Times of Trouble

In case you haven't noticed, the world is full of trouble—big trouble. We now have a global health crisis, the ongoing threat of terrorism, random acts of violence, political distress and upheaval, and a lot of mistrust, hatred even, between people groups. I am in Colombia as I write and I have had more people than usual write to say they are praying for my safety, which I certainly appreciate. How can we navigate and negotiate these troubled times without being overwhelmed with trepidation? Should we stay cooped up on our houses? Hire body guards?

This post is not to prescribe anything like that, but I do want to share what I learned to do when I was in Screen Shot 2020-02-01 at 10.10.55 AMAfghanistan in 2002 right after the war against terrorism started there. I was with a group of believers from all over the world and we met every morning at 7 a.m. for prayer. When we ended our time, we all recited aloud Psalm 91 and it had a soothing effect that framed our day as we left to go out into a society where every building was riddled with bullet holes or pock marks from explosives. Perhaps you want to adopt this habit during these times of trouble. In case you do, here is Psalm 91 in its entirety:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

I believe the promises in Psalm 91. This does not release us to do foolish, reckless things, but it does allow us to walk in comfort and security during turbulent times. I want not just to talk about the promises of God; I also want to live in them as I carry out my purpose. I invite you to join me in doing the same.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Thoughts

Today America celebrates a man who challenged the nation to live up to its stated value that all men are created equal. We can acknowledge today how far we have come or how far we have yet to go, but regardless of which perspective you choose, today is a day we recognize the efforts of a man and his followers who caused dramatic change in America.

I was 18 years old when Dr. King was assassinated. I was about as racially sensitive or aware as any typical white teenager, MLKPicso the events around his murder puzzled me, but I was absorbed in other things, like graduating from high school. Then six years later, I had my conversion experience and was almost immediately thrust into a world where I was working and worshiping with folks who were both black and white. I was still clueless, but I realized in those early days that if there was any hope for people to get along, the gospel of Christ was the only answer. More on that later.

In 1989, I moved to Alabama, the heart of Dixie, to work with an African American pastor as his assistant. To say that was unusual would be the understatement of the decade, for most people expected it to be the other way around, as evidenced by places of business that would always ask me first if they could help me, even if my black pastor entered ahead of me.

The white population in Alabama was mostly lukewarm to our relationship, but I thought the black churches would be more intrigued and interested. They were not. White churches were white and black churches were black and "never the twain shall meet" was the rule of the day, and often still is. It was sometime during my 11 years in Alabama that I read Dr. King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail and I was captivated by the excellence of the writing but also, more importantly, by the rightness of the message. That letter caused me to ask myself two questions: If I had been older and more "in touch" in 1968, would I have walked, marched or stood with Dr. King? The answer I came to was probably not.

The second question was a more important one: What could I do now that I was aware? I determined that, by God's grace, I would be an agent of healing and reconciliation wherever I lived or worked. Since that time, that value has guided my decisions of where I lived, worshiped, worked, and traveled in ministry. Only God can answer if I have been successful. As Mother Teresa said, God did not call us to be successful, just obedient. Time will tell if I responded to that second question properly or followed through with my conclusion.

Today, I am not interested in diversity. I have no time for tolerance. I want to see people of all races and cultures come together and not be concerned about who is right, but concerned about how to be reconciled. Toward that end, I continue to do what I can to bring about reconciliation. I have concluded that if it is almost impossible for those in the church to be reconciled, and we have the power of the Spirit and the word of God as allies, then there is no hope for any other entity to accomplish that goal - not government, legislation, meetings, training, or wishful thinking.

Reconciliation will require people to be transformed and then to walk out the terms and behaviors of reconciliation, even when it is not in their best interests economically or socially to do so. The Christian faith has the only answer to the problem that causes racism and oppression, which is sin caused by the Fall of man, and therefore the Church is the only one that can offer the remedy. So far, we have not done a very good job.

On this important occasion, I pay tribute to Dr. King, but really, my tribute contributes very little to his legacy that achieved so much and is still producing results. The best honor I can give is to recommit myself to be a source of reconciliation wherever God assigns me. By doing that, I will be making a small contribution to a very big problem, but perhaps God will multiply my efforts to touch people who need healed from the pain of the past and the hopelessness of the future. Today is a day to remember and celebrate what Dr. King taught and gave his life for; tomorrow is a day to get back to work to make it happen.

Pearl 354: Details

TOPIC: Organization and Productivity

"With this in mind, since I myself have carefully
investigated everything from the beginning, I
too decided to write an orderly account for you,
most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know
the certainty of the things you have been taught" - Luke 1:3-4.

Luke was a scientist of sorts, so he was accustomed to being meticulous in his work. So when he went to write a gospel, he organized his work carefully. First, he investigated thoroughly; then he decided to write his findings in an orderly, chronological format. Finally, he had so much material that he ended up writing his gospel and what we know to be the book of Acts. All throughout his work, Luke evidenced a profound ability to organize his work and thoughts. What about you? Do you invest the same attention to organizational detail in your work? What can you do to improve in the coming year?

Lord, I see that even when you use someone, there is no substitute for clear thought and organization. Success is never haphazard or an accident, but rather You work with and promote those who can keep Your call and work from being buried in confusion and disorder. Help me handle the details well.


The following is from my colleague Karen Dillaman. When she read this in our staff meeting last week, I knew I had to share it as a Thanksgiving post for your reading enjoyment.  Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers and may God use this testimony to encourage you toward thankfulness this holiday.


From Karen:

The past year at Alliance Council, I had the opportunity to go to a seminar in which Gracia Burnham was speaking. I actually thought she was someone else, so I was there purely by accident. The message she gave over the next hour was incredible. She and her husband Martin were New Tribes missionaries in the Philippines. On their anniversary they took a holiday to a resort area. At the resort, they were taken captive by terrorists, the Abu Sayyaf. They thought their release would be imminent, but they spent more than a year in captivity. Read the following excerpts from In the Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham about their holidays spent in the jungle.

I went back to where Martin was just being unchained from the tree after a night of sleep.  “Martin, a box came in for us last night. They’re going through it right now. Maybe you’d better go over there and claim it, or there is going to be nothing left!” 

He immediately headed that way.  When he got close, Sabaya said, “Oh, don’t come over here; we’ll bring the box to you.” 

“I just want to make sure that we get it,” Martin said, standing his ground.  Sure enough, he saw items starting to be removed from the box. One of the guys was already holding a package of Snickers bars.

In time, Sabaya finally brought us the box.  “I had to take out the Cheez Whiz, because I really like that stuff,” he said with a smile. “But the bulk of everything is still here for you.”

…We began making piles of all the wonderful things. But at the same time, we couldn’t stop thinking about those Snickers bars.  The bounty we had wasn’t quite enough somehow. And then we looked at each other and said, “You know, this box has arrived from our mission out of nowhere—and we’re complaining about what the Abu Sayyaf took?  We should be rejoicing in the Lord’s goodness.”

We decided we needed to share.  Martin began going from group to group, giving out spices, soup mixes, and cookies. I gave one of the two deodorants to Ediborah (another prisoner), plus some peanuts. She was very happy, and so were the others.

All of a sudden, Martin and I looked at each other again, and realized something incredible:  It was Thursday, November 22—Thanksgiving Day! We had asked the Lord earlier that month to send us something nice for Thanksgiving, and he had done it.

Of course, I had asked for things before—a gift for Martin on his birthday—and been disappointed.  So I hadn’t really expected God to do anything this time. But here was a whole box of food, and it was so humbling.  The Lord showed us he could bless us even when we didn’t have any faith. How we enjoyed that package!

Agony in Kenya

As you know, last week was a terrifying week in Kenya when terrorists seized a shopping mall to protest Westgate Mall copyKeny's presence in Somalia. Before it was all over, scores were killed and injured and the mall imploded when the soldiers used grenade launchers to kill the terrorists. I have heard from my closest friends and family there, but wanted to share with you some of their responses so you have an idea how devastating this was to them.

Pauline, my travel agent, wrote:

Hi Dr. J,

Thanks a lot for caring it feels good to know that someone cares.

Yes we are all fine and doing well. We were not in the Mall that Saturday but we had passed there like half hour before then we heard about 'thieves in West gate' while we were having lunch in town only to realize when we got back home that they were not actually thieves but terrorists.

We were shocked to watch on TV and we did not sleep that night, we had to pray.Though wounded, confused and having so many unanswered questions, we know that everything happens with a reason, we thank God.

Looking forward to seeing you in a few days.


Then Pastor Peter first wrote:

Dear Dr. John,

The last three days have been sad and terrible for the nation due to terrorist attack at Westgate Mall. So far 69 people have been confirmed dead and we pray for all our friend to stand with us at this moment. May almighty God watch over and protect Kenya.

Pastor Peter

A few days later he wrote:

Dear Dr. John,

Today we have woken up in a peaceful day after the terrorist were killed by our forces. We thank God for the peace that we have and we wish to thank all the people who stood with us at that horrific period. May God bless you all and may He answer all in your time of need.

Pastor Peter

People have asked me if I know where this mall is, and of course I do. But I seldom frequented it for a number of reasons. Then I am asked if I am still going over next week and of course my answer is a resounding 'Yes!' I mourn with the Kenyans for the loss of life and property and want to be present at this time to bring encouragement and continue the work God has called us to do there. As Peter wrote above, may God watch over and protect Kenya! Amen.


As you are aware, I shipped over 179 boxes of books, shoes and supplies this past January.  Most of it went 1 David and Groupto the library project in Banana, but I kept out a few boxes of leadership books for a pastor whom I met in west Kenya, in the town of Bomet.  David Koech is not only a pastor, but the founder and overseer of the Kenduiwo Orphanage (pictured right with our team in 2011).  I met David through Chuck and Amy Bemm and I was immediately impressed with David and his leadership capabilites.

1 David and LibraryI promised David I would help him build a library (you can see the orphan's current library at left - click to enlarge), so these boxes were the downpayment on that promise. I called David when I arrived in Kenya and he was excited to hear about the books. He immediately made plans to come to Nairobi to pick up the five boxes.  I heard from him around 8 this morning, saying he would arrive at the hotel around 9 AM.  When he arrived, I went to the lobby to meet him and he was with a local friend and his son.

When I asked him what time he left home, he told me 3 AM!  What's more, he took public transportation 1 Boxesthe entire way.  That meant he had to take those five heavy boxes (pictured right) back with him another six hours on the same public transportation, which meant those boxes were probably strapped to the top of a bus. What's more, David had never been to the Hilton Hotel where I am staying and needed to meet someone here to show him how to get here. He is quite a man and leader.

I am not sure I would ride twelve hours on public transport in the same day to pick up five boxes of books, but that is the calibre of leader that David is. When he told me of the maize crisis in west Kenya, I also gave him a large donation toward the purchase of food for the orphans, along with copies of my latest book and two copies of the Jesus film in Kswahili and English.  David had never heard of the the Jesus film.

I was humbled by David's commitment and his genuine appreciation for these small acts of kindness toward him.  He asked that I consider coming to his area next February with our team for some leadership training with his leaders and churches.  How can I say no? 

1 SheilaAfter my encounter with David, I walked over to Easy FM for my interview with Sheila (pictured left), and was confronted with the reason why I am here this week (I tried to leave and get home early). I was supposed to meet Sheila!  I had a profiling session with her today after the show that I know changed her life's course, and I was awed that God would leave me here for this week just to meet Sheila (and David). I have been fretting over my lack of seminars this week to pay for the trip (I had planned two), and was striving to make the most of the time. I don't think I am going to fret any longer.

This is how life is supposed to be lived:  Doing what you love in the will of God. Thank You, Lord, that you have enabled me to do the things I have done. To God be the glory!


I put the items below at the end of my Monday Memo, but I wanted to make sure you didn't miss them, so here they are all by themselves:

  1. PSALMS CLASS:  I begin teaching my class on Psalms here in Pittsburgh on Monday, May 14 and it runs for 11 weeks. You can audit this class or take it for college credit.  Write me for more information if you are interested.
  2. MY NEW BOOK:  I am self-publishing a revision of my book So Many Leaders, So Little Leadership. It is due for release in mid-July.  If you can make a tax-deductible contribution toward the cost of that important project, it would be of great help to me.  You can do so on my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882.  For any donation, you will receive an autographed copy when the book is released.
  3. KENYA LIBRARY:  The books were released and picked up in Kenya, so I am waiting for a report with pictures hopefully to share with you next week.
  4. A RETURN TO KENYA:  It looks like I will be back in Kenya the last two weeks in August. It's not too early to start planning and saving to attend one of my seminars.  The schedule for that trip will be announced soon.
  5. ATTENTION, AFRICA: I got the following email from a friend asking about an internship for his daughter in Africa this summer.  "My daughter is completing her junior year at American University, majoring in economics and minoring in anthropology.  She wants to be involved with economic development. She would like an internship/job in Africa this summer.  We have friends in Uganda, so that's high on the list.  She speaks French, so west Africa is also on the list.  She's an energetic Christian, so mission projects relating to economic development would be of interest.  She also plays the drums (she's a worship team drummer), if that would be useful! She would be willing to volunteer at a place that would give her experience for the future. She's available mid-May through late June, or later."

Coming to Zimbabwe

1 Zim 5 CompsAfter a four-year break, I am coming back to Zimbabwe on November 26 to work with Pastor Evan Mawarire and His Generation Church.  I will be speaking at His Blueprint Purpose all week until December 4, and will have two one-day seminars, one on Wednesday, November 30 and another on Saturday, December 3.  The Wednesday 1 Zim Conferenceseminar will be my seminar, The Five Competencies of Global Leaders. The Saturday seminar wiil be Getting Your Life Back on Track: A Study of Purpose and Goals.  I am attaching the fliers for the conference and Wednesday seminar.  If you live in Zimbabwe, you can call the church for more info or to register. 

I can't wait to get back and reconnect with all my friends and a country that I love.  It's been too long. 

A Sign of the Times

I am reading through Charisma magazine, which features end time author and teacher Perry Stone in the most recent edition of its monthly publication.  Perry Stone is proclaimed to be a man who has insight into biblical prophecy, which means he teaches, writes, and broadcasts about the end times.  Here are some of the titles of his books advertised or mentioned in the magazine:

  1. Unleashing the Beast: The Coming Fanatical Dictator and His Ten-Nation Coalition
  2. The Rapture Revelation
  3. The Rapture and the Law of First Fruits
  4. Unusual Signs of Christ's Second Coming
  5. Prophetic Mysteries and the Seven Feasts of Israel

In the magazine, Perry wrote an article entitled, "Black Tide Rising: What Does $4 Gas Have to Do With Chemical Warfare, America's Future and the Antichrist?  A Prophecy in Daniel May Explain."

Now I am not against Brother Stone.  I have never met him and sure he is a nice man who loves the Lord.  I am only pointing this out because Brother Stone, along with millions of others, have bought into a premise that the Bible can be used to interpret today's headlines and even predict them.  I happen to disagree, which is sort of like spitting into the wind or sitting in a flight simulator.  Both get you nowhere.

I have gone on record as saying I don't care who the Antichrist is, if he is an actual historical figure yet to come.  I am only concerned about the Christ and I have enough trouble trying to figure out what He wants me to do and be.  Many antichrists have arisen and will continue to do so, yet the message of Revelation is clear:  Jesus is the winner and champion, taking on and vanquishing all foes, no matter how diabolical, powerful or persuasive.

Please believe me when I say that I am not against Brother Stone, but I do believe his teaching and that similar to his is pretty much a waste of time and effort.  I know those kind of books sell well (anyone ever hear of Hal Lindsay and The Late, Great Planet Earth or Tim LaHaye's magnificent fiction - and I do mean fiction - Left Behind series?  Both authors were greatly enriched by their take on the end times.)

There is so much wonderful material out there that exalts the name of Jesus and tells of His glory.  That is the literature I want to read, whether or not it was written last week or 1,000 years ago.  The only biblical prophecy I need to understand is that which speaks of Christ and His coming Kingdom.  So if you are going to read this stuff, please don't buy it new. Go on Amazon and buy it used and then destroy your copy before it falls into someone else's hands.  If someone asks you for a recommendation on end time prophecy, just hand them a Bible and tell them to read it from cover to cover. 

If they need an end time prophet to explain what they read, then they just don't get it, so tell them to read the Bible again. And If someone really needs a guide to walk through Revelation, recommend my book The Revelation Project.  I decided to swim upstream and publish something that did not follow the predominant thinking of the day, but chose rather to focus on the devotional significance of Revelation.  I hope that someone, somewhere will read it and be set free from the madness that seems to grip many where Revelation is concerned.

End Times?

I wrote a book last year The Revelation Project, which is a verse-by-verse devotional from Revelation.  In that devotional, I tried to take some of the mystery out of interpreting Revelation, although its style will continue to challenge any reader until the Lord returns.

I woke up this morning thinking about the situation in Somalia, where it is estimated that one million people will starve in this latest drought.  When you add that to the news of the revolution in Libya and the earthquake earlier in the year in Japan, along with the hostilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, you get a picture that is pretty dark and gloomy.  The question on many minds is: Can these be signs of the end?

The answer is, "Yes, they can be"  But who knows for sure? Many men have enriched themselves and obtained a following by pretending to know. Truth is, they don't know and anyone who claims to know, well, I will leave that conclusion up to you.

I choose to interpret these events in light of Revelation 16:9: "They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him." 

The message of Revelation is that there will be wars, famine, pestilence, earthquakes and other cataclysmic events.  There will be a host of dictators and philosophies that will raise their ugly heads, aided by the great accuser of the saints and even God, and declare that they are divine and worthy of worship and allegiance.

Yet in the midst of all this, Jesus, the Lamb, sits on the throne and rules. What's more, the cataclysms all happen so that men may repent and turn to God!  As Revelation continues in the latter chapters to outline the fall of Babylon and the harlot who served her, this is what was written: "After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:  “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments" (Revelation 19:1-2).

What is our response to be when these events occur?  We are to shout, "Hallelujah!"  If these things are a sign of the end, then our message should not be preoccupied with who the beast or dragon are, but with the message of the times;  "Repent and turn to God, for His kingdom is at hand."

Enough of these foolish speculations about the end.  Our message is about the Lamb, not the beast, about the Christ, not the anti-Christ.  I urge you to read Revelation through different eyes and stop this silly infatuation with end time fables.  Instead, focus on the end time victory that is assured to Christ and His followers again and again in the book of Revelation.  If this is the end, and it may be, then we should redouble our efforts to get the word out:  Jesus is alive, well and on the throne.  Anyone who chooses to put his or her trust in Him is immune not from the suffering of the end times, but of the eternal suffering promised to the dragon and his followers.  That is not a message of gloom but one of joy.  Get busy being an agent and herald of that joy.