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Ten-Year-Old's 'Joke of the Day' Is Making a Difference: A Practical Way to 'Know God's Presence'


“Why are ghosts such bad liars? Because you can see right through them.”

Ethan LyBrand has been supplying a “Joke of the Day” such as this one during the pandemic. His audience is part of what makes this such a terrific story: Ethan is filming his jokes to share through the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s (MDA) social channels. 

Another aspect of the story is that Ethan is only ten, but he is finding a way to make a difference. Here’s yet another: Ethan has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Diagnosed two days before his second birthday, he tires easily and periodically uses a motorized chair for mobility. 

Despite his challenges, Ethan intends to tell jokes “as long as the quarantine lasts.”

"Young trailblazers" who are "stepping up"

Ethan is not the only young person taking the initiative to help others during this crisis: Forbes is reporting on eight “young trailblazers stepping up during the pandemic.” One built a grocery delivery robot. Another is making see-through masks for the hearing impaired. Another is making face shields with a 3D-printer.

On the other end of the spectrum, an eighty-eight-year-old Air Force veteran named Bob Coleman is sharing his love for country music on a new online radio hour known as “Radio Recliner.” He is one of several retirees serving as DJs for the sixty-minute show. Listeners can send song requests dedicated to friends or family. 

Volunteers are stepping up to serve seniors as well. For example, employees of the city of Plano, Texas, launched bi-weekly Senior Care Calls. City staff are asking how older people are doing and connecting them to community resources as needed. The AARP has a similar service for senior adults. 

Loving God with "all your strength"

Yesterday, we focused on the second Great Commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31). Today, we’ll begin discussing the first Great Commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (v. 30). 

Let’s consider these four commitments in inverse order as they build on each other. If we love God with all our “strength,” we can love our neighbor more effectively. To love God with all our “strength,” we must love him with all our “mind.” To love him with our “mind,” we must love him with our “soul.” To love him with our “soul,” we must love him with our “heart.” 

So, what does it mean to love God with “all your strength”? Why is this priority so urgent today? 

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul states: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (v. 13). Then he asks, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” (v. 15). 

Do we? 

How can we do "greater" works than Jesus?

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes: “Let me make it quite clear that when Christians say the Christ-life is in them, they do not mean simply something mental or moral. When they speak of being ‘in Christ’ or of Christ being ‘in them,’ this is not simply a way of saying that they are thinking about Christ or copying him. 

“They mean that Christ is actually operating through them; that the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts—that we are his fingers and muscles, the cells of his body.”

The night Jesus was betrayed, he made his disciples an astounding promise: “Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). He did not mean that we would do “greater” works in the sense that our works would be superior to his. He cleansed lepers, calmed stormy seas, and raised the dead—it is difficult to imagine works that would be superior to his.

Our Lord meant that our works would be “greater” in scope and scale than those he performed as a single individual during a three-year public ministry. As the English Standard Version Study Bible notes, his prediction was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when “more believers were added to Jesus’ followers than during his entire earthly ministry up to that time” (cf. Acts 2:41). 

Jesus intended us to do these “greater” works by the power of the Spirit whom he would send after his ascension. This is because the Holy Spirit “will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8) and “guide you into all the truth” (v. 13). But he works through our earthly ministries just as he worked through Jesus’ earthly ministry. 

This is why Scripture teaches that “you are the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

How to "know God’s presence with us"

Loving God with “all your strength” means to “glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). This requires that we “flee from sexual immorality” (v. 18) and that we maintain our bodies well as the “temple of the Holy Spirit within you” (v. 19). 

And it means that we use our practical capacities to advance God’s eternal kingdom. From telling jokes to making 3D facemasks, each of us can find a practical way to meet a practical need. 

And each of us can know that when we love God with all our strength, his Spirit uses us in ways we cannot see on this side of eternity. Br. Jim Woodrum of the Society of St. John the Evangelist notes: “Perhaps at this moment in your journey with Jesus you are not seeing or perceiving how God is working in your life, how Jesus is present with you amidst the world’s bewildering confusion and suffering. 

“If so, take Jesus at his word. We will come to know God’s presence with us by following the example of Jesus: by teaching and healing, by listening to our neighbors, and by doing acts of love and mercy.”

How will you follow the example of Jesus today?

NOTE: In 137 AD, Aristides wrote that Christians “live in the awareness of their smallness.” He meant that the early Christians lived meekly, giving to others as others had need. They also held their lives freely, acknowledging God’s sovereignty. How true are those words in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic? The world has irrevocably changed—but, praise God, our God has not. If you’re able to give to help others know and discern God’s will for their lives, please prayerfully consider partnering with the Denison Forum.

Publication date: May 19, 2020

Photo courtesy: ©GettyImages/Tom Merton

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

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