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Starting Online Small Groups

The Coronavirus outbreak has opened a new chapter in starting online small groups. Online small groups aren’t a new thing. I was in an online small group on CompuServe in 1992! That might make me the grandfather of online small groups. But, online groups might be new to you.

The Pursuit Church in Minot, ND just launched online small groups off of their online service on March 22, 2020. This church of 1,500 already had about 60 small groups. On that Sunday, 30 people stepped up to start new online small groups. Could you imagine increasing your small groups by 50% in one day. You can hear Tara Wiley tell The Pursuit’s story along with seven principles of starting online small groups.

The Freebies mentioned in this video are available here.

If you want to jump to a specific point of the video:

What You Need to Start Online Small Groups (Point starts at time code indicated):

  1. A willing, caring person to initiate (8:50).
  2. A system to connect (13:58).
  3. A platform to meet on (18:10).
  4. Curriculum to guide (25:14).
  5. Just-in-time training and coaching (30:49).
  6. Follow up and feedback (34:51).
  7. Supervision and accountability (35:59)

Case Study: The Pursuit Church, Minot, ND (44:17)

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This stay-home season is, for many of us grandparents, a time of extra stress. What food and supplies will we need in coming weeks? Where can we find those supplies? How will we pay for whatever we store up? How are we handling our loneliness? How far should we go in protecting ourselves from exposure to COVID-19?  How vulnerable are we personally, since seniors are less resistant to COVID-19 than our children and grandchildren?

Uncertainty. Anxiety. Panic. Fear. Depression. How can we respond wisely—and in ways that positively influence our grandkids in their own spiritual journey?

Step #1: Let’s reaffirm this vital principle of lifestyle worship in our heart’s convictions:

If God is truly the omniscient, omnipotent, and loving Yahweh of Whom we read in the Scriptures, then our response to this situation is more important than the situation itself.

How is your faith showing today?9570812857?profile=original

Psalm 46:10-11 (ESV) ­­– “Be still, and know that I am God.” . . .

The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Step #2: Let’s reaffirm that vital principle in our mind’s attitudes, because: (1) God sees our heart and our mind (Jeremiah 20:12a)—there’s no hiding the truth from Him, and (2) our attitudes motivate our actions.

Step #3: Let’s demonstrate that vital worship principle in our actions and reactions to today’s situations. Example: Others may think it clever to sneak two of some item in the store when only one of that item is permitted per shopper. But we are not quarantined from God’s call for us to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31). Let’s respect the laws of the land and the needs of others.

We can also show our conviction about that worship principle to our grandchildren in our reaction to this season’s stresses: God wants us to do our best, and then just rest. Let’s let our grandkids catch us in the act of responding with personal discipline, kindness to others, and thankfulness to Him!

Let’s encourage our grandkids amid their stress, too. My wife Jan wrote out two scripture cards last week, one for each of our grandsons, for them to keep in their bedroom: Hebrews 13:5b-6a and 1 Peter 5:7. When they received their 3x5 cards, they immediately read those verses to each other.

Video conversations (via Skype, Zoom, etc.) are also super tools for family contact. This week we connected with most of our scattered family all at once. Part of that animated conversation involved each person—young and old—naming one or two things or people for which they thank God this week. Purposeful, encouraging fun!

Keep looking up.

The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.

The Lord  lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

© 2020 John Garmo

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Selah is not translated in our English Bibles. We just have the transliteration of the Hebrew word. But if you follow its usage, you can get a good grip on its meaning. It is used at the end of each stanza of Psalm 46. I have italicized it for you.

“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah”

Literally, Selah means, step up. It could have been a musical notation. I like the speculation that it was used when the people ascended Mt. Zion with singing. As they came to a pause in the music, they would all take a step, or several steps, up. They would pause to take a step nearer to God. 

There is a delightful little poem in Spurgeon's Treasury of David.

“Selah bids the music rest, 
Paused in silence soft and blessed;
Selah bids uplift the strain,
Harps and voices tune again;
Selah ends the vocal praise,
Still your hearts to God upraise.”

But as I said, whatever the meaning of the word, the most telling thing about selah is where it is placed in the text. Selah is a call to be still and know God.

Selah is used as a pause to reflect. 

We are to stop and think about what God is saying to us in what we just read in the Psalm.

Selah gives a pause to pray.
Scripture reading should be bathed in prayer. We need to pray for God to open our eyes and hearts to see and hear what He is telling us. We need to ask Him to plant His truth in our hearts to transform our lives.

Selah brings a pause to listen.
Are you aware that God will speak to you personally in His word? We need to stop to remind ourselves that God is speaking as we read. Selah reminds us to stop and listen

Selah is a pause to understand.
The more we think about and meditate on Scripture the more the Holy Spirit of God explains to us. Our Lord speaks personally to you in His word. You need to be still and know what it means that He is God.

Selah is a pause to absorb.
In several of the parables of Jesus we see that the word and the kingdom of God are planted into our hearts. In Luke 13:19 Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed sown in someone’s garden, that grows to become a tree so that the birds make nests in its branches. This can certainly be applied to the kingdom of God being introduced to a tribe, a people group, or a city. But I think the Holy Spirit also applies it to each of our lives. James 1:21 calls us to, “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save our souls.”

Selah pauses to remember.
It takes time and effort to fix God’s word in our minds. We will need to remember that God has said He is a very present help when trouble comes. We need to remember the stream that makes our hearts and cities glad.

Selah is a pause to tremble.
Considering that God has spoken to us, and that He is God over all our circumstances, should cause us to tremble. If you do not tremble before the Holy God, you do not understand.

Selah lets us pause to rejoice.
God is gracious, loving, mighty, and glorious! His people should rejoice as He draws near to speak to our hearts.

Selah is a pause to praise.
We need to exalt His name along with the nations. We need to stop where we are to praise Him. We will exalt His name forever!

Selah pauses to commit.
Unlike the person spoken of in James 1:24, who glances at the mirror of God's word and promptly forgets what he saw, we are to take time to commit ourselves to obey what God tells us in His word.




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We seldom use the word behold in common speech. But it is a crucial word in Scripture and an essential concept for our spiritual lives. I could have posted this on my thinking in the Spirit blog, but particularly because of the passage I have chosen, I believe it fits Watching In Prayer better.

Behold is used three times in Jacobs encounter with God in Genesis 28:12-14. I have italicized them to emphasize its significance.

“He dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, ‘I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’”

Let me give you some applications of the word “behold,’ especially as it is used in this passage.

The foundational meaning of the word behold is simply to see. Here it means to see God. In Hebrews 11:27 we read that Moses endured because he saw Him who is invisible. Behold means to see the work of God. In John 5:19 Jesus said He could only do what He saw His Father doing. John 5:20 says the Father loves the Son and shows Him what He is doing. Behold is a command to see on a spiritual plane. We read about Stephen in Acts chapter 8. As he was being stoned for the gospel, the heavens were opened and he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. He said “Behold, I see.” But those who were intent on stoning him were not willing to look.

Behold also calls us to pay attention to what God has to say to us. God spoke to Jacob standing above the ladder in his dream. And God will speak to you if you listen. He can speak to you in any way He chooses. He can speak in a dream. He will consistently speak to you in His word, in the fellowship of the church, in circumstances, and in all of these things, you will hear Him speaking as you pray.

Behold is a call to grasp the significance of what God is showing you. Jacob got it. He realized what God was saying to him. Realizing that God is speaking will open your heart you more and more meaning as you focus on what He is telling you, especially in Scripture. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9 God commands us.

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Beholding expects believing. When God speaks you need to recognize that He is real and that He is really speaking to you. In John 12 when Jesus prayed that His Father would glorify His name, a voice came from heaven saying, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The people standing there were amazed. Some said, “An angel has spoken to him.” But Jesus said, No. “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.” God is speaking to you.

Behold calls us to experience the presence of the Lord. We seldom sing Surely The Presence in our churches. Its words come from verse 16 of Genesis 28.

“Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place. 
I can feel His mighty power and His grace.
I can hear the brush of angel wings. 
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.”

Of course, these last words point us to the promise of the presence of Jesus any time we gather in His name. I have never sung the second verse of this song.

“In the midst of His children the Lord said He would be.
It doesn't take very many.
It can be just two or three.
And I feel that same sweet Spirit that I’ve felt so many times before
Surely I can say I’ve been with the Lord.”

There is a special promise of His presence in church. We are also in His presence any time we are listening to His voice. 

In verse 17 Jacob says he was afraid. He said what we should say every time we gather in church. “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
When you are in the presence of the holy God you ought to tremble like Jacob did. He was terrified. But it was not an earthly fear. He experienced the joyful fear of God.
The third verse of Surely The Presence sings.

“There's a holy hush around us as His glory fills this place
I’ve touched the hem of His garment
I can almost see His face
And my heart is overflowing with the fullness of His joy
I know without a doubt I’ve been with the Lord"

And that leads us to worship. When we see Jesus like John did in The Revelation, we too will fall on our faces before Him. If you do not worship, you have not experienced the reality of God.

Finally, the word behold calls us to 
The more time we spend in the presence of God, the more we desire to obey whatever He tells us to do.




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The Face of Victory

One of my favorite Bible verses is the apostle Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 2:14 that God “always leads us in triumph in Christ.” That’s a beautiful promise, but lately I’ve been rethinking what it means to live a triumphant life.

Some preachers act as if the Christian life is meant to be a journey from one mountain top to another, with no valleys in-between. They act as if we can have victory without any battles along the way.

However, that’s certainly not what Paul is saying here. Several chapters later, he provides a long list of the severe hardships he had faced in his service to the Lord. Yes, God had met all of his needs, but Paul’s “abundant life” also included abundant trials. Frequent beatings…imprisonment…shipwreck…robbery…false accusations…sleeplessness…inclement weather, betrayal – and other difficulties too numerous to mention (2 Corinthians 11:23-30).

So, what does the triumphant Christian life really look like? I’m beginning to think it looks a lot like famed boxer Rocky Balboa after one of his fights. He was knocked to the mat numerous times during each fight, but he never stayed there. And although his face and body were pummeled almost beyond recognition, Rocky was able to loudly proclaim his victory at the end of the story.

Perhaps you think this illustration is much too bloody, and certainly not a very appealing illustration of the victory available in Christ. Maybe not. But the illustration fits more accurately than the depictions of Jesus and His apostles with rosy cheeks, halos, and garments that looked like they were dry cleaned every day.

In fact, in Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” the beaten and crucified Jesus looks a lot like Rocky Balboa. How ironic that while the cross seemed like His ultimate defeat, it turned out to be His ultimate victory. He got knocked down, but He got up again.

My friend, if you feel like you’ve been pummeled by life’s circumstances, remember Rocky Balboa – and Jesus. Even if you feel bloody and broken today, you’re probably a lot more victorious than you realize.

Your dreams may seem dead at the moment. But if you don’t give up, I’m betting that your resurrection is right around the corner.

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Everyone's Dealing with Something

One of the unexpected revelations during my cancer and chemo journey last year was that everyone is dealing with something. If you’re facing a life-threatening foe like cancer, it’s easy to feel sorry for yourself and act as if you’re the only one having a rough time – but it turns out you’re not alone in your trials.

Let me explain…

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was amazed by how many friends told me their own stories about facing that dreaded disease, either in their own life or with a loved one. I had no idea this was such a widespread experience.

However, many friends came to me with stories about dealing with other kinds of difficult situations. Some were having conflicts in their marriage or were disappointed in the decisions their kids were making. Others were feeling devastated by financial setbacks or emotional pain such as grief, depression, or loneliness.

Several months ago, I had an enlightening conversation with some church friends who seemed to have the perfect marriage and family. At least it looked that way on Facebook and Instagram. Seeing their public persona, I’ve often been tempted to envy them.

Yet these friends shocked me by sharing about some recent conflicts in their marriage. And while their children all looked like little angels on social media, it turned out that each of their kids was dealing with some kind of problem too. I had no idea.

Suddenly I realized that the reason these friends could be so vulnerable about their own difficulties was because they knew about my health struggles. Bald from chemo and having virtually no energy, it was obvious things weren’t going very well in my life. This was embarrassing to me at first. I would have preferred to project a more positive, victorious image.

But how surprising it was that my hardships ended up providing an unexpected blessing: Seeing the struggles I was facing, people felt like they could safely confide in me about their own battles.  

Perhaps an even greater epiphany was that everyone on this fallen planet is dealing with some kind of challenge in their life. The stressed-out cashier at Walmart…the frustrating colleague at work…the grouchy neighbor…the annoying driver on the freeway…the Facebook friend who posts angry political tirades – whether we realize it or not, everyone is dealing with something.

What an important lesson! Just as I want people to be patient with me when I’m going through hard times, I need to have patience with the “thorny” people I come across in life. Whether I can see it or not, they’re all dealing with some difficult situation, no doubt.

As the apostle Paul wrote, temptations and trials are “common to humanity” (1 Corinthians 10:13 CSB). So if you’re dealing with unpleasant circumstances today, join the club. You’re certainly not alone.

Amid Job’s terrible hardships described in the Bible, he was reminded by his friend Eliphaz: “People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from a fire” (Job 5:7 NLT). Good point! To one extent or another, trouble is an unavoidable part of the human experience.

Although Job’s friends sometimes did more harm than good, in this case Eliphaz continued with some good advice: “If I were you, I would go to God and present my case to him. He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles” (Job 5:8-9 NLT).

Notice that these words present a difficult paradox. On the one hand, humankind will inevitably face trouble along life’s way. But on the other hand, we’re told that God is a miracle-working God. In every situation, we must go to Him and present our case.

Perhaps you are feeling like Job today. If so, my heart and my prayers go out to you. But as hard as it may be to realize in the midst of fiery trials, God is not mad at you and He’s not your enemy. He’s inviting you to run to Him and present your case, based on the promises in His Word.

At the end of his story, Job’s life was restored in every way. In fact, “the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12 NKJV).

My friend, whether in this life or the next, God’s plan for you and me is a happy ending. Yes, there will be trials and tribulations along the way. But that’s not the end of the story.

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Clues to Your Escape Room Exit

If you’ve never been in an escape room, I recommend you try it sometime. Recently I had this fun experience with some family members during a holiday trip in Ohio.

In this popular new craze, a team of players is put into a room where they cooperatively discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish tasks in order to escape. There’s usually a one-hour time limit, and in our case we weren’t able to solve all the clues in this allotted time.

As we head into 2020, I’m convinced that an escape room is a fitting metaphor for many people’s condition. Feeling “stuck” in one or more areas of our life, we’re searching for clues to escape our humdrum existence and rediscover our zest for living.

A few days ago, I had a conversation about this with a friend named Marcus. “Why doesn’t God give me some clues about what I’m supposed to be doing?” he complained.

I could sympathize with my friend’s frustration. Marcus was dealing with a number of situations that seemed to have no remedy. Although he could quote Bible promises about God providing us with “a way of escape” in times of temptation or trouble (1 Corinthians 10:13), something was clearly missing.

At that moment, I remembered the escape room I’d encountered in Ohio. You see, an escape room contains all the clues necessary for success. In fact, most of the clues are within plain sight, but simply overlooked until someone on the team points them out.

So I explained to my friend that God had probably already given him all the major clues he needed. “Take another look around the ‘room’ you’re in,” I told him. “What are some clues from your past that point the way toward God’s plan for your future?”

Marcus still struggled to think of any clues that would open the door to his escape.

“Even though you don’t like your present circumstances, take a few moments to remember events that brought you exceptional joy and fulfillment in the past,” I encouraged him. “Those experiences are powerful clues to God’s calling and purpose for your life.”

I reminded Marcus of a quote from famous Olympic runner Eric Liddell, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

Then I asked, “Marcus, what are some times in your life when you sensed God’s pleasure in a special way?”

Soon my friend was recounting several joy-filled times when he had notably experienced God’s presence and pleasure. However, Marcus was troubled by the fact that most of his time and energy in recent years had been diverted to other activities – having nothing to do with the pursuits that once had brought him great joy. “No wonder I’ve felt locked in an escape room,” he concluded. “To make it worse, I feel like time is running out on the clock.”

“But Marcus, think of all the progress you’ve already made in the past few minutes!” I pointed out. “You’ve discovered some clues to the things that bring you joy and glorify God in your life. And if you patiently and persistently follow those clues, I’m confident you’ll find your way of escape!”

Despite our conversation, Marcus hasn’t experienced a complete new beginning yet. As for any of us, his liberation is a process. Yet our escape begins with recognizing the clues God has already placed in the “room” where we find ourselves – and Marcus is well on his way.

Open Eyes, Open Doors

One of the significant ingredients of an escape room experience is that it requires teamwork. No individual is capable of spotting all the clues.

In the same way, we each have blind spots regarding our own strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes God sends us a friend to illuminate a clue we’ve been missing.

It’s amazing how blind we can be to a clue that seems unmistakable in retrospect. For example, I love the story in Luke 24:13-27 where the resurrected Christ appears to two disciples who were walking on the road to Emmaus. Despite having quite a conversation with the Savior, they didn’t even recognize Him!

In the same way, Jesus is walking on the roadway next to you and me today. We can complain all we want about needing more clues to discover our purpose and destiny. But the biggest clue of all is standing right before us. We just need to have our eyes opened to recognize Him.

So, if you find yourself locked in an escape room as you begin another year, don’t despair. You just need to recognize the Lord’s presence and take notice of the clues He’s placed all around you.

Your escape may be closer than you think. Soon you will knock, and the door will open!

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Intentional Grandparenting: What? Why? How? #4

Dear Grandparents who care deeply about the spiritual health of your grandchildren,

Christmas season is, for many grandparents, a mixture of joy, sadness, and stress. If you are experiencing the joy of good and healthy relationships with your grandkids (whether biological or temporarily “adopted”), our one word of encouragement is “Alleluia!”

But often we, at the same time, experience higher-than-usual tension in other grandchild relationships­­. It overcomes our joy—and sometimes breaks our hearts. Satan loves to see that happen.

How can we protect, maintain, or regain our personal spiritual and relational balance in such situations? One crucial step is to stop allowing those stressful relationships to dominate our thoughts. Let’s focus instead on the most vital relationship in life: our relationship with Yahweh, our Father in heaven (Philippians 4:8).

How can we refocus on Him? One way is to ponder the timeless truth revealed in the ancient names and descriptions of God that we see in the Scriptures. Here are several of His names and descriptions; may He soothe your heart today with these realities:

  • Are you being ignored, unnoticed by your grandchild? God is El Ro9570812857?profile=originali, “The Living One who sees me” – Genesis 16:6-14; Psalm 139:7-12.
  • Feeling alone, abandoned, or even rejected by your grandchild or their parent(s)?? He is Immanuel, “God with us” – Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23. 
  • Are you worried, anxious, or even depressed about your grandchild’s relationship with you or with God? “The Lord is my Shepherd” – Psalm 23:1-3; Philippians 4:4-8.
  • Are you frustrated, unable to heal that relationship? Brokenhearted? God is Jehovah-Rapha, “The Lord who heals” – Psalm 147:3.
  • Do you struggle with forgiving that grandchild who disappointed or offended you personally? Imitate the mercy, grace, and steadfast love of Jehovah – Exodus 34:4-7a; Luke 15:11-20.

What now? In the words of Romans 15:13 (ESV): “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

P.S. Does pondering these names of God encourage you? If so, then here’s another way to cultivate your legacy of spiritual influence on your grandkids when they need encouragement: Share one or more of these names of God with them!

(c) John C. Garmo

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Time Traveler

 9570807852?profile=originalGalilee Sunrise

My times are in your hands.

Psalm 31:15 NIV


I am the Timeless God—holiness to cancel yesterday’s sins.

     My grace transforms your down-on-yourself guilt into upbeat gladness.

     I have not rejected you—I have given you Christ’s righteousness.

     You are a sinner by nature—you do not deserve or merit My love.

     Jesus is perfect—He did not deserve what happened to Him at Calvary.

     Like Barabbas, it should have been you; instead, you are free.

     I am your forgiveness.


I am the Enough God—hiding place to calm today’s sorrows.

     I shelter you from accusing tongues, sustain you through distress,

          and save you from the addictive power of sin.

     I am your Time-out from the rat race and Anchor on high seas.

     When your daily schedule gets crazy and hectic, take a deep breath—

          breathe out worry about possibilities…breathe in worship;

          breathe out fear of contingencies…breathe in faith in My promises.

     I am your fortress.


I am the Unchanging God—hope to celebrate tomorrow’s surprises.

     In all the universe, I alone will always be who I have always been.

     I made promises I intend to keep—My faithfulness will not fail.

     Anticipate the ultimate fulfillment of My perfect plan—

          believe the overcast unknown will brighten in My time.

     Whatever change comes your way, rest assured I will keep My word.

     For the time being, rely on Me to lead you in honorable paths,

          rescue you from the evil one’s malicious strategies,

          and reinforce you to bravely move ahead.

     In your darkest times, keep believing in Light beyond light—

          follow your Guide across the fearful ravine to Tranquility Meadow.

     I am your future.


Count on My unchanging love to absolve your embarrassing past,

     accompany you on your journey, and guarantee your heavenly future.

Place yesterday, today and tomorrow in My hands—

     then you can enjoy the time of your life!



© Pastor Johnny R. Almond, Day 204 Gentle Whispers from Eternity

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The Unexpected Joys of Re-mission

Several weeks ago, my oncologist told me my cancer is in remission. Great news!

But then I realized I didn’t really know what “remission” means. While the dictionary says remission is “a temporary or permanent decrease or subsidence of manifestations of a disease,” I sensed there was a bigger and more profound message for me. Perhaps for you as well.

Yes, it’s certainly wonderful to gain remission from cancer. But I began to see that this is also an opportunity for something new and exciting to occur: a fresh start in my life’s mission. So I’ve begun to change the spelling to “re-mission.”

I’m convinced that nothing is more energizing than knowing what your God-given mission is. Yet sometimes it takes a crisis like cancer to jar us out of our comfort zone so we can rediscover that mission.

Hey, when you’re not sure how much longer you have to live, you are forced to prioritize your time and energy. Focus is needed. Distractions and diversions must go.

I love how the Bible says King David completed the work God set out for him” (Acts 13:36 MSG). What a remarkable tribute. I hope the same can be said of you and me some day.

For each of us, there’s a unique mission that must be completed before we die. When baby Jesus was presented in the Temple, one of the people who testified of His identity was Simeon. This prophetic man had already lived a long life, but the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah” (Luke 2:25-26 NLT).   

I get excited when I read Simeon’s story. Just as for him, there are certain things God wants to do in each of our lives before we pass into eternity.

Perhaps you’ve heard the renowned quote from William Barclay: “There are two great days in a person's life ­– the day we are born and the day we discover why.” As we head into 2020, I pray God will give us that kind of 20-20 vision. That kind of re-mission will reinvigorate us more than anything else can.

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The Name Above All Names

You are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matthew 1:21 NLT


Jesus means Joy—He saves from despair and hopelessness.

     Alexander conquered the world by force and was called great—

         Jesus captures hearts from all nations by love and is called God.

     In contrast to fleeting happiness, Immanuel gives invulnerable joy—

         His cross brings deep peace, His Presence inexpressible ecstasy.


Jesus means Everlasting Life—He saves from death and hell.

     Tutankhamen’s tomb was found treasure-filled, making him famous.

         Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty, making Him King of Eternity.

     Abundant life here and now, eternal life in the hereafter—

         grand duet of wonder brought to light by the Dayspring from on high

             who has visited your tilted planet.


Jesus means Separation—He saves from deceit and hypocrisy.

     The clear difference between heaven and hell, Christians and worldlings,

         is made by the One who died on the middle cross.

     At the name of Caesar, millions offered incense and called him lord.

     At Jesus’ Name, the universe will fall to its knees and call Him Master.

     His Name will be forever paramount in minds of those worshiping Me.


Jesus means Understanding—He saves from devastation and helplessness.

    The names of famous kings and fearful kingdoms all fade into oblivion,

        but Jesus’ incomparable Name increases in glory while ages roll on.

    When you feel like you are falling apart, Jesus holds you together—

        no one understands you, or stands under you, like He does.


Jesus means Salvation—He saves from self-destruction and homelessness.

    Charlemagne and Napoleon changed the face of the world by war—

        the King of hearts changes lives in time and eternity by His grace.

    Jesus saves you from sin’s addiction and makes My heart your home.

    My dream for you—and your destiny—is that you become like My Son.


Jesus is the most glorious and awesome Name—address Him reverently.


9570810865?profile=original© Pastor Johnny R. Almond, Day 305 Gentle Whispers from Eternity

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This Week’s Question: What are the underlying sins behind prejudice, discrimination, and isms like racism, sexism, and chauvinism?


Sin, in the Old Testament, was defined by the law (a series of dos and don’ts), and Israelites could not decide which rule, law, or command they adhered to. James reports, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).” Therefore, one had to follow God’s entire law to be deemed righteous. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, acknowledged He did not come to abolish the law (Matthew 5:17-20), but to fulfill it; and in doing so He established a new covenant by which mankind will be judged: Romans 14:23 teaches, “… for whatever is not from faith is sin.” This New Testament standard differs from the Old Testament in which sin was defined discreetly. Today, those who lack faith in the Godhead, Scripture, or God’s commandment to love – commit one (or more), of the following sins: lust, pride, or fear, which is the basis for this post.


I John 2:16-17 describes sin generally, “For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” John, in this passage, identifies three carnal sins: (1) Lust of the flesh; (2) Lust of the eyes; and (3) Pride. The motive behind lust is envy and one commits lust of the eyes when he/she covets (or desires) what does not belong to them. It may be money, power, possessions, or people (like another’s husband or wife). Whenever that which is coveted is dwelt upon (rather than relegating it to a fleeting thought), a sin is committed. Lust's inherent danger is it entices us to act immorally. Therefore, the commission of a lustful act (whether robbery, infidelity, or surrendering to a vice), is the sin John calls lust of the flesh. Unfortunately, strife (which is defined Biblically as “a partisan and fractious spirit which does not disdain low arts”), regularly accompanies envy in The Bible. James addresses the envy/strife tandem by saying, “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work (James 3:14-16).” Having a lustful heart, whether it is followed by action or not, is condemned by God.


The third sin espoused by John is pride of life which is defined Biblically as “an insolent and empty assurance, which trusts in its own power and resources and shamefully despises and violates divine laws and human rights.” Pride, in my opinion, is America’s greatest sin, and is a sin many must answer to when he/she comes before God’s judgment. Pride is the spirit that credits Christopher Columbus with discovering an inhabited land that resulted in Native Americans being decimated on their own soil. Pride is the spirit that initiated the slave-trade and relegates African-Americans to second-class citizenship, despite the fact that America’s foundation was built on the backs of this disenfranchised people! And pride is a pervasive spirit behind trumpism, nationalism, racism, sexism and every other ism that plagues Americans from all walks of life, and others around the world!


James 2:6 castigates a person who gives favorable treatment to a rich person because he/she is well dressed and accessorized (James 2:1-3)! James’ argument is the rich are the ones who oppress, sue, and blaspheme God’s Name. So the question is why do people of humble means cater to tormentors? The answer in one word is lust. The poor lust for the crumbs that can be thrown their way, while minimizing the pain inflicted upon them by the rich and powerful. This scenario may explain why poor whites, en masse, do not stand with African-Americans in their fight for civil rights – gains that, rightfully, would benefit them also! Poor whites, despite their poverty, acquiesce because they still command better jobs, better education, better healthcare, better housing, better prospects for rising above their station, etc., than their African-American counterparts. So the sin of lust is a primary motivator for kowtowing to the rich, but another is pride.


James 2:2-3 also describes that perpetrator treating a poor person with disdain, while verse 6 unequivocally states that he/she has contempt for that person. This scenario parallels the attitudes of white nationalists, other hate groups, and seems to be of the same ilk behind white privilege. Pride enables “privileged whites” to believe they are superior to non-whites (vis-à-vis, African-Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants), and condone inhumane treatment towards these, whom they consider, “pariahs.” Therefore, many rallied to the “make America great again,” campaign slogan, to bolster their power, whether real or perceived! The problem is even that slogan has a prideful undertone! In fact, it sounds very much like the attitude of King Nebuchadnezzar before God changed his heart to that of a beast (Daniel 4:30ff). It is interesting that before Nebuchadnezzar’s transformation, Daniel warned him by saying, “Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity (Daniel 4:27).” That same prideful spirit also caused the death of King Herod in Acts 12:21-23. Hopefully, this knowledge will be a wake-up call for anyone with a prideful heart who wants to do God’s will because “… God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

The sad reality is even poor whites may be tormented by the rich and powerful, but they, too, are tooled with an arsenal that includes torment, and use it against non-whites. The senseless Treyvon Martin killing, the inhumane treatment of border immigrants, and the steady proliferation of white nationalism are further evidences of sin cloaked in white pride and coupled with fear! John 4:18 teaches “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” To reiterate what was said in an earlier post, the sin of fear is a motive behind the inhumane treatment immigrants experience today; it is also a motive behind the hostility and rage African-Americans experienced during slavery which persists today; and is a motive behind the annihilation of America’s indigenous population. It has been projected that whites will become a minority, in America, which is contributing to the unfounded fear some whites in this nation are experiencing.


In conclusion, it can be proven that lust, pride, and fear are the sins behind other forms of discrimination like sexism, chauvinism, and homophobia. However, while John effectively described the sin, he also outlined the antidote for overcoming the sin. In I John 4:18 he states, “…But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” Love for one’s fellow- man or woman is the perfect antidote for overcoming the sin that so easily besets us: It draws Christ’s Disciples closer to God; It aligns our priorities with God’s priorities; It helps us to see others differently because we understand that we are all in this fight together; and It prepares a home in Gloryland that outshines the sun for Saints who overcome the destructive sins of lust, pride, and fear. James’ summation is this: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” The truth of the matter is love trumps hate!


Next Week’s Question: James 2:5 teaches that God has chosen the poor of this world? Why has He done so?


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The Powerful Message of #12 in the Bible

When someone recently posted on Facebook that the final full moon of the decade would occur this year on December 12 (12/12) at preciously 12:12 a.m. Eastern Time, I found myself getting really excited. Wow, what a rare occurrence:

My excitement had nothing to do with stargazing or astrology, but was simply because this unusual event reminded me of the amazing biblical significance of the number 12.

You see, when the number 12 occurs in the Bible, it generally represents ORDER and INCREASE—two things we all greatly need.

For example, order is shown by God’s instructions to arrange the Israelites according to 12 tribes and by Jesus’ selection of 12 original apostles. This theme extends all the way to the end of the book of Revelation, where the New Jerusalem is described as having 12 gates, guarded by 12 angels, with a wall that had 12 foundations (Revelation 21:12-14).

I’ve come to treasure God’s divine order, but it’s often elusive. I frequently find my life in disarray, much like the early creation: “without shape or form” (Genesis 1:2 CEB). At such times, I recognize my need for God’s Spirit to fill my heart and hover over my life, bringing His order to my time, relationships, priorities, and resources.

However, God’s order isn’t the only thing I need. I also need Him to give me His supernatural increase, for Psalm 115:14-15 says, “The Lord, who made heaven and earth”…wants to “give you increase more and more, you and your children.” Accordingly, I’m asking Him to multiply my resources so that I have more abundance at the end of the coming year than I do at its beginning.

Changing Our Perspective

One story in Scripture beautifully illustrates the different strands of the message. In Mark 6:34-44, Jesus and the 12 disciples confronted the same dilemma many Christian leaders face today: overwhelming needs but seemingly limited resources. The disciples logically concluded that they were unable to feed the hungry multitudes, so they should just “send them away” (v. 36).

Have you ever made a similar decision? I have, more times than I would like to admit.

Yet Jesus displayed an entirely different perspective on the apparently hopeless situation: “You give them something to eat,” He told the disciples (v. 37).

As the story continues, we see a fascinating progression of questions—the same thought processes we must use when we face difficult situations today:

  • What is the need? Sometimes we face a crisis in our own life, where we need God to bring His order and increase. More often, though, we’re called upon to remedy some need in the lives of others. This is what the disciples faced in Mark 6. From a human perspective, they evaluated the needs quite well, accurately calculating the immense amount of bread required to feed such a huge crowd.


  • What do we have? It’s important to realize that God although never requires what we don’t have, He expects us to freely surrender what we DO have. He can turn a simple shepherd’s staff into the rod of God…use the jawbone of a donkey to slay the enemy…or kill huge giants with a slingshot and a stone. So it’s no problem for Him to multiply loaves and fish. However, the miracle can’t begin until we put our resources—no matter how meager they may seem—into His outstretched hands.


  • Have we put things in order? It’s interesting that the disciples had to put things in ORDER before the INCREASE came: He commanded them [the disciples] to make them [the crowd] all sit down in groups on the green grass.So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties (vs. 39-40). If you’re waiting for your increase today, it may well be that God is waiting on you to first make the necessary preparations. Perhaps you remember the story in 2 Kings 3:16-20, where God told people that if they would first dig trenches in the valley, He would be faithful to fill the trenches with water.


  • Do we have our “baskets” ready? Often I hear believers say they’re expecting God to bless them with an increase, yet they’ve done absolutely nothing to demonstrate faith and expectancy for that kind of outcome. After Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes they had given Him, the disciples “picked up 12 full baskets of broken pieces” (v. 43). In the hands of Jesus, their paltry resources not only were enough to meet the need—they were MORE than enough. Friend, that’s what increase looks like. Rather than being like the Israelites’ hand-to-mouth existence while eating manna in the wilderness, it’s a life of overflowing abundance, a cup that “runs over” and blesses others (Psalm 23:5, Genesis 12:2).


The 12 disciples brought their resources to Jesus and made sure the massive crowd was put into order. The miraculous result was 12 full baskets of leftovers!

Do you see why I’m so excited about the number 12 and the message of

I pray today—for myself and for you—that we’ll allow the Spirit of God to order our lives according to His perfect plan. May we also put all of our resources into His hands, trusting Him to supernaturally bless and multiply them. Once we’ve done these two things, it’s time get our baskets ready for an INCREASE!

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What’s Holding Back DiscipleMaking?



What’s Holding Back DiscipleMaking?

What’s holding back the acceleration of disciplemaking movements around the world? Someone asked me this question recently and I thought hard about the answer. Here are some notes I took on some of the obstacles I see holding back the acceleration of disciplemaking movements around the world.

Lack of a reproducible process:

We need structures that can support a movement—simple, easy, reproducible ways to keep making disciples at a grassroots level. Without structures, even the most powerful movements of the Spirit fade over time and lose their apostolic edge. A good structure can come alongside people to keep the movement going forward. 

Becoming inwardly focused:

All disciplemaking movements begin with an outward focus—loving people and sharing their stories of faith. When those movements fade is often when they shift from an outward to an inward focus. We can help maintain an outward focus through coaching relationships where we ask each other questions about serving, using our gifts, and sharing our faith.

Lack of structures for compassion movements:

On the flipside, some movements can become so overly focused on external compassion ministries that they lose the heart of discipleship—the why for why we’re serving. When this happens, we have care ministries but with no disciplemaking going on. Discipleship leads to compassion and serving, but it doesn’t end there. By creating structures for both discipleship and compassion ministries, you can ensure they run alongside one another, both moving forward.

A relational approach to discipling younger leaders:

Although there currently seems to be a greater sense of interest in the discipleship of younger leaders, the approach taken with that needs to be more relational and personal. Younger leaders don’t want to be pressed into anyone else’s mold. They want to be developed to focus on what God has called them to do particularly. The only way to develop leaders in this way isn’t through classrooms, but through intentional relationships and real-life ministry experience.

What other obstacles do you see holding back disciplemaking?

Did you find this post helpful? Check out these resources:

The Discipleship Difference- This book lays out an intentional, holistic, and relational approach to discipleship that is individualized to meet each person wherever they are.

The Leadership Difference- This book focuses specifically on key leadership skills you need to be effective as a leader

Finding the Flow- This book helps small group leaders experience the power small groups have to allow members to wrestle with questions, create a space where people know and are known by others, and to open people up to encounter God more deeply.

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash


*This blog entry was first posted on loganleadership.com.

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This Week’s Question: Since prejudice was systemically built into the moral fabric of America, do you think Americans who tacitly or actively profited from that model (past, present, and future), will be damned eternally?


There should be little disagreement between true Disciples of Christ that those who were, are, or will be controlled by prejudice, and therefore discriminates against his/her brother or sister will be damned eternally, if he/she does not repent and experience transformation before death! Their discrimination may be based upon physical, mental, social, ethnic, or a host of other arbitrary characteristics. Discrimination, regardless of the motive, violates God’s moral code! But what about those who support prejudicial acts but does not participate? Or one who neither supports nor participates but still profits from discrimination? What destiny should they expect under God’s judgment?


Let’s confirm the presupposition above by dissecting I John 4:17-21. Verse 17 teaches, “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.” This verse confirms what Peter discovered when visiting Cornelius in Acts 10:34-35: God does not discriminate among people groups, and that pattern must be adhered to when we come under God’s judgment. John’s affirmation is the righteous, in God’s eyes, must personify Jesus when he says, “as He [Jesus] is, so are we.” According to John 3:16 God sent Jesus into the world, to save the world He loved, which confirms God does not discriminate since recipients of salvation are open-ended. A tactic, historically used by those who discriminate, is fearmongering which justifies their discriminatory actions. Mr. Trump uses that tactic today, and we saw it effectively used by Mr. Nixon and other world, national, and local leaders.


John challenges that strategy by exclaiming in I John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” Fear should be easily recognized as a motive behind the manufactured immigrant crisis facing America today, which has led to the inhumane treatment of immigrants. Fear also motivated the hostility and rage African-Americans endured during slavery which persists today. And fear also motivated the displacement and annihilation of Native Americans on their native soil. John linked fear to torment, and torment is the common thread that links these groups together. The great commandment teaches us to love God and our fellow man, but John argues that anyone who discriminates does not love authentically, and affirms that truth in verses 19-21: “We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” The net of this discussion is those whose actions reflect their prejudices are doomed to eternal destruction, but what about those who sit tacitly by while others do the dirty work?


Dr. King addresses that group in a quotes which says, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” John also speaks to that group in I John 3:15-18, which was cited in our last post. He writes, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” John, in this passage, equates those who are not moved by atrocities and remain tacit -- to murderers; and John categorically affirms that no murderer will receive eternal life. God’s Word unequivocally affirms that it is not okay to sit idly by, attribute blame to others, and wash our hands as if we played no part in this world’s denial of rights to others, due to our lack of participation! Anyone who believes he/she is standing up for Jesus, must also stand up for the rights of brothers and sisters who are discriminated against, even when their characteristics differ!


Finally, what about those who neither participates in nor condones discrimination, but still benefits from it? A popular saying is, “Love is what love does,” and John affirms the substance of that quote. Therefore, it is not sufficient to tell someone we love him or her, without also addressing their pressing needs, especially when it is within our power to do so! The question can be raised, where did John obtain his insight on this matter? The answer is straight from Jesus! Beginning in Matthew 25:34-36 Jesus teaches, “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’” When the righteous declared they had no recollection of ministering to Jesus in that way, Jesus replied in verse 40, "... ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” It is clear from Jesus’ teaching, the righteous are not those who love by words, but those who demonstrate his/her love with kind deeds.

In the same discourse Jesus castigates those who did not participate in prejudicial actions, but also did not fight for the needs of those who suffered when He said in verses 41-43, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’” Social ministry is not an optional service for Christ’s followers to choose to participate in or not. It is the very essence of our faith, and Disciples must actively address societal wrongs. Those who were sidelined in the Matthew 25 passage also had no recollection of seeing Jesus in need and not ministering to Him. Jesus cleared up that mystery in verses 45 and 46 when he says, “... ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."


According to Scripture, injustice should not be left for others to fight! It does not matter whether a person participates in prejudicial actions, remains sidelined while it occurs, or merely benefits from it. If he/she is not actively using his/her time, talent, and resources to fight for justice, when it is within his/her power to do so, that person will be forsaken by Jesus and sentenced to eternal damnation!

Next Week’s Question: What are the underlying sins behind prejudice, discrimination, and isms like racism, sexism, and chauvinism?

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A simple, successful ministry flow outline

9570816487?profile=originalRecently I was trying to think through the most simple way to represent what happens in successful ministry. What is the fewest number of things that need to happen for the basic ministry process to be complete?

Here’s are the seven elements I have so far:

Living and loving like Jesus

Followers of Jesus must live like Jesus, showing God’s love to others and doing the work of the Kingdom of God. This is the great commandment, and is foundational for everything else.

Inviting people to follow Jesus

Those who are following Jesus then invite others to follow him. This is the great commission.

Starting new believers in the faith

 New believers must be established in the faith through baptism and through community with other believers.

Growing as disciples while making disciples

All believers are both being discipled and discipling others. In this way, new believers grow, and those who have been in the faith longer also continue to grow.

Gathering in groups

Believers have always gathered together for encouragement, worship, and prayer. This is the commandment given in Hebrews 10.

Developing leaders for ministry

We need leaders to serve the church. Just as disciples develop other disciples, leaders develop other leaders.

Sending leaders to plant new churches

Some of those leaders then go on to reach out beyond the church and develop new communities of faith in new places, bringing Jesus to the next neighborhood and next people group.

I’d welcome your thoughts on this simple ministry flow. Is there anything I’m forgetting? Anything essential to the church that doesn’t fit under one of these categories?

*This post was first published on loganleadership.com.


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This Week’s Question: Does the Bible refer to prejudicial or discriminatory actions in Scriptures other than James? If so, where, and what is the context?


No other Biblical writer addresses prejudice or discrimination as comprehensively as James, but other books have nuggets to understand why prejudice and discrimination are anathema to God. Genesis 1:26a, and 27 are great verses for initiating this discussion, “Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness... So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” The truth is all men, women, and children are made in the likeness of God, so there is no justifiable basis for someone to treat, discriminatorily, another person with different physical or social characteristics.


Peter affirms that position in his visit to Cornelius, “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him’ (Acts 10:34-35).” Although Peter’s visit violated Jewish law, he was given clearance by the Holy Spirit to violate that law since Christ broke all walls of separation. Peter justified his visit by saying, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean (Acts 10:28).” It seems clear that these words apply to everyone and all circumstances both then and now. Therefore, any intentional discrimination is self-imposed, and pits the perpetrator against God.


Paul used Jesus’ kenosis as a model for others to emulate by declaring, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). To save a dying world, Jesus shed His divinity to become a servant which is contrary to many today who fight aggressively to maintain his/her power, prestige, and position. The problem is the privileges they may receive in this life will eventually be lost because according to Matthew 5:5, it is the meek who will inherit the Earth. The bottom-line is a person should not think too highly of him- or her-self, and should treat all others with respect, honor, and esteem.


John captures the essence of the problem of discrimination as the abandonment of love in several of his first epistle passages. In I John 2:9-11 he writes, “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves .his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” This proposition is frightening for “Christians” who discriminate because Jesus says (this is a paraphrase), when someone thinks he/she is walking in the light but are actually walking in darkness, how deep is that darkness (Matthew 6:23)?”


In I John 3:15-18 readers are challenged to put love into action when John writes, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” It is important that John equates someone who hates a brother or sister to a murderer, which does not bode well for purveyors of past, present or future discrimination. John also makes it very difficult for anyone who lives according to God’s moral code to remain ambivalent of injustice. John’s charge is to take sides with the needy!


Based upon these passages, more people need the love John wrote about, and the evidence of that love is more people would be engaged in fighting the social ills that have plagued America for hundreds of years. Among them are an ongoing fight for civil rights; immigrant rights domestically and at the border; climate change so the world our children inhabit is livable; and Native American rights since they are the only non-immigrants living in this country! Unfortunately, all that was rightfully theirs was stolen due to the greed, pride, and prejudice that are denounced by the above passages.

Next Week’s Question: Since prejudice was systemically built into the moral fabric of America, do you think Americans who tacitly or actively profited from that model (past, present, and future), will be damned eternally?

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This Week’s Question: From a Biblical perspective, what is prejudice or discrimination?

James 2:1-9 is a great passage for answering this question because it uses four Greek words to define prejudice from God’s perspective. The dictionary definition is “a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.” Using this definition as a backdrop, James, in Verse 1, warns against showing partiality or having respect of persons. The Greek word in that context is prosopolepsia, and means “the fault of one who when called on to give judgment has respect of the outward circumstances of man and not to their intrinsic merits, and so prefers, as the more worthy, one who is rich, high born, or powerful, to another who does not have these qualities.” This definition summarizes America’s perpetual discrimination which transmuted Native Americans into pariahs on their native resource-rich soil; systemically relegates African-Americans to second class citizenship; and explains why Mr. Trump proposes limiting America’s nouveau immigrant population to the skilled, while heartlessly incarcerating indigents.


In Verses 2 and 3 James gives an example of someone giving preferential treatment to a well-dressed person, while showing disdain to another dressed shabbily. The Greek word contextually is epiblepo, and means to look up to or have regard for someone. This definition explains why the American government extends exorbitant benefits to the rich, while simultaneously curtailing or threatening to curtail necessary social programs by arguing that it has no resources to continue serving its poor, disabled, and elderly population. Based upon political norms, one can easily conclude that America has the best government money can buy!


In Verse 4 James describes the fault behind prejudice as partiality. The Greek word contextually is diakrino, which means, “to separate, make a distinction, discriminate, or to prefer.” Another definition is, “to separate one's self in a hostile spirit, to oppose, strive with dispute, or contend.” These definitions sound very much like the impetus behind America’s Civil Rights movement, which was a fight, led by African-Americans, for equal social rights. It also explains why Muslims (domestically and internationally), are under heightened scrutiny by America’s governmental agencies.


James sums up this partiality discussion in Verse 9 by categorically declaring that anyone who is partial toward others commits sin! The Greek word in that context is prosopolepteo, which means to respect the person (in reality it means respecting or discriminating against a person because of external characteristics). Unfortunately, almost 250 years after the following Declaration of Independence words were penned: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” From God’s perspective, the sobering reality (based upon American History), is these words are merely an empty phrase penned on parchment, and many discriminators who defied these self-evident truths by their discriminatory actions, have hell to pay since the wages of sin is death (see Romans 6:23)!


Next Week’s Question: Does the Bible refer to prejudicial or discriminatory actions in Scriptures other than James? If so, where, and what is the context?

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What Investment Strategy are You Pursuing?


My evangelism team consisting of myself, a nine-year-old boy, a PhD student, and a former gang member who spent 15 years in prison. We approached a young lady trying to get her wiggly 2-year-old into the car. After small talk, bending down and introducing myself to Carter, I asked, “How can I pray for you?” She mentioned a friend. We prayed. I shared my testimony in 90 seconds. She listened. Noticing she was in a rush, I asked, “Do you have a Bible?” She said, “No!” “Would you like a Bible?” “Yes!” After mentioning someone from the church could deliver a Bible, she gave me her address and phone number. During this time, my other team members prayed for two people. 

My team was part of an effort to help a church 50 miles away to move outside the four walls. Two months ago, we spent two Wed. nights training in basic gospel conversations, including role play. Three weeks ago, five teams took to the streets. Three weeks later on a Sat. morning, we trained them in the priority of prayer. Two people at a time paired up to role play the gospel before we hit the streets to pray and share the gospel.

In one hour of time, a person trusted Christ as Savior in a park. The pastor’s wife prayed with a formerly homeless, young mother whose 8-year-old child has cancer. She lives next to the pastor’s wife’s sister. This lady wants to visit the church. The various teams prayed with three people who had or knew people with cancer.

The pastor’s wife shared with me that formerly uninvolved church members joined us in praying and sharing the gospel in the streets these past two times.      

In contrast, people spend much time and energy preparing and earning a living. The rich man went to the finest schools and found success. He had a fine house, servants and enjoyed life. He reached the pinnacle in making a living, but did he learn how to live? What’s your investment strategy for maximum reward?   

  1. Discern most strategic kingdom opportunities

Jesus told a parable about a rich man who asked his steward to give an account after squandering his master's possessions. The steward made each of his master's debtors pay off a fraction of the oil and wheat owed. The master praised the unrighteous steward because he acted shrewdly.  “The sons of this age are shrewder in relation to their own kind than the sons of light." (Luke 16:1-8). Discern most strategic kingdom opportunities.

  1. Invest resources to make friends in heaven

Christ said to make friends using riches. When it fails, they will receive you into eternal dwellings. He who’s faithful in a little is faithful in much. He who’s unrighteous in a little thing is unrighteous in much. God won't entrust spiritual riches unless you've been faithful with money. No servant can serve two masters for either he will hate the one and love the other or hold to one and despise the other. No one can serve God and money
(Luke 16:9-13). Invest your time, talent and treasure to make friends in heaven.

  1. Seek the application of God's word

The Pharisees who loved money scoffed at Jesus since they justified themselves before men. God knows your heart for what’s highly esteemed among men is detestable in His sight. The Law and Prophets were proclaimed until John. The preached word brings people into the kingdom of God. Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery. He who marries a divorcee commits adultery
(Luke 16:14-18). Seek the application of God's word more than recognition from men.

  1. Help people avoid eternal punishment

A rich man lived in splendor every day. Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, longed to be fed with crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. The poor man died and went to Abraham's bosom. The rich man died and went to Hades with agony in flames. He cried for mercy so Lazarus could dip the tip of this finger in water to cool off his tongue. Abraham said he received the good things of life and Lazarus the bad things. The latter is being comforted but not the rich man. A great chasm prevents anyone from crossing over. The rich man asked Father Abraham to warn his five brothers about torment in Hades. Abraham said if they don't listen to Moses and the Prophets, someone rising from the dead won’t persuade them either (Luke 16:19-31). 
Help people avoid eternal punishment by sharing God’s word on how to reach heaven.

Action Step:

Invest my time, talents and treasure for eternal reward to help people enter heaven and grow spiritually.


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This Week’s Question: There should be little disagreement that discrimination remains a part of the social fabric of America, so what are the underlying problems with showing partiality or favoritism, as commanded by James in James 2:1-9?

According to James there are several problems associated with showing favoritism! Nevertheless, the favoritism James describes is not based upon an affinity one person has towards another because of one’s personal knowledge or an interpersonal relationship. Instead it is based upon a prejudicial attitude toward another person’s physical characteristics, which in this case is attire and jewelry (or lack thereof which is discrimination). However, the favoritism could have, just as easily, been precipitated by one’s gender, ethnicity, vocabulary, native language, citizenship, or a host of other factors. When physical factors are the sole basis for how one person treats another, James calls the offending party a judge with evil thoughts (see verse 2:4), and the Bible teaches “Judge not, that you be not judged (see Matthew 7:1).”


The second reason for not showing favoritism is a person’s actions may pit him/her against God. James teaches in verse 2:5, “…Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” Therefore, James identifies the poor who are rich in faith, as God’s chosen people. Thus anyone who offends anyone within that group, especially when the offended party does not retaliate, has to face God’s vengeance according to Romans 12:19-21, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”


The third and final reason James offers for not showing favoritism is it violates God’s law. Verses 8-9 teach, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” Being labeled a sinner or transgressor by God is not a badge of honor, because Scripture teaches, “the wages of sin is death… (see Romans 6:23).”

Thus, in the final analysis, showing favoritism, irrespective of one’s motive, is dangerous because it is a sin fueled by lust, pride, or fear (to be explained more fully in a future post), and pits the offending party against God for one of three possible reasons: (1) Being an evil judge; (2) Offending God’s chosen people; or (3) Forsaking the law of love. Finally, regardless of the underlying reason one shows favoritism, he/she has “hell to pay” when they come before God’s judgment seat!

Next Week’s Question: From a Biblical perspective, what is prejudice or discrimination?

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