What do you do when the answer is no?
Do you get frustrated? Angry? Do you feel out of control?
Lately, a lot of us are hearing no on a regular basis. No, we can’t go see our family or friends. No, we can’t go out. No, we can’t take that trip. Sure, we can think of things to do at home—try that recipe (if you can get the ingredients), tackle that project, garden, wash our hands—but we’re used to having the freedom to do so much more, and now we can’t.
It reminds me of other times I’ve encountered a lot of no’s.
COVID-19 is now all the news, all the time. Many of the articles and newscasts appear designed to inspire fear and create panic. Dire predictions dominate, not only of people getting sick and dying, but of shortages and an economic depression. With all the closures and cancellations affecting us daily, it’s easy to buy in, to start building our own hoard of masks, disinfectant, and whatever else we determine we can’t live without, and to succumb to anxiety.
But wait. God hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s still in control. He still loves us. Worry is the opposite of faith—a way of telling God we don’t trust Him to care for us (see 1 Peter 5:7). Perhaps all this disruption is a reminder that we’re not the ones running the show. That we need to keep an eternal perspective. Perhaps God is giving us an opportunity to love one another.
If you follow the church calendar, we’re now in the season of Lent, a time of introspection and confession leading up to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. The idea is to do some personal housecleaning, and hopefully grow closer to God as a result. Instead of giving up meat—or chocolate, or TV (which I rarely watch anyway), I’m trying something a bit different this year. Since I’ve been reading Deuteronomy, I’m asking God to search my heart as I focus on each of the Ten Commandments. How am I doing with obeying God?
One of the most controversial subjects in the church is that of creation. Did God create the world in billions of years, or six, 24-hour days? Did it happen by a Big Bang, or did God breath creation into existence a few thousand years ago? Did animals evolve on their own, under God’s direction, or were they created in less than a week? What kind of day is “yom” referring to? How does a believer reconcile faith and science?
Are you a selective Christian? A Biblical cherry-picker? Are there some parts of God’s word that you embrace, and others that you disagree with, and therefore ignore?
To be honest, I think we all do that to some extent. I have short hair, in spite of Paul’s words to the Corinthians (see 1 Corinthians 11:15). I don’t stay silent in the church, either, even though some commentators believe 1 Corinthians 14:34 tells me I should. Am I doing something wrong?
It was “Mission Sunday” at our church. Our pastor preached on Jonah’s call to Nineveh, and linked that story to Jesus’ last words, when He commanded us to go to the nations:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 18:18-20)
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)
Last December, I turned 65. I have a Medicare card. I can take money out of an IRA without penalty. I get senior discounts. I’m officially “old.” I’m torn between aging gracefully and fighting it with great vigor, but no matter how I look at it, I’m 65.
But wait! If a Norwegian bioethicist has his way, I could legally change my age to 50! After all, I don’t feel 65. I still work part time, I go to the Y, and I have plans—lots of plans. So why not? Joona Räsänen, at the University of Oslo, has published a paper titled “Moral Case for Legal Age Change.” The underlying logic says that since there may be a difference between one’s chronological age and their biological and/or emotional age, we should be allowed to choose our age. Anything else is ageism.
It started so innocently. I slid open the freezer bin and pulled out the frozen bell pepper I’d been slicing for my veggie eggs every morning. (I’ve found that peppers freeze very well, as long as you’re going to cook them—they tend to be a little mushy upon defrosting.) Normally, I have to run some hot water over the pepper before I can get my knife through it, but this time, I had no problem. Yes, it was frozen, but not as rock hard as I expected.
Hmmm, I thought. Maybe the freezer is going through its defrosting cycle. No worries.
Come early afternoon. I decided to finish off my lunch with a tiny scoop of ice cream. The carton seemed a bit… squishy. And when I dug in my spoon, I realized that the remaining rocky road was soup. Then I noticed the growing puddle on the kitchen floor. The ice cubes were melting. Oh no.
As you made your New Year’s resolutions, perhaps you committed to read through the entire Bible this year. You’ll start in Genesis and finish in Revelation, and you are determined to plow straight through. No skipping the boring parts.
Yes, we start with great intentions. We zoom through Genesis and Exodus, although the detailed descriptions of the tabernacle slow us down a bit. So do all those laws. But it’s when we get to the genealogies that we really get stuck. We stoically plug along until we compromise and skim over all those names, but why not? What could we possibly learn from reading lists of people, most of whom we know nothing about? Lists are boring!
But wait. This is the book that God wrote! How can there be boring parts? As I once again found myself plodding through the begats, I thought—maybe I’m missing something.
Yes indeed I was.
Our missions pastor recently showed this video in our “Outreach” adult Sunday School class. I was astounded.
I have known for years that Biblical names have meanings. For example, Abram means “exalted father” while Abraham means “father of nations”—a fitting sobriquet for a man who literally fathered nations through his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. But did you realize that the meanings of the names listed in the “boring” genealogies actually tell a story? Watch and learn, and be amazed:
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found at the very end of Matthew. It’s part of the Great Commission. We usually focus on the “doing” part of this paragraph, where Jesus tells us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
But there’s more to this passage. In fact, we can’t obey this command unless we also include both the verse immediately before it and the verse that follows. What comes first? Jesus announces that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go…”