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!”

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.

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.

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

What Does God Want From Me? Obedience

The following was taken from my journal, written December 21, 2015

You ever have one of those bible studies where the Lord has been working in each of you throughout the week and then when you get together you all have had the same thoughts? Not only that but then each of you talk about what the Lord has been pressing on your heart and then gives you even more ideas on what you had been thinking about? This happened recently to our regular weekly fellowship with some friends after dinner.

I have been thinking about obedience all week long, especially since I had lost my job in November. Between posts like Airport Dreams and Visions, and recently, Make Me!, my prayer for myself has been, “I just want to do [for work] what the Lord wants me to do.” What does that look like? Well, I know that I don’t want my job to come between men and the Lord, my wife, or my purpose in life. I don’t want to work weekends so that I can be free to do ministry with my church, and I can have a day of rest. I don’t want to work nights because let’s face it, bad things happen at night. Not to mention that the body was designed to sleep at night. And I don’t want to travel long distances or stay overnights because I have a wife that I worry about and also a Precept Inductive Bible Study that I teach at 7pm. My previous job was getting in the way of some things and I just know the Lord has something better for me. I have to be open to what He wants me to do. Even if it means changing careers at 43 years old.

Another person in our group, who came from a legalistic background, also has been thinking about the difference between obedience and sacrifice. He asked the questions, “What does obedience look like and what is the difference between obedience and sacrifice?” “Does God help those who help themselves?” One section of verses that I was reminded of throughout the week was the destruction of Jericho in Joshua 6.

It is the Lord’s Work

First, it was the Lord’s work and we are to just be a part of it. God said to Joshua, “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor.” (Joshua 6:2). We must realize that it is God’s work and fight. He has done all the hard work and we are to just reap the blessings.

God gave specific instructions

Second, God gave them specific instruction on what to do (Joshua 6:3-5).
Men of valor march around the city once a day for six days with seven priests bearing ram’s horns before the ark. The seventh day march around the city seven times. The priests shall blow the trumpets, the people will shout, and the wall will fall, and you will take the city.
Third, they obeyed the Lord and did what they were told (Joshua 6:6-20). And the result of their obedience? Blessing and a fulfillment of the promise God gave them. This could have only come from obeying the Lord.

All God wanted was their obedience

Now, let’s think about this in laymen’s terms. God told them to march around a city a bunch of times, blow some horns, and yell at a wall, and then the wall will fall, and then after you walked around a city all day, you are supposed to have enough strength to fight and wipe out all people inside with the exception of Rahab and her family? Makes alot of sense, right? But here’s the thing…you mean to tell me that the blowing of ram’s horns or their shouts had anything to do with the wall falling? Did God need Israel to shout at a wall to make it fall? No. I can think of about 20 ways off the top of my head to make a wall fall, and shouting at it is not one of them. What did the Lord want from them? Their obedience. What does God want from us? Our obedience. 2 Samuel 15:22-23 states, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And the stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD…” The difference between obedience and sacrifice is that obedience is what we do that God commands us to do. Sacrifice is what we do for God that we want to do. Obedience, God chooses what we do. Sacrifice, we choose what we do.

Sometimes the Lord will tell you to do something. Sometimes it will sound absolutely ridiculous, like walking around a city and shouting at a wall. God doesn’t need us to accomplish anything He wants to do. He doesn’t need me to witness to people to save them. He doesn’t need me to give to my church to keep the lights on and the doors open. He doesn’t need me to fast and pray for people to overcome major adversity in their lives. But when we do what He says, blessings will come. And if you don’t, there will be consequences, like in the next story of the battle of Ai (Joshua 7). There are no shortcuts with God. We are to do what He wants, His way; quickly, thoroughly, and cheerfully.

So where does that leave me today? No matter what the Lord wants for me I need to be open, obedient, and willing to do whatever. Even if it means doing something I think is really stupid, insignificant, or crazy. It may mean switching careers, moving, doing ministry full time, or whatever. But with anything I ask prayer for guidance and clarity.

Open Doors: Impact of Jail Ministry

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. ”

Revelation 3:20 NKJV

You never know what the Lord can and will do to reach those in prison. Watch and listen to Geoffrey Johnson’s testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness to one man at the Polk County Jail Ministry in Des Moines, Iowa.

There is so much in this video that is necessary to understanding what saving faith looks like. Since he gave his life to God through salvation in Jesus Christ, Geoffrey was given opportunity upon opportunity through open doors to walk through.

As long as I stay on the path that Jesus has laid out for me, it seems that I’m just always good. I literally did not do anything to prepare this path, I just showed up when God was giving me opportunities. …Today that broken, helpless, hopeless person has been redeemed. And God continues to open doors for me because I continue on His path and have a relationship with His Son, Jesus.

Geoffrey Johnson

Once redeemed, we are new creations in Christ. Being born again (John 3:7) is a new start, with new passions, and new desires. We are not the same as we were, but are completely restored to who we were meant to be (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Once he was saved, God was opening doors for Geoffrey to walk through. Proverbs 16:9 says, man plans his ways, but God directs our steps. It is through this symbiotic relationship we have with Christ, His Spirit living in us that we can accomplish great things for the Lord if we let Him.

“I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them. “

Isaiah 42:16 NKJV

As Christians, we were once prisoners like Geoffrey and have been redeemed through Christ’s blood, and rescued from the bonds of the devil (2 Timothy 2:26). What are some things the Lord has been prompting you to do, or the doors that He opened for you to walk through? Are you walking through them? Are you needing help to find the door; the strength to open it, or the courage to crack it open and look inside? Let us know in the comments.

The Danger of Cynicism In Ministry

Sometimes you don’t see how far you’ve come until you see how far you’ve been. Once in a while I read old journals and thoughts I had about things in the past. This was one of those times.

In December 2013 I was miserable in ministry. All of 2012 I had been seriously contemplating leaving my fellowship. I was sad that people didn’t care about evangelism the way I did. We were in a perpetual decent into complacency and apathy; nothing I tried seemed to work. That sadness turned to resentment, bitterness, and at moments — anger.

My new pastor that took over the ministry in 2012 had some big ideas and was motivated to make some real positive changes. He had shared with me his vision for the fellowship, and I was actually getting excited. There was hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. I decided to give it one more year, and if things didn’t go in the positive direction, my wife and I would leave. This was the account of my last straw.

Reading through my 2014 journal entries, it was a miracle I survived at all. During a leadership meeting to kick off the Pastor’s vision, an elder set the tone and said in front of the entire congregation that he was not going with me to evangelize on the street and that he opted out to do other things. Shortly after that, two people on my team left the church to seek fellowship elsewhere. Depressed, discouraged and tired of hearing people say, ‘I can’t’ or ‘I won’t,’ I was zealously determined to push forward and take care of the outreach portion I was asked to. Even if it meant doing it by myself.

At this time, my mentor who left the fellowship a few years prior was temporarily staying with me as he looked for a place to live. One afternoon I was watching the Way of the Master Basic Training Course (WOTM) that I was preparing to teach. Coming home from work, he walked through the front door and asked, “What are you watching?”

“The Way of the Master Basic Training Course, ” I said confidently.

“People aren’t going to do that. You’re wasting your time. ” And proceeded to tell me how may times he’s tried to do it, how complacent the church was, and how they much rather feed people behind a counter as they go to hell not knowing anything about the gospel.

Welcome to month one.

The several months that followed got worse and worse. Work was beyond stressful, and my boss was coming down on me for the first time in my career. The day I started the WOTM, I got hit with a lawsuit for something I didn’t do, and debt collectors were calling for a loan I never made. I was beyond stressed. People in my Romans bible study were encouraging me to pack it in, that I’ve had enough, and I just needed to give up for my own health and sanity. My cats, who are brothers started fighting really bad, and we had to separate them for a while, one had to go to the vet hospital. Less than a month later I got hurt at work and broke a finger on my right hand. To make matters worse, my wife looked at me at the end of all of this and said, “I miss the man I fell in love with back in 1996.” Even though I wasn’t saved back then, I missed him too. I had trouble in every area of my life, and there was nowhere to run but up. I was beyond disappointed; I was bitter, cynical, angry and I was ready to pack it in and be done. I was broken and no matter what I prayed it felt like God wasn’t listening either.

In a last ditch effort, I called my friend and former Pastor to talk even though he was in another country. He gave me some advice that resonated with me even to this day that he learned from an older missionary couple in Costa Rica.

“There are two types of missionaries: those who get bitter, and those who get better.”

Yes, I was going through a real tough time. Yes, there were things that was happening in my life beyond my control. But it was how I was reacting to those things that really was the problem in my life. I had to focus on what I could control: my cynicism. Nothing kills ministry more effectively than cynicism. You cannot lead a healthy ministry when your worldview is jaded by disappointment, lethargic people, and bitterness. Here are some of the consequences cynicism will severely hinder your ministry over time, and take a toll on it’s leader most of all.

It will cause you to not love others the way you should.

There are so many reasons why this is number one. We do ministry to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength; and to love others as ourselves. We can’t do that when we are cynical towards them. A cynical heart and mind tells you that you cannot trust anyone, can’t forgive them when they wrong you, can’t hope for the better, and that people are incapable of changing for the better.

But what would we be without hope? We would be unsaved. According to 1 Corinthians 13, hope is wrapped in love. Hoping for the best is a part of love. It helps us move forward and look with optimism towards the future. It keeps us from giving up. When we have that optimism we know that we are not doing ministry in vain. What we do matters, even if we do it alone.

We, the church are the hands and feet of Christ, and we need to work together. It starts first with love, which is the glue that holds it all together. When I’m cynical towards my brother and sister, things unravel, and that three-fold cord unravels.

You’ll be Afraid or Unwilling to Take Risks

Risk is a part of any ministry, especially evangelism. There is so much risk involved, but if we are afraid of doing something because we are tired or dismayed by the rejection we may face by my brother or sister in the faith, we will miss great opportunities that the Holy Spirit is wanting to do with us. We cannot dwell on past failures, or how people reacted to things you wanted to do prior to the latest idea. Dwelling on the past always leads to cynicism, but being optimistic and moving forward is the key to maintaining steadfastness in the faith.

People sometimes frustrate our ideas and plans because they are afraid themselves, don’t want to do the work, or even lazy. As an Evangelist or leader in ministry — that is not your problem. You need to motivate and help them as much as possible, see the added benefit of what you plan to do. If they don’t see the benefit, fellowship with other believers who do. Maybe their testimony will be the fire that is needed to set the spark of your ideas aflame.

Cynicism Will Frustrate Your Creativity

Frustration in the simplest terms is not a feeling, it is a verb — something that happens. The people perish with a lack of vision. There is a saying among Evangelists towards the church; that we belong to a group called: Club Frustration. It’s a dance club, where the Evangelist dances to the beat of the Pastor and Elders and are not given the freedom to do what he knows he needs to do. The constant barrage of, “No’s” leaves the Evangelist feeling as if he or she is a second-class Christian. All their good ideas are filed away in the trash can.

But does this have to be this way?

Staying disillusioned and distrustful of others will not bring life to your vision — but kill it. Sometimes we have to step back and regroup. Maybe the idea is too grand or big for others to get onboard or even see that it is possible. Instead of eating the whole cake of our big idea, perhaps all we need to do is take a bite-sized piece and give it to someone to taste. Let it melt in their mouth, savor the flavor of the idea, and when their eyes widen in amazement they say, ‘You know, that was really good.’

We are not “Spinal Tap;” our amps don’t go to 11. When we feel like we are not being heard, we don’t yell louder. We need to step back, regroup, and try a different approach for others to see the benefit of our ideas.

What if your idea really does suck?

We need to take creative criticism on the chin. Maybe what we really need is to look in the mirror and ask if it’s us. I’m not saying give up on your idea, but more often than not, we need to swallow our pride and get ourselves out of the way.

There were times in my life I frustrated my own walk. If you ask my wife, she’ll tell you I’m probably still doing that. Self-sabotage is our own fault, not others — hence the name. If someone is willing to give us the hard truth, we need to be willing to listen to it.

Ten year fog

In the beginning of this article, I shared frustrations half way through my sanctification. That was then, this is now. Now, I am one of those leaders in my fellowship. As I look back on how I felt ten years ago, I have to honestly look in the mirror and ask, “Was I ready?” Even more so, I have to answer, “No I wasn’t.”

But, like the advice I gave earlier, it’s time to move forward.

Valuable lessons have been learned through the past decade. Besides not letting myself become cynical, allowing the process to take place. Taking risks and making my own path was helpful. But most of all — not quitting. Not allowing my anger or frustration to overtake me. I wouldn’t be in the trusted position I am now.

When inside a thick fog it is impossible to see. We can’t control the fog; we just have to wait for the sun to shine through and shed light on the situation. Time can heal many wounds — if you let it.

Why Do You Write?

The first morning of the Iowa State Fair, I bounced into the Answers In Genesis booth with a brand new cup of joe, excited and full of life and energy ready as ever to take on any question that was asked of me from any atheist or unbeliever in the area. I was so pumped up. I was doing what many evangelists dream of doing. After I put my stuff away under the train cabinet I got up and started catching up with my friends who I haven’t seen in a while. It not only gets me talking, but building confidence with every word that comes out of my mouth. After a few a hand was extended to me, a new colleague, with the words: “Hi, I’m Dr. So-and-so. So…what do you do?”

I looked back at him and said, while still shaking his hand, “This, sharing the gospel to unbelievers and encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

“No,” glaring at me with distain, “I mean what do you do to make money.”

Oh, that’s what I thought you meant. If you ever want to derail my good day and watch me squirm as I slither to the nearest hole I can find, ask me what I do for a living. Ask anyone for that matter; it makes people uncomfortable. I answered, “I help people lift their burdens and share the love of Christ as He loves me,” to which he turned towards someone else who was more interesting. And to think this was a guest worker on our team.

I just got done with a book about writing called, Bird By Bird, by Anne Lamott. It is a very interesting read about the writing process, how to handle stress, people problems, and get on with your writing even when you find it extremely difficult. But there was a fascinating passage towards the end. It read:

“You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.”

Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird (231)

I probably will never be famous, make lots of money, or even be on the New York Times Best Seller List. My wife on the other hand thinks otherwise. But I honestly didn’t have money or fame on my mind when I started this journey; it was helping people and loving God. Whatever money I receive is what the Lord wants me to have. I am content (Luke 3:14; Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:8).

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5-6NKJV

What do writers want more than anything? Then want to be read. They want to be heard. They want to be understood. To take my human experience and help another through it so that they don’t struggle as much as I did; if there is something out of my life that could be gleaned for another. That someone will one day read my story, and be delivered from fear, sin, heartache, pain; towards deliverance and to walk with their Creator. So much more important than money, don’t you agree?

Lessons You Cannot Learn From Reading a Book

As you can see from my Goodreads account, I love to read. But, even reading has it’s limitations. There are several things you cannot learn from reading a book. Here are a few:

  • Humility
  • Sacrifice
  • Servanthood
  • Hospitality
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Kindness
  • Self-control

What do all of these have in common? The greatest lesson no one can learn from reading a book: LOVE. Love is the glue that holds all of these together, for without love, none of these could ever be possible, or even make sense.

If I have missed any, please feel free to add them into the comment section below.

Time Flies By

The great philosopher Ferris Bueller once quoted: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” He was right. Life does move pretty fast.

The picture above is of my father and I taken across the street at my aunt and uncle’s house. I was told to bring my dad over to surprise him for his 50th birthday; he was told to bring me over to celebrate my leaving for Indiana State University at the end of the month. The funny thing is that we were both right, and did our diligence to get the other one there on time.

Time has a funny way of showing you things as you step back and evaluate all that you’ve done, gone through, and accomplished. It also has a nagging way of letting you know how much more you have to do. But what is interesting in this picture, is that I am now the same age as my father in the picture. I look at this picture and remember how old he seemed to me. Still having some energy, but starting to wear out, things starting to hurt, and tired more frequently.

Time flew by the next twenty-eight years. I went to college and graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree and a fiancé. Moved back to New Jersey with a good job only to leave for the Midwest again for a slower and less expensive life. Got married, but even though were never able to have children I used the time for work, which became ministry after things fell through later. Picking up the pieces, trying new things; serving the Lord and loving others, especially my bride, are my main focus.

My dad continued to serve in the fire department and worked until he retired in 2001. He poured his time into working at his church and driving part time for Hanna’s Florist and then Campbell Supply. He spent most of his time with family, friends, and poured himself into his grandchildren. Fifty turned to sixty and tragedy struck when he lost his daughter Jenni. His life was highs and lows. Sixty turned to seventy, then seventy-five, and gone. He was the oldest living Chirico male until seventy-seven even surpassing his brother at seventy-four and his dad at fifty-one.

Fifty-one — exactly this time next year for me. I look back at myself in this photo. Happy, full of energy, wanting to take on the world, and to make something of myself. I had a full head of hair and not a strand of grey in it. Now, I have more hair on my back, and whatever I do have on top has turned to grey.

My point to all of this is not self-loathing, sappy dribble full of regret and anger at myself or what had happened; or taking chances instead of taking the safe route, staying home and not exploring the world. When dad visited me he always commented on what a nice life I had, a good church full of people who loved me, and a home I called my own.

My mother sent me two birthday cards for my 50th. This one moved me to tears:

A son leaves your home
but never your heart. 
He discovers his own happiness
which, in turn, 
becomes yours. 

Life changes. 
Love does not. 

Happy 50th Birthday to a son
who's loved so much. 

Love you more, 

Even though I don’t have any children of my own, I would imagine all a parent wants is to see their child happy no matter what stage of life they are on. Maybe even if it means not seeing them every day. Maybe. But my point to all of this, is that life moves pretty fast. King Solomon said it best:

Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, 
Before the difficult days come, 
And the years draw near when you say, 
"I have no pleasure in them": 

While the sun and the light, 
The moon and the stars, 
Are not darkened, 
And the clouds do not return after the rain; (failing sight)

In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, (aging body)
And the strong men bow down; 
When the grinders cease because they are few, (loss of teeth)
And those that look through the windows grow dim; (loss of sight)

When the doors are shut in the streets, 
And the sound of grinding is low; 
When one rises up at the sound of a bird, 
And all the daughters of music are brought low. (hearing loss)

Also they are afraid of height, (afraid of falling)
And of terrors in the way; (afraid of normal things)
When the almond tree blossoms, (hair turns grey)
The grasshopper is a burden, (small things are a nuisance)
And desire fails. (sexual desire diminishes)
For man goes to his eternal home, 
And the mourners go about the streets. (death)

Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, (spinal injuries)
Or the golden bowl is broken, (brain / mind fades)
Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, (heart problems) 
Or the wheel broken at the well. (Vein / blood issues)
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it. (death)

"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, 
"All is vanity." [Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 NKJV] (emphasis mine)

How are you making the most of your time while you still have it?

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: