Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures

Lessons from the Pandemic: The Risks of Life June 14 2020

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

The famous philosopher Bilbo Baggins was quoted in JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring“ as saying “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.”

It seems that people worldwide are much more aware of that now than they were three months ago. Let’s face it: life is full of risks, some we are aware of and some we are oblivious to.

We’re going to embark on a short series of blogs on the subject of “things we have learned from the Coronavirus Pandemic.” And it seems there are many lessons we can learn, primary among them being the balancing of the risks of life with the need to carry on with the everyday tasks of life. For each one, we’re going to look to God’s powerful principles to live by, as we delve into His Word.

My daily commute to work is 70 miles in each direction on Interstate 10. Among the three of us in our carpool, we calculated that we had accumulated enough miles on I-10 in the last 10 years to go to the moon and back three times. And we have seen many things out there on the freeway: multiple rollovers, cars on fire, recreational vehicles in flames, tractor trailer trucks flipped on their side, men and women on stretchers, and we have called 911 multiple times.  We have been spared so far, but we have never thought once about questioning whether we should go into work because of the danger. We are aware that risks are out there, but we are willing to accept that risk. Some 38,000 Americans each year leave home expecting to return, but perish in traffic accidents.

Enter the Coronavirus. I’m not going to second guess all the decisions that have been made on stay-at-home orders and the rate at which the economy should reopen, but it has put a spotlight on different perceptions of risk that our people have, as well as our leaders. There are legitimate questions that can be asked as to whether the consequences of “not going out your door” were adequately taken into account. None of this is to minimize the deaths some 120,000 who have died in the U.S. and over 400,000 estimated worldwide. Many of us know of a family member, a friend, or friend-of-a-friend who has died of COVID-19.

But for the believer in Christ, there is a bigger picture here. In the Bible, we see risks being taken all the time. Paul summarized his own experience in 2 Corinthians 11:25-26:

"Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren …."


Paul knew something about risk, and there are some things we can learn from how he and others in the Scriptures dealt with those risks. Here are some principles and biblical background.

  • We do not need to fear death or physical suffering – risk-taking is part of life. This is the great promise for believers in Jesus. As the old gospel hymn phrases it “this world is not my own, I’m just a-passing through.” After all, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) and “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). It would be well worth your time to read Paul’s passionate speech to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:17-38:
    • He talks about the risks: “how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews.
    • He talks about his mission: “how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
    • He talks about the uncertainties: “And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there…”

And yet he continued on to Jerusalem knowing full well what could await him. This is because he knew that God’s will for him was not really a risk at all – even though it may have involved risk from a human perspective. What would have been an actual risk is being outside of God’s mission for him. Read 1 Peter 3:13-18 for confirmation of this principle. This is radical thinking from the world’s standpoint, but tremendous hope and comfort for the believer in Christ in the most difficult of times.

  • Realize that we do not live for ourselves. Paul concluded his speech in Acts 20 with this: “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” Again, he had in mind the ministry that God had given him.  This is emphasized further in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” Dwelling too much on our own protection may mean that we do not take risks that we should be taking for others. “Protect and Serve” is the motto of the Los Angeles Police Department adopted in 1963, and since has been used by many other law enforcement agencies. It could be a good personal motto as well.
  • While being prepared to take risks, also be wise. Paul and Silas were being successful in their ministry of the Gospel in Thessalonica (Acts 17:4),  But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people” (17:5). In response, “The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.” Also read Acts 19:28-41, which is a fascinating account of the city of Ephesus which was “filled with confusion” threatening the lives of believers there, but “when Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him” (Acts 19:30). Later on, the town clerk was able to calm the crowd and Paul had a productive ministry in Macedonia and Greece. In other words, we should balance our risk-taking with prudence. There is no magical answer to this. Each person must weigh this balance, especially for the times in which we live. Some are at ease without masks, while others are not, and may wear them to protect others. Principle 2 comes into play as we each make our personal decisions.
  • Appreciate others who take risks for us, and for the Gospel. Several times, Paul commended those who had taken risks for him: Prisca and Aquila (Romans 16:3-4) and Epahroditus (Philippians 2:28-30) where Paul states: “Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.”

Back in the 14 March blog (Pandemics, Fear, and the Scriptures) we talked about how the solution to fear (whether pandemics or other life events that tempt us to fear) is to “put on love” (1 John 4:18), and we provided examples of that. We will talk about that more next time in another lesson-learned blog on “essential workers.” Exactly who are the essential workers from a biblical perspective?

But to conclude on the subject of appreciating others who take risks, we certainly have to include the medical workers, the law enforcement officers, the grocery store workers, our military, the delivery people, and all those who are exposed to the virus day in and day out. But there is one special group that does not receive much notice of their risk-taking: our dear missionaries and health care workers ministering in third-world countries right now. These are inspirational people. Like the Riebens who in their 70s have been ministering in Malawi for the last 7 years training pastors and running feeding programs for families. Our daily challenges are like nothing in comparison to theirs. Or like the Kujs with medical and gospel ministries in South Sudan. I could not help but include an excerpt from one of their recent newsletters:

Today, around lunchtime, we heard there was another shoot out. Now with children not in school many people were worried, so Albino took the car and picked up the children of several IDAT (In Deed and Truth Ministries) families and brought them to the compound. We currently do not have a Governor and this is the worse tribal fighting I have seen in 20 years. It feels very unpredictable and reckless. We stepped up security on the IDAT compound and we will see how tonight goes, we may have to close our clinic again.
On top of all of this, we are dealing with the lock down from COVID-19. Even if we  want to leave Tonj, we  can't. We are trying to prepare ourselves and the community the best we can but social distancing is very difficult. The kids and I are sewing masks as fast as we can, and  currently made around 50! The lock down means no supply chain, so getting money here (no banks) and food or other supplies has been another challenge. So thankful our one year medicine supply arrived in February. We are heading into the heavy malaria season when our patient numbers rise drastically. This is also a concern to have COVID-19 mixed with so many other illnesses. Lord have mercy and go before us and spare us.


The newsletter goes on to describe how they are praying for us here in the states. These are the real risk-takers in today’s world, amazing servants of God. They are inspirations of faith to the rest of us who may have risks, but nothing like what they are going through. And they are some of the world’s most essential workers, which we will talk about next time.

If you have questions about this or other blog posts, please e-mail blog@bcfministries.org. You may also subscribe to the blog by emailing that address and put “Subscribe to blog” in the subject line. If you need general information about BCF, you can access our home page at www.bcfministries.org

Steve Smith


Pandemics (Part 2) – Fear and Love Inside a New York City Hospital April 06 2020

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

I was born in a hospital in upstate New York. I should say barely born, because during my birth, my mother developed life-threatening problems, and thought that she and I were not going to survive. It was at that moment that she says she received Christ as her Savior. And in the years to come, she would go on to faithfully teach Bible clubs for neighborhood children. On reflection, my brother and I were not the best of examples to the other children, and my mom would have heartily agreed.

I bring this up to say that, although we moved down to Virginia when I was six, I still think fondly of the Empire State, and have recollections about life there even to this day. So when the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, the towers came down on 9/11 (2001), and Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in 2012, I was paying attention. So here New York City is again, on the front lines of fighting COVID-19. And if you’ve ever been on a New York subway or just walked down one of the avenues, you can somewhat understand how it could happen so much faster and more intensely there than other places in the U.S.

As I have been listening to COVID-19 news reports about the worsening situation in my birth state, I can only wonder what it must be like being a doctor, nurse, or paramedic in that environment. I had a little taste of the drama that can occur in a hospital when last  year I spent a few hours in the emergency room, and after surgery, four days in a hospital room. The May 18, 2019 BCF blog “A Tribute to Healthcare Workers” recounts my observations about the stresses and commitment of the medical staff on that floor. I have seen from my readings that serving patients on a COVID-19 floor is at another level altogether, because of the magnitude of the challenge and the degree to which health care workers are putting their own lives at risk.

One of the articles that seemed to be a fair depiction (not over- or under-dramatized) was written this past Friday by a doctor serving COVID patients in at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. In the article “Adrenaline, Duty, and Fear,” he likens the experience to that of a military “surge” in a sort of medical militia. He ends the article with the following summary:

“I am exhausted but content at the end of most days…. Now, when I’m in the hospital, the focus is so singular, the mission so clear, that nothing else seems important. There is nowhere that I, or my colleagues, would rather be. There’s an odd sense in which the pandemic has made the practice of medicine into what many doctors hoped it would be.
“The battle, however, is only beginning. Adrenaline, duty, and fear have motivated an impassioned response, but some of us wonder how sustainable it is. Nights in lonely hotel rooms, away from family; weeks of long hours and heightened risk…. A surge is, by definition, time-limited. What happens when doctors can’t see the end?”

He speaks of medical students graduating early to help in the fight; pathology residents volunteering on the medical floors; a setting aside of pride, with senior physicians performing tasks normally below them; working across the silos and fiefdoms that can exist in the medical world. Hearing directly from the front lines is quite eye-opening for those of us with limited exposure to the world of medical professionals in crisis situations.

I have no idea of the author’s faith, but in so many ways, this reminds me of the principles of servanthood and selflessness in the Scriptures. It is really an application of the principle of focusing on the love that “casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) as we covered in Part 1 of the “Pandemics” blog. Paul described it well in Philippians 3. And it is worth noting that, while most of us are experiencing confinement as part of the Coronavirus “flattening the curve” strategy, Paul was writing this from his own confinement, which was far worse than the limitations currently imposed on many of us. Paul writes:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead …. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:7-11, 13-14)

The lesson for us is that the focus should not be on looking backward (that is, how we got here, or playing the blame-game, or cowering in fear), but on looking forward to what it is that we actually need to do next. What is needed in terms of supplies and personnel? Where do these people and materials need to be positioned? How do we communicate and coordinate across states and even countries around the world? This is a gigantic logistics problem that has to solved in real time, with only partial information. But it is always, always looking forward, learning from where we have been, but not focusing on it. Looking forward appears to be the focus of most of those who are part of the Coronavirus medical militia and many of the leaders of the combined governmental and private sector response – not perfect, but mostly looking forward nevertheless.

Like military families, this has to be the focus of many medical families as well, as they wave goodbye to their loved ones going into the surge, not knowing whether they will become victims themselves. This is certainly true of Samaritan’s Purse, who set up a field hospital in New York’s Central Park last week, “in Jesus’ name.” Who could have imagined? And what an amazing testimony of love.  I have heard it said that “real heroes don’t wear capes.” But they do wear “scrubs.” And when they have the singular focus of saving lives, they rank right alongside those in uniform who have served this country selflessly as well. 

Perhaps the hardest part for our leaders is how to walk the fine line between “flattening the curve” while minimizing the damage to the economy and the livelihoods of millions of people. We have to agree that striking this balance presents extremely difficult choices, and also requires aggressive action to prepare for what our leadership has described as the more difficult days ahead. 

Paul’s analogy for the Christian life is somewhat similar. We know a lot about what lies behind, but we cannot dwell on that. We rather need to focus on knowing Him, and the power of His resurrection, which we will celebrate this week. While we may feel confined like Paul, we also like him are not limited by the walls around us (after all, he did manage to get out several letters while imprisoned). We can still study and pray together virtually; we can invite others to our virtual Easter services, and we can communicate outside those walls in a way Paul could never have imagined. As Paul told Timothy, “but the word of God is not imprisoned” (2 Timothy 2:9). And neither is our communication with Him. Praise the Father that these walls pose no barriers to celebrating our resurrected King! Have a blessed resurrection Sunday.

If you have questions about this or other blog posts, please e-mail blog@bcfministries.org. You may also subscribe to the blog by emailing that address and put “Subscribe to blog” in the subject line. If you need general information about BCF, you can access our home page at www.bcfministries.org

Steve Smith


Pandemics, Fear, and the Scriptures March 14 2020

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

I have been reluctant to write about anything related to the Coronavirus, as the situation changes so rapidly from day to day. But on the other hand, we know that the Scriptures provide us with certainty for how to live with peace and contentment in a world that is full of uncertainties. This makes the Coronavirus a perfect opportunity to see what God has to say about uncertainties, and how to deal with the fears that a pandemic can bring to the surface.

Indeed, the Coronavirus has created a high level of worldwide anxiety, and we are not used to seeing such uncertainty at this scale. But each of us has faced significant uncertainties in our own lives, and for many of us, that means multiple times within our lifetimes. It might have involved the loss of a job, a severe or sudden illness, a home foreclosure, a serious accident, the loss of a child or parent or spouse, or a broken relationship.

I still remember sitting in the waiting room when Shashi was in the hospital early in her first pregnancy and hearing the speaker announce “code blue.” Or the time I answered the phone on Christmas eve many years ago when the police officer said “I want to let you know they are alive, but ….“ Shashi’s mom and sister had been in a serious traffic collision. It is amazing how quickly your mind can imagine all the potential ramifications after you hear the “but” at the end of that initial statement. All the worst possible outcomes flash before your eyes at that moment.

And in large part, that is what we have with the Coronavirus: a lot of unknowns, a lot of unanswered questions, and a lot of thoughts and actions by people in response to those uncertainties. While the Coronavirus may be nothing different than the other uncertainties we have faced in our personal lives, it somehow seems different when the uncertainty is so pervasive worldwide. But the Scriptures are there to provide powerful assurance and hope in the midst of uncertainty, whether at a worldwide or individual scale.

The Lord reminds us through His Word, that our thoughts and actions should not be driven by fear, and that love is the spiritual antidote to fear. Let’s take 1 John 4:18 for example:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”

The real key to biblical success against any temptation, such as fear, is to “lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24). There isn’t time or space to explain this in detail here, but BCF’s Self-Confrontation Lesson 7 provides a complete explanation of the biblical principles surrounding the “put-offs” and “put-ons” in Scripture. 

In the case of dealing with fear, 1 John 4:18 states that love is the biblical put-on for fear.  Just focusing on the put-off, such as thinking “I’m not going to be afraid; I’m not going to be afraid” is not going to help much. In fact, it actually keeps our attention on all the bad things that could happen, rather than on the biblical solution, which is to put on love. A focus on what can happen to ourselves is the path to continued fear; a selfless focus on love for the Lord and others is what “casts out fear.”

In addition to that, crises and uncertainties like the Coronavirus present an unusual opportunity for Christians to show the community how love for others really works. So how do we “put on love” when the temptations toward anxiety and fear about the Coronavirus are so present? Some example practical put-ons that might apply to fears over Coronavirus include:

  • Out of love, checking on senior citizens in your church or neighborhood (who have been more vulnerable to the Coronavirus than others)
  • Out of love, doing the little things to protect and encourage others, even when inconvenient for you: washing hands, keeping your distance, not grumbling about the canceling of events
  • Out of love, listening to what other precautions authorities are saying to take, while not hoarding supplies that need to be more widely distributed (it’s a total mystery why there is a run on toilet paper)
  • Out of love, helping children to adapt to the changes in routine and reminding them that sometimes sacrifices are necessary in the short term to achieve a better outcome in the long term. This is an important life lesson.
  • Out of love, making shopping runs for those who need to stay at home, or being observant about needs others have around us. I heard a news report today about an older couple who was waiting for almost an hour in a car in the parking lot of a store for someone who could go inside the store and buy them a few things. A lady finally came by who recognized their plight and brought the items out to them so that they didn’t have to mix with other customers.
  • Out of love, encouraging pastors who are trying to figure out what to do about church services and other activities, now that states are prohibiting large gatherings

That said, there are also some practical put-offs. We need to recognize that the media, while providing a useful service of keeping us informed, also has a tendency toward emphasis on drama, conflict, and sometimes even incitement to fear. Simply put, drama is good for business. Yet we should not be drawn into emotion-based responses, but gather enough facts to make wise decisions. And if the news is tempting you to fear, there is a simple answer to that, as long as you also have the information you need to make wise choices.

There are other scriptures about thoughts, speech, and actions to “put on” in the place of anxiety and fear. We’ll get to those in the next blog. But one thing you can do for now is prepare for those times when thoughts of anxiety and fear seem like they are closing in on you. As a believer, you have wonderful resources available through the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and prayer. We should apply those resources to the building up of the body of Christ, and in so doing, we will counter the temptation to fear. We will see next time that God designed Scripture memory as one of the ways the Holy Spirit can use when we are tempted to fear in our thought life (see Jesus’ words in John 14:26 – “the Holy Spirit will … bring to your remembrance all that I said to you”). You can start with memorizing 1 John 4:18, but we’ll get to others as well.

If you have questions about this or other blog posts, please e-mail blog@bcfministries.org. You may also subscribe to the blog by emailing that address and put “Subscribe to blog” in the subject line. If you need general information about BCF, you can access our home page at www.bcfministries.org

Steve Smith


Walking through the “Doors of Ministry” February 22 2020

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

In the last blog, we started looking at the meaning of “doors” in the Bible. We learned that, down through the centuries, doors have been used for privacy, security, and protection against the elements, but that the concept of a door has also been used as a metaphor for many different things. We read last time how Jesus is the “door of the sheep” (John 10:1-11) and that He “stands at the door and knocks.” In part 2 of this topic, we’re looking at the biblical metaphor “doors of ministry.” Some examples include:

  • Acts 14:27 – “When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” It is worth reading all of Acts 14 to see the context, because Paul had made this statement at the end of his first missionary journey. Acts 14 describes that, while Paul was in Lystra, the Jews came from the nearby cities of Antioch and Iconium “and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.” Paul and his partners next went to Derbe for a brief period and then returned to the very place where Paul had been stoned – an amazing example of perseverance, love for people, and trust in the Lord’s protection.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:9, where Paul states: “But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” There may have been less adversarial doors through which Paul could have entered, but he chose this one.
  • Colossians 4:3 – “Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.”

So we see that all three examples of the metaphorical “door for effective service” are in the context of tribulation and perseverance. Given that most of the readers of this blog are likely Gentiles, those who are Gentiles have much to be thankful for, that Paul and others were willing to endure so much as part of God’s calling for their lives.

We have been privileged to know many servant-hearted people who have chosen to pass up the conveniences of life in their home country and follow a path of outreach and ministry for Jesus through international missions. Of the missionaries our local church is privileged to support, one couple in their late 60s was called to Malawi, among the poorest countries on earth, to equip pastors and church leaders and to manage feeding programs. They are now in their mid-70s and still serving. Another couple our church supports served in the Philippines for 37 years in a “Life Discipleship” ministry and was involved in multiple relief efforts. Though back home in the U.S., they are continuing to serve other missionaries still in the field. As most of you know, BCF has actively supported missionaries and church leaders on every continent (except Antarctica), through biblical discipleship materials and training. And we have been privileged to see how God has worked through these faithful, committed servants throughout the world.

All of these people are amazing and inspirational examples of the “open door” metaphor. Let’s face it – Christian ministry in general, though rewarding, is also often inconvenient, no matter which country you’re in. Life would be easier if we didn’t take the time out of our schedules to teach Sunday School, to come home exhausted after evening youth programs, to visit the sick, to minister to prisoners, to help a stranger, to pastor a flock, to lead musical worship, to get training in evangelism and discipleship, or to devote lives to ministry in remote and needy parts of the world. We are truly grateful for those who minister in these and other ways, both seen and unseen.

This leads each of us to the central question: “what doors of ministry might be open for us?” It is interesting that in each of the three scriptures above, it was God who provided the open door for Paul and others to walk through. Part of spiritual maturity is being aware of the open door and being prepared to walk through it, not always knowing what faces you on the other side. Any kind of ministry is like that – youth ministry, small group studies, pastoral ministry, Sunday School, prison ministry, international missions, or reaching out to the neighbor next door. There will be surprises, there may be disappointments, there will be times that we are physically and emotionally drained. But one of the ways we mature is to get out of our “comfort zone” so that we have no choice but to exercise faith. This is why in Acts 14:27 the “door of faith” is such a great and appropriate metaphor.  I know that many of you can relate to this, servants that you are, but we know that encouragement comes by the reminder of the benefits of our faith being exercised.

Also keep in mind that it is OK to minister in obscurity. Perhaps it is even better for us that way, which leads me to one more “door verse.” One of Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount was that we should “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them …” (Matthew 6:1). Regarding prayer, Jesus says you are to “close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). While we are certainly not to be spiritual isolationists, Jesus here is referring to an attitude of serving others, while at the same time not living our lives for the purpose of being noticed. We are to be encouraging and building one another up in ministry (1 Thessalonians 5:11), but just not letting our own peace and joy be dependent on receiving honor from others. We minister out of gratitude for what God has already done for us, and we can be at peace by knowing that the Lord is also responsible for the results. God bless you as you look for and walk through the “door(s) of ministry” He has prepared for you.

If you have questions about this or other blog posts, please e-mail blog@bcfministries.org. You may also subscribe to the blog by emailing that address and put “Subscribe to blog” in the subject line. If you need general information about BCF, you can access our home page at www.bcfministries.org

Steve Smith


The Spiritual Significance of Doors (Part 1) February 08 2020

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

The idea of “doors” might seem like an obscure topic, but I’ve recently been experimenting with holding doors open for people. It’s amazing how such a simple act almost always evokes gratitude and sometimes opens up opportunities for conversation. An interesting part of this experiment is knowing how far behind someone has to be before it’s “too far” to wait for them to get there. So I’ve been stretching the limits a bit and have observed that many people start walking very quickly or even running when they are farther behind, like they don’t want to inconvenience you. But they nevertheless appreciate the thought.

Admittedly, it is also tempting not to hold the door open, when you know that the person you let in might get in line before you, such as at a bank or a restaurant. Holding a door open is viewed almost universally as an act of kindness, and is perhaps less expected than it once was.

Down through the centuries, doors have been used for privacy, security, and protection against the elements. But it turns out that the concept of a door has also been used as a metaphor for many different things. In fact, the first use of the word translated “door” in the English Bible is actually a metaphor: God says to Cain in Genesis 4:7 “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door ….” The concept of a door has been with us from the very beginning.

In this blog post, we will look at the “door of salvation” through Christ. One of the best known and most endearing biblical passages about doors is John 10:1-11. The passage begins with Jesus contrasting the true “shepherd of the sheep,” (who comes into the sheepfold through the door), with the one who “climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber.” It says of the true shepherd, “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

The people were not understanding what Jesus meant by this, so He explained further:

Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door, if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (verses 7-11)


This is one of the ultimate passages of hope in the Scriptures, and it was a foretelling of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, though the people didn’t recognize it at the time. We have the advantage of seeing it with the benefit of history.

Another widely known passage about doors is of course Revelation 3:20,

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”


This verse was written in the context of the need for repentance by the church of Laodicea, exhorting them that they were “neither cold nor hot,” but “lukewarm.”  The Lord reminds them that “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.”

“Uncle Bob” Schneider and I were both impacted by Revelation 3:20 in similar ways, as we made our own decisions for Christ. In Uncle Bob’s case a friend showed him an artist’s rendering of the scene: Jesus standing at a physical door and knocking. His friend asked him, “do you notice anything peculiar about this particular door?” As Uncle Bob did not see it at first, his friend said “it has no handle on the outside. In other words, Jesus is not going to force His way into your life. You have to open the door of your heart and let Him it.” After years of being an agnostic, and investigating the claims of Jesus, this conversation was instrumental in Uncle Bob’s becoming a Christian.

Revelation 3:20 was also key to my own decision for Christ back in October 1971, when a student at Virginia Tech. In my case, the emphasis was on the fact that Jesus says “I will come in.” We don’t have to keep on knocking or begging Him to come in. In other words, it’s a promise. Just as it would be silly for me to keep knocking at my friend’s door after he had opened it, those who receive Him (John 1:12) are given the right to become the children of God. That is wonderful assurance.

Praise God for doors! Not only are they important to everyday life, but they serve as a scriptural object lesson to help us understand powerful truths about how God works. In the next blog post, we'll look at “doors of ministry.”

If you have questions about this or other blog posts, please e-mail blog@bcfministries.org. You may also subscribe to the blog by emailing that address and put “Subscribe to blog” in the subject line. If you need general information about BCF, you can access our home page at www.bcfministries.org

Steve Smith


Holidays, Memories, and People We Miss December 23 2019

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

It is amazing how a sight, a smell, a taste, or a sound can bring back a flood of memories from earlier in our lives. The Christmas holidays are especially like that, when families tend to get together over a meal, gift giving, and for Christians, a celebration of the birth of God’s Son. Memories may be triggered by the people, the food, grandma’s house, or even the trip to grandma’s house.

Or sometimes it is the absence of grandma that brings those thoughts to mind. It’s not unusual for people to think things like “this will be the first Christmas without mom.” Or dad. Or a son or daughter. Or Uncle Bob.

I say “Uncle Bob” because many of you know that “Uncle Bob” Schneider, former president of BCF, went home to be with the Lord in September of this year. Having lived with us for 25 years, the absence of Uncle Bob now brings back many memories as we go through the holiday season. He was always the one to unpack the tree ornaments, to admire the decorations, to enjoy the traditional pumpkin bread, to read parts of Luke 2 with us on Christmas eve, and in his earlier days, to wash Christmas dinner’s pots and pans (and that was a sacrifice indeed).

All of us have “Uncle Bobs” in one way or another – people who at the holidays remind us of things simply because of their absence. The memories that resurface can be about hard times, good times, fun times, and sad times.  And that person’s earthly departure may have resulted in some serious challenges for maintaining daily life: finances, taking care of the household, and many other things.

The first Christmas after Shashi’s dad died at age 50 was a tough one, especially for her mom, who was still in her early 40s at the time. Shashi’s mom had been especially dependent on her husband. There was a lot of uncertainty about her future, and this was compounded one Christmas eve a couple of years after that, some 40 years ago.  I still remember very vividly when I was on the receiving end of a highway patrol officer’s phone call that started with “I just want you to know that they are OK, but they are in the hospital.” It turned out that Shashi’s mom and sister had just been in a head-on collision on a country road in Maryland that evening.

Life is full of unexpected, difficult events like this – things we may not have been very well prepared for. Some of you are probably going through one of those times even now. And yet in the midst of all the uncertainties, we as believers have the privilege of seeing the bigger picture of God’s plan for the world and how to deal with the uncertainties life presents. It is interesting to think about Mary and Joseph in this regard, who had more than their share of uncertainties: a visit by an angel; a miraculous pregnancy that others would never understand; having to travel to back to Bethlehem for the census; shepherds showing up out of nowhere to visit their new baby. Luke 2:18-19 captures the amazement and sense of “what does this all mean?” experienced by those gathered there:

And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”


In other words, they heard what God was saying to them through the angels, but they did not fully understand its implications. More of God’s plan would only be revealed bit by bit over the next 33 years. We, on the other hand, have the distinct benefit of the written Word of God that now enables us to look back on these events to see more fully God’s plan for the world and to understand His practical principles for living. He left us with His “instruction manual,” a.k.a. the Bible.  As our Creator, He knows how we humans are put together.

Jesus spent a lot of time with His disciples. And even though it was a short three years, He did all He could to prepare these men for what they were about to see and experience. But even with Jesus teaching the disciples in-person, they had doubts and uncertainties. John Chapters 13-17 represent the culmination of Jesus’ teaching of the disciples about the things they would face in the days and years ahead. In John 16:1-4, He sums up the instruction He had just provided at their final meal together in Chapters 13-15, just prior to His crucifixion:

“These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them.”


Jesus goes on to explain that He is going back to the Father, and because of that, He says of the disciples that “sorrow has filled your heart.” In other words, the disciples realized that they were soon going to be missing Jesus, and they were concerned about the implications. Certainly, it had been an amazing three years, and it was difficult to imagine being without Him. In verses 5-15, Jesus explained that the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity would not be just “with them” (like Jesus had been) but would be “in them.”

Despite that teaching, the disciples still had a hard time letting go of the physical, visible Jesus, even after Jesus told them of His coming resurrection (verses 16-24). After all of this explanation, the disciples declared (verse 30) “we believe that You came from God.” But Jesus further reminded them that:

Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (verse 33).


In other words, while life was going to become more difficult for the disciples, their peace was not dependent upon their circumstances but upon Jesus Himself. God did not say to the disciples that they would have peace because they had developed good “coping skills.” Rather, supernatural peace can be found by having our faith in and focus on the right Person even in difficult, high stress situations.

John writes of this again in 1 John 5:4 – “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” The Greek word translated “victory” is nike, and the word for “overcome” is nikao. This “nike that nikaos the world” is much more powerful and enduring than the company made famous by its tennis shoe.

Although this mini-study of Jesus and the disciples may seem like a little diversion from where we started this blog (i.e. how at Christmas we miss family and friends who are no longer with us), Jesus’ powerful instruction to the disciples is relevant to us in this sense: yes, life is not the same without the “Uncle Bobs” in our lives (or grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, son, daughter, or friend); but keeping our focus on Jesus and on “loving God and others” (i.e. on His commandments) will be the ultimate source of our peace and joy through times like this. Dwelling on how difficult or sad our life has become will only drag us down and discourage others. And yes, the absence of that person may mean that there are more things we are responsible for; more financial stress; or more day-to-day challenges. But this is when it is especially important to, by faith, read and follow the life-giving Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Some of those people who have been most encouraging and inspirational to our family are those going through extraordinarily difficult times who still exhibit the joy of the Lord. They are the types of people who you try to help out and encourage, because you know what they are going through, but you come back as the one who was encouraged, because you see their focus and their spirit of joy and trust in the Lord. By the grace of God, I would hope to be that kind of person.  God bless you and family as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who is the ultimate example of this still today.

If you have questions about this or other blog posts, please e-mail blog@bcfministries.org. You may also subscribe to the blog by emailing that address and put “Subscribe to blog” in the subject line. If you need general information about BCF, you can access our home page at www.bcfministries.org

Steve Smith


Overlooked Blessings November 24 2019

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

One of my more vivid Christmas memories growing up in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley was the time that our sewer line got blocked by tree roots, just a couple of weeks before Christmas. I know what you’re thinking – that’s a very odd Christmas memory. But the event had a way of throwing every household activity into chaos – no toilet, no showers, no clean dishes, no ability to do laundry.

Having had some problems with the sewer flow before, the family agreed that getting the sewer line fully replaced would be a great family Christmas gift and would solve the problem for a long time. We joke about it now, but never did a shower feel so good as when the plumbing was back in service. What had been literally “out of sight, out of mind” was so much more appreciated when we had experienced life without it.

There are many things in life like that, especially in the more developed countries where we have come to enjoy a wide range of conveniences. For our friends living and ministering in places like South Sudan, Rwanda, Malawi, and Uganda, the blessings we tend to overlook are veritable treasures to them: basic things like consistently clean water, reliable electricity, sanitary systems, medical care, and steady food supplies. In many other countries, even having access to a Bible is rare, and we tend to take the availability of God’s written word for granted.

A few years ago, I came across a simple little Thanksgiving game that perhaps some of you have played before. It follows the Thanksgiving tradition of sharing with others about things we are thankful for, but with a twist. You go around the table or room with each person quickly mentioning something (or someone) they are thankful for, and then you keep going around and around until you run out of things or people to mention (or run out of time).

The “Game of Thanks” is a great game, because it forces us to think more deeply about the many blessings we have to be thankful for, particularly ones we tend to overlook, and even when we are going through difficult times. It is a good one for the children and grandchildren because they will typically start looking around to find other things they can bring up. It is a good, practical application of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus) and Philippians 1:3 (I thank my God in all my remembrance of you).

The game will sometimes help bring people to our minds as well – people we have not thought about in a while. In his letters to the churches, Paul frequently went through lists of people to greet and thank. In Romans 16, he lists no fewer than 28 specific individuals who had encouraged him in the ministry. Of Prisca and Aquila he says:

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but all the churches of the Gentiles. (Romans 16:3-4)


So as we celebrate Thanksgiving this week in the U.S., we at BCF want to express how deeply we appreciate your participation in the ministry with us. You have no idea how just a phone inquiry, a book order, a testimony from you, or a report from your local ministry means to us as we together seek to strengthen the Body of Christ through His Word.

If you have questions about this or other blog posts, please e-mail blog@bcfministries.org. You may also subscribe to the blog by emailing that address and put “Subscribe to blog” in the subject line. If you need general information about BCF, you can access our home page at www.bcfministries.org

Steve Smith


“I Flunked Anger Management” (Genetic Predispositions, Part 3) November 01 2019

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

We ended Part 2 of our Genetic Predisposition series with the thought that there will be many scientific discoveries about genetics in the years to come. Some of these may be related to health, while others may be associated with certain propensities we have as humans. There is no conflict with the Scriptures here. These discoveries will just be confirming what the Word of God has been telling us for centuries – that we humans have weaknesses and propensities. We knew this all along. What we need to remember, though, is that God displays His strength through our weaknesses. We saw that with the disciples in Part 2 (see August 24 blog).

The Scriptures also give us practical guidance on how to have victory despite whatever weaknesses we may have or how difficult the circumstances may be. If we are concerned that we have some sort of genetic predisposition, the solution is to dwell not on the predisposition, but on the same commands that the disciples had, preserved in the Bible for us to read today.

One of the things I do as I’m traveling around is observe messages that people have on the clothes they wear. I went back through my collection and found several sayings related to human behavior that I had seen on tee-shirts, such as:

  • “I flunked anger management”
  • “Patrick was a saint. I ain’t”
  • “I didn’t choose the thug life, it chose me”
  • “Sarcasm: just one of my many talents”

I’m sure people have many reasons for wearing clothes with messages like this. They may have meant it to be funny, but one of the underlying reasons could be so that other people will not give them such a hard time when they exhibit this behavior. The message that comes across is “This is just the way I am. Don’t bother me.”

Even though we may find this amusing, we can tend to do the same thing in more subtle ways. For example, let’s take the first one. In reality, all of us have “flunked anger management” in one way or another. While it may or may not be a habitual pattern, we have at some point been “angry with our brother,” and Jesus told us not to take that lightly (Matthew 5:21). We might blame an outburst of anger on our being tired, as a response to someone treating us unfairly, on a set of difficult circumstances, on a difference of opinion we have with someone, or on an act of a family member that did not meet our expectations (children come to mind).

Anger is said to be one of the most common personal problems known to mankind. It was at the heart of the world’s first murder (Genesis 4:5), and is involved in the great majority of violent incidents, from domestic violence to mass shootings. While certain ethnic groups have been given the dubious reputation (rightly or wrongly) of being more prone to anger, none of us are immune to this failing. All of us can be tempted to exhibit anger.

In addition, some of us have come from very difficult circumstances, ungodly family environments, foster care, financially destitute, no Christian background, and other situations seemingly with little hope. But the beauty and power of the Christian faith is that no one is beyond redemption. Paul describes the result of a new relationship to Christ in 1 Corinthians 6:11. After having listed (in verses 9-10) sins that are characteristic of a life apart from God, he writes “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” Note that “such were” means that you are no longer a slave to sin. You are a brand-new person when you become a Christian, and there is nothing (to include genetic predispositions), that can keep you from a life of joy, contentment, and obedience in Jesus Christ. How can you have a greater hope than that?

Having said that, change can be difficult, no matter where we have come from. We still have temptations and habits from our “former manner of life” (Ephesians 4:22). So let’s take the propensity to anger as an example and work through it from a biblical standpoint. The approach is the same whether our anger stems from development of a habit or from a genetic predisposition we think we might have.

In Lesson 11 of the BCF Self-Confrontation course, we give an illustration of how anger can be brought under control very quickly at any given moment. Let’s say you are in your house having a full-blown shouting match, when all of a sudden, the phone rings. You take the call, and immediately your tone of voice changes, because you don’t want someone outside the family (like your boss or pastor) to know how angry you can be. In other words, it is possible to control your anger even in an emotionally charged situation.

Even those who believe they have a genetic predisposition toward anger can control their demonstration of anger when it is in their interest to do so. In other words, we choose whether or not to demonstrate anger. We are never forced into a transgression by another outside force, whether that be a genetic predisposition, another person, or a circumstance. This is great hope, but also carries with it responsibility, because we cannot legitimately say “you made me angry” or otherwise excuse away our anger.

To be sure, resisting the temptation to anger can be more difficult for some than others, in some cases because of having developed a habit pattern that is now more difficult to correct. This blog is not about debating whether genetic predispositions exist; it is about the hope believers can have and the possibility of changing even when a pattern seems to be so ingrained that it has become a “life-dominating practice.”  We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. It is comforting to know that we are not forced into sin because of our genetics or any other circumstance, but there are specific principles to apply to help us have victory. This is what being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) is all about. The Scriptures provide hope and instruction even for those who have habitually “flunked anger management.”

Lesson 7 of Self-Confrontation presents the practical, biblical truths of putting off the practices of the former manner of life by laying aside the old self and “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24). This is immediately followed with examples of biblical “put-offs” and “put-ons,” describing biblical ways to change: from a life of lying, to a life of truth-telling; from a life of stealing to a life of working and sharing; from a life of tearing down to a life of building up; and from a life of anger and bitterness to a life of kindness and forgiveness. The emphasis of Scripture is to focus on the “put-on,” and the “put-off” will occur as a byproduct. In other words, the person who is angry toward another person should seek ways to “put-on” kindness and forgiveness toward the very person with whom they are angry. And if the other person does not recognize or accept that, or believe we are sincere, just remember that we are not doing it to get a response back, but are doing it for the Lord, who loved and forgave us, even though we didn’t deserve it. Lesson 7 then goes on to how we can develop a specific plan for change.

While anger can lead to violent acts, it can also come out in many other ways: through our harsh words (spoken or written), our tone of voice, a slammed door, or even just a stare. We have all seen these things demonstrated at one time or another, and likely have been perpetrators a few times ourselves. Strong emotions are usually associated with anger, but while emotions can be extremely strong, we can still choose not to exhibit anger in our speech and actions. Even our thought life can be brought under control. By God’s grace, He enables us to make the right choices even when our emotions are going in the other direction.

Keep in mind that what God says for us to do in Ephesians 4 is in response to the “riches of His grace which He lavished on us,” as described in Chapters 1-3. The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us even in our weakness, and God’s grace and mercy become our motivation for making godly choices, despite how we feel. Overcoming our propensity to sin is not simply another “self-help” program invented by the world. It is all anchored in our response of gratitude to what Jesus has already done for us.

Some people might be thinking at this point, “isn’t it being hypocritical or fake to be kind and forgiving even when we don’t feel like it?” Not at all. Rather, it is the way we demonstrate sacrificial love for God and others – the very type of love that brought Jesus to the cross for us. It is similar to when we get out of bed in the morning even though we may not feel like it. Getting out of bed, despite our feelings, is fundamentally an act of love. What would make us a hypocrite is saying “I love getting out of bed in the morning” even when we don’t really feel like it. So too, demonstrating love even when we don’t feel like it, gives great honor to the Lord and is a testimony to those around us.

The BCF “Victory Over Failures Plan” is a resource that can be useful in applying biblical principles that help us overcome our weaknesses or predispositions. It talks about the put-offs, put-ons, and making plans for change for many different types of problems. If you have questions about this or other blog posts, please e-mail blog@bcfministries.org. You may also subscribe to the blog by emailing that address and put “Subscribe to blog” in the subject line. If you need general information about BCF, you can access our home page at www.bcfministries.org

Steve Smith


A Life Well-Lived And Loved: Lessons from the life of “Uncle Bob” Schneider October 13 2019

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

Please forgive the literary license in the title, but it is to make a point about the earthly life of Robert Schneider, former President of BCF, who passed from this earth into heaven on September 10, 2019. We have been privileged to minister with Uncle Bob since 1978, and to have him reside in our home and be part of our family since 1994. He would be the first to point out his own imperfections, but there are many lessons we can take away from the way he lived his life, or rather, the way he loved in life.

Saying that someone had “a life well-lived” could mean many different things. It could refer to how they made contributions to society or made a great discoveries. It might refer to someone who traveled all over the world, or who didn’t squander the talents he or she was given. It could refer to someone who put all of his or her energy into certain pursuits, or could simply refer to someone who was honest, fair, and paid his or her taxes.

If you have taken the Self-Confrontation course, you know that the orientation session involves taking “the love test,” based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Uncle Bob was always excited about conducting the love test, as he saw the Holy Spirit penetrate the hearts of the students as they realized the implications of true, biblical love. He would acknowledge that the love test was a powerful reminder to himself, as well – especially “love is patient” and “love does not take into account a wrong suffered.” Toward the end of his life, Uncle Bob was constantly reminding us of how the Christian life comes down to two very simple things: loving God and loving others, just as Jesus reminded the lawyer “on these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:39) – simple to understand, but profound enough to require a lifetime to put into practice.

He would remind us that loving this way is radically different from the world’s way of life. It means not living for ourselves “but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” ( 2 Corinthians 5:15). It means living like Jesus did, who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” It means being “imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:1-2). This would be God’s definition of “a life well-lived.”

In recognition of Uncle Bob’s retirement as BCF president, we gave him a little retirement party in March of this year and had a “this is your life!” theme. It was not so much to honor the man as it was to honor what God had done in and through the man. One of the remarkable things about his life that many people do not know is that he came from a very poor, broken family. Born in Minnesota, Uncle Bob’s parents were divorced when he was 13, and although his Catholic mom sent him and his brothers to church, from the sound of it, they rarely actually got there. The Schneider brothers were no altar boys. Bob became what he described as an agnostic.

To make a long story short, he married Gloria in 1952, and just a year into his marriage, his first child died shortly after birth. And this is how the Lord started getting his attention. In 1954, it came as a shock that Gloria was pregnant with twins, and Uncle Bob started to wonder what would happen to them, especially after the death of their first child. He was an agnostic at the time, but he started wondering things like: Do babies go to heaven?

He had also entered the military in 1954, and while stationed at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, began going to a Bible study with some fellow Army officers. His friends never got tired of answering all his questions. In fact, they even asked if he could teach the Bible study for a lesson, knowing that he was still searching and not yet a believer. He had some very loving and clever friends!

The study happened to be out of the book of Romans, and the Lord used that study in 1957 to finally convince Uncle Bob of the reality of Jesus Christ! Some years later, serving at the Pentagon, he came to know three other men, who with him became the core team to develop the first Self-Confrontation study notebook, with John Broger in the leadership. This led to the establishment of the Biblical Counseling Foundation in 1974, with John Broger becoming its first president.

Who would have imagined that, 45 years later, Uncle Bob would continue to be serving the Lord through BCF? He made sure to remind everyone that “there is no such thing as retirement in the Bible.” And what is particularly remarkable is how no one could ever have known how the Lord would take this scrawny, poor, pagan kid from Breckenridge, Minnesota, and mold him into an instrument to be used for Him in so many ways and so many places, and in the lives of thousands of people. But this is how God works, “who has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong … so that no man may boast before God” (I Corinthians1:27, 29). And we are certainly glad that He chose Uncle Bob for that ministry and that he became committed to it for more than half his earthly live.

The day of Uncle Bob’s death, while numerous people were at the house, Shashi asked our little three-year-old granddaughter if she could draw a picture of Uncle Bob going to heaven. She came back with a drawing in which you could clearly see not just one, but two figures. Shashi asked her to explain who the two figures were. As only a child could say, she responded with “This is Uncle Bob, and he is hugging God!” What a beautiful picture of God’s love and grace in Uncle Bob’s life.

We cannot all be Uncle Bobs, but all of us can love. Most of us live in relative obscurity, compared to Uncle Bob, but even in that obscurity, we can still, by God’s power, fulfill the two great commandments: love God and others. This is great hope for us, no matter where on the spectrum of being seen by others we fall. And of course, there is no obscurity in God’s sight. We thank all of you for the blessing and encouragement you have been to Uncle Bob and the ministry of BCF! And we thank you for the many testimonies that have come into the BCF office. You may keep sending them. We are compiling them into a book for the staff members to have as a memento.

If you have questions about this or other blog posts, please e-mail blog@bcfministries.org. You may also subscribe to the blog by emailing that address and put “Subscribe to blog” in the subject line. If you need general information about BCF, you can access our home page at www.bcfministries.org

Steve Smith


Genetic Predispositions (Part 2) August 24 2019

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

In Part 1 (July 27), we discussed how research has been conducted into associations between our genetic makeup and various predispositions or “propensities.” Read back through that blog for a little more background, if you haven’t already. We also discussed how scientists are claiming that many weaknesses stem from “genetic predispositions.” As Christians, we should not be surprised by this. The Bible has already told us (thousands of years ahead of current science) that, through Adam, we are all genetically predisposed to sin (Romans 5:12-21).

Paul acknowledged the weakness of his own flesh (Romans 7:10-12), and Jesus highlighted to the disciples the continuing battle between the flesh and the spirit (Matthew 26:41). Peter warned that these are serious battles, when he urged believers to “abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). There is a spiritual war going on within us, which we can all acknowledge, because we have lost some of those flesh vs. spirit battles. But herein also lies the hope that the world’s philosophies cannot offer.

Consider Jesus’ disciples. From what we know of them, they had very different personalities from one another. If there is a predisposition for impulsiveness, Peter had it (e.g. John 13:36-37, where Peter declared “I will lay down my life for You,” after which Jesus spoke of how Peter would deny Him). If there is an inclination toward skepticism, Thomas had it (John 20:24-27). If there is a propensity toward weakness of faith, Philip had it (John 14:9 – “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip?”)

But Jesus gave all the disciples the same commands. There are many commands that Jesus gave to the disciples, but here are some examples:

  • If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:14-15).
  • Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)
  • Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you ….” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Jesus didn’t say to Peter, “Given your outspoken nature, I’m going to excuse you for what comes out of your mouth.” When Jesus said “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man” (Matthew 15:11) he was speaking to Peter just like everyone else. Peter could not excuse his propensity for loose lips with “that’s just the way I am.”

And so it is with us today. We come from many different backgrounds, and have different genetic makeups. Some of us have come from difficult family environments, destitute circumstances, no knowledge of the Bible, seemingly without hope. Yet God’s Word speaks to all of us in the same way. We may, in fact, have weaknesses in certain areas that make it more challenging for us to obey, whether that be from our upbringing, our environment, or our genetics. Some of us, like Peter, may even have denied the Lord for a time. But as we respond to the Lord, He molds us and shapes us into what He wants us to be. He is able to use us in ways we never imagined possible, with the credit going to Him.

As we look at Peter, with his impulsive “speak first, ask questions later” approach, God took his weakness and molded him into a vibrant instrument for His glory. He took this impulsive man who attacked the high priest’s slave (John 18:10) and turned him into a humble but powerful spokesperson for the Lord. You can see that lessons about his mouth had registered when he wrote: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, or was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously…” (1 Peter 2:21-23). He had become an example of and a spokesperson for controlling his tongue and humbly serving God and others.  Were the disciples without hope because science had not yet discovered their genetic predispositions? Of course not! Nor are we without hope today, with or without scientific research on genetics.

The lesson for us is this. We are not doomed by our genetics to a life of discouragement or despair. Our walk with Jesus is not limited by our weaknesses. Instead, we can take those weaknesses or circumstances of life, whatever they are, and through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, continue to serve, encourage, and build up the body of Christ, giving glory to God for what He has done. This is summed up beautifully in 1 Corinthians 1:27-31:

“… but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus ….”

When we see someone who has overcome a difficult childhood to be a vibrant servant of God, we rejoice and give God the glory. When we see someone who has been transformed from a life of crime or addiction to a life of loving and serving others, we give praise to the Lord. If there are weaknesses that have been overcome, whether genetic or otherwise, this is a source of thanksgiving and giving credit to our Creator. In this sense, a genetic predisposition or weakness can be an asset, because in having victory over it, the world can even more clearly see God’s work in us. Paul acknowledged this when he wrote, concerning his “thorn in the flesh”:

Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

There will be many scientific discoveries about genetics in the years to come. Some of these may be related to health, while others may be associated with certain propensities we have as humans. There is no conflict with the Scriptures here. These discoveries will just be confirming what the Word of God has been telling us for centuries – that we have weaknesses and propensities. We knew this all along. What we need to remember, though, is that God wants to display His strength through our weakness. While there may be discoveries and medications that can be used to improve human health, the truths of God’s Word and our relationship to Him are the only true “cures” for our human weaknesses.

The Scriptures also give us practical guidance on how to have victory despite whatever weaknesses we may have or how difficult the circumstances may be. If we are concerned that we have some sort of genetic predisposition, the solution is not to dwell on that predisposition, but on the same commands that the disciples had, and that have been preserved in the Bible for us to read today. We’ll look into some examples of that next time.

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Steve Smith