by Ben Peeler, Resident Mentor
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:23-25)
I'm not sure how much this passage has occurred to you during these times, but it was brought to my attention recently that our church may be disobeying this clear command. Was I missing something in understand this passage in light of the current restrictions from assembling surrounding the Coronavirus?
First, we need to look at this original audience. The writer of Hebrews addressed this letter to Messianic Jews scattered throughout the Roman Empire who were battling temptations to return to Judaism. Because of the particular social, political, and religious pressures they faced, these young Christians needed a strong reminder that Jesus was better than everything else. For these Christians, at best facing social prejudice, and at worst physical torture/ death, they desperately needed each other!
We have to understand commands and instructions in the way they were intended to be taken, and not pull them out of context as proof texts. The writer of Hebrews was addressing men and women whose great temptation was to turn their backs on Jesus and return to the yoke of bondage (as Paul called it in Galatians). They needed one another, as Christians today do too. Those believers who patterned their lives by not associating with other Christians, but rather distanced themselves from the body were not just hurting themselves but hurting others and disobeying God.
This brings us to the issue of what we should do today in light of the Coronavirus. Churches have not met for close to 6 weeks now and this command in Hebrews seems to be more and more relevant. But should it be? Are we Christians willingly neglecting to meet together? Are we living our lives as if God and His Church didn't exist? I think for most of us, that is very far from the truth. Still, this time should cause us as Christians to take inventory of our lives before things were put on hold. How faithful were we to our assembly before the Coronavirus? How valuable was Jesus' church to us before we were "forbidden" from attending? For some of us, our attendance wasn't what it should be. Of course, if you were totally committed to gathering, then praise be to God! But we can all use this time to reset our priorities and re-center our entire lives around what truly matters: Christ and His church.
The writer of Hebrews added a purpose behind meeting together-- ministry to one another. He wrote that we are to "stir one another to love and good works." Even though we cannot assemble, we can still accomplish some of our duty through the wonder of technology. Are we taking advantage of the venues our church is offering to connect? We should be! This is a time to draw close to one another whenever possible, not pull apart. While it may be the habit of some to neglect assembly with and ministry to the body, may it never be said of us!
Christ's commands are still in effect. We live in unique times, and Romans 13 gives us clear commands about respecting governing authorities. So, while we may need to suspend assembling, we can still move forward in ministry and obey Christ. Love God. Love His Church. Be all in when this time of sickness has passed and even now!
by Matt Bohin, Residence Hall Supervisor
We are a people often laden with anxiety, worry, fear, and depression. At times like these our sins and struggles become more magnified than we ever thought possible. Perhaps as you read this you’ve wrestled with wave upon wave of fear or depression stemming from the world’s circumstances. You may even know people who are wondering where to look for help.
One of the most helpful books I’ve read on dealing with these issues is God is More than Enough by BJU’s very own Dr. Jim Berg. In it, Dr. Berg seeks to unmask the underlying causes of anxiety, guilt, anger, and depression. Ultimately, a proper belief in God quiets the noisy soul.
If you’ve never read the book, Dr. Berg graciously explains how people come to points of utter despair, anger, or worry. He concludes that “unbelief” is “the mother sin- it gives birth to all the others” (36). At the heart of our struggles is a fantasy world where God isn’t at the center. Dr. Berg then explains how God’s glorious attributes combat unbelief and its effects. He points us to God’s love, mercy, faithfulness, power, and wisdom as stabilizing principles which ease the noise of anxiety, anger, guilt, and depression.
Why do I like this book so much? Here are three reasons:
So, if you need a resource to help with increasing despair, anxiety, guilt, or anger, take a look at God is More than Enough.
By Ethan Hamilton, Residence Hall Supervisor
by Rachel Dahlhausen, Women's Counselor
Living back at home with family, particularly during a stay-at-home order, brings out the good, the bad, and the ugly in us and in those around us. I grew up in a wonderful Christian home. Still, as a college student, I remember the frustrated, sick feeling I would get after what seemed like every interaction I had with one of my siblings. No matter how a conversation started, it felt like it always ended in an argument. I began to dread sitting together at meals because of the “inevitable” conflict that would ensue. Bitterness started to creep into my heart like the Kudzu vines in the South, slowly eating away at the good and turning the whole relationship into something tangled and brown.
Conflict can look like arguments and yelling. It can look like silent treatment and avoidance. It can, sadly, even look like physical abuse or cruelty. Certainly, if your situation is unsafe in any way because of other’s sin against you, please reach out immediately for help from civil authorities, a godly pastor, and a biblical counselor. Maybe you are trying to navigate life in a house filled with verbal time bombs, or maybe you are ashamed of the harsh words and fierce anger of your own heart towards someone you love. Whether you live in a home where Christ is honored or where you are the only Christian, we all need help and hope from God regarding how to handle conflict. There is much that the Scripture gives to guide us, but today we will focus on three foundational principles.
1. Acknowledge the Real Source of Conflict
James 4:1 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”
The Bible teaches us that conflict comes from the passions of our own hearts. Other people can live selfishly or speak unkindly, and God will hold them accountable for their behavior, but we are responsible from what comes out of us in response. We sin because we are self-centered and want our own way. Jesus said that it is what comes out of one’s heart that defiles a person (Mk. 7:15). Conflict usually arises because I am not getting to rule my “kingdom” the way I want to. I want things to go my way! I must acknowledge my sin in a conflict and be willing to humbly confess it as sin and turn to God in repentance. I must repent of my ruling passions, the heart desires that fuel the conflict in my life.
2. Remember Your Christ and Your New Identity
By faith I look to Christ. I remember His work on the cross and His full forgiveness for every sin. I rehearse how I am now “in Christ”, a phrase used over seventy-five times in the Bible! To be “in Him” means I have received every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3). I am forgiven. I am loved. I am empowered. I am accepted. I am set apart for God. I am no longer a slave to sin (Rom. 6:4). I now live for my created purpose—to worship God and enjoy Him forever (1 Cor. 10:31). I am living, not for my kingdom, but for God’s kingdom (Matt. 6:33).
3. Overcome Evil with Good
The passage God used most to change my heart in relationship to my family member was Romans 12:16-21.
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12 comes after powerful passages earlier in the book that talk about salvation, justification (being declared righteous before God), and sanctification (growing in looking more like God). Because of what God has done, I am able to live free from sin and alive to God. I kill my old responses and in the power of the Spirit I live out new ones. That looks like living in harmony. It looks like, as much as is possible, living peaceably. And it looks like overcoming evil with good.
Overcoming evil with good. How difficult that is! How absolutely contrary to my nature! How undeserved by the other person in the conflict! But God displayed the ultimate example of this when He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross for your sin and my sin. My evil was overcome by His good.
Try and picture Jesus, the rabbi who healed the lepers and who loved the children, gasping for breath as His tortured body hung suspended by nails. Greater still was His anguish of spirit as God the Father poured out His wrath for the sins of the world upon His beloved Son. Yet as Jesus hung there, He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” God offered forgiveness while we were still sinners. All the evil in the world cannot overcome the good that God brought from the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus! Though we may not see what good will result from our humility and forgiveness in relationship to others, we can be confident that God’s purposes are good and trustworthy.
So how do we overcome evil with good? If we are called to love our enemies, we are most certainly called to love our family. What good can you do for those in your family today?
Because we are deeply loved children of God, let’s imitate Christ when conflict arises. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matt. 5:9).
by Matthew Weathers
Good Reads on Leadership
We find ourselves in a very unusual time. Our lives have been disrupted and we face daily uncertainties. At times like these we realize afresh the importance of leadership and perhaps we have a bit of extra time to read good books! J. Oswald Sanders said that “discipline in early life, which is prepared to make sacrifices in order to gain adequate preparation for the life-task, paves the way for high achievement.” I encourage you to utilize the time to expand your knowledge base about leadership. Here are four books that deal with leading yourself and leading others that I found compelling and helpful.
"Leadership matters. Your leadership matters. A good leader changes the course of organizations, entire industries, states, countries, and even the global landscape.” -Burnett
by Matthew Bohin, Men's Residence Hall Supervisor
We read a very insightful prayer in Psalm 90:12. Moses writes, “So teach us to number our days so that we may get a heart of wisdom.” The Lord calls each of us to wisely and carefully use the time he allots.
If you’re a normal human being, I think you can spot the problem. How do we use the time God has allowed when we’ve done every possible thing we can think of? By this time in your Coronavirus isolation, you’ve probably played monopoly more times than you’d like to admit, scrolled endlessly through social media sites countless times per day, and have had more family time this week than you had all of February combined.
What should you do with all this time? Before giving some suggestions, let me point you to a resource which I’ve found immensely helpful for organizing my time. The book is entitled Do More Better by Tim Challies. On his website, you’ll find a section of free “Bonus Material” which provides helpful worksheets for godly productivity. You’ll find some of his thinking in my suggestions below:
So, what should you do with all your free time? Here are four practical suggestions:
On rare occasions in life, God opens up massive amounts of free time for us to use for his glory. Number your days by planning to use the time for his glory!
by Ashley Rush, Residence Hall Supervisor
I’ve seen several posts recently encouraging me to list things I’m thankful for. This is a great exercise to do especially when we are facing personal trials and the bleak situation in the world today. Scripture tells us that gratitude is an evidence of walking in the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-20) and is essential in the equation for perfect peace (Philippians 4:6-7). However, I’ve been meditating on something that should precede lists of things we’re thankful for. First, we must be grateful for what we don’t have—something we actually deserve. My meditation has been centered on Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Since I am in Christ (not through any merit of my own but through the blood of Christ), I don’t have the rightly deserved death sentence looming over me. We think we deserve happiness, comfort, and respect when in fact the Bible informs us of the only thing any of us deserve: the wrath of God. Consider just a sampling of the many verses that speak of the wrath of God for our sin:
Milton Vincent, in his book A Gospel Primer, draws our attention to the half-empty/half-full cup illustration. Whether you’re a pessimist or optimist, consider these thoughts about what your cup is lacking under the heading of “Thankfulness Enriched by Relief:”
Gratitude is naturally coupled with humility. While we don’t have to face condemnation for our sin, Paul reminds us in Romans 6 that we don’t have license to continue in sin. We should freely enjoy the provisions of the Gospel today while dreading to grieve our loving Heavenly Father who has sacrificed His Son so that we can experience justification.
Let's be enthusiastically grateful today for what our cup is lacking.