘You are to listen to God’s people and to speak to God’s people.’”   I immediately...

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Invaded

Growing up, I had two close friends: one came from a devout, Christian family, and the other came from a devout, atheist family. One family went to church Sunday mornings and prayer meetings Wednesday night. The other played golf on Sundays and watched TV on Wednesdays. Apart from Sundays and Wednesdays (and perhaps personal prayer times), the lives of my friends’ parents looked identical....

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The Deceptive Danger of Natural Gifting

I attended the University of Michigan in the 1970’s (like, before indoor plumbing). I joined a campus ministry that emphasized community, worship, and outreach.   It was a great group. About one hundred and fifty of us sacrificed to live in the dorms all four years for the sake of outreach—and believe me, living in those dorms was a sacrifice. We roomed with, did laundry with, and...

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Vandalizing God

I attended a magnet high school in Detroit, Michigan. Cass Tech was a university preparatory school that emphasized science and the arts. One night before an art showing, a vandal broke in, defaced multiple paintings, and took a hammer to dozens of sculptures.   Imagine the angry anguish of the victims: the lost hours of creativity, the shattered dreams of masterpieces. But the hours and...

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Hearing God in the Abundance of His Methods

Most believers long for—desperately long for—God’s voice, but most of us experience silence. Scripture says, “God speaks in many and diverse ways, but nobody notices” (Job 33:14). We miss his voice because he’s not a paint-by-number God. He speaks in ways we don’t expect.   Well-meaning people often mislead us when they describe their conversations with God. Their...

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Betrayed

Last week I woke up in a nightmare. The dream seemed real, like an IMAX theater with heart-throbbing surround-sound and mountain-shaking sub-woofers. I dreamt of a friend’s betrayal from years ago, and I felt the naked fury, pain, and shame wash over me yet again.   Sooner or later—and most likely sooner—we will all experience a betrayal. I don’t mean a stab in the back: I mean a...

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I Was Ashamed of Myself

I was small for my age. When I graduated from high school, I was 5 feet 7 inches and 120 pounds. (I added 2 inches and 25 pounds in the first two years of college.) In middle school, I was even smaller. When I was twelve, my younger (but taller) sister and a friend of hers began to chant, “Sam is short, shorty-pants, skinny-pants, dinky Sam!” And I slugged her.   My dad witnessed it. He...

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What A Fool I Was!

Shortly after graduating from university, I took a trip with my new boss to a conference. He was about to give an important presentation, but over dinner he remarked that he hadn’t had a haircut for a long time. He wished he looked more presentable. I offered to cut his hair for him. He asked how good I was. I replied, “I’ve never had a complaint.”   I had never had a complaint...

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American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part II

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part II

In my previous post, Random Male Violence, Part 1, I began to unravel the mystery of why the random violence we regularly encounter happens in the U.S. on a level unlike any other country. Our soul-searching requires that we recognize that we are developing wounded males. But all countries have wounded males. (This article is written by Craig Glass.) There’s another inescapable reason random...

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Living a 4th Quarter Life

One hundred and twenty-two months ago today, I sat at my desk with no appointments, no tasks to perform, no clients to serve, and no employees to pacify. My desk was empty. So was my mind. I had absolutely no clue what I should do for the next ten minutes of my life. Much less the next ten days or their following ten years.   Until that purposeless day, years ago, my entire life had been...

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American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part I

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part I

Once again we wrestle with piercing feelings of grief, bewilderment and anger. Yet again a young American male has unleashed his wrath against a vulnerable group of students. Our hearts ache, our heads shake and our minds reel. How can this keep happening? What can we do to make sure this never happens again? (This article is written by Craig Glass.) We’re familiar with the spectrum of...

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Fear for a Son

Fear for a Son

Lisa and I bore fruitless until late in life, Wondering were we physically broken Or spiritually barren? A pastor, son, and grandson of pastors, I felt I was losing faith.   In prayer one day, as luck would have it, I heard the voice of God, As clear as crystal and large as Imax, “I am real,” he convicted, “You don’t understand.” When she announced her expectations Most were...

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Spiritual but Not Religious

Spiritual but Not Religious

Fifteen years ago, I was dining alone in New York City when I overheard a Christian woman ask a friend for dating advice. She had met two men on eHarmony. One said he goes to church and the other said he was “spiritual but not religious.” I thought his line was clever.   Clever turns of phrase thrill me. I collect them the way my sister-in-law collects stamps: It’s not the size of the...

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Mission Idolatry

Last summer I met with a pastor who serves a church near a large campus. As the university grew in prestige, it attracted thousands of international students, many of whom had little exposure to Christianity. So the church began to reach out to them with language classes, tutoring, and members who “adopt” students into their homes.   The church also changed their Sunday morning worship...

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We Buried the Hatchet

Twenty-five years ago, my wife and I moved into a lovely farmhouse in the country. But in our hunt for that house, we made huge blunders in understanding (or misunderstanding) each other, and those communication errors stressed our marriage.   Within a few years, those growing tensions contributed to significant marriage difficulties. We saw a Christian counselor, and after an extended time...

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Old-fashioned Pharisees with a Modern-day Makeover

You and I are just normal folk: we struggle to make lasting friendships. But we also know people who casually stroll into a room of strangers, and leave with a dozen new friends, three lunch dates, and a personal introduction to someone’s dear old grandmother. We wish we were more like them: delightful and enchanting.   Last summer I read a BBC article entitled, Tricks to Make Yourself...

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Measuring Fruit

My father pastored five different churches between 1949 and 1994. His first four churches averaged 200 members, and his last church grew from 250 to 750 during his ten years of care. A few years before dad retired from that last, rapidly growing church, I came home for Christmas. We went out for coffee, and he shared with me some reflections on church growth. When he pastored his first four...

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An Unearthly Delight

Sometimes I hear God best in surprises. Seemingly unrelated circumstances suddenly unite, and their merger stirs something in my heart. Like a succession of waves on a beach, one last surge dissolves my sandcastles.   This last month I talked with: A despairing man whose ministry seems stagnant, and all his work seem fruitless; Another man who keeps a tally in the front of his Bible of all...

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When Trusting in the Lord Doesn’t Work

A college friend of mine watched every episode of Marcus Welby, M. D. (the TV series about a small town, family doctor), and my friend wanted nothing more than to be a like-minded, caring, personal physician.   My friend aggressively pursued his pre-med studies, but he also countered the competitive culture of his program by tutoring other pre-med students. His life verse was, “Blessed is...

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Why Won’t We Admit the Evil of Our Deeds?

When I began Beliefs of the Heart, a friend suggested I adopt a Comment Policy. His site already had one, and I copied his almost word for word. The short version is: Keep comments short and sweet.   In the last seven years, about five thousand comments have been posted. Out of those five thousand comments, I have only deleted five, from four different people. I deleted one comment because...

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Sharing Our Victories or Our Struggles?

Sharing Our Victories or Our Struggles?

Many years ago, I met with a Christian leader who had influenced me in my youth. As we talked, he offered to give me input on a recent sermon series I had preached. A month later, he shared a few positive comments, and then he added this critique: “I think you share your weaknesses too much. People need to hear our victories more than our struggles.”   I think he is mistaken. The...

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Shifting Gears

Shifting Gears

My parents moved from Detroit to Philadelphia in September 1975. I started university the same month, and I paid my tuition, room, and board by continuing my high school janitor job in Detroit, about a half-hour drive from Ann Arbor.   That October—forty-two years ago this month—I drove my white, 1967 VW Beetle to visit my parents in their new house for the weekend. It was a...

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Call Me Ishmael

I need to sacrifice something to God, and I don’t want to. After months of trying to sell our house, we signed the closing documents a few weeks ago. My wife and I have painstakingly pursued our hunt for a new home. For me, it’s been more of a frantic, obsessive, compulsive quest. We’ve exhaustively examined hundreds of homes, but only one fit our unique criteria for layout and...

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Bringing God Our Emptiness

My leadership at my church feels fruitless and my last few sermons stank; in the first 34 weeks of this year, I published only 25 “weekly” articles; and all my service to a partner charity feels last minute, like I’m doing everything in the nick of time.   Recently, I spend less time with my wife than I want; my brother (who lives in Australia) is visiting for two months and I’ve...

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Self-Deception

I once visited an executive at a Christian publishing house. He wondered aloud how he should counsel an employee of his who was pregnant out of wedlock.   While he was “wondering,” the woman herself burst into his office in tears. She had shared her situation in confidence with the executive, and then she discovered he had asked several people for their “wisdom” in counseling her...

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Hearing God When Seeking Guidance

My wife and I spent the last two and a half years selling our house. Now we have a buyer who will let us stay in our house a few extra months, so we have time to continue our search for a new home. Which is not going well.   Before even looking for our next house, my wife and I prayed, brainstormed our ideas onto a whiteboard, and we easily, and mutually, agreed on three priorities: layout,...

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The End of an Era

Yesterday morning our last horse, Misty, died. My wife saw her laying down in the pasture, went out to investigate, and found she had died during the night. Misty had seemed perfectly normal the day before.   We’ve had horses since we moved into our house December 1991. We started with Ace and Joker (an Arabian and an Appaloosa), and then we bought Lady and Tigger (two wonderful ponies)....

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Unpleasant Grace

One evening years ago, I babysat my three sons, which meant I read a book upstairs as they wrestled each other downstairs. A shriek rang out and I raced down to find David, my son five-year-old son, holding his head as blood gushed through his fingers.   One of his brothers had pushed him off the sofa, and he hit his head against the corner of an end table. It opened an inch-long gash on...

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The Humility of Our Mysterious Purpose

Two and a half years ago, my wife and I decided to sell our house. We followed commonsense wisdom: we decluttered closets, upgraded appliances, and replaced old wallpaper with fresh paint.   Then we put our beloved house on the market. And nada. Well, not quite nothing. We had multiple almost-buyers, couples who claimed they would make an offer by the weekend. But an obstacle always cropped...

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Surprised by Ignorance

During my sophomore year at university, I met a freshman new to college life. His dad was a business-exec in a wealthy suburban neighborhood; my dad was the pastor of a poor church in a dodgy Detroit neighborhood. He studied performance violin; I studied physics.   His dad frequently traveled; my dad never missed family dinner. His older sisters taught him boys were naughty, and to flee...

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It’s Only Stupid If

I recently heard a popular Christian speaker tell of a “rich spiritual exercise” he began practicing in secret. A friend of his encouraged him for years to try it, and for years he resisted. Finally, he gave it a shot. And he loves it.   The friend who introduced him to the spiritual practice is an Eastern Guru, and the exercises themselves are born out of Eastern Mysticism. At first,...

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Christian Meditation

In February 1978, I sensed God call me to spend a summer volunteering on a kibbutz in Israel (a communal farm that provides room and board for six days of work). I asked friends to help me discern if I heard God correctly. Some were pretty sure it was from God, and others were certain it wasn’t. After deliberation, I decided to go, but not until April.   The deadline to register as a...

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Bulldozing Friendships

A couple years ago, I experienced a growing concern for a friend of mine. Something in his ministry approach seemed discordant with its purpose. I waited a few months before talking with him. (Who knows? Maybe my observations were wrong.) When a perfect example finally arose, I shared my unease.   But to say I “shared it” exaggerates my graciousness. Instead, I bluntly confronted him....

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The Pig in London and the Lamb in Israel

When I was twenty years old, I wanted to spend a summer abroad, but as a college student I could barely afford ramen noodles. I found work on a communal farm in Israel. For a bit of manual labor, they provided me food, a room, ten dollars a month, and a pack of cigarettes a day. (It was the cigarettes that sold me.)   The weekend before I departed, I heard my first talk ever on being a...

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We Are Strangers in a Strange Land

“My wife’s ninety-year-old mother died last Thursday and we mourn. Someone reminded me that when we grieve, “we do not grieve like those who have no hope.” I grew up in a family that camped. My father was a pastor who got four weeks of vacation. We took all four weeks at once, camping the whole month of July, mostly in wooded campsites next to windy lakes. We hauled a small Sunfish...

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Do We Practice Godless Faith?

I recently met an elder who was whose faith brought him great distress. Three years ago, his small but growing church received tithes that exceeded two hundred thousand dollars, for the first time ever. But this is the rest of the story.   After seeking God, the pastor, elders, and deacons collectively felt led to invest in their youth. In faith, they unanimously decided to increase their...

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The History of the World is a Long Story of Bad Answers

The History of the World is a Long Story of Bad Answers

My wife’s and my first home was a trilevel, with only two of the floors completed. We decided to finish the third floor ourselves, creating a family room, office, and second bathroom. I had done lots of carpentry, wiring, and plumbing before. But I had never mudded drywall. I figured the drywall mud would sand down easily, so after hanging the drywall, I caked on mud like a teenage boy piles...

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Gazing on Beauty

Gazing on Beauty

Most of my life I failed to appreciate beauty. Oh, I loved the look of sails on the sea and snow on the mountains, but mostly I liked sailing those sailboats and skiing those slopes.   Fifteen years ago, I learned to scuba dive. On our first dive, my sons and I wobbled our way to the sea in unwieldly gear, inserted our mouthpieces, lowered our heads beneath the waves, and dived. In fifteen...

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What’s So Bad About Works Righteousness?

What’s So Bad About Works Righteousness?

The week before Christmas I heard the best argument against Christianity I’ve heard in years.     I met with a professional woman who had worked seven years for near minimum wage in the administration of a Christian ministry. When they decided to move their headquarters, they abruptly dismissed her with two weeks’ severance. She felt used and discarded. And she felt anger: How...

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When Your World Has Been Shaken By Betrayal

When Your World Has Been Shaken By Betrayal

Continuation of Sidelined by Betrayal (click here for Part 1) What do we do when we have been betrayed (or at least it feels like it) by a friend or a ministry – when our whole world has been shaken? Paul tells us, “See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks…’Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ …the removing of what can be shaken—that is,...

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Sidelined by Betrayal

What causes us to become sidelined with our calling, with the life we were created to live that brings life to others?  Among the possible reasons, one that appears most frequent and devastating is betrayal – in friendship, in work, in church or ministry. Betrayal, or at least the sense of betrayal, wounds at the deepest level – trust.  It can diminish, if not destroy, our ability...

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When “Good” Christians Do Bad Things

When “Good” Christians Do Bad Things

I hate the presidential election season, the rhetoric, emotional responses, hushed conversations, and mud-slinging candidates. I especially hate those damned, political phone polls! Don’t worry, this is not about the election. It’s about when good Christians do bad things.   And yet, weeks after the elections, the rhetoric is still meteoric and the mudslinging has not abated. Friends of...

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Living a Staged Life

A year ago, my wife and I decided to sell the farmhouse we’ve lived in for twenty-five years. While we were excited about moving into the next chapter of our life, the grown kids were less enthusiastic: our daughter’s next blog was entitled, Don’t Buy This House.   Nevertheless, we followed all the commonsense guidelines for home-sales: We decluttered our closets, removed beds and...

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Circumstantial Evidence

A pastor-friend of mine once went through a series of disappointments. His favor with his followers faltered, his once fruitful ministry began to fail, and many of his former friends became his biggest opponents. And that was before events really got bad.   My friend was well known. If I told you his name, you’d probably recognize it. And his meteoric fall from favor was not due to any...

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Twin Motivations

Twin Motivations

I once had a client whose business-gifting outshined the stars of the Harvard Business Review. Yet she scorched everything she touched. Relationships went rancid, projects were poisoned by punitive criticism, and her management style left associates embittered.   We met for lunch a couple times a year for much of the 90’s. Over time, my opinion of her zigzagged from initial awe, to...

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The Starving Lion

A business owner I barely knew once phoned to see if we could meet. He was an aggressive entrepreneur, a roaring lion among his peers. Yet on the phone, he seemed different, hesitant, a bit humbler, perhaps broken. He certainly choked up a few times in our short conversation.   We met the following Friday, which happened to be his fortieth birthday. He appeared vulnerable and exhausted, and...

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Relationship or Religion?

My best friend in the world, from ages eight to eighteen (except for three long months), was Mark Maxam. Inseparable companions, we walked to school together, slept over on weekends, jumped off church roofs together, and shared every conceivable secret.   We also wrestled. One day, when I was ten, Mark put me in a scissor-lock that I couldn’t break. So, I bit him. He released me with the...

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I Wonder if Our Agendas Crucify the Life of God Within Us

I Wonder if Our Agendas Crucify the Life of God Within Us

Seven years ago I met a mother in anguish because her smart, capable son was living in an abandoned house, playing reggae music on the streets, and panhandling when the busking money fell short. He bathed irregularly and communicated inconsistently.   After he graduated from high school, his mom enrolled him at Stanford while he took the summer off to hitchhike around America. He called...

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The Riddle of the Psalms

The Riddle of the Psalms

For the last forty years, my prayer time has started with the Psalms. And for forty years they have alternately given me hope and then pulled that rug of hope from beneath me. They make great promises, but when I pray them with honest self-reflection, the promises fade away.   Look at the hopeful assurances offered: Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear. (Ps. 27:3) The...

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Underestimating the Power of Our Lives

The city of Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Summer Olympics. The world was watching what the entertainment capital of the world would do with the opening and closing ceremonies. During this time, I was running a gymnastics center in the L.A. area. The choreographers came to our gym asking if we had adult male gymnasts who could perform in the opening ceremonies. We had the gymnasts, and because of...

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Beware of Smiling Crocodiles

I recently met with a three friends to discuss a Saturday event we were hosting. I thought a previous decision was a spiritual mistake, and I pleaded that we reconsider. Not only did I plead, I urged and pushed, and then I rammed my point home with a metaphorical baseball bat.   My counsel, intensity, and insistence backed them into a corner. And it all backfired. I’ve always pictured my...

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To Dream Again

For the past several years, I’ve hated being ask, “what are you doing these days?”. I experience a degree of dread when I feel the question coming. I’ve often wondered why? My life hasn’t fallen apart; everything is pretty much intact, though tough at times. I recently realized why that question causes me so much consternation. The answer came with the convergence...

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The First Time I Ever Heard God

The First Time I Ever Heard God

I was ten years old the first time I heard God speak. It was autumn, a new school year had just begun, and a new fad was spreading among my adolescent classmates. Cussing.   I was raised in a conservative Christian church where Sunday school teachers taught us the Ten Commandments. The teachers were vague about adultery, and I wasn’t concerned. They were also unclear about coveting, and I...

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Our Plans, God’s Plans

Our Plans, God’s Plans

Last week’s ideal plan didn’t translate itself into reality. Instead, life happened. While on an errand, I met a man and we talked for two hours; a friend called to say her father is dying and I went to visit him; and our water main sprung a leak, drenching the basement.   I’m traveling west for a retreat, so last week was filled with dozens of tasks to get ready. I use a planning app...

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Three Keys to The Seven Steps that Reveal The Five Secrets of Success

I recently feel a need for action, practically (selling our house, helping a ministry I support, promoting my book) and humanly (a friend in divorce proceedings and other friends with health or financial woes). A season of doing has descended on me.   But where should I best invest myself? There is no shortage of advice. Recently, resources I used to like for their insights have transformed...

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How To Be IN But Not OF — That Is The Question

How To Be IN But Not OF — That Is The Question

My grandfather was a missionary in China from 1917 to 1936. He once told me of some early Pentecostal missionaries to China. They decided it was unnecessary to study Chinese before traveling because they “spoke in tongues.” But when they disembarked in Hong Kong, their abysmal language skills made them a laughing stock.   My grandfather (who was also a Pentecostal missionary) said to...

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Why Don’t We Hear God’s Voice?

Why Don’t We Hear God’s Voice?

Humanity was designed to hear God. It’s in our DNA. So why is his voice so rare? Scripture says, “God speaks in many and diverse ways, but nobody notices (Job 33:14). We miss his voice because he’s not a paint-by-number God. He speaks in ways we don’t expect.   We often hear well-meaning people describe conversations with God in ways that mislead. Their exchanges with God sound like...

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The Fires of Waiting

The Fires of Waiting

I’ve always disliked waiting. As a kid, Christmas Eve was torture. Being on hold with Comcast feels endless (the same sappy song repeating every ninety seconds). Last August Kregel Publications offered to publish my book on Hearing God, but their schedule meant it’s release would be delayed ten interminable months.   I think God is teaching me to wait. On him. Of all God’s lessons,...

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Hearing God in Our Suffering

Most of my high school friends were obsessed with college-prep, extra-curricular activities, and jobs. Except for one friend. Like a lion, he could sniff out a wounded schoolmate from a thousand yards. And like a lamb, he sat with them in their grief.   One day we heard a lecture on handling pain. Much of the class was indifferent, but this one friend listened with fixed attention. My...

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What’s So Important About Hearing God?

What’s So Important About Hearing God?

“For God does speak–now one way, now another–though man may not perceive it” (Job 33:14). Humanity was created to be in a relationship with God; not God as a simple supplement, nor God as mere miracle worker. God created us to know him personally, as a father with a child, friend to friend, and even (breathtakingly intimate) as a husband with a wife. At the beginning of time, Adam and...

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When God Seems Silent

Of all the ways God speaks, the one I like least (and fear most) is his silence. The absence of his voice seems to come at the moments I most desperately long for a word. In those moments, his silence feels like God at his cruelest.   We cry out to God, we promise to do exactly as he says, and we get silence. It hardly seems fair. Paradoxically, God often speaks the loudest in his silence....

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Hearing God: Learning to Recognize His Voice in Meditation

Hearing God: Learning to Recognize His Voice in Meditation

God speaks time and again—in various ways—but nobody notices” (Job 33:14). Central to the nature of the human race is a desire to hear God. Well, more than mere desire. We crave a connection with the divine, somehow to see the face of God, to touch and be touched. It’s an inborn, inherent ingredient of our humanity.   Scripture says God is always speaking, but we miss it. It’s...

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Hearing God: Conversation Is the Point

Hearing God: Conversation Is the Point

When I was growing up, my dad taught me to sail our small Sunfish sailboat. We took month-long summer vacations, and we always camped on lakes, so we could challenge the wind every day. I probably sailed with my dad for a hundred hours before I took the boat out on my own. My dad would have me handle either the sail or the rudder. Of our many hours sailing together, I’ll bet his actual...

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Courage and Cowardice

Courage and Cowardice

The worst riot in Detroit’s history broke out the summer of 1967: forty-three people were killed and over eleven hundred injured. As the violence escalated, my father packed us kids into the station wagon and drove us in to the center of the action (every other car was headed out). Police tried to wave us away while we witnessed looting, fights, arrests, and arson.   My father was...

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When Success Turns Sour

When Success Turns Sour

Fifteen years ago, a client of mine became president of his company. It all came about through a fluke (he was a mid-level manager), good luck, and a couple coincidences. He was very humble about his promotion, “It was just God’s grace. I hadn’t wanted it, I didn’t deserve it, and I never tried for it. God just dropped it on my lap.”   Within a couple years he began to attribute...

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When Obedience Doesn’t Make Sense

When Obedience Doesn’t Make Sense

When my family moved to Detroit, the summer between my first and second grade, Tommy was the first friend I made. He too was the son of a pastor—so we had that in common—but his mother hated the idea of punishment.   Tommy’s mother caught us smoking cigarette butts behind their church which was right next door to their house. (How could we have been so stupid?) She explained that the...

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As Long as We Both Shall Live

As Long as We Both Shall Live

Last weekend my wife and I attended two weddings. Both couples used traditional vows: To have and to hold, from this day forward, For better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, In sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, Forsaking all others, as long as we both shall live.   My wife and I got married thirty-three years ago, but our church met in the YMCA, so we asked another...

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Wait For It

Wait For It

Eight years ago, my niece Amy married Nathan, a great guy. They moved into a starter home in the country. Over time, and with the addition of a son and daughter, the small house felt smaller. With a third child on the way, they decided to sell their house and find a larger home, a place closer to town with neighbors for the kids and a garage for the cars.   They put their house on the...

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My father died sixteen years ago last Friday, April Fool’s Day, 1996. (I often wonder if he planned that day.) A week before his death, knowing his death was imminent, my father made a suggestion. Deathbed advice has power other suggestions can’t match.   My dad told me that many of the people he counseled lived their adult lives being controlled by their parents. Most parental-control...

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Why Do Our Kids Reject Christianity?

Why Do Our Kids Reject Christianity?

Why do so many people—people with incredible conversion stories—parent children who abandon Christianity?   History overflows with great saints whose offspring lose faith: Samuel was a mighty prophet of God. His sons were a mess. David was a man after God’s own heart. His children were a disaster. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton were founded on the gospel. Now they lead the...

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Who is Your Hero?

Who is Your Hero?

Sometimes God speaks through a careful choreography of life events: conversations, readings, observations, and even the occasional media clip. Suddenly, all the pieces snap together, and we sigh (internally so no one hears us), “Aha!”   This morning, I had one of those moments of clarity. Over the past couple weeks: With friends, I pondered why some people and ministries are wildly...

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Spiritual Judo

Spiritual Judo

I reached my fitness high water mark at the age of twenty-four. I ran thirty miles a week, sweated three hundred pushups a day, and I brawled each week in the local boxing club. In the midst of my peak physical prowess (never mind its short duration), I met a man with a black belt in Judo. He was forty-ish, chubby, and he wheezed as he walked. I think his exercise routine consisted of lifting...

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The Nonsense of S.M.A.R.T. Sense

Is modern business wisdom destroying Christian spirituality? Oswald Chambers once asked, “[Do we consider ourselves] so amazingly important that we really wonder what God Almighty does before we wake up in the morning?”   Contemporary sages tell us to apply business models to our spiritual work. They admonish us to make S.M.A.R.T. goals: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and...

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Navigating The Mountain of Biblical Authority

Navigating The Mountain of Biblical Authority

My daughter’s boyfriend, Matt, works in the High-Tech Performance Apparel industry. (I always thought the height of high-tech apparel was the Converse high-top.) He’s an avid sportsman and a NOLS leader trained in Alaskan sea kayaking, mountaineering, and glacier-navigation.   Matt recently described two kinds of people who buy performance gear and apparel. Some buy because they use...

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The Hope of Our Suffering

The Hope of Our Suffering

As a college student, I wanted to spend a summer abroad, but money was so tight that Raman noodles were my Sunday treat. I found a communal farm in Israel (sort of like modern WWOOFING) that provided room and board plus ten dollars a month (and a daily pack of cigarettes!) for simple, manual labor. I signed up.   I talked with a few people who had “volunteered” in the past. They said...

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Hearing God in Scripture

Hearing God in Scripture

When I was twelve, my parents taught me to read a chapter of Proverbs a day. Proverbs has thirty-one chapters, so the day of the month determined which chapter to read. (Some months, of course, have fewer than thirty-one days, and I just skipped those last chapters without guilt.)   After ten months of Proverbs, I finally—dare I say it?—got bored. So on a whim, I decided to read...

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Ready to role up your sleeves and do this?

Ready to role up your sleeves and do this?

No matter how well put-together our life is, we still wonder if there is more: more purpose, more passion, and a more vibrant relationship with God. We wonder, “Does God speaks to someone like me? Does he give a significant purpose for someone like me?  Is there more?” The answer to these questions is, absolutely yes! As writers, speakers, and personal advisors, we have helped thousands of...

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A little help over here, please!

A little help over here, please!

I’ve noticed over the years how often we associate God’s involvement or anointing with something that is large in size, scope, budget and growth.  None of us would consciously admit this correlation, being aware of the stories of men and women of faith throughout the ages.  And, knowing that there has been many “successful” individuals, organizations and companies...

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Learning to Doubt our Doubts

My natural inclination is to believe life will turn out just fine; I lean towards the positive. It’s not that I think every day will be sunshine and daisies (my home is in Michigan, the birthplace of gray skies), it’s just that I believe the sun will come out eventually.   Last month my outlook on life was normal: optimistic. I had reasonably high hopes that my next book will sell well...

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Keep Exploring by Berry Simpson

Keep Exploring by Berry Simpson

As strange as it sounds, I don’t have a list of New Year’s Resolutions this year. It may be the first time in twenty years I haven’t published a list. Not because I’ve been so resolutely successful accomplishing all my past lists that I no longer have anything left to do, but because this is a landmark year for me and it’s put me to reflecting rather than goal setting. In 2016 I will...

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