By God’s grace, my family has few financial worries. We have everything we need, and most everything we want. This frightens me, because it sounds exactly like the church in Laodicea. They said, “I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!” But Jesus replied, “And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
Popular movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent explore what the world might be like on the other side of the apocalypse. These gritty movies try to imagine how those who have suffered through a cosmic catastrophe could pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives.
A Protestant denomination is proposing a new liturgy for christenings. The old ceremony asked parents and godparents two questions: “Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?” and “Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbor?” The new liturgy summarizes both in one question: “Do you reject evil, in all its many forms and all its empty promises?”
The Germans have a word for it: schadenfreude. It means to take joy in another’s misery. We can sometimes feel schadenfreude when someone else slips up. A politician we don’t admire stumbles over his words. A famous person who has great wealth suddenly goes bankrupt. Part of us feels sad, but we might also secretly enjoy the turn of events.
The story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue always puzzled me. How was it possible for a king to erect a statue and then demand that everyone bow down to it? (Daniel 3:1,5). The whole story seemed silly. And that was before the Veggie Tales video version, which substituted the statue with a chocolate bunny. Have you heard the “Bunny Song”? “The bunny, the bunny, yeah, I love the bunny. I gave everything that I had for the bunny!”
Adopting two boys from Russia opened Russell Moore’s eyes to the privilege of being a child of God. People would ask, “Are they really brothers?” “Have you met their real mom?” Moore simply replied, “Of course they’re brothers. They’re both in our family. And their real mom is my wife.”
The line between victory and defeat can be quite slim. Did the winning shot leave his hands before the buzzer sounded? Did the goalie deflect the ball early enough or did it slip across the line? Relieved victors often say “a win is a win,” but they realize the contest could have gone either way.
Those quirky Internet tests can be fun to take. Answer a few questions, and you learn which superhero or character from a popular movie you best resemble, or which country best fits your personality. People take these tests and then post on social media: “I got Batman!” “I’m Napoleon!” “I should live in Shangri-La!”
Ever wondered about this line from “Amazing Grace”? “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” Grace teaches my heart to fear? What’s so scary about grace?
The wise pastor told his new worship director, “There’s one style of music I hope you never play in our church.” She grabbed a pen and asked, “What is it?” He replied, “I’ll never tell you. If we all insist on getting our own way, we’ll never sing anything.”
It’s popular today to dismiss all religions as merely an accident of birth. If a person is born in Pakistan, the odds are that she will be a Muslim. India produces Hindus, Thailand makes Buddhists, Brazilians tend to be Catholics, and so on. Have you wondered if the only reason you believe in Jesus is due to the influence of your parents or others? Is becoming a believer simply about being born in the right family?
Technology is helpful, but it can also hinder communication. As the apostle John told Gaius, it’s hard to fully convey all that is in our heart when we’re not with the other person (3 John 1:13-14). If John were writing his third epistle today, he might sign off: “I don’t want to call, text, or tweet my thoughts. I hope to come over soon, and then we’ll talk face to face.”
I like to write out my thoughts before I type them. But when I use an old pen that rolls roughly across the paper, my thoughts thump along in fits and starts. When I can’t squeeze the ink out, I can’t squeeze the words out, and I quickly toss the pen aside for a better one. A free-flowing pen opens my mind, and the words often come pouring out as fast as I can write them.
The Bible is not propaganda. Unlike some governments that share only positive reviews, Scripture records the words of people who are frustrated with God. Psalm 44 begins by remembering conquests that inspire trust in Him. “O God . . . our ancestors have told us of all you did in their day. . . . You crushed their enemies and set our ancestors free” (Psalm 44:1-2). The psalmist concluded, “You are my King and my God” (Psalm 44:4).
Sociologists at one university recently completed a study on regret. In it, they examined whether people felt more regret over what they had done or what they had failed to do. The researchers found that people’s regrets over their actions or inactions were roughly even when asked about the past week. Nearly the same number said, “I wish I hadn’t done that” as those who said “I wish I had done that.” But when asked to consider their life’s largest regrets, the vast majority said they were more troubled about missed opportunities. As John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’ ”