I was 21 when I read the Bible for the first time. Someone had suggested I read the Gospel of John first, but I knew so little about the Bible at the time that I didn’t understand the Gospels were four separate accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. So I started at what seemed the more logical place, at the beginning of the New Testament, with the Gospel of Matthew.
In the Bible, God often uses metaphors or word pictures to describe our relationship with Him; for example, a shepherd and sheep, a father and child, a vine and branches—and a bride and groom.
Although the Bible contains 66 books, commentators have often noted that it is really one book with a consistent theme. It is a love story. Like every love story, this one has a beginning, some ups and downs, and a dramatic conclusion.
Picture a forest—lush, deep, inviting. You enter and look around, expecting that rush of wonder that you’ve experienced before in nature, but this time the birds are not singing, there is no breeze to rustle the leaves, and the stream is not flowing. Everything is still, frozen in time, lifeless. You are in the forest, but it might as well be a picture hanging on the wall.
Oddly enough, whenever I’m at the dentist’s office, there always seems to be one of those home makeover shows playing on the TV in the waiting room. The sound is muted, but you can follow along in the closed captioning if you’re interested—not that the dialogue is particularly exciting.
In his classic autobiography Confessions, Saint Augustine, a theologian of the early church, narrates an incident which happened when he was a teenager. There was a pear tree near his family’s vineyard loaded with fruit that wasn’t even attractive in appearance or taste. Yet he and some friends stole pears from the tree. They did so not to eat them themselves, but to throw them to the pigs. He says that he and his friends committed the theft simply because they had pleasure in doing something that was forbidden, a tale as old as that of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
I was raised in a Christian home by dedicated Christian parents. We prayed before we went out, whenever we got in the car, before we cooked, before we started our homework, and of course, before going to sleep. The bookshelves were full of children’s devotional books and Bibles, and we watched Bible cartoons in the evenings.
Have you ever felt like life took you down the wrong road, or that things just weren’t meant to work out for you? There was a time when my life didn’t seem to make any sense, like the tangled threads on the back of a tapestry.
A serious case of scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, left me depressed as a child and then heightened the usual teenage worries about the future. By the time I was 15, I was on drugs. It was a wonder that I managed to make it through those troubled years when I couldn’t have felt more lost and helpless. God was the furthest thing from my mind.
One of my favorite movies is the 1967 classic Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. The movie was released at a very sensitive period in American history when race relations were highly volatile. It went on to become a major hit and acted as a great agent for social change.