Raleigh looks like a powerful dog—he is large and muscular and has a thick coat of fur. And he weighs over 100 pounds! Despite his appearance, Raleigh connects well with people. His owner takes him to nursing homes and hospitals to bring people a smile.
Once, a four-year-old girl spotted Raleigh across a room. She wanted to pet him, but was afraid to get close. Eventually, her curiosity overcame her sense of caution and she spent several minutes talking to him and petting him. She discovered that he is a gentle creature, even though he is powerful.
The combination of these qualities reminds me of what we read about Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus was approachable—He welcomed little children (Matt. 19:13-15). He was kind to an adulterous woman in a desperate situation (John 8:1-11). Compassion motivated Him to teach crowds (Mark 6:34). At the same time, Jesus’ power was astounding. Heads turned and jaws dropped as He subdued demons, calmed violent storms, and resurrected dead people! (Mark 1:21-34; Mark 4:35-41; John 11).
The way we see Jesus determines how we relate to Him. If we focus only on His power, we may treat Him with the detached worship we’d give a comic book superhero. Yet, if we overemphasize His kindness, we risk treating Him too casually. The truth is that Jesus is both at once—great enough to deserve our obedience yet humble enough to call us friends.
“Everybody's doing it” seemed like a winning argument when I was young. But my parents never gave in to such pleas no matter how desperate I was to get permission to do something they believed was unsafe or unwise.
As we get older we add excuses and rationalizations to our repertoire of arguments for having our own way: “No one will get hurt.” “It's not illegal.” “He did it to me first.” “She won't find out.” Behind each argument is the belief that what we want is more important than anything else.
Eventually, this faulty way of thinking becomes the basis for our beliefs about God. One of the lies we sometimes choose to believe is that we, not God, are the center of the universe. We think we will be carefree and happy only when we reorder the world according to our desires. This lie is convincing because it promises an easier, speedier way to get what we want. It argues, “God is love, so He wants me to do whatever will make me happy.” But this way of thinking leads to heartache, not happiness.
Jesus told those who believed in Him that the truth would make them truly free (John 8:31-32). But He also warned, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (v. 34).
The best kind of happiness comes from the freedom we find when we accept the truth that Jesus is the way to a full and satisfying life.
Earthquakes are prevalent in the Pacific Rim region known as the “Ring of Fire.” Ninety percent of the world’s earthquakes and 81 percent of the world’s largest earthquakes occur there. I learned that many buildings in the city of Hong Kong have been built on granite, which could help minimize damage in the event of an earthquake. The foundation of buildings is especially important in earthquake-prone regions of the world.
Former major league baseball player Tony Graffanino tells of an ongoing ministry effort in a European country. Each year his organization holds a week-long baseball camp. During this week they also offer a daily Bible study. In past years, the leader tried to find reasoned ways to convince the campers that God exists so they would place their faith in Him. After about 13 years, they had seen only 3 people decide to follow Jesus.
At the age of 27, Rembrandt painted the seascape Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee based on the story in Mark 4. With its distinctive contrast of light and shadow, Rembrandt’s painting shows a small boat threatened with destruction in a furious storm. As the disciples struggle against the wind and waves, Jesus is undisturbed. The most unusual aspect, however, is the presence in the boat of a 13th disciple whom art experts say resembles Rembrandt himself.
If you take a course on writing or attend a writer’s conference, you’ll likely hear the phrase, “Show, don’t tell.” In other words, “show” your readers what is happening, don’t just tell them. Don’t tell readers what you did; describe doing it.
What did Jesus see when He looked at the woman at the well in John 4? He saw someone who wanted acceptance and desperately needed to know she was loved. Most of all, He saw someone who needed what only He could give—a new heart.
A friend who lives in Singapore told me about an old Chinese greeting. Instead of “How are you?” people would ask “Have you eaten until you are full?” The greeting likely originated during a time when food was scarce and many people did not know when they would have their next meal. When food was available, it was advisable to eat until they were full.
The values of the kingdom that Jesus came to establish were radically different than those of His day. The Pharisees and teachers of the law clamored for the spotlight and sought the adulation of the crowds. Many of us still do this today.