Were the angels surprised when God sketched out the universe? Surely they were—as surprised as when they saw the first bird take flight and the first humans blink their eyes. As surprised as when they watched God Himself sew garments to cover the fallen humans’ shame (Genesis 1:1–2:25, Genesis 3:21).
“Our Father in heaven,” Jesus taught us to pray, “may Your name be kept holy” (Matthew 6:9). We affirm today that Your name, Yahweh, already is holy because it describes You—pure, perfect, far removed from evil, error, and corruption.
It’s likely we’ve read Jesus’ Beatitudes as a list of virtues— attitudes and actions that He wants us to pursue. So, we think, He wants us to be humble (Matthew 5:5), merciful (Matthew 5:7), pure in heart (Matthew 5:8), and peaceful (Matthew 5:9).
Each year, thousands of people change their names. Some of these changes reflect a deep desire for a new life. “I changed my name and it changed me,” wrote singer Alina Simone in The New York Times. “When I think back to my old self, I think of an entirely different person, not altogether likable,” she reflects. That old person, Alina Vilenkin, was put aside. Alina Simone formed a band, tried new things, and poured her “best self” into her new name.
In Clint Eastwood’s movie Gran Torino, Walt Kowalski is a cranky Korean War vet disgusted by the gangs now running his neighborhood. He gets to know Thao, a teenager living next door, after catching him trying to steal his Gran Torino car—an act forced onto the young man by a local gang.
Jenny” grew up in a home where both parents engaged in extramarital affairs and were prone to violence. In this setting, Jenny soon became emotionally and physically neglected—and vulnerable to others.
In many parts of the world, it’s an amazing time to be a Christian. Most of us can walk down the street and find a church to join. If none interests us, we can go online and download our favorite preacher’s sermons in minutes. Hours and hours of biblical teaching for free. And Scripture! Most of us can read the Bible in our own language and in many different versions. We can buy it in softcover, red-letter, and slim-line formats. We can read it, listen to it, or watch it dramatized. Bible commentaries and devotional iPhone apps are ours for the downloading.
Pain. We take pills to ease it, hold prayer meetings to heal it, develop strategies to avoid it, and think up philosophies to explain it. We rarely, however, consider suffering as part of God’s plan for our lives.
A few years ago some young men stole my car. They crashed it, damaging it beyond repair, and I was never compensated for it. I even had to pay to have the car towed away from the crash site! By rights, those thieves should have replaced what they stole.
A theists are so limp-wristed because they have nothing to stand for! #ultimatecowards” “Atheists have no morality. They will hug a tree and murder a baby in its mother’s womb! #confused”
As an author, I’ve signed a few contracts. I’ve asked others to sign them too. What I dislike most about contracts is their endless clauses, spelled out in detailed legal jargon. It’s a litigious age. We’ve all heard of opportunistic folks, with well-paid lawyers, who find legal loopholes in such documents and cash in. So our contracts get longer and longer.
Scene one: A stable in Bethlehem, Judea. There, a group of shepherds kneel before a baby sleeping in a feeding trough (Luke 2:8-20). The society of the day despises these grimy, unclean shepherds, and they can’t believe they’re here. How could they have been given such a privilege?
One of the most prevalent of modern myths is the idea that boundary-less living leads to freedom. A permissive lifestyle may feel free for a time, but it will soon trap us. In ludicrous manner we shout, “I’m free! I’m free!” as we back into a cage and lock the door.