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Something Deep and Binding

By |2022-05-22T09:06:04-04:00May 22nd, 2022|

Amina, an Iraqi immigrant, and Joseph, an American from birth, attended a political protest on opposite sides. We’ve been taught to believe that those who are separated by ethnicity and politics carry unbridled animosity toward each other. However, when a small mob accosted Joseph, trying to set his shirt on fire, Amina rushed to his defense. “I don’t think we could be any further apart as people,” Joseph told a reporter, “and yet, it was just kinda like this common ‘that’s not OK’ moment.” Something deeper than politics knit Amina and Joseph together.

Though we often have genuine disagreements with one another—substantial differences we often can’t ignore—there are far deeper realities that bind us together. We’re all created by God and bound together in one beloved human family. God has created each of us—regardless of gender, social class, ethnic identity or political persuasion—“in his own image” (Genesis 1:26). Whatever else might be true, God is reflected in both you and me. Further, He’s given us a shared purpose to “fill” and “rule” God’s world with wisdom and care (v. 28).

Whenever we forget how we’re bound together in God, we do damage to ourselves and others. But whenever we come together in His grace and truth, we participate in His desire to make a good and flourishing world.

For Others’ Sake

By |2021-10-10T09:06:02-04:00October 10th, 2021|

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Singaporeans stayed home to avoid being infected. But I blissfully continued swimming, believing it was safe.

My wife, however, feared that I might pick up an infection at the public pool and pass it on to her aged mother—who, like other seniors, were more vulnerable to the virus. “Can you just avoid swimming for some time, for my sake?” she asked.

At first, I wanted to argue that there was little risk. Then I realized that this mattered less than her feelings. Why would I insist on swimming—hardly an essential thing—when it made her worry unnecessarily?

In Romans 14, Paul addressed issues like whether believers in Christ should eat certain foods or celebrate certain festivals. He was concerned that some people were imposing their views on others.

Paul reminded the church in Rome, and us, that believers in Jesus may view situations differently. We also have diverse backgrounds that color our attitudes and practices. He wrote, “Let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister” (v. 13).

God’s grace gives us great freedom even as it helps us express His love to fellow believers. We can use that freedom to put the spiritual needs of others above our own convictions about rules and practices that don’t contradict the essential truths found in the gospel (v. 20).

Current Battles

By |2021-10-07T09:06:09-04:00October 7th, 2021|

When you plug in your toaster, you benefit from the results of a bitter feud from the late nineteenth century. Back then, inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla battled over which was the best kind of electricity for development: direct current (DC), like the current that goes from a battery to a flashlight; or alternating current (AC), which we get from an electrical outlet.

Eventually, Tesla’s AC ideas powered through and have been used to provide electricity for homes, businesses, and communities around the world. AC is much more efficient at sending electricity across great distances and proved to be the wiser choice.

Sometimes we need wisdom as we face issues of concern between believers in Jesus (see Romans 14:1–12). The apostle Paul called for us to seek God’s help for clarity in such matters. He said, “If on some point you think differently, that too will God make clear to you” (Philippians 3:15). A few verses later, we see the results of two people who let a difference divide them—a conflict that grieved Paul: “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord” (4:2).

Whenever a disagreement starts to tear us apart, may we seek God’s grace and wisdom in the Scriptures, the counsel of mature believers, and prayer. Let’s strive to “be of the same mind” in Him (v. 2).

Like a Symphony

By |2021-09-10T09:06:06-04:00September 10th, 2021|

I surprised my wife with concert tickets to listen to a performer she’d always wanted to see. The gifted singer was accompanied by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and the setting was the matchless venue at Red Rocks—an open-air amphitheater built between two three hundred-foot rock formations at more than 6,000 feet above sea level. The orchestra played a number of well-loved classical songs and folk tunes. Their final number was a fresh treatment of the classic hymn, “Amazing Grace.” The beautiful, harmonized arrangement took our breath away!

There’s something beautiful about harmony—individual instruments playing together in a way that creates a bigger and more layered sonic landscape. The apostle Paul pointed to the beauty of harmony when he told the Philippians to be “like-minded,” have “the same love,” and be “one in spirit and . . . mind” (Philippians 2:2). He wasn’t asking them to become identical but to embrace the humble attitude and self-giving love of Jesus. The gospel, as Paul well knew and taught, doesn’t erase our distinctions, but it can eliminate our divisions.

It’s also interesting that Paul’s words here are a prelude for a song he quotes (vv. 6–11). Here’s the point: When we allow the Holy Spirit to work through our distinct lives and contexts, making us more like Jesus, together we becomes a symphony that reverberates with a humble Christlike love.

Jesus Is Our Peace

By |2021-07-29T09:06:02-04:00July 29th, 2021|

A monk named Telemachus lived a quiet life, but his death at the end of the fourth century changed the world. Visiting Rome from the East, Telemachus intervened in the blood sport of the gladiatorial arena. He jumped over the stadium wall and tried to stop the gladiators from killing each other. But the outraged crowd stoned the monk to death. The emperor Honorius, however, was moved by Telemachus’ act and decreed the end of the 500-year practice of gladiator games.

When Paul calls Jesus “our peace,” he refers to the end of hostility between Jews and gentiles (Ephesians 2:14). God’s chosen people Israel were distinct from the nations and enjoyed certain privileges. For instance, while gentiles were allowed to worship at the Jerusalem temple, a dividing wall restricted them to the outer court—on punishment of death. Jews regarded gentiles unclean, and they experienced mutual hostility. But now, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection for all, both Jew and gentile can worship God freely through faith in Him (vv. 18–22). There’s no dividing wall. There’s no privilege of one group over the other. Both are equal in their standing before God.

Just as Telemachus brought peace to warriors through his death, so Jesus makes peace and reconciliation possible for all who believe in Him through His death and resurrection. So, if Jesus is our peace, let’s not let our differences divide us. He’s made us one by His blood.

Zax Nature

By |2020-10-08T09:06:03-04:00October 8th, 2020|

In one of Dr. Seuss’s whimsical stories, he tells of a “North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax” crossing the Prairie of Prax. Upon meeting nose to nose, neither Zax will step aside. The first Zax angrily vows to stay put—even if it makes “the whole world stand still.” (Unfazed, the world moves on and builds a highway around them.)

The tale offers an uncomfortably accurate picture of human nature. We possess a reflexive “need” to be right, and we’re prone to stubbornly cling to that instinct in rather destructive ways!

Happily for us, God lovingly chooses to soften stubborn human hearts. The apostle Paul knew this, so when two members of the Philippian church were squabbling, he loved them enough to call them out (Philippians 4:2). Then, having earlier instructed the believers to have “the same mindset” of self-giving love as Christ (2:5–8), Paul asked them to “help these women,” valued coworkers with him in sharing the gospel (4:3). It seems peacemaking and wise compromise call for team effort.

Of course there are times to take a firm stand, but a Christ-like approach will look a lot different than an unyielding Zax! So many things in life are not worth fighting over. We can bicker with each other over every trivial concern until we destroy ourselves (Galatians 5:15). Or we can swallow our pride, graciously receive wise counsel, and seek unity with our brothers and sisters.

Sweeter Than Honey

By |2020-05-20T16:45:59-04:00May 26th, 2020|

His topic was racial tension. Yet the speaker remained calm and collected. Standing on stage before a large audience, he spoke boldly—but with grace, humility, kindness, and even humor. Soon the tense audience visibly relaxed, laughing along with the speaker about the dilemma they all faced: how to resolve their hot issue, but cool down their feelings and words. Yes, how to tackle a sour topic with sweet grace...

In Tune with the Spirit

By |2020-05-08T16:22:11-04:00May 15th, 2020|

As I listened to the piano tuner work on the elegant grand piano, I thought about the times when I’d heard that very same piano pour out the incredible sound of the “Warsaw Concerto” and the rich melody of “How Great Thou Art.” But now the instrument desperately needed to be tuned. While some notes were right on pitch, others were sharp or flat, creating an unpleasant sound...

Community Memory

By |2020-04-30T13:25:10-04:00May 2nd, 2020|

In his book Restless Faith, theologian Richard Mouw talks about the importance of remembering the lessons of the past. He quotes sociologist Robert Bellah, who said that “healthy nations must be ‘communities of memory.’ ” Bellah extended that principle to other societal bonds such as families. Remembering is an important part of living in community...

Divided in Love

By |2020-02-12T13:31:48-05:00February 16th, 2020|

When public debate erupted over a controversial Singapore law, it divided believers with differing views. Some called others “narrow-minded” or accused them of compromising their faith. Controversies can cause sharp divisions among God’s family, bringing much hurt and discouraging people. I’ve been made to feel small over personal convictions on how I apply the Bible’s teachings to my life...

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