Tag: faith

Inside Out – Thorns – Faithfully handling disappointment – 2/14/24

Inside Out – Thorns – Faithfully handling disappointment – 2/14/24

The Gift of Thorns

“We have to very careful to distinguish between ‘did God let me down?’ or ‘did my expectations of God let me down?’


What if not getting what we want is one of God’s great gifts?

“God knows what is good for us when we don’t,” says the Rev. Dr. A. J. Swoboda. “To ultimately assume God’s desires for us are the best desires, and believing that, is our first step in being followers of Christ.”

“I have grown the most in my spiritual journey with Jesus in places where I have not gotten everything I want. And what I’m trying to say is, I don’t grow in the great times. I grow in the times when I’m mad that I didn’t get what I want God to do,” Swoboda says.


When we find that we’re disappointed or angry with God, it’s important to figure out what God has promised us.  “We have to very careful to distinguish between ‘did God let me down?’ or ‘did my expectations of God let me down?’ We’ve got to be cautious to not assume that God and our expectations about God are the same exact thing,” he says.

It is actually a gift, Swoboda says, to not get what we want.

“Jesus lived a life of willingly giving up everything He wanted. In fact, in the Garden of Gethsemane, he pleads with the Father to not die on the cross. Yet he submits Himself to what the Father wants over what His flesh and emotions wanted. And so I think life is in those places in our life. I think the thorns are a gift. I don’t think they’re a problem, I think they’re a gift.”

“At least in our world, unless you embrace the thorn, you won’t ever receive the rose. And that with every thorn there is a rose. We tend to focus on the thorn, and we forget the rose.”

Hear much more from A. J. Swoboda by listening to our 15-minute podcast.



Swoboda is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and World Christianity at Bushnell University in Eugene, Oregon. He also leads a Doctor of Ministry program at Friends University. His new book is The Gift of Thorns: Jesus, the Flesh, and the War for our Wants. Learn more about A. J. Swoboda here.

“The Gift of Thorns” also is available as a Bible study series for individuals and groups.

Kids Corner – That’s So Annoying

Kids Corner – That’s So Annoying

There are lots of things that are annoying in this world, and sometimes those annoyances can be people! But, what does God say about how we should treat them?

Bible Verses: Proverbs 12:16, Proverbs 19:11, Proverbs 29:11, Ephesians 4, 2nd Timothy 2, Colossians 3, Philippians 1, 1st Peter 5:7, Ephesians 3:20, Philippians 4:13, Mark 9:23, Luke 1:37

Super Bowl Sunday – A Faith-Based Vantage Point – Paul Asay – 2/09/24

Super Bowl Sunday – A Faith-Based Vantage Point – Paul Asay – 2/09/24

With 70 percent of American TV households plugged in, the Super Bowl draws millions of eyeballs, adjusts peoples social schedules, and dominates public discussion throughout an early February weekend. It consistently is #1-watched TV show of the year. (Plus all that doesn’t even include the people who listen on the radio, watch through streaming, or just look up the Super Bowl ads on the internet!)

Family Life News talked with movie & television reviewer Paul Asay about how the Super Bowl broadcast has become such a huge event. We especially wanted a faith-based angle on the hype, from this editor of the Christian media site Plugged In.

Paul Asay gives his take on how massive the Super Bowl has become, including its role as one of the few broadcasts which remind us of a “monolithic culture…where people would all watch the same sitcoms and same adventure shows.” There are lessons from the Big Game weekend for Christian individuals and households, as well as for churches.

Another Family Life Interview about the Super Bowl, its commercials, and its hype aired Thursday (February 7).  Hear commentary from Robert Thompson, the well-respected Television & Culture professor at Syracuse University. That conversation is available separately on the Family Life news podcasts page.

Kids Corner – I need a Sign!

Kids Corner – I need a Sign!

When you want to know what God has in store for your future, you might ask for some sort of sign, but what would that even look like? Should we look to the stars? Should we look to the sun? Or maybe even a ….stick?


Bible verses: Isaiah 47:13, Deuteronomy 4:19, Daniel 2:27, Matthew 16,

Kids Corner – First Oppressions

Kids Corner – First Oppressions

People have been treating each other badly for a very long time, but so have ants and other animals! Why does God want us to treat others with kindness and respect if that’s not what nature does?

Bible verses: Matthew 7:12, Philippians 2:3, Genesis 1:26, Matthew 5:44, Romans 12:20, 1st Corinthians 13

Faith Under Fire – Long-term Lessons for Churches – 1/18/24

Faith Under Fire – Long-term Lessons for Churches – 1/18/24

What lessons learned during the “Covid Era” will help congregations thrive into the new future?

We have a return visit from Allison Norton of the Covid Religion Research Project, which is in the third year of a five-year study of 15,000 American congregations. In this new conversation Norton addresses how congregations are poised to either return to pre-pandemic patterns or use their relatively recent discoveries as springboards into faithful ministries.

There are divergent contexts in particular congregations and faith communities. Some are finding exhaustion and frustration are nudging people back toward wanting former programs and patterns. Norton says, though, and churches’ challenges from pre-2020 continue to happen. Other churches are maintaining some of the innovation and experimentation which Covid lockdowns forced upon them. She gives an example of a congregation which has had success with the elimination of large weekly worship events.

The research has found one key factor which is determining congregational health and vitality for current times and moving forward from here: whether or not there is an attitude of optimism.

Allison Norton is a faculty research associate for Hartford International University, based in Connecticut. She also directs the Pastoral Innovation Network of New England (PINNE).

This Lilly-funded study continues through 2025, taking surveys across various denominational and non-denominational churches, and doing in-depth analysis of church change since 2020. Reports, research results and recommendations are on the project’s social media and website: CovidReligionResearch.org , Facebook , X/Twitter , Newsletter

Congregational leaders and denominational networks can use these resources to foster ongoing evaluation, discussion and planning.


In addition to this podcast, you also can listen to our first interview with Allison Norton. That topic centered on how churches have rebounded short-term after however many months or years of shutdown, change and trying new methods.

Real Answers – Overcoming Feelings of Loneliness – 1/17/24

Real Answers – Overcoming Feelings of Loneliness – 1/17/24

The “Real Answers” feature on Family Life tackles the tough topics facing Christians.

In this edition, Christian counselor Christopher Anderson talks about how loneliness happens, and how to address those dilemmas.

There are answers like simply reaching out to connect with other people. That does mean that a person will develop ways to “push through” perceived fears or social anxieties. The more often someone initiates those interactions, the easier and more comfortable that process becomes.

To have a daily reminder visible helps — be that a bedside Bible, a devotional book, or something like a poster or some symbol.  Anderson says a mindset of worship and connection with the Lord woven into our daily practices helps to focus us more positively, whatever our circumstances may be.

Hometown Heroes – Sandy Lenahan – 1/16/24

Hometown Heroes – Sandy Lenahan – 1/16/24

“Hometown Heroes” on Family Life

This week’s Hometown Hero is Sandy Lenahan of Shamokin, PA.  She’s created as series of YouTube videos to get the Word of God into young children.

Lenahan tells us that these inspirational videos are geared especially for ages 2 to 6. “These are really foundational years for children, and there is no better foundation than God’s Word.”

The first video in this “Wee Steps with God” series — with songs, Scripture and stories — has been released, and others are on the way. Hear a sample of the music in this podcast.

Lenahan’s You Tube page is here.




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