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.
When was the last time you lingered in silence simply to delight in the beauty of God? One Christian artist thinks that “beholding” His beauty is essential in a Christian’s life. Writer Joseph Sunde, in a blog post titled “Beauty on a Bike Ride,” quoted artist Mako Fujimura as saying: “Perhaps the greatest thing we can do as a Christian community is to behold. Behold our God. Behold His creation.”
Chinese Christians inspire me. Their slogan is “Back to Jerusalem,” for the Christian faith spread mostly west from Jerusalem through Europe and northern Africa to the Americas—lands that sent missionaries to Asia. Now Chinese believers aim to spread the gospel through the Middle East until the church reaches Jerusalem, where it all began. The task will be dangerous, but they’re willing to risk everything for Jesus.
Atul Gawande, in his book The Checklist Manifesto, shows how doctors can use a checklist to save lives during surgery. Gawande’s checklist includes three vital “pause points”: before anesthesia, before incision, and before leaving the operating room.
After dropping my kids off at school, I drove onto a busy road and turned on some Christian music. Worrying my way through a long to-do list, I started to feel overwhelmed. Just then, I saw a sign in the back window of a car that read JESUS. At the same moment, the name Jesus was sung by someone on the radio. Hearing and seeing “Jesus” in the same instant snapped me out of my anxious state as I considered the power and hope found in His name (Matthew 28:20).
I once had a difficult interaction with one of my sons. He had made several poor choices requiring a serious conversation. My son had a tender heart, however (as he often does), and he took responsibility for his behavior. Though I was frustrated with him, I told him that I forgave him. Later, aware that something was still bothering my son, I asked what was going on. “Well,” he replied, “you said you forgave me, but you didn’t exactly say it in a lovely tone.” My son picked up how I offered the right words, but the way I spoke told a different story. I said I forgave him, but I didn’t interact with a tone of grace.
My friend enjoys painting, but this sensitive soul often feels guilty when she’s working in her studio. She wonders whether she should be doing something more “Christ-like” with her time. How can I be taking up my cross if I’m doing something I enjoy? Have I become too focused on the stuff of this world?
I can sometimes be found practicing worship music in our church sanctuary. It’s a completely different vibe with empty pews on a Thursday night versus a full house on a Sunday morning! In a way, some of God’s glory is missing when I’m alone in the sanctuary. For the glory of God is found within each believer in Jesus.