Keith Philips was Activated’s editor-in-chief for 14 years from 1999 to 2013. He and his wife Caryn now work with the homeless in the U.S.
Some years ago, after a series of mistakes left me exasperated and discouraged, I pleaded with God to turn me into a robot, programmed to always do what He knew was best. You know that deep down I want nothing more than to do what’s right, but my wrong decisions and harebrained ideas keep getting in the way! Can’t You reprogram me to always make the right choice and do the right thing? Think how much better off Your world would be!
Stress relief has become a multifaceted, multi-billion-dollar industry. Armies of experts have emerged, dispensing advice of every sort. Some say the key is better time management—reduce stress by doing a better job of juggling everything we need to do. Others say the key is patience—be ambitious, but focus on less daunting short- and mid-range goals. Others tell us to reexamine our priorities from the quality-of-life angle and major on the things that count most. Still others take a more spiritual approach: Relieve stress through yoga, meditation, or other disciplines. Who are we to believe?
Some years ago there was a popular song about righting all the wrongs in the world. I don’t remember all the words, but the gist of it was “If I were king of the world, I would do things differently.” There would be no more war, or hate, or suffering, or any of the other evils that plague our planet.
“God finds ways to communicate with those who truly seek Him,” Christian author Philip Yancey wrote, “especially when we lower the volume of the surrounding static.” Nearly 300 years earlier, Isaac Newton made the same discovery, which he explained this way: “I can take my telescope and look millions of miles into space; but I can lay my telescope aside, go into my room and shut the door, and while in earnest prayer I see more of heaven and get closer to God than I can when assisted by all the telescopes … on earth.”
Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) is quoted as saying, “I know of no one who has done more for humanity than Jesus.” Much of the world, Christian and non-Christian alike, would agree. Yet have you ever considered how the world wouldn’t have been changed for the better if Jesus’ disciples hadn’t told others what they had seen and heard and learned with Jesus? The teachings of His life would have stopped with them.
In a 1968 episode of the original Star Trek, the crew of the starship Enterprise encounters an intergalactic species whose lives are far more fast-paced than those of their human counterparts. But there is a price. “At this level, they are easily damaged,” Captain Kirk observes, “as if accelerated living burns them out.” Star Trek’s creators apparently were making an observation about where the mounting pace of modern life was taking us—and they may have been even righter than they realized.
New Year’s Day is sort of like the first day of school. It’s as though God gives us each a spotless new notebook, sharp new pencils, new textbooks full of new lessons, and a fresh start. Whether or not that comes as a happy thought to you probably depends on how well you did in the last grade, last year. If you excelled, you’re probably ready to greet the new year with high hopes and bring-it-on enthusiasm. If you just barely squeaked by, you probably feel something between jitters and trepidation.
Christmas can be likened to a Christmas gift, where the giver is God, the gift is Jesus, and the recipient is both the whole world and each of us personally. The analogy is based on what is probably the best known and most important verse in the Bible, John 3:16. I’d heard the analogy many times over the years and even used it myself, but the following email from Paloma Sridhar in Bangalore, India, added a surprising twist:
I wish you could meet three people who each made a big impression on me this past year. The first was a waiter’s assistant who cleared my table from his wheelchair with such outgoing charm that I wasn’t a bit surprised when the manager told me on my way out that he considered this young man to be his most valuable employee. “I think more people come back for him than for the food,” the manager joked.
Two essential ingredients for success in life are a sound personal relationship with the Creator of life, followed closely by sound relationships with those around us. In fact, it’s impossible to be truly happy without either of those. Jesus gave us the key to both when He said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”1