A Bold Move to Make Your Job Better


How are you supposed to have joy at work when your colleague in the next cubicle is lazy yet takes credit for work you completed? Down the hall, colleagues trash your boss all day. Worse than the negativity at work is the drama caused by people yapping back and forth at each other like a pack of scared poodles! You thought you left the back-stabbing gossip behind in high school, but here it is again at work.

It’s tiring. You get worn out without getting any work done. And that’s defeating. You end Trouble @ Work_up stressed out and tired and going home further behind than when you walked in with your coffee in hand and your high hopes intact. Is there any help?

Good news! The gospel is called good news for a reason; it offers many great benefits. And these benefits are available to us even while we work. But there is a problem. How can we experience Gospel benefits at work—especially if we work with unbelievers?

Gospel benefits are received by faith. And faith means trusting someone else more than we trust ourselves. That can be tough. But it’s not so tough when the someone else we are trusting is Jesus.

There are many wonderful, exceptionally great things to say about Jesus. But he referred to his way as “the narrow way.” By narrow way, Jesus meant that his way is the less obvious and sometimes a little more difficult than the way everyone else is living. To be sure, the way of Jesus is the better way—it is the way of life—abundant life even. But it isn’t the easy way.

If you are willing to trust Jesus and take a risk of faith, then you will find a secret to successful work. This secret is counter-intuitive. You won’t believe it when you hear it. Would you like to know how to leave your job each day with less stress and more joy?

It’s simple. Follow the lead of the one leader who is always working for your eternal good. Following Jesus at work means you should adjust your expectation.

Adjustment: Expect to serve.

Go to work expecting to serve… not to be served. Worldly pressure squeezes us like an orange press bearing down on the thick skin to force out the juice-filled pulp in the middle. Worldly pressure commands us to demand our rights. It stokes fear and tells us if we don’t stand up for our rights no one else will. So, we end up expecting injustice and looking to get even.

Jesus, on the other hand, says, “Whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20: 27-28, ESV). Jesus tells his disciples to become slaves and servants—after his own example.

When Jesus said this, the disciples had been fighting (at work!) over who was about to get a promotion. Actually, it was even worse than it sounds. It wasn’t really the disciples who were in a fight; it was a mama bear! The mother of James and John wanted her sons to be promoted in Jesus’s kingdom to the seats of honor on either side of the king. Jesus let her (and the disciples) know that his way is not the same as the way of the world. His way is not scratching and clawing over people to rise to the top of the pack. His way is finding how to give time and attention to others to help them live better. The Jesus way is to be a servant. Don’t seek a way to avail in victory over your peers. Find a way to serve them.

… I warned you this is counter-intuitive. And not easy.

No one follows Jesus because his way is easy. We follow because he is good. Because Jesus is good, his way is good. We can trust him to lead.

Serving no job too low faith christ serve

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On another occasion, Jesus showed his followers an example of service. He took water and a towel and washed their dirty feet. The king! He knelt to the ground before them, took water from a bowl, and washed their feet, wiping their feet with the towel wrapped around his waist. Then he said to them,

“If I then your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:15-17).

No lawful job is too low for Christians. And no human being is beneath being served by those who follow the way of Jesus.

Why not take a major risk and start serving your colleagues at work? Jesus says you are blessed if you do this. One aspect of the blessed life is freedom to serve others in the name of Jesus.

Seriously, devote one day this week to serve someone around you. Make it your aim: A successful day will be yours if you serve ______________________ well today. Go make that person have a great day and see what the Lord does for you. Let us know what happens.

Where’s Your Anchor?


Edward Mote walked to work one day in 1834 thinking of how blessed he was to be a Christian. He wanted to write a song that would praise God adequately. That day at work, he penned a line here and a line there, until he had the song mostly finished before the workday was over.

At the end of the week, a friend confessed to Mote that his wife was seriously ill. The Blog Anchoredfriend asked if Mote would come to pray for his wife. Mote not only prayed for the woman, but he also sang his newly written song with her and her husband. The dying woman was noticeably moved and strengthened by the message of the song. Mote was so encouraged by the response that he sent the song to a publisher. More than 175 years later, we are still singing, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

There’s a line in that song worth noting particularly: “In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.” Imagine this dying woman being reminded of her soul’s anchor in Christ while the storms of disease raged through her body and the gale of death assaulted her thoughts and soul! No wonder she was encouraged by the song. Her soul had an anchor that would hold even through disease and death.

But here’s another thought that is even more wonderful. The song points out that the anchor for our souls is not on the earth. We aren’t anchored down here.

Pearl Harbor is a sad and stark reminder of what happens when ships are moored to the earth. One catastrophe, one series of enemy attacks, and an entire fleet can be wiped out. In an hour and a half, over 2,400 people were killed at Pearl Harbor. Nearly half that number were on board the USS Arizona, which was anchored and had no way to escape. Because it was anchored, the Arizona was a proverbial sitting duck for the Japanese military attack that day.

Likewise, anchoring our souls to earth would prove disastrous. The hope of the soul deserves an anchor which withstands the most terrible storm. If our hopes are anchored in our abilities, they can be destroyed by disease. If our hopes are anchored in our marriages, they can be shattered by infidelity. If our hopes are moored to our money, they can be sunk instantly in a depression.

Mote’s song—taking its truth from Hebrews 6—makes clear that our hope is not on the earth. Our hope is anchored “within the veil.” Which veil? Hebrews 6 is speaking of the veil of the Temple. The Temple is pictured as the dwelling place of God. The innermost portion of the Temple—the part behind the veil—was off limits even for the Jews.  A Holy God dwelled there, and no one could see God and live (Exodus 33:20). God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16). Hebrews 12 says, “Our God is a consuming fire.” Think of it—a consuming fire.

No idiot with half a brain would get close to an all-consuming fire! Anyone who has ever built a giant bonfire knows how close you can and cannot get to the heat. How can a soul get to the center of the fire? The answer is Christ, the solid rock.

Hebrews 6 talks about how Jesus (not an idiot!) went directly behind the veil—right into the heart of the consuming fire—as a “forerunner” or a “pioneer,” a trailblazer paving the way for our arrival. The forerunner idea means that he went first so that we could follow. To put it a different way, Jesus went into the holy fire behind the veil with our soul-anchors attached to him. Like a tether-ball on a string, our souls are attached to Christ and can’t fall away from him. Our souls are anchored to Christ who is seated on God’s throne within the veil.

BlogAnchorJesusWhere the ships at Pearl Harbor were anchored below, our souls are said to be anchored above, where Christ is. And because they are anchored above, our anchors must hold through every high and stormy gale. Our souls are blessed indeed with an anchor that holds. The writer of Hebrews says that God promised this blessing to us so that “we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (6:18). Because you are so blessed, you can and will hold fast to the hope set before you.

One final thought comes to mind. Jesus went before us to secure the future that is ahead of us. He anchored our souls to Himself so that the changing tides of time would not destroy either our faith or our future. Our future is secure. It is certain. And it is good.

Maybe you remember the early story of creation. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are kicked out of the Garden of Eden. The text says that God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden and placed a fiery angel with a flaming sword at the entrance so the first humans (and all humans afterward) could not return to paradise and eat of the tree of eternal life.

But here is the beauty of what Christ has accomplished. The blessing of a soul anchored in Christ is that Christ has walked safely passed the impenetrable security guards. Christ opened paradise and sits there securely, waiting for our arrival.

Christ is not hoping for us to arrive in paradise. He is waiting for our arrival. Our anchor is with him. So our arrival there is sure.

Maybe today would be a good day to slow down. Walk to work like Edward Mote did many years ago. And think of what a blessing it is to have your hope anchored in Christ the solid rock, who sits within the veil.

Why the Easy Life Is so Hard!


Not long ago while taking a walk, I noticed a nice pickup truck—a fairly common occurrence for me. I grew up appreciating nice trucks, and that particular aesthetic skill has not left me.

This particular truck was a mid-sized four-wheel drive with several added features

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designed particularly to navigate the desert terrain of southern California. From the appearance of the truck, I reached the conclusion that the vehicle’s owner appreciated mountains, deserts, lakes, and streams. “Excellent!” I thought.

Then I noticed a curious bumper sticker on the back of the pickup: Drink Craft Beer and Live Easy. “Hmm. What’s the message there?” I wondered. Is the message that this person really likes craft beer and craft beer makes life easy? Or is this aficionado of artisan ales calling for two separate actions: drink craft beer and also live life easy.

Blog Drink Beer Live EasyAfter an abrupt interruption from the grammar portion of my mind needing to clarify whether the bumper sticker shouldn’t instead read, “live easily,” I sobered up again and returned to pondering the meaning of this bumper sticker. (I know… bumper stickers aren’t the places to go for meditating on life lessons…)

Besides the potential grammar issue, what’s wrong with drinking craft beer and living “easy”? Then it hit  me that there is something wrong with living easy: it’s just too hard! Life is too hard to live easy.

As I walked, I thought about how several people might read the bumper in their various walks of life. A dear woman I know had to bury all three of her children, each one dying unexpectedly in different ways, leaving children behind. For her, God is good, but life is not easy.

Another woman, Asia Bibi, spent ten years in prison in Pakistan on account of her faith in Christ. She was sentenced to death, separated from her husband and children, and poorly-cared for in a Pakistani jail for a decade. During her imprisonment, life was still worth living for her, but it wasn’t easy.

Finally, I thought of my neighbor—a former musician who loved playing trumpet in a mariachi band. He was diagnosed with cancer in his back and, through the process of fighting cancer, lost the use of both legs. Wheel-chair bound now, he is unable to play trumpet any longer because of injuries caused by the cancer.

At this point, I realized what had bothered me about the bumper sticker. It just doesn’t work. Life is not easy.

Three final thoughts occupied the remainder of my walk. First, life is good, but not easy. Reality demands we think of death. And death is not required to pre-announce its arrival. Death’s arrival is like Emily Dickinson describes it in her great poem: Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me. Death stops for us before we stop for it.

Second, even if our own attitude is to enjoy good things and live an easy life, we must recognize that life depends upon relationships. None of us lives to himself. Other people have a say in our lives. And we can’t control the choices other people make. Some choices made by other people will make life hard for us. Even a decision to live easy might somehow make someone else’s life hard.

Third, I realized that I may have been overthinking the bumper sticker… Who knows what the truck owner was really trying to communicate?

In the end, I was thankful to have noticed the bumper sticker. I thought of what might be a better way to communicate my thoughts on the matter of living easy. My mind went to the Apostle Peter’s Bumper Sticker (aka 1 Peter 5:8a), “Be sober-minded.” That verse works because it expects us to be mentally engaged in the world we inhabit without being sad, morose, or somber. It allows us to be joyful and thankful and sad—sometimes all in the same day or week. Being sober-minded, then, is much healthier than living easy.

Whatever you drink, be sober-minded.

How Should We Pray?


Several years ago, a pastor friend confided in me. He did not know how to pray.

He hated to admit it, but he could not sustain prayers longer than a few seconds. Sustained prayer was for him as foreign as Durian candy in a Michelin five star restaurant. It just wasn’t happening.

My friend wanted help, but who could he ask? How would he not be condemned by others for simply asking the question? Thankfully, he trusted me enough to ask for help. And he was not condemned. Hopefully, he was helped.

Now I am hoping you might be helped, too. If a pastor made it into ministry without understanding how to pray, then (it’s at least possible that) other Christians might need help. Others may also be afraid to ask for instructions. After all, what Christian wants to admit that he doesn’t know how to pray?

If you are one who wishes you could pray more confidently, then you’re in pretty good company! According to Luke 11:1, Jesus’s followers asked him to teach them how to pray. In the longer account in Matthew 6, the Lord’s Prayer is an introductory model for daily Christian prayer. If you’re struggling with your prayer life, consider following the Lord’s Prayer as a model.

Here it is from Matthew 6:9-13,Lords Prayer Process2

…“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

NOTE THE 7 MOVEMENTS OF THE LORD’S PRAYER

  1. Identity — Our Father

Begin your daily prayer with a reminder that you are a child of God. You know the living God as your Heavenly Father. Notice that the prayer begins with “Our” Father. Not only does the believer begin with his or her identity as a child of God, but the children of God also recognize their identity as belonging to one another. The Lord’s Prayer is for the church! Enter prayer as part of the family of God.

  1. Eternity — The One Who Is in Heaven

Jesus next instructs His family of followers on earth to remember Heaven. There is distance between God’s children and God, distance between earth and Heaven. And yet, there is a direct line of communication available from one realm to the other. Because our identity belongs to God, our earthly location is no hindrance to a heavenly audience with Him. And because He is God in Heaven, He has resources beyond earth and time to bring to bear for the good of His children.

  1. Holiness — Holy God

Third, confess the Holiness of God. He alone is the supreme one. This confession serves both as a confession of God’s greatness and a reminder of our own limits. You and I are not the central figures of the universe, and God knows that. This portion of the prayer helps each of us orient ourselves to God as the center. Our part is to serve Him. His part is not to serve us (though He freely and graciously does). Keeping God central is key to faithful praying.

  1. Kingdom — Heaven and Earth

Naturally, the fourth part flows directly from God’s holiness. His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Here is a rich and fertile field for cultivating prayer concerns. Think of all the ways the earth is out of sorts—the evil, the injustice, the lack of love for others. Pray for earth to meet heaven and for Christ to bring the new Jerusalem to earth. Pray that a uniting of God’s peace and order would prevail upon the earth. At Christ’s return, a new heavens and a new earth will unite God with his people, and all will be right.

  1. Provision — Daily Bread

As God is accomplishing this cosmic mission on earth, the fifth part of prayer comes into play. Prayer begs that God would accomplish the simple small favor of feeding us as he does the beasts, the birds, and the creatures of the sea. Our plea is sustenance, not superabundance. Our prayer has already been for God’s will to be done—not ours. We ask him to remember our needs as he also supplies his own.

The prayer for daily bread is humbling when we already have a superabundance. Yet some Christians around the world are in prison for their faith. Others are suffering terribly on account of Christ. Maybe remember to pray here for persecuted and suffering members of the Christian family to receive daily bread. See www.prisoneralert.com

  1. Forgiveness — Receiving / Offering

Noting the significance of God’s kingdom mission throughout, we must pray to do our part in the redemption process. Redemption offers us forgiveness of sins. Confess and seek forgiveness for every sin that comes to mind. Trusting that you receive forgiveness from God, pray for grace so you can offer forgiveness gladly and freely to others. Whom do you need to forgive today? Tell your Father you forgive those people today. Tell those people also if you are able.

  1. Sanctification — Redemption/ Deliverance

Finally, as the Father continues to work His will on earth as it is in Heaven, you continue praying for your own will to be in tune with His. Pray for His leading. Pray against all your temptations. Pray for deliverance both from temptations and from sin (yours and others). Pray for others in danger of sin. Pray against their temptations. Pray for their deliverance, too. Sanctification follows such praying.

May the Lord encourage you to pray confidently each day.

(Feel free to share other methods of praying daily)

Why Did You Do That?


Just yesterday, my youngest son did something stupid.

To tell the truth, his mom and dad often do stupid things, too—daily. But our job is to correct him and help him to be better than we are (which means making him prone to doing fewer stupid things). So we corrected our child.

The main way we corrected him was by asking him a question: Why did you do that?

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His reply was, “I don’t know.” When he responded that way, we knew clearly where our real work needed to begin. We needed to help him understand why he does inappropriate things. If we could help him understand why he does these things, we might also be able to lead him to see why he should not do them—and why he should do more positive things instead.

This struggle in our day to day child-rearing turns out to be a struggle that sits at the heart of Christian ethics. Christian ethics is about what we ought to do, what we ought not do, and why we ought to do/ not do certain things. On this last question, the “why” question, there is much debate among Christian thinkers. Why ought we love others and not murder them?

The simplest ethical response is, “Because God says so.” (But why does God say so? How do we know?)

The answer growing more popular these days to the “why” question is something like, “because good people (God’s people) do good things.” This latter answer operates on the idea that our character determines our actions. According to this view, God is intensely concerned to shape our character so that good actions which please him will flow from our good character. A classic example of this approach comes from Jesus in Matthew 12:33-35,

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Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.

Christians obviously want to be good trees bearing good fruits. The kind of person you are determines the kind of actions you will perform. But there’s a  big #Problem!

How does this work? By nature, we aren’t good trees! Scripture tells us that we are by nature dead—children of wrath (Ephesians 2); Scripture says that by nature not a single one of us is righteous (Romans 3); and the Bible teaches that by nature our hearts seek to do evil continually even from a very young age (Genesis 8).

The naturally bad trees will not attempt to do good—that would be working against our own nature (like a peach tree somehow deciding to grow a watermelon). If, on the other hand, we simply confess we are bad trees and thus must do bad works, we fall victim to fatalism and disobey God’s instructions openly. How in the world can a naturally bad tree produce good fruit?

Here is where Christian ethics must begin—with theology! Christian living begins with God supernaturally revealing himself and his gospel to those who are by nature children of wrath. God reveals both himself and the sacrifice Jesus made in order for those who believe to be “converted” into good trees bearing good fruit. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:4-5,

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved!”

God makes His people alive! God reveals himself and his will to his people. His people love and trust him. They trust him to teach them how to live in this world and how to remain safe in his presence forever. Because God is good, everything he commands his people is also good.

The key to Christian ethics is simple: Start with a good and gracious God making his will known; then make disciples (teach people of all backgrounds to obey what Jesus teaches).

Disciples start obeying. From their obedience, disciples grow more and more good fruit. Obeying Jesus leads to better discernment. As the writer of Hebrews says it,

“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hb 5:14).

So, Christian ethics, like child-rearing, is a process of asking and answering, “Why did you do that?” –followed by, “Why don’t you simply trust God and do what He says?” #Discernment #Sanctification

Why Worry?


Students get anxious when final exams arise. Salesmen get anxious when monthly sales quotas fall short. Authors get anxious when the manuscript deadline draws near. Contractors get anxious when rain delays put them behind schedule. Parents get anxious when their children flirt with unhealthy life choices. Everyone experiences the pressure which leads to worry. It’s part of life.

A lot of times, we juggle our own anxiety along with the anxieties of those closest to us.

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Perhaps your daughter is stressing about not having a date to prom while you are worrying about the next round of layoffs at the company. Maybe your girlfriend is having tons of problems with her impossible roommate while you are waiting for someone to pay what they owe you so you can make this month’s rent.

Life is filled with an endless flow of opportunities for worry. And into such a worry-filled world, we find in Philippians 4, Paul saying some amazing things: “Be anxious for nothing.”

What! Really? No way! There’s so much to be anxious about! Are we to pretend these anxieties don’t exist?

As it turns out, Paul offers a remedy much better than pretending. He instructs us to “let our requests be made known to God” (4:6). Paul follows a biblical pattern for obedience. Like much of the Bible, Paul follows his “Do not” with a better “Do this instead.” The negative introduces, but the positive action is supposed to rule the day.

So Paul says in Philippians 4, “Do not be anxious for anything” (negative); instead let your requests be made known to God (positive). He seems to say that telling God what we need in order to [Do Not Be Anxious] will somehow remedy all our worrisome woes.

Does life really work this way?

I can imagine a conversation with someone in my congregation who is fighting anxiety. My saying something like “Tell God about it” or “Pray” or “Go to God with this” usually doesn’t help at all. The immediate reply to me often goes like this: “O, I have been praying about this.” [And God has not responded.]

No one openly admits that their real concern is that they have been asking God, and God has not helped! In fact, in conversations about anxiety, people aren’t really asking, “how do I get rid of anxiety?” What they really want to know is, “Why has God not fixed this yet?” The answer to that question, according to Paul, is something worse than we imagine.

Anxiety about our circumstances is not an indication that we have forgotten God; it’s a declaration that God is insufficient to meet our needs. Worrying and fretting are statements that God’s timing is all wrong. Anxiety is a call for God’s inaction to be overturned.

Paul’s positive command to let your requests be made known to God is not our opportunity to supply God with the information he was missing. Rather, this command is an opportunity for us to reverse course, to put the matter back in God’s hands where the outcome will be more secure.

Look at the text more closely. Paul says,

 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 4:4-7.

First, Paul reminds us that the Lord is near. Then he commands us to let our requests be made known to God. Notice the attention Paul gives to describing HOW we are to let our requests be made known.

  1. Aware of God’s nearness.
  2. Without anxiety.
  3. In everything (all life circumstances all the time).
  4. By prayer and by supplication.
  5. With thanksgiving.

Paul gives us quite a description of the method and demeanor which ought to shape our prayers. Perhaps the last part is the most difficult: with thanksgiving! How can people give thanks for the very things which are stressing them out?

Paul says give thanks to God for the people in your life. Give thanks to God for the opportunity He is giving you to be a faithful witness. Give thanks to God for the way He is reminding us of our own weaknesses and of our great need for a great savior and lord! Give thanks for the school, thanks for the job, thanks for the children, thanks for the spouse, thanks for the income—thanks for the God who is near and has never left nor forsaken His children (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).

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Here’s the craziest part of all… Paul is writing this letter from prison! Paul was thrown into prison when he founded the church at Philippi. And Paul was in prison again when he wrote this letter to these saints. Trying to spread the gospel, he kept getting thrown into dungeons with his feet and hands shackled to the floor. Did he have reason for being anxious about his future? Yes!

But he likely followed his own advice and let his requests be known to God in all of life by prayer with thanksgiving. And Paul found what you and I will find: the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guards hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (4:7).

How great is this encouragement!

The peace of God—beyond all our thoughts—will guard our hearts and minds. What does Paul mean that our hearts and minds will be guarded? He means just like the Philippian jailer once stood outside his cell and guarded Paul, his prisoner, so now the Almighty sovereign of heaven and earth stands guard to keep the minds and hearts of his people locked in his house of safety chained to his promise of peace for their souls.

To be “free” of God’s standing guard to keep us in his peace, all we need to do is demand our right to start worrying again about tomorrow.

Why Getting So Angry Might Not Help


Angry Bee BlogWhen a honey bee gets angry, it stings.  After the sting, it dies.  Literally, the bee gives its life in defense of its anger seeking revenge.  Our anger is often like that of the bee.  It is volatile and deadly.  And, like the bee, we are able to inflict only a temporary pain to the objects of our ire, yet we are likely to kill ourselves in the process.  The anger of man (or woman) does not bring about the righteousness of God (James 1:20).

Of course, I don’t mean that we physically die, as does the bee. Rather, I mean that something about us is lost when we unleash our poisonous stingers of anger against others.  We lose a right relationship with the person for one thing.  For another thing, we lose control of our own emotions.  But, even beyond these losses, we lose something else—something far more valuable than any reward of satisfaction we get by cutting another man or woman down to size.  We lose sight of God.

You see, our anger does not establish righteousness.  No matter how angry we get, no matter how many people we bring alongside of us to share in our anger, we cannot prove by that anger that we are right.  Miriam was angry with Moses. Moses was angry with Miriam and with the people in the wilderness.  The people in the wilderness were angry with God and Moses. Yet, none of these was considered righteous by God.  All their grumblings were sin.  In fact, their anger ended up making God angry with them because of their unbelief.

Did it matter that it was the majority opinion that they had a right to be angry?  No.  God does not establish righteousness by majority opinion.  He establishes righteousness by His own righteousness.  No matter how mad we get, no matter how many hornet’s nests of anger we stir up in others, no matter the size of the crowd or the volume of the protests—we will never attain to the righteousness of God by our anger.  Indeed, as with the case of the Israelites in the wilderness, our anger may only be a clear presentation of our own unrighteousness.  It does not matter that “everyone agAnger Blogrees” with our reason for being angry.  The anger of man does not—and will not ever—bring about the righteousness of God.  We lose sight of God when we curse our spouses, our bosses, our employees, our teachers, our team mates, our roommates, our siblings, or our parents.

Because we lose sight of God, we lose sight of ourselves, too.  Perhaps the worst thing our outbursts of anger prove is that we have a very unrealistic view of ourselves before God.  If we had any idea of how deeply our own private and public sins offend God, we would not dare allow our tongues out of our mouths as weapons to be employed against others.  We would be quiet and still in the presence of God’s holiness, and we would see sufficient reason for keeping our own mouths shut, lest He become angry with us, and we perish along the way.

So, anger clearly makes us think too highly of ourselves, too lowly of others, and way too little of God.  Instead of an outburst of anger, we should work to burst outwardly with grace toward others, remembering that Christ taught us “By your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (Matthew 7:2-3)

God simply refuses to be impressed with our anger.  He is too impressed with His Son who cleanses us from murderous thoughts and outbursts of anger (see Galatians 5).  May we be as impressed with Christ as the Father.  If that be the case, we would not exalt ourselves above others.  We would be much quieter and gentler.  And we would be more loving… and more joyful.

Don’t Be Afraid of Bad Disciples


Have you ever sacrificed your time and your energy to invest in other people? You probably spent time with them in discipleship, building them up in God’s Word, only to have them go astray and turn away from all you taught them. It hurts, doesn’t it? It seems like a life-investment with no return.

Christ definition disciple what is disciple christianThe founders of Southern Seminary in Louisville learned early in the life of that great institution the pain of a life investment lost.  One of the first and brightest students to come through Southern Seminary was Crawford H. Toy.  By all accounts, he was a brilliant student and became an early faculty member at Southern.  But then he went astray.

Basil Manly said that Toy “breathed an atmosphere of doubt” until it became his “ritual air.” Toy abandoned his position on the reliability of Scripture.  He left Southern and became a professor at Harvard, where he would later become a Unitarian.  This move crushed the founders of Southern Seminary, men who had invested greatly in Toy.  James P. Boyce, upon leaving Toy at the train station for his departure from Southern Seminary (and biblical orthodoxy), famously cried out—with his right arm held high: “Oh, Toy, I would freely give that arm to be cut off if you could be where you were five years ago, and stay there.”

What pastor or serious man of God would not freely offer himself as Boyce did to preserve the soul of a young man in whom he has made a life investment? Sadly, Christian history—beginning with Judas—is riddled with men who have been as close to the truth as darkness is to the light that shines into it, and yet have turned away in the end.  Such a turn from truth is grievous for a teacher to see.

Today is Reformation Day, October 31st.  As you celebrate the freedoms of the Protestant Reformation, remember that good and faithful pastors have paved the way for you to receive God’s Word. For those of us who speak English, remember William Tyndale, the father of the English Reformation.

William Tyndale was the first man to translate and publish the Bible in English.  For his translation and publishing efforts, he was killed—strangled, then burned at the stake.  And yet, his work remains.  Indeed, when the King James (authorized) translation was produced, the committee retained about 84% of Tyndale’s interpretations. Tyndale studied, labored, and died so we could have access to Scripture in our own language.

You may have heard the story of William Tyndale. But you probably haven’t heard much about Henry Phillips. Henry Phillips was something of a drifter, a castaway.  He was a gambler whose situation had become so desperate that he stole money from his own father to pay his debts. And yet, William Tyndale took him in.

Tyndale shared his meals with Phillips.  Tyndale made a life investment in Phillips, sharing with him the glorious joy of justification by faith alone.  Tyndale showed Phillips all his latest manuscripts and shared with him the plans he had for Bible publication in England.  Few people were given such privileged access by this great Reformer.

And in May of 1535, the life investment Tyndale made in Henry Phillips paid its diabolical Reformation Tyndale english persecutiondividend.  Phillips turned on Tyndale, leading him into a trap in which soldiers easily subdued the wily wordsmith.  Tyndale was led away to a dungeon in Vilvoorde Castle.  From there, he was taken to his death.  Henry Phillips was able to pay a few more debts with his blood money.

As we consider our own life-investments lost, let us be mindful of William Tyndale, whose great work still remains nearly 500 years after his death. He may regret the investment he made in Henry Phillips, but William Tyndale—I am sure—has no regrets about investing his own life in the work of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Ultimately, the life investments we make are for the gospel. Thus, they are never in vain.

Happy Reformation Day! And keep up the good work.

Why Sit in Prison?


The Apostle Paul was once set free from prison, but he wouldn’t go. Paul did not leave from the jail which held him in Philippi until he had first asked for the magistrates to come to him in person (Acts 16:16ff.).  Why the unnecessary stay?

jail-noStudents of the New Testament recognize the Apostle Paul as a man seriously concerned with justice and righteousness. Ultimately, the righteousness of God was Paul’s motivation for life (Rom 5:20-21). Throughout the New Testament, God’s justice expects justice from men, too. So Paul conducted a bit of a “sit in” until justice was served.

In addition to suffering persecution for the cause of Christ, Paul and Silas also suffered injustice from the Roman rulers. Paul undoubtedly desired for the magistrates in Philippi to become Christians. His faithful testimony before authorities in the book of Acts proves his desire to see pagan rulers converted. More proof of Paul’s desire is found in his admonition to the Corinthians (1 Cor 9:22): I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

Nevertheless, Paul made a specific point to force the righting of a wrong in Philippi. Luke records the incident (Acts 16:37):

And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.”  But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.”

The magistrates were alarmed by the report that Paul would not leave (v. 38). They showed up in person to apologize to Paul and Silas. They then asked Paul and Silas politely to leave the city—which, of course, they did, with no further incident.

Christians today may justifiably follow the pattern of Paul and call our governing authorities to account for injustice. As Christians, we sometimes will sense an obligation to hold non-believers to the standard of justice which they themselves have set. In Philippi, a Roman city, it was illegal to beat and imprison a Roman citizen without a trial. Paul and Silas called the magistrates to own their wrong actions.

The gospel was new in Philippi, and Paul was its most celebrated advocate. If he were treated as a criminal, then, perhaps, the other Christians would be viewed with suspicion. Paul was likely taking his stand (or keeping his seat in prison) for the sake of the gospel, the church, and the corporate witness of all Christians. Because of Paul’s courage and conviction, future generations of believers would have a greater likelihood of being protected by justice.

In the context of 21st century America, Christians will increasingly have occasion to point out injustice. We must think through now how and when it is right to protest wrongs committed against us. Once the apology or correction is made, we must not gloat or glory. Instead, we (like Paul and Silas) should then go about the gospel’s business:

“So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed” (Acts 16:40).

How Serious Are You About the Lord’s Supper


“In 1530, not even two decades into the Reformation, Martin Luther lamented the way that Christians viewed the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, stating that ‘people now regard the holy sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord so lightly and assume an attitude toward it as if there were nothing on earth which they needed less than just this sacrament.’”[1]

Lord's Supper Bread WineWhen I first read that quote, I thought—Wow! If Luther thought the Lord’s Supper was treated casually in his day, what in the world would he think about our treatment of it today! I heard of a group of Christians who thought they could take the Lord’s Supper in their dorm room using Twinkies and Kool-aid. Even in established churches one gets the idea that the Lord’s Supper is often nothing more than a procedural stamp of approval so the service can conclude. There are even “all-in-one” disposable Lord’s Supper kits—wafer and grape juice in a single hygienic package to get the deed done in rapid-fire succession.

But historically speaking, the bread and the wine have been subjects of the utmost importance. A century or two before the arrival of Martin Luther, men like John Wycliffe were risking their lives to expound a biblical view of what we now call the practice of the Lord’s Supper.  Wycliffe escaped martyrdom, but not persecution. Indeed, he was ultimately condemned as a heretic by the Council of Constance in May of 1415—four decades after his death. Here is the Council’s condemnation of Wycliffe:

Furthermore, a process was begun, on the authority or by decree of the Roman council, and at the command of the church and of the apostolic see, after a due interval of time, for the condemnation of the said Wyclif and his memory. Invitations and proclamations were issued summoning those who wished to defend him and his memory, if any still existed. However, nobody appeared who was willing to defend him or his memory. Witnesses were examined by commissaries appointed by the reigning lord pope John and by this sacred council, regarding the said Wyclif’s final impenitence and obstinacy. Legal proof was thus provided, in accordance with all due observances, as the order of law demands in a matter of this kind, regarding his impenitence and final obstinacy. This was proved by clear indications from legitimate witnesses. This holy synod, therefore, at the instance of the procurator-fiscal and since a decree was issued to the effect that sentence should be heard on this day, declares, defines and decrees that the said John Wyclif was a notorious and obstinate heretic who died in heresy, and it anathematises him and condemns his memory. It decrees and orders that his body and bones are to be exhumed, if they can be identified among the corpses of the faithful, and to be scattered far from a burial place of the church, in accordance with canonical and lawful sanctions.

Why dig up a man’s bones and burn and scatter them forty years after he died? Because his crime was so heinous that his bodily remains could not be allowed to rest among the “faithful.” And what were these awful crimes? The Council enumerated 45 different anathemas of which it found Wycliffe guilty. Interestingly enough, the first 5 of his crimes were directly related to the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. The Council pointed out that Wycliffe believed

  • The bread remained bread and the wine remained wine.
  • The bread didn’t just “appear” to be bread. It remained bread and not the flesh of Christ.
  • That Christ did not bodily become the bread.
  • And that the current (14th century) practice of the Mass was not supported by Scripture.

For these beliefs about the Lord’s Supper, Wycliffe’s body was exhumed and destroyed. He was condemned forever as a heretic. Today, most Protestants agree with Wycliffe’s observations about the Roman Catholic mass and its insistence upon the doctrine of transubstantiation (where the wine becomes the blood of Christ and the bread becomes his flesh).

While we can be glad that we are free to believe and practice the Lord’s Supper as we think it is taught in Scripture, we should not be casual or indifferent towards this ordinance. It is specifically commanded by Christ for us to practice, and it is designed by Christ for us to remember his sacrifice on our behalf and proclaim his greatness until he returns.

A great many of our Christian fathers have been persecuted—and some have even died—for the right to celebrate the Lord’s Supper by faith according to the Scriptures. The next time we go to take the bread and the wine, let us remember that this is no small practice. It has been ordained by Christ Himself so that we will remember him and preach him to the watching world. Let us remember that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. Then let us obey our Lord’s command,

“Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

[1] Matthew Crawford, “On Faith, Signs, and Fruits: Martin Luther’s Theology of the Lord’s Supper,” in The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes, NAC Studies in Bible and Theology (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2010), 193.

Christians Can’t Trust Chariots or Horses


The people of God seem always to struggle with exactly how to relate to powerful governments. Israel hated her slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh, but promptly wanted to go back to Egypt after landing in the wilderness. At least in Egypt she could have melons. This longing to go back to Egypt and trust in her chariots and horses haunted Israel of old. Thus, the prophet Isaiah later warned (Isaiah 30),

Christians Under Pressure Persecution1“Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the LORD,

            “Who execute a plan, but not Mine,

            And make an alliance, but not of My Spirit,

            In order to add sin to sin;

      2Who proceed down to Egypt

            Without consulting Me,

            To take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh

            And to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!

      3“Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame

            And the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation.

When the cultural vessel of our existence becomes pressurized by the heat of persecution or political oppression, faith will rise like the steam of boiling water seeking the quickest, most natural outlet. The question for us is what is most natural? Where does our faith rise? What is our outlet under pressure? Two recent responses to the crisis in Mosul, Iraq have me thinking about this question.

On the one hand, there has been a call from the Italian Bishops Conference to pray for the persecuted church.  And, on the other hand, there has been a sizable protest in Australia specifically on behalf of Christians in Iraq. Without being critical or cynical, we might clarify what is our faithful response to the crisis of Christian persecution in Iraq and around the world.

In Italy, the bishops have drafted a plea for the Church throughout Europe to pray on behalf of suffering saints around the world. The statement is powerful in its indictment of slothfulness concerning our suffering sisters and brothers:

‘If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him ‘(Rom 6:8). These are words that we should also shake the conscience of our Europe, which has become distracted and indifferent, blind and dumb to the persecution which today has claimed hundreds of thousands of Christian victims”.

While the document rightly focuses attention on Christians in Iraq and Nigeria—two of the absolute worst places for Christians right now—it perhaps wrongly appeals for Christian action on the basis of human rights, history, and culture.  From the Italian bishops,

Faced with such an attack on the foundations of civilization, human dignity and human rights, “we cannot remain silent. The West cannot continue to look the other way, under the illusion of being able to ignore a humanitarian tragedy that destroys the values ​​that have shaped it…

This statement is not at all false. In fact, Christians must engage culture and improve (like salt and light) the civilization in which it exists. Yet, Christians must own as first priority the fame of Christ and the spread of His kingdom. Our appeals, then, should first be for Christ’s reputation instead of western values. While we can and should join as cobelligerents with the Italian bishops advocating for aid on the basis of a “humanitarian tragedy,” we must pray for Christ to be exalted through the witness of His faithful saints. We must pray that our suffering sisters and brothers would hold fast to that which has been given to them because Christ is coming quickly and bringing his reward to those whose garments are not stained with the sin of the surrounding society.

While Christians should advocate politically for religious freedom for all, we should also remind each other to recognize the difference between Christian persecution Mosul Iraqreligious freedom and persecution. The Constitution speaks of religious freedom; the New Testament speaks of persecution. One is a human right, the other a divine blessing.

As Christians continue to feel the pressure of persecution in Nigeria and Iraq, the steam of faith should rise up through the prayers of believers to Christ in heaven.  Our hope is anchored there, in Him—not in America’s chariots or the U.N.’s horses—not in Europe’s civilized past nor in the present “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who lives to make intercession for us.

(To be continued…)

3 Ways to Stand for Religious Liberty without Falling for a Political Agenda 

The Difference Between Religious Freedom and Persecution

Why Christians Must Fight for Religious Liberty

Timeline of How Christians Were Eliminated in Mosul, Iraq


I don’t remember what I was doing on June 10th.  It was a regular work week for me. Since then, I have done some planning for the Fall 2014 semester,Christian persecution Mosul Iraq and I have made a couple of trips to the airport so my kids could travel to see family. All in all, nothing much has changed for me and my family since June 10th.  But we don’t live in Mosul, Iraq.

Below, I have copied a letter from the Jubilee Campaign, along with a sobering timeline produced by the Assyrian International News Agency.  This timeline surveys the diabolical work of ISIS since June 10th.  In six weeks, the tangible signs of Christian presence have been eliminated: Church buildings, homes, actual Christians, and even a Christian cemetery—all gone.

(From Jubilee Campaign)

Courage is needed now to stop the genocide of Christians in Iraq.  Congressman Frank Wolf gave a floor speech declaring the expunging of Christians from Iraq as Genocide.  Please listen to him.  You can find his speech here.  Meanwhile, the Assyrian International News Agency reports that All 45 Christian Institutions in Mosul Destroyed or Occupied By ISIS.

TIMELINE OF ISIS’ ATTEMPT TO ELIMINATE CHRISTIANS FROM MOSUL

(From Assyrian International News Agency)

Timeline of ISIS in Mosul

Posted 2014-07-29 15:57 GMT

The Arabic letter “n” (inside red circle), signifying “Nasarah” (Christian), on a Christian home in Mosul.(AINA) — The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured the city of Mosul, Iraq on June 10. Almost immediately thereafter it began to drive Assyrians out of Mosul and destroy Christian and non-Sunni institutions. Here is the status as of July 29:

  • There are no Assyrians/Christians remaining in Mosul, all have fled to the north, to Alqosh, Dohuk and other Assyrian villages.
  • All Christian institutions in Mosul (churches, monasteries and cemeteries), numbering 45, have been destroyed, occupied, converted to mosques, converted to ISIS headquarters or shuttered (story).
  • All non-Sunni Muslim groups in Mosul — Shabaks, Yazidis and Turkmen — have been targeted by ISIS. Most have fled.
  • Water and electricity have been cut off by ISIS. The water shortage in the areas surrounding Mosul is now a full-blown crisis. Residents have been forced to dig wells for drinking water. Water tankers are providing some relief.
  • Mosul is now governed under Sharia law.
  • 50,000 Assyrian residents of Baghdede (Qaraqosh) fled from fighting between ISIS and Kurds. Nearly 80% have returned.

The following is a summary of the events that have unfolded in Mosul.

  • June 10: ISIS captures Mosul, occupies the Assyrian village of Qaraqosh, enters the St. Behnam Monastery, bombs an Armenian church (story).
  • June 12: ISIS issues Islamic rules for Mosul (story).
  • June 14: Assyrian, Yezidi and Shabak Villages come under Kurdish Control (story).
  • June 15: Kurds attempt to remove an Assyrian council leader in Alqosh and replace him with a Kurd (story).
  • June 18: ISIS Cuts Off Water, Electricity, Destroys Churches (story).
  • June 19: ISIS destroys statue of the famous Arab poet Abu Tammam (story).
  • June 21: ISIS begins imposing a poll tax (jizya) on Assyrians in Mosul (story), orders unmarried women to ‘Jihad by sex’ (story), destroys the statue of the Virgin Mary at the Immaculate Church of the Highest in the neighborhood of AlShafa in Mosul, as well as the statue of Mullah Osman Al-Musali. Shiite Turkmen in the villages of AlKibba and Shraikhan flee after receiving threats from ISIS. ISIS arrests 25 village elders and young men who are Turkmen in the village of AlShamsiyat; their whereabouts is still unknown. (story) ISIS orders Christian, Yazidis and Shiite government employees not to report for work in Mosul (story).
  • June 23: ISIS Rape Christian Mother and Daughter, Kill 4 Christian Women for Not Wearing Veil (story).
  • June 25: ISIS limits water from the plants in Mosul to one hour per day. Residents in surrounding areas are forced to dig wells (story).
  • June 26: Kurds Clash With ISIS Near Assyrian Town East of Mosul, forcing nearly 50,000 Assyrians to flee (story).
  • ISIS begins confiscating the homes of Christians and non-Sunni Muslims. ISIS rounds up many of the security agency members of the police and army in Sabrine Mosque and asks them to declare “repentance” and surrender their weapons and other military equipment. After doing so, all of the prisoners are tried and sentenced according to Sharia law and executed. ISIS has prevented delivery of government food rations to Tel Kepe and other areas not under their control (story).
  • June 28: ISIS kidnaps two nuns and three Assyrian orphans. They are eventually released (story).
  • July 3: ISIS seizes the house of the Chaldean Patriarchate and the house of Dr. Tobia, a member of Hammurabi Human Rights Organization and an Advisor to the Governor of Nineveh on Minority Affairs and General Coordinator with International Organizations (story).
  • July 8: ISIS Removes Cross From Church in Mosul (story).
  • July 10: ISIS bars women from walking the streets unless accompanied by a male. Nearly all barber shops and womens’ salons are closed (story).
  • July 15: ISIS Stops Rations for Christians and Shiites in Mosul (story).
  • July 17: ISIS issues statement ordering Christians to convert or die (story).
  • July 18: ISIS in Mosul marks Christian homes with the Arabic letter “N” (for the word Nasrani, which means Christian) (story).
  • July 19: ISIS plunders Assyrians as they Flee Mosul; families march 42 miles (story).
  • July 22: ISIS and Kurds clash near Assyrian town, 2000 Assyrian families driven from Mosul (story).
  • July 25: ISIS destroys the tomb of the Prophet Jonah (story).

© 2014, Assyrian International News Agency. All Rights Reserved.

How to Pray for Christians in Iraq (4 Ways)


Thank you all so much for your willingness to stand with our brothers and sisters in Iraq. Many of you have been using the Arabic “N” symbol below on your Facebook or Twitter profile to show your concern for Christians being targeted for extortion and/or extinction by soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  God bless you for identifying with our brothers and sisters under attack.

Christian persecution mosul IraqOthers are understandably cynical about simply changing a profile pic as a reminder to pray. You think it’s too small of a gesture—that we must do more. And of course you are right! We all share some of that same attitude, I think.  Our American “can-do” mentality begs for a place to direct our anguish. We want to “do” something about the situation.  I spoke with a zealous young man today who graciously—yet excitedly—challenged me to “do something.” “We have to do something. Tell me what to do!” He cried.

My first response was to embrace his angst wholeheartedly. We really must do something. Our Christian brothers and sisters have been marked for death.  Their wages have been stolen.  Their homes and their homeland is now instantly closed to them. If they stay, they will be killed. If they leave, they will lose everything they once relied upon—houses, cars, money, jobs, friends. The situation is brutal.  Surely we can do more than pray!

And yet, upon further reflection, I reminded my young friend that prayer is no small thing. We ought not too quickly dismiss its potential for saving our fellow saints.  As James reminds us, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).  James uses the example of Elijah whose prayers both caused and cured a drought in Israel which lasted 3 ½ years.  Imagine—a man with a nature like ours altering meteorological phenomena for more than 1,000 days in a row!  (Talk about man-made global warming!) James could have chosen many other examples such as the prayers by Israel which brought about her Exodus from Egypt and Egypt’s destruction:

Christianity Today Mosul Christian Persecution #WeAreN

Mosul Christian Home (source: Christianity Today)

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help.  Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.  And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  God saw the people of Israel—and God knew” Ex 2:23-25 (ESV).

God knew! Are we to wonder whether God—now that Jesus and the Holy Spirit have been more clearly revealed—is still near and dear to His people? May it never be! Jesus Himself swore that He would never leave nor forsake His people (Hbrws 13:5) and that He would be with them even to the end of the age (Matt 28:20).  And so the all-powerful, all-knowing God of infinite love remains faithfully concerned for His people and capable of accomplishing great things on their behalf. With that in mind, we can (and must?) pray in at least these four ways:

Fervently from the heart.  Our prayers must be urgent, zealous, fearful, yet fully-fired with faith. Think of it this way: What would you do if you came home from work this evening only to discover that a gang had captured your sister and informed her that she had 24 hours to pay a ransom or die?  Would that not be a fiery trial that would cause you to cry out to God on her behalf? Would you not shriek with horror and beg for mercy? Fiery trials no doubt beget fiery prayers. There is a sword at the throat of our family. Pray!

Second, Despairingly—from a position of weakness. This may sound odd, but I take my cue from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11,

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11 you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.

Notice how Paul admitted being excessively burdened—beyond any human strength. Is that not the burden our brothers and sisters are under now in Iraq?  What earthly power is (a) willing to save them and (b) able to save them?  Some (like the U.S. Military) seem able but not willing.  Others perhaps are willing but not really able.  So, where are Christians to turn?  As we pray for our brothers and sisters, we should pray from the position of complete and utter despair of human deliverance.  In that position, Paul says, we find our sure hope of trusting not in ourselves but in God who raises the dead!

Third, Victoriously—as though Christ has truly been raised from the dead. Who could ever have imagined that eternal life would spring from the humiliating execution of a stricken, smitten Jewish carpenter?  And yet, our Christ has been raised from the dead!  The Apostle Paul took courage and believed in his own deliverance from the mouth of death because of the Resurrection life of Christ.  Pray for our brothers and sisters to move from the Christian persecution Mosul Iraqdespair of their current situation to the victory of Christ’s Resurrection.  God is no less able to deliver today than he was when Paul was preaching the gospel in Asia (and the Middle East). So pray to God that he would raise the dead to new life in Mosul, Iraq. Pray for the current loss to be made gain.  After Stephen was martyred (Acts 7), the early church was scattered on account of the increasing persecution. Nevertheless, the gospel went forth with power everywhere the Christians fled.  Even so, God’s gospel will triumph somehow. Pray for His people in Iraq to trust God’s purposes by faith.

Fourth, Effectively—as though you expect your prayers to affect much. The prayers of saints saved Paul’s life. Why not now? Why not the lives of those in Mosul, Iraq?  If, as we see in 2 Cor 1:11, the churches were able to secure Paul’s release from certain death, then why would not be possible today for our prayers to be the very means God uses to deliver Iraqi Christians from what appears a certain death? Is our God no longer able to deliver? Surely, God is no less powerful now than He was on the day He delivered Daniel or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!

My friend and I talked about how we would love to help others learn to pray for the persecuted church. We will continue thinking about our prayers for the persecuted, and we hope to be providing much more helps in the future, Lord willing. So, stay tuned…

Why that Odd Facebook Symbol Is So Important


Christian persecution Iraq Maybe you have seen this little wine-cup looking symbol on your friend’s Facebook page and wondered what it means.  It means Christians are being targeted for death in Mosul, Iraq.  I am so thankful that someone thought to create symbol sent through Social Media to call attention to the plight of Christians suffering genocide in Iraq.

The symbol apparently started circulating in Lebanon and has caught on around the world. The symbol is actually an Arabic “n,” which is what ISIS soldiers in Mosul have used to abbreviate Nazara, a term for Christians in the Middle East.  Basically, those whose homes are thus marked are subject to death, unless they (a) convert to Islam or (b) pay an oppressive tax to stay alive (all explained here).  Here is how one report details the horror:

On Monday, which was normally pay day for municipal workers in Mosul, state workers were ordered not to pay the Christian employees. ISIS also forbid food to be distributed to Christian or Shiite families.

One state employee told the Arabic news outlet Ankawa that he was “warned that if he gives rations to Christians and Shiites, he will be charged and prosecuted according to Sharia law.”

The pressure continued later in the week, when ISIS cut off electricity to homes owned by Christians. The following day ISIS soldiers Christian persecution Mosul Iraqreportedly painted “N” on the doors of Christians to signify that they are “Nazara,” the word for Christian. Shiite homes were painted with the letter “R” for “Rwafidh,” meaning rejectors or protestants.

As a result, nearly the entire population of Christians in Mosul have fled, leaders say.

While I feel for the Shiites, too, and hope that we will advocate for them as well as for the Christians who are suffering, I feel compelled to join the movement to put an arabic “n” on my Facebook profile for a little while. It will remind me to pray if nothing else. But it will also keep the symbol out there for the world to ask and answer gravely serious questions.

By the way, I changed the symbol to red because the doors in Mosul are reportedly marked with red (perhaps to symbolize blood, “death to this house”–kind of a morbid reversal of the Passover markings!)

The Apostle Paul’s Seemingly Impossible Command


The Apostle Paul gives the following impossible command to the Philippian church:

Bible Complaining Leadership Elders Submit Obedience14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe

First, he does NOT say, do your best to avoid arguments. He doesn’t say try not to complain. He does not say the overall attitude should be compliance, not complaining. No, He says, do everything without complaining or arguing. Everything. No complaints.

Second, the main concern in this command is not your psychological well-being or your need to be protected from spiritually abusive pastors. The issue is squarely one between God and His people. If you belong to God, then do what you are told to do. [note the . ] And when you are told what to do—and thus are doing what you have been told to do—don’t allow your heart to grumble or your mouth to complain. When you are thus characterized by glad obedience, you are acting as blameless and pure children of God.

Third, the sum of such a compliant, obedient heart is a powerful witness to a perverted world. The most natural activity in the world is refusing any authority outside of yourself. All of us are by nature like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings, who finds even the smallest thread of binding to be positively unbearable.

This wildness of heart and untamable demand for fleshly autonomy is evident even among Christians who have godly leaders lovingly instructing them.  It has a very long history among God’s people. It was prevalent in the Israelites in the wilderness. (Numbers 14:2-3, NASB),

2 All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?”

In the midst of their suffering, they cried, “Why God!” Then they refused to trust the leaders God had given them, demanding instead to return to the past, which wasn’t perfect, mind you, but it was at least familiar. It was manageable. They could navigate the past. They knew they could get along comfortably there, but they had no guarantee of comfort going forward into a future which demanded faith in the place of sight. The past was easier to accommodate. It was doable. So, they grumbled at the man God provided to lead them into a promised future.

Such grumbling and complaining is both natural and wicked. It is severely and consistently condemned throughout Scripture. Jude marvels that the archangel Michael would not dare to condemn the Devil; instead, he said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (See Jude 9.) Yet, mere humans crept into the church and did not hesitate to “revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals….”  “Woe to them!” says Jude, “they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah” (Jude 11).

Paul, likewise, has severe words for those who cannot obey without complaining. In a letter to the church at Corinth (1 Cor 10), Paul speaks of the rebellion of Israel in the wilderness. He has a particular interest in protecting the church from grumbling, so he warns them not to “try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.  Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.”  You see the pattern? Grumbling and complaining get you killed. It’s not safe. Not good.

Paul goes on to tell the Corinthians that the stories of Israel’s grumbling in the wilderness were written down so that later generations of God’s people might be instructed—that is, might learn from them how to follow godly leaders.

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Cor 10:12).

Like it or not, we must be humble and obedient people, holding firmly to Christ, keeping His word, and serving His Bride as He completes His redemptive work in this world. We must not be like the rest of the world, acting as unreasoning animals, demanding our own rights, pursuing our own fleshly preferences. We must be humble, obedient, and faithful sheep listening for and responding to the voice of the Good Shepherd Himself.

What does that mean in practical terms? Consider these 4 applications:

Submit to your elders:
 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)

Do not entertain charges against your elders:
19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. (1 Tim 5:19)

If you disagree—or think you might disagree—go before the Lord in prayer and dive into the Word in study before ever disparaging the work of your church or its leaders.

Finally, when you feel you must question your pastor or elders, do so with fear and with faith. The issue must not be viewed as your preferences versus the pastor’s. The only issue is the preference of the Good Shepherd Himself. What does Christ command? What does His word teach on the subject? Bring your concern to the man with your Bible in your hand and the hope of reconciliation in your heart.  Then, and only then, can you claim to be doing what is right before God.

This is a grievous subject. More than a few churches have divided and split as a result of grumbling and complaining. Those who grumble and find fault are often followers of their own lusts. They speak arrogantly, flattering some people for the sake of gaining advantage over others (Jude 16). They cause deep divisions in the otherwise unified body of Christ. And this is why the Bible says, “Woe to them!”

This expectation of unity and peace among believers is why Peter asks, “What kind of people ought you to be?” Then answers, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14).  It’s also why Paul lovingly tells the Philippians to do everything without complaining or arguing. Paul does not want any in the church to fall into the condemnation and woe of fleshly grumblers.

We need to think more about what this means in the church. So, what are some questions for a further post?

 

Why God Is Not Impressed with Our Anger

Moses, God’s Leader, Had Trouble With Trust, Too

God Restrains His Wrath, And We Can Restrain Ours