Not of stellar engines, nor of Dyson spheres

As I write this, my father is on a ventilator in an ICU, fighting for his 73-year old life. As you might suspect, he has COVID-19. I received the call from my mother that they had made the decision to intervene while we were live streaming our worship from my phone. My mother, one year younger, also has COVID-19. Thus far her symptoms are mild. My sister is an RN who has specialized in COVID treatment over the last year. One of the frontline workers who has traveled to the country’s worst regions, she is now taking on the role of private in-home nurse, PPE and all.*

I am concerned about my dad. I am concerned about my mom. My dad was pretty much only concerned about my mom as they spoke on the phone before he was sedated. This whole situation creates a flood of interesting, if not difficult, emotions and thoughts to assess. Continue reading “Not of stellar engines, nor of Dyson spheres”

Nearsighted fools

“This I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:17)

How many times have you heard it?

  • “If I had known this was the last time I would ever see her…”
  • “If I knew then what I know now…”
  • “I’d give anything if he could walk through that door…”

We live nearsighted lives. We feel like there will always be time to fix, to remedy, to make right. But sometimes, we are wrong.

Jesus’ disciples were also nearsighted at times. On the night of his betrayal, Jesus told his disciples, “This I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:17). What did they do? They argued about who was the greatest (Luke 22:24). They were nearsighted.

In a matter of hours, Jesus would be crucified. Just weeks after his resurrection, one of them would be dead– a martyr for the faith (Acts 12:1-2). In the coming months, they would face persistent persecution (Acts 8:1).

How silly their petty attitudes and arguments must have seemed to them in retrospect.

We leave unsaid and undone the things that should be said and done because we are nearsighted. We bicker because we assume there will be time, later. Paul called this foolishness, sleepwalking through life (Eph. 5:14-16).

Jesus valued time perfectly. He understood life’s brevity. He lived without regret.

What about us? Will it take a tragedy to get us to slow down? To mend a wound? To love and cherish the people around us?

Saints do not have horns

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

Followers of Christ are forbidden from blasting our horns – doing our good works to be seen of men (Matthew 6:1).

Yet, Jesus also encouraged his disciples to illuminate the world, “that they may see your good works” (Matthew 5:16). Is this a contradiction? Continue reading “Saints do not have horns”

True love

In the upper room, Jesus gave the apostles a new commandment, to love each other. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 ESV).

This new commandment is echoed throughout the letters written by the apostles and writers. John expands on it in his first letter, telling us what love is and what love is not. Continue reading “True love”

Comforting presence

Playground bullies. Fear and stress grow. However, anxieties melt away with just the smile and the reassuring embrace from a loving father. Peace, safety and wholeness fills one’s being.

This is the type of comforting presence the Psalmist describes as he reflected upon his relationship with God. Listen again to his deep soul satisfying relationship. Continue reading “Comforting presence”

Providence happens in a messy world

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by Richard Mansel

God is all-powerful, all-knowing and continually active in this world (Jeremiah 32:17,27; Psalm 103:19; 1 John 3:20; Psalm 139:7-12). He accomplishes his will by acting through providence.

“Providence is the continuous activity of God in His creation by which He guides and governs it for His people’s good and His own ultimate glory.”

Faith in God means that we trust him completely. We allow him to work through and for us because of his divinity and goodness (Hebrews 11:6; Romans 11:33).

Despite God’s power and wisdom, he has limits because he’s given us freewill (1 John 3:4; Romans 1:20-21; John 8:28-29). We can choose to do good or evil (Hebrews 6:4-6). God offers us righteousness, but we must accept his gift.

One of Satan’s greatest weapons is suffering and pain. Even Christians succumb to his lies (John 8:44). Satan tells us that a loving God (Titus 1:2), will not allow evil to happen to us.

On the contrary, Jesus said, “sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34, NKJV).

Faith tells us that God is always working and cannot fail. Yet, we must remember that he works in a sinful world.

  • Providence worked for Paul. Yet, he was arrested, beaten and executed (Acts 21-28).
  • Providence worked for David. Yet, he was on the run for his life (1 Samuel 18-31)
  • Providence worked for Esther. Yet, she was taken from her home and sent to the King’s bed (Esther 2).
  • Providence worked for Daniel and Joseph. Yet, they languished in prison (Genesis 39-40; Daniel).

All these men and women found good at the end of their difficult journey and so will we. We just have to trust God’s Word (Romans 8:28). He will accomplish his work and promises despite the choices and failures of men.

As Christians, we just have to keep walking through the mud to get to the fountain of life. But when we are finally clean and saved, all the heartache will melt away (Revelation 21:1-6).

Building spiritual maturity

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by Richard Mansel, managing editor

The pursuit of spiritual maturity should be the goal of all Christians. We must be transformed as we learn to walk in Christ (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:1).

As preachers and teachers, we must help our fellow Christians grow spiritually by guiding them through God’s Word and teaching them to learn on their own.

Spiritual growth is only possible through Christ. His grace, mercy and longsuffering empower us to endure and the Word guides us through the darkness (John 8:12).

Immersing ourselves in the power of Scripture, we learn the dangerous methods of Satan and how to overcome them (2 Timothy 2:15; 1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:10-17). Christianity is about learning to make sound decisions as we apply God’s Word in the small and large moments of life.

The Holy Spirit lays out in the Bible the perpetual conflict between the spiritual and the fleshly (1 Corinthians 2:13-16). For example, the spiritual will have us love our enemies while the fleshly has us pursuing vengeance (Matthew 5:44).

Jesus consistently exposed this dichotomy. While Jesus taught spiritual lessons, the crowds heard only the fleshly and misunderstood what he was saying (John 6:26-67). The apostles were not immune to this weakness, either (Acts 1:6).

  • Will we do God’s will or our own?
  • Will we follow the flesh or walk in the spirit?
  • Will we pursue the spiritual or the pleasurable?
  • Will we invest in the spiritual or the fleshly world?

Scripture is filled with teachings on how to discern between the spiritual and the fleshly (John 13; Romans 7:11-25; 14:1-8; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, et al). We learn to place a greater emphasis on our soul and less on our earthly possessions (Matthew 6:19-21).

“When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me'” (Mark 8:34, NKJV).

The Gospel of John is saturated with this teaching, and we should do a diligent study of the text because our soul is far more important than anything else we have (Matthew 16:26).