Category Archives: Peace with God

The Power of Idolatry and the Idolatry of Power

The last sentence in St. John’s first letter is: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” It’s placement as the apostle’s final word gives it substantial weight. He clearly regarded it as important.
We do not. The sentence hardly seems to fit our postmodern era. Idols were a part of their culture, not ours. Humanity has advanced beyond our ancestors’ crude worship, lavished as it was on lifeless, heartless symbols and images.
Think again. Consider the images that we have endowed with power: the apple with a bite taken out of it (Apple Corporation); the golden arches (McDonald’s); five yellow bars, radiating out like sunrays (Walmart); the smirky gold smile (Amazon). These images connote power, even world dominance.
One year out from the U.S. general election, I can think of two other symbols that connote power. The Donkey and the Elephant. Continue reading

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Can You Go a Day Without Comparing Yourself to Anyone?

Here’s a challenge. Try going a day without comparing yourself to anyone – not your height, your weight, your hair, your clothes, your car, your spouse, your golf score, or anything else. If you think it will be easy, you might be surprised. Just see how you do when you choose which checkout line to enter at the grocery store or the best lane to drive on the expressway. Those decisions are also based on comparisons.
Fastest, smartest, newest, biggest, safest, most – these are all words used in comparison. Our culture is formed on comparisons. So are our minds. We understand ourselves in relation to others; that is, through comparison. Those comparisons start in early childhood, before we are capable of articulating or even comprehending the meaning of comparison.
Are we smart? How would we know apart from comparing ourselves to others? Are we successful? How about attractive, or friendly, or wise?
While forming comparisons is a natural and necessary part of growing up, it is also a source of much of our dissatisfaction. If I lived in a Papuan village where I was the only person with a car, I would be happy with my car, even if it was rusty, the seats were lumpy, and the car could not accelerate past 35 miles per hour.
However, I might be very dissatisfied with that same car living in my Michigan town. Why? It’s not as if the car has changed. But the situation has changed. Other people’s cars are shiny, and comfortable, and fast and, compared to theirs, mine is a bucket of rust.
Comparisons can quickly lead to dissatisfaction. This is even more likely because comparisons are often rigged.
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Our Faultfinder in Heaven?

I still remember where we were when our oldest son took his first steps. He was a year old, give or take a few days. We were in a cabin in northwestern Ontario. Joel had been pulling himself up and standing for a few weeks, but while we were there, he took his first steps. He got one solid step in, followed by a two-step Lindy Hop, and then crashed to the floor.
We all cheered. You’d have thought he’d won the Nobel Prize. Instead, he took three wobbly steps. Three wobbly steps, but full of promise. We knew this was just the beginning.
One can imagine the same scenario with a different outcome. We’re in the cabin. One-year-old Joel is standing up with his hands on the sofa, and I’m urging him to come to me. I say, “Come on, son. You can do it. Come on.” He turns toward me. He lifts and extends his foot. We all hold our breath. He shifts his weight – he’s taken his first step! He then quickly takes another and another, then goes crashing down in a heap.
And that’s when I say: “That’s all you got? What’s the matter with you? I give you a year, and all you can give me is three lousy steps! You are such a disappointment to me.”
Some people think God is like the critical, impossible-to-please me in the second scenario. Continue reading

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Come Home: Does God Want You Back?

Young marrieds Jim and Jane Flynn were swimming in Lake George in New York state. When Jim got out of the water, he realized his wedding ring had slipped off and was somewhere at the bottom of the lake. Jane continued to wear her ring but Jim’s was lost.

Thirty-nine years later, a woman snorkeling in Lake George spotted something shiny on the bottom. She at first thought it must be a bottle cap, but when she retrieved it, she found it was an engraved wedding ring, with the anniversary date inscribed on the inside. After some research, she found Jim and Jane and returned the ring to them. How surprised and delighted they were to find it again! Jim now sleeps with it under his pillow.

To have the cherished thing returned after a long absence is a cause for celebration. That is just what Jesus says in Luke 15, only there we discover that we are the cherished thing! God cherishes us and wants us to be with him, no matter how long ago we hit bottom. Luke 15 shows us it is never too late to come home.
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The Forgiver

During the closing song at a special service in an Indiana state prison, Chuck Colson noticed one of the inmates, a man named James Brewer, singing out at the top of his lungs. Colson says the man’s face was radiant. James Brewer had come to know Jesus Christ in prison and his life had been transformed.

As soon as the song was over, the Prison Fellowship Team began shaking hands and saying goodbye. Brewer returned to his cell, walking shoulder to shoulder with a Prison Fellowship volunteer. Colson was meeting the governor in Indianapolis in just two hours, so he followed them and urged the volunteer to hurry.

“We’ve got to go!” he called to the volunteer, but the man answered, “Just a minute, please!”

Colson shook his head. “I’m sorry, but the plane is waiting. We have to go right now!”

The volunteer said, “Please, please, this is very important. You see, I am Judge Clement. I sentenced this man to die. But now he is born again. He is my brother and we want a minute to pray together.”

Colson said, “I stood in the entrance to that solitary, dimly lit cell, frozen in place. Here were two men – one black, one white; one powerful, one powerless; one who had sentenced the other to die. Yet there they stood, grasping a Bible together, Brewer smiling so genuinely, the judge so filled with love for the prisoner at his side.”

Forgiveness. God is the Forgiver: he can forgive anyone – even me; even you. And because we are the Forgiven, we are called to forgive, just as God does. “Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). To forgive like God does puts us in a place where remarkable things can happen in our lives. Continue reading

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The God Who Feeds the Ravens

Hypocrisy and greed are responses to a real problem: fear. Hypocrisy is the pathological response of a malfunctioning soul brought on by the fear of what people think of us. Greed is the response of the soul to the fear of not having enough. Hypocrisy and greed are ways of self-medicating. They alleviate the fear problem … for a while.
But hypocrisy and greed are only temporary fixes; they are stop-gap measures. And, unfortunately, the temporary fix makes the long-term solution less likely. Continue reading

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Blackmail-proof: A Life Without Secrets

My wife Karen got an email from a scammer this week, blackmailing her and demanding a payment of $1,000 in bitcoin. The scammer claimed to be a hacker who had accessed her email account, embedded a keylogger and had taken … Continue reading

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What You Don’t Know Just Might Hurt You

God promises to be found by those who seek him, not by those who don’t care to look. Continue reading

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Jesus and the Psychology of Happiness

Popular psychology has been transitioning over the past couple of decades. It’s happier now or, at least, it’s talking about happiness more than it did. For generations, psychology was principally interested in pathology, in aberrant and self-defeating behaviors. Psychiatry has … Continue reading

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A Horror Story

But sin not only follows us; it follows us with a hatchet. Sin commits patricide and matricide: it kills the people who brought it into existence. Continue reading

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