It’s likely that during Jesus’ day, just a few hours walk from where He gave His Sermon on the Mount, stood the great theater of Sepphoris. The governor of Galilee, Herod Antipas, had turned the hilltop town into a cosmopolitan center full of markets, synagogues, public baths, and temples. It boasted paved streets, frescoed walls, and beautiful mosaics.
As a child, I worried about making friends at school. As a college student, I worried about getting work after graduation. Today, I worry about the health of my parents and if my books will sell.
Wolves devour lambs. Leopards pounce on goats. A calf is never safe around a lion, and neither is a child! Though very touching, the picture of predators living in harmony with their prey can strike us as naïve. Prophetic pictures of such a scene have been interpreted different ways, but the image is striking. So, how different would things have to be for animals to be able to live like that? Perhaps not that different at all.
Believers in Jesus look forward to two great events in the future: our resurrected bodies and the “resurrection” of our groaning planet into a new heaven and earth full of beauty, healing, justice, and joy (Isaiah 11:4, 65:21-23; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; Revelation 21:1-23).
The African impala is a deerlike creature that can jump to a height of 3 meters (nearly 10 feet) and cover a distance greater than 11 meters (36 feet) in one bound. Yet the impala can be kept in a zoo enclosure with just a 1-meter-high wall. Why? Because it isn’t tall enough to peer over the barrier, and it won’t jump if it can’t see where its feet will land.
In 2014, something called the Multidimensional Poverty helped researchers determine that there are 1.6 billion poor people on earth! When you read through Scripture, it soon becomes clear that God has always had a particular concern for the poor, the forgotten, and the vulnerable (Deuteronomy 10:18, 15:11). And when Jesus spoke His Sermon on the Mount, it’s not surprising that He first blesses the poor (Matthew 5:3). So if we’re to be about God’s business, shouldn’t we bless those who God blesses?
They sit beside each other on a straw mat—he in beige trousers and a white-and-purple shirt, she in a blue-and-yellow dress. “I participated in the killing of the son of this woman,” says Francois, one of thousands of Hutu men that perpetrated crimes against Tutsis during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. “He killed my child,” says Epiphanie, “then he came to ask my pardon.”
A friend and I once did an 8-day walk in the north of England. Much of our second day’s walk was done in view of Dunstanburgh Castle, a giant 14th-century fort now in ruins. The castle was built by Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, with a purpose: to declare Thomas’ wealth and glory. In many ways he succeeded. Seven centuries later, the castle keeps Thomas’ name alive. But in the most important sense he failed. A sign in front of the castle remembers Thomas as an “arrogant and unpopular” man.
I was sorry to hear what you’d been through when we last spoke,” my friend Adrian said as we walked. “How are you and Merryn doing now?” “On the whole,” I said, “we’re doing better. I guess we’re trying to focus on the up-side of our situation and the opportunities it brings.”
In the 1880s, Daeida Wilcox and her husband bought 160 acres of land with the aim of creating a town. But this wouldn’t be any old town. Daeida’s dream was that “Hollywood” would be nothing less than a Christian utopia—free of alcohol and guns, a place of peace.
What’s your definition of success? People have said, “It’s being happy,” “Reaching my goals,” “Seeing people receive salvation.” One friend said, “Success is God’s prosperity in all areas of my life: spiritual, physical, financial, and relational.”
He shouldn’t have been there, but the pain and isolation made him desperate. Was this the sum total of his life—to scream “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever anyone came near him? To wear torn clothes to signal his diseased state . . . to feel so alone?
It was a holy place, a sacred place, a place unlike any other temple. Before there had come the marble and gold, altars and precious stones, columns, walls, and the Holy of Holies, it was a place of divine-human intimacy. The construction costs were relatively small, it had no great beauty, and it was nothing anyone would envy.
As a missionary served in Estonia, many deaf people received salvation in Jesus. The new believers began praying fervently for the ability to hear, and, miraculously, two were healed! But then, as the missionary recalls, “Immediately these two brothers were on the outside of the deaf community.” That’s when the remaining deaf believers in Jesus recognized their deafness was a gift—something that allowed them to reach a segment of society in a personal way.
Kitsch Jesus” is very popular. In paintings and posters, he’s portrayed as having straight teeth, perfect skin, bright blue eyes, and long, flowing hair. He’s often in soft focus, sitting in a peaceful sunlit field and is almost always gazing lovingly at the lamb he cradles in his arms. “Kitsch Jesus” wears long, white robes even when he’s painted in a modern setting, and occasionally he holds a shepherd’s staff. “Kitsch Jesus” rarely has a care in the world and never sports a furrowed brow. He’s a lavender-scented, greeting-card Jesus who is all pixies and daisies and skipping through the fields.