Three Simple Letters Will Define Us

In this unique period in which we find ourselves, what three letters represent the supreme authority of the land … W.H.O., C.D.C., or G-O-D?

I have sought to take a commonsense approach to the COVID-19 crisis. I do not need a government mandate to exercise the common sense to wash my hands, not sneeze or cough on other people, and stay home if I am sick. I certainly understand that those who have compromised immune systems need to exercise even greater caution. That is sensible.  However, I have been stunned as to how broadly the COVID-19 situation has been imposed on us. At this writing no one knows how this is going to end up and if what we have known as normal is destined to become a thing of the past. Most bothersome to me is not the danger of the virus itself, but rather how quickly some have relinquished the prime authoritative influence in our lives.  Dear Follower of Christ, which question below needs the greater consideration? …

Who is our God? or W.H.O. is our God?

God, we know.  His sovereign plan provided us with the Scriptures to not only know Him but also navigate through the issues of life.  His provision of redemption enables us to have a relationship with the Lord of heaven and earth.  Amazing!

Now, what about this influential organization of authority known as WHO? The World Health Organization is not just about virus awareness. It is one of the biggest promoters of abortion and peddlers of radical sex education worldwide. Sharon Slater of Family Watch International exposes this shameful history in a recent publication on WHO. According to Family Watch, “In 2018, WHO co-published with other UN agencies and the help of International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) the radical “International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education.” This guide purports to set the sexual health education standards for all of the world’s children. Please note that WHO defines “sexuality” to encompass “sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction,” and thus, WHO supports such controversial topics being taught to children.” 1

This week I watched as the governor of my state unveiled a 3-phase plan to open the territory again. With that plan, another entity is being touted as a primary authority to oversee our lives.  In his plan seemingly every level of the free function of our society is at the discretion of the Center for Disease Control.  Hmmm, I thought the job of the CDC was to make recommendations not become the arbiter of societal function! 

I do not claim to have all knowledge, nor do I claim to have all information in the tangled tale our government, medical science and the media has produced.  However, I am still obligated to navigate life from a Biblical Worldview that places Scriptural influence as the major influence in my life.  For the unbelieving world around us, WHO or CDC may at this time represent ultimate knowledge and authority.  But for Believers, GOD and the principles of His Word must remain our authority and ultimate source of knowledge. Just as the unnatural social distancing concept has been cultivated among us, I am very concerned that Christians have also we been lulled into an unnatural distancing from a clear, Bible-directed lifestyle and the mindset that must accompany it (see Romans 12:1-2, Philippians 3:20-21).2  We are called to function in a different value system than the world around us.  Practically speaking, what does that look like?

Consider the following questions I have been pondering.  Feel free to make application and conclusions at your own discretion:

1. Outside of getting alone to pray, do we have any evidence that Jesus socially distanced Himself from anyone?

Life threatening illnesses were not abolished when Jesus walked this earth. To demonstrate His power and purpose He did heal. But no doubt fatal illnesses like cancer, pneumonia and viruses were still present among the populous as our Savior walked the earth. Getting sick is not a sin. Can anyone provide a reference for me that relates that Jesus never got a cold or the flu? He is our example in every area of life. He experienced life as we do, yet without sin. He walked among humanity. He went toward people and did not isolate away from them. He actually touched the leper (Luke 5:12-13) when society was practicing extreme social distancing (Luke 17:12-13).  Hypothetical I know, but from what I can glean from the recorded actions of Jesus, I do not see an asymptomatic Jesus detaching Himself in isolation away from others.  His interaction with other humans was Light amid darkness and hope amid gloom.  Are not we to be the same today?  How can we best be that to others?

2. When does adherence to 1 Peter 2:13-17 become a scapegoat to shroud our responsibilities as followers of Christ?

13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (NKJV)

Special consideration should be taken in the passage to note context for the words, “evildoers”, “those who do good”, and “a cloak for vice”. We must allow God the right to define those terms for us.  Currently, the god of this age subtly and deceitfully influences a society to spin their own definitions to define evil, good and vice.  I fear some believers have categorized defying government mandates of social distancing, stay at home orders, forbidding church attendance and the wearing of PPE’s, as equal to sin. This would be an extreme overreach of the context of the passage above. It is never right to squelch the application and practice of what it means to live out the Christian life.  Society can only be better when this occurs.

I was reminded recently of the firsthand testimony of Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place) during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1940-45. The German military used a similar tactic to numb people into complacency. They challenged the Dutch citizens to abide by their Bible’s command to “obey civil authorities” while they were gathering Jewish/and non-Jewish citizens to haul them off to death camps!  The Ten Boom family suffered dearly for being responsible Christians in a time of social disorder – Corrie was the only member of her family that survived the ordeal. 

Currently mass abduction to civil disobedience is not occurring amid the COVID-19 crisis.  But at what point is the compromise of Bible directives, a significant enough compromise that it will eventuate into giving position to the real Enemy who behind all of this?

3. When being salt and light is confined to electronic relationships and is dependent on bandwidth and connectivity, have we sidestepped what it means to live “incarnationally”?

I have prayed for and I have applauded local churches and the response to this pandemic. I understand that we all were trying to figure it out. No one saw this coming. After government mandates, video and live streaming equipment was rapidly purchased or utilized in order to find a way to connect and shepherd flocks all over our country. Kudos! Creativity found a way to make it happen.

But now, the dust has settled a bit from the initial reaction. Yet, the rippling ramifications of government mandates are growing broader by the day.  Virus projections appear to have been significantly inflated, conspiracy theories abound, politicians and medical practitioners are in fierce debate, while economists theorize if our country will ever be able to crawl out of this. Businesses have closed, people have lost jobs, government unemployment claims cannot be processed because of the rush of those who have signed up, and a restless, hopelessness is growing in our society.  Yet we, the representatives of Light, remain disassembled and isolated as we attempt to compete with celebrities, media giants and newsfeeds for the electronic attention of the society.

What are we to do, Christian?

We must remember this is a spiritual battle and we are to endure hardship as a good soldier in Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).  Never pacifists, by our position in Christ we are to be actively engaged in the spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-20). A line in the lyric of a famous song from the 70’s says, “Did you exchange a walk on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage?”3 Can this be applied to empty church buildings and believers confined in isolation so others “will be protected”?

Historically, regardless of the ramifications, Christians have led the charge to represent Christ in circumstances where no one else would venture to go. Sincere Christ followers educated, treated the sick and risked personal health, safety and security to represent Christ when others cowered in fear and/or complacency. Missionaries have always defied “logic” to take the message of Christ into areas others refused to consider. More than just a “generational thing”, as 21st century human beings we have been duped into thinking electronic, social interaction is an acceptable substitute for authentic human contact. We must consider the implications and the long-term consequences of inhibiting human to human interaction. Our Savior’s incarnation should teach us that it is in “live relationships” human need is best met. And it is in those relationships the message of the Gospel is best identified, exemplified, and propagated in any society and at any time. The control-mongering propagators of fear, phobia, and detachment want us to remain silent, out of sight and isolated.  Let’s cease the abdication of our God ordained role of influential social soldiers of Light and Hope. To do this we may have to make some difficult decisions.  Soldiers often do. 

To make the proper, difficult choices we must be prayerful and students of the Word as we seek our guidance in these unparalleled days.  We must be Christian on all levels. May God enable us to be courageous, bold and insightful, yet empathetic and caring at the same time. I do not presume that will  be an easy balance to maintain.  Inaction and detachment, however, are not options. We must find a way to respond in a God honoring fashion. 

To conclude, two voices from the past are worth considering …

Contemplate this as an application of a spiritual call to action in our spiritual battle – “…It is vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentleman may cry Peace, Peace – but there is no peace. The war is actually begun. … Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?” 3

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (NIV) 4


2 Romans 12:1-2 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Philippians 3:20-21 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. (NLT)

3 Wish You Were Here, David Gilmore & Roger Waters, 1975

4 Patrick Henry, to the Second Virginia Convention March 23, 1775

5 The Apostle Peter to the Dispersion, 1 Peter 3:8-9

REFORMATION DAY instead of Halloween?

On October 31st, nationwide, streets and parking lots will be full of people carrying bags and buckets to hold all the sweet treats that will be availed to them.  For some houses decorating for Halloween has far surpassed the commercialism that is associated with Christmas.  As a pagan kid I loved Halloween.  Dracula and a Werewolf were my two favorite go-to costumes.  These days, less effort seems to go into the costume by would-be trick or treaters and greater effort into mapping out the community to hit as many streets as possible for the bounty.

Photo courtesy of Traveler (

I have a suggestion for the Christian Homes across the land.  How about Reformation Day instead?  On that day in 1517 Martin Luther, in response to corrupt practices in the Roman Catholic church, defiantly nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. This challenge was the beginning of the Great Reformation.

Today, we need a renewed appreciation for that event.  Martin Luther (amid some of his blatant human deficiencies), was a man of his time who was used of the Lord to clarify the central theme of the Scripture; Salvation is by faith alone, in Christ alone.  The significance of his courageous stand against the powerful religious establishment of his day cannot be overvalued.  The evangelical world today should continue to rejoice.

What resulted was a renewed focus opposing the unscriptural basis of a works-oriented salvation.  The known world at that time was changed forever!  It is worthy of a day of recognition (with or without the candy!).

But the refocus on the purity of Gospel message was not proclaimed without great sacrifice.   Satan’s desire for the deception of righteousness that can be earned fed decades of heavy persecution.  The blood of the Martyr’s fill annals of history.  The battle between a works-oriented theology and the Good News of the “Grace alone Gospel” continues today.  Truly, a “trick or treat” confrontation with eternal consequences.

Unfortunately, the persecution continues today as well.  Perhaps it is fitting that a few days after October 31st, it is International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (November 4th this year).

Let’s be sure and pray for our persecuted brethren worldwide.  As the country overdoses on candy, let’s reflect on the significance of Reformation Day and glorious message of Salvation by grace alone!  And, why not share its message with others?  How about including it with the dozens of sweet treats you are likely to give out this year?  Let’s start a trend.

Have a Happy Reformation Day! 


For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.

– Ephesians 2:8

Is MI$$ION$ Going To The Dogs?

Warning! “Feather ruffling” possibility: HIGH.

I have observed a trend over the last several years.  It seems our society is placing a growing level of importance on dogs.  Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs.  I just think that dogs are what they are…dogs. Nothing more.  Loyal? Yes.  Much more than cats! (My apologies to the all the cat-people out there)  But, still…they are… dogs.

There is a commercial on TV currently that is the latest installment by the ASPCA (American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) designed to pull heavily on your heart strings while reaching deeply into your pockets.  I was perturbed during the holidays at this organization’s hijacking the meaning of Christmas with a donation driven appeal of shivering dogs in the snow while an ethereal version of Silent Night was playing in the background.

Photo courtesy of Charles Deluvio (

However, regarding the present campaign, I am down right irritated!  There is more footage of underfed, mistreated, sad dogs attached to heavy chains in the sweltering heat of summer with no water.  Only now, the ASPCA appeals for funding are using speech phrases that missionaries have used for years regarding the cause of the Great Command of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).  Here is a sampling;

  • The ASPCA is asking for $19.00 a month to “reach more animals”.
  • “Many of these animals are almost out of time.”
  • “We need 2000 new donors in the next 30 days so that we can rescue more animals who need our help this summer.”
  • “Please help save animals this summer.”

Now, before I go any further, let it be understood I am in no way insensitive to mistreating animals.  I would not treat a dog that way nor do I enjoy seeing dogs treated that way.  My purpose in writing this, though, is to call for a reality check.

Reality check #1:  Human beings are the only feature of creation created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) thus having an eternal being.  God places tremendous value on the life of human beings.  So much so He sent His only Son to die in order to redeem them (John 3:16).  Between 2005-2015  900,000 Persecuted Christians were martyred – an average of 90,000 each year killed1.  Our society in the USA is fine with terminating the lives of over 3000 human beings every day through abortion2.  Thousands upon thousands of indigenous peoples continue to die not knowing that Jesus is the Savior while the ASPCA needs 2000 more financial donors this summer to “reach, rescue and save” … dogs!!!

Reality Check #2:  Jesus’ last command was for His people to be witnesses for His life-giving message to the entire world including every people group (Acts 1:8, Luke 24:45-47).  Yet Americans spend more on Halloween costumes for their pets than they do on missionary endeavors to reach the real unreached!3

 Reality Check #3: As far as I can tell in the Scriptures Jesus never had a pet nor did he ever command anyone to help them. But He did feed 5000 men, healed hundreds of people of diseases, rescued countless human lives from desperate circumstances, and gave His life to give eternal life to the entire population of humanity.  Oh, and by the way, he did command us to go reach people (Matthew 28:19).

 Folks, I am not anti-pets.  They serve many purposes that are good and harmless. They are fun and bring a lot of smiles to life.  I am not even anti-ASPCA. I’m sure there are some wonderful, well-meaning  people associated with that organization.  But, I am for proper balance in the real, Scripturally defined issues of life.  If you give to the ASPCA that is fine, but please consider if that gift is prioritized proportionally with the causes that build the Kingdom of Christ and have eternal benefit.  Shall we “reach, rescue and save” dogs or eternal souls?  Let’s invest time, energy and money into the things we know are in line with the heart of God… helping PEOPLE.

 Action Step: Consider how much money you directly spend on pet related expenses vs. the amount you directly invest in the last, great command of Jesus to reach the world with His Gospel?  Is there a disparity? Do you need to make adjustments?

If so, please do so.  Your dog will be just as devoted to you as ever.  And… your cat will continue to ignore you like always. 😊

Thanks for reading.


1Center for the Study of Global Christianity, via



Is the Message of Christ validated by celebrity endorsement?

My training as a cross cultural missionary has taught me to examine cultures for themes.  Every culture is unique and has themes that drive that culture onward.  To be a theme, it’s inter woven presence in the culture demonstrates it is a value within that culture.  Because a theme is aspired to, the self-propagation assures it maintenance from generation to generation. Clearly, “Entertainment” has become a theme in American culture. It is present in every aspect of our society.  An astounding proof for this conclusion is verified by different causes using celebrity icons to sanction their endeavors.  Examples range from political campaigns, to human rights causes, to squelching inner city violence and advertising certain products.

Entertainment celebrities are the individuals sought to endorse a cause. Why? Because our society exalts the individuals who entertain us.   Sadly, they have become cultural heroes and the ones to whom our society aspires to emulate.  Not, mind you, because of great acts of courage, moral integrity, inner strength, and/or benevolent kindness.  In entertainers we see wealth, attractiveness and fame (a few other areas in which our current culture aspires!). Hence, the appeal that celebrities bring is seen as a way to verify the validity of a given cause.

However, when celebrities are vocal about their faith in Christ is it wise to consider that an endorsement to the validity of the cause of Christ? Don’t misunderstand me, I rejoice as much as anyone when celebrities vocalize Christ’s position in their lives.  Be it a superstar athlete, an accomplished actor, a gifted vocalist, or a politician, I am grateful they use that platform to testify to that fact.  But, my concern is that we may be falling into the celebrity endorsement trap as validation for Christ’s cause.

Photo courtesy of Neil Godding/

I understand that it is a human need to sense validation for our causes.  We look to each other for this on a regular basis.  However, human acknowledgement for a spiritual cause can only produce temporal and whimsical results.  It is the best we can do.  True validation can only come when sourced beyond the human realm.

At its core, most would agree that Christ’s sacrifice for our sins is the central message of our faith.  However, where do we look for validation of that message and were does verification of that validation come from?  Donald English said it well, “We today in the West are under enormous pressure to demonstrate our relevance.”1  Evidencing relevance defends validity of purpose.  But, do we seek to illuminate validation in the wrong areas?

Why is it we gravitate to celebrity testimonials?  When a superstar athlete makes a remote reference to his/her faith, social media lights up with posts as if valid confirmation of the worthiness of Jesus has suddenly been unearthed.  Do these posts reveal a desperation to promote validation? It is almost as if there is a sense of … “Isn’t this great?!!  Look how true our message is,  ______________ has even acknowledged it!”

Certainly, Christians testifying of Christ’s influence is wonderful.  But, our testimonies, actions, or reactions are not the example we should look towards to validate Christ’s worthwhile message.  The greatest endorsement of validation for the message of Christ is clear from the Scriptures.

Even after Jesus miraculously fed 4000 men, Matthew 16:4 and Mark 8:12 detail Jesus’ response to the Pharisee’s question about a “sign” for validation.  Jesus said he would not give a (different) sign.  Because earlier in Matthew 12:39-40 Jesus had already given them the only sign necessary for validation of His message…

 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

… Jesus was forecasting His burial in and rising from the tomb.  The greatest verification to the validity of the Christian message is in the resurrection of Jesus!  Through that one act He…

  • Verified that He conquered death.
  • Affirmed the Father’s value of His worthy sacrifice.
  • Validated the accuracy of His message.
  • Thus, endorsing the legitimacy of the cause of an army of witnesses for future generations.

This thought is not just for Easter.  Let us understand the resurrection and all that it entails.  It is the only verification for validation we need.  Rejoice in the testimonies of others, of course.  Thank God when a celebrity (or anyone else!) acknowledges truth.  However, let us be clear that we need look no further than the resurrection of the Sacrificial Savior in our quest to verify the validity of our cause in Christ!

The greatest verification and only validation necessary for our cause?  The Resurrection!

Let’s live like it.  Let’s proclaim it!




1The Message of Mark, by Donald English pg. 102

Consumer Restraint: Some thoughts.

Being a resolute, active follower of Jesus “in the culture” means to engage our society regarding the hopeful options a Biblical worldview provides.  In kindness and love we must go towards people to enable opportunities to be salt and light in a society that desperately needs it.

Photo courtesy of Igor Ovsyannyko (

Engaging a society as a resolute, active disciple of Jesus on the other hand, however, may necessitate the drawing of some lines of separation to illuminate the importance of standing on Biblical principles that should not be compromised.

At what point should Christian people actively choose “consumer restraint” and purpose to not patronize certain business and/or shun certain products?  Does the setting of first generation Christianity provide any insight for us in the Scriptures?   Paul makes a very interesting comment in 2 Timothy that may shed some light on this subject.

For starters, let’s be clear about one thing; corporate America cannot and should not be the entity that determines what is moral and what it not.  Power, money and love of it has corrupted many over the ages and Scripture clearly verifies that fact (1Timothy 6:10).  For followers of Jesus, there can only be one standard as the source for a morality.  That source is God’s inspired, inerrant Word. To abdicate that to any other source would be an offense to the God of the universe.

Secondly, on a pragmatic level we should also consider how much convenience direcst us toward some of our positions.  Most individuals, if honest, would not argue that ease and efficiency drive many of our choices on a consumer level.   If it is cheaper, closer, more convenient, or a good bargain it is understandable why that becomes the obvious, default choice.  But is it so obvious?

Choices that are prudent or Biblically principled are never going to be convenient.  For a male youth worker, it is not a convenient approach to have a policy in place to never drive a teenage girl home alone in a vehicle.  But, it is the wise, proper, safe and principled choice!  On the consumer level we need to ask ourselves if paying a few cents more, or driving a few miles more to obtain it, or perhaps (perish the thought!) not having something at all, is a worthy consideration in contemplating whether to specifically not purchase or associate with a business that clearly is opposing God’s Word.

It may be, that for the sake of the Lord’s purpose, we should consider consumer restraint under certain circumstances. In 2 Timothy 4:14 Paul seemed to be singling out an individual who was rigidly opposing his cause; making of disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) …

14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 15 You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.

Now, I understand Paul may have been simply warning folks to be aware of this individual and mentioning his occupation specified who he was.  Fair enough.  However, after reading Paul’s words, do you think the first generation believers still went to Alexander for their coppersmith needs?  Is it a stretch to think the first-generation believers of the early church may have chosen to not do business with Alexander because of his position against the ministry of Paul?

But, what if his price was the best in town?  What if his shop was conveniently located nearby?  Not to mention the variety. He has so many options and of such good quality!  Where else could I get it?

 There are two statements in this passage that can help us with some guidelines for application of this subject as it is relevant for today…

  1. Alexander the coppersmith did enough harm that Paul was invoking the Lord’s vengeance upon him (v.14).
  2. Paul wanted it to be clear that Alexander had greatly resisted the message they represented (v.15).

 This, apparently, was much more than a mere difference of opinion or cultural background.  So, can we note there are some legitimate reasons that, for the sake of the message we represent, we could at least consider consumer restraint?  I acknowledge that there are many grey areas in this subject and individuals need to navigate through those grey areas and be gracious even in disagreement.

Using this passage as our application, consider this as a guideline to begin considering a standard for consumer restraint …

  • Is the owner, business, company or corporation doing harm to the cause of Christ and a Biblical worldview?
  • Is the owner, business, company or corporation aggressively against the cause of Christ and a Biblical worldview?

If the answer is “yes” to either of those questions we should ask ourselves if we should support that owner, business, company or corporation with our purchases.  This is where the social struggles of our contemporary society come into play.  Issues like, freedom of religion, abortion, the definition of marriage, and Biblical sexuality are major topics in which followers of Christ have for too long accepted societies definition of acceptability rather than God’s.  We must ask ourselves if God is pleased with His people disengaging from these issues.

I acknowledge there are other ideological things to consider in this concept …

  • What if employees (who are just trying to earn a wage) don’t agree with the company’s policies? Should their jobs be placed at risk by us practicing consumer restraint?
  • Where does educating business owners come into play in this scenario? Are concerned Christians engaging them about this? Some companies may be believing the secular rhetoric, and donating to causes that, if they knew what they represented, would not help to fund.
  • How “nit-picky” should followers of Christ be on these issues? Is there not potential for well meaning believers to divide over these issues?
  • Is it reasonable to be knowledgeable about these things with corporations constantly merging, selling and changing CEO’s and thus producing shifts where they may give or associate?

… Yes, I acknowledge these as legitimate and worthy questions.  However, we must act on what we do know and not turn a blind eye to those realities.  Let’s not shug a “whatever” attitude simply to avoid the potential convolution on this subject but, rather, let’s choose to engage in these issues for the good of the Gospel.  Choices do matter.  Even in where and from whom we purchase or invest.  Resolved disciples of Jesus cannot settle for complacency or consumer ignorance.  To do so is a victory of the for the devil every time.

If necessary are we willing to take an uncomfortable stand for what best honors the Lord?  Each of us taking the time to consider what Jesus would do in this area would not be time wasted. No doubt the cause of Christ will be better because of it.


Need help discerning what some businesses value? Check out – . Acknowledging that our spending habits are like another vote for a value system, 2nd Vote seeks to report on the political and social activities of major corporations around the country.  As a disclaimer, I acknowledge there seems to be some inconsistencies in their rating system and this organization clearly comes from a conservative political platform, but for those of us who are concerned about a Christian worldview value system it is a decent resource to help understand what some companies are funding.

True Sheep Share the Concerns of the Great Shepherd

In the passage below, Jesus again masterfully utilizes the local culture to press home a vital point.  The heart of God cares for society’s “least”- those who are socially or physically needy.  True followers of Christ (the sheep in this passage) will share that same compassion.

Society has become more urban in its setting, so we must not miss the cultural illustration Jesus is using.  Palestinian sheep and goats often looked similar from a distance and often grazed together. But they needed to be separated at nighttime because the goats required a warmer place to rest.1

So the concept of separating the two resonated with those listening to the Savior’s words.  But Jesus’ purpose for this separation was not because of temperature.   It was for evidence of the actions of true sheep.

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  (Matthew 25:41-46)

In verses 31-40 while detailing a future time of judgement, the sheep (separated to the right) were blessed for the extension of their merciful care and compassion to those who were in need.  And, the context may be specifically emphasizing those who were needy in the brotherhood of the Christian community (see “my brethren” in vs.40). This is not about obtaining salvation, it is about the genuine actions of the truly saved.  The actions of resolute, active disciples of Jesus reflect the fact that the spirit of Christ is in them.

In contrast, the goats (separated to the left) were cast out (into everlasting punishment!) because they did not exercise the compassionate heart of the Savior to those who were in need.  This speaks loudly (in its actions) to the genuineness of the true follower of Christ.  Authentic disciples care.  To know and to ignore is unacceptable.  And, is unlike Christ in its core.

 The one-ness of the early church camaraderie (Acts 3:32-33) and the reality of persecution from following Christ (Acts 12, Hebrews 13:3) provided them the opportunity to extend compassionate aid and encouragement to the brotherhood.  As our American society becomes more antagonistic toward Christianity we have a great opportunity to act accordingly.  Additionally, worldwide, persecution of Christians is at record numbers2.  We cannot ignore these realities.

As an individual are you locally and globally involved in this good practice?  Is your church family raising awareness by addressing these issues?

10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Galatians 5:10


1Note. Matthew 25:32 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, pg.1986

2For more information on how you can become more aware and help the persecuted church go to…

The Heart of the Savior and the Resistance of Human Will

In Matthew 23 the entire chapter is a scathing, tirade against the hypocrisy and pride of the religious leaders of the day.  In harsh, descriptive terms and in visual language Jesus rebukes the clergy class of Jerusalem. With penetrating, biting vocabulary He openly and publicly criticizes their self-inflated pride and their ability to twist everything from vocabulary to religious rituals for their own purposes.  Christ’s diatribe resounds to a crescendo as He condemns them as vipers bound for hell (v.33).

What a scene!

Yet, as the sting of His words are still in the air we see a glimpse into the loving, compassionate heart of the God of the universe…

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37)

What could have been.

What was not.

What made the difference?

The will of man.

Continuing in beautiful, visual language, Jesus relates that it is God’s desire to lovingly pull in Jerusalem’s humanity close to himself.  There it would truly be protected and loved.  It would thrive under the wing of the Savior.  But, their will was not there.

There is a scholarly camp within Christianity that promotes a theology that God pre-chooses who will become children of God and that human will cannot play a part in that process.  Passages like this (and many others) combat that ideology.  The core of God’s desire will not preempt the willful choice of mankind.  This is God’s choice.  As the All-Powerful Creator He certainly could force whatever He desires.  He has the ability and authority to do so.  But, He chooses not to do that.  Seemingly, choosing rather to revel in mankind’s choice to choose Him.

Let’s run to the warm, loving and willing embrace of our heavenly Father.  It is His desire and it is our best choice!

Resource Availability: Superfluity vs. Disparity

The Middle-aged, Divorced, Former Small Business Owner, Urban Living with a Beard, Men’s Study Bible
…because you deserve a Study Bible that is uniquely designed for you.
(Available in three versions!)

Yes, the above announcement is a fictitious study Bible … I think.

Recently I received a message promoting another new English Bible translation that claims “… the balance between accuracy and readability that was 20 years in the making!” Why is choosing the Bible such a task? … Which version is best? Type-face and print size desired? Single or double column format? Leather, canvas or hardback cover? Color? Men’s, Female or Study Bible? …Good marketing along with creativity in format and style are producing more options all the time. And, there is no need to wait- Amazon Prime can have it to you with free shipping in two days!

The barrage of available resource possibilities I received to consider each week as a pastor was staggering! Options for magazines, new books, sample materials, catalogs, free trials, upcoming conferences, webinars, and live chats were part of an ongoing flood of options available. Each touted great reviews and results with groundbreaking innovation to move one’s ministry or walk with the Lord to the “next level”.

Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful that resources are readily available. Bookstores are in virtually every town and tons of possibilities are online. We are blessed to have so much. But, is having so many options a good thing? If accessibility and options equated spirituality we’d be giants of faith. One would think with the plethora of choices accessible, the American church would be the most equipped, spiritually mature group in history!

Amid the glorious joy of having gobs of options, there is a somber side to this issue. Consider the stark contrast regarding the overabundance of resource options we have compared to the extreme lack of resources available in other languages. Imagine having a Bible in your language but that is your only resource option. No study Bibles. No commentaries. No Small Group guides. No devotional books. Just the Bible. This is a present reality in too many spoken languages in the world today.

I have been sharing in churches and small groups over the last several months and many are rejoicing with me regarding the Malaumanda New Testament that I use in the presentation. Long after Joy and I helped to establish the church among the people of Malaumanda in Papua New Guinea, faithful co-laborers worked with great devotion to produce the New Testament for that tribe. Of course, it was a great accomplishment (13 years in the making!) and is certainly something worthy of rejoicing. But few connect the significant disparity of the Malaumanda tribal culture to their own. Like hundreds of other indigenous people groups, the Malaumandan church has only a New Testament published in its language. Outside of some teaching lessons provided by the missionaries, that is most likely all they will ever have.

Join me as I am asking some serious questions regarding the availability of Christian-driven resources…

  • Is the lack of resources OK because they are just tribal people or is it OK because it is not me who is needy in this area?
  • Does simply being an American entitled me to having more options?
  • Regarding resource material, when is enough, enough?
  • Is there such a thing as too much?
  • In our western society, what drives the desire to provide resources and make them available – tools for discipleship goals or financial gain?
  • If there was a likelihood of financial gain would there be greater interest in going to produce more materials in linguistically needy areas?
  • How much of the appeal for “more options” just feeds a carnal desire and is detracting manpower, brain energy and finances away from carrying out the Great Commission?

OK, admittedly, my temperature is starting to rise… Let me take a step back.

Maybe, in this area of resource availability, “right” and “wrong” are terms that are too emotionally charged. Perhaps the better terms to use would be “fair” and “unfair”. Or, maybe even more bluntly…“care or not care” ?

What can we do? I am not calling for a boycott of resources from Christian publishing agencies. I am, however, asking you to consider a renewed appreciation for the reality that exists outside of the American bubble. Striving to strike some kind of balance, I have these suggestions…

  1. Value the Bible. Realize that some cultures only have the Bible. Yet, Christians and churches still grow. Many thrive. Let’s not forget the potential and power of the Word of God…alone!
  2. Appreciate the resources. It is a gift. Don’t take it for granted. Choose well. Supplement the Bible, don’t supplant or overcrowd it. In 2 Timothy 4:13, recognizing his resources were as necessary as his garments Paul made this prioritized request, “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come- and the books, especially the parchments.”
  3. Acknowledge our propensity to be drawn toward “new, better, must have & more”.  If the words “updated and improved” stir emotions of must-have, you may be falling prey to the Marketing-Monster. The lure of innovation and marketing pizzazz could be a trap. A Wise Sage’s words ring of relevance for today… “And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12)
  4. Invest in resource production where the disparity exists. See the value in missionary endeavors that establish/provide resources in languages where they are needed. It evidences good missionary principles when local languages and cultures are valued enough to produce materials in the heart language of individuals (Ethnos360 is one such agency). Resource production/availability should be a component of what it means to fulfill the Great Commission. Most often, missionaries not only write/translate resource materials but bear the production costs as well.
  5. Volunteer to change. It takes people to make a difference. Of the resources to which we have access, some had to be translated. Some had to be created. Have you considered being that person for languages that do not have the resources available? (see Isaiah 6:8)

Just thinking.

Thanks for considering.

– Jeff