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.


Fear

We are children of Adam and Eve, whose first act after they sinned was to hide in the bush while God AdamAndEvewalked by. Why? Because they were ashamed and afraid. Shame and fear are our two enemies as we seek to live for the Lord and walk in His ways.

We can quote, "God has not given me a spirit of fear" but that does not mean we don't have fear. In fact, in my 44 years of ministry experience, I have found that I am afraid and so are you.

You may protest and say, "Not me!" I would still beg to differ. If you insist you don't have fear, there are three possibilities:

  1. you may have conquered fear once and for all.
  2. you don't recognize the fear because it disguises itself.
  3. you have shrunk your world so that there are no surprises, so that tomorrow is like today -- and why did you do that? Because you are afraid you cannot handle the new day.

I doubt very much that you have mastered fear as described in #1 above, but if you have, pray for the rest of us.

If you need more convincing of the possibility you suffer from number 2, ask yourself why you don't go on a missions trip, learn a language, go back to school, or start a business -- or any other idea you have ever had that's new and different than what you are doing now. Within five minutes, you can think of all the reasons why those things are not good ideas. All those reasons are fear-based. If you don't have the money, you are really thinking, "I am afraid the money won't be there when I need it, so better not make the commitment to go (or do)."

And if you have settled into number 3, what is the purpose for your existence? Is it to do what you are currently doing every day for the rest of your life with minor variations? Is that living or existing?

Jesus said that we would know the truth and it would set us free. It's important to know where the fear is in your thinking so you can be free, that is, if you want to be free. Because to be free is to risk, and risk causes fear, and fear, well, then we are right back where we started at the beginning of this post, children of Adam and Eve, hiding with them in the Garden bush while God comes looking for us.


My Ministry Updates

There is a lot going on, or should I say, coming up with my ministry work. I thought I would take this opportunity to update you and give you a chance to get involved. Here goes:

  1. I have 14 people signed up for my 2018 Israel trip from April 24-May 4, and many have inquired IsraelWebsitePicand more than a few said they are going. There are also 8 people signed up for the after trip to Rome. You can find out more about the pilgrimage at the tour website.
  2. My next trip to Kenya is February 22 to March 9, 2018. The first informational meeting is on Sunday, July 30 at 12:30 PM at Allegheny Center Alliance Church in room 120 of the Union Place building. Please let me know if you plan to attend.
  3. My latest book, a commentary on the gospel of John, is available for purchase on Amazon.
  4. I am ready to ship my next container of books and school supplies to Kenya. This shipment has 25,000 books, 2,500 pairs of shoes, desks, bikes, and a ton (literally) of school supplies. I need help with the shipping costs. You can contribute using PayPal through my website, or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882.
  5. I next speak at Allegheny Center Alliance Church on the weekend of August 19-20.
  6. I will be speaking at Victory Church in Oklahoma City on Sunday, September 3, in both services.
  7. This fall, I am teaching two leadership courses at the Center for Urban Biblical Ministry in Pittsburgh. On Wednesday nights, I will teach How to Start a Nonprofit Organization from 6 to 9 PM. On Saturday mornings from 9 to noon, I will teach History of Urban Leadership. Write me for more information.
  8. I will be in Lagos, Nigeria from October 14-30 teaching at the satellite school for Southwestern Christian University.
  9. I am working on my second work of fiction that involves lessons from the relationship of David and Saul, as well as from the book of Psalms.
  10. In addition to the above, I am enjoying my time as president of Urban Press, for which I am involved in many book projects for other people.

Please write and let me know if you would like to participate in anything I have listed above or if you have any questions. And please know that what I do, I do in faith, trusting God for my provision. If God leads you to help me, please contribute using PayPal through my website, or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882.


Life Matter: Fear Is Present

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you" - Psalm 56:3.

David did not write "if I am afraid" but rather "when I am afraid." I have come to the conclusion that fear is always present in my life. Therefore, I am no longer surprised when I find it, but go on a search-and-destroy mission to look for it, asking God to show me where it is, so I can confront and manage it. I have found that fear is a master of disguise and works in my life as rational thinking. For example, "I don't have enough time" is really "I'm afraid I don't have enough time to do that well" or "I'm afraid I will fail, so I won't even try." You know what 2 Timothy 1:7 says: "For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control" (NET). Are you ready to confront and eradicate your fears today? What could you do today if you were not afraid?

Today's Reading - Psalms 55-60


Your Life Matter: Faith in Action

"For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction" - Psalm 1:6.

If someone asked you, "Are you on your way?", you would understand that they were expecting you to be in motion, coming or going somewhere. The Lord also expects you to be on your way and that way is the path of faith. That implies progress, movement and knowing the way you are supposed to be going! James 2:17 states, "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." There is always something you can do in faith, otherwise you risk possessing dead or useless faith. Your life matter today is to determine what action you can take - write a letter, go look at a house or car, apply to school - with the faith you have about a particular situation you are facing. 


Pearl 364: Totally His

TOPIC: Faith and God's Help

"For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him" - 2 Chronicles 16:9.

When you are fully committed to the Lord, you can count on Him finding and strengthening you in the work you are doing. To be fully committed, you must be devoted to a walk of faith in your family, work, career, and ministry, for "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6). That doesn't mean you have to be perfect, but that your first thoughts and final plans are of the Lord and what He would want you to do in regards to your life purpose whether or not you know exactly how you will do it. Do you believe God is searching for those who are completely His? Do you think you can be one of those people? What heart changes do you need to make in the coming year for God to search and find you? Where is fear keeping you from making a total commitment?

Lord, I read this verse and it stirs my heart, for I want to be someone whom You consider totally committed to You. I surrender my life's agenda to Yours, and I submit to Your purpose and will for my life. I will not allow family or circumstances to deter me in the coming year--with Your help, of course.


Pearl 359: Faith Scroll

TOPIC: Faith and Speech

"Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other,
and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance
was written in his presence concerning those who feared
the Lord and honored his name" - Malachi 3:16.

The Lord is listening to your conversations with yourself and with others. We see from Hebrews 11 that you must talk faith to please God, and Hebrews 11 contains a scroll of remembrance of sorts for those who distinguished themselves in faith. The Lord is obviously still adding to that scroll and your name can be on it! Is God enjoying listening in on your conversations these days? Are you having faith discussions with others of what you can do in faith, or what you can't do in unbelief? Are you eager to have your name enrolled in the faith hall of fame?

Lord, I want to be registered on your faith scroll, but I see that I have to earn my way onto that list by honoring You. The best way I know to honor You is to put my trust in You, so I want to talk and live faith, so that You will take notice. I commit to talk faith in the coming year both to myself and to others.


Pearl 353: Lifestyle

TOPIC: Faith and Daily Living

"And without faith it is impossible to please God,
because anyone who comes to him must believe
that he exists and that he rewards those who
earnestly seek him" - Hebrews 11:6.

Faith is not an event; it is a lifestyle. Faith is not a parachute that you pull out in emergencies, it is to be your day-to-day walk with the Lord as you find and fulfill purpose, set and achieve goals, manage your time and organize your life and world around you. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. That means with faith, you can please Him. Are you pleasing Him? Is faith a lifestyle for you or just something you use when you are backed into a corner and have no other options? What are you trusting the Lord for right now that, if He does not come through, you will look foolish?

Lord, I want to please You and there is not way to do that without trusting You, without faith. I confess that I often have faith when I have run out of options, but I see today that you desire a lifestyle of faith, and not just an occasional excursion into faith. Forgive me for my unbelief as I venture forth in faith.


Pearl 349: Family

TOPIC: Faith and Fear

"So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime" - Judges 6:27.

Gideon had faith to obey the Lord, but there was one major stumbling block for faith in his life, and that was his family. He did what God wanted in this instance but did so under the cover of darkness. The opposite of faith is not un-faith or unbelief, but rather fear. Gideon was afraid of what his family would think and say, so he carried out a clandestine faith operation. Jesus also addressed this problem as you can read in Matthew 10:32-39What are you afraid of that is hindering your faith? Is your relationship with your family one that sustains and promotes your faith, or hinders it? What are you prepared to do about that if the latter is the case?

Lord, I love my family, but I am too concerned about what they will say and think. At times, I also need them to need me, so I do things that perpetuate an unhealthy situation that hinders my faith. Forgive me for ever putting my family before You and Your purposes for my life. That is about to change.


Pearl 346: Heart Attack

TOPIC: Faith and Will

"See to it, brothers and sisters, that none
of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that
turns away from the living God" - Hebrews 3:12.

You are to 'see to it' that you don't have an unbelieving heart. That indicates that a faith-less heart is your decision and under your control not to have one. When you don't take care of your heart and faith, then you turn away from God, and that is fatal where purpose and goals are concerned. This makes perfect sense, for without faith it is impossible to please God. Is your heart full of faith? Do you see un-faith as a sin, or simply a weakness? Do you accept responsibility to keep your heart in good faith condition?

Lord, I don't want to have a heart attack of unbelief. Therefore I choose to trust You, not just for salvation, but for all the affairs of life, including purpose and goals. Help me keep watch over my heart and to know when it is weak in faith, so I can correct that condition immediately by Your grace.