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.
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.”
Many organizations have benefited from the charitable donations of the Mary Stuart Rogers Foundation, which has funded college scholarships, universities, medical centers, and much more. When the head of the foundation, John Rogers, was asked for his motivation for giving, he said this: “You can’t take it with you. I am a custodian of the money God has given me.” This generous spirit was directly derived from the generosity of God Himself.
Sitting near the front of our church every Sunday you’ll find a family with a teenage son who personifies joy. Landon never says anything more than “hi” due to his special needs. But he loves music!
Once while on a trip visiting some friends in a village in China, we trekked deeper and deeper into the forest, venturing farther and farther away from the village. After an hour or so, we heard the deafening roar of a waterfall. Quickening our steps, we soon reached a clearing and were greeted by the beautiful vision of a rushing curtain of white water flowing over gray rocks. Spectacular!
A few years ago, I learned about a type of protein found in humans and animals called laminin. This protein, positioned outside cells, provides support for cells inside organs. Because laminin has the ability to bind like glue with other proteins and cells, it provides a vital role in holding tissues and organs together. Interestingly, when viewed from a specific angle, laminin has a shape similar to that of a cross.
I once was treated to a makeover in which a generous friend not only bought me gorgeous clothes, but arranged for a swanky haircut and new makeup. Giggling and thanking her, I swished around my stylish tresses. My friend knew I had recently made some life changes so that I could better follow Christ and wanted to celebrate by helping me feel beautiful not only on the inside but on the outside too. It was a truly special moment. I knew that those who follow Jesus don’t need a makeover to reveal God’s presence to others, but my friend’s gesture gave me a visual reminder that when we submit our lives to Him our lives are transformed.
When a boyfriend and I ended our dating relationship, I lamented, “I’ll never meet another man who enjoys grilling food like he did.” As shallow (and embarrassing) as that sounds, I thought I’d forfeited my opportunity to be with a gourmet chef. A few weeks later though, while in a store that sold a variety of grills, it dawned on me that my former boyfriend wasn’t the only gifted griller out there!
Those who were with Dallas Willard—philosopher, speaker, writer—when he died from pancreatic cancer in 2013, tell of the beauty and grace he demonstrated as he faced death. One of Dallas’ friends recalls that he said, “I taught on the Great Cloud of Witnesses and now I’m experiencing it. I am in heaven’s hallway and there is a large community coming for me. They are the most loving persons I’ve ever been around.” His last words before entering eternal life were simply, “Thank you.”
The diving bell spider lives the majority of its life in a bubble of air at the bottom of freshwater ponds and streams in northern and central Europe and northern Asia. To create the bubble, it somersaults on the surface of the water, catches a bubble of air, holds it over the breathing holes in the middle of its body, and then dives down and spins a silk web between underwater plants. This arachnid then swims back up to the surface, bringing down bubble after bubble until a big balloon of air is formed. It then eats and lives in the big bubble.
The story of the criminal crucified with Jesus is one of Scriptures’ most dramatic conversion stories (Luke 23:32-43). About to die, the man had no time to clean up his life. Yet, because he believed in Jesus, he went to be with Him (Luke 23:42-43).
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.
In Ridley Scott’s film The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney undergoes a harrowing struggle to survive after being stranded on Mars. Using his skills as a botanist, Watney manages to create ingenious solutions for each crisis he faces. In one particularly compelling moment, Watney gazes in wonder at the first green sprout he’d managed to coax to life in the barren planet.
Tim Keller aptly expressed the spiritual state of humanity when he wrote, “Everything that troubles [us] is a result of idolatry. And what is idolatry? It’s taking a good thing and making it an ultimate thing.” View nearly any form of visual media today and you’ll see that we’ve exchanged our worship of the Creator for the created. We were designed by God to respond to beauty—His beauty. But the promise of perfection and the temptation of power draw us to lesser gods. Food, sex, fashion, you name it. Our bodies have become our idols.