The glory of the Roman Empire offered an expansive backdrop for the birth of Jesus. In 27 bc Rome’s first emperor, Caesar Augustus, ended 200 years of civil war and began to replace rundown neighborhoods with monuments, temples, arenas, and government complexes. According to Roman historian Pliny the Elder, they were “the most beautiful buildings the world has ever seen.”…
Like others in the blogging community, I’d never met the man known to us as BruceC. Yet when his wife posted a note to the group to let us know that her husband had died, a string of responses from distant places showed we all knew we had lost a friend.
BruceC had often opened his heart to us. He talked freely about his concern for others and what was important to him. Many of us felt like we knew him. We would miss the gentle wisdom that came from his years in law enforcement and his faith in Christ.
In recalling our online conversations with BruceC, I gained a renewed appreciation for words written by a first-century witness of Jesus. In the first New Testament letter the apostle Peter wrote to readers scattered throughout the Roman Empire, “Though you have not seen [Christ], you love him” (1 Pet. 1:8).
Peter, as a personal friend of Jesus, was writing to people who had only heard about the One who had given them reason for so much hope in the middle of their troubles. Yet, as a part of the larger community of believers, they loved Him. They knew that at the price of His own life, He had brought them into the everlasting family of God.
Meat Mountain is a super-sandwich layered with six kinds of meat. Stacked with chicken tenders, three strips of bacon, two cheeses, and much more, it looks like it should be a restaurant’s featured item.
But Meat Mountain isn’t on any restaurant’s published menu. The sandwich represents a trend in off-menu items known only by social media or word of mouth. It seems that competition is driving fast-food restaurants to offer a secret menu to in-the-know customers.
When Jesus told His disciples that He had “food” they knew nothing about, it must have seemed like a secret menu to them (John 4:32). He sensed their confusion and explained that His food was to do the will of His Father and to finish the work given to Him (v. 34).
Jesus had just spoken to a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well about living water she had never heard of. As they talked, he revealed a supernatural understanding of her unquenched thirst for life. When he disclosed who He was, she left her water pot behind and ran to ask her neighbors, “Could this be the Messiah?” (v. 29).
What was once a secret can now be offered to everyone. Jesus invites all of us to trust His ability to satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts. As we do, we discover how to live not just by our physical appetites but by the soul-satisfying Spirit of our God.
June Williams was only 4 when her father bought 7 acres of land to build a zoo without bars or cages. Growing up she remembers how creative her father was in trying to help wild animals feel free in confinement. Today Chester Zoo is one of England’s most popular wildlife attractions. Home to 11,000 animals on 110 acres of land, the zoo reflects her father’s concern for animal welfare, education, and conservation.
Solomon had a similar interest in all creatures great and small. In addition to studying the wildlife of the Middle East, he imported exotic animals like apes and monkeys from far-off lands (1 Kings 10:22). But one of his proverbs shows us that Solomon’s knowledge of nature went beyond intellectual curiosity. When he expressed the spiritual implications of how we treat our animals, he mirrored something of the heart of our Creator: “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel” (Prov. 12:10).
With God-given wisdom, Solomon saw that our relationship to our Creator affects not only how we treat people but also how much thoughtful consideration we give to the creatures in our care.
In 2014 a University of California researcher used a stuffed dog to show that animals are capable of jealousy. Professor Christine Harris asked dog owners to show affection for a stuffed animal in the presence of their pet. She found that three-fourths of the dogs responded with apparent envy. Some tried to get attention with touch or a gentle nudge. Others tried to push between their owner and the toy. A few went so far as to snap at their stuffed rival.
In a dog, jealousy seems heartwarming. In people, it can lead to less admirable results. Yet, as Moses and Paul remind us, there is also another jealousy—one that beautifully reflects the heart of God.
When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he said he was “jealous for you with a godly jealousy” (2 Cor. 11:2). He didn’t want them to be “led astray from [their] sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (v. 3). Such jealousy reflects the heart of God, who told Moses in the Ten Commandments, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:5).
God’s jealousy is not like our self-centered love. His heart expresses His protective zeal for those who are His by creation and salvation. He made us and rescued us to know and enjoy Him forever. How could we ask for anything more than a God who is so zealous—and jealous—for our happiness?
Have you ever felt that your life was ruined as a result of having done something embarrassing, shameful, or even criminal—only to wake up and realize it was just a dream? But what if it wasn’t just a nightmare? What if the situation was all too real—either for yourself or someone you love?
This is the situation confronted in George MacDonald’s 19th-century novel The Curate’s Awakening. It’s the story of a parish minister who discovers that he’s been speaking for a God he’s not even sure he believes in. Later, he is called to the bedside of a young man who is losing his mind and dying, haunted by a murder he has committed.
In the heart-rending struggle that follows, the minister discovers what we all need to see. The relief of waking up from a bad dream is nothing compared to waking to the reality of God’s forgiveness, which we once thought was too good to be true.
Where will we find the mercy we need? It is found in Jesus, who, from His own cross said to a dying criminal who turned to Him for help, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Two workmen were asked what they were building together. One said he was building a garage. The other replied that he was building a cathedral. A day later there was only one man laying bricks. When asked where the second was, the first replied, “Oh, he got fired. He insisted on building a cathedral instead of a garage.”
Something similar happened on the ancient worksite of Babel. A group of people decided they would build a city and a tower that would reach to the heavens and unite their world (Gen. 11:4). But God didn’t want them working on a grand, self-centered plan based on the idea that they could rise to the heights of God and solve all of their own problems. So He came down, stopped the project, scattered the people “over all the earth,” and gave them different languages (vv. 8-9).
God wanted people to see Him as the solution to their problems, and He revealed His plan for them to Abraham (12:1-3). Through the faith of Abraham and his descendants, He would show the world how to look for a city “whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:8-10).
Our faith does not rise out of our own dreams and solutions. The foundation of faith is in God alone and what He can do in and through us.
We remember Albert Einstein for more than his disheveled hair, big eyes, and witty charm. We know him as the genius and physicist who changed the way we see the world. His famous formula of E=mc2 revolutionized scientific thought and brought us into the nuclear age. Through his “Special Theory of Relativity” he reasoned that since everything in the universe is in motion, all knowledge is a matter of perspective. He believed that the speed of light is the only constant by which we can measure space, time, or physical mass.
Long before Einstein, Jesus talked about the role of light in understanding our world, but from a different perspective. To support His claim to be the Light of the World (John 8:12), Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth (9:6). When the Pharisees accused Christ of being a sinner, this grateful man said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see” (v. 25).
While Einstein’s ideas would later be proven difficult to test, Jesus’ claims can be tested. We can spend time with Jesus in the Gospels. We can invite Him into our daily routine. We can see for ourselves that He can change our perspective on everything.
CNN calls a derivative of graphite a “miracle material” that could revolutionize our future. Only one atom thick, graphene is being hailed as a truly two-dimensional material in a 3-D world. One hundred times stronger than steel, it is harder than diamond, conducts electricity 1,000 times better than copper, and is more flexible than rubber.
In and of themselves, such technological advances are neither moral nor evil. But we are wise to remember the limitations of anything we make for ourselves.
Isaiah spoke to a generation who found themselves carrying into captivity gods they had made with their own hands. The prophet wanted the Israelites to see the irony of needing to care for the silver and gold idols they had crafted to inspire, help, comfort, and protect them.
What was true of Israel holds true for us as well. Nothing we have made or bought for ourselves can meet the needs of our heart. Only God, who has been carrying us “from the womb” (Isa. 46:3-4), can carry us into the future.