In Case You Missed It

At his personal website, Tate Cockrell shared how pain can be good for you. Dr. Cockrell writes:

The day was February 22, 2014. I thought my life was over. The picture below was taken just 3 days earlier in a small village 13,000 feet above sea level where we had been dropped off by helicopter . Notice the smile on all of our faces? We were so happy to be in the Himalayas. It was day one of a six day trek through the Himalayas where we would hike 90 miles in just six short days. Amidst the beauty of those wonderful mountains, I saw some of the worst poverty and suffering I had ever seen in my life.

 

February 22 marked the third and longest day of our journey. We hiked for 10 hours that day. As night was falling and the trails were getting harder to see, my body began to break down, and I was reaching the point of surrender. At one point, I thought I might die. Every part of my body hurt. Even parts of my body that I didn’t know could hurt, did hurt. Then I went from thinking I might die, to hoping I would die. I remember telling one of our guides, “just tell my family I love them. I can’t take another step.”

 

Thankfully, we had incredible guides with us who were able to keep me moving, and eventually we reached our destination for the night. Three days later we reached the end of the trek, and I had lost 16 lbs. in 6 days. It was one of the single best/worst days of my life. I learned several lessons about pain on that excursion. Here are a few of them you might find helpful.

 

At The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission website, Laura Thigpen shared an article titled: “The Barren Woman’s True Identity.”

We had intentionally shown up a few minutes late. As we made our way to the auditorium door, I noticed the celebratory handout on the table: carnations.

 

“Just breathe,” I thought to myself.

 

I had quickened my steps in hopes to slip through the door unnoticed when I was suddenly halted by a single carnation held out to me. When my eyes shifted from the flower to the man who held it I began to shake my head “no,” but he insisted by nodding “yes!” This was a friend, a brother in Christ who had just learned from his wife our recent news.

 

I took the carnation with my head hanging low to hide the tears of gratitude. In that moment, this brother had honored the life of my baby, the baby I never met. I was grateful. In a single moment my maternal grief had been validated. As I crossed the threshold of the auditorium door a sense of shame quickly rushed over me. I felt a need to hide the carnation because I was not like other mothers.To some, I was not a mother at all, and to others, this was just a regular Sunday morning worship service.

 

Brianna Copeland shared a post at The Intersect Project explaining how recycling is a sustainable way to live a sustainable life.

Have you ever read an article titled something like “50 Tips to Sustainable Living” or “12 Ways to Go Green”? Even when you read the “quick tips,” it seems like they are asking you to walk everywhere, cook by fire, live without air conditioning and grow all your own food! These articles make you feel like you will need to make some drastic life changes to achieve any of these “sustainable ideas.”

 

Sometimes the tips for a sustainable life do not feel so sustainable after all. Adding the weight of caring for the earth to our already long lists of responsibilities can seem daunting.

 

Here at Intersect, we’ve talked before about the importance of caring for the earth as part of our Christian stewardship. Laura Thigpen explained both why and how Christians should be engaged in the environment, and David W. Jones offered reasons Christians care for creation.

 

How, then, can you practically live out your care for creation — without getting bogged down in an impractical list of overwhelming do’s and don’t?

 

At The Gospel Coalition, Dr. Thomas S. Kidd shared the story of the North Korean revival of 1907.

Today as tensions between North Korea reach heights not seen since the 1950s, it is easy to forget that northern Korea used to be one of the Asian strongholds of Protestant Christianity. As Atlas Obscura recently explained, the city of Pyongyang became known to missionaries as the “Jerusalem of the East.” The city had great institutional strength for Protestantism, including Union Christian Hospital, Union Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and Union Christian College, the first four-year college anywhere in Korea.

 

One hundred ten years ago, Pyongyang saw the outbreak of a massive revival, the high point of the season of evangelical strength in northern Korea. Presbyterian missionary William Blair preached to thousands of Korean men, focusing on their need to turn away from their traditional hatred of the Japanese people, with whom Korea had a long history of conflict. The missionaries and Korean Christians had been praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit for revival and repentance, and it came on that Saturday night in January 1907. Many at the meeting began praying out loud, and soon the signs of awakening began to appear.

 

At his personal blog, Chuck Lawless shared ten practical ways to read the Bible more. Dr. Lawless writes:

Do you struggle with reading the Bible? One reason we wrestle with this spiritual discipline is that we think we must be reading extensively every day or reading not at all; we don’t give ourselves much room for growth in this task. If you want to read more, try one of these simple ideas to get started.

God and Stories: A Gift and a Tool

By: Dr. Adrianne Miles

“Tell me a story.” How many times have we heard that request? How many times have we made that request ourselves? Adults may not produce this phrase as often as children, but adult often say things like, “How’d it go last night?” or “Tell me what happened.” People love stories. We even turn non-story events like waiting in line, driving down the road, cleaning the house, or taking a test into stories when we are talking with friends. Why do we love stories so much? Paul Zak at Claremont Graduate University found that good stories cause our brains to produce oxytocin (Harvard Business Review, October 28, 2014). In other words, we like the way good stories make us feel!

Is it a coincidence that people like stories and that good stories cause our brains to produce a feel-good chemical? No, God’s creation is never coincidental. God gave us the gift of narrative as an ideal way for us to learn about Him and communicate His gospel to others. He made our brains to enjoy stories because He uses stories to communicate Himself to us. Not only do we find lots of narrative in the Old Testament, but we also see Jesus teaching through stories. Sometimes he provided direct instruction and other times he used stories, or parables.

Jesus knew that stories would impact his listeners in ways that a simple answer would not. The story of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18 is a great example of the educational power of stories. In response to Peter’s question about the required frequency of forgiving others Jesus answers in two ways: with a simple number and with a story. The story conveys information that the audience may miss if only given the number. For example, as a middle child growing up with an older sister and a younger brother, I was self-righteous enough to have kept track of all the times they sinned against me. Were it not for Jesus’s story, I would have likely stopped forgiving my siblings when each of them reached the magical number of 490 or 4,900. But the story stops me from keeping count of my siblings’ sins against me. The story humbles me before an all-forgiving God and makes me want to pay his forgiveness forward. Stories are effective, in part, because God made our brains produce feel-good chemicals when we engage in them. We listen. Often we even remember.

Christians should use this knowledge about stories in our efforts to obey the last command that Jesus gave us before he ascended into heaven. Jesus commissioned his followers to make disciples and teach others about Him (Matt 28:19-20). We can communicate this information in various ways, but we want to be mindful of the God-created power of stories to communicate the greatest story ever told. Not all of us are amazing storytellers, but we all have stories to tell. We can use the stories around us in television, movies, novels, or music to build bridges to the gospel. Stories of romance and/or rescue remind us of the all-loving sacrificial God who gave up everything for us. Stories of revenge help us reflect on our own sinfulness and the undeserved grace God extends to us. Even the stories of our own lives—the crazy thing that happened at work or the interactions observed at Wal-Mart—can be, and should be, used as conduits to share the gospel. God is in all these stories. Our job is to see Him and share Him.

Dr. Adrianne Miles is Assistant Professor of English and Linguistics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern.