What Does “Maranatha” mean, and why do Christians say it?

For the past twenty years I have been attending a Calvary Chapel (CC) to worship the Lord, learn, and grow as a Christian. It’s been a great place for me and my wife. Through the years attending CC conferences, reading books, listening to Maranatha Music from the Jesus Movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s and talking with other CC’ers, the word maranatha came up frequently.

Maranatha is an Aramaic word that means, “the Lord is coming” or “please come, Lord.” Throughout history, God’s people faced much persecution. Even though God saved Egypt using a boy sold into slavery, the Israelites became slaves to Egypt and were in bondage for 430 years. The early church was started during occupation of the Roman Empire, who forced everyone to declare Ceasar was god, challenged their money system and taxed the Israelites severely to fund the occupation, build roads, and so on. Even in modern times, it was the Jews who received the most severe punishments from the Nazi Party, Germany, and Adolph Hitler; killing an estimated 6 million Jews in the Final Solution.

Today, Christians all over the world are being persecuted for their faith; especially those who live in the 10/40 window (countries located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator) who seem to have the highest percentage of Christian persecution. Countries and nations within this window are predominately or Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, animist, Jewish, or Atheistic faiths and oppose Jesus Christ and His gospel. Christian organizations like Voice of the Martyrs, Joshua Project, and many more.

In the United States, more Christians are being persecuted in a variety of ways: slander, losing a job over sharing their faith, dragged into court for refusing to succumb to LBGTQ+ beliefs, and so much more. Check out an excellent article in the Christian Post written by William Wolfe on this topic. Even in America, people have lost their lives for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As we move closer to the return of Jesus Christ, whenever that will be, the world in which we live in will get worse and worse. Paul wrote about this in 2 Timothy:

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”

– 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV

John Calvin goes on to say in his commentary of these verses:

“The characteristics Paul will describe speak not of bad times, but of bad people. “We should note what the hardness or danger of this time is in Paul’s view to be, not war, not famine or diseases, nor any of the other calamities or ills that befall the body, but the wicked and depraved ways of men.” 

Calvin, John “Timothy: Calvin’s Commentaries” Volume 21 (Galatians-Philemon) (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979)

But that’s the point isn’t it: depraved men controlled by their allegiance to their father, the Devil, to come against the Church of Christ. 2 Timothy 3:12 says, ‘All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution’ in some form. Imagine, just the desire to live a godly life in Christ will bring even the smallest contempt on a Christian’s life. The world put to death the Son of God; and since Jesus is not here in the flesh, they look to crucify us as well in one form or another.

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. “He who hates Me hates My Father also. “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. “But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’

John 15:18-25 NKJV

As we move forward, even with all the things we Christians face: the world dwelling in material things, increased crime, violence, and depravity coming against our kids in school; we must look up and think about heavenly things that our salvation draws near (Isaiah 51:5). If you are worried, “Maranatha!” If you are tired, “Maranatha!” If you are discouraged and want to give up, “Maranatha!” If you are persecuted for righteousness sake, “MARANATHA!”

Difficulty Starting?

Last Tuesday I was meeting a friend at a local mall to share the gospel. But my friend never showed up, which was really surprising. So I decided to go it alone.

I really struggled. Let me just say, “I hate malls.” At least trying to strike up conversation in them. For the most part they are distracting and I feel claustrophobic in them. I prefer being outside. It’s not fear that I struggle with, but the awkwardness, especially in a place that is dead when it comes to the amount of people there. You’re eyeing up people wanting to talk, make eye contact, and walk over — with about 30 yards of space in between. The person sees you and immediately can hear the ‘Jaws’ theme music in their head, thinking your going to sell them something or worse.

But what do you do when you’re in that situation, especially by yourself? Here are some things you can do to help.

Sit down and pray

Really, sometimes it’s just that simple. There were so many times I just couldn’t strike up a conversation to save my life. I’d try and either people would walk away, ignore me, or flat out give me the stiff-arm. So, after a few I would just go aside somewhere and pray that the Lord would send the person He wants me to talk to at this moment.

Evangelism is a lot like fishing. Moving from place to place stirs up the water and makes the fish nervous; all you accomplish is driving a boat all over the lake wasting gas and energy. But, sometimes the Lord just wants you to be still and trust in Him to send the right person to you.

This was the case when I was in Manti, Utah at the Manti Mormon Miracle Pageant sharing the gospel to the Latter-Day Saints (LDS). I kept getting the stiff-arm and got yelled at a few other times. It wasn’t until I sat down, prayed, and listened to the Lord speak to my heart on what to do. I got up, went to where a brother was open-air preaching and had a real divine interaction with a guy who just “showed up” to the event who wasn’t even Mormon. I led him to the Lord and he skipped away with joy among a crowd of ten listening in. Trying to do everything ourselves without the Lord’s help can be impossible.

Go buy a cookie

Sound’s ridiculous, but this has worked for me as well. Which is the hardest tract to give away? The very first one. There were times when I just couldn’t get my first one out. So I would go to a stand nearby that is selling food or drinks and I would buy something, then hand the attendant a tract. Sure it cost me a dollar or two, but at least I was able to get my first one out, and start talking. Plus, maybe that person needed Jesus as well, and was the conversation you were supposed to have in the first place. Not to mention, cookies just cheer anyone up on a rainy day.

Maybe you’re there for other reasons

Sometimes I’ve gone witnessing and I was there for other reasons than sharing the gospel. Once I shared the gospel and the only people I gave tracts to were already Christians. I didn’t consider it a waste, but used the time to encourage other believers to go out and share their faith too.

This time at the mall, I ran into a couple that I haven’t seen in years who used to go to my church. It was a great visit and was really nice and encouraging to see them again. Maybe the reason I was there was to run into them, reconnect, and get together in the near future for some much needed Christian fellowship.

Just leave

If evangelism is not going well where you are, leaving the venue is not necessarily giving up; it just means you are not in the right place. Pray and ask the Lord where to go. Sometimes getting in your car and driving home is what you were meant to do. There were two times this happened in my life that blew me away when I did this.

One of which was on May 17, 2005 I started the day with my wife at Saylorville Dam, a scenic spot near my home. There wasn’t many people there, but there were a few opportunities which for some reason I hesitated and didn’t take. I left for home feeling I had let my Lord down, and should have at the very least talked to one guy sitting on a bench.

When I gotten home, my wife made plans with another couple who came to the house for dinner. The boyfriend and I were watching Star Wars on the Television which led to a conversation about God, then pornography, and before I knew it I was sharing the gospel to him. Before they left I gave him the book, The Case for Christ, and even to this day he remembers our conversation. I was so encouraged that I went out to share the gospel the next several days.

The other time was on December 19, 2006. My wife and I were planning on going to a Bible Study with a group from my church and then going witnessing in the area. As I was getting ready the bell rang. I opened the door and three Mormon LDS missionaries were on my porch. My wife called the group and said we were not coming; God had other plans. That night led to more discussions with the missionaries in my home for two months.

There are plenty of sinners out there. Sometimes you’re just not in the area you’re supposed to be.

Leave a tract behind

If you do leave, or are walking and nothing happening, leave a tract behind for someone to see and pick up. Pray that God will put it in the hands of the right person so that their heart would read it and come to faith in Christ. Although not ideal, there have been many people through the years that got saved by a tract someone left behind.

Greg Kokul, President and founder of Stand To Reason was an atheist and did not believe in God in his younger years. It wasn’t until he found a gospel tract in a supermarket shopping cart that he read it repeatedly to disprove its writings. He was forced to reconcile his beliefs with the Bible and gave his heart to Jesus Christ.

Hudson Taylor, British Missionary who founded the China Inland Mission, which led the Gospel work in Inland China and was also saved by reading a gospel tract in his father’s library at the age of 17. After reading the simple printed tract he concluded, “If the whole work was finished on the cross of Calvary, and the whole debt of sin paid, what is there left for me to do? There was nothing to be done but to fall down on my knees and accept the Savior and His salvation and praise Him forever.” He went to faithfully serve the Lord for 51 years in China.

Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews For Jesus, was led to the Lord by a pamphlet about heaven his wife left on a table in their home. By trying to prove the pamphlet wrong, he was forced to examine his thoughts about God and to examine Christianity as truth. He went to church with his wife the next day and he proclaimed his faith in Christ Jesus.

According to Joey Hancock of the American Tract Society, he said 53% of those who come to Christ worldwide came through the use of gospel printed literature. You just never know what a little piece of paper can do.

Don’t get discouraged

Don’t let the situation discourage you to the point of not doing anything. I hope these few items would better serve you to help you refocus on the task at hand and what you have to offer for those who desperately need to hear the gospel. Please comment below about your situations God turned around to get you talking and sharing your faith.

The Power of the Paperclip

For the past few months I have been working on a seminar to teach at the church I attend on how to overcome fear in evangelism. To say that I have a few notes is a gross understatement. I have papers, post-it-notes, and things everywhere around my office; and of course they are not in order. It was a hot mess.

After trying to organize my thoughts in a cohesive manner I failed miserably. I opened the door of my desk and pulled out several paperclips. Wow, what a difference that made. Suddenly, my fleeting thoughts turned into an intelligible pattern which could be understood by anyone who happened to come across it. Especially me who wrote it.

Brief History of the Paperclip

Squirrel!

The paperclip was invented in 1899 by Johan Vaaler, a Norwegian with degrees in electronics, science, and mathematics. Since Norway had no patent laws at the time, he received his first in Germany, then one with the United States in 1901. Through the years the paperclip has evolved with different designs and functionality. Here are a few US patents courtesy of Google Patents.

Paperclips have a power all their own. These tiny pieces of wire are able to bind thoughts into a comprehendible fashion and make even the most jumbled mess, understandable. They can’t talk, teach, or translate; but even though they don’t have arms or legs, they organize and keep paper together.

What’s the Point?

The fact that they are small, cost so little, and do so much. Even when paperclips are unraveled and misshaped they can get CD’s out of computers, and eject SIM cards out of phones. A paperclip saved Ethan Hunt’s life in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol when he used one to pick the handcuff lock and escape from the Russian Detective.

How does such an insignificant piece of metal do so much.

We think of how great the Apostle Paul was and how God through him changed the world. But one Greek Scholar described him as, “A man of middling size, and his hair was scanty, and his legs were a little crooked, and his knees were far apart; he had large eyes, and his eyebrows met; his nose was somewhat long.” Hence, he was a small, bald, bow-legged man with a big nose and an eyebrow that resembled a large caterpillar. In Scripture it’s said of him that, “his letters are demanding and forceful, but in person he is weak, and his speeches are worthless!” (2 Corinthians 10:10 NLT) I wonder if we lived in his time, would we even recognize him? Probably not.

When I got saved I didn’t know anything. I was as green as green could be. I didn’t know anything, couldn’t lead a Bible study if I wanted to, and extremely shy. But, I had a servant’s heart, and just wanted to be a blessing to others. I started mowing the church lawn, washed dishes, and cleaned up messes. I came along side Tony and just listened as he shared his faith so he wouldn’t go alone. Over time, I grew up and you know what? I still do the things I did before, only more of them, and in different ways.

I would love some company as I share my faith on the streets. The person wouldn’t even need to speak; but listen, and lift up their hearts to God in prayer for the salvation of the person I am speaking with. There is much power in prayer. Like paperclips, we shouldn’t underestimate the help of seemingly small and insignificant people. Not only that, but you shouldn’t underestimate yourself. Too many times we think we can’t do anything right, that we are pointless and small. But that is not true. Each of us is useful to the Lord for something, and together we can change the world.

A Tale of Two Dogs

Several months ago I heard this story mentioned on the radio, and I thought it would be a good reminder to us. In case this story is ever deleted, I posted it here from Dustin Dedrick of God Updates.

The Story

“Once upon a time, there was a dog that lived in a sprawling house in the middle of the city. Though the house had plenty of doggie toys and plenty of room for play, the city dog hated being cooped up inside. Day after day, it looked longingly out the window and past the fenced-in yard around the house to the street where cars zoomed and pedestrians rushed by. The dog made little use of its spacious accommodations, choosing instead to focus on the doors that were always closed and the curtains that were always drawn.

Every evening, the city dog anxiously awaited the arrival of its master, not because it loved the master but because the master’s arrival provided an opportunity for escape. As soon as the dog heard the master’s keys jingle outside the door, it attempted a mad dash out of the house and into the yard. But without fail the good master, with a pained expression of disappointment, made sure the dog stayed inside where no harm might befall it. Wearily the dog would retreat to a corner of the house and start planning its next escape.

A dozen miles away, there was another dog. This dog lived in a one-room house set on a sprawling country farm. At one edge of the farm’s borders was a cliff overlooking a rushing river. On the other side was a dark forest. But no fences were present. The country dog was free to roam the farm, but it usually preferred to stay close to the front porch. It worried that if it strayed too far, it might miss its master’s arrival.

Every evening, the master’s arrival was the highlight of the country dog’s day. As soon as the master came into view, the dog would bind to his side to greet him. It followed close behind him, wanting to get into the house, not because of anything special inside but simply because it was where the master stayed. Each day without fail, the master showered his love and affection on the country dog and then led it inside the tiny farmhouse, where it wagged its tail with great contentment. Even in a shack, it was so satisfied to be in the master’s presence that the outside world held no power of attraction for it.”

The Moral of the Story

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

John 8:36 NKJV

Many people believe God’s Word limits and restricts instead of protects; that we are enslaved and not allowed to do anything or go anywhere fun and exciting. That is the furthest from the truth. There is much freedom when it comes to Christ, but also that freedom is free of fences as well. When we focus on the Master, we don’t need fences.

Take into consideration porn blockers like, “Covenant Eyes“. I’ve tried it many years ago when I was new in my walk. It is a good concept, but when I really needed to do some research on a story or bible study, I couldn’t access certain web content because of the advertisements. Not to mention that it cost money and every time I hit something that wasn’t really bad at least in my mind, it triggered a warning from my accountability partner. It was not only annoying for me, but then dragging someone else into my mess was counter-productive. We spend more time focusing on the boundaries than we do the Master to whom we want to please.

But, when we focus on the Lord, we are free to roam, run, and play; for when I look to Him and His Word, I know where the danger spots are, the places not to go, and I freely stay near the safety of the porch. Fences may keep us from harm, but love for the Master and wanting to serve Him is what keeps us from fences.

…This I Know, For the Bible Tells Me So

If you have spent any time as a child in a Christian Sunday School, no doubt at one point or another, you have heard the song by William B. Bradbury (1816-1885) called, Jesus Loves Me. This tune originally appeared as a poem by Anna B. Warner (1827-1915) in a book called Say and Seal, written by Anna’s sister, Susan Warner (1819-1885).  The poem was published in 1860 and the hymn with music was written 1862 by Mr. Bradbury. So very close together. No doubt since these both take place so close together that the book must have been a popular work to catch the attention of Bradbury.

If you look at these dates in history and the history preceding these dates of when the poem, book, and tune was written, this was a turbulent time in American Church history. Many different religions, sects, and cults rose up at this time, which is commonly called The Second Great Awakening between 1790 and lost steam early 1850’s. But no doubt left a deep imprint of religion in America.

Cults That Rose Up

The Seventh-Day Adventist Church started by Ellen G. White, formerly established in 1863, came out of the Millerite Movement. The Millerite Movement, started by William Miller, who in 1833 publicly shared his belief that the second coming of Christ would happen between 1843 and 1844. This no doubt did not happen and should have been deemed a false prophet.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormonism, which was started by a young Joseph Smith (1830-1844) in which after received gold plates from the Angel Moroni and decoded them to produce a written copy of the Book of Mormon in 1830. Mormonism continued to flourish after Smith’s death and when Warner’s book was written, the LDS church was moving to the mid-west under the leadership of the second Prophet and President Brigham Young.

Another cult that came about around this time was the Jehovah’s Witnesses,which was started in 1870 by Charles Taze Russell which was a splinter group of the Bible Student Movement. Who have for almost 150 years have denied the biblical trinity, falsely predicting Christ’s coming multiple times, and proclaiming false prophecies about the end of the world.

Through the Second Great Awakening memberships skyrocketed in the Wesleyan, Baptist, Shaker and other Protestant congregations. It was one of, if not the greatest religious revival in American history.

So when this poem, book, and hymn were written, was very interesting especially with the words, “…for the Bible tells me so.”

How Much of The Bible Do We Know?

Which brings me to the point of this article. The cults that came out in the time of this hymn ignored God’s Word, and incorporated or listened to false prophets creating false religions for sordid gain. Each of these cults and false religions had their own bent towards the Bible, or rejected the Bible as flawed or outdated. That there needs to be some sort of extra-biblical revelation attached to it. Even today, those who claim to be Christian, much of the, “this I know” does not come from the Bible, but through their own personal feelings, experience, and logic. Why is that? Because people do not believe that the Bible is authoritative, powerful, or written by the creator of the universe.

“Please excuse my dad. He’s a bigoted, grumpy old man who is outdated, not in touch with today, and doesn’t know what he’s saying.”

It is why in my my opinion is the reason professed Christians are apologizing for something they have no right to apologize for. It is as if they are holding up their Bibles and saying, “Please excuse my dad. He’s a bigoted, grumpy old man who is outdated, not in touch with today, and doesn’t know what he’s saying.” To apologize would be admitting you’re wrong. These same people do not regard the words as supernatural, holy, and powerful. We need to read the Bible for what it is — the words of God. God breathed, perfect, and without error. We need to study the Bible, interpret it according to proper hermeneutics, and then apply it accordingly. It doesn’t matter what you say, or I say about a particular Bible verse, but what it says according to the person from which God commanded to write it down. Our feelings or personal beliefs should not matter when it comes to our interpretation of the Bible.

What Does God’s Word Say About Itself?

Throughout it’s pages, God’s Word describes itself in the most profound ways.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

The Word of God is living and powerful. The book that you hold in your hands is timeless, active, and contains endless truths that do deteriorate, but are powerful, fresh, and strong even for today. It is not dead or antiquated, but alive and well, able to change lives thousands of years after it was written. It is far more than intellectual knowledge or a book of facts. It speaks powerfully to our very souls.

It is also sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing and dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It acts more like a surgeons knife than a blunt axe: it cuts fine and deep, reaching us with precision and accuracy to the problem and solution within our hearts. It divides so carefully as not to injure, but to get to the root of the problem and the heart of the issues that lay before us.

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ “

Matthew 4:4

God’s Word is a source of life and nourishment to the soul, for with the soul cannot live without. It guides us, gives us hope and courage in the face of fear, and faith even when things we see go against us.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16, 17

All Scripture is breathed out by God Himself, spoken to the Prophets and Apostles; written by Him, using them as the pen. The Bible is useful and rewarding for:

  • Doctrine – teaches us what is RIGHT.
  • Reproof – teaches us what is WRONG.
  • Correction – teaches us how to GET RIGHT if we are on the wrong path.
  • Instruction in righteousness – teaches us how to STAY RIGHT.

So that the Christian would be complete, whole, and thoroughly equipped for every good work. The Bible changes a person from the inside out.

Psalm 119

Throughout Psalm 119 written by David, it gives us a glimpse as to how amazing God’s Word is and how we should never take it for granted. Here is a short list of the many things it says about itself in Psalm 119:

  • There is no shame in its pages. (6, 31, 46, 80)
  • It cleanses us and helps us to lead a clean life. (9, 80, 104, 112, 140, 158, 163)
  • It’s hidden in our hearts and gives us power to resist sin. (3, 11, 101, 165)
  • It gives us joy. (16, 24, 35, 47, 77, 92, 174)
  • It councils us. (24)
  • It revives our soul on a personal level. (25, 37, 40, 88, 107, 149, 154, 159)
  • It is a source of strength. (28)
  • It gives us freedom. (45)
  • It gives us comfort in suffering, (50, 52)
  • It gives us a thankful and worshipful heart. (62, 164, 171, 175)
  • Imparts a continual source of life, (93).
  • It is a source of illumination, guidance, and gives understanding. (99, 105, 125, 130, 169)
  • It is a source of hope. (114, 147)
  • It gives us a reverence for God. (120, 161)
  • It gives peace to those who love His Word and keeps them safe. (165)

Love God’s Word and Live It Out

Reading the Bible is a joy, fills the heart, and soothes the soul. But reading it is only half the picture. The Bible says we should not be just hearers of the Word, but doers also so that we are not deceived into thinking we are ok when we are not (James 1:22-25). Jesus said that whoever hears His words and obeys them is is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock, when trouble comes from all directions, it is sturdy and withstands the storms of life; those who only hear — don’t (Matthew 7:24-29).

We as Christians need to remember Jesus has the authority to command us to go into all the world to share and spread the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20). We must use that authority to use His Word. Don’t ever let anyone tell you not to read it or use it in sharing the gospel; that the Bible is old, outdated or antiquated. For it is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16; 10:14-17).

Unparalleled Productivity For Christ

As I look through my bullet journal back at this past year, it would be an understatement to say it did not go the way I planned. I never painted the house or garage; I only read 14 out of 20 books I had planned to read; and I certainly did not get down to a weight of 170 lbs. by December 31st. Many things happened along the way that made my list impossible to accomplish. I needed a ton of dental work because I listened to the advice of my former dentist and let things go until it was unbearable. Added duties were placed on me as I was installed as an Elder at the church I attend; which led to other duties I freely gave myself in this category. Add the many trips back to my hometown to help my father who was diagnosed with Leukemia and passed away in September.

I did manage to read the entire Bible in a year.

But that’s not to say that many things were not accomplished. Accomplishing a list isn’t quite the epitome of success. Therefore, let me explain.

The Clarity of Christ

One of the books that I haven’t finished is the 40 day devotional, “Act Like Men” by James MacDonald. As good as the book is for most men, it started off a little flat, and to be honest I haven’t really spent much time soaking it; until I read this morning on chapter 23: The Clarity of Christ. In it MacDonald clearly states why Jesus Christ was the personification of quality manhood: because of the impact He made while on earth when urgency tempered with clarity brought about great results. In the book, MacDonald said that Jesus was all about clarity:

  • Jesus was clear about timing.
  • Jesus was clear about conflict.
  • Jesus was clear about compassion.
  • Jesus was clear about His mission.
  • Jesus was clear about family.
  • Jesus was clear about commitment.
  • Jesus was clear about His own identity.

“The list above could be much longer. In summary, Christ knew who He was, why He came, what was worth His time, how long He had, and exactly what to do to advance His mission.” (MacDonald, 156)

MacDonald, James. Act Like Men: 40 Days to Biblical Manhood. 1st ed., Chicago, Moody Publishers, 2014.

To sum up his point:

The urgency of Christ + the clarity of Christ = unparalleled productivity for Christ.

What is even more remarkable that MacDonald doesn’t mention in the book, at least up until this point, is that none of those categories melded or blended into each other, thus working against each other. Jesus’ timing, conflict, compassion, mission, family, commitment, or identity never worked against each other. They were all in one way or another — individually part of a whole. Let me explain.

Take Jesus’ family for instance. Even though He loved His mother and made sure that she would be taken care of after His death by the Apostle John (Luke 14:26), He never allowed His mission to be tampered by His family. In Matthew 12:49-50 when Mary and his brothers were outside wanting to see Him, He pointed to His disciples and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers; for whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother, sister, and mother.” It was as if Jesus was saying, ‘I am already with my mother and brothers.’ Not only that, He never allowed His mother to hamper His timing either as seen during the wedding in Cana when they ran out of wine (John 2:1-5). “My hour has not yet come” was His response to her. Her response to those waiting on tables, “Whatever He says — do it.” The ball was in his court, not hers.

This is also seen in the conflict that came against Him by the Pharisees, Sadducees, High Priest, and all of Rome. Even though it seemed like all hell was against Him, none of it derailed His ministry, mission, compassion, or commitment. It was as if He was able to compartmentalize each individual component, while at the same time fulfilling all the Father’s requests. On the outside one cannot even argue that Judas Iscariot and the leaders of Israel stopped the plans of Christ from fulfilling His objective by murdering Him, because it was the Father’s will that Jesus would die on the cross. Not only that, but every person of the Trinity raised Him from the dead. Nothing could stop His purposes and mission. Not even hell itself.

Even Jesus’ compassion for the destitute and hungry never clouded His clarity for His mission. Those whom He fed in John 6:1-14 were the same ones that crossed the Sea of Galilee to find Jesus to make Him a king (John 6:16) because He made food from nothing (John 6:26-27). Jesus sticks to His mission and teaches a hard lesson that was unbearable for them to hear and left Him (John 6:66).

The urgency was now. The clarity is how.

What should this say about my clarity?

It is an amazing thing when we realize that the mission the Lord gave us, the one we signed up for, is the whole made up of individual parts, not to be clouded by each other but work together as a unit for God’s glory? It’s as if the individual parts of our lives are the hands and feet of Christ within ourselves. My mission is my marriage, my career, my ministry, my talents, my treasure, my commitments, my goals, my family, my conflicts, and my identity. When any of those negate the mission, there’s problems. When will I ever learn that my fleshly ways, my fleshly plans, my fleshly desires, and my fleshly goals are not the same as God’s for my life? With that said, why can’t my ways, my plans, my desires, and my goals be the same as God’s? Isn’t that what clarity is all about; to think like Christ (Philippians 2:5), be like Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), to live is Christ (Gal 2:20; Philippians 1:21), to walk as Christ (Colossians 2:6) to suffer with Christ (2 Timothy 3:12)?

It’s not about doing MORE.

We do the things that are important to us, don’t we?

It’s not about doing more for the kingdom of God, but doing what you personally were called to do. It’s about living as though your calling is a part of you. It is not about balancing your life; its about not allowing your individual parts of your life to affect each other, but to work together for the mission of preaching the gospel (Mark 16:15) and making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Share the gospel while with your family. Share the gospel at work tactfully when you are on break. Let your enemies know who you are and Who you belong to and stand for in truth with love. Back up all your works with loving actions and well-intentioned motives.

You’ll be amazed at what God can do.

…And an Elder in a Bear Tree: A look back at 2022

At the end of 2022 I started following another WordPress website called, Chasing Faith and Love which has some great ideas about writing and life. Her title of her 2022 recap summed it up for me: “Merry Crisis, Happy New Fears.”

To say that all my plans and goals were not completed was an understatement. I managed to finish the Bible in a year, a goal that I accomplished with my wife; and to be honest if it wasn’t for her I probably wouldn’t have gotten it done.

The year started off great, becoming an Elder in my church with new roles and goals. Then celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary along with 50th birthday reliving our engagement at an Alice Cooper concert. I had big ideas and leading evangelism teams, I was starting to think the Lord’s work was unstoppable.

Things took a major turn when my father was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) which turned into Leukemia and then he quickly passed away. The rest of the year was major trips back and forth to my parents, dental work, and along with major anxiety which I haven’t been able to shake except in small doses. Can’t imagine why.

I would like to say that through it all I have this insight into what had happened. But I don’t. Hindsight is not always 20/20; sometimes its like Clarice Starling in “Silence of the Lambs” groping for a light switch in a pitch black room with a serial killer.

New Year, New You

My wife has a saying that makes me laugh every New Year: “New Year…New You!” But it’s the way she says it that makes me crack up — with sarcastic joy in her voice looking like Wayne from Wayne’s World with a canary-eating smile, thumbs pointed to the sky. But I tried that last year and it didn’t work. I try that every year.

This is coming from a woman who’s favorite Bible book is Ecclesiastes; a close second is James.

But then that’s the point isn’t it? In my article, “Time Flies By,” I go through a section of Ecclesiastes and look at how the body and mind ages over time. But with that there is no difference between a believer in Christ and an unsaved person. The body deteriorates the same way. Life is made up of having no control, having responsibilities, responses to life, displaying affections, having possessions and relationships with others, to having no control again (Ecc 3:1-8). A life without God is vanity; a life with God remains forever (Ecc 3:14).

At the beginning of the day…start with the power of God in prayer.

In the middle of the day…keep trying through the Holy Spirit.

At the end of the day…look back with no regret if all is done with God.

As the day’s keep counting down, the more we see life slip through our fingers…the more precious it becomes to us.

What is My Prayer?

Looking into this year with all the planning I did last year, I have to say that it’s not always about how much we got accomplished; but seeing the world through the eyes of God. This year my prayer is this:

The clarity of God along with the urgency of God will bring about unparalleled productivity for God.

My prayer is that as I focus on Him and His kingdom and not with the things of this life that God is not in, then whatever I plow without looking back, God will make it grow in His timing and in His will.

How will you spend 2023 serving the Lord?

The Value of Not Giving Up

If you live in the Midwest, hopefully you watched the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, December 17th. It was the game that the NFL is calling “Largest Comeback in NFL History.” If this highlight reel is still available on YouTube, I implore you to watch it, because in it are some valuable lessons we can learn as Christians.

Recap of the Game

Just in case in the future that the replay is taken off YouTube, let’s see what happened those amazing four quarters.

The game starts off with the Vikings getting pummeled and hammered by the Colts. The first quarter ends with the Colts leading the Vikings 17 to 0 after a field goal and a disastrous punt return deflection with led to a touchdown and extra point. The Vikings were visibly shaken and enter the second quarter,17 points down.

Things get even worse in the second quarter for Minnesota. Field goal after field goal, including a touchdown and extra point, the Vikings trail the Colts with a 33 point deficit. No matter what they did to try to move the ball up the field, they had setback after setback. In the confusion, mistakes were made, anger set in, and no matter what they did they could not get points on the board. It seemed hopeless.

Just over eight minutes into the third quarter, Cousins throws a pass into the corner of the end zone to A.J. Osborne for touchdown just after a fantastic run in. Fans instantly woke up and there was still some hope even though they were down 26 points. No shut-out today as fans were on their feet cheering and giving high-fives.

But, even though the Colts were on top by a long shot, they scored a 52 yard field goal; the crowed hushed, adding three more points to the disheartening deficit. The camera panned over to the Minnesota Vikings coach as he seemed to be the only one calm and collected on the sidelines.

Then with 1:07 left in the third quarter after several pressing drives, the Vikings scored another touchdown as Ham struggles and fights his way through a powerful defense, not giving up, to score another touchdown. After the extra point, the score is 36 to 14 in favor of the Indianapolis Colts. It was at this time I joined in cheering with the Minnesota fans wanting them so badly to win this game. You could tell that the Colts were extremely confident, even cocky at times knowing they had the game in the bag at the end of the third quarter.

At the start of the fourth quarter the crowd was on fire even though their home team was down by 22 points. They were not giving up yet, and neither was their team. With several short drives and steady press, Jefferson scores another 6 for Minnesota, decreasing the deficit needed to tie the game. With the extra point, the score was 36 to 21, the Colts still leading. I’m sure by now the coach was wondering about that extra point that was needed to tie the game if it got to that point.

At this time, the Colts weren’t as cocky as they started. But that was about to change with just over 8 minutes left. Cuzzins threw a bomb into the end zone to gain some quick points, but right into the opposing team’s hands. The crowd went quiet, and the Colts regained their eagerness to end this game.

Thankfully, the Colts didn’t answer back with any extra points the Vikings needed already. With 5:30 left in the fourth quarter, Minnesota scores again with another touchdown and extra point. The crowd goes crazy and the score: 36 to 28, everyone on their feet. The whole stadium was electrified.

At 3:23 left, the Colts clearly fumbled the ball as a run up the middle was stopped by the home team; the ball scooped up by Sullivan, of the Vikings and trotted into the end zone. The crowd went nuts!!! But what should have been a 36 / 34 game was still separated by 8 points as the touchdown was called back. The fans and the announcers saw it. It was a clear fumble, but not so for the Ref. This wasn’t the only play that was called back on him as Sullivan rips off his helmet fuming as he challenged the call.

Minnesota not giving up after that tragic call, they pressed on and then scored a little over a minute later with 2:15 left in the time. Dalvin Cook catches and runs 64 yards, defeating tackle after grab and everything coming after him. The score was 36 to 34. The Vikings coach makes the call — go for two points. And they did! Cousins threw to T.J. Hockenson and tied the game! The crowd went absolutely crazy. The whole stadium sounded like the game winning touchdown of the Superbowl. It was incredible.

By now each team pressed very hard to score points with the remaining time left. But the Vikings managed to tie the game at 36 and still had overtime to conquer. Each team having chances to score, but no avail although fighting as if their lives depended on it. Then, down to the wire with 5 seconds left, Vikings Kicker, Sullivan, made an amazing 40 yard field goal ending the game 39 to 36 winning the victory. What an amazing game.

Lessons to be learned

Now, this article isn’t about football, even though until this point it has been; it is the value of not giving up. Everything seemed to be against the Vikings, yet they still won. There are some lessons to be learned that we as Christians can learn from, and at the very least use as an example of what is taught in Scripture.

Don’t look at the scoreboard

When you are playing a game and down by a significant amount, you always have that urge to look overhead at that constant neon reminder of by how much. What is the scoreboard in the Christian’s life? It is what we make it out to be. We look around at other people and how their ministries are doing. They seem to have it all together, doing well, and even thriving; yet I am still struggling to make it, people don’t know who I am, and I have no books written while this other guy just finished his fifth one. It’s so easy to judge how we are doing against other people.

The truth is we really don’t know what they had to do to get to where they are. Even more than that, they may not be doing good as you think they are. I’ve known some authors that on the surface things look fantastic, but their marriages are falling apart, their kids are disobedient brats, and suicidal. Some are taking anti-depressants where others are addicted to alcohol. There are some authors who hire a ghostwriter for $50K and some notes and they whip up a book.

The races that Paul talks about are the races in which we are not competing against other people, but ourselves.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NKJV

Because in the reality of it all, most of us are our own worst enemy.

Stand fast in the Lord

When things look at their worst, we are told in Scripture to stand fast. To stand in the Lord and be immoveable. That’s what the Viking’s defense did.

Stand fast in the Greek Lexicon (Strong’s G4739) it states: to stand firm, to persevere, to persist, to keep one’s standing. Jesus didn’t tell us to stop when things were at their worst. He told us to stand. Not to stand around and contemplate our navels, but to stand fast.

As Christians we are made to stand, and able to stand through the power of God (Romans 14:4). We are told in Scripture to watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave and strong (1 Corinthians 16:13). Most importantly, we are to stand fast and firm in the Lord and in the power of His might (Galatians 5:1; Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:8).

Keep moving forward

But, part of standing fast in the faith is persevering, and we are also told to move forward. The Apostle Paul pulls no punches when describing to the Philippians what true saving faith is like:

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

Philippians 1:27-30 NKJV

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to other people (Mark 16:15); make fishers of men (Mark 1:17); seek the Lord where He may be found (Isaiah 55:6; Acts 17:27). These are action verbs and we as Christians are called to action, not sit on the bench or the sidelines. Throughout the book of John the word believe was synonymous with action. Believing in a parachute is not holding on to it before jumping out of a crashing plane — you have to put it on.

Continue to work as a team.

In football, your enemy is not your teammates. So is your enemy not your brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to continue to work as a team, and in that effort we will see victory. Each of us has skills, gifts, and talents; and how we use those to glorify Christ and to see others saved. Getting angry and pointing fingers does not help the cause of Christ.

Each of us has a position to play in the family of God. Not all can be Quarterbacks or Wide Receivers. Some need to block and take hits, while others give them.

We also need to remember that there are players that never are seen, those on the sideline giving water, stretching out players, and even doing math like accountants. Those in the booth watching over helping to make plays and paying attention to every detail. It’s when we work together as a team is when we can win.

We all start off the same — with nothing.

Just as in football, the score always starts at 0-0. We enter this world with nothing, and we leave with nothing. When you become a Christian, you start at zero. You are a new creature in Christ. Old things have passed away, and have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Your sins are washed away clean. From this moment on, you strive down the field of battle getting hit, making strides, to reach the goal and be victorious.

It doesn’t matter how we start; what matters is how we finish.

Therefore, since we all start at 0-0, it doesn’t matter how we start, but how we finish that counts. Hero’s are not made by giving up the fight. Hero’s don’t lay down their weapons and retreat. They continue to fight to the finish. It’s hard, difficult, and never easy. Unlike football players, we don’t go to the locker room and take our pads off. We are constantly in the fight and on the field.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints–

– Ephesians 6:13-18 NKJV

A New Look

When I became an Elder at the church I attend, I asked to take over their website and revamp it into something I was proud of. I can honestly say, I did and feel I achieved what I sought out to do. But as the church website was getting better, I was struggling with my own; becoming ever increasingly disheartened every time I went to it.

At first I really thought that it was the platforms. I loved Wix, that we used at the church, and I could easily manipulate it to what I wanted. WordPress, even though had been around a lot longer, seemed too rigid. I was not happy.

But I took a chance and wanted to do a full revamp of the Pens And Wrenches site. I’m glad I did. Though I would like more freedom Wix has to offer, I do like that it limits many things I cannot do for my own protection. It’s kind of like God limiting us in a way. Even though we have free will — look at what we have done with it.

Take Myspace for instance. Wow, I’m going back far aren’t I? It was pretty amazing wasn’t it. As the first social media platform it was revolutionary to say the least. You could do anything you wanted in that space, and had no limits. A person could manipulate their page just like a website, and the more you knew, the more dangerous it became.

But there was a problem…

The fact that you could do so much with it: change fonts, colors, pictures, wallpaper, run video, music, and so much more; the more code and programming ran together. The more you “fiddled” with things, the more errors in the code there were — and it showed. Pretty soon, Facebook started and limited what people could do with parameters in place for that not to happen. You couldn’t manipulate how your page looked; all you could do is choose what to add or take out. Everyone’s looked pretty much the same with the exception of the header and pictures used.

I have to trust the people of WordPress that they know a whole lot more than I do about web design, and limit myself to the things I want to do. It’s like our relationship with God. He gave the first human beings one rule: ‘Don’t eat from the Tree of Good and Evil.” (Genesis 2:16-18) What did they do? Eat it. Then sin, sickness, disease, among a plethora of bad stuff entered the world and death through sin (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12). Man got so bad that God wiped the slate clean and kept 8 souls on the Ark with sin still residing in them, along with two of every kind of animal (Genesis 6-8). God later gave us Ten Commandments to live by and a mirror of His standard of goodness (Exodus 20:1-18). What did we do? Disobey them all in one way or another. My point is that I am glad for the parameters that WordPress gives me. For without it, like God, I would have to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch (more often than I would hate to admit).

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