Something New & Something Old

Something NEW (e.g. “current”)…

2022 has been a monumental year – “the worst” according to many news journalists and pundits. In many ways it has been the fulfillment of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 24 where He gives us a prophetic explanation for the current condition of the world:

 “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars…For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes…” (vs. 7, NASB, 1995)

There were wars raging in 32 countries in 2022 – the most prominent being the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Famine should not exist in 2022, but the WFP (World Food Program) reveals 41 million people in 43 countries “are teetering on the very edge of famine,” up from 27 million two years ago; and the 10 biggest earthquakes in the world happened in the month of December 2022.

  “Then they will deliver you over to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. And at that time many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another…[and] because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold…” (vss. 9-12, NASB, 1995) 

The persecution of Christians keeps surging around the world. Data from the Open Doors organization says “persecution of Christians has reached the highest levels” since it began accumulating data for its annual “World Watch List” three decades ago. Hostile incidents have increased by 20% since 2014, and some 360 million Christians, or 14% of the worldwide total, are said to have faced persecution, harassment, or discrimination. Open Doors reports that it has documented the murders in one year’s time of 5,898 Christians for their faith (up 24% from the prior year). Since that report was issued, the Nigerian-based civil rights group Intersociety reports that in just that one nation 4,020 additional killings and 2,325 abductions occurred from January through October, 2022. On a broader timeframe, 1 million Christian martyrs were killed from 2000-2010 (source: Center for the Study of Global Christianity).

Just observe the latest news and see for yourself how openly hostile the world is becoming toward Judeo-Christian family and social values. And you can draw your own conclusions about the “Church” in our day – especially in America – and see for yourself how many “Christians” are becoming “progressive” in the name of compassion (aka wishy-washy faith without conviction) and abandoning scriptural moral standards. Many believers love has grown cold toward other brothers and sister in Christ and betrayed them – right here in the American church. That’s hate. That’s “falling away.”

This past year has also unfolded by fulfilling these uncannily prescient words of the Apostle Paul, written some 1,955 years ago. I’ll let them speak without commentary. You can make your own applications:

“…in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act as if they are religious, but will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that…But they will not get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are…” 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 9 (NLT)

 I have never read a more accurate description of American society in general and the church in this country in particular.

Something OLD (e.g. “timeless”)…

With all this negativity surrounding us, it would be easy to become discouraged and “fretful.” Being fretful means being “troubled” or “vexed” (I love that word) or “worn” or “agitated” or “corroded” or “eaten away.” And yet in spite of the ungodly reality surrounding us we cannot let “fretfulness” be our standard response.

King David faced persecution, harassment, discrimination, and potential martyrdom. He, like us, was a man with reason to fret, and doubt that God was in control. But instead, he heeded God’s command, and reminds us how and why not to be fretful.

Psalm 37 (NASB 1995) [Emphasis mine]

 Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.

For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.
10 
Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more;
And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there.
11 But the humble will inherit the land
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

12 The wicked plots against the righteous
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
13 The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees his day is coming.
14 The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow
To cast down the afflicted and the needy,
To slay those who are upright in conduct.
15 Their sword will enter their own heart,
And their bows will be broken.

16 Better is the little of the righteous
Than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked will be broken,
But the Lord sustains the righteous.
18 The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
And their inheritance will be forever.
19 They will not be ashamed in the time of evil,
And in the days of famine they will have abundance.

20 But the wicked will perish;
And the enemies of the Lord will be like the glory of the pastures,
They vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
21 The wicked borrows and does not pay back,
But the righteous is gracious and gives.
22 For those blessed by Him will inherit the land,

But those cursed by Him will be cut off.

23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
24 When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

25 I have been young and now I am old,
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
Or his begging bread
.
26 All day long he is gracious and lends,
And his descendants are a blessing
.

27 Depart from evil and do good,
So you will abide forever.
28 For the Lord loves justice
And does not forsake His godly ones;
They are preserved forever,

But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off.
29 The righteous will inherit the land
And dwell in it forever.
30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
And his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
His steps do not slip.

32 The wicked spies upon the righteous
And seeks to kill him.
33 The Lord will not leave him in his hand
Or let him be condemned when he is judged.
34 Wait for the Lord and keep His way,
And He will exalt you to inherit the land;
When the wicked are cut off, you will see it
.

35 I have seen a wicked, violent man
Spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil.
36 Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more;
I sought for him, but he could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright;
For the man of peace will have a posterity.

38 But transgressors will be altogether destroyed;
The prosperity of the wicked will be cut off.
39 But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
He is their strength in time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
Because they take refuge in Him
.

King David’s counsel to us is simple, but powerful – and deeply comforting:

DO NOT fret (worry, be troubled or have your faith corroded away) [NT cf. Phil. 4:5-6]

DO trust and delight in the Lord [NT cf. Ps. 3:3-6; Prov. 3:5-6]

DO good by cultivating faith and faithfulness [NT cf. 2 Tim. 2:2ff]

DO rest in and wait for the Lord patiently [NT cf. Heb. 4:1-3]

The result? God will give us the “land” as our inheritance – both literally and figuratively.

Let Psalm 37 encourage, embolden, and equip you for 2023…and let it be something you meditate on often throughout the New Year. Begin the New Year fret-free and full of faith that God is in control!

 

How Do You Discover the Will of God?

Anyone who’s experienced the Christ-following life will eventually be faced with the question “How do I know the will of God for my life?” We will have times in life when we need very specific guidance in very specific situations (who to marry, whether to take a particular job or not, what college to go to, etc.). We needed to know God’s specific will. But God’s specific will is always preceded by doing his general will.

We’re in the midst of the holiday season – or more accurately, the annual stress and cholesterol festival! This blog is a reminder of the will of God for each of us everyday of the year – but it is especially apropos during the Holy-days from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Years.

The will of God I am talking about is found in 1 Thess. 5:16-18: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The apostle Paul is saying, “…if you want to know what God’s specific will is, then practice this first…”

The will of God is that we…Never Stop REJOICING: “Rejoice always…”

The OT prophet Nehemiah told the people he led: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” God wired us to operate best when we’re joyful. Joy in our spirits makes us function better than when we’re in a state of despair. Being joyful is one of the greatest sources of energy and spiritual vitality that we can experience.

But joy is a choice. True happiness and lasting joy are found in the choices that we make. We can choose to be joyful or we can choose to be joyless. It’s up to us. The apostle Paul says, “If you want to be in God’s will, then choose joy.” “Rejoice always!”

Next the will of God is that we…Never Stop PRAYING: “…pray without ceasing…”

The reason prayer is so important to the will of God in our lives is because when we really learn to connect with God in prayer we’re changed forever. Prayer may not always change things for you, but it always changes you for things. Now, don’t get me wrong – I believe that prayer changes things – but the primary benefit of prayer is that we are changed. God always uses prayer to move us closer to Him and to make us more like Him.

Sam Shoemaker was an Episcopal minister from New York City who was instrumental in founding AA – Alcoholics Anonymous. Whenever Sam encountered someone who didn’t believe in God he would suggest that they enter a “30-Day Prayer Experiment.” He told them, “Don’t pay any attention to whether you believe or not. Just pray every day for thirty days that God will meet you at the point of your greatest need, and see what will happen to you.” Pastor Shoemaker’s little experiment literally transformed hundreds of people from staunch skeptics to committed Christians. Prayer changes things – but it especially changes the person who prays!

 Finally the will of God is that we…Never Stop BEING THANKFUL: “…in everything give thanks…”

A thankful heart marks the person who wants the will of God in their life. God’s will is that we give thanks for ALL things – no exceptions. If we’re going to be people who are hungry for the will of God to be accomplished in and through us, we will learn to be grateful and thankful people – in everything. We can all be grateful no matter what our circumstances may be.

On my way to church last Sunday, I was involved in a serious car accident. I was struck from behind at 45 mph by an uninsured, underaged, drunk driver while making a turn into the church parking lot. The force rammed my car into a stationary 4×4 wooden lamp post attached to a fence bordering the entrance. My car took out the post and fence, veered off into a hedge, flew into the air – “Dukes of Hazard-style” – and landed in a ravine 12 feet below. My car was a total loss. I walked away unscathed.

I’ve been pondering that experience for several days now. At first I asked God, “Why?” (The car was in very good condition with low mileage and I planned to have it for another ten years. It’s going to be hard to replace). But then I had to move on to the more important question, “What?” What, Lord, do you want to make of this seemingly unfair and unjust situation?

At that point I had a decision to make. Was I going to think like a victim or was I going to trust God for his provision in a difficult situation? I decided on the latter. Here’s my declaration of thankfulness: “I am thankful that in my entire life I have never been in a serious car accident until now. Also, even though the accident totaled my car, it did not take my life – and no one else was in my car at the time. And even though my car will be hard to replace, it will not be too much for God to provide. Finally, I am grateful that it was I who was hit by the drunk driver and not someone else.”  I have decided that it is God’s will to “…in everything give thanks”!

Of all the people on this planet, we followers of Jesus Christ have the most to be grateful for. Our eternal destiny is secure because Jesus Christ sacrificed His life for ours on the cross and offered His forgiveness to us. And it’s ours for the asking.

So, as you celebrate the holidays with your family and friends – remember that God has a plan to be fulfilled in you. His will for you is to…Never stop REJOICING, never stop PRAYING, and never stop BEING THANKFUL!

The Original Christmas Tree

Do you believe that every word in the Bible is important? That every word is inspired by God? I do. And if you do too, I’m going to test your belief by walking us through the family history of Jesus – and the HOPE that it brings to ordinary people like you and me!

Genealogies are those parts of the Bible that seem to matter only to God – and a maybe to a mother (“Oh, look! My son got his name in the Bible!”). Genealogies are the last place most of us would expect to discover a message of HOPE – but it’s there. At first glance genealogies seem boring and kind of meaningless. To us they’re extra long lists of unpronounceable names of descendants and ancestors. But to the average Jew, knowing your ancestry, and being able to “climb your family tree,” was a pretty big deal. The family tree of Jesus Christ is masterfully put together. It’s like a work of art – and as the original Christmas Tree – it teaches us two hope-filled truths.

FIRST, it teaches us that God Controls the Flow of History.

Matthew 1:1-17 is a recitation of the OT history leading up to the birth of Christ – and it reflects a perfectly ordered, perfectly planned, perfectly controlled flow of history. At the end of the list of Jesus’ family tree in vs. 17 it says: “All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.” What Matthew is saying is that Jesus’ birth is the climax of 3 groupings of fourteen – 42 generations.

It helps to know that Matthew wrote his gospel to a primarily Jewish audience. He wanted them to understand the significance of the coming of Christ. And to a Jew the number seven (7) or any multiple of seven (7) symbolized perfection! Three (3) is also a symbolic Old Testament number, because it signifies fulfillment. It’s even carried on in the New Testamant. Just read the book of Revelation and see how many times the numbers seven and three pop up.

My POINT: In the Old Testament especially, the numbers three (3) and seven (7) were divine numbers of perfection and fulfillment.

And, if you couple that with the mention of the number of generations from Abraham to Christ as being three sets of fourteen – fourteen (14) being a multiple of seven – then we can see Matthew’s point: Under God’s control, the history leading up to the birth of Christ has been perfectly ordered and planned with meticulous care. And He fulfilled His purpose by making a way for us to find salvation in Jesus.

Galatians 4:4 says that: “In the fullness of time [another way of saying “at just the right time”] God sent forth His Son…” So, God actually planned the coming of Jesus Christ with mathematical precision. God was moving history along and He designed it so He could demonstrate HIS CONTROL of the flow of human history and that He will bring about His purposes in this life – no matter what happens in human history. 

So the first thing the genealogy of Jesus shows us that GOD’S IN CHARGE & IN CONTROL OF ALL LIFE!

BUT that’s only half the story in Matthew 1. Not only does God control the flow of history in order to perfectly fulfill His purposes, He also Chooses Imperfect People to Accomplish His Purposes. And that’s another reason for hope!

You know, for PR purposes, I believe I would have kept some of the people mentioned in Jesus’ family tree off the list. It’s not a very flattering lineage. One of the problems in becoming familiar with your family tree is that you might discover a horse thief or a murderer – or something worse. Then it’s decision time. Do you hide the truth or do you try and cover it up. Some time back I Googled my name. I found a Daniel A. Clubb – in Missouri from where my family hails. It had to be a relative, albeit a distant one. When I took a closer look, I realized that I was looking at his mug shot! (It’s amazing what ends up on Google these days).

We see family skeletons as an “image problem” – but God didn’t see Jesus’ lineage like that at all. He chose to allow all the family laundry in Jesus’ ancestry to be aired in a public document for all of us to see – and it was for a very encouraging reason. Now…let me explain why I say that.

Jesus’ ancestry begins with Abraham. Abraham lied in order to save his own life and at the same time he put his wife, Sarah, in harm’s way. And he did it not once, but twice! So Jesus’ great-granddad (forty-two generations back) was a liar and a coward!

Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, is also mentioned. He was just as bad as his grandfather. His name means “cheater” or “trickster.” He cheated his twin brother out of his rightful inheritance. And his name is on the list of Jesus’ ancestors.

Then there was Judah Jacob’s son. He had two sons, Perez and Zerah, by committing incest with his daughter-in-law, Tamar – who seduced him in the process! And their names are included in the list too. Judah was no saint. He was a hypocrite & an adulterer. This is not a morally pure family tree!

There’s also mention of Judah’s brothers.Out of jealousy they sold their little brother Joseph into slavery. How’d you like to have big brothers like that?

Jump down to verse six and it says: “And to Jesse was born David the king. And to David was born Solomon, by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.” I think Matthew could have left that little family secret unwritten, as well. Instead he reminds us that the great King David had Uriah murdered so he could indulge his sexual cravings. David, the murderer and adulterer is also part of the history leading to the Christ Child.

Listen to verse 5: “And to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab; and to Boaz was born Obed by Ruth…” Now why do you suppose Matthew included the women Rahab and Ruth in the list? (It was very unusual to include one woman’s name in a list like this – let alone five, as Matthew does). I’ll tell you why he did it. He wanted us to know that Rahab was a prostitute and that she was still included in the line of Christ. Ruth is mentioned and she wasn’t even Jewish – she was a “schikza”a gentile foreigner. And she’s included in the list. God is all inclusive when he picks people to be involved in accomplishing His plans.

Another person on the list is Manasseh. He was a very evil Jewish king who sacrificed his own son as a burnt offering to the demonic god Baal. He also consulted mediums and spiritists to predict the future – which was forbidden by God. He killed so many innocent Israelis that the Bible says he was a “terror to his own people” (2 Kings 21). And he was still included in the line leading to Jesus Christ. And his son, Amon, is on the list even though he rejected God!

My point is that even though this is a list of liars, cheaters, terrorists, sexual perverts, and idol worshipers – they’re all included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ! This is the list of the not-so-great-grandparents of Jesus Christ. And God used these really imperfect people as He carried out His purposes in bringing His Son, Jesus Christ, to us!

The big question is why did He use these people? He didn’t have to. He could have laid Jesus on Mary & Joseph’s doorstep in a basket. It would have been much simpler that way. It would have saved Jesus a whole lot of criticism later on in life. So, why does God tell us these stories? Why does God give us such flawed, wicked people in the line of Jesus Christ? It just doesn’t seem right!

Here’s my best answer to that question. God knew that you and I watched the news last night or we checked out the internet or we listened to the radio today – and we got wind of all the bad news and all about the evil things happening in the world. And He knew that we would probably be fretful over it. He knew that we would worry about the direction our society is heading, and He wanted us to know that when the world goes crazy – He stays calm! The proof is found in verse 16 of Jesus genealogy: “…and to Joseph the husband of Mary…was born Jesus, who is called the Christ.” That’s the end of the list of Jesus’ genealogy. There aren’t any other names listed, because no more names are needed!

In the genealogy of Jesus Christ God is making a very important announcement to our very desperate world. He’s saying: “See, I did it! I did it just like I said I would. My plan succeeded. I controlled the flow of history. I even chose flawed people, and it all led to the birth of my Son – the Savior of the world! The famine in Canaan couldn’t starve My plan. Four hundred years of slavery in Egypt couldn’t shackle My plan. Wilderness wanderings for forty years couldn’t stop My plan. Babylonian exile for seventy years couldn’t stifle My plan. Murderers, adulterers, prostitutes, cheaters, idolaters, liars in the very line of My Son couldn’t shut down My plan. I accomplished My plan – just like I said I would!”

God will not be defeated by evil! Ever! God works through flawed people like you and me. And He can use evil to work His perfect plan just like He did by moving Old Testament history forward to the perfect time that Jesus Christ would be born.

So, if you’re struggling with despair and discouragement OR if you’re wondering what’s going to happen next OR if life seems out of control…you’ve got to realize this Christmas that God has not abandoned you. He’s in control of life on this planet – and of your life in particular! Remember, regardless of your past, you have the hope of God’s eternal promise that He’s in control of the universe, and of human history, and of your individual life.

So, at times when you experience despair and you wonder what the world is coming to as it falls apart all around you, remember the family tree of Jesus Christ. It reminds us that God is still purposely moving human history forward as He moved it in the past to the coming of the Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that there are two comings of Jesus Christ: (1) His first coming was at Bethlehem 2,000+ years ago; and (2) His Second Coming will be in Jerusalem at the Mount of Olives some time in the not-to-distant future. The world may still be full of evil people and it may appear to be going nowhere fast – but God’s still purposefully guiding history to Jesus Christ’s Second Coming. But God can make sense out of nonsense. And He will do it despite the devil’s best attempts to destroy His plan. Satan can’t stop where history is going – toward the Second Coming of Christ.

Merry Christmas! And we have a New Year to look forward to, because God is in control!

 

 

Like Never Before

“Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.” – Charles Spurgeon

In an upside-down-world like we’re currently experiencing there’s not greater love we can show the people we encounter daily than to demonstrate to them that Jesus Christ is the ultimate answer to their felt need for peace of mind and heart. The question we have to ask ourselves is: “What kind of a witness to Jesus’ grace and truth am I?”

As you mature in your faith, the Holy Spirit will motivate you to be looking for others to tell about Jesus. Keeping your eyes open to the spiritual needs of others will help you focus on what faith in Jesus is ultimately about – standing at the gates of hell and directing traffic – or in the words of the late-great evangelist Reinhard Bonnke: “plundering hell to populate heaven.” At the same time it will bring heaven to earth to the people around you with your winsome love for Jesus and His truth. The Apostle Peter tells us to: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15-16).

Sometimes we’re afraid to say anything about Jesus to others because we think we might say the wrong thing. And for fear of saying the wrong thing, we too often say nothing. But Jesus said “You shall be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8).

So, what does a witness do and say?

Jesus didn’t call you to be a lawyer. But He does ask you to be a witness. He wants you to be ready so that if someone gives you the opportunity, you can tell them what you know and have experienced. So, if someone wants to know what makes you tick as a follower of Jesus Christ – tell them what you know. Tell them your story. No one can tell your story like you – because no one has experienced your story but you.

Acts 8 records the story of how a man named Philip led a man to faith in Jesus Christ. It contains five things you can do to share your faith in Jesus with someone. Here they are:

First, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:26). If you’re going to love people into a relationship with Jesus, you have to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. He will help you know when the moment is right to speak up and share Jesus with someone. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you sensitive to His promptings.

Second, be available to act on God’s leading (Acts 8:27-29). Too often we fall short in our witness because we’re afraid to speak up when we have the opportunity. Be ready and available when you see an open door. Philip was ready when the Ethiopian eunuch was ready.

Third, take the initiative when the opportunity presents itself (Acts 8:30-31). The man Philip spoke to in this story was spiritually hungry. Philip kept his eyes and ears open for an opportunity to tell this man about God’s goodness, love, and truth – and then he took appropriate advantage of it. Just like Philip, let your faith be a natural part of your conversation.

Fourth, use tact (Acts 8:31). Philip subtly created responsiveness in the person he was talking to by asking a few questions. There are two basic reasons people don’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior: They’ve never met a Christian or they have met a “Christian” who made a bad impression on them. Treating people with sensitivity and consideration leads – not pushes – them to Christ.

Finally, always focus on Jesus (Acts 8:32-35). This story ends by saying that Philip “…preached Jesus to him.” When you finally get a hearing, the focus must be Jesus – not your politics, or your church denomination, or even the other person’s behavior. Remember: God always catches His fish first – He cleans them up a little later on. Our job is to share our life in Jesus with people – not to condemn them.

So, in light of the current onslaught of the evil and wicked cancel culture campaign against true Christianity and the Judeo-Christian values upon which it is based…Remember that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is eternal. It will never be overcome by evil. It will always be preached with authority and eternal results. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His eternal Gospel will ALWAYS prevail over evil and wicked opposition to it – no matter how intense. (Revelation 14:6)

Love God. Love people. Hate evil. That’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its essence. Nothing more. Nothing less.

 

Read more about ways Sharing Your Faith in Jesus Christ in my book Every Man Jack available on Amazon(www.amazon.com/Every-Man-Jack-Becoming-Wants/dp/1973680386),Westbow Press (www.westbowpress.com), and wherever books are sold.

 

Dads on Duty

“Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons is their fathers” (Prov. 17:6 NASB).

The Daily Wire recently reported that a group of fathers in Shreveport, Louisiana have reportedly solved one high school’s chronic problem with violence among students. “Dads on Duty,” a group of 40 fathers, patrol the halls in shifts, bringing positivity, discipline, and dad jokes to the students. Dozens of students had been arrested for fighting the week before the dads arrived, while zero have been arrested since. The dads hope to expand the group to other schools in the state.

Way to go, Shreveport dads! Your actions underscore the truth that it’s a whole lot easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.

Being a dad can be a challenge, but I’ve discovered some principles of fatherhood that parallel what it means to be a godly man and disciple of Jesus Christ. Here they are in one of my “famous” acrostics.

Godly D-A-D-S are, above all, dutiful.

Duty does not have to be a dirty word. Duty just means “getting there” for your children and doing what you know you’re supposed to do. You could say that duty is a form of spiritual consecration or dedication. It’s giving your life up for your kids. It’s spending your life on them regularly and routinely.

Duty is about providing for your kids. Paul counseled his spiritual son Timothy, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8 NASB).

As a father, I never had an issue with being a dutiful provider. It was my job—and my joy—to do it. I loved my kids and wanted them to have the best I could provide. My wife and I always managed our resources so our kids could have all of their needs met and a few of their wants too. It was wearying at times. It was a sacrifice. It was an act of putting our noses to the grindstone. But it was pure joy as well. Whatever it takes, get there by providing for your family.

Godly D-A-D-S are also…available.

Once you get there as a dad, you have to be there too. The prophet Moses wrote: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk to them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut. 6:6–7 NIV). To obey this command, you have to take the time to be with your kids at mealtime, at playtime, at downtime, and at bedtime.

All kids spell love the same way: T-I-M-E. They need touch, instruction, memories, and example. And the way they can get those things is by spending time—lots of it—with you.

Touch your kids. Your kids need you to be near them, not only emotionally but also physically. Tickle them. Hug them. Hold their hands. Wrestle with them. Rub their backs. Give them your touch. Physical touch is a powerful emotional connecter. It gives your children a sense of well-being.

Your kids also need you to teach them, to give them instruction about life. Teach your children virtues and moral values. Teach them that lying is a sin with significant consequences. Instruct your children that having faith in God is a sacred inheritance. Impress on them that modesty is a virtue. Monitor the TV and the movies and DVDs they watch and the video games they play and tell them “No!” when it’s warranted. Take an interest in the books they read, the music they listen to, the social media sites they frequent and the clothes they wear. Use these things to teach your children right from wrong. And remember, as a parent you are the ultimate role models for your children.

Your kids also need good memories. Building memories together is the result of spending time with your kids. Shared memories of good times together will last a lifetime. Making memories together is one of the most rewarding ways to be available to your children.

The last way you can be available to your children and give them your T-I-M-E is by being an example they can willingly follow. Setting an example you would be proud for your kids to follow is one of the most powerful ways you can show them you love them. You can’t just blow in, blow up, and blow out of your children’s lives. You need to connect with your children as often as you can and make time to be with them. It’s the little things that count. Be available to your kids often.

Back to the D-A-D-S acrostic, godly dads are also…delightful.

Be fun to be around when you’re with your kids. Smile a lot. Do things your kids like to do and budget for it. Play games. Tell jokes. Make it so your kids love being with you. Remember, “… the glory of sons [and daughters] is their fathers …” (Prov. 17:6 NASB).

Finally, Godly D-A-D-S are … servants.

Learn to serve your family. True leaders are servants. Serve your family and it will bless your children. One of the most influential ways you can serve your children is to ensure a godly legacy of integrity and honesty. King Solomon wrote: “A righteous man who walks in his integrity—how blessed are his sons [and daughters] after him” (Prov. 20:7 NASB). Modeling integrity to your children will be a service and a blessing to them in life now and long after you’re gone.

How are you doing dad?

Read more about Loving Your Children in my book Every Man Jack available on Amazon(www.amazon.com/Every-Man-Jack-Becoming-Wants/dp/1973680386) and Westbow Press (www.westbowpress.com), and wherever books are sold. 

 

The Goodwife

Last month my wife and I celebrated our 45th Anniversary on Lake Hayden in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho with every one of our immediate family members – our three children, their spouses, and kids. We rented a magnificent four floor “cabin” which more than accommodated all sixteen of us. It was a fantastic four-day weekend complete with a kids (and “big kids”) game room, family theater, awesome sleeping quarters for the adults and kids, a beautifully furnished/equipped family living area/kitchen, and one of the most gorgeous master suites Valerie and I have ever enjoyed – topped off with our own private dock on the lake. What a magical time together. It was fabulous!

The trip was our (mostly mom’s) gift to our family. And it was four and half decades in coming. It was the current culmination of years of love, joy, sacrifice, and hard work. It was a once-in-a-life-time celebration. But, as I mentioned, it was not without its deep commitment to our marriage and family over many, many years – especially on the part of the matriarch of our family – Valerie Grace Ledford-Clubb.

Valerie married me with her eyes wide-shut. She got much more than she bargained for as a pastor’s wife. She thought she was marrying a future missionary (her faith in Jesus Christ runs deep and she loves to travel). But what she got was a man who needed some deep emotional and spiritual refining. Through all my foibles, flaws and faults – she loved me tirelessly, tenderly and toughly. Through all the years of our marriage she was the “goodwife” of our home – the mistress of our household. My “goodwife” has made me into a better man.

And that brings me to the purpose of this particular blog.

There’s an old expression sometimes used in golf, usually when a putt falls just short of the hole: “faint heart never won fair lady’s hand.” The same can be said of how a man approaches his relationship with his wife. Being meek and reticent will not help you achieve success in marriage. In order to love your wife you need a strong and courageous heart.

In Ephesians chapter 5, the apostle Paul wrote some powerfully convicting words to us men about having a strong and courageous heart in our marriage. And while he makes it clear that marriage is a two-way street, I want to focus on just one side of that street: the side married men walk on. Paul does not mince words. He states his case bluntly:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her  so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself…” (Eph. 5:25-31).

In my book, Every Man Jack, I take an entire chapter to unpack these verses. Space limits me from doing the same here. So, I’ll just highlight it for you. You can love your “goodwife” by learning to “sanctify” her and “glorify” her. You also love your wife by “nourishing” and “cherishing” her.

A husband sanctifies his wife by giving up his life for her so she can be a fulfilled woman. So she can fulfill her purpose to complete you as a man. Let her become your counselor. Let her help you express your emotions. Let her help you see your blind spots. Let help you where you’re limited. Let her complete your life. That’s the first way you can love your wife – sanctify her by enabling her to fulfill her purpose, which is helping you and completing you.

You glorify your wife by finding ways to honor her. And that involves the ways you think about her and behave around her. Give her words of tenderness. Show her you love her through your acts of politeness. Love her by being patient with her moods, by generously sharing your resources (aka “money”) with her, and by refraining from making snide remarks about her in public. Love her by practicing honesty and trustworthiness in your relationship.

To sanctify and to glorify your wife is the first way you can love her “… as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her …”

There’s another way this passage tells us husbands how we ought to love our wives. It’s found in verses 28-29: “He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it…”

Women in general—and our wives in particular—have four basic areas of need.

First, your wife has a need to be affirmed. So affirm your wife as a woman. Affirm your wife as a mother. And affirm your wife as a person.

The second need your wife has is to be given status in her role as a homemaker. As a private chef, housemaid, child-care provider, and personal driver – she’s worth big bucks! And if she works outside the home she’s worth even more. Treat her like that’s true. Every day. All the time. Consistently. Sincerely.

The third need your wife has is to be reminded that you care. There’s something known as the law of diminishing returns, and every man needs to be on guard against the subtle ways it can eat away at the civility of his marriage. Love has a short memory; it needs continual reminders.

The fourth need your wife has is to be provided for. Among other ways, a husband does that by protecting his wife both physically and spiritually. You are your wife’s primary source of spiritual and physical protection. You can do that by encouraging her personal and spiritual development and by praying with her and for her.

This passage in Ephesians 5 ends with these words: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church  Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself…” (Eph. 5:31–33)

Good marriages are not an end in themselves. They’re a physical means to a spiritual end. Christ is the groom and we—His Church—are His betrothed Bride. We’re betrothed (promised) to Christ, and our marriage to Him is going to be consummated in heaven one day. That will happen when Jesus sweeps us off our feet and carries us across heaven’s threshold into His Father’s house forever. That’s the real message of a Christian marriage.

Tim Keller, best-selling author and founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, put it best when he said, “Men, you’ll never be a good groom to your wife unless you’re first a good bride to Jesus.”

So, men, do yourself a huge favor and love your wife.

Read more about A Man and His Wife in my book Every Man Jack available on Amazon(www.amazon.com/Every-Man-Jack-Becoming-Wants/dp/1973680386) and Westbow Press (www.westbowpress.com), and wherever books are sold. 

The Need for Mentors

A few days ago I got an email from a young man named Dan who happened upon my book in, of all places, the local fire department. He had brought his son to “oh n’ awe” over the fire trucks – as many six-year-old boys love doing. As this young father chatted with the fireman on duty he noticed a copy of my book on the front desk (btw: thanks to the generous donors who made it possible to place my book into the hands of first-responders in my city and county). Dan inquired about my book and was given a copy to take home. That’s when I got the email from him.

Within a few days we were sitting face to face discussing my book and how it came to be. I provided him three more copies for his men’s small group. He told me he sees the need for older, life-experienced men to mentor younger, less experienced men. He is a man eager to learn how to become “the man God wants him to be.” He thanked me for writing Every Man Jack. He wants to be mentored in how to grow in his faith in Jesus Christ – so he can do the same for others, starting with his own son. Since then he has invited me to visit his book study group for one of their meetings. I have eagerly accepted the invitation. Let me tell you why.

When I think about mentoring, I’m drawn to 2 Timothy chapter 2. The apostle Paul begins that chapter by mentoring his young fellow disciple Timothy about the process of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. He wrote: “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.” (2 Timothy 2:2–7 NLT; italics added)

Acting like a man and disciple of Jesus Christ and learning to be watchful and alert, faithful and strong, and loving always doesn’t come automatically. It takes all three levels of spiritual discipline mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:2-7 to be built into your life—outside in (like the soldier), inside out (like the athlete), and “in it for life” (like the farmer). The mentoring process is for men who want to begin a long obedience in the same direction as they let God work His life into theirs.

My prayer is that more and more men, like my friend Dan, will begin to grow in their understanding of the principles I’ve included in Every Man Jack. I encourage you to form a small group of other like-minded men and work through the book slowly and deliberately together. Let the Holy Spirit work His life into yours and then out of your life into the lives of other faithful men. “Teach these great truths to trustworthy men who will, in turn, pass them on to others” (2 Timothy 2:2 TLB).

King David penned two sentences that have become life defining for me in the second half of my life. They guide me daily as I still work diligently to be an example – a mentor – to others who want to become the men God wants them to be. I hope these words of truth will become as meaningful to you as they have to me, keeping you on the path to spiritual maturity and mentorship: “O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still declare Your wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come” (Psalm 71:17–18 – NASB).

Find a spiritual mentor and then become one yourself!

Read more about The Need for Mentors in my book Every Man Jack available on Amazon(www.amazon.com/Every-Man-Jack-Becoming-Wants/dp/1973680386) and Westbow Press (www.westbowpress.com), and wherever books are sold. 

Judgment Day

Is God’s Judgment of America Imminent?

“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:37-39 – NASB)

Jesus connected the dots between “the days of Noah” and his return to earth – and it will happen almost simultaneously with the judgment of the world. Genesis tells us that in Noah’s day “the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that every intent of their hearts was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5 – NASB). This passage and the days it refers to (the days of Noah) are interpreted in the Talmud – the book of ancient Jewish rabbis’ interpretation of the Old Testament scriptures – as depicting a totally debauched society of sexual immorality and degradation, legalized and celebrated by its leaders. The Talmud teaches that Noah’s generation was blotted out from the world because they were “steeped in whoredom.” R. Samlai observed: “In every instance where you find the prevalence of whoredom, an androlepsia [punishment regardless of guilt or innocence] comes upon the world and slays both good and bad.” 1

Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, a Princeton-trained M.D. with doctorates from Yale, MIT, and Harvard,   has suggested that according to the Babylonian Talmud there was only one time in history where homosexual “marriage” was practiced – during the days of Noah. According to the Talmud before the Flood people began writing homosexual marriage contracts. Satinover distinguishes this from mere homosexual activity as “giving an official state stamp of approval …of homosexual partnership.” 2

Notwithstanding Satinover’s assertions about the uniqueness of the same-sex marriage in Noah’s day, the practice of socially approved same-sex marriage was also later legalized and celebrated in Egypt, Sodom, and Canaan. It involved gay marriage, lesbian marriage, polygamous marriage including incest, and polyandrous marriage. In each instance, the immorality was followed by destruction and devastation in the form of God’s punishment upon the nations practicing it. 3 Egypt suffered the Ten Plagues called forth by God as judgment for their rebellion against him (Exodus 7-12). Sodom was reduced to ashes for their lack of hospitality and their homosexual sexual perversion (Genesis 19). It was the decrees of Canaan sanctioning same-sex marriage and similar relationships that resulted in the Canaanites losing their land and dying out as a people.

Could it be that America is in the midst of a similar judgment? Are we enduring the temporary, but severe, punishment of God on our nation for being “steeped in whoredom?” Could the CCP Virus be a part of that punishment?

A ray of hope for the United States of America in its present state is that in God’s economy it appears a certain number of righteous people are needed to enable the world to exist. Abraham discovered that when he prayed for Sodom. He prayed the Lord to spare the city if he could find ten righteous people. The Lord God agreed, but ten people could not be found. The city was destroyed.

The question is: Will God allow a nation to be destroyed which has legislatively and socially approved, and is now celebrating, laws allowing same-sex marriage? It remains to be seen – but possibly, not just yet. It seems clear to me from scripture that the answer to whether or not God will judge our nation depends on the number of  people who are praying against and repenting for America’s approval and celebration of sexual sin, and are raising their voices in opposition to it. I am one of those voices of repentance and opposition. Where do you stand?

As a nation we must repent of our sexual sin – especially the legal sanctioning, social approval, and open celebration of same-sex marriage. Perhaps then America will experience once again a spiritual reprieve from divine judgment as “…when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah…” (1 Peter 3:20 – NASB).

Read more about Living a Godly Life in my book Every Man Jack available on Amazon(www.amazon.com/Every-Man-Jack-Becoming-Wants/dp/1973680386) and Westbow Press (www.westbowpress.com), and wherever books are sold. 

1 //www.thepropheticyears.com/wordpress/same-sex-marriage-only-occured-in-history-in-the-days-just-prior-to-the-flood.html

2 //www.annomundi.com/bible/ssm_end_of_world.htm

3 //www.thepropheticyears.com/wordpress/same-sex-marriage-only-occured-in-history-in-the-days-just-prior-to-the-flood.html

Being Prepared for Persecution as a Believer in 2021 – and Beyond

Read 2 Timothy and the little book of Titus in the Bible, some time. They were written around AD 62 by the Apostle Paul to his spiritual protégés, Timothy & Titus. At the time Timothy was the lead pastor/elder of the church in Ephesus. Titus got the assignment of leading the elders on the Mediterranean island of Crete (nice assignment, dude!). Smack dab in the middle of those two books Paul tells Timothy:

“But you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings…what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me! And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:12-13 – NASB)

ALL those who desire to live godly lives will be persecuted! That’s a pretty definitive statement. The apostle didn’t stutter. He said ALL. And ALL means ALL. And that includes you and me.

Just a few short years ago that statement might be considered hyperbole – at least for us Christians in America. Not anymore. Half of the current U.S. Congress is working feverishly to hamstring – if not straight up outlaw – the practice of the Christian faith in our country. Outright persecution of Christian believers is underway. And unless it is resisted by more sage leaders in Congress – ours will be a world in which “evil men [and women] and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

So how are we as disciples of Jesus Christ to respond? Paul tells Timothy & Titus (and us by extension) to do three things. They are our PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) against the virus of godless persecution.

Persevere by holding on to the truth found in scripture (2 Timothy 1:8; 3:14-15; 4:5a; Titus 1:9a). To persevere means to be “constant, steadfast, or unflinching.” When you suffer persecution for practicing your faith and encouraging others to follow your Christian example (and remember, we will be persecuted) – don’t be intimidated. Persevere. And we can only do that if we are not ashamed of the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ. Remain convinced of the truth you’ve found in Jesus Christ. Be spiritually “sober” and prepared to endure hardship. That takes guts and fearless commitment to the truth. As Paul told Titus, we must be people who are constantly “…holding fast to the faithful word…”

Preach and teach the truth based on scripture (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17; 4:2; Titus 1:9b; 2:1). Paul reminded Timothy of the trustworthiness and veracity of the Bible – and to never be ashamed of its truth. The truth of God’s word will exhort and refute those who oppose and contradict it. Listen to it. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Apply it to your life. And never be ashamed to preach it! Simply put: “Read it and heed it – because you never know when you’re going to need it!”

Evangelize the people around you by your example (your words and your actions) according to scripture (2 Timothy 2:22-26; 4:5b; Titus 2:7-8; 3:1, 8, 14). Persevering and consistently preaching and sharing God’s word are essential – but done alone they are never enough. Your “example of good deeds” is what will win the day – if anything will. Be ready to share your faith at any time. The times, “they are a changin’” – and we need to be ready to help people in their despair to meet the One who can comfort and save them in these rapidly changing times.

After Paul describes socially and spiritually rebellious people in the “last days” (2 Timothy 3:2-8), he says: “But they will not make further progress, for their folly will be obvious to all…” Folly in this verse is used only one other time in the Bible. In Luke 6:11 it’s used to describe the scribes and Pharisees and their “want of understanding” as they reject Jesus’ message of salvation and healing. It means “madness expressing itself in rage.” And we’ve seen plenty of that lately.

I’m praying that the “folly” of those who reject Jesus Christ and his ways will be exposed for what it is – spiritual ignorance, “madness” and “rage.” I’m also praying for their salvation. I hope that’s your prayer, too.

In the meantime – I’m not leaving my house without my spiritual PPE. Join me and become a “super-spreader” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Read more about Being a Faithful Disciple of Jesus Christ and Sharing Your Faith in my book Every Man Jack available on Amazon (www.amazon.com/Every-Man-Jack.../dp/1973680386), Westbow Press (www.westbowpress.com), and wherever books are sold.

Biblical Justice and Your Life Decisions

In his deeply personal memoir, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956, reflecting his own experience of incarceration and exile in a Gulag in Soviet Russia, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn observed:  “In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”

One of life’s difficulties is facing injustice. When it comes to confronting injustice in the world, we must address the question: “Whose responsibility is it to do something about injustice, anyway?”

As men who are disciples of Jesus Christ, what can you and I do to confront injustice in our world and lift up the less fortunate in our society? We care about the needy, because the Bible teaches us to. God cares about those suffering injustice – and so should we. But how do we go about helping the poor, single parents, orphans and others in need of relief from injustice? What about those who are impacted by poverty or those who became socially displaced due to catastrophic events like war and natural disasters? How do we respond to their needs?

As I write this blog our country is living through one of the most politically divisive times in American history. This is just one man’s opinion, but it seems to me one political party is able to articulate their concern for the less fortunate with heartfelt compassion, although the resultant public policies do not appear to help the poor – but create a permanent underclass instead. By contrast, the other political party is generally unable to get across their genuine concern for “the least of these” – not following through compassionately enough while offering public policies that can provide solid opportunities to help the poor and impoverished. Neither party seems able to deliver effectively or efficiently.

That’s why I believe that the Church alone is in a position to make a lasting impact on the injustices of our world – regardless of the political leanings of her individual members. Unlike human efforts at governing society politically, as disciples of Jesus we have both a “theology of the less fortunate” and the compassionate, transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That “dynamic duo” – a deep understanding of biblical justice and the Gospel of Jesus Christ – is the only way to touch people’s lives one-by-one and begin the process of providing the lasting support and help they need.

The early New Testament church genuinely cared for the less fortunate. And since we understand the Bible – and especially the New Testament – to generally apply to the Church today, then the command to help the helpless is also the responsibility of the modern-day Church. The true Church is filled with caring and compassionate people helping other hurting people. The Church has always found ways to help the helpless. As individual members of the Church we can do something to address life’s injustices.

One tangible way, perhaps even the best way, to show compassion and generosity is to personally help people suffering injustice. It requires making personal sacrifice for others who need our help.

Greg Koukl is a Christian apologist and radio talk show host. He writes, “When we help others personally, it changes us. God is concerned not just with our actions, but with our character.”

There are many ways to touch the life of a person who’s one of the “least of these,” and there are many organizations that can help you do it. Whether you have a passion for the rights of the unborn, care deeply about the horrible scourge of the human slave trade and sex trafficking, want to make a difference in the lives of widows and orphans, or want to help alleviate the pain of the poor and homeless—you name your justice cause—there are ways to get involved.

Theodore Roosevelt, our twenty-sixth US president, was a man who understood justice. He said: “Justice consists not in being neutral between right and wrong, but finding out the right and upholding it, wherever found, against the wrong.” As you become more aware and begin to care enough to act on behalf of the abused, mistreated, and spiritually needy in the world, find a justice cause near to your heart, and get involved.

What’s your opinion? What do you think about whose responsibility is it to care for others less fortunate than you?

Read more about Biblical Justice and Your Life Decisions in my book Every Man Jack available on Amazon(www.amazon.com/Every-Man-Jack-Becoming-Wants/dp/1973680386) and Westbow Press (www.westbowpress.com), and wherever books are sold.