If you’re ever looking for a concise commentary on the life of Christ, I’d like to recommend Jesus the King, which is a powerful exposition on the Gospel of Mark written by Timothy Keller. He divides the book into two sections. Chapters 1-8 authenticate the life of Jesus as the promised Messiah and the King of Israel, and chapters 9-16 explain the death of Christ—what happened and why.
If you’re from a tradition that doesn’t teach much about the life of Christ, or even if you’re like me and just love learning more about Jesus and the Bible, then this is an excellent way of discovering more of the reasons why nearly one-third of the world’s population (some 2.6 billion people) believe that Jesus really is the Son of God and the King of the entire universe!
“And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King Of Kings, And Lord Of Lords” (Revelation 19:16).
If you are in the military, have a loved one in the military, or would like to get a little better appreciation for the sacrifices and challenges facing those who are giving their lives to protect our safety, then I want to encourage you to watch Indivisible. (By the way, I’m guessing the pressures and problems would be very similar for any military personnel from a democratic nation.)
Indivisible (2018) is based on the true story of Army Chaplain Darren Turner, who was deployed to Iraq back in 2007, fresh out of seminary and basic training.
This left his wife, Heather, alone at Fort Stewart to care for their three young children among the community of other women whose husbands were also deployed.
Every deployment is dangerous and gut-wrenchingly difficult, but Darren ended up supporting the Special Forces, which was sort of the hardest of the hard!
I have a son in the military who was deployed to Iraq, and I can vouch for the constant strain and fear that I battled as a mother, who spent many hours on her knees while he was gone.
Indivisible does a masterful job of relating the terrors and traumas of war. Will our loved one survive? Will he be injured? Will he recover?
Even if he survives, will he be able to overcome all the horrors of death and destruction that he’s experienced?
What about the wives who’ve been left behind, who are constantly plagued by an emotional roller coaster of worry while trying to be emotionally stable for their children?
For many families, life is never quite the same after living through a deployment, and trying to rebuild a strong marriage bond is more of a challenge than some marriages can handle.
The lessons that Darren and Heather learned (and have been willing to share) are critical for young couples who are serving in the military. I wish every person in the service or who has a loved one in military service would see this movie!
It’s raw. It’s real. It’s sad, but there’s also a message of hope for a light at the end of the tunnel of PTSD and broken hearts.
God made a way for Darren, Heather, and a bunch of brave young soldiers and their wives, and He can do the same for you.
“No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NABRE).
Last week, we were treated to one of the premiere showings of the newly released movie, Breakthrough.
It’s based on the true story of John Smith, a 14-year-old Missouri high schooler
who fell through the ice on Lake St. Louis back in January of 2015.
He was underwater for more than fifteen minutes before being rescued, but then he was declared dead at the hospital.
His mother, Joyce Smith, was unwilling to accept his death and started praying for God to bring him back to life even though he’d had no pulse for over an hour.
Miraculously, his pulse did return, although he was only given a 1% chance of making it through the night, and his pastor and parents were warned that because he had been brain-dead for so long, he would most likely be a vegetable if he did survive. His pastor, Jason Noble, brought a group of ministers in to pray over him that night.
You’ll have to watch the movie if you want to hear the end, but I guarantee it will make you laugh and cry, and you’ll be glad you watched.
Although Joyce Smith was a believer when the accident occurred, her son was not. What happened changed his life, and now John is not only a Christian, he’s excited about God! If you want to hear a few minutes more, there’s a short interview with the real John Smith (who was adopted from Guatemala) below:
What about you? Do you believe in God? Do you believe in miracles? Do you need a miracle? God doesn’t promise to do everything we ask, but He does promise to go with us through every trial and make all things work together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Why not entrust your life to Him, prayer for his help and guidance, and see what happens?
“For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:24-28).
(Because I was watching the movie with a big group as part of a volunteer appreciation event hosted by Exalta Health, I didn’t take any photos, so these are all images I found online. I hope the makers of the movie don’t mind sharing!)
While in Atlanta, where Alan attended the annual meeting of the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry, we were treated to this stunning view that seemed more like a set for a sci-fi movie than the atrium of a hotel. I marveled at its beauty and thought to myself, “Whoever did this deserves some type of architectural award!” Indeed, the designer is none other than John C. Portman Jr. who died at 93 in 2017.
Atlanta was his hometown, and the street right outside this hotel—Atlanta Marriott Marquis—bears Portman’s name! Furthermore, I’ve seen his buildings (and photographed them) all over the world, from San Diego’s Bayfront to Beijing’s Yintai Center and Shanghai’s Tomorrow Square. Even Detroit’s Ren Cen (whose central tower held the title of the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere until 2013), where Alan and I used to watch the Grand Prix races out the window from our friend George’s law office, was built by this man!
I marveled both at Portman’s prestigious career and at my own ignorance. He has built some of the most creative architectural masterpieces of my time, and I have been astounded by their beauty, but I never stopped to figure out who designed them, nor did I put two and two together to formulate a simple question: Phenomenal designs . . . do you suppose the same person designed this one too?!
How about you? Have you marveled at the beauty of our world—from the majestic mountains to the tiny, fragrant flowers—and felt overwhelmed by the creative genius without ever asking who the creative Genius is?
“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear . . . But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrew 11:3,6).
By Faith (Stuart Townend)
By faith, we see the hand of God In the light of creation’s grand design; In the lives of those who prove His faithfulness, Who walk by faith and not by sight.
By faith, our fathers roamed the earth
With the power of His promise in their hearts
Of a holy city built by God’s own hand –
A place where peace and justice reign.
We will stand as children of the promise,
We will fix our eyes on Him, our soul’s reward.
Till the race is finished and the work is done,
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight.
By faith, the prophets saw a day
When the longed-for Messiah would appear
With the power to break the chains of sin and death,
And rise triumphant from the grave.
By faith, the church was called to go
In the power of the Spirit to the lost
To deliver captives and to preach good news,
In every corner of the earth.
By faith, this mountain shall be moved
And the power of the gospel shall prevail,
For we know in Christ all things are possible
For all who call upon His name.
Recently, Alan and I had the great privilege of hearing Dr. Francis Collins, who was nominated to become the sixteenth director of the NIH (National Institutes of Health) during the tenure of Barak Obama in 2009 and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate . . . a post he continues to hold even today during Trump’s presidency (which says quite a bit about his character 🙂 ). Also, the fact that the NIH, with its $39 billion annual budget, is the world’s largest health research/applied science program, speaks highly of the trust placed in him! Dr. Collins is one of the world’s most renowned scientists and has received prestigious recognitions such as election to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, being the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science, and being appointed to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences by Pope Benedict XVI. Dr. Collins came to Grand Rapids, not in his capacity as Director of the NIH, but to a private event hosted by the President’s Circle of Biologos, an organization he helped birth and guide, which is dedicated to the marriage of faith and science. The International Headquarters of Biologos is here in Grand Rapids, and David and Carol Van Andel (whose parents founded the Van Andel Institute for biomedical research in Grand Rapids) are avid supporters and sponsors. Dr. Collins’s presentation was fascinating! He started out by sharing his personal career journey from a small farm in the Shanendoah Valley of Virginia (where he was home schooled by non-religious parents) to Yale University for a PhD in chemistry . . . to medical school for an MD degree . . . to research at the University of Michigan as “The Gene Hunter,” and eventually to overseeing the Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, which was the group that successfully carried out the Human Genome Project (mapping human genes). Interwoven with his career progress was the account of his spiritual progress, from believing in nothing, to being challenged by an elderly patient (who seemed radiantly at peace about death), to grappling with the big question: “Can a scientist also believe in God?” After two years of research and wrestling,* Dr. Collins decided that the evidences pointing to the existence of a Creator God were more compelling than the arguments against. As a geneticist, who can miss the beyond brilliant design of DNA? And, what about the stunning improbability of life occurring spontaneously . . . something like 10 to the 500 billionth power?! Did you know there are some 86 billion neurons in the brain? It’s the most complex mechanism in the universe. How could that all happen by chance? And, what about the Big Bang? Doesn’t that argue eloquently for the veracity of the Genesis account—that in the beginning God spoke the universe into existence by the breath of his mouth? Talk about a BIG BANG!! In addition to sharing his professional and faith journeys, Dr. Collins gave some fascinating insights into the promises and problems of genetic engineering. For example, through gene modification and therapies, they can now save the lives of infants who are born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (a type of ALS that attacks and kills infants in the first months of life). Research is ongoing for a way to save people with Huntington’s Disease. There are genes that can act as “police” to track down and destroy certain types of cancer cells. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? The potential for health benefits is incredible. One of the ways in which any of us could get involved is in participating in a study of genes through http://www.joinallofus.org. They are looking for a million people who are willing to have their genes mapped. As of now, they have 130,000 volunteers. Want to help? Of course, as with all advances, there are moral dilemmas. For instance, they can now develop a human heart in a pig embryo. This type of genetic modification produces a cross between a human and an animal, known as a chimeras. It could save a lot of human lives, but is it ethical? You can only imagine the implications, including the making of science fiction horror stories. Thankfully, Dr. Collins didn’t leave us on that discouraging note. Rather, he called on Christian thinkers, scientists and theologians, to come to the table and help discern the godly path through all the vast possibilities to produce the truest and best results for physical and spiritual health globally. And then, for his final note, he picked up his guitar, called Dr. Deborah Haarma (president of Biologos) to assist him at the piano, and led us all in worship, as we sang to our great God, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Truly, God is faithful, and He alone can lead us into the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake! Our call is simply to follow where he leads.By the way, Dr. Collins has also written a New York Times’ Best Seller on genetics called The Language of God. If you’re grappling with how to marry science and faith in your life, you might really profit from reading his book.
“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4)
*One of the books Dr. Collins read was Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis, which was also instrumental in my mother’s conversion. It’s an excellent book if you’re wrestling with the plausibility of God’s existence.
While we were on our North Sea cruise and sailing in and out of Norway’s gorgeous fjordlands, Alan and I watched The King’s Choice, a recent docudrama that tells the gripping story of the Nazis’ arrival in Oslo, Norway on April 9, 1940, and how King Haakon VII of Norway chose to respond to that threat. The unthinkable ultimatum? Surrender or die! Although the movie primarily follows three of Norway’s most historically dramatic days, it is really a lesson in courage, valor, and one family’s anguish over making the right moral choice …not simply for themselves, but for their entire nation. If you’re not versed in Norwegian history, you might not know much about the events, and actually, this is the first time I understood more of the complexities from “behind the scenes.” As a kid, all I knew was that the king and his family had escaped from Norway during World War 2, and I admit rather sheepishly to wondering why everybody loved the king’s family so well when they escaped and so many Norwegians died. In Norway, the film was a huge success. In fact, it was the best-selling film in 4 decades of Norwegian cinema and was short-listed for the Oscars in the U.S. It premiered at Norway’s royal palace with all available members of the royal family attending, so you know it honored not only country, but king! If you (like me) have ever wondered why countries capitulated so easily during World War 2, this movie will help you understand some of the terror they felt. (I realize being terrified doesn’t give us permission to make wrong choices, but I’m just sayin’! The only way to overcome evil is with good, by God’s grace!) It’s also helped me understand why Jesus taught, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”* We never ever understand all the circumstances around anyone else’s actions, so we should never suppose we can judge another person’s motives. We can (and must) judge people’s actions, but even there Jesus cautions us to “judge righteous judgment.”** I aspire to (as in, “I want very much but have not arrived”) being a person who respects other people enough to withhold judgment and exercise a gracious spirit toward them as much as possible. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8). * “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5). ** “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
Sometimes we “launch out into the deep,” not because we’ve been called by Jesus to go with him, but simply because we’re passionate about something. This was true for Richard Sharp and Tami Ashcraft, who decided to sail more than 4,000 miles from Tahiti to San Diego in September of 1983. In this terrifying true adventure, memorialized in 2018 as the movie Adrift, we learn what happened to the young couple. I don’t want to entirely ruin the story by telling you everything about the ending (so skip this if you don’t want to know whether or not they survived), but the movie is super impacting! Just three weeks into their voyage, they were caught in Hurricane Raymond, a monstrous storm that churned across the ocean with winds up to 140 mph, creating 40-foot waves. On October 12, Richard (who was ten years older and a more experienced sailor), told Tami to go below deck and take a break, but while she was below deck, the yacht capsized, and Tami was knocked unconscious. The remainder of the movie describes the horrendous 41-day saga of being adrift at sea, trying to get back to land and civilization, hoping for rescue . . . being bypassed . . . feeling utterly lost and abandoned . . . and finally being found and rescued! There’s something profoundly effective in vicariously suffering through harrowing life experiences via films. Do you know what I mean? We can gain wisdom and compassion simply by empathizing with the victories and defeats of fellow human beings. I could almost feel my face sunburning and imagined savoring the indescribable succulence of an apple after almost 6 weeks of surviving on tiny rations of canned food and peanut butter. Experiences (even vicarious ones) like being Adrift in the vast Pacific, thousands of miles from home, cause me to search my soul. Am I sitting placidly on shore avoiding work (and responsibility), or have I launched out into the deep with my Savior? What about you? Have you launched out into the deep with Jesus . . . or have you headed out into deep waters due to some passion and now find yourself adrift, feeling lost, abandoned, and afraid for your life?Whether we’re called to go or driven by our personal passions, surviving a life-threatening trauma changes us forever. But, thankfully, as the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Rather than ending her sailing career, Tami became a wiser, better sailor, and she’s still sailing today. Tami likens her tragic boating experience to being in a car crash: Most people keep riding in cars even after they’ve been in a serious accident. If you fall off a horse, get up and keep riding, right? Her example is most inspiring! Tami did not sense it was the Holy Spirit leading her on her painful journey back to land, but she definitely felt an inner voice guiding her. Personally, based on Matthew 5:44-46, I believe the Lord was intervening in her life to draw her to himself, but you can come to your own conclusions. Regardless of her situation, I know the Lord will guide us if we ask him, whether or not we’ve launched out into the deep in response to his prompting or we’ve headed out on our own and are now adrift. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or adrift, please reach out to God for help because,“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him . . .We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act!“ (Daniel 9:9,18b-19a, NIV). If you ask him for help, I know he will!