God may have been trying to tell me something in 2021. Three experiences that I already have written about inspired me — and my wife, Kathy, too — to be more confident and intentional about the biggest story in history.
It’s that true story about Jesus coming to Earth to save us from our sins if we believe in him and promising eternal life with no pain or sorrow for his followers. Our path in the past year included some definite sorrow, including the untimely deaths of my brother’s wife, Ginger, and one of my high school classmates, Mike. But God also gave us inspiration in the form of a visit to North Carolina, a book study and a streaming TV series.
On vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we realized the Billy Graham Library was within driving distance, as was the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. We visited both on consecutive days, expecting — at least in my case — more history and nostalgia than motivation.
We found out it would be hard to walk through the displays and videos of either of those Billy Graham facilities without having the great evangelist’s words penetrate to the heart like they did for so many during his almost 70-year ministry. The focus of the library/museum and the training center is squarely on the gospel, and we walked back to our rental car both days with a renewed sense of urgency about the Christian message.
Both of us recommend visiting those places in Charlotte and Asheville.
Then God moved our Sunday school teacher, Kevin, to introduce us to John Burke’s book, “Imagine Heaven.” Mostly through scientifically recorded accounts of near-death experiences, Burke gives us a detailed, plausible look at what heaven might be like. The descriptions of beautiful landscapes and cities, all pulsating with energy and light, gave us a better understanding not only of the afterlife but of the unconditional love of God.
That perspective on heaven truly made me feel better about Ginger and Mike, plus others who have moved on, and the prospect of being with them again in much better circumstances.
We recommend the book to supplement your reading of scripture.
And then there’s “The Chosen,” the first presentation of the life of Jesus in the form of a TV series. I know that everybody isn’t comfortable with expanding on the biblical accounts to show what daily life would have been like for Jesus and his chosen followers, but the producers emphasize that they don’t show anything that conflicts with scripture and that the storylines — such as Mary Magdalene’s first encounter with Christ, her backsliding and her being forgiven — are plausible representations that fill in some of the blanks not revealed in the gospels.
We see a less stiff, more human Jesus, making ironic jokes with the disciples, feeling exhausted after a day of healing and nudging one disciple to take notes, knowing that the young Matthew later will write one version of Christ’s ministry.
Like many viewers, Kathy and I have been delighted to see Jesus and those around him in a fresh light. And we’re happy that so many people have said the series is driving them to the Bible to read the authoritative accounts.
After seeing the half-hour “Chosen” adaptation of the nativity story along with a diverse group of musicians and singers plus some of them delivering heartfelt words about why “People Must Know,” we don’t hesitate to recommend it.
The past year had other spiritual highlights. My brother, David, nephew, John, and friend, Mark, attended the Promise Keepers “comeback” rally at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium in Arlington, which fired up thousands of men. And of course, Franklin Graham came to Amarillo with his “God Loves You” tour, offering the same message that his father did for decades. I have written about those, and they also are recommended.
We can hope that God will place other points of motivation and encouragement in each of our paths in 2022 so that more will experience his love now and forever.
Mike Haynes taught journalism at Amarillo College from 1991 to 2016 and has written for the Faith section since 1997. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to www.haynescolumn.blogspot.com for other recent columns.