Zechariah lived out a twofold identity as both priest and prophet. The grandson of the priest Iddo and the head priest of his family (Zechariah 1:1; Nehemiah 12:1,16), he was prophetically called to encourage the people of Judah with God’s words (Zechariah 1:13-17). In addition, he told them to repent (Zechariah 1:3-4), renew their efforts for God (Zechariah 8:12-13), and follow His ways (Zechariah 7:8-10).
Most people aren’t naturally wired to say they can die in peace. One has to experience something profound to mouth those words! But that’s precisely what Simeon said as he held baby Jesus in his arms. He said to God, “Let your servant die in peace” (Luke 2:29).
C. S. Lewis grasped the essence of humanity and captured it in these choice words found in The Weight of Glory: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” He then penned the poignant, biblically accurate fact that each of us will either become an “immortal horror” or an “everlasting splendor.”
A German bank employee was in the middle of transferring 62.40 euros from a customer’s bank account when he suddenly nodded off. His “power-nap” took place while his finger was still on the “2” key, resulting in a 222-million euro (300 million dollars US) transfer into the customer’s account. The sleepy state of the worker nearly became a nightmare for the bank, all because he wasn’t being alert.
Last year, as we were headed to my sister’s house on Christmas Eve, my husband and I picked up a few last-minute items at a large grocery store. My musings on the variety of shoppers populating the store on this special night turned to dismay when I headed past an aisle where Christmas items had been stocked only days earlier. Gone were the splashes of green and red. Now pink and red heart-shaped items for Valentine’s Day filled the shelves.
Have you felt the crushing weight of despair? Perhaps a performance review was negative, a cancer screening was positive, or your spouse wanted a divorce. Suddenly, your life seemed pretty much over.
After I finished speaking at a church one Sunday on how the cross shows that God can redeem our broken dreams and suffering, a guy came up to me wanting to talk. “I haven’t been to church in 26 years,” he said. “I’ve just been through a divorce and a business failure—I have lots of broken dreams. Just this week I said to a friend, ‘If there is a God, why doesn’t He step in to help?’ Then all week I had this feeling I should get to a church service. What you said tonight has really rocked me. It’s like I was meant to be here.”
At the start of this year, a friend of mine made a statement that set the tone for the rest of my year. Nicola remains convinced that “control” is at the root of many of our internal struggles—with self-control being the most challenging to master. We get angry or lose heart when we can’t control people or circumstances. We lack discipline and lose control over our own thoughts, words, or actions, and spiral into a self-destructive cycle—hurting ourselves and others.
The effects of an ice storm led to the loss of electricity to my house one morning. Late that night, as we returned home from showering in a nearby athletic facility, we pulled into our street and saw our lights were back on. Yea! We hadn’t realized how dependent we were on electric power until we lost it, and we resolved not to take it for granted again.
Reconciliation. It’s God’s heart for people to be restored in relationship with one another across differences in culture, race, and class. This is vital, but sometimes it feels so big that we don’t know where to start.
During October, the trees come alive with color in my region. One year, a particular tree caught my attention. Like Joseph, it wore a “coat” of many colors. Its top leaves were plum-colored. A little lower, the purple morphed into crimson foliage. The red gave way to robin’s-chest orange, and finally, neon yellow leaves peeked out at the bottom like a petticoat. Although the leaves had radically different colors, they all had sprouted from the same maple tree.
In his landmark books Soul Searching and Souls in Transition, sociologist Christian Smith surveyed American young adults and found that most held to what he called “Therapeutic Moralistic Deism.” They’re deists because they believe God doesn’t interfere in our lives unless we need His help to solve a problem. They’re moralistic because they believe God wants us to be good and kind to each other. And their view is therapeutic because it makes them feel good about themselves.
The very first time one of the apostles stood up and publicly addressed a crowd about the good news of Jesus, he wanted to make it crystal-clear that what he was proclaiming was for everyone.