An article titled “Jacob and Our Wrestling Match with God” reflects on the significance of God changing Jacob’s name, arguing that the name change points to a character transformation. “Jacob,” which means “crooked,” becomes “Israel,” which likely means “One who wrestles with God [and] One who is straight (direct, honest) with God.”
Some close friends recently went through a difficult season in which they struggled financially and emotionally. Yet when all was said and done, the trying time caused them to make positive changes to avoid catastrophe further down the line. Although it didn’t feel like it at the time, their challenge was an expression of God’s goodness.
Hieronymus Bosch’s painting Ascent of the Blessed depicts souls being escorted from a place of darkness through a tunnel leading to dazzling light. At the end of the tunnel awaits a radiant being. The painting portrays a phenomenon often described by those who have had a near-death experience—a “tunnel of light” leading to what seems to be heaven.
The movie Self/less tells the fictional story of a wealthy, dying man trying to attain immortality by transferring his consciousness to a younger man’s “host” body. While things go well at first, it eventually becomes clear that all is not as it should be, as the memories of the younger man begin surfacing in the wealthy man’s mind, resulting in some dire complications.
The term Pax Romana conveys the idea that undisturbed peace reigned throughout the Roman Empire for more than 200 years. Ironically, the very basis of the Pax Romana boast (one united, stable empire) was often the obstacle to true peace. With a large territory that was subject to riots and rebellion, Rome was known to devastate conquered nations in the name of enforcing pax. All who opposed the empire paid dearly for it; as the first-century historian Tacitus wrote, “They create desolation and call it peace.”
Gaius Octavius became the first Roman emperor by working behind the scenes to consolidate his power. He changed his name to Gauis Julius Caesar Octavianus, after his adoptive father, and then promoted the idea of Caesars (Roman emperors) being divine—allowing him to be considered the son of a god. Eventually, Octavius took the title of Augustus Caesar—sole ruler of Rome—whose spirit was deemed worthy of worship by his people.
The British TV series As Time Goes By tells the story of a couple separated by war and reunited 38 years later. The show chronicles how the man and woman come together to form a deep, loving relationship. Through the ups and downs, the couple never loses sight of the fact that they were granted a second chance at love.
I once heard about a first-time author who came to Jesus due to the stunning success of his book. The way he saw it, God escalated the book’s accomplishment beyond the merits of his talent in order to get his attention. Humbled, the author responded by seeking God and ultimately believing in Christ. What makes this story so unusual is that success more often has the opposite effect; after initial demonstrations of gratitude, we tend to forget God in the midst of plenty.
Joni Eareckson Tada, a world-renowned artist, author, and speaker, became a quadriplegic as the result of an accident in 1967. She admits that every morning she wakes up tired and convinced that she can’t face another day with quadriplegia. But she takes her weakness to God, seeking His grace, and continues to serve others—her joy in Jesus radiating through her smile.
At the height of an African government’s struggle with a terrorist rebel group, the president turned to the church for help. As people began to pray, an army chaplain declared that the war wouldn’t be won in battle, but through prayer. Thus began “Operation Gideon.” A team of intercessors gathered for several weeks of prayer and fasting. In time, a systematic breakdown of the rebel group’s influence occurred.
The rejection letter I received from the university’s registrar sent me spiraling into shock and disbelief. In the midst of my sadness and confusion, I was grateful that one of my cousins had encouraged me to apply to another school. Fortunately, I was accepted by that university. While I didn’t understand why I was unable to attend my dream school, I recognized that God wasn’t surprised. He knew everything about my situation and had my best in mind.
Winston Churchill once said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But the original thought may be traced to the philosopher George Santayana, who wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It’s true; you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.
As I first listened to the Christian song “Through Your Eyes” by Britt Nicole, the image my mind conjured up was of a sinful me cowering before a spotless God ablaze in holiness. The thought of Him seeing me through His pure and perfect eyes left me squirming and uncomfortable—certain He wouldn’t find much good there. When the lyrics finally registered, however, I realized that my guilt had caused me to miss the song’s message of hope. Although I can often only see my failures, God sees something beautiful and goes out of His way to wake me up to that fact.
“Miracles are everywhere,” declared the actress who portrayed Christy Beam in the movie Miracles from Heaven. The film is based on the true life experiences of the Beam family after middle daughter Annabel contracted an incurable intestinal disorder that was inexplicably healed after a death-defying fall. Christy realized that in focusing on the illness, she’d missed other “miracles” the family had encountered before her healing. Although miracles are typically defined only as clearly supernatural interventions, Christy recognized that events that helped her family survive the trial were equally amazing because they revealed God’s hand in the midst of their pain.
The council in Cassandra Boyson’s Seeker’s Trilogy was responsible for maintaining law and order in the name of the “Great One.” Instead, they were corrupt, singling out people they deemed different for cruel treatment. Slowly the surrounding society began to decay—reflecting the council’s immoral ways. Yet in a surprising twist, the Great One righted the wrongs of that world by providing a river that transformed all who came into contact with it.