Focus – How Many Souls On Board? By Lt. Colonel Mervyn Morelock

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By Lt. Colonel Mervyn Morelock –

On recent flights to our crusades I’ve noticed that some airlines have permitted their passengers to listen in on their headphones to a channel that carries the conversations of the pilot with ground control and the air traffic controllers as we travel. I often listen to relieve the boredom of the flights. Most of the time the conversations are rather dull and routine, but they provide some entertainment and allows me to imagine being in the cockpit with the pilot.

I was on a flight to Seattle recently, listening to air traffic controller conversations with pilots of airplanes all over the northwest region. A pilot (of another airplane, thank the Lord) radioed that one of his engines had to be shut down due to overheating. He was declaring an emergency and needed information on the nearest airport.

The air controller, in seeking the information needed to route the troubled airplane to an airport capable of handling an emergency landing, asked several important questions: “Type of aircraft? How many pounds of fuel on board? etc.” Then I heard an unusual question, “How many souls on board?” The pilot, a little confused by the question, said, “Say again?” “I said, how many souls, people, on board?” “Oh, 97 passengers with crew, sir.”

As I listened in on the radio conversation, I thought to myself, “He got that right!” That air traffic controller had his theological terms correct: “How many souls on board?” These were passengers, with a soul!

The word soul has two distinct meanings in the Bible. That which makes a human body alive. The Greek word for soul is translated as life. “For whoever desires to save his life (soul) will lose it,” Jesus said, “but whoever loses his life (soul) for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36-37)

The word soul also refers to the inner life of man, the seat of his emotions, and the center of human personality. The first use of the word soul in the Old Testament expresses this meaning: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (soul). (Genesis 2:7) Man became a living soul, a person, a human being, distinct from all other forms of life.

Like our use of the word “heart,” the soul is also described as the seat of many emotions and desires like love, longing for God, rejoicing, knowing and memory. In the New Testament, Jesus spoke of his soul as being “exceedingly sorrowful.” (Matthew 26:38) John prayed that a man would “prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (III John 2)

The people on that troubled plane were probably unaware of the drama taking place in the cockpit and the concern that their crew, the air traffic controller, and all the pilots in the northwest airspace (and those of us who were listening in on the frequency), had for their safety. They sat in their seats oblivious to the danger that they faced.

And so it is with many people in the world, oblivious to a God who cares…who gave his Son to die on the cross for us. He cares for us! “Cast all your anxiety on him, for he cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7)

As I listened to the conversations between the air traffic controller and the pilot, and other pilots who joined in to give up-to-date information on the runways in Moses Lake and Spokane, I was impressed with the care and concern they all had for that planeload of “souls.”

Jesus cared for us so much that, in order to save us from an eternity in Hell, he willingly gave up his life on the cross for us. In this Lenten season we will be reminded, again, of the tremendous sacrifice that he had that we might live. I’m glad that he died for me and for you!

Later, when we landed, I heard on the news that the airplane had safely made an emergency landing in Spokane. I was relieved!

May we come to know Jesus, who cares for our souls, so that we too might make a safe landing in heaven one day!

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