Some years ago, I had a sobering epiphany regarding my faith. After a decade of ministry, I realized that I didn’t really know God very well. Yes, I knew there was a God and that He was good and holy. I knew that Jesus had died for my sins. But did I really know God’s character well? His personality? Not very deeply.
The year 2013 had hardly begun before I felt as if I needed a vacation. A house renovation, a book launch, a trip to Ethiopia, and two speaking trips to Australia had left the year with little free space. In the midst of the busyness, I picked up a book one night and found this delightful paraphrase of Psalm 23:1-6 by Japanese poet Toki Miyashina:
I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently. “Much preaching about women dressing modestly has been destructive,” she said, “because it subtly places the blame for men’s lust on women. Men should take responsibility for their lust, and women should be free to wear what they want.” My friend’s words got me thinking.
If you’ve ever experienced prolonged disappointment or pain, you know it can feel like you’re in the “wilderness”—a barren place where you never seem to reach the much-hoped-for “Promised Land.”
My wife and I were visiting the British Museum last year when we came across a group of people in the Assyrian gallery listening to a man who we thought was a museum tour guide. “This is the Black Obelisk,” he said, pointing to a statue. “It records the triumphs of Shalmaneser III in the ninth century BC. This ruler is mentioned in 2 Kings chapter 8, and if you look closely, just here, you’ll see a carving of the Israelites paying him tribute.”
The late film director Krzysztof Kieslowski was once interviewing actors for a film. During an interview, a young actress described to him how she’d go out and walk the streets of Paris when she felt sad.
How are you doing now?” my friend asked as we walked down the path. The last time Adrian and I had spoken, I had told him that my wife and I were not able to have children and the pain this had brought us.
I know a couple who have just had their third miscarriage. In two of those painful losses, they’ve held a perfectly formed, lifeless little body in their hands. While there’s much light in this world—beauty, goodness, joy—there are also the shadows of sadness, evil, and suffering.
Scene 1: Elijah is on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:16-39). The prophet has declared a test. He and the prophets of Baal will each erect an altar and call to their respective gods. The one who sets the altar on fire will be revealed as the one true God (1 Kings 18:24).
The Mount Grace Priory in North Yorkshire is one of England’s best-preserved medieval monasteries. For hundreds of years, Carthusian monks lived there in solitude, devoting themselves to prayer. The priory’s ruins are impressive, but a more modern monument caught my attention on a recent visit to the site.
The news came on Christmas Eve. My wife put down the phone, walked into the bedroom, and burst into tears. We were living in Australia then and had been visiting family in Brisbane, but after the call we decided we needed some time alone. So we packed our bags and started the 12-hour drive home to Sydney. That phone call put an exclamation point on a 2010 full of broken dreams.
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).