In the last blog, I told you a story from a neurosurgeon, Dr. Paul Francel, my brother-in-law. I’d like to continue this month with another. This one takes place when he was mapping a patient’s brain. The patient is awake during these kind of surgeries—even though the top of the skull must be temporarily removed. Paul, during this procedure, was using an electrode to touch the various places in the man’s brain that would cause him to move certain parts of his hand. Paul was electrically stimulating one, tiny, specific part of the patient’s brain that made him want to move his left thumb up and down. The conversation with the patient (we’ll call him Mr. Jones) went like this:

Dr. Francel: Are you moving your left thumb up and down, Mr. Jones?
Mr. Jones: My left thumb is moving; but no, Dr. Francel. I’m not moving it up and down. You are.

Paul said to me, “Think about that, Mike. I’m touching the place in his brain that tells him he wants to move his thumb—but he knows it’s not him. He knows that he did not will it to happen. So where do decisions like that come from? They come from the soul. The brain is the interface between your eternal soul and the temporal world. It’s the transducer between the spiritual and the physical. In times past, we doctors thought we knew where memories were stored—in the frontal lobe of the brain. We’d remove parts of the frontal lobe and thought we were, thus, removing certain memories. But the memories came back. What does that tell you? It says that all of our memories —from birth to death—are stored in your soul. You could call it, “the cloud.” The brain is the hardware that brings those memories into our everyday lives. When Jesus says, ‘I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken’ (Matthew 12:36) it’s because every single thing we have ever thought, said, or done is stored in our souls.”

Paul told me that sometimes, when blind people are near death, they tell stories (later) of being able to see what their loved ones look like. He believes this is because their souls began to leave their bodies and were momentarily unencumbered by that physical disability. For Dr. Paul Francel, the reality of our immortal souls is a rock-solid truth which makes medical sense.

Our Immortal Souls (part one)


Archaeologists have uncovered tombstone inscriptions from the ancient world so common that the inscription was abbreviated, much as our “R.I.P.” (“Rest in Peace”). These inscriptions read: “I was not. I was. I am not. I do not care.” Despite prevailing modern thought about how “religious” ancient cultures may have been, many people did not believe in an afterlife.

Nowadays, some people still think that we are only made of matter—atoms of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and such— and that there is no soul. They believe that “dead is dead,” and the only thing that lives on is the legacy of one’s children and one’s notable works. They think they are now in the land of the living and will one day go to the land of the dying, but we Christians know that the opposite is true. Death leads to a change of venue—from time into eternity. C. S. Lewis said it this way: “Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.”

Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud claimed that any hope of life after death stifles caring about the serious matters of this life. They have been shown wrong by the imposed atheism of communist governments. A citizen of one of those communist countries said, “The state took away belief in the resurrection of the dead and we saw a consequent growth in crime and immorality because people were taught to live only for today and only for themselves.” There is a direct relationship between belief in a life-to-come and ethical responsibility for the life we have now.

Christians fully embrace the truth that we are immortal souls who have bodies. In this life, Jesus is drawing our souls closer to Himself: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV) One fine day, we are assured by Scripture, we’ll be given bodies to match our eternal souls in the next life.

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in Heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. (2 Corinthians 5:1 NLT)

My brother-in-law, Dr. Paul Francel, a neurosurgeon, tells a story about the reality of the soul. He was on a team of doctors—with a vascular surgeon and an anesthesiologist—doing a trans-abdominal approach to a man’s spine. The anesthesiologist would sedate the patient while the vascular surgeon would expose the man’s spine via the abdomen. Paul would then perform surgery on the spine. As the vascular surgeon began exposing the spine, he slipped and cut the inferior vena cava (a large vein carrying deoxygenated blood into the heart). It immediately gushed blood. He furiously began repairing the vessel but the patient lost his heartbeat. Finally, after the vein had been repaired, the team used a defibrillator to restore the man’s normal heart rhythm. The surgery continued as planned, concluded, and the patient was wheeled into the postoperative care unit. A tragedy had been avoided, and no one outside the medical staff would ever know; that is, until the doctors got into the recovery room with their patient.

“What happened in there?” The man demanded to know. The doctors were incredulous. The patient went on. Pointing to the vascular surgeon, he said, “You got extremely agitated and started cussing. I looked at Dr. Francel and he had a really concerned look on his face. I knew something was wrong, so I decided to go out into the waiting room and tell my wife—but while I was in the hallway, I realized I couldn’t speak to her without my body! Next thing I know, I’m waking up in post-op. What happened?” He could tell them how many other medical personnel were in the operating room and even what music was playing. The team of doctors told him what happened.

There’s more to the story—the man met Jesus while his soul was separated from his body. Jesus told him that it was not yet his time to die, and the man has made many changes to his life since that experience. Money is not nearly as important—family and people are. His soul is being transformed into the person Jesus wants him to become, both now and forever. And when his earthly body has run its course, he knows his life will not stop. His soul is immortal. Perhaps that man’s tombstone will read: “I was. I am. I will continue to be. And I care—a lot!”

I’ve known Paul Francel (my wife’s brother) since he was 15 years old. Paul was his high school’s valedictorian, scoring twin 800s on his SATs. He finished Harvard in three years, went on to get a PhD in Pharmacology plus an MD in a total of five years, and then trained in Neurosurgery. Since, he’s also completed an M.Div.. Paul has several other stories like the one you just read (and he says many surgeons have stories like it). The bottom line: We are not bodies that happen to have souls. We are each an immortal soul with a body.


Dr. Paul Francel



Have you ever heard someone say something like, “Jesus is only one of many spiritual teachers or mystical masters. To say Jesus is ‘the only way’ is naive at best and narrow-minded and worst.”

The person who says this is misinformed. Even a quick read of the Gospel accounts shows that Jesus knew Himself to be God in the flesh, on a mission to redeem a sinful human race.  Jesus does not give His hearers the option to view Him otherwise.

John 8:58   “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered,  “before Abraham was born, I am!”

In this statement, Jesus claims to exist, as God, before Abraham (his earthly ancestor) was born.  This claim to pre-existence places him above the human plane and points to His divinity.

John 10:30  “I and the Father are one.”

In this declaration, Jesus claims absolute unity with God.

Luke 22:70  They all asked,  “Are you then the Son of God?”  He replied,  “You are right in saying I am.”

In this statement from his trial, Jesus confesses to His “Only Begotten” Son” status with God.

Mark 2:1-12

In this account of Jesus’ healing of a paralyzed man, He forgave the man’s sin first. Those watching exclaimed, “This is blasphemy!  Only God can forgive sins!” whereupon Jesus stated that He could forgive the man’s sin in the same way that He would heal the man’s paralysis.  Jesus was thus equating Himself with God.

Matt. 7:22-23  “Many will say to me on that day,  ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly,  ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

In this prophecy, Jesus shows that He will be the judge of all humanity and history—an office only God can fill.

John 14:1 & 6   “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me … Jesus answered,  “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Here, Jesus does not claim to show the way; He says that He is the way to Father God, something that places Him apart from swamis and other spiritual guides.  Here, Jesus does not say that He will teach the truth; He says that He is the truth—again something a mere teacher would not say. Here, Jesus does not say that He will give life, but that He is the life—a claim far beyond what humans can deliver.  Jesus is making claims to divinity here as well.

Matt. 11:27   “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”

In these words, Jesus discounts any other person who may teach a different way than He does.  Anyone else claiming to provide a path to enlightenment is thus disqualified.

John 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Acts 4:12  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

1Timothy 2:5  For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.

In these statements by his followers (The Apostle John, Luke the Physician, The Apostle Paul) Jesus’ uniqueness as God in the flesh and as the one way for humanity to reach God is affirmed.

Jesus is not like any other. We must deal with Jesus’ own “narrow mindedness” about how we can connect with God as a result.  Either He is who He claims to be, or He is not.

The Image of Love


Genesis 1:27 “So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”

It has been said that ever since God created us in His own image, we have more than reciprocated. It would be sad if it weren’t so humorous. We are ever prone to make God look, act, and feel like a human. Greek and Norse mythologies are about gods behaving like men and women, complete with our own petty jealousies, capriciousness, and immorality. To this day, we all project our inconsistencies upon God: God likes the people we like, puts up with the ones we put up with, ridicules the ones we ridicule, and way too often tells us exactly what we want to hear.

The God of the Bible exhibits amazing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control toward a human race that not only distorts His image, but treats people in ways He would never intend. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, God intends to form that kind of love in us, through His Spirit.

God exists as three persons in One. It is a holy mystery. But let us remember: this is the basis for love. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit love each other perfectly. They share a deep and unique fellowship. We imperfectly try to reflect that fellowship in the union of a husband and a wife and in the community of those who believe in Jesus. But we fail—miserably. Yet Jesus’s prayer in John 17 invites us in to the fellowship and the love which the Trinity embodies.

John 17:11, 20-21, 26 “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. . . . My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. . . . I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

We know that “God is love.” (1John 4:8) Love requires a giver and a receiver—and the Trinity makes that possible. But the description of love in 1Corinthians 13 does not fit into the Trinity unless the Trinity encounters some imperfection, some transgression in order for love to be shown as glorious as it truly is.

1Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

There is no cause for the Father to forgive the Son or the Son to forgive the Father. There is no cause for the Holy Spirit to have erased a “record of wrongs” with either one of the other persons in the Trinity. The Trinity thinks, speaks, and acts perfectly—for God is love.

It’s when humans get thrown into the mix that God’s love for imperfect humanity is revealed to be as amazing as it actually is. God is patient with us. He is kind when there is no reason to have been so. He does not boast about these great accomplishments. He does not shame or dishonor us, even when we have been rolling in the muck of our sins. He is always seeking to do good for us. He is not easily angered at us, even though we give him plenty of reasons. The fact that He keeps no record of wrongs boggles the imagination.

The kind of love that God is becomes revealed when the object of that affection does not return the love. In Christ, that’s the image we are called to reflect. We engage with God—the Trinity—when we love others as we are loved. It’s why the Apostle John could write these words: 

1John 4:7-8 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God . . .


Ecclesiastes 5:10 Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. 

Ain’t it the truth. We probably all know somebody who fits this description— people always have (as this verse of Scripture was written three thousand years ago.) It is incomprehensible when those who are rich complain about needing more money. People who have the cash for lavish homes, upscale restaurants, fantastic vacations, and the best schools for their kids don’t usually live with less and usually wish they had “just a little bit more.” 

But this verse of Scripture is not talking about wealthy people. It is speaking about anybody who loves money—so it applies to us all. It’s not wrong to be concerned about paying the bills and buying the things we legitimately need. The recipe for the kind of frustration the teacher in Ecclesiastes warns about is adding more “want” to our lives than the Lord would have us to want. 

Money isn’t the root of all evil (as some have misquoted the passage from 1Timothy 6:10) but it is the love of money that is a root of all kinds of evil. We were not created by God to have a personal attachment or a passionate affection for gold and silver, so real joy cannot be found in the pursuit of the cash to get more “stuff.” On the contrary, love of money always denies our deepest desires. (If anyone realizes this, it’s a rich person who can’t buy love.)

Proverbs 30:8-9 says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’”

There’s real wisdom there—which (by the way) the Bible says is way more valuable than money. 

Fairy Tale Wedding


God did not choose any other metaphor in the whole universe to depict his love for us except marriage. There is no mountain, no waterfall, no galaxy—nothing can show how much Jesus loves us as can a married couple who are filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit.

If you have children and you want them to see how much God loves them, let them see it in your relationship. If you want unbelievers to believe that Jesus Christ came to earth and died for them, sacrificing His own best interests for their well- being, then it’s a whole lot easier if they see it operating in a marriage. If a couple is selfish, controlling, and going their own separate ways—others will never see the metaphor God wants them to see. Instead, they will think that God’s love is just a fairy tale, way too good to be true.

. . . And it is sort of is a fairy tale isn’t it? Can anybody who is a Christian deny the amazing love they feel from a Savior who has swept them up into his arms and is carrying them to an eternal, heavenly home where they will live happily ever after?

There is a longing in the heart of every human for the old tales to really be true—that love truly does conquer all— and that longing is there for a reason. Why have men and women of so many cultures written stories with a happily ever after? It’s because they are, unconsciously, tapping into an eternal truth that God actually has a happily-ever-after planned for those He loves. Truly, Christ resurrects us from our spiritual deadness with a kiss, but the journey to eternal bliss is not an easy one.

As a bride, the church tends to be stubborn and want its own way. Sometimes we stop talking to Him as we pout; we whine and complain. Sometimes we’re angry that He doesn’t do things our way. Jesus is an ardent lover, however, and will not allow us to wander too far away. Our honeymoon in the Heavenly City is a reality more solid than our sinfulness by the grace of God through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ. God did not choose any other metaphor in the whole universe to depict his love for us except marriage.

M&M  June 1978

“God & Country” or “God & Church”?

… if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

(2Chronicles 7:14)

So often I hear this verse used in reference to the U.S.A., quoted by well-meaning Christians who sense our society’s moral decline. Perhaps it could apply to us as a country (I mean, God can do whatever He wants with the nations of the world). Frankly, I hope it can apply to us because I like the thought of living in a country that God would bless. Originally, though, the context of this story in Scripture was for the land of Israel only. Solomon had just finished overseeing the building and dedication of the Temple of God in Jerusalem. The LORD then appeared to Solomon at night and said,

“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people—if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves …”

This was God’s prescription for Israel for when things got bad. Christians, however, should primarily think of that promise as metaphor. Christians have never been given a piece of real estate by God in the same manner the Jews were given the land of Israel. We are God’s people, sure enough, but what is “our land?” It doesn’t appear that Jesus claimed any specific plot of ground for Himself or for His followers. Could our inheritance be the Church — Jesus’ Kingdom on the Earth? If Christians humble themselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from their wicked ways, then might God heal the drought of love in the church? Might God destroy the “locusts” that are robbing us of fruitful labor in our ministries? Might He heal us of the plague of self-centeredness? It’s tempting to point fingers at the pagan society around us and urge it to repent (for, indeed, it needs to) but this verse actually asks us, the church, to do the repenting.

45 Years of Dating the Same Person


Mike & Mary @ Purdue University, Winter 1977-78

I met Mary in the summer of 1976. She was in the big, outdoor pool where I was a lifeguard (enough said). Our first date was a double date to an old-fashioned ice cream parlor.  We saw each other at the pool and I went over to her parents’ home where we talked on the front porch after work. I took her out to breakfast before she left for graduate school. Mary and I became “official” boyfriend and girlfriend in the autumn that year. We were married in June of 1978.

A wise old pastor once told me, “We don’t get married because we are in love; we get married to learn how to love.” Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith and our love.  He uses marriage to mature both people so that, eventually, the couple will love the way that He loves.

Mary and I entered marriage with the belief that we deserved to be made happy by marriage—that somehow we would “live happily ever after.” It would be like dating, only more fun. But here’s the truth we have learned: If we aim for happiness, we won’t get it—but if we aim for love, happiness will get thrown in. 

I’ve often thought that while a wedding couple say their vows, God hears and thinks, “OK. I’ll give you a chance to fulfill those vows. Sometimes it will be worse and not better, poorer and not richer. You’ll have sickness and not health. Death may separate you two, but it won’t separate you from Me. I’m with you forever. In the meantime, you’ll learn to love each other more like I love you.”

The Foolishness of Christianity

1Corinthians 1:20-23
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…

The death and resurrection of Jesus means the penalty of sin has been paid by the Lord Jesus Christ; it proved His power to forgive sin—His crucifixion spanned the gap which existed between Heaven and Earth.

As a result, the resurrection of our Lord means that the foolishness of Christianity is wiser than any other religion’s wisdom. Yet, Christianity appears foolish in the eyes of those who will not believe in and follow a crucified, risen Christ.

When the topic of religion comes up, some people have a difficult time taking faith in Jesus seriously. Perhaps there are raised eyebrows, sighs, or outright antagonism. More than once, friends have been surprised that someone as intelligent as I would believe the old Christian “fairytales.” I have also spoken with those who honestly think that the world would be a better place without Christianity.

The “foolishness” of the crucifixion and resurrection is the perfect way of revealing who Jesus is and who we are. Even I don’t understand why God chose to orchestrate Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection the way He did—I mean, I can’t understand it from a marketing perspective. From a barely noticed crucifixion, thousands of years before the invention of mass media in a remote part of the Roman Empire to an even less noticed resurrection—which nobody actually saw at the time but later was witnessed by a few women and a small group of friends— most of the world now knows about those events in the life of Jesus.

That makes no sense. I’d have waited until the Internet was invented, I’d alert every major world news organization. I’d make sure there were television crews and documentary filmmakers present—I’d have bloggers live at Golgotha writing about all the events of Good Friday. I’d place video cams inside the tomb, streaming every minute for three days. I’d have scientists reading spectrometers placed at the tomb’s entrance and an iMax film crew posted there on Sunday morning.

“The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1Corinthians 1:25) however. God has chosen seeking and preaching as the preferred avenues of faith. We preach that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). God wants to keep it personal. That’s God’s wisdom. So let’s tell our family, friends, and even our enemies about the wondrous events of the crucifixion and resurrection this Easter and afterwards. It pleases Jesus to save people He loves through that kind of “foolishness.”

Not the “Silent Night” You’ve Always Sung About

So, you’ve probably heard the common application of this part of the Christmas story — that God announces to the lowly shepherds this amazing news so that we might know Christ came for anybody, regardless of social status. I buy that wholeheartedly, but there is so much more to be tasted in these delicious verses of Scripture. The shepherds were “terrified.” Hello. No kidding? You’re at work, minding your own business in the stillness of the midnight shift and someone much more powerful than your boss stops by. At this point, you’re not worried about how you’ve been slacking on the job — you’re worried about how you’ve been slacking your entire life! God’s own top brass has arrived and it looks like it’s time for an accounting; but no, the angel says he has “good news of great joy.” 

At this point, the relief has got to be incredible. You find out in the following verses that God’s long-awaited promise to set everything right is finally kept. This is wonderful news, you’re thinking to yourself. And just about the time you’re getting comfortable with your lone midnight visitor, a whole army of angels appears, probably armed for battle. (Otherwise, why use the military term, “Heavenly Host”?) Somewhere in the spirit-world there is a war going on, and the angels are sounding the battle cry. We know that soon there will be threats on the baby Jesus’ life, that Mary & Joseph will have to flee with Him to Egypt. We also know that Satan will be trying to stop Jesus for the rest of His life. 

Yeah, angels are terrifying (almost every time they appear to somebody in the Bible, they tell that person not to be afraid) and it’s because they are God’s special forces in the war against ultimate evil. Christmas was God’s D-Day on Planet Earth. Of course the shepherds were afraid. They were front-line observers as God, through the birth of His only-begotten Son Jesus, began to take back enemy-occupied territory in the battle for human souls.