Black Holes

I’m a Jesus follower. But loving Jesus, knowing God created everything, and cultivating a better grasp of what that means in your day to day life doesn’t mean you stop asking questions about all the Lord’s made, right? If anything, greater devotion to God should cause our sense of wonder to expand as we discover more about the world we know and the corners of our universe we are still coming to know. Now, the universe we’re able to observe (observe being a relative term) is estimated to contain 200 billion to two trillion galaxies. Yeah, I struggle to wrap my head around that too. Anyway, I heard in the news recently that astronomers have now spotted a record-breaking heavyweight black hole at the center of a galaxy known as Holm 15A. This black hole is estimated to weigh 40 billion times the mass of our sun. That’s heavy. That’s the kind of heavy no post-holiday diet could ever hope to put a dent in. Time for a rough definition of a black hole.
“A black hole is a place where the laws of physics as we know them break down. Einstein taught us that gravity warps space itself, causing it to curve. So given a dense enough object, space-time can become so warped that it twists in on itself, burrowing a hole through the very fabric of reality. A massive star that has run out of fuel can produce the kind of extreme density needed to create such a mangled bit of world. As it buckles under its own weight and collapses inward, space-time caves in with it. The gravitational field becomes so strong that not even light can escape, rendering the region where the star used to be profoundly dark: a black hole. You might expect to get crushed, or maybe torn to pieces. But the reality is stranger than that. The instant you entered the black hole, reality would split in two. In one, you would be instantly incinerated, and in the other you would plunge on into the black hole utterly unharmed.”
Amanda Gefter BBC Earth 5/25/2015

Up until now we’ve discussed gravity as it relates to black holes in space. And by the way, aren’t you glad you don’t live close to one? No, your neighbor’s back yard doesn’t count, no matter how out of control it is. What about the gravity (importance, or significance) of our lives? What about the black holes we experience here on earth, where our efforts and resources so often seem to be lacking, or even missing altogether? Frustration with our situation is not wrong in itself. We can use that emotion to propel ourselves to action. The key question at those trying times when we just want to do something is whether we use the emotions we’re experiencing to move closer to God or farther away.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
Proverbs 14:12 ESV

“I ask that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope of His calling, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of His power to us who believe. He displayed this power in the working of His mighty strength.”
Ephesians 1:18-19 ESV


Knowledge of God’s nature and investment in the hope He inspires can drive us toward His will for our lives. As you encourage your habit to seek Him, your focus will shift from short term struggles to long term goals. God can and will produce amazing results in your life as you shift from selfish to selfless thinking. Using His Holy Spirit, God will answer your prayers to be led and utilized by building you up, shaping you, and opening a way.

“Don’t bother to give God instructions, just report for duty.”
“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”
Corrie Ten Boom


Lord you’ve made all the worlds,
this little one,
and all those yet discovered.
You’ve filled the heavens,
surely you can fill
the black holes in our hearts.

Manufactured dreams,
focused just on me,
are short sighted and misguided.
It’s a universal problem
all we can see is our little part.

God, finish what you’ve begun
after all you sent your son
We can’t give as much as you did
you made us free.
But since in your image you made us
and paid all our sins through Jesus
I’ll follow, we’ll all follow where you lead.

© Joel Tipple 1/5/2020












Shelter in Place

Have you ever been forced to live on the street or in your car? I haven’t, but whenever I see someone I think may not have a home, I wonder how I would feel if I was in their place. It’s easier to imagine you’re strong when you have enough to eat and a safe place to be. Thank God for places like the Eureka Rescue Mission, where people, who, because of circumstances, poor decisions, or a combination of both, find themselves homeless, are able to take advantage of a safe, temporary shelter, where they are able to eat, get warm, and obtain Godly direction. Though you may have worked hard to be able to afford to own or rent a home, the realization that your situation could change in a heartbeat should cause you to reflect and be thankful for what you have and empathize with those who are not in your situation.

Webster’s Free Online Dictionary defines “permanent” as: continuing or enduring without fundamental or marked change and “shelter” as: something that covers or affords protection. So, a permanent shelter is something durable (enduring) that provides cover or protection.

When disaster strikes an area, public safety officials sometimes give advisories or orders to the population within that area to “shelter in place.” That is, finding a safe location indoors and staying there until you are given an “all clear” or told to evacuate. This may also be called for during a time when violence or the threat of violence is present.

There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.
Isaiah 4:6 ESV


He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 91:1-2 ESV


We use weather references a lot when we talk about how our lives are going. Christians especially talk about storms when discussing the trying times we all go through. During those times of great upheaval in our lives it’s critical we know how to shelter in place spiritually. Our shelter then is our experience of knowing God through prayer, scripture, and teaching. If we have built a strong foundation by seeking God when the sun is shining, we will have a safe and reliable place to go when it isn’t. More than that, each of us needs to carry a spiritual shelter that can provide refuge and protection for those around us. For those who follow Jesus we need Godly wisdom and knowledge to best help them with their walk. For non-Christians we need to pray for opportunities to lead them to the Lord.

God, you’ve always been home when I needed shelter. You also sheltered me when I didn’t know how vulnerable I was. Help me to never take for granted the refuge of the shelter I know and the shelter that is there for me wherever I am.
Amen


© Joel Tipple 10/19/2019



What Courage?

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV


And let us consider how to stir up 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 10:24-25
ESV


What comes to mind when you hear the words “encourage” and “discourage?” Merriam-Webster says of encourage, 1 a : to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope : HEARTEN // she was encouraged to continue by her early success. Of discourage, 1 a : to deprive of courage or confidence DISHEARTEN // was discouraged by repeated failure

While for all practical purposes we can agree there are right times to encourage and discourage, I argue there is a real lack of encouragement in our world generally, sometimes even coming from the people who should be the most encouraging of all, followers of Jesus. After all, who has better cause to encourage? Among our promises from God are direction, help, and comfort in this world and salvation in the next. You won’t find an encouraging package like that anywhere else; it’s a Jesus Christ exclusive.

So what is that root word, courage? Using the dictionary again, we find it defined as : mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Everyone needs courage of some kind. For one it could be the courage to rescue someone from a rooftop in a storm. For another it might be stepping into an elevator. For you it might be telling someone the source of your hope. There are all kinds of courage. The best source of Godly courage will always be Jesus.

It has always been a strategy of the enemy to convince us that as we are at this moment is not enough, that the situation we are in or task at hand is greater than us and the God who has prepared us to this point. But God has not given us a spirit of fear, and the next step he wants you to take has already been prepared beforehand. With God there are no surprises and there is never a lack of resource. So take courage! And by all means, give it too.

When desperate and faltering
I found myself
by what I considered my lack
I searched the best source of courage
to make sure my feet on the path

I found my guide and strength in Jesus
who prepared the way before
He became my light and compass
so I needn’t fear anymore

Christ gave me courage to carry
but it wasn’t just for me
it was a lamp to show the way
so more captives could be freed

©Joel Tipple 9/14/2019

A Gift of Kindness

Christmas tree

He has told you, oh man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

Justin sat on his bed with a pad of paper and pencil, his legs crossed and eyes drawn together as he concentrated on the task at hand, writing what ostensibly was to be his yearly Christmas list. He’d been following what was now his yearly tradition for some time, since he decided he was too old to ask Santa for anything directly but not too old to make a list and hint to his parents that they could pass on ideas to the jolly one if they wanted to. It was normally as easy a task as you’d expect it to be for a boy his age. Just like anyone else he was bombarded with advertisements for this toy and that, games galore, electronics sure to make him the envy of his friends. Those things still held a strong attraction, but his perspective on the world and his place in it was changing. There was something in the air, something tense, like the feeling he got before a test at school when he hadn’t studied enough. It seemed like he was noticing the adults in his life getting more and more irritable, a little like when the flu went through his school and so many kids were out sick.There was this mean way people were treating each other that was going around. Once, when his grandfather caught him being mean to his little sister he sat him down and said, “Justin, do you know how important you are to your little sister? “No,” he said. “Well, you are. There are some things that she will learn best if she learns them from her family. If you teach her how to be kind she has a much better chance of growing up to be a kind person. That’s very important. It’s what Jesus taught. It’s also a fruit of the spirit.” So, it was with these ideas that seemed on the verge of being a little too big for him and God tugging on Justin’s heart that he began his list, though, as he wrote, it seemed more of a plea.

Justin’s Christmas list.

Mom and Dad would you be kind this Christmas?
Please, for that day set aside the words that hurt.
I’m sure you plan on giving us the best of all the toys,
but maybe you forgot what little girls and boys
need most of all.
Please be kind for Christmas.

In Sunday school we’re singing
Peace on Earth.
If it’s not too hard,
I wonder if God could start
in our house?
I don’t know exactly how it all works.
It takes all I know to write this verse…
I just hope he understands, anyway.

Could we maybe talk about being kind
for Christmas?
I know I’m just a kid,
and it might be a big thing,
but if it’ll help I’ll clean my room…
How about that?
For Christmas, could we please be kind?

Yesterday at the store, Mom,
you used your outside voice
with the lady who was helping us.
I think her kids
go to our Sunday school.
She looked really sad.
Did she do something bad?
Please if it’s alright,
could we get her
some of what I want
for Christmas?
I could share.

Will there be extra kindness
for Christmas?
I think all my friends at school
could use some too.
If we have some to share
I’ll bet we could.
If I ask real nice
I think you would
for Christmas.

How much does kindness cost?
Here’s my piggy bank.
That should be a good start, I think.
How much is enough?
Quite a bit, I’d say,
but just how can you get more of it
by giving it away?

If I fall down
will you kindly pick me up?
If I can’t reach
will you help me be tall?
If I don’t know the answers,
will you help me
ask better questions?
Then, maybe my brain
won’t feel so small.

Will you be the one
to tell me all about Christmas
by showing me how Jesus lived?
I’d rather know all that
from you, Mom and Dad.
For me it would be
the kindest thing you ever did.

©Joel Tipple
#14/15