The human heart expands and contracts to circulate blood through the body. When the heart contracts, it pushes blood out to the extremities. When it expands, the heart fills up with incoming blood. There’s a rare physical condition, however, that stiffens the heart muscle. This less-flexible state means that the organ can’t expand to take in the proper amount of blood—a physical hardening of the heart.
Sometimes we can make sweeping generalizations about all sorts of things—or even about people. “No ___________ are friendly,” we might say. “All ___________ are corrupt,” we insist.
The meat section of my grocery store is clean and pleasant. Festive music plays as I select refrigerated trays of pork, beef, and chicken. Each package is shrink-wrapped in clear plastic, with only an occasional smudge of blood. But no matter how much the store tries to conceal it, its meat section is built on death.
In 2011 an earthquake and tsunami caused a catastrophic meltdown of three nuclear reactors in Japan. A massive evacuation ensued, displacing thousands, with a 20-kilometer radius marked as an “exclusion zone.”
Author William Willimon told the story of an encounter he had with a woman dying of cancer. Exhausted from her battle with the disease, she clutched the crucifix that had been given to her by her grandmother when she was a little girl. It was a symbol of what Jesus meant to her. When Willimon entered the room, he asked if he should summon a priest. The woman held out the crucifix toward him, which depicted the body of Jesus nailed to the cross. She then said, “Thank you—but I have a Priest.”
As part of their training, all new presenters on the radio use a practice log—an exact replica of the live log except for one small difference in the file name. It’s a little like a flight simulator for pilots; you get to make mistakes without embarrassing or devastating consequences. It’s a great system for trainees, but if a seasoned presenter accidentally use the practice log to prerecord her radio program, it won’t be able to air.
My friends in my Bible discussion group chuckled when I shared how I was trying to avoid God. I smiled, but it was no joke. His promptings to overlook my demands for justice and extend grace filled me with resentment. I felt like shaking my fist (as the prophet Jonah might have done) and screaming, “You want me to go where, and do what?!”
It seems to me that there are three primary things in life that make people feel good about themselves: wealth, good looks, and knowledge. With this trio a person can feel significant (because people will flock to you for good and bad reasons) and secure (because you think you have some semblance of control).
So what did Jesus look like? Did he resemble actor James Caviezel who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ? Probably not. Something like Warner Sallman’s famous portrait Head of Christ? Uh, no—don’t think so.
People sometimes ask me, “How come the God of the Old Testament seems so cruel and harsh compared to the God of the New Testament?” To answer that question, I start by assuring them that He doesn’t have multiple personalities—the God of the Old and New Testaments is the same God. He’s “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). I then explain that a good God can’t tolerate sin—an uncomfortable truth for some to acknowledge.
The Giving Pledge,” formed in 2009 by billionaire founders Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, is a campaign to encourage the world’s wealthiest people to give away most of their cash to help others. Buffett himself is taking the lead and plans to donate 99 percent of his wealth by the time he dies. This is an incredibly generous act! But it’s interesting to note that his present worth is $72.3 billion, meaning that if he gives away 99 percent of his wealth, he’ll still have $700 million remaining.
I wet the bed until I was 12 years old. It’s hard to put into words the agony of those moments when I would wake up in the middle of the night and find my clothes and sheets were soaked. Ashamed, I would scurry about, trying to quietly change the sheets and my clothes—doing my best to hide the evidence. But it was found out each time, and I felt a deep sense of worthlessness, failure, and disapproval.
In 1738, an Englishman named John Wesley entered a church service where someone was preaching from the book of Romans. As he listened to the message of the gospel that night, Wesley wrote that he felt his heart “strangely warmed,” and he knew deep within that Jesus had died to save him from his sins. John Wesley would go on to found Methodism, an approach to living out Christian faith that continues today.