Guest Authors

Writings from various sources occasionally invited/gathered to share their devotional/commentary material.

I love sports. One of the mementos I've saved from my childhood is a faded, slightly out of focus black and white photo of me on my first soccer team. As a boy, I dreamed of winning the championship game with a spectacular last-second goal, and of becoming an instant hero to my teammates and everyone else watching.

In sports-crazy America, so many of our heroes are athletes. We identify with successful athletes because we, too, want to be winners. I will never be a gold-medal athlete, except in my imagination. When I watch an Olympic contest or professional game on TV, like everyone else I sometimes get mad and vent my feelings after a particularly lousy play. My wife says, "Why are you shouting? You certainly couldn't do as well!" But in my mind I can play with the best of them. I'm a winner. Doesn't everybody want to be winner? The only other options are mediocrity or failure.

In sports, however, not everybody can be a winner. Only one person or team in each competition will go home with the gold medal this summer. Many others will feel like national failures, constantly reminded by sports writers and fans how they let down their country.

I'm reminded of figure skater Tonya Harding and runner Ben Johnson whose win at all costs behavior brought them . . .

When asked what questions they would like to ask God if given the opportunity, forty-four percent of Americans said they want to know, "Why is there evil or suffering in the world?"

John Hick noted, "To many, the most powerful positive objection to belief in God is the fact of evil." Peter Kreeft agrees, saying, "The strongest argument for atheism has always been the problem of evil." That's been the case the past twenty-five hundred years, since the days of Buddha's "enlightenment."

The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (342?-270 B.C.) stated the problem in four parts: "God either wishes to take away evil, and is unable, or He is able, and unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able, or He is both willing and able. If He is willing and is unable, He is feeble, which is not in accordance with the character of God; if He is able and unwilling, He is envious, which is equally at variance with God; if He is neither willing nor able, He is both envious and feeble, and therefore not God; if He is both willing and able, which alone is suitable to God, from what source then are evils? or why does He not remove them?"

What Epicurus failed to consider is that, in light of his eternal purposes, God may choose to allow evil for a time. It wasn't his idea, it's certainly not . . .
West Berlin, December, 1966. Cold and unknown, I strolled through the wintery city, bundled in my overcoat, determined to reach the border.

Standing at the edge of West Berlin, I shuddered, pondering what oppressed millions were enduring a short distance away. On the Berlin Wall I read, painted in large letters: "How long will this go on?"

My heart tightened at the thought of people living in fear, with no peace at Christmas. Yet I also knew no human wall could restrict God's peace if only people let Him past the walls of their hearts.

Fast Forward

September 1989. By official invitation, I spoke to huge crowds in the communist cities of Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Riga, and Kishinev, a few weeks before the dramatic collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

Restrictions on public Christian ministry had been lifted. I found an incredible situation. I've traveled all over the world, but have rarely seen a place as hungry and desperate to hear the message of peace found in God's good news.

Just before my whirlwind USSR tour ended, a Baptist pastor brought an acquaintance to one of our . . .
Throughout the television program, as I counseled people who called in search of spiritual help and prayed on the air with those who wanted to open their hearts to Jesus Christ, the station manager standing in the studio listened intently.

"I don't understand it," he said to me as the program signed off. "I attend church every Sunday. I partake of holy communion. I do confession at the stated times. And yet I have no assurance of eternal life."

Unfortunately, millions of Americans share this man's uncertainty, because they are trusting their own efforts to get them into paradise. This kind of thinking permeates all religions, including traditional Christianity.

From the moment Adam disobeyed God in the Garden, man has sought his own way to cover his sin and cleanse his conscience. We desire to do. We ask the same question the crowd asked Jesus: "What must we do to do the works God requires?" (John 6:28).

And God has always replied, "There's nothing you can do. You must trust Me to do it for you." Jesus answered the crowd, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has . . .

Today I was in Walmart, waiting while my wife checked out her purchases.  It happened that a friend of ours was the greeter.  I watched her pass out some small gifts with a friendly word, dry the rain off the handles of carts just brought in, and give incoming shoppers a smiling welcome.  She is not young, and not in the best of health.  Standing for a three-hour shift is painful and difficult.  But the financial needs of her family have necessitated that she do this.

We had been chatting during a lull when something happened.  A man in dirty coveralls brushed past her through the exit doors, carrying a box.  "Just a moment, sir," she said, hurrying after him.  "I need to see your sales slip." He turned abruptly at the second set of doors.  Scowling at her, he threw the receipt to the ground and was gone.  As the wind tossed the paper here and there she snatched it up, giving me a weary look.  "Don't let the turkeys get you down," I said, trying to smile.  But it upset me, that little incident.  Angered me.  It made me wonder how many who serve us in stores, restaurants and other places of business have to endure such abuse.  Boorish rudeness and snarling complaints, hour after hour, day after day-often for a minimum wage.  Who needs it?  Well, I guess they do, or they would not be there.  And the company says, "Smile!  Be helpful.  The customer is always right."

As I write this, the Christmas shopping season is heating up.  Stores are . . .