While I was leading a Bible class for those who didn’t yet believe in Jesus, a participant asked, “How many gods are there in this world?” Hoping to give an answer, I Googled for help. I believe there’s only one true God, but one person gave this clever answer: Seven billion gods. There are seven billion people in this world. And everyone has a personal god.
In my view, besides our relationship with God, each of us typically desire three key treasures—health, possessions, and family. A loss to any can be heart wrenching. The Old Testament patriarch Job experienced a triple test—financial ruin, the deaths of his ten children, and painful ill health (Job 1:14-19, 2:7). We can’t imagine the intensity of pain Job had to bear.
In their book The Lessons of History, historians Will and Ariel Durant note, “War is one of the constants of history. . . . In the last 3,421 years of recorded history, only 268 have seen no war.” The United Nations was formed at the end of World War II “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” so the world could “live together in peace with one another”. But with more than 300 wars fought since 1945, we have yet to experience worldwide peace. Will it ever be realized?
In 2017, the morning after the mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert that resulted in nearly 60 fatalities and more than 500 wounded, the President of the United States quoted Scripture to comfort the grieving families and victims. This response to tragedy isn’t unusual; many people turn to the Bible for comfort following devastating events
I took a personality test to determine if my dominant trait is sanguine (enthusiastic, adventurous), choleric (goal-oriented, project-minded), melancholic (organized, cautious) or phlegmatic (people person, peacemaker). It became pretty clear that I’m a bit of a choleric-phlegmatic mix.
In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, Senator Cassius conspires to have Caesar killed and even gets his brother-in-law Brutus to join the assassination plot. As planned, on the Ides of March all the conspirators attack Caesar. Because he trusted Brutus, the Roman leader is most distressed by his participation. Caesar dies brokenhearted at the betrayal, crying, “Et tu, Brute?” (Even you, Brutus?)
Many countries have unique ways to welcome in a new year. Thai people splash water at one another as part of a ritual cleansing. Some Chileans go to cemeteries and sleep near the graves of deceased loved ones. And Estonians participate in feasting a total of seven times on New Year’s Day, symbolising hoped-for abundance in the months to come.
Sadly, in the five decades I’ve been a believer in Jesus, I’ve known of several local churches that have split due to infighting. Leaders fight, and congregation members rally behind their chosen side. Then the feuding leaders prompt their supporters to form splinter congregations.
A man had served as a leader within his local church for many years. But then he stopped his involvement altogether. He’d prayed for God to heal his cancer-stricken wife, but her condition had only gotten worse. In the mysterious absence of healing, this man concluded that God didn’t care. These painful circumstances caused him to doubt God’s love itself.
Samaria, the capital of Israel, was being besieged by the Aramean army. Food was soon depleted, and many died of hunger while some resorted to cannibalism (2 Kings 6:24-31). The prophet Elisha told the unbelieving king that God would rescue them and provide food for them (2 Kings 7:1). Soon, the divine army that Elisha’s servant had seen earlier scattered the enemy (2 Kings 6:14-17, 2 Kings 7:6-7).
The story is told of a king who was looking for satisfaction in life. His advisors told him to wear the shirt of a contented man for a day, and he would be cured of his discontent. His men searched the kingdom for a contented man so they could bring his shirt to the king, but they returned empty-handed. The king was furious. In response, his men told the king, “We found a contented man, but he does not own a shirt.”
The Netflix documentary David and Me tells the story of David McCallum, who in 1986, at only age sixteen, was convicted of murder. But McCallum claimed he was pressured to confess to the crime. And in 2014, DNA tests and forensic analysis on the stolen car revealed that McCallum was innocent. David had spent nearly thirty years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Every religion has its places of worship—places that are considered sacred. In the Old Testament, we read of three festivals for worshiping God at the temple in Jerusalem each year (Deuteronomy 16:16).
People have fought over salt for thousands of years. A highly valued staple, governments have even tried to control the sale of it. In the fifteenth century, Venice and Genoa actually went to war over the seasoning agent. And in the early nineteenth century, thousands of Napoleon’s troops died during his retreat from Moscow because their wounds wouldn’t heal due to the lack of it. Gandhi led more than 60,000 people in the 240-mile Salt March to protest the British’s monopoly on the sale of the substance.
During our lifetimes we might occasionally find ourselves uttering the words, “It’s finished!” For the student who just took a final exam, it means “I’m done with that class,” or perhaps even “I’m finally graduating!” For the project manager, it could mean, “The project is successfully completed.” For the husband ending a conflict with his wife, it could declare, “I was wrong, please forgive me.” For someone caring for a dying loved one, it might mean, “Your father has passed on.”