During two different semesters, I taught a “Discipleship Ministries” course to pastors and lay leaders at our local seminary. As we were reading through the Sermon on the Mount, memorizing Romans 12, and reading through Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy, one of my students said he’d been convicted. For the first time, he truly understood how Jesus wanted him to live out his faith in his workplace—a place where he’d often been tempted to harbor contempt toward moody and rude customers.
I can resist anything except temptation.” We might smile at this quip by Oscar Wilde, but it also may invite us to challenge ourselves: Has our pursuit of holiness—reflecting God and conforming to His will—been weakened through the corrosive influence of modern culture’s love of pleasure? How can we, as we seek to honor God, resist temptation?
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).
Though I haven’t spent much time playing it over the past twenty years, I still take out my violin every so often. I keep it stored in a temperature-consistent closet, safely enclosed in a velvet case. Even so, the small tuning fork I keep in the case has been needed on more than one occasion. The vibrations from the tuning fork create the tone I need to set my A-string pitch. I can then tune the other three strings and hear a true and resonant sound as I pull the bow across the strings.
I once heard a speaker describe God’s unique nature in a memorable way. The word “God” was placed at the top of a PowerPoint slide, the words “Everything Else” at the bottom, and a solid line in-between. The speaker then stated that—as His creatures—we’re more like a worm or a cow than God. In His holiness, He’s separate, “above the line.”
“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” This sentiment from Anne Lamott often comes back to me in situations of potential conflict. If I find myself assuming God feels exactly the same way I do about most situations, it’s safe to say my view of God is mixed with a good deal of myself! Only one Person has known the mind of God fully; we His followers always understand imperfectly (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Hearing rave reviews from her circle of friends—all believers in Jesus—about a TV show they’d been watching, my friend decided to check it out. After just two episodes, however, she was taken aback by the program’s explicit sexual content. She chose to no longer watch the show due to her convictions, but wondered how to handle future discussions about it. Thinking through her concerns, she wondered why the show sustained drawing power for her friends.
A man known as the “king of cocaine” built an island hideaway known to the locals as the big house. It featured a marble lobby and an enormous pool ringed by palm trees. The now-deceased man’s estate included multiple waterfront dwellings where 300 guests could lodge in luxury. Gardens, boats, and a helicopter landing pad all displayed the “king’s” immense but wrongly amassed wealth.
Theologian R. C. Sproul once wrote, “When the Bible calls God holy it means primarily that God is . . . separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be ‘other,’ to be different in a special way.”
It’s been a tiring week. Filling in for the Breakfast Show radio host meant that I set my alarm for 4:40 each morning, ensuring that I’d be at the radio studios by 5:30. I was looking forward to waking up later on Saturday, but at 4:40 I heard the buzz of an alarm. Annoyed at what I thought was my husband’s alarm, I begged him to turn it off and then realized it was my own alarm blaring its unwelcome wake-up call. I’d forgotten to turn off the alarm the night before and now I lay wide awake, frustrated with myself and embarrassed that I’d blamed my husband for the rude awakening.
As a teenager, I traveled from the United States to London on a school-sponsored trip. Just 14 years old, I regrettably paid more attention to my meals and classmates than to the impressive sights around me. One day, however, I encountered the ruins of a Roman wall. I was awestruck, and my attention was temporarily diverted from typical teenage interests. It was humbling to touch something so ancient. The moss and stone seemed sacred, and I felt as if I were standing on holy ground.
It was a holy place, a sacred place, a place unlike any other temple. Before there had come the marble and gold, altars and precious stones, columns, walls, and the Holy of Holies, it was a place of divine-human intimacy. The construction costs were relatively small, it had no great beauty, and it was nothing anyone would envy.
The Bible is full of contrasts. We read that our holy “God is a devouring fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). But a few chapters later we find that God “lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him” (Deuteronomy 7:9). John also wrote, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Fire burns and is dangerous. Love delights and protects. So how can God be both holy and love?
My husband and I recently saw a friend we hadn’t seen in a while. Standing outside the gym where he worked out, he highlighted the facility’s offerings. His words revealed his sense of ownership of the exercise facility. Though he wasn’t a financial stockholder, he had found identity, purpose, and a place to belong amid the mats lined with barbells and other strength-training equipment. This place had become his community and a big part of his life.
What is a minute? Simply a measurement of time. There are 60 in an hour, 1,440 in a day. But during those 60 clicks of the second hand, a tidal wave of thoughts with their accompanying emotional responses can sweep over you. Today, during one particular minute, a feeling of dread hit me hard. Why? I was deeply afraid that I’d done something wrong.