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 (https://www.amazon.com/Every-Man-Jack-Becoming-Wants/dp/1973680386/ref= pd_rhf_se_p_img_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=5CXMKCWRWCNSBWWPWTJR), Westbow Press (www.westbowpress.com/en/search) and wherever books are sold.

 

Biblical Justice – Not Socialism

“Justice is the handmaiden of truth, and when truth dies, justice is buried with it.” – Ravi Zacharias

Doing justice should be second nature to a disciple of Jesus Christ. But ironically, when it comes to doing justice—real, biblical justice—the American church has been woefully underdiscipled. Justice is a misunderstood term and a misapplied concept to most Americans, especially in the Church. It’s defined and practiced in a very self-absorbed way by some (e.g., “Justice is whatever I think is right”). It’s used as a social and political football by others (e.g., “Justice is whatever fits my political or social bias”). And for too many, justice is about getting revenge (e.g., “Justice demands an overdue payment to me from society”). The Bible defines justice differently.

Justice begins and ends with God because He is a just God.

Declaring that God is just is to affirm He’s fair and impartial. To say that God is just means that He hates unfair treatment of people, who He created. It also means that God hates lying and cheating and stealing—any kind of deception and mistreatment of people. And because God is just, He’s the only one who can judge between right and wrong. God will always do justice according to His standards, not ours.

The Bible teaches that God will judge the world one day (Matt. 25:31–46 NASB; Rev. 19:11–15 NASB). But as the ultimate Judge, His judgments won’t be flawed like so many of the corrupt judges we see in our world today. Even when a human judge’s intentions are good, they can still make mistakes. But God’s perfection assures us that when He acts as a judge, He will dispense justice perfectly because He knows how to discern right from wrong without making a mistake. As my favorite theology professor used to say: “God is too good to hurt you and too big to make a mistake.” And the fact that God is just and judges righteously between right and wrong gives Him the ultimate moral authority in our lives. He has the right to make us accountable for our actions because He knows our hearts.

So what does it mean for you and me? It means that our actions on earth and our attitudes toward God will ultimately be judged by Him. And that’s very serious because we’ve all fallen short of God’s perfect standards and a penalty has to be paid for our sins (Rom. 3:23, 6:23 NASB). We’re all self-righteous—and will remain that way—unless we continually confess our sin and give over control of our lives to God (Prov. 28:13 NASB).

But God is not only just, thankfully. He’s also merciful. In His mercy, He’s made a way for us to be reconciled (made right) with Him and to meet His perfect standards. He’s provided a substitute who willingly paid the penalty for our sins. God did this through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, who died to cover the penalty we would have to pay for our own sin (Rom. 3:24). Our part is to accept God’s substitution: Jesus Christ. Then God, who’s just and merciful, will forgive and forget our sins. When we accept God’s substitution for our sins, the Bible says that God will treat us like His own children and His heirs, eligible to inherit all that is His.

So the idea of doing biblical justice begins with God doing justice. When God presented His Son Jesus as a substitute to pay the penalty for your and my wrong doing, the Bible says He did it to demonstrate His justice: “… so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26 NIV).

Once we’ve been made right with God and He sees us as one of His children, the fact that God is just means that He wants us to be just and act justly too. The prophet Micah summed this up by saying, “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8 NASB). Throughout the entire Bible, God tells us that if we love Him, we’ll treat other people fairly. This applies especially to people who may be in less fortunate situations than us, like widows and orphans, the poor and homeless, and “aliens or strangers” (people who are strangers to us who, by no fault of their own, are in a hard place in life with little or no resources).

The fact that God is just can also give you and me peace when we have to deal with difficulties in our lives or when we observe painful injustice in the world. We can be confident that God’s justice will win out over injustice by decisively dealing with evil in the long run.

Let’s address one more thing. You might be wondering, “But if God is just, why do we see so much unfairness and injustice on earth?” Good question. Here’s my best answer.

When we see injustice on earth, it’s always at the doing of people, knowingly or unknowingly (but almost always willingly) under the influence of evil, not God. We’ve all been given free will by God. The problem is that we can choose to exercise our free will irresponsibly, out of step with the character of God’s justice. And we do. The time will come, however, when God will judge the world and all the people in it. He’s going to get rid of all the evil and injustice in the world and the spiritual forces behind them. He will punish everyone who turns away from Him and His perfect and holy standards. But the good news is that in His wisdom, He’s not doing that yet. He’s waiting because He’s patient and He wants everyone to have an opportunity to accept His Son, Jesus Christ, and His sacrifice rather than pay the spiritual death penalty that justice requires for their sins (2 Pet. 3:9 NASB).

It is God’s kindness and goodness that keeps Him from judging the world yet. That’s because He knows His kindness, goodness, and patience will lead people to come to Him and ask for forgiveness of their sins (Rom. 2:4 NASB). That’s how and why God is just.

 

Biblical JusticeWhat is It?

There are many implications of God’s justice for the world we live in. They touch on every justice issue you and I can think of, including poverty, racial bigotry and contention, corruption in politics and governments around the globe, human sex trafficking, genocide, consumerism, and the staggering number of orphans in the world, just to mention a few.

But before we discuss what the Bible says about justice issues, we need to define some terms. The phrase social justice has become politically supercharged over the years, and it cannot be divorced from its present-day context. Social justice is often used as a rallying cry for many well-meaning people who stand on the more liberal or socialist side of the political spectrum. This excerpt from the “Social Justice” entry on Wikipedia is a good definition of this concept:

[Social justice is] … a concept that some use to describe the movement towards a socially just world. In this context, social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality and involves a greater degree of economic egalitarianism through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or even property redistribution. These policies aim to achieve what developmental economists refer to as more equality of opportunity than may currently exist in some societies, and to manufacture equality of outcome in cases where incidental inequalities appear in a procedurally just system. (Source: Wikipedia, “Social Justice”, last edited on October 26, 2019https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_justice)

That’s a mouthful. Let me try and break it down for us. The word egalitarianism coupled with the phrases income redistribution, property redistribution, and equality of outcome tells us a lot about this view of social justice. Egalitarian refers to the idea that all people are equal and deserve equal rights, including political, social, economic, and civil rights. While that is a noble sentiment and one with some truth to it, when the concept of social egalitarianism is pushed to its logical conclusion, it reveals a couple of fatal flaws when applied in a social setting.

There are at least two problems with this view of social justice. First, it assumes that all rich people get wealthy by exploiting the poor. That may be the case some of the time, but certainly not all of the time. The Bible says, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty” (Prov. 21:5 NLT). Second, socialist programs too often create more problems than they solve. People who are encouraged to rely on the government for assistance over a long period of time have a higher probability of becoming permanently dependent on the government rather than being motivated to improve their situation. Every time and place where socialism/communism has been tried on a national scale, it has failed to remove the class distinctions in society. Instead, all it does is replace the nobility/common man distinction with a working class/political class distinction.” (Source: “What Does the Bible Say About Social  Justice?”, GotQuestions.org, accessed October 29, 2019, http://www.gotquestions.org/social-justice.html)

So what is the Christian view of biblical justice?

We’ve already seen that the Bible teaches that God is a God of justice. In fact, “all his ways are justice” (Deut. 32:4 NIV). And the Bible supports the idea of biblical justice, caring for the poor and the afflicted (Deut. 10:18, 24:17, 27:19 NASB). The Bible also refers to the fatherless, the widow, and the sojourner as people we should care for. In fact, the nation of Israel was commanded by God to care for society’s less fortunate; their eventual failure to do that was part of the reason for His judgment on them and their many years of captivity at the hands of their enemies.

In the New Testament, Jesus and his disciples taught the same thing about biblical justice. Jesus talked often of caring for the “least of these” (Matt. 25:40 NASB). In James’s letter, he writes that the nature of true religion is to care for widows and orphans (James 1:27 NASB). God knows that because of sin in the world, there will be widows, the fatherless, the poor, and the underprivileged. And he made provisions in the Bible to care for the less fortunate. Jesus modeled the ultimate act of God’s justice by bringing the gospel message to everyone, even the outcasts of society.

But the Christian idea of biblical justice is different from the contemporary concept of social justice. The biblical commands to care for the poor are more individual than societal. The Bible teaches that each Christian is to do what he or she can to help the “least of these.” That’s the second of the greatest commandments, to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39 NASB). But replacing the individual with the government through excessive taxation and other means of redistributing wealth (as social justice demands) does not encourage individuals to give sacrificially of their time, talent, and treasure out of love. It only creates resentment from those who see their hard-earned money or property being taken away.

The Christian view of biblical justice does not view being wealthy as evil. Rather it sees having financial resources as a responsibility to be good managers of those resources. And with that responsibility comes the expectation that people with financial resources will voluntarily share their wealth with those in need, with a tender and compassionate heart. The apostle Paul told Timothy: “Instruct those who are rich in this present world … to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share …” (1 Tim. 6:17–18 NASB). Compassionate and caring believers will be generous to the less fortunate with their resources, especially for the needs and causes that most concern them, like caring for the poor, the homeless, the unborn, orphans, widows, those caught in human trafficking, etc.

Biblical justice is choosing to make individuals and communities whole by focusing on goodness and impartiality. Scripture says, “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern” (Prov. 29:7 NIV). Justice flows from God’s heart and character. That’s what motivated God throughout the Old and New Testaments in His judgments on sin and injustice. And that’s why godly disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to work for biblical justice.

We can never establish an economically and socially perfect world on earth through government policies. Only God can create and maintain a perfect world. One day He will by returning to earth and making all injustices right (Rev. 21–22 NASB). But for now, He wants to establish His biblical justice on earth through His people, the Church. God and His biblical justice are about praying and acting to bring His kingdom to earth. And He will do it through people who love Him and his justice and mercy until He returns. When He does return, Christ will restore all things and execute perfect justice. But until then, godly disciples of Jesus Christ will express God’s love and do biblical justice by showing kindness and mercy to those less fortunate out of a compassionate heart.

 

Developing a Personal Prayer Life

Learning to pray, for me, was like learning to play golf. At first it felt really awkward. I thought everybody on the course was staring at me (and judging my performance). And it was very intimidating when I compared myself to all the great golfers I knew. But eventually I got comfortable playing golf with my friends.

Quite by accident I discovered that in golf every player has a unique swing. But there are fundamentals required in learning to hit the ball well. By practicing the fundamentals, you can develop a more consistent swing and become a competent golfer. Mastering the basics helps you hit the ball well. Confidently. Consistently. Routinely.

I also learned that before you swing the club, you need to have a proper “set-up for success.” The position of your feet, the bend of your arms, and your weight being distributed equally – are all very important. When you have a proper set-up, it’s much easier to make a proper swing.

The same is true of developing a consistent prayer life. Prayer doesn’t have to be awkward, self-conscious, or intimidating. But learning to pray requires mastering the basics and developing a proper set-up. You’ll never pray well without understanding what prayer is, why you should pray, how to pray, and what to pray for.

What is prayer? Henrietta Mears, the woman who made a deep and lasting impression on men like Billy Graham (The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association) and Bill Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ), is credited with the following quote:  “Prayer is a simple conversation with a loving Father.”

Prayer is what brings you closer to God. The closer you get to God the better He looks to you. And when you get closer to God you want to be more like Him and His Son Jesus Christ.

Prayer is the exercise of faith and hope. Prayer is the practice of the presence of God. Prayer is God’s central avenue of transforming your life.

Prayer is the practice of the presence of God. The Bible says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8 – NASB). The best way I’ve discovered to do that is through prayer.

Why pray? We pray because Jesus tells us to pray. Luke relates to us that Jesus taught His disciples “…that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1 – NASB).

Positioning yourself for success in prayer means allowing God  to give you His point of view. God answer prayers, and He changes things through prayer. But the thing that prayer changes most is you. Because prayer does something supernatural inside you. It gives you God’s perspective on life while changing you in the process.

How Do I Pray? As a young disciple of Jesus Christ I learned a way to pray that has stayed with me throughout the years. It is an acronym, a mnemonic device, essentially a tool to help you remember how to pray anywhere, at any time. It’s represented by the letters A-C-T-S. Each letter stands for a specific aspect of prayer, arranged in a very natural order.

Adoration (worship of God). Adoration toward God reminds us of the His limitlessness ability and wisdom. Beginning your personal prayer time with worship and adoration toward God puts Him first in your thoughts where He belongs. It makes your problems, concerns, and needs come into proper perspective.

Confession (admission of specific sins). The closer you get to God, the more you become aware of your own sinfulness. Your sin – conscious and unconscious – distances you from God. Confession of your sin takes away the barriers between you and God. It clears the channels of communication between Him and you (1 John 1:9 – NIV; Matthew 6:12 – NLT).

Thanksgiving (gratitude for God’s blessing). Thanksgiving should always follow confession. You should be thankful that God has forgiven you. We don’t give thanks because everything is going well in your life or because you’re in a good mood. You should give thanks because God deserves your praise. When you give Him thanks you’re expressing gratitude for what you have. It keeps your focus from drifting to what you don’t have.

Supplication (specific requests for yourself and others). Supplication means “to ask humbly and earnestly.” If you’re faithful in the previous three prayer steps, this last step will not be just you asking God for “stuff.” It will include asking God to meet your needs and requests, but also to motivate you to pray for others and their needs and requests. And if you pray according to God’s will-He will answer (1 John 5:14 – NASB).

What Should I Pray For? Here’s a prayer list you can take with you wherever you go. I call it the “five-finger prayer list.” Hold your right hand in front of you, palm out. Look at it and then notice the following:

  • Your thumb is the closest finger to you on your hand. Let it represent the people closest to you, those you live and work with. Your immediate family, your friends, and your coworkers. Pray for them!
  • Your pointer finger represents the people to whom you’re pointing the way to Jesus Christ. It could be anyone you’re praying for to get to know Jesus like you do. Pray for them!
  • Your middle finger is the most prominent finger on your hand. It represents the people who are the leaders in your life – your mentors, your teachers, your pastors. Pray for them!
  • Your ring finger is the weakest finger on your hand. Pray for those you know who are “weak.” People who are sick or hurting or dying. The emotionally wounded and struggling people in your life. Never forget to pray for them!
  • Your pinky finger represents you. You need to pray for your own needs, too.

You can use the “Five-Finger Prayer List” on your commute to work or while you’re exercising – any time. And it stays with you wherever you go.

When Do I Pray? We’ve already seen in Luke that Jesus taught his disciples to be people who “…should always pray…” (Luke 18:1 – NASB). The Apostle Paul wrote that we should “…pray without ceasing…” (2 Thessalonians 5:17 – NASB). In other words – pray all the time!

Pray “flash prayers” on the spur of the moment. Pray “arrow prayers” aimed at the situation you are dealing with right now – don’t wait for the right “feeling.” Pray pain-filled, heartfelt, desperate prayers. God knows your struggles. Have times of extended prayer – where you can take some uninterrupted time to be alone with God to “soak” in prayer. To pray in these ways is to “…pray without ceasing.” God hears your prayers whenever and wherever you offer them.

Make regular, routine prayer a part of your life. Let it be a “holy habit.”

Read more about Developing a Personal Prayer Life in my book Every Man Jack available on Amazon, Westbow Press (www.westbowpress.com) and wherever books are sold.

Passing the Baton

“Every man is born twice. Once when his mother gives birth. The second time is when his father dies.” – Anonymous

I am a blessed man.

Ten days ago my father passed away. He was 93 years old. He lived a long and healthy life. He was in control of his mental and physical faculties until the end. He simply took a nap one afternoon and woke up in heaven. What a way to go!

As a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ, I am confident that my dad is in the presence of God. He is walking hand in hand with my mom on the “streets of gold” (Revelation 21:21). I look forward to seeing him again one day. That’s what we followers of Jesus Christ call the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

My dad set a good example of how to consistently live out one’s faith in Jesus Christ. He left a legacy of integrity and an example that all of his children, grandchildren and those he mentored would be proud to emulate. He was the epitome of Proverbs 20:7: “A righteous man who walks in his integrity – How blessed are his sons [and daughters] after him.”

To “walk” in integrity means to be a sincere, honest, and truthful person. That was my dad. What you saw in him was what you got. He never tried to be someone he wasn’t. He was the real deal. Genuine. Guileless. Sincere. And he was also an honest man. In fact, he was even honest when it cost him. If he made a promise and he later found out it was not to his advantage to follow through on that promise – he did it anyway. His word was his bond. As Psalm 15 says he was willing to “swear to his own hurt.” He kept his word even when it cost him. And my dad was also a man of truth. He loved the truth – and was never at a loss for words to tell it. Sincere. Honest. Truthful. That was my dad. And I loved him for it.

My prayer has been for a long time now that my example would bless my children and grandchildren and those I mentor. I want that to be my legacy – just like it was for my father. And when I lay on my death bed, I want to be able to hear my children say: “We are blessed because we had a dad who was a man of integrity.”

“A good name is to be more desired than great wealth; Favor is better than silver and gold” (Proverbs 22:1).

Thanks for your example of integrity, dad. Love you “Pops”! Celebrate well in the presence of our God. Looking forward to seeing you and mom again and sharing in that “glorious, inexpressible joy” you are reveling in together (1 Peter 8:1 – NLT).

Hot Heads & Cold Hearts

We live in contentious socio-political times. Black Lives Matter vs. Blue Lives Matter… Antifa vs. White Supremacy…Masks vs. No Masks… Hard Left vs. Hard Right. We’re divided by identify politics. There seems to be no middle ground on which to stand. As a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, what are we supposed to do? How do I keep from falling short of displaying the grace of God in my life? What must I do to keep from letting a “root of bitterness” grow in my life and cause “…trouble, and by it become defiled…” (Hebrews 12:15)? What about the admonition of the Apostle Paul to “…to slander no one, not to be contentious, to be gentle, showing every consideration for all people” (Titus 1:3)?

As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I’m cognizant of what my Master and His Word teaches about keeping my heart free from bitterness and contention – how not to be a hot head with a cold heart. Jesus knew that contentious days like the ones we live in would come: “And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will become cold” (Matthew 24:12 – NASB). Jesus spoke these words in the middle of his “end times discourse” in response to his disciples’ question: “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:2 – NASB). In 30 AD Jesus saw what was coming to 2020 AD.

As a young pastor, I worked alongside an older, wiser brother from the Midwest. I loved his down home way of expressing truth. He who once told me: “Daniel, as you lead God’s people never forget to guard your heart – and keep your backside covered!” Good advice, I later came to realize, as I navigated my way through a four decades long pastoral career.

Jesus told us four things to do in order to “guard” our hearts (and keep your back sides covered) as we await his return. If we act on them, they will keep our heads cool and our hearts warm toward people whose perspective on life differs drastically from our own – regardless of how they respond to us.

BE READY “You too, be ready; because the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not think He will” (Luke 12:40 – NASB). That means to be ready personally. If you haven’t already done it, come to Jesus today and confess your sin. Ask him to forgive you. Accept his forgiveness and be “born again.” Eternal life will begin for you the moment you do that. And “be ready” means to help as many other people as you can to be ready, too. Our mission on this planet is to love God and love people by populating heaven and depopulating hell. Be prepared and help others be prepared for the return of the “righteous Judge” (2 Timothy 4:8 – NASB).

STAY ALERT…“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming (Matt. 24:42 – NASB). Once you’ve come to Jesus and decide to become one of his followers – don’t fall asleep spiritually. But stay alert to the “signs of the times.” Be spiritually vigilant in prayer for yourself and for others – especially other Christians. And when life looks like it’s all “going to hell on roller skate” – do what you can to help and then, pray some more. God gives us his perspective through prayer. Stay alert.

KEEP BUSY“A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. And he called ten of his own slaves and gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business with this money until I come back’ (Luke 19:13 – NASB). Jesus used this parable to teach his disciples to never stop being engaged in “kingdom business.” Being used by God to build his kingdom on earth – as it is in heaven – is what we exist for. Our purpose, in addition to loving God and loving people, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Loving and leading people into becoming Jesus’ wholehearted followers, is our lifeblood. Keep busy at it.

LOOK UPBut when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28 – NASB). In the context of this passage Jesus is teaching about the end of time and “thing to come” just before his return to earth. He speaks in very somber terms of nations going to war…earthquakes, plagues, and famines…and weather patterns gone mad. He tells of fellow Christians being persecuted for their faith (some becoming martyrs)…and the nation of Israel suffering great “distress” and “wrath.” He warns of people “…fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:26 – NASB). And then – at the end of all his somber words of warning – he says: “…straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” In other words: “Look up…Keep your head up…because I am coming back to take you into eternity to give you your reward!”

Be ready…Stay alert…Keep busy…and…Look up…because the “Righteous Judge” is coming!

“Lord, thank you for saving us from ourselves and giving us eternal life. Thank you for the discernment to know the signs of your return. Thank you for the assignment you’ve given us to make disciples for you and your kingdom here on earth. And thank you for the confidence to keep our heads up when living life for you appears impossible. Maranatha! ‘Come quickly, Lord Jesus’!”

 

Holiday Stress

The Holiday Season is upon us. The five week run from Thanksgiving to New Years Day is America’s annual stress and cholesterol festival. Smithsonian magazine calls our generation the “Age of Anxiety.”  You can actually feel the stress ramping up!

We’re a society in need of stress relief – especially during the Holidays. So, here’s three stress relievers found in the “Mental Health” chapter of the Bible in Philippians 4:6-7 (TLB).

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”  

The first stress-reliever is WORRY ABOUT NOTHING.

In Philippians 4:6 the apostle Paul says: “Don’t worry about anything…”  Worry and anxiety are a major source of stress. That same Smithsonian article reported that there are “macro worries” & “micro worries” that everybody on the planet worries about.

“Macro worries” are anxiety about global warming or the earth being stuck by an asteroid. Worries about earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes and floods. Worry about gang violence and violent political unrest. Fear that our kids could be assaulted at gun point by someone at school or even just walking down the street…these are all “macro worries.

And then there are “micro worries.” These are personal worries like anxiety about our health or our family’s health or the security of our job or the quality of our relationships or our stock market investments.

“Micro worries” & “micro worries” – we all have them.

Let me give you a definition for worry: “Worry is assuming responsibility that God never intended for me to have.” Worry is playing God and trying to control the uncontrollable. Worry really is worthless – because it can’t change the past or control the future. It only messes us up right now – in the present. Worry is an incredible waste of energy & creativity. It’s “stewing without doing.”

The Bible agrees: “Don’t worry about anything.”

Now, I know that’s a hard command to obey. It’s hard to obey because some of us are born worriers. We have the ability to “find a problem in every solution.” We always seem to look at the negative. But Jesus commanded us in Matthew 6:34 (NASB): “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.”

For many of us worry is our “default.” It’s something we learn along the way in life as we depend less and less on God and more and more on ourselves. It takes practice to get good at worrying. But Jesus is saying that if worry can be learned, then it can also be unlearned.                             

SO HERE’S AN INSIGHT FOR YOU: What Jesus and Paul are saying is that in order to relieve stress you have to live one day at a time. And that’s not idle advice or flippantly spoken words. Jesus uttered those words even though he knew he was going to be crucified on a cross for the sins of mankind. Paul was in prison waiting to be executed when he wrote Philippians. They both had opportunity to let worry, anxiety, and fear control their lives – but they choose to worry about nothing.

The second stress-reliever is to PRAY ABOUT ANYTHING.

Whenever God tells us to eliminate something from our lives (worry, anxiety, fear), He always has something better for us (prayer). He always replaces a negative with a positive – the problem we face with a promise he’s made.

Philippians 4:6 continues: “…pray about everything; tell God your needs…” Or as the NASB version puts it: “…but in everything by prayer and supplication…let your requests be known to God.”   

The apostle Paul is saying, don’t worry or panic – pray! When we stop worrying we have time to pray. If, when we’re tempted to say “I don’t have time to pray,” we would spend our time praying instead of worrying, we’d have a whole lot less to worry about. A Jamaican proverb underscores the Biblical relationship between prayer and worry. It says: “If you’re going to pray, don’t worry. If you’re going to worry, don’t pray.”

The Bible is saying that we should pray about anything. Some people think that God is only interested in us praying about what we consider “spiritual” things. But God is interested in everything in your life. He also tells us to use “supplication” or “petition.” That means ask God for a specific, detailed request. Get specific with God. Tell Him exactly what you want and what you need. Don’t pray general, vague prayers. Be specific. Ask him to fulfill his promises to you!

Prayer is a tremendous safety valve for the release of the pressure of stress. So, unload all your worries on God. He’s big enough to handle all the details in your life. He can handle anything you give Him.

THE INSIGHT HERE IS:  There’s no problem that’s too big for God’s power or too small for His concern. 

Here’s the third stress-reliever: GIVE THANKS IN EVERYTHING.

Philippians 4:6 (NASB) says: “… in everything … with thanksgiving …” Always approach God with a thankful heart. In other words, “Don’t forget to thank him for his answers to your prayers.” One of the healthiest human emotions is gratitude – having a grateful and thankful heart. Being thankful actually increases your body’s immune system. There’s a physical benefit to expressing gratitude. By contrast, ungrateful people tend to be unhappy people. Nothing ever satisfies them.

Here’s an idea: If you’re stressed or anxious, make a list of twenty things you know you can be grateful for. Because when you’re grateful, it gets the focus off your problems and back on to the benefits in your life. We have so much to be grateful for. So develop an attitude of gratitude and watch the stress level in your life go down. It gets your eyes off the problem and on to the things you can be grateful for.

THE INSIGHT HERE IS: There is always something to be grateful for.

So, what’s the result of practicing these stress-relievers? It’s found in Philippians 4:7: “If you do this you will experience God’s peace which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your heart quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” v. 7 (TLB). That’s a promise of guaranteed peace of mind!

People are looking everywhere for peace of mind. They try pills, herbs, booze, therapy, and stress reduction seminars. They listen to podcasts and buy books – anything to give them just a little peace of mind. To paraphrase the apostle Paul here: “God’s peace is a gift to you. It is a gift that can’t be explained, duplicated, fabricated, or understood. It’s a gift from God that just comes over your life when you follow these stress relievers.”

And how do we maintain that kind of peace of mind? “.. as you trust in Christ Jesus.” According to the Bible, God made us to know him. Nobody’s here on this planet by accident. He made us for a purpose. The starting point of that purpose is to understand that he made us for a relationship with him. He wants us to know him. And when we know him there’s a sense of peace that comes into our lives. Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

This passage in Philippians 4 ends by saying: “His peace will keep your thoughts…”  The word “keep” in Greek is a military term. It means “a sentry guard, a garrison, or a detachment of soldiers.”

That’s the way God will guard your mind and heart when you have a relationship with Jesus Christ and trust Him moment by moment. You worry about nothing. You pray about anything. And you thank God in everything. Then God will put a garrison, a sentry guard, around your heart.  And when worry comes knocking at the door He will protect you with His peace.

Have a stress-free Holiday Season!

Welcome to My Blog Page

Welcome. My name is Daniel L. Clubb, author of Every Man Jack. I’m so happy to have you as a visitor to my blog about my new book. This project is very special to me, and I hope to share some of that excitement with you here.  I’ll be using this blog to interact with you about Every Man Jack, expanding on some of the topics in it and posting on some of the ideas related to my book. This is a great place for you to get to know me, and I’m looking forward to getting to know you, too. What did you think of Every Man Jack? What questions do you have for me? How do you relate to my book?

I’ll be returning here frequently with new posts and responses to feedback from you. Until next time, tell me a little bit about yourself.

If you wish to leave a message to the author, add your comments or questions here. Thank you!