Monthly Archives: November 2019

Feast of St. Andrew: Drawing People to Jesus

“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.’ So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter)” (John 1:35-42; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

One odd irony about the traditional church calendar is the placement of the Feast of St. Andrew, on November 30. Many years, it occurs right after the First Sunday of Advent, making it the first official feast day on the church calendar. However, when Advent begins in December, it becomes the last feast day on the calendar. This can be a little reminder that “the last shall be first and the first shall be last” (Matthew 20:16).

Eastern Orthodox Churches refer to Andrew as the “Protokletos,” meaning the “first-called,” because he was the first apostle to follow Jesus. (Many Bible scholars think that the other disciple in John 1:35-42 was John, but the title still goes to Andrew, who is mentioned by name.) Despite being one of the first men to follow Jesus, Andrew drifts into the background.

Usually, when Andrew is mentioned in the Gospels, he is bringing people to Jesus (John 1:40). First, he introduced his brother Simon to Jesus, who gave him a new name, Peter. Simon Peter, of course, would become the chief apostle after Jesus’ ascension.

Later, Andrew would introduce Jesus to the boy who had five loaves and two fish (John 6:8-9), thereby playing a key role in the feeding of the 5000. A few days before the crucifixion, in John 12:20-22, Andrew and Philip brought some Greeks to meet Jesus.

That sums up the life and ministry of Andrew. He introduced people to Jesus. He ministered quietly. Other people may have received the glory and recognition, but when you think about his life, the history of the Church would be very different if not for his presence.

May we all be a little more like St. Andrew—consistently introducing people to Jesus without regard for recognition and glory.

“Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

God Is Spirit: But, What Is a Spirit?

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23–24; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

In some recent posts, we have thought about some of God’s majestic attributes, the qualities that set Him apart from everything He created. He is self-existent. He is eternal. These qualities are beyond full human comprehension.

Jesus also tells us that “God is spirit.” This can exceed our comprehension as well, even though we have a spiritual nature. We bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26–29); Christians have the Spirit of God dwelling within us (Romans 8:9–11); and we can be spoken of as “spiritual people” (1 Corinthians 2:15). In spite of that, we have a hard time understanding the meaning of the word “spirit.”

Perhaps most of us imagine something spiritual as being somehow less real than the physical world we see. We imagine life in heaven seeming more like a dream than an awakened reality. I suspect that we will be surprised and find that heaven seems even more real than life on earth; after a while in heaven, we might think our earthly lives seemed like a dream we had while asleep. We hear “spirit” and we think of a shapeless transparent ghost.

People in twelve-step recovery groups will say that theirs is a “spiritual program.” Yet, many describe it in terms that can more accurately be described as “psycho-social” rather than “spiritual.” The same confusion can exist in the church.

In light of this, I will share a few thoughts I have had about the concept of “spirit” from the world of science. Keep in mind, I am not a scientist. As an editor, though, I spend a lot of time reading scientific papers. I often watch science programs on television. I am fascinated and curious about many of the theories that float around. As a Christian, I often look at these theories and ask, “Can this relate to the Bible, the Gospel, my faith, etc.? Can this science inform my faith?” So, here are just a few thoughts.

Is the spiritual realm somehow intertwined with the natural realm we see? More than 15 years ago, I came across a book (I wish I remembered the title and author’s name) which looked at the concept of “intelligent design” from a Hindu perspective. Much like Judaeo-Christian creationists, the author believed a divine being created the universe and his handiwork could be seen in the natural realm. He believed you could see scientific evidence supporting the belief that our world was created by a deity. Frequently, he would refer to electrons as “spiritual particles.”

Electrons are interesting. As we learned in high-school chemistry and physics, atoms are composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Electrons have very little mass: so little that, when we refer to the atomic mass of an element, we mean the combined number of protons and neutrons, ignoring electrons. Yet, they have a charge, equal and opposite to that of a proton, which makes them essential to most chemical reactions. The merger or exchange of atoms in the formation or change of molecules is largely the result of electron transfer. They are very small, but they wield great power in the natural realm.

Could electrons or some other subatomic particles be “spiritual particles”?

Is the presence and work of God and spirits evident in the universe, but not adequately explained? Scientists now believe most of the universe is “dark matter” and “dark energy.” They propose that most of the mass and energy in the universe cannot be measured or directly observed. However, this so-called dark matter and energy must be there, because you cannot explain the universe without it. Galaxies are moving apart too quickly. There must be inobservable forces or matter preserving order.

Could it be that the effects of dark matter and energy are nothing more than the work of God Himself as He sustains the universe that He created? Scripture says this about Jesus:

“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).

Are scientists using the term “dark matter” or “dark energy” to refer to the work of Christ?

Does the spiritual realm perhaps exist parallel to the natural world that we see? We think we live in a three-dimensional universe, where things are measurable in terms of height, width, and depth. Albert Einstein’s theories proposed that it is actually a four-dimensional universe, with time being intertwined with these three spatial dimensions. However, some theories propose that space-time has eight or more (I think some scientists have suggested 20 or more) dimensions: They are just as real and physical as the ones we know, but we cannot observe or experience them. Is the “spirit realm,” including heaven, linked to dimensions of space-time that we simply do not see or experience, even though they exist alongside the four dimensions we experience? Could the spirit realm be in, with, and under our natural world, fully a part of it, yet manifested in dimensions we do not see or hear?

Like I said, I am not a scientist, so perhaps I misunderstood and misrepresented some of these theories. I share these ideas to encourage thought, dialog, and reflection. We say that God is a spirit. Christians believe in the presence of spirits, including angels and demons, and we believe that our spirits and souls will live after we die. This is not mere symbolism. When we say that God is a spirit and there are other spirits, we are making a statement about reality, even though we may not fully understand what that reality is. Perhaps one or more of these ideas can help us to envision the spirit world described by the Bible as something that is real, not merely a dream, fantasy, or symbol.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Dwelling in the Eternal God

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalms 90:1-2; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (First Timothy 1:17).

Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

It has been a few weeks since I posted to this blog. At the beginning of November, my wife and I have moved. We live only a few blocks from our old house—we found a bigger apartment—but the quarter-mile relocation has engulfed our time over the last few weeks. We are still unpacking and trying to figure out how we accumulated so much stuff in less than 20 years.

So, the concept of a “dwelling place” seems worth considering. In recent posts, we have looked at some of God’s attributes, including His status as the “self-existent One,” “the Ground of all Being,” etc. A natural outgrowth of that is the fact that God is eternal. An outgrowth of God’s eternal nature is His status as the believer’s dwelling place.

My wife and I have a new dwelling place. Our previous apartment, where we lived for 19 and a half years (since our wedding) is the place where I have lived the longest. I lived in my childhood home for about 17 years. Other homes have ranged from a few months to maybe four years. I have had two long-term dwelling places and several shorter-term addresses.

Yet, God is always our dwelling place. Psalm 90 was written by Moses, who spent much of his life in short-term locations. The Israelites traveled as nomads, setting up short-term camps wherever God directed them, for 40 years. They did not have a permanent earthly abode, but Moses says they did have a spiritual dwelling place. Moses writes that God had been their dwelling place “in all generations.” Wherever they went, God was there. He was their protector and provider. He had been with them since the time Abraham several centuries earlier, and He would continue to be with them. His eternal loving presence would abide with them. He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and continued to fulfill His promises to them and their offspring long after they died.

Because He is the Eternal God, He outlasts our days.

“The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away” (Psalms 90:10).

Most of Psalm 90 focuses on the difference between God’s eternal nature and our temporary status. Seventy or 80 years is a long time for us, but 1000 years is like a few hours to God. We think 70 or 80 years is a long time, but it is a mere blink in the eyes of God:

“For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night” (Psalms 90:4).

Paul’s praise to God, expressed in 1 Timothy 1:17, follows a passage where he testifies about how Jesus, by His grace, had radically transformed his life. God’s eternal majesty is linked to His grace, love, and mercy.

Since God is eternal, we can trust Him with our lives. Even if His plans make no sense to us, He knows what He is doing. Our lives are only 70 or 80 years long, and we have enough trouble seeing how our current circumstances will affect events five years from now. On the other hand, God’s work in our lives can have a long-term lasting impact. Our lives are short and we cannot see tomorrow, but God can use our lives to impact future generations.

Because God is eternal, He is able to offer us a life that is eternal. Our earthly time is short. Since 1000 years are like yesterday in God’s eyes, a millennium will be short compared to our entire existence beyond the grave. Perhaps the apostles are still thinking “We just got here!” in heaven. Long after the sun has ceased shining, God’s people will still be celebrating in heaven. As we share in the eternal life of Christ, we will last beyond time. Because He lives forever and we live in Him, our lives are eternal. He is our eternal dwelling place.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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