Ebola and the Call of God

It’s a life-and-death-story for the ages, one that vividly shows us what it takes to respond to the call of God, and what’s required to follow Jesus.

You know the story because it involves the deadly Ebola virus, but you may not remember the names of two Americans who brought the story home in dramatic fashion. Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are medical missionaries who contracted the virus while helping treat victims in Liberia. In the middle of the summer they were flown back to the U.S. to receive treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Both should have died, but they survived, recovered and were released just a few weeks ago, whereupon Dr. Brantly acknowledged his care in Liberia and the treatment he received at Emory. “God saved my life—a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers,” he said in a statement.

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Love and the Woman in 13F

The large woman was sitting in seat 13F on the Southwest Airlines flight from Austin, Texas, to Los Angeles. Her seat was by the window and she was trying not to make eye contact with the passengers filing by. On Southwest there are no assigned seats. People board by pre-assigned priority, and once you get on the plane you can take any open seat. The seat next to the woman in 13F remained empty for a long time. I should know. I was sitting in 13D, two seats over. The problem with 13E and why it was still vacant, even though most of the passengers had boarded, was a matter of space. For all intents and purposes the woman in 13F was also sitting in half of 13E.

I’m embarrassed to admit this to you, but I’ve got to tell someone, and it might as well be you. I sat in 13D because I thought 13E might remain vacant due to the size of the woman in 13F, giving me extra room for the long flight. Then, the unexpected happened. A young hipster woman (there are lots of them in Austin) walked down the aisle, stopped next to me and pointed to 13E. She wanted to sit there. I don’t know what kind of person I expected to take the “charity” case of sitting next to the woman in 13F—a nun perhaps?—but I would not have expected this young lady with a flowing white dress and several tattoos to be the one. Yet there she was, and I was suddenly feeling very small, especially when she sat in 13E and immediately began to engage the woman in cheerful, respectful conversation.

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God's Will: A Top Ten List

Wouldn’t it be great if you could know God’s will every day of your life? Actually, you can, at least that part of God’s will that generally applies to all people and specifically applies to all those who follow Jesus fully. Here’s a Top Ten list of those things God wants you to do: 

1.  God wants you to believe in Jesus and accept Him as your Savior.

This is number one on God’s list of things He wants you to do. Contrary to what many people believe, God doesn’t want anyone to die in their sins without knowing Him personally.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

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Home for Christmas

Few words better capture the emotion and the attraction of Christmas than home. The simply lyrics form the song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”—originally written from the perspective of World War II soldiers—instantly inspire longing for that place in our memories (or in our dreams) where the warmth of family and the joys of the year’s most wonderful time of year come together.

The reason home has such universal appeal is simple. Home is the primary place where we are known and loved. There are no sweeter words than those you utter at the end of a long journey, especially at Christmastime: “I’m finally home.”

Yet for all its warmth and familiarity, there can be something disconcerting about home, and it’s not just the heated discussions that sometimes erupt, or the cruel words that occasionally slip out not long after we arrive. For all the charms and joys of home, something isn’t quite right. There’s a flaw that none of us have ever been able to fix. No matter how beautiful it is to go home, it’s never a place where we feel completely settled or at rest.

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Tests, Unemployment, Babies and Faithfulness

There are students who test really well regardless of the subject being tested on. I have never been one of those students. I struggled throughout school because of tests. I often joke that if I were given a multiple choice test on my own family, I’d likely fail that too. School tests are quite a bit different than the tests we may face throughout our lives. You may have faced a test of illness such as cancer. Maybe you’re still facing the test of loss of investments post the recession of ’07 and ’08.

With any test, it’s vital to be well prepared if there’s any hope of passing. But how can we prepare for some of life’s big tests placed before us?

I recently stumbled upon the story of Job found in the Old Testament. I was struck by a particular part of the story that happens pretty early on.

When We Fast

I got sick a week or so ago, and it was awesome.  The reason is that when I get sick, I don’t go to work, don’t do errands, and I don’t do chores – I rest and recover.  My method of recovery when sick often justifies hours of catching up on TV shows, or enjoying my XBOX – guilt free.  I mean, what else can I do when my choices are sit on the couch or lay in the bed…lest I infect everyone around me and wear my body down further?

This particular round of sick had me bingeing on a certain crime drama TV show that was taught, tense, and filled with great cliffhangers every step of the way.  The kind of stuff I can’t look away from.  And, it all served its purpose – I didn’t have to focus on my sore throat, my rising and lowering temperature, and the loss of hearing that comes from my body’s production of mucus that seems trapped between my ears.  I was able to distract myself from those pesky symptoms.  As long as the TV was on, everything else was off.

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It’s a Starbucks Sunday: Are you Ready to Order?

Here's a re-post just to remind myself.  

It’s Sunday.

Not only will 11.7 million people visit a Starbucks and ask for something extraordinarily specific like a “non-fat soy sugar-free caramel macchiato with a shot of espresso,” but a whole lot of us will shop for churches with the same self-absorbed specificity.

“I’m looking for a youthful, semi-charismatic service with a hint of reformed theology and a Donald Miller vibe.” 

“Can you help me find a progressive Presbyterian congregation for my mother—one that has a robed choir, snacks between services, and a penchant for homeless missions?

“We’re visiting a new church today. It’s slightly Willow Creek with a touch of old-school Calvary Chapel. It caters to single parents, disenfranchised boomers, and men who don’t want to hold hands. And you gotta love the stadium seating.”

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What should we do when we fail?

I have certainly failed many times in my life. I have said hurtful things to friends that I regret. I wish I could take my words back, but my apology does not erase the past. As a thirty-two year old single man who has never married, I’ve failed in some of my dating relationships. Earlier in my career, I made some poor financial decisions. Even this evening, I let my volleyball team down. My teammates were counting on six feet seven inch tall “Big Dave” to bring home the victory. All I brought home was lots of sand.

Have you ever felt like a failure? Maybe you’ve had an unsuccessful career, a botched marriage, or made a stupid mistake that ruined a friendship. Feeling like a complete failure can be a lonely, depressing experience. One mother expressed her feelings of failure to her pastors in this way:

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Are You Free to NOT Drink?

Brett McCracken is one of the original team of bloggers for ConversantLife.com. His newest book, Gray Matters (Baker Books), examines some of the hot-button gray matters of Christian cultural consumption. In this excerpt, Brett explores the matter of alcohol.

I went to an evangelical Christian college that did not permit the consumption of alcohol. I grew up in a household and a conservative church culture–Midwest to boot–where drinking was out of the question and seen as bereft of goodness. I’m the child of an American evangelicalism that has had a decidedly contentious (to put it mildly) relationship with alcohol (see Christians and Alcohol: A Timeline”).

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The Stories We Tell

Everyone has a story to tell. The experiences we go through lay down pavement in our rearview mirror of life, leaving a path of where we’ve been behind us. Each step taken reveals a corner turned, a decision made, a chapters ending or one beginning. We are all on the move towards something, whether our steps are that of a baby or a marathoners sprint. But do we really know where we’re headed? I often feel as if I’ve journeying through my life in the dark.

Growing up as a church kid, attending Sunday school and memorizing Bible verses to be quoted in the front of the congregation (not awkward at all by the way), I have Jeremiah 29:11 practically branded onto my brain.

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