And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 22, Number
In this issue:
If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, perhaps it is that there are things beyond our control. New strains of viruses and maladies arise, and we are not always prepared to respond adequately. But we must learn to live with them. Some things are out of our control. (Ecclesiastes teaches us this fundamental lesson about life on earth.)
Today was the scheduled launch of the NASA/SpaceX rocket, a return to manned space launches from U.S. soil. But, bad weather forced a delay until Saturday. Some things are out of our control.
At the same time, hopefully, the virus crisis has taught us some things are under our control. We can make choices intended to protect and preserve life (like washing our hands, social distancing, and face covers). We can (and should) also make choices designed to protect and preserve spiritual life.
I heard a doctor say the coronavirus does not respond to prayer, but science. He missed the crucial point. God hears and answers our prayers (whatever level of control we may have or not have over them). Things under God’s power (which is everything) respond to His will in answer to our prayers (Jas. 5:14-16).
Therefore, just like the persistent widow in the parable of Luke 18:1-5, we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.” If the persistent pleadings of a widow can move a worldly judge, the persistent prayers of God’s children will move our God to act in loving and just ways (Lk. 18:6-8). The real question is, do we have the faith to keep on praying to the Lord while continuing to be faithful to Him? Or, will we be overwhelmed with doubt and stop relying on God when things are beyond our control? “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Lk. 18:8).
When things are “beyond our control,” as well as when we can impact our situations and outcomes, we must remember that our Father is Sovereign, and He rules over all (Eph. 4:5). We put our trust in Him.
When we forget to say, “If the Lord wills, we will both live and do this or that,” we overlook there are things beyond our control (such as life’s uncertainty and brevity, Jas. 4:13-15). When we depend on God and continue to do His will faithfully, the confidence of our faith in Him replaces anxiety over life’s uncertainties with setting practical priorities that bring peace to the soul (Matt. 6:25-34).
The following believed in creation:
Jesus: “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female’” (Mark 10:6).
Early Christians: “So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,” (Acts 4:24).
Paul and Barnabas: “We also are men of like passions with you, and bring you good tidings, that ye should turn from these vain things unto a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them is” (Acts 14:15).
John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1-3).
Peter: “knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,” (2 Peter 3:3-5).
OT Men and Women of Faith: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).
Heavenly beings: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11).
Newsweek ran a cover story on July 20, 1998, entitled “Science Finds God,” which explored the idea that modern science increasingly provides opportunities for the coexistence of faith and science. In other words, science and faith do not have to be viewed as enemies. Bible believers have been saying this all along. While the Bible is not a science textbook, it contains statements that reveal a knowledge of how the universe operates. “The intention of (the Bible) is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how the heavens go” (Roman Catholic priest, circa 1633). Science addresses how the universe functions. The Bible addresses why the universe functions as it does (Psa. 8; 19:1-4; 50:6; Rom. 1:20).
More and more, the discoveries of science confirm the presence of our Creator and Sustainer. The order and design of the universe drive us to a definite conclusion: There is a First Cause who designed and created the cosmos (Prov. 8:12, 22-31).
By faith, we understand this to be the God of the Bible (Gen. 1-2; Heb. 11:3; Jno. 1:1-3).
-Reprint and edited
Saul had not been home for a long time. Facing mounting opposition and threats due to his newfound faith, his friends urged him to return to the place of his youth for safety’s sake, and he consented to their counsel. After enjoying the security and familiarity that home affords, one of those same friends visited him, bringing exciting news of significant advancements in their mutual faith. His help was needed, and he was eager to do so. Thus began Saul’s work of preaching the gospel alongside Barnabas (Acts 9:26-30; 11:22-26).
Their work in Antioch was challenging and rewarding. Many people learned the gospel through the work of Saul, Barnabas, and others (Acts 11:26; 13:1-2). While in Antioch, the Holy Spirit called Saul and Barnabas to a new arena of work, and they traveled to Gentile regions preaching the gospel (Acts 13-14). This new phase in Saul’s life saw many successes and trials. The superiority of God’s truth exposed and conquered the mythologies of heathenism as the gospel of Christ saved many lost souls.
But once again, opposition grew. Persecution arose in Antioch of Pisidia. Enemies formed a murderous plot against them in Iconium. In Lystra (where the pagans initially thought they were gods), their adversaries pursued them and stirred up the people until Paul was stoned and left for dead. Those were dangerous and wondrous days for Paul and Barnabas.
Why didn’t Paul just go back home to Tarsus from Lystra? After all, the Cilician Gates were nearby (the passage through the Tarsus Mountains from the interior of Asia Minor to the coastal regions of Cilicia). His hometown (Tarsus) was almost in sight. What a tempting thought: Home! Friends and companions! Acceptance! People who know you and care about you. Safety and peace! But, Paul did not go home to Tarsus. In fact, after preaching in Derbe, he went back through the very same cities where people wanted to kill him. What compelled Paul to hazard death rather than seek refuge back home?
Paul was traveling to a different home. He knew this world was no longer his home, so he pressed on toward his heavenly home (Phil. 3:12-16). His citizenship was in heaven, and so is ours (Phil. 3:20; 2 Cor. 5:1). Had he been seeking comfort and convenience, he could have avoided trouble and found respite in hometown Tarsus. But, he had not finished his work. Heaven was ahead, and he was homeward bound (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
Brethren, our work is not over, either (Heb. 12:1-2). We have not been beaten and stoned like Paul. We have not had murderous men following us from place to place because of our faith.
So, what is keeping us from faithfully working for Christ? Are we heavenward bound, or are we bound to the things of this world (Heb. 11:14-16)? Our daily lives answer whether we are homeward bound.
-Reprint and edited
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Stirring Up Strife
The vivid video of George Floyd’s final moments on this earth is horrible and sears the mind with the question, “Why?” The four Minneapolis policemen involved in Floyd’s death have been fired. Investigations have begun, but no criminal charges have been filed as of this writing. (We hope all the facts will come out and justice will prevail.) Protests (some violent), looting, and the destruction of property have also started (“Protests over death of George Floyd disrupt Minneapolis, and beyond,” washingtonpost.com). The local police chief said outsiders are stirring up mayhem in Minneapolis (Ibid).
We do well to contemplate what God’s word says stirs up strife. When we identify the source of conflict, God’s solution can be applied to resolve disputes and discord.
1) Hatred stirs up strife. “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins” (Prov. 10:12). Love is the path of peace.
2) Wrath stirs up strife. “A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention” (Prov. 15:18). “An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgression” (Prov. 29:22). Grievances may exist, but anger is not the solution. Sober minded self-control is needed to address and solve discord.
3) Pride stirs up strife. “He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the LORD will be prospered” (Prov. 28:25). “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom” (Prov. 13:10). Humility, faith, and wisdom avert conflict. So, treat others with humility.
4) Perversity stirs up strife. “Perversity is in his heart, he devises evil continually, He sows discord” (Prov. 6:14). Fraudulent, deceitful motives provoke conflict and chaos.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). So, “if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18).
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 05/29/2020
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA