A Sign of Love

Facemask

We are in the midst of fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 has spread rapidly around the world. We are currently doing all we can to stop the spread of the virus. This includes lockdowns and social distancing and face masks.

Historically, face masks have been used as means to prevent the getting the disease. However, due to the nature of COVID-19, this has changed. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that studies have revealed that “a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms” (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html).

This means that we all need to change our perspective on face masks. Face masks are not just for those who want to prevent sickness. Face masks are also for those who might be sick and who might transmit COVID-19. Thus, “CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission” (ibid).

For face masks to be accepted in our culture, we need to begin understanding that those in public with face masks on are not trying to protect themselves, but are actually trying to protect others. In this way, they are actually showing love to all of us. Face masks are a sign of live.

This is similar to the cross of Christ. The cross was an emblem of sin and shame (Hebrews 12:2). Yet, Jesus went to the cross as an act of love for us. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It was upon the cross that Jesus “bore our sins in his body” (1 Peter 2:24).

For those who don’t believe in Jesus, they need to change their perspective about the cross. It’s not a sign of sin and shame. It’s a sign of love.

Perspicuity

Perspecuity

Theologians often talk about “The Perspicuity of Scripture.” That is, the clarity of Scripture. Theologians use this phrase to explain how the Bible is plain for all to read and to comprehend.

To be sure, there are some passages in the Bible that are difficult to understand. Even Peter agrees on this point. He commented on Paul’s letters by saying, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). Further, there are many passages that speak of the spiritual blindness (Matthew 13:11-13; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

Yet, for the most part, the Bible is very easily read and understood. It is filled with many stories of heroes and villains, which are easily grasped by children. It tells plainly of how to be made right with God: through faith in Jesus.

How ironic that theologians have chosen such a difficult word (perspicuity) to explain how easy the Bible is to understand.

Betcha can’t eat just one!

BetchaCantEatJustOne

In the 1960’s the Frito-Lay company introduced it’s famous slogan, “Betcha can’t eat just one!” They popularized it by a very successful advertisement campaign both in print and on television.

We all have experienced it. We eat one potato chip and it tastes so good that we crave another one. This often leads to many more chips being consumed. There’s something about the fat and the seasonings on the chip lead us to crave more and more. Even when we aren’t hungry, once tasted, the chips can seem irresistible. It’s called “hedonic hyperphagia,” eating for pleasure.

The same is often true with sin. Rare is the time that we only commit one sin. Sin will often lead to more sin, either because we desire the pleasure or because we are forced to deal with the consequences.

This was the case with Adam and Eve. She sinned by eating the forbidden fruit. She further sinned by enticing her husband. They both sinned by trying to hide their sin from God. You can read about it in Genesis 3.

This was the case with king David. He sinned with Bathsheba. It didn’t stop there. It continued on with his cover-up plan. When Uriah didn’t go along with the plan, he ended up having him killed in battle. Then, more and more deceit as David refused to acknowledge his sin. You can read all about it in 2 Samuel 11-12.

The solution is to be aware of this tendency of our hearts and confess our sin quickly. David explained his trouble. “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long” (Psalm 32:3). But when he confessed his sin to the Lord (Psalm 32:5), he found great blessing (Psalm 32:1-2).

Show Me!

MissouriWelcomeSign

Willard Duncan Vandiver of Missouri served in the United States House of Representatives from 1897 to 1903. In the middle of his service, in 1899, he gave a speech at a naval banquet in Philadelphia in which he said, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.” And ever since, Missouri has been known as, “The Show-Me State.”

In fact, it’s their state motto. They are known today as “The Show-Me State.” It’s an attitude that is held by those in Missouri. They are not a gullible people. Regardless of how fine-sounding your argument may appear, they won’t take your word for it. They need sufficient evidence to believe anything.

In this way, those from Missouri share a characteristic of a Biblical character named Thomas. He’s the one who has come to be known as “Doubting Thomas.” You might easily call him, “Thomas from Missouri.”

After the other disciples had seen Jesus, risen from the dead, He was the one who said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25). In effect, he said, “Show me!” Eight days later, he had the opportunity to see!

Truly, it was a great blessing to Thomas to be able to see and believe. Yet, the greater blessing belongs to those who believe without seeing. Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Lighthouse

Lighthouse

A typical lighthouse is a tall tower built near dangerous coastlines to help those navigating boats near the shore. Before the days of GPS, they served an essential role for those at sea. They stood as a warning to ships approaching the shore, as maritime pilots could see the light on the shore. In times of low visibility, they were able to create sound using horns, bells or cannons. Another purpose was to provide a navigational aid, as those on the sea were able to identify them by their varying stripe patterns. They also provided light for navigating into shore.

In the same way, Jesus is our lighthouse. His words warn us. His words guide us. Jesus warns us of dangers self-righteousness (Matthew 23) and the vanity of pursuing the world (Matthew 16:26). Jesus guides us in the ways of life, safe in the harbor. How appropriate that Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Early MMA

mma

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a violent combat sport. It’s a mix of boxing and wrestling. Competitors begin each round on their feet, prancing around about like boxers. At some point, the fighters usually hit the ground in an all-out wrestling match to bring their opponent to submission.

Rules have changed in recent years to make the sport safer for its competitors. The sport used to be promoted as a “no rules, fight-to-the-death” match between competitors. To be fair, it wasn’t really “fight to the death.” And there were some rules. Biting and eye-gouging and hair-pulling and head-butting and groin-shots were all illegal. However, the brutality was very legal.

In the early days, competitors faced each other in an eight-sided cage (still do) with no judges, time limits or rounds. Every fight finished with a knockout, submission, or throwing in the towel. The fights were so violent, that in 1996 former Senator John McCain called the sport, “human cock-fighting” and sought to make it illegal in all 50 states.  As a result, rules have been implemented to make today’s sport less barbaric than it originated.

When Paul describes the spiritual battle that believers face against the demonic forces of the world, he likens it to a spiritual wrestling match. “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

When we think of wrestling, we often think of the high school sport, where skinny boys grapple on a soft mat against each other. It is likely, however, that Paul was thinking of Pankration, an ancient form of wrestling very similar to the early days of MMA. Paul surely knew of the sport. Surely the violent nature of the spiritual battle that we face in the spiritual realm was in Paul’s mind, not the sanitized sport of wrestling today.  The devil hardly plays by the rules. So, when you read of the spiritual wrestling in Ephesians 6:12, the early years of MMA is probably a good image to have in mind.

Future Immanuel

Immanuel

One of the names given to Jesus is “Immanuel” (Matthew 1:23). Literally, this means, “with us God.” In better English, we say, “God with us.” This is the great reality of Christmas: that God came down from heaven to dwell with us on earth. This all took place in the past.

Another reality of Immanuel is often missed. It’s Immanuel in the future. When believers enter heaven to dwell with God forever, it will again be “God with us.” This is what Jesus promised to those who believe in him. “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).

The picture of the new heaven in Revelation expresses this reality with these words. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3). This is the great reality of eternity. Believers in Christ will experience “Immanuel” forever.

Closed-Minded or Open-Minded?

Open-Minded-Closed-Minded

Christians are often accused of being closed-minded. That is, they won’t budge on certain moral issues. However, the only reason why they are closed-minded is because their minds have been opened. When Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, we read that Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45).

It is understandable, then, why Christians come across as closed-minded: they hold to the unchangeable truths of Scripture. The Scriptures speak clearly about the sanctity of life and the sovereignty of God and the sacrifice of Jesus and sexual purity. On these items, their minds have been made up. But the reason why they think this way is because their minds have been opened to the Scriptures.

So, are Christians closed-minded or open-minded?

The Last Words of Buddha

Buddha

Buddha is the common name of a monk who lived in ancient India hundreds of years before Jesus. He was a philosopher and teacher. His teachings are the foundation of Buddhism.

He spent many years of his life traveling and teaching. At the core of Buddha’s teaching was the way to escape the endless cycle of suffering, dying, and rebirth to experience it all again. The escape comes through following the right path of moral virtue and meditation and wisdom.

It is no surprise, then, that Buddha’s last words express the same importance on your own efforts to find liberation. He said, “Work hard to gain your own salvation. Do your best.”

These words stand in stark contrast to the last words of Jesus Christ.  While dying upon the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Not only was the life of Jesus finished, but his work was finished as well. His death was the final sacrifice for sin. We no longer need to work for our salvation. We need to believe in the work of Jesus, accomplished on our behalf.

These words demonstrate the difference between Buddhism and Christianity. Buddhism is about working and striving and seeking to obtain your own salvation. Christianity is about trusting and resting in the work of Jesus, who obtained our salvation for us.

Joy Turned to Sorrow

AngenetteMarieWelk

I read this morning of the tragic story of Angenette Marie Welk. On May 10 2018, she was drinking and driving. Around noon, she failed to brake in time to avoid hitting the stopped Hyundai Elantra in front of her. The driver of the vehicle survived the crash, but the mother of the driver, 60 year-old Sandra Clarkson, suffered critical injuries and died four days later in the hospital.

After the crash, the police arrested Welk and charged her with DUI, as her blood alcohol level was 0.172%, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08%. In her mugshot that afternoon, she projected a large smile on her face. The mugshot went viral as she appeared to show little remorse for what happened.

Welk isn’t smiling any more. On May 16, 2019, she entered the courtroom with a very different demeanor. She sobbed in sorrow as she addressed the family of the woman she killed in the crash. She said, “I am so sorry. Your mother is woven within my DNA. I think of her every single day. I dream about her every single night. And I am truly, truly sorry. If I could change spots with your mother, I would in a heartbeat.” Soon afterwards, she was sentenced to 11 years in prison and 15 years of probation. Further, she must write a letter every year in May to document what she has learned from the crash.

It’s a very sad story. I couldn’t help but to think of joy turned to sorrow. The pictures above tell it all.

The pictures of Welk will be the pictures of many for eternity. Jesus spoke about how this happened in the days of Noah. “They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:27). Jesus gives the picture of a joyful people, enjoying the pleasures of life. Smiles all around. But this changed in a moment when the flood came. The joy in those days was quickly turned to sorrow.

And Jesus warns that such will happen again. He said, “Just as in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:26). There are many today who are eating and drinking and enjoying themselves. But there will be a day when it all changes. No longer will there be joy, but sorrow. It will change on the day when Christ returns.

The good news is that we can avoid the sorrows of the day by trusting in Christ, giving our lives to him. Jesus promised, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it” (Luke 17:33).