Each Sunday my local church begins our service with a call to worship—a song declaring that we gather to proclaim God’s goodness and beauty. As we sing, we’re also affirming that we live as citizens of His kingdom. Although during most of the worship we encourage people to choose their own posture, in this opening song we always ask our people to stand. We want to open the service conscious of standing in God’s presence, reverently honoring the One who’s other than us.
I told my hairstylist that I was going to see the movie Miracles from Heaven, the story of a young girl who after falling thirty feet headfirst into a hollowed-out tree was miraculously healed of her incurable illness. The stylist had heard it was “based on a true story,” but said that “could simply mean the child fell from a tree.”
Except for technological advances, the first century AD wasn’t much different than the 21st. The human condition can be depressingly consistent: injustice, exploitation, oppression, violence.
The movie Unbroken is based on the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner, World War II prisoner of war, and devout Christian. As the last scene of the movie was being filmed, a storm threatened to block the sunlight needed to shoot it. Director Angelina Jolie, impacted by Louis’ faith, did something she had never done before. In front of the whole film crew, the self-proclaimed agnostic dropped to her knees and prayed out loud for a miracle.
Marcus Mumford wouldn’t call himself a Christian. At least he declined to do so during a Rolling Stone magazine interview. In that conversation, the award-winning songwriter and musician said that the word Christian is linked with religious images he doesn’t like. He compared himself to people who claim to love Christ and say that Jesus is awesome, but who are not Christians.
People frequently leave advertisements on my doorstep for services such as landscaping, gutter cleaning, and pest control. One day I found a different sort of pamphlet on my welcome mat—one full of Bible verses, all of which seemed to be correct. The leaflet also identified Jesus in its copy. But as I looked closer, however, I noticed that the words did not describe Him accurately. The publisher of the pamphlet denied that Jesus is truly God.
Imagine this scene. Joseph leading a donkey-drawn carriage towards Bethlehem. Inside that carriage sits his pregnant wife, Mary. She was found to be pregnant before they had consummated their marriage! This would be the scandal of the town. Imagine the gossip and stares. Surely she was a promiscuous woman. And both of them are guilty of premarital sex!
When Peter brought the gospel to the Gentiles, he told Cornelius the story of Jesus. He explained how the Savior traveled throughout Judea healing people and casting out demons, died on the cross and rose again, and then appeared to His disciples and commanded them to tell everyone He was Israel’s Messiah. And right in the middle Peter added, “We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:41).
The lighthouse keepers had survived harsh and lonely conditions on a meager salary, endured the incessant roar of the foghorn, and rowed their lifeboat onto stormy seas to rescue sailors. But the keepers had also resisted efforts to install a new lens that would have doubled the amount of light their station could have cast. Why? The keepers had made a financial arrangement with the maker of the old lens, and they didn’t want to lose the cash—even if it would have saved lives.
In 2013, the Catholic Church in Venezuela reported that it was running out of wine to celebrate Mass because of a nationwide shortage. This reminds me of another shortage of wine that took place in the village of Cana where Jesus was attending a wedding.
If a friend asked you, “Where can I experience the power and wisdom of God?” would you bring him or her to a college? The following saying would cause us to question this choice: The university has lots of knowledge. The first years came in with some. The final years left with none. That is how knowledge accumulates.
Q: In the Scripture versions I read, Mary had several children with Joseph AFTER the virgin birth of Jesus. A friend believes Mary was a virgin throughout her live and had but one child—Jesus. Moreover, the term "brother or sister" was often used when referring to relatives, such as cousin, nephew, etc. Can you enlighten me regarding this issue? —Edward
Scene 1: Elijah is on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:16-39). The prophet has declared a test. He and the prophets of Baal will each erect an altar and call to their respective gods. The one who sets the altar on fire will be revealed as the one true God (1 Kings 18:24).
Last week I took my adopted son and his buddy (whom my friends adopted from Ethiopia) to the beach where I grew up in Florida. Watching the boys as they splashed in the gulf, played in the sand, and curiously poked at a dead jellyfish that had washed up on the shore, I marveled at God’s work in their lives.