Peace On Earth

This past Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent for 2022 leading up to Christmas Day. Several years ago I purchased a small book of Advent readings titled, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy (2014), by John Piper, an American Calvinist Baptist pastor and author; founder and leader of desiringGod.org; and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. This book of 25 devotionals “helps readers refocus and meditate on the one thing that makes the Christmas season worth celebrating: the birth of Jesus, Israel’s long-awaited Messiah” (quote source here). At the conclusion of the book, he focuses on the importance of peace, and finding it in the “Three Relationships of Peace” (pp. 88-92):

My great desire for you this Christmas is that you enjoy this peace [peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace with others]. We know that there are global aspects to this peace that lie in the future when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). When, as Isaiah says, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7).

But Jesus has come to inaugurate that peace among God’s people. And there are three relationships in which he wants you to pursue this peace and enjoy this peace. Peace with God. Peace with your own soul. And peace with other people, as much as it lies with you.

And by peace, I mean not only the absence of conflict and animosity but also the presence of joyful tranquility, and as much richness of interpersonal communication as you are capable of.

So let’s look at each of these three peaceful relationships briefly and make sure you are enjoying as much as you can. The key to each of them is not to separate what the angels kept together: the glory of God and the peace you long for. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace.”

Peace with God

The most basic need we have is peace with God. This is foundational to all our pursuits of peace. If we don’t go here first, all other experiences of peace will be superficial and temporary.

The key passage here is Romans 5:1: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith [there’s the pivotal act of believing], we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Justified” means that God declares you to be just in his sight by imputing to you the righteousness of Jesus.

And he does that by faith alone: “Since we have been justified by faith” (Rom. 5:1). Not by works. Not by tradition. Not by baptism. Not by church membership. Not by piety. Not by parentage. But by faith alone. When we believe in Jesus as the Savior and the Lord and the supreme treasure of our lives, we are united to him and his righteousness is counted by God as ours. We are justified by faith.

And the result is peace with God. God’s anger at us because of our sin is put away. Our rebellion against him is overcome. God adopts us into his family. And from now on all his dealings with us are for our good. He will never be against us. He is our Father and our friend. We have peace. We don’t need to be afraid anymore. This is foundational to all other peace.

Peace with Ourselves

And because we have peace with God because of being justified by faith, we can begin to grow in the enjoyment of peace with ourselves–and here I include any sense of guilt or anxiety that tends to paralyze us or make us hopeless. Here again, believing the promises of God with a view to glorifying God in our lives is key.

Philippians 4:6-7 is one of the most precious passages in this regard: “Do not be anxious about anything [the opposite of anxiety is peace], but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God [in other words, roll your anxieties onto God]. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The picture here is that our hearts and our minds are under assault. Guilt, worries, threats, confusions, uncertainties–they all threaten our peace. And Paul says the God wants to “guard” our hearts and minds. He guards them with his peace. He guards them in a way that goes beyond what human understanding can fathom–“which surpasses all understanding.”

Don’t limit the peace of God by what your understanding can see. He gives us inexplicable peace, supra-rational peace. And he does it when we take our anxieties to him in prayer and trust him that he will carry them for us (1 Peter 5:7and protect us.

When we do this, when we come to him–and remember we already have peace with him!–and trust him as our loving and almighty heavenly Father to help us, his peace comes to us and steadies us and protects us from the disabling effects of fear and anxiety and guilt. And then we are able to carry on, and our God gets the glory for what we do because we trusted him.

Do that this Christmas. Take your anxieties to God. Tell him about them. Ask him to help you. To protect you. To restore your peace. And then to use you to make peace.

Peace with Others

The third relationship in which God wants us to enjoy his peace is in our relationships with other people. This is the one we have least control over. So we need to say it carefully the way Paul does in Romans 12:18. He says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

For many of you, when you get together with family for Christmas, there will be some awkward and painful relationships. Some of the pain is very old. And some of it is new. In some relationships you know what you have to do, no matter how hard it is. And in some of them you are baffled and don’t know what the path of peace calls for.

In both cases the key is trusting the promises of God with heartfelt awareness of how he forgave you through Christ. I think the text that puts this together most powerfully for me again and again is Ephesians 4:31-32: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Continually cultivate a sense of amazement that in spite of all your sins, God has forgiven you through Christ. Be amazed that you have peace with God. It’s this sense of amazement–that I, a sinner, have peace with God–that makes the heart tender, kind, and forgiving. Extend this to others seventy times seven.

It may be thrown back in your face. It certainly was thrown back in Jesus’ face on the cross. That hurts, and it can make you bitter if you are not careful. Don’t let it. Keep being more amazed that your wrongs are forgiven than that you are wronged. Be amazed that you have peace with God. You have peace with your soul. Your guilt is taken away.

Keep trusting God. He knows what he is doing. Keep his glory–not your success or your effectiveness in peacemaking or your relationships–supreme in the treasure chest of your heart.

And then you will be like the angels: Glory to God in the highest is the first thing. Peace among his people is the second thing.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” This is why he came–on a day, to a city, as a Savior, Messiah, and Sovereign. That God would get glory and that you would know peace. May the God of peace give you peace and get his glory. (Quote source: “The Dawning of Indestructible Joy,” pp. 88-92.)

Of the “three relationships of peace,” mentioned above, perhaps the most difficult is the third–peace with others, at which point Dr. Piper mentions the words of Paul found in Romans 12:18: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (NIV).

In a blog post published on April 8, 2015,  titled, Romans 12:18,” by Zec, who at the time of publication described herself as “a 25-year-old female protestant Christian, a second-generation Christian, born and bred in a Presbyterian Church,” she offers the following analysis on Romans 12:18:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you–the first thing this line should tell anyone is the fact that it is not always possible and it doesn’t always depend on you. As much as it is ideal, Paul knows that we are limited. We can neither control others, nor can we control our very own circumstances. As such, we can only look at ourselves and do what we can do. We’re not asked to do the impossible. We’re not asked to change others. But if it is possible, let us do it with a fair measure of humility. If we find ourselves in a position that we can influence, let us influence. If we possess the power or the ability to change something, then, without compromising what is right, let us do it.

There are many examples, aren’t there?

In Matthew 5:23-24 it says–Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Jesus was teaching about how it was important that reconciliation with men had nothing to do with the religious acts that they performed. It’s just like in Job 42, where the Lord first demanded reconciliation between Job and his three friends before he went ahead to bless Job. Is reconciliation something that depends on us? Not exactly–but if we would only swallow down our pride and initiate the reconciliation, sincerely, then we are doing what we can. Whether the reconciliatory efforts are appreciated or not, that doesn’t depend on us.

Even if we fail to reconcile, or even if reconciliation was impossible due to the unwillingness of the other party, let us not increase our bitterness and deepen the hostility by exacting revenge. Indeed, Romans 12:18 is sandwiched between two important verses that warns us against vengeance–in Romans 12:17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. In Romans 12:19Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Live at peace–do you live at peace? Can you say with certainty that you are at peace with the people around you? This is an age-old teaching, an age-old concept:

    • Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it [Psalm 34:14]
    • Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy [Proverbs 12:20]
    • You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you [Isaiah 26:3]
    • Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other [1 Thessalonians 5:13]
    • Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful [Colossians 3:15]
    • Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace [Ephesians 4:3]
    • Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart [2 Tim 2:22]
    • Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord [Hebrews 12:14]

What is peace? And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [Phil 4:7|Article]. I’ve always felt that this verse alone more than adequately defines the Biblical peace, the peace that Jesus left us [John 14:27]. The instruction is clear–Christ left us peace, so let us live in peace, pursue peace, promote peace, letting this peace rule in our hearts because we were called to it.

With everyone–or at least, everyone around us, whom we interact with. In our families, with our parents, our spouses, our children–our natural relations, those whom we interact with most. This is perhaps, for some people, hardest. Spiritually, in our churches, with our leaders, our co-workers, our fellow members of the congregation. As much as churches often seem to put on a veil of perfection on the outside, there is often a lot of strife inside churches–this has been true since the early church era. If we live without peace, perhaps this will be our ending–If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other [Gal 5:15|Article]. In our marketplaces, with our employers, our employees, our clients and our contractors. In our schools, our teachers, our counsellors, our students. In our community, with our neighbors near and far. The list goes on.

This is a verse that I hold on to very dearly in my interactions with others, especially in situations that I am not comfortable with. It forces me to adopt a different perspective than what I’m usually inclined to, or what the world and my survival instincts teaches me to. Do you think it is hard? Well, it is–without a doubt. Often you may lose out, often you may be taken advantage of. Let us just bear in mind the first part of this verse–if it is possible, as far as it depends on you. At times, it may be easier to take the peaceful way out, and keep quiet, shut up, and move on. But even as we seek peace, let us seek the peace that is not of this world but of Christ–the peace that Jesus Christ left us, the peace that transcends human understanding. Let us not compromise the truths of the gospel, the edification of others, or the glorification of God in order to achieve peace. That would be very much defeating the purpose of what the Bible preaches about peace.

Otherwise, let us do our best, and live at peace. (Quote source and the rest of her article are available at this link.)

These are wise words to consider from both authors as we navigate this season of Advent, Christmas and the upcoming New Year of 2023. I’ll end this post with the words from Romans 12:18 (NIV): If it is possible…

As far as it depends on you . . .

Live at peace . . .

With everyone . . . .

YouTube Video: “Glory (Let There Be Peace)” by Matt Maher:

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New Mercies Every Morning

This morning I woke up with an old hymn running through my mind. The hymn is titled, Great Is Thy Faithfulness (YouTube video below) which is taken from Lamentations 3:22-23 (KJV):

It is of the Lord‘s mercies
that we are not consumed,
because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning:
Great is thy faithfulness.

This hymn was written as a poem by Thomas Chisholm (1866-1960), an American hymnwriter, poet, and Methodist minister (see post titled, Great Is Thy Faithfulness published on October 10, 2019). The music was composed by William Runyan (1870-1957), a Christian composer, professor, and Methodist minister.

My childhood church. It was struck by lightening and torn down in 1983.

Singing the old hymns often takes me back to my childhood and the church I attended from the time I was born until the early 1980’s. My attendance was sporadic in my 20’s as I was in the Army for a while, and I also attended a college in another state for a year before I attended a two-year college for two years where I received an A.A. degree. I stopped attending the church on a regular basis when my mom died in early 1983, and I moved to another city in the fall of 1983 to attend a state university to finish my bachelor’s degree (which I completed in 1985). The original church building (see pic) no longer exists, and the church relocated in 1983 to a much larger facility. The original building was struck by lightening in 1983 and torn down after they had already relocated to the larger facility, and today there is a senior apartment complex on the land where the original church was located.

Sometimes it seems like a hundred years ago since I attended that church. I moved away from the state where it was located over 30 years ago. The original church building was a really cool old building built in the early 20th Century, and it is where my parents were married in 1948. At the ripe old age of 10, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior when a traveling evangelist visited our church, and I was baptized (full immersion) in the baptismal pool at the front of the main sanctuary when I was 12, which was the youngest age allowed by the church to be baptized. And later, I sang alto in the choir, and I was involved in several musical productions at Christmas and Easter.

Back when I was a kid the only worship music we sang were the grand old hymns that are still around today. There was no contemporary Christian worship music back then, and a brief history shows that contemporary Christian worship music (CWM) arrived on the scene back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The following information comes from a dissertation titled, A Beautiful Noise: A History of Contemporary Worship Music in Modern America,” by Wen Reagan (2015), Duke University:

How did rock and roll, the best music for worshipping the devil, become the finest music for worshipping God? This study narrates the import of rock music into church sanctuaries across America via the rise of contemporary worship music (CWM). While white evangelicals derided rock n’ roll as the “devil’s music” in the 1950s, it slowly made its way into their churches and beyond over the next fifty years, emerging as a multi-million dollar industry by the twenty-first century.

In the 1970s, the Jesus People movement anchored in Southern California, adopted the music of the counterculture to attract hippies to church. In the early 1980s, the Vineyard Fellowship combined rock forms with lyrics that spoke of God in the second person in order to facilitate intimate worship with the divine. In the late 1980s, the church growth movement embraced CWM as a tool to attract disaffected baby boomers back to church. By the 1990s, these three motivations had begun to energize an entire industry built around the merger between rock and worship. (Quote source here.)

Once contemporary Christian worship music started arriving on the scene when I was in my late teens, I ended up liking both styles of worship (contemporary and the hymns). I still love the old hymns as I grew up on them, and some of them have incredible background stories that go along with them, like Amazing Grace.” In the case of Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” the history of that song includes how it became a part of the Billy Graham crusades (between 1947 and 2005 they conducted 417 crusades in 185 countries and territories on six continents–source here), which gave the hymn international recognition (see this link).

As far as my personal love for the hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” I’ve been alive long enough now (seven decades) to be able to look back and see, from the very beginning of my life right up to today, just how faithful God has been to me in the best of times and the worst of times, and everywhere in between. And regarding the “everywhere in between,” on November 1, 2022, I published a blog post on my main blog titled, A Month of Gratitude,” which deals with acquiring a grateful heart in the midst of living in perplexing times by starting off each day by praying “Thank You, God.” Near the end of that post I wrote:

If you are perhaps in need of overcoming some type of anxiety that you’ve prayed about for a long time but still with no resolution, why not join me in a month of saying “Thank you, God” at the start of every morning with praise and gratitude, and leave the rest with him regarding the situation you are seeking some kind of resolution for. After all, He knows us better then we know ourselves (see Psalm 139).

This is probably why the hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” entered my thoughts this morning when I first woke up as I’ve been starting each morning since November 1st thanking God first, and I plan to continue thanking God first every morning when I first wake up long after the month of November has ended.

I’ll end this post with the words from the chorus of Great is Thy Faithfulness”: Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed…

Thy hand hath provide . . .

Great is Thy faithfulness . . .

Lord, unto me . . . .

YouTube Video: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by Austin Stone Worship:

YouTube Video: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by Carrie Underwood ft. CeCe Winans: 

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For the Sake of Argument

I tend to run in the opposite direction from most types of arguments. I simply refuse to get into the middle of it. It is also why I do not talk about politics or religion with hardly anyone, especially in work settings when I was still working, and in secular settings. I hate it when the volume gets turned up and the heat rises, too. Nobody wins in those types of arguments, or they win by bashing their opponent into the ground. So, nope, I just won’t go there.

However, it’s not that I don’t like a good debate on occasion. Now you may be wondering what the difference is between a debate and an argument since they often sound like one and the same thing. So what is the difference between the two?

In an article published on YourDictionary.com titled, No Argument, There’s a Difference Between Argue and Debate,” by Michele Meleen, editor, author, and staff writer at YourDictionary.com, she writes:

Debates and arguments are two types of discussions. And, you could debate or argue all day about how they are the same thing or entirely different. Let’s settle the debate once and for all with an in-depth look at what “debate” means and what “argument” means.

Debatecan be a noun or a verb, but to compare it with “argument,” let’s stick with the noun form. It comes from the Old French word “debatre,” which means “to fight or contend.” It is defined as a: “Formal discussion of the opposing sides of a specific subject.”

The wordargumentis always a noun. It comes from the classical Latin “argumentum,” which means “evidence or proof.” It is defined as: “A reason or reasons why you are for or against something.”

An argument is a part of a debate, which is the whole. In other words, a debate is made up of a bunch of arguments and counter arguments. Arguments are the proof needed to have the debate, or to discuss the opposing points of view.

In their common use, a debate is considered more formal than an argument. However, a debate can be informal and an argument can be formal. Looking at examples of these two words can help you better understand what makes them different.

Most people think of an argument as a yelling match or negative discussion. Any two or more people can engage in an argument any place, any time. There are really no rules for an informal argument. Informal arguments are often negative and involve a disagreement:

    • The couple got into an argument about how much money to spend on their vacation.
    • Talking about religion at Thanksgiving always leads to a family argument.

A debate can also be informal, although this is the less common use of the noun. An informal debate can take place anytime, anywhere, like an argument, but an informal debate is usually more civil than an informal argument:

    • My dad and I had a debate about the death penalty at dinner last week.
    • Can this abortion debate wait for another time, not at this birthday party?

A formal debate is a scheduled event that involves specific debate rules and enforcement of those rules:

    • The presidential debate will be on Channel 2 tonight.
    • Our high school team won the national debate.
    • The Senate is having a debate about whether to pass the new bill.

A formal argument is part of a debate and it needs to include supporting details so it is more than just one person’s opinion:

    • Please present your argument for closing migrant detention centers.
    • What evidence do you have to support your argument?
    • The argument you make in this essay is very compelling.

“Debate” and “argument” have many other synonyms since each is another word for “discuss.” It can be confusing trying to figure out which word to use. Check out some simple explanations of what other discussion words mean to help you decide.

Argument vs. Persuasion: Argument includes evidence to back up your point. Persuasion is your belief or opinion, or it can be the act of convincing someone to agree with you.

Argument vs. Disagreement: Arguments can be heated, but they make a point that isn’t necessarily contested. Disagreements are often heated and imply a difference of opinion.

Debate vs. Forum: A debate is a discussion. A forum is a place to have a discussion.

Discussion vs. Debate vs. Argument: Debates and arguments are types of discussions that exchange opposing views.

Conversation vs. Debate vs. Argument: Debates and arguments are types of conversations if they are spoken.

Fight vs. Debate vs. Argument: A fight is a conflict, whereas debates and arguments are exchanges of views that can be civil.

Settle the Debate: Now that you’ve seen the arguments about how “debate” and “argument” differ, the debate on how to use them is settled. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on FS.blog (Farnam Street Media, Inc.)–described as “Brain Food. A weekly newsletter packed with timeless insights and actionable ideas from a wide range of disciplines”-titled, The Ten Golden Rules of Argument” (it is a 4-minute read you can access at this link), here is a list of the ten golden rules and you can read the definitions of each at this link):

  1. Be prepared.
  2. When to argue, when to walk away.
  3. What you say and how you say it.
  4. Listen and listen again.
  5. Excel at responding to arguments.
  6. Watch out for crafty tricks.
  7. Develop the skills of arguing in public.
  8. Be able to argue in writing.
  9. Be great at avoiding deadlock.
  10. Maintain relationships.

No matter what we call it (whether we call it an argument, a debate, or a fight), there is often a need for conflict resolution. As Christians (for those of us who consider ourselves to be Christians), conflict resolution involves actions and attitudes taken from a Biblical perspective. GotQuestions.org provides the following information on conflict resolution from a Biblical perspective:

Conflict resolution in the body of Christ is crucial for several reasons. Avoidance of conflict, with no effort to resolve it, postpones a proper response and exacerbates the problem because conflicts that are allowed to fester unaddressed will always increase and have negative effects on relationships within the body. The goal of conflict resolution is unity, and unity in the church poses a threat to the devil who will use every opportunity to take advantage of unresolved issues, especially those involving anger, bitterness, self-pity, and envy. These emotions are involved in most church conflicts. Scripture tells us that we’re to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from [us], along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Failure to obey this command results in division in the body of Christ and grief to the Holy Spirit. We’re also told not to allow a “root of bitterness” to spring up among us, leading to trouble and defilement (Hebrews 12:15). Clearly, a biblical method of conflict resolution is needed.

The New Testament has multiple commands to believers that are demonstrative of living at peace with one another. We are repeatedly instructed to love one another (John 13:34Romans 12:10), to live in peace and harmony with one another (Romans 15:5Hebrews 12:14), to settle our differences among ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:11), to be patient, kind, and tenderhearted toward one another (1 Corinthians 13:4), to consider others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3), to bear one another’s burdens (Ephesians 4:2), and to rejoice in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). Conflict is the antithesis of Christian behavior as outlined in Scripture.

There are times when, despite all efforts to reconcile, various issues prevent us from resolving conflict in the church. There are two places in the New Testament that clearly and unambiguously address conflict resolution where sin is involved. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus gives the steps for dealing with a sinning brother. According to this passage, in the event of conflict involving overt sin, we are to address it one-on-one first, then if still unresolved it should be taken to a small group, and finally before the whole church if the problem still remains.

The other passage where this is addressed explicitly is Luke 17. In verses 3-4, Jesus says, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” An essential part of conflict resolution is forgiveness. Any kind of disciplinary procedure should always have restoration of the sinning person as the ultimate goal.

Sometimes conflict has to do with style preferences or personality clashes more so than it has to do with sin, per se. In such cases, we do well to check our own motives and remember to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3–4). If we do have a genuine disagreement with someone over stylistic preferences—the best way to accomplish a certain ministry goal, the church budget, how a church service should flow, etc.—we should engage in discussion and come to mutual agreement. In Philippians 4:2–3, Paul pleads for Euodia and Syntyche “to be of the same mind in the Lord” and for others to help them. We must humble ourselves to truly listen to one another, striving for peace within the body (Romans 12:1618). We should also seek God’s wisdom and direction (James 1:5). It is true that sometimes it is best to part ways in recognition that God has different calls on our lives. But we should do our best never to divide in anger.

The reason conflict resolution is so difficult is that we’re hesitant to place ourselves in uncomfortable situations. We’re also frequently unwilling to humble ourselves enough to admit that we might be wrong or to do what it might take to make amends if we are wrong. Those who do conflict resolution best are often those who would prefer not to confront others about their sin, but still do so out of obedience to God. If the matter is relatively minor, it may be that the best thing to do is to practice forbearance and overlook the offense (Proverbs 19:11). If it cannot be overlooked, one must pursue reconciliation. This is such an important issue to God that peace with Him and peace with others are inextricably entwined (Matthew 5:23–24). (Quote source here.)

Al Lopus, Cofounder & Board Chair of Best Christian Workplaces Institute, offers these 5 Tips to Resolve Conflict.” He writes about conflict resolution in the workplace, but these five tips are good in any type of conflict situation. Here are his five tips:

(1) Inquire

Before engaging in conflict resolution, ask yourself these two questions:

    • “What is my personal communication style?”(Assertive? Straightforward? Win-win?)

Now, ask yourself:

    • “What is my conflict style?” (Avoidance?  Victim mentality?  Passive-aggressive? Win at all costs?) Increased self-awareness on both levels can help you create a productive approach to conflict that is responsibly direct.

(2) Pause (and pray)

There’s wisdom in the old adage, “First, count to ten.” When we’re angry or stressed, our best thoughts are crowded out, and our thinking isn’t sharp. Bob Hostetler writes in Guideposts:

“If you’ve ever read much in the Psalms, the prayer book and hymnal of ancient Israel, you’ve come across a word that gives many Bible scholars pause. Literally. The word is ‘selah.’ It occurs frequently in the Psalms. . . .Whatever ‘selah’ meant to ancient Israelites, it can be a part of your prayer life. You can turn pauses into prayer.”

(3)  Reflect

A pause moment, and your prayer,  offers you the gift to reflect and consider:

    • What really happened?
    • What was my part in the conflict?
    • What could God be teaching me?
    • Is there a Scripture that addresses my situation?
    • What could be the other person’s reason for disagreeing?
    • What would it look like to either confront, extend grace—or do both? 

The tipping point of successful conflict resolution is to ask yourself, “Am I able to make a deliberate decision to forgive the other person, even if they created significant losses and grief in my life?” This is an opportunity for you to make sure God has spoken into the conflict.

(4) Reach out

True resolution comes to life as you take responsibility for your part in the conflict and listen to the other party: I know you’re upset, and I’m ready to apologize if you’re ready to talk about this.” Be mindful that the other person may need more time to process the situation. Be patient. More than hoping to be understood, seek to understand the other person.

(5) Submit

Leaders are stewards of their organizations. In light of our inevitable workplace disagreements, stewardship demands we address conflict head-on. May we have the courage to be open to the question James asks: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” (James 4:1). Our answer can strengthen our resolve to seek and submit to the One “who yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us” (James 4:5). (Quote source here.)

There will always be conflicts popping up in our lives and in our world. James 4 provides us with information on what is often the cause behind our conflicts. I’ll end this post with the words from the Apostle Paul found in Romans 12:18 that include some of the best advice we can get when it comes to conflict resolution. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you…

Live . . .

At peace . . .

With everyone . . . .

YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by Toby Mac:

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Running the Race

The other morning I read a devotional that started off with Hebrews 12:1-3. Those verses from the NIV state the following:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

The author of the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament is unknown, but it is often attributed to the Apostle Paul. In an article titled, Who Authored the Bible Book of Hebrews: Paul, Luke, James, Priscilla and Aquila, Silos, Apollos, Barnabas, or Clement of Rome?” by Edward D. Andrews, CEO and President of Christian Publishing House, and author of 180 books, he states the following in his introduction to his article:

Who is the author of the Book of Hebrews? Why does it really matter, if the book is canonical, authoritative and inspired? The book was not signed, and so there have been many suggestions over the centuries. This article will provide evidence that the author of the book of Hebrews is, in fact, the Apostle Paul. To be quite frank at the outset, there is no absolute determinate evidence for any suggested author, even Paul. However, we do not live in an absolute world. God is absolute and the Word of God in the original is absolute. It seems that most researchers that address this appear to offer just a few suggestions to live with the belief that it is best to say that we do not know. Having gotten that out of the way, I view biblical evidence like a criminal court views the level needed for a decision. Let us take a moment to consider just that. (Quote source and the rest of his article are available at this link.)

GotQuestions.org provides a summary of the Book of Hebrews at this link. The following information is part of that summary:

Brief Summary: The Book of Hebrews addresses three separate groups: believers in Christ, unbelievers who had knowledge of and an intellectual acceptance of the facts of Christ, and unbelievers who were attracted to Christ, but who rejected Him ultimately. It’s important to understand which group is being addressed in which passage. To fail to do so can cause us to draw conclusions inconsistent with the rest of Scripture.

The writer of Hebrews continually makes mention of the superiority of Christ in both His personage and in His ministering work. In the writings of the Old Testament, we understand the rituals and ceremonies of Judaism symbolically pointed to the coming of Messiah. In other words, the rites of Judaism were but shadows of things to come. Hebrews tells us that Christ Jesus is better than anything mere religion has to offer. All the pomp and circumstance of religion pales in comparison to the person, work, and ministry of Christ Jesus. It is the superiority of our Lord Jesus, then, that remains the theme of this eloquently written letter.

Connections: Perhaps nowhere in the New Testament does the Old Testament come into focus more than in the Book of Hebrews, which has as its foundation the Levitical priesthood. The writer to the Hebrews constantly compares the inadequacies of the Old Testament sacrificial system to the perfection and completion in Christ. Where the Old Covenant required continual sacrifices and a once-a-year atonement for sin offered by a human priest, the New Covenant provides a once-for-all sacrifice through Christ (Hebrews 10:10) and direct access to the throne of God for all who are in Him.

Practical Application: Rich in foundational Christian doctrine, the Epistle to the Hebrews also gives us encouraging examples of God’s “faith heroes” who persevered in spite of great difficulties and adverse circumstances (Hebrews 11). These members of God’s Hall of Faith provide overwhelming evidence as to the unconditional surety and absolute reliability of God. Likewise, we can maintain perfect confidence in God’s rich promises, regardless of our circumstances, by meditating upon the rock-solid faithfulness of God’s workings in the lives of His Old Testament saints.

The writer of Hebrews gives ample encouragement to believers, but there are five solemn warnings we must heed. There is the danger of neglect (Hebrews 2:1-4), the danger of unbelief (Hebrews 3:7–4:13), the danger of spiritual immaturity (Hebrews 5:11–6:20), the danger of failing to endure (Hebrews 10:26-39), and the inherent danger of refusing God (Hebrews 12:25-29). And so we find in this crowning masterpiece a great wealth of doctrine, a refreshing spring of encouragement, and a source of sound, practical warnings against slothfulness in our Christian walk. But there is still more, for in Hebrews we find a magnificently rendered portrait of our Lord Jesus Christ—the Author and Finisher of our great salvation (Hebrews 12:2). (Quote source here.)

For this post I am focusing on the three verses found in Hebrews 12:1-3 which follow right after the Hall of Faith chapter, Hebrews 11. The great cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 12:1 are those Old Testament heroes of faith who are mentioned in Hebrews 11. In view of the faith experiences of those “great cloud of witnesses,” these three verses in Hebrews 12 speak to us about throwing off everything that hinders us and the sin that easily entangles us, and running the race with perseverance by fixing our eyes on Jesus, who is the author and finisher (NKJV) of our faith.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in his second letter to Timothy written near the end of Paul’s life that we who are believers in Jesus Christ are in a race to the end when he states to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (See 2 Timothy 4:1-8 for the context of that verse). GotQuestions.org explains what Paul meant when he wrote he had finished the race:

“I have finished the race” is the second clause of three within a passage written by the apostle Paul to Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). The apostle wrote these words near the end of his life. These three statements reflect Paul’s struggles in preaching the gospel of Christ and his victory over those struggles.

In the 1st century, the Romans celebrated both the Olympic Games and the Isthmian Games. Competitors would spend up to ten months in arduous physical training. Because the Corinthians were very familiar with these events, Paul used the games as an analogy for a believer’s life of faithfulness. He wrote the church in Corinth saying, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25). Paul’s exhortation is that believers should be as focused and dedicated as those ancient runners in the games. Our motivation in serving Christ is much higher; we “run” not for a temporary crown, but for an eternal one.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul is not commending himself for having “run the full distance” (TEV); rather, he is simply describing what the grace of God had enabled him to do. In the book of Acts, Paul says these powerful words: “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).

So, by declaring “I have finished the race,” Paul is telling Timothy that he had put every effort into the work of proclaiming to all the gospel of salvation. He had completed the course set before him; he had left nothing undone. He was ready to cross the finish line into heaven.

In a race, only one runner wins. However, in the Christian “race,” everyone who pays the price of vigilant training for the cause of Christ can win. We are not competing against one other, as in athletic games, but against the struggles, physical and spiritual, that stand in the way of our reaching the prize (Philippians 3:14).

Every believer runs his own race (1 Corinthians 9:24). Each of us is enabled to be a winner. Paul exhorts us to “run in such a way as to get the prize,” and to do this we must set aside anything that might hinder us from living and teaching the gospel of Christ. The writer of Hebrews echoes the words of Paul: “Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

May we be diligent in our “race,” may we keep our eyes on the goal, and may we, like Paul, finish strong. (Quote source here.)

So, how should we as believers run our own race as stated in Hebrews 12:1? GotQuestions.org explains what that means:

“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). What kind of race do believers run? Who sets the race parameters? Is it a race we define and purpose for ourselves? The passage in question draws from the rich imagery of the footraces of ancient Israel, Greece, and the amphitheaters of Rome. It was written to encourage and challenge believers to persevere in their faith, especially in the midst of trials and persecution (2 Timothy 2:15Hebrews 10:3612:7).

Athletes in a race were surrounded by rows and rows of spectators, pictured for us as “a great cloud of witnesses.” The “witnesses” of the believers’ race are listed in the previous chapter of Hebrews: the men and women of God whose faithful lives were recorded in the Old Testament. These saints persevered despite unimaginable oppression and cruelty (Hebrews 11:33–38) and were commended for their faithfulness. Whether the saints of Hebrews 11 are actually watching us run our “race” today is doubtful; the point of the passage is that their testimony lives on. Their unyielding faith bears witness to the promises of Jesus Christ, urging us to follow their example and “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

The “race,” then, is the Christian life. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and we are called to stay the course and remain faithful to the end. Paul used this same imagery near the end of his life: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

The steadfastness of the Old Testament “witnesses” speaks to believers today of the rewards of staying in the race, of never giving up (1 Corinthians 9:24Philippians 3:14). A marathon is a strenuous test of fitness and endurance. The race set before us requires faith, stamina, commitment, and discipline in order to live faithfully (1 Corinthians 9:25–26Philippians 3:12–141 Timothy 6:12).

The race is “set before us”; we did not select the course, for it is God who established it. This race we run for Christ. We stay the course in spite of trials and persecutions (Hebrews 12:4–11). As we run, we must “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Because He perfectly finished His race, He is the focus of our lives. We look away from all distractions because He is already at the finish line (Lamentations 3:25Matthew 6:33Romans 2:7).

The race demands that we do away with “everything that hinders”—sin and whatever else threatens our relationship with God (Hebrews 12:1). Anything that will slow us down or trip up us must be cast off. The apostle Paul says “to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22–24). With the encouragement of those who have gone on before, we rid ourselves of thoughts, attitudes, and habits that impede our progress (Romans 12:2Titus 3:31 Peter 1:14).

Seeing that the race God set out for us is a lifelong marathon, we must commit ourselves to run to the very end. A daily regimen of prayer, worship, reading God’s Word and examining our lives for impediments will help. We will persevere by maintaining a Christlike attitude even in the midst of trials (1 Peter 2:214:11 John 2:6).

No matter how long the race may be, we keep our eyes on Jesus, “the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, NLT). There is joy awaiting. In the words of songwriters Twila and Starla Paris, “Runner, when the race is won, you will run into His arms.” (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with these words of encouragement from Jesus in his Parable of the Persistent Widow found in Luke 18:1-8. At the beginning of the parable in verse 1, Jesus told his disciples what he is telling us to do today. He told them and he’s telling us to…

Always pray . . .

And never. . .

Give up . . . .

YouTube Video: “Runner” by Twila Paris:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Whatever Things Are True

Some verses that the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4 were running through my mind this morning when I first woke up. The specific verses are found in Philippians 4:4-9 (NKJV):

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

I was also reminded of the fact that Paul was in prison in Rome at the time he wrote his letter to the Philippians (which is the Book of Philippians in the New Testament). He was in prison because of his faith in Jesus Christ. GotQuestions.org provides the following background on Paul:

The apostle Paul was probably about 60 years old when he died. By first-century standards, he lived a rather long life.

Paul was born in the Greek city of Tarsus likely around AD 6, and he probably died sometime around AD 64, which means he would have been nearing age 60. Considering the hardships he endured and the times in which he lived, Paul would have been considered an old man at his death.

Initially, the Roman government treated Christianity as a sect of Judaism and thus usually afforded it a measure of religious liberty. But by AD 64, Emperor Nero was aggressively persecuting and killing Christians, blaming them for setting a disastrous fire that destroyed Rome in that year. Paul may have been one of many Christians who were falsely arrested and brutally executed at that time. It is also possible that Paul was arrested in the ensuing years, “chained like a criminal” (2 Timothy 2:9), and sentenced to death for his heroic faith and tireless efforts in advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

According to tradition, Paul was executed by beheading in Rome, although the exact circumstances of his trial and death were never written down. (Quote source and the rest of the article available here.)

Living in America where Christianity has flourished for a couple of centuries and religious freedom is written into our Constitution, we do not read accounts occurring here in America of the brutal types of persecution like Paul endured during his lifetime or that Christians in other parts of the world today are enduring. However, the landscape of religious freedom and attitudes towards Christianity here in America appears to be changing and waning.

In an article published on September 14, 2022, titled, Christianity in the U.S. is quickly shrinking and may no longer be the majority religion within just a few decades, research finds,” by Li Cohen, social media producer and trending reporter for CBS News, she opens her article with the following:

Christianity has remained at the forefront of the nation’s political and social conversations for centuries—but new research shows that could be changing. 

A new report by Pew Research Center and the General Social Survey published on Tuesday found that the large numbers of people in the U.S who practice Christianity are declining. The religion’s demographic has been dwindling since the 1990s, the report said, as many adults transition to an identity of atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” 

In the early ’90s, about 90% of people in the U.S. identified as Christians, the report said. In 2020, Christians accounted for about 64% of the U.S. population, including children. Meanwhile, those who are not affiliated with a religion has grown from 16% in 2007 to 30% in 2020, according to the research. All other religions, including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, accounted for about 6% in 2020. (Quote source and the rest of the article available here.)

Let’s compare Paul’s time, as stated above in this quote– “Initially, the Roman government treated Christianity as a sect of Judaism and thus usually afforded it a measure of religious liberty. But by AD 64, Emperor Nero was aggressively persecuting and killing Christians.” –with our own. Here in America we also have a measure of religious liberty at this time, but that is not to say it will always be so, especially as Christianity in America continues to decline.

George Yancey, sociologist and professor of sociology at Baylor University, has written an article published on August 19, 2019, titled, Is There Really Anti-Christian Discrimination in America?” on GospelCoalition.org. He is also the author of Beyond Racial Gridlock: Embracing Mutual Responsibility” (IVP, 2006), Hostile Environment: Understanding and Responding to Anti-Christian Bias(IVP, 2015), and Beyond Racial Division: A Unifying Alternative to Colorblindness and Antiracism (IVP, 2022), and coauthor of One Faith No Longer: The Transformation of Christianity in Red and Blue America” (NYU Press, 2021).

In Yancey’s article, Is There Really Anti-Christian Discrimination in America?” he writes:

According to a recent survey, about half of all Americans believe that evangelicals face discrimination. Some have even talked about them facing persecution. Others argue that Christians are merely mistaking their loss of privilege for persecution. We are clearly living in a post-Christian society where Christian faith is no longer automatically respected. But does a post-Christian world mean that Christians are subject to discrimination?

Having studied Christianophobia—or the unreasonable hatred and fear of Christians—I can answer that question. First, I’ll look to see if Christianophobia exists to any meaningful degree. Then, I’ll examine the nature of Christianophobia to assess if it does represent unreasonable hatred of Christians. Finally, I’ll explore evidence of anti-Christian discrimination in one place in our society: academia.

Anti-Christian Attitudes

Are anti-Christian attitudes widespread, or are we talking about a couple of nutcases? In my bookSo Many Christians, So Few Lions,” I document that about 32 percent of all Americans like conservative Christians significantly less than other social groups. In comparison, about 31 percent of all Americans like Muslims significantly less than other social groups. So it’s fair to say that if we’re concerned about anti-Muslim prejudice, then we should also be concerned about anti-Christian prejudice—at least prejudice against conservative Christians.

It’s also worth noting who tends to have this type of animosity. My research indicates that those with anti-Christian attitudes are more likely to be white, male, wealthy, highly educated, politically progressive, and irreligious. Those first four markers indicate individuals who have quite a bit of per-capita social power.

Mild Disgust or Irrational Hatred?

On to the second question, about the nature of those who don’t like Christians. Do they merely feel mild disgust, or is it irrational hatred that can lead to discrimination? I sent a questionnaire with open-ended questions to a group of progressive activists who tended to be white, male, wealthy, educated, and irreligious. They were the type of people one would expect to exhibit Christianophobia. And they did. Here are just a few of the answers I received on my survey:

Kill them all, let their god sort them out.

A torturous death would be too good for them.

I’d be a bit giddy, certainly grateful, if everyone who saw himself or herself in that category were snatched permanently from our societal peripheries, whether by holocaust or rapture or plague.

I am only too well aware of their horrific attitudes and beliefs—and those are enough to make me see them as subhuman.

Clearly we are seeing the type of hatred that is unreasonable and can lead to discrimination. It is the type of dehumanization one expects to precede unfair treatment. But does it? Is it possible that values of tolerance and fairness among secular progressives inhibit their willingness to mistreat Christians?

Discrimination in America Today

To examine that question I looked at academia, an area where one expects to find the type of highly educated progressive secularists likely to have anti-Christian animosity. I asked academics if they would be less willing to hire someone who is either a fundamentalist or an evangelical. I found that more than half would be less willing to hire a fundamentalist, and almost two in five would be less willing to hire an evangelical. The academics answering my survey explicitly stated they would discriminate against a job candidate who is a conservative Protestant. (You can read about this research in my bookCompromising Scholarship.”)

There is other research indicating that conservative Christians face discrimination in academia. Stanley Rothman and Robert Lichter find that academics with socially conservative perspectives wind up with lower-status academic positions even when controlling for their productivity. Albert Gunn and George Zenner show evidence of religious discrimination against Christian medical students.

Some will argue that Christians still have advantages in America, such as political power. I don’t dispute that there are benefits to being a Christian in the United States. However, such advantages don’t negate the fact that among powerful individuals who tend to be politically progressive and irreligious, unfair treatment of Christians is possible, and perhaps even likely.

For example, my recent book looks at the media. My co-author and I find evidence that media are less sympathetic to stories where Christians face hate speech or violence than identical stories where other groups are victimized. Social institutions such as academia, media, entertainment, and the arts are likely to be places where anti-Christian prejudice and discrimination take place. Those institutions greatly shape our cultural values, and thus those with anti-Christian attitudes are in a position to create and sustain anti-Christian perspectives.

There is evidence that anti-Christian hate can lead to discrimination. Is it persecution? This is a complex question I recently struggled with. By a clinical definition of persecution, yes, Christians are persecuted in the United States. But I still discourage Christians in the United States from saying they are persecuted, since what we face today isn’t what most people envision when they think of persecution.

However, as Christians we should be aware that anti-Christian discrimination is real. Further, those likely to engage in such discrimination have an ability to shape larger societal values. Thus, anti-Christian discrimination isn’t going away any time soon.

How should we deal with this reality? (Click here for quote source and to read the rest of his article.)

In an article titled, Is There Persecution in America?” by Megan Bailey, former Social Media Specialist and Content Producer for Beliefnet.com, she opens her article with the following:

Today, just like in the book of Acts, Christians are persecuted all over the world for following Jesus. While Christian persecution takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ.

Trends show that countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are intensifying persecution against Christians, and perhaps the most vulnerable are Christian women, who often face double persecution for faith and gender. North Korea was ranked #1 for the 17th consecutive year as the most dangerous country for Christians on the World Watch List.

These trends make sense for many American Christians. Persecution of their religion only happens in faraway countries, right? Wrong. Christian persecution is happening right here at home, on our own soil. Many here are attacked for their faith too. While it might not be at the level of beheadings or burned down churches as seen in other places of the world, it still is a problem that is growing. Traditional Christians are facing increasing intolerance in this country through the fines, the lawsuits, the jobs lost, and the public disdain felt.

Here are some of the ways that you might be experiencing Christian persecution in America, without even realizing it. (Quote source here along with the rest of her article where she discusses persecution in politics, on college campuses, and in public schools.)

So let’s now head back to the verses at the start of this post, specifically those words found in Philippians 4:8: whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Paul was in prison when he wrote those words. They remind me of some other words Paul wrote in Romans 12:18. While persecution is done by others and we have no control over it, we can pray, stand in faith, and remember the words of Paul in Romans 12:18: If it is possible…

As far as it depends on you . . .

Live at peace . . .

With everyone . . . .

YouTube Video: “Stand in Faith” by Danny Gokey:

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Photo #2 credit here

Anxious For Nothing

This morning a verse showed up in a daily devotional that I read while I  was still in bed, and it is found in Philippians 4:6 (NIV):

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Many books have been written regarding this one verse as the primary topic. One of my favorites is a book by Max Lucado titled, Anxious For Nothing(subtitled: “Finding Calm in a Chaotic World”), published in 2017.

Anxiety is different from fear. As Max Lucado states in Anxious For Nothing,” on pp. 4-5:

Anxiety and fear are cousins but not twins. Fear sees a threat. Anxiety images one.

Fear screams, Get out!

Anxiety ponders, What if?

Fear results in fight or flight. Anxiety creates doom and gloom. Fear is the pulse that pounds when you see a coiled rattlesnake in your front yard. Anxiety is the voice that tells you, Never, ever, for the rest of your life, walk barefooted through the grass. There might be a snake… somewhere…. (Quote source: “Anxious For Nothing,” p. 4–paperback edition).

Anxiety takes our breath, for sure. If only that were all it took. It also takes our sleep. Out energy. Our well-being. “Do not fret,” wrote the psalmist, “it only causes harm” (Psalm 37:8). Harm to our necks, jaws, backs, and bowels. Anxiety can twist us into emotional pretzels. It can make our eyes twitch, blood pressure rise, heads ache, and armpits sweat. To see the consequences of anxiety, just read about half the ailments in a medical textbook.

Chances are that you or someone you know seriously struggles with anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental, anxiety disorders are reaching epidemic proportions. In any given year nearly fifty million Americans will feel the effects of a panic attack, phobias, or other anxiety disorders. Our chests will tighten. We’ll feel dizzy and light-headed. We’ll fear crowds and avoid people. Anxiety disorders in the United States are the “number one mental health problem among… women and are second only to alcohol and drug abuse among men.” (Quote source: “Anxious For Nothing,” p. 5–paperback edition).

Regarding Philippians 4:6, GotQuestions.org provides the following information:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). This verse gives clear direction and offers genuine hope to the believer in Christ.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, there are a number of things that they may have been worried about. Paul is writing to them when he is under house arrest, courtesy of the Roman Empire. The church in Philippi had supported his missionary work, and they may have been concerned for his well-being (Philippians 1). Apparently, there was some discord in the church with people acting selfishly, and they needed to focus on the example of Christ (Philippians 2). False teachers were also attempting to upset their confidence in Christ (and in Paul’s teaching) by teaching that some form of obedience to the Law was necessary for salvation (Philippians 3). And, finally, the discord in the church had reached such a point that Paul calls out two women by name and asks them to get along with each other (Philippians 4:2).

Paul then concludes his letter with the admonition in Philippians 4:4 to “rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Here was a church facing external pressures and internal problems, and they may have wondered if it was even possible to break out in joyful celebration.

If discouragement over the problems addressed in the letter (or anything else) was robbing the Philippians of joy, then Paul gives the solution in Philippians 4:6. There is no need to fret and worry about the way things are. The solution is to give the problems over to the Only One who can actually do something about them. The Philippians are to pray in every situation, bringing their petitions (requests) to God and offering prayers of thanksgiving for what God has already done.

Paul does not promise that God will do every single thing they request. They were not being handed a blank check. But he does promise that, when the Philippians pray about things, God will change the Philippians themselves: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). When they really pray about their problems and choose to be thankful, God will give them peace.

Although written to the Philippian church, the principle of Philippians 4:6 applies to all believers. When we have problems and worries, we often forget to pray about them. Then, when we do pray, we may think that the only help that God can give is to grant the request as we have presented it and change the situation. God may very well do that. He has the power to change any situation, but He will not be limited to that. God does not promise to change every situation to our liking. What He does promise to do is give us peace during any situation. In other words, God may or may not change the circumstance, but He will change our disposition toward it so that it does not cause us inner turmoil.

Practically speaking, Philippians 4:6 gives us a model for the kind of prayer we need to pray when we are anxious or worried. First, we reject worry: do not be anxious about anything. Then, we simply ask God for what we need: in every situation, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And we thank Him for all that He has already done: with thanksgiving. Finally, we rest, knowing that He loves us and will work things out for our good and His glory. God’s peace is then ours.

There are a few lines in a song written by Tony Wood and Kevin Stokes that sum up the principle of Philippians 4:6 beautifully:

Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered “peace be still”
He can settle any sea
But it doesn’t mean He will

Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child
(Quote source here.)

As noted above, Philippians 4:6 is immediately followed by verse 7: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

In an article published on February 23, 2021, titled, Be Anxious For Nothing,” by Michael Bradley, cofounder of Bible-Knowledge.com, he writes:

Paul gives us a major revelation in this verse [verse 6] with how we can be anxious for nothing with the words that come right after he initially makes this statement. Notice he says that we are to make all of our requests known to God in prayer–and if we do, then the peace of God can enter into us to guard our hearts and minds through Jesus.

This is why Paul is using the words that the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” will now enter into you to guard your heart and mind from getting all worked up and out of control.

Once you go to God the Father in prayer to ask for His help to handle a serious problem or situation, then His peace will be able to start to flow into you.

And once His peace starts to flow into you, then you will feel His peace starting to calm you down–even right in the middle of the worse kind of storm cloud you could imagine yourself falling into.

I have heard testimony after testimony of people who have fallen into the worse kinds of storm clouds you could possibly imagine–and then all of sudden they would feel the peace of God come into them after they had prayed and committed the problem into the hands of God.

They had no idea how long it would take for God to resolve the problem. They had no idea as to how God was going to handle the problem. All they knew was that God had heard their prayer and that He would now handle the problem for them.

Once this fact was really grabbed by their minds and their spirits, then the peace of God was able to enter into them. And once the peace of God entered into them, then they were able to calm down and be anxious for nothing–exactly like what this verse is telling us to learn how to do.

So in one powerful and profound verse, God is telling us to be anxious for nothing–but at the same time He is telling us exactly how to be able to do this–and that is by going to Him in prayer and telling Him exactly what you will need to handle the problem, and then fully commit and surrender the problem into His hands for His direct handling.

Once you have fully surrendered the entire problem into God’s hands, then He will release His peace into your mind and emotions so He can calm you down and help you to be anxious for nothing. (Quote source here.)

After these two verses, in the next two verses (Philippians 4:8-9), we are reminded to meditate on these things:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

I’ll end this post with the words from Philippians 4:6-9 taken from The Message Bible:

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

So, pray about absolutely everything, with thanksgiving, and… 

Be anxious . . .

For . . .

Nothing . . . .

YouTube Video: “My God is Still the Same” by Sanctus Real:

Photo #1 credit here (YouTube Video–15 minutes)
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

God Turn It Around

This morning I want to share a few songs on YouTube for anyone who might be needing a shot of encouragement…

I have always tried to be an optimistic person, and even in the worst of situations, I try to find the silver lining. In fact, I frequently pray for God to show me silver linings in difficult situations.

For example, I tend to look back at when I lost my job in April 2009 and I never found another job after searching for a bunch of years, and I can still let myself get upset at what it did to me financially and in other ways, too.  And that happened ten plus years before I would have reached official retirement age. However, there are some real pluses that I had to go searching pretty deep for over these past dozen-plus years in order to find a silver lining. And over these past dozen-plus years I have found several silver linings.

So, I want to offer these seven songs below as a source of encouragement, and remember these words from Hebrews 13:5 that state:

Keep your lives free from the love of money
and be content with what you have,
because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;

   Never will I forsake you.

YouTube Video #1: “God, Turn It Around” by Jon Reddick featuring Matt Maher:

YouTube Video #2: “Stand in Faith” by Danny Gokey:

YouTube Video #3: “My God Is Still The Same” by Sanctus Real:

YouTube Video #4: “Shall Not Want” by Elevation Worship and Maverick City:

YouTube Video #5: “Heart of the Father” by Ryan Ellis:

YouTube Video #6: “Rise Up” by Cain:

YouTube Video #7: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by Austin Stone Worship:

Photo credit here

5 Psalms To Start With Every Morning

I must confess that I found these five psalms grouped together in an article published on June 13, 2019, titled, 5 Psalms to Read in the Morning: To Help Start Your Day with God’s Peace and Strength,” by Debbie McDaniel, a pastor’s wife and contributing writer on IBelieve.com. She opens her article with the following:

Sometimes when we wake up in the morning, our minds might already start racing before our feet even touch the floor. Hearts burdened, spirits heavy, worry begins to creep in before we’ve fully started our day. There’s so much in this life we can start to feel anxious about, even when we know Truth and believe that God’s in control. Fear can be a daily battle, and we may wrestle with feeling great pressure under the weight of responsibilities we’re carrying.

If you’ve found yourself there recently, here’s hope from God’s Word. The Psalms offer countless verses of real-life struggles and prayers for God’s strength and covering. No matter what we may be facing today, we can choose to set our hearts and minds on His truth, believing that He is with us and giving us strength, every step of the way. (Quote source and complete article are available at this link.)

The list of the five psalms in the order they are mentioned in this article include:

Psalm 121 – (Our help comes from the Lord)
Psalm 103 – (God is our Redeemer, and crowns us with love and compassion)
Psalm 91 – (God will protect our way)
Psalm 46 – (God calls us to find rest and peace in Him)
Psalm 23 – (The Lord is our Shepherd and He will lead the way)

Several year ago I started praying Psalm 23 (NKJV) almost everyday in the morning when I first wake up, and again at night before I drift off to sleep, and sometimes throughout the day (I memorized it several years ago). For me, it seems that no matter what the circumstances might be at any given moment, it is a psalm that can calm my soul and center me on Who and what is important. It is without a doubt my most favorite psalm.

Psalm 23 (NKJV): The Lord the Shepherd of His People

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

Of the remaining four psalms mentioned above, I would be hard pressed to pick my second most favorite psalm in that list as they are all very inspiring. Here are the remaining psalms listed above in the order they are listed.

Psalm 121 (NKJV): God the Help of Those Who Seek Him

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,

Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

Psalm 103 (NKJV): Praise for the Lord’s Mercies

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord executes righteousness
And justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.

The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
And His kingdom rules over all.

Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Who excel in strength, who do His word,
Heeding the voice of His word.
Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You ministers of His, who do His pleasure.
Bless the Lord, all His works,
In all places of His dominion.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Psalm 91 (NKJV): Safety of Abiding in the Presence of God

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”

Psalm 46 (NKJV): God the Refuge of His People and Conqueror of the Nations

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the 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 refuge. Selah

I’ll end this post with a quote found at the end of the article I mentioned at the beginning of this post (the article is at this link):

It’s a new day ahead my friends, and a gift straight from God’s hand. If you woke up this morning, then we can be assured that God has great purpose for our lives, for this day. May He help us to lift our eyes and hearts towards Him; choose to find joy and live every moment for His glory. (Quote source here.)

Amen? . . .

Yes . . .

And Amen . . . .

YouTube Video: “Stand in Faith” by Danny Gokey:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Psalm 24

Continuing with my “on again, off again” quoting of a psalm from the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament on this blog, let’s take a look at Psalm 24 which is a psalm composed by David.

In an article published on September 9, 2020, titled, Psalm 24: The Earth Is the Lord’s, and Everything In It,” by Guy Roberson, contributor on PeopleForJesus.org, he writes:

The question this Psalm asks is one of the most important any man or woman can think about: “What does God require of me?” This is the ultimate issue that everyone faces, a question everyone must answer. The danger with the big questions of life, of course, is that we seldom stop to think about them. This Psalm brings us face-to-face with the ultimate issue of life and forces us to think about it….

First, if we are going to enter the Lord’s presence we should reflect on His sovereign supremacy. His unique majesty is displayed for us daily in the heavens and the earth. By observing God’s glorious creation, we see what a distinct privilege it is to enter His presence. He owns the earth—everything and everyone in the world (v. 1), even if you think you own it. Not only does God hold title to the earth but also to everything in it (v. 1b). This is what is meant by the fullness thereof. All that fills the earth, everything contained in it, also belongs to Him. “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it” (Deut. 10:14). John Wesley stated this correctly: “When the Possessor of heaven and earth brought you into being, and placed you in this world, he placed you here not as a proprietor, but a steward.”

By what right does God claim title to the earth and everything in it? Simply stated, it is His because He made it. The psalmist points us back to creation, the founding of the earth out of the waters, as God’s right to the earth. The Almighty spoke the earth into existence out of nothing (Gen. 1-2; cp. Rom. 1:18-32).

Second, we were created for God, for His pleasure and for the purpose of worshipping Him (Col. 1:16Rev. 4:11). We fulfill our purpose of glorifying God also by living our lives in relationship and faithful service to Him (1 Sam. 12:24John 17:4). King Solomon tried living for his own pleasure, yet at the end of his life he concluded that the only worthwhile life is one of honor and obedience to God (Eccl. 12:13–14).

Third, we should realize what an indescribable privilege it is to be invited into the presence of the Lord, but we have nothing to offer Him but ourselves, our hearts, our time, and our affection. Picture the joyous scene as the Israelites carried the ark of the covenant up the hill to the city of Zion. Their excitement grew with every step and the words of this psalm filled the air as they marched, reminding them of the qualifications for their sacred service. Soon they would enter the Lord’s holy place. As they climbed the hill to Jerusalem, they were forced to examine themselves, to search their hearts and lives for any impurity.

Fourth, we, too, should concentrate on offering our inner character and outward actions to the Lord. Notice what the Psalm has to say about this: “The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god” (v. 4). The results: You will receive God’s blessing and His righteousness (v. 5). (Quote source and the rest of the article is available at this link.)

Here are the ten verses found in Psalm 24 (NIV):

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.

They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.

Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.

Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—
He is the King of glory.

In an article published on July 11, 2020, titled, Psalm 24–His Glory Redeems the Earth,” by Bunni Pounds, contributor on ChristiansEngaged.org, she writes the following at the end of her article:

We are commanded here in this Psalm [24] to open up the gates and the doors of our lives regardless of how heavy they are… and with that command comes a promise that the “King of glory shall come in.” They might seem heavy or impossible at times to lift up, but God is mightier. The Lord is mighty in battle. He is the Lord of hosts. As we seek Him by making ourselves available to His presence and receiving the power of His blood, the gates of our hardened and stony hearts spring open and we find freedom. He comes rushing in and overtakes our rejections, our sin patterns, and our numb hearts. 

God is not just the King but the “King of glory” and His glory comes into our lives and changes us forever.

Then we pause like the word Selah implies here at the end of this Psalm. [Selah is found twice in Psalm 24 NKJV at the end of verse 6 and at the end of verse 10.]

Selah literally means–Stop and think about it. We take a break in His presence. We stand in His glory that is unmatched. The earth, as it pertains to our lives, is redeemed and the fullness of His glory changes everything. “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.”

Political Corner: In a career or activity that most people, not just Christians, think is dirty and difficult, it is important that people of faith that engage in politics understand that God has a purpose for all institutions. We are called to bring righteousness into the political arena laying down our anger, fears, and pride, and walking with a pure heart in a system that is all about who gets the most power and influence and navigating it with humility. Jesus has called us to be salt and light–so that means we bring His redemption even into politics. It is time for some servant leaders in this field. Let’s not be short-changed by doing politics like the world system does it. (Quote source here.)

A closing thought on Psalm 24 from verse 10 comes from BibleRef.com and states:

This closing verse of Psalm 24 describes the glorious King as “the LORD of hosts.” This divine title occurs well over two hundred times in the Old Testament. Its first occurrence is in 1 Samuel 1:3. Isaiah and Jeremiah combined use this phrase well over one hundred times.

The name “LORD of hosts” identifies the Lord as eternal and ruler over all the angels and stars. The title reflects the truth that, although Israel’s earthly king was David, her real king was Yahweh. Prophetically, the glorious king who will enter Jerusalem is the Lord Jesus. He is the Lord of heaven and earth by virtue of creation and redemption. Colossians 1:15–17 describes Jesus as having created everything in heaven and on earth, not only visible objects but invisible. The invisible would include the angelic host. He also holds everything together. Someday the Lord of hosts will return to earth with mighty angels to execute judgment on unbelievers and to reign from the throne of David (Isaiah 9:6–7). (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from Psalm 24:10 (NKJV) which states:

Who is this King of glory?. . .

The Lord of hosts . . .

He is the King of glory. Selah . . . .

YouTube Video: “Psalm 24” by the Prestonwood Choir & Orchestra , October 20, 2019:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Future of America

Here in America yesterday we celebrated the 4th of July and the 246th birthday of our nation since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776 (see the post, The 4th of July,” published on my main blog.) In the research I conducted for that post regarding this particular American holiday, I found varying views.

In my email this morning I found a link to an article published today (July 5, 2022) on The Christian Post titled, In historic low, only 38% extremely proud to be an American: Gallup,” by Anugrah Kumar, a Christian Post contributor. Here is some of the statistics from his article:

A new Gallup poll has found that only 38% of adults in the United States say they are “extremely proud” to be American, the lowest percentage recorded since the analytics and advisory company began asking the question in 2001.

Gallup suggests the revelation may not be surprising given that the poll was conducted between June 1 and 20, at a time when “a pandemic-weary public is struggling with the highest U.S. inflation rate in more than four decades.” The survey was conducted among a random sample of 1,015 U.S. adults.

In addition, Gallup added, the poll was held soon after mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, which claimed 31 lives, including 19 children. It also preceded the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

The 38% expressing extreme pride is four percentage points lower than in 2020 and nearly 20 points lower than it was a decade ago, according to the survey.

However, 65% of U.S. adults still express pride in the nation, the survey found. About 27% say they are “very proud,” another 22% say they are “moderately proud,” and 9% say they are “only a little.”

The combined 65% for those who are “extremely” or “very proud” is two points lower than in 2020. Only 4% say they are “not at all” proud.

The poll shows that Republicans (58%) continue to be ahead of Democrats (26%) and Independents (34%) in showing pride in being American.

It also reveals that 72% of men are “extremely” or “very proud” to be American, compared to 60% of women.

Age-wise, about 80% of Americans aged 55 or older are “extremely” or “very proud” of their nationality, and the percentage drops to 64% among those aged 35 to 54, and 48% among those aged 18 to 34.

Another Gallup survey, conducted around the same time, shows that only a quarter of U.S. adults have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the Supreme Court, the lowest since 1973.

In a Gallup survey in May, only 18% of American adults said they approved of the way Congress was handling its job…. (Quote source here.)

As noted in this article, “age-wise, about 80% of Americans aged 55 or older are ‘extremely’ or ‘very proud’ of their nationality,” and the drop in percentage occurs in the younger generations aged 54 and below. So what will this nation look like as those who are currently 55 and older die over the next few decades? Of course, there are other factors that enter into the direction America is taking going forward, too.

I came across that list of factors this morning in an article published on March 5, 2021, titled The Life Cycles of Empires and Nations,” by Sajjad Choudhury, Product Operations Manager at Onfido. He notes that there are seven stages that all nations have followed in history and that are they still following today. In the opening of his article, he quotes the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831):

“What experience and history teach is this—that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.” [From: Lectures on the Philosophy of World History: Introduction (1830, tr. H. B. Nisbet, 1975) introduction; quote source here.]

He includes a description of these seven stages in his article at this link. I also discovered that I had published a blog post on my main blog back on October 20, 2016, titled, Now is the Time,” that also mentions these same seven stages from an article published on July 6, 2011, titled, The Life Cycles of Empires: Lessons for America Today? by Eric Snow, a contributor on Beyond Today. The following is taken from the Snow article:

Seven steps in the life cycles of great powers

Glubb Pasha [Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb,1897-1986, who was a British soldier, scholar and author] learned that different empires had similar cultural changes while experiencing a life cycle in a series of stages that could overlap. He generalized about empires having seven stages of development, identifying these successive ages as follows:

1. The age of outburst (or pioneers).
2. The age of conquests.
3. The age of commerce.
4. The age of affluence.
5. The age of intellect.
6. The age of decadence.
7. The age of decline and collapse.

Each stage helps progression to the next as the values of the people change over time. Military, political, economic and religious developments all influence an empire’s people to act and believe differently over time. (Quote source here.)

Snow notes the following regarding Stage 7: The age of decline and collapse:

What are some key signs of decline?

What are some common features of an empire’s culture in its declining period? Glubb describes developments like these:

1. Rampant sexual immorality, an aversion to marriage in favor of “living together” and an increased divorce rate all combine to undermine family stability. This happened among the upper class in the late Roman Republic and early Empire. The first-century writer Seneca once complained about Roman upper-class women: “They divorce in order to re-marry. They marry in order to divorce.”

The birthrate declines, and abortion and infanticide both increase as family size is deliberately limited. The historian W.H. McNeill has referred to the “biological suicide of the Roman upper classes” as one reason for Rome’s decline. Homosexuality becomes publicly acceptable and spreads, as was the case among the ancient Greeks before Rome conquered them.

2. Many foreign immigrants settle in the empire’s capital and major cities. The mixture of ethnic groups in close proximity in these cosmopolitan places inevitably produces conflicts.

Because of their prominent locations within the empire, their influence greatly exceeds their percentage of the population. Here diversity plainly leads to divisiveness.

We see this today in the growing conflict in European countries such as France and the Netherlands, where large numbers of immigrants are stoking violent cultural clashes. German chancellor Angela Merkel [note: this article was published in 2011] recently made headlines when she stated that attempts to create a multicultural society had “utterly failed” and immigrants must do more to integrate into society.

3. Both irresponsible pleasure-seeking and pessimism increase among the people and their leaders. The spirit described in 1 Corinthians 15:32 spreads throughout society: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

As people cynically give up looking for solutions to the problems of life and society, they drop out of the system. They then turn to mindless entertainment, to luxuries and sexual activity, and to drugs or alcohol.

The astonishingly corrupt and lavish parties of the Roman Empire’s elite are a case in point. The Emperor Nero, for instance, would spend the modern equivalent of $500,000 for just the flowers at some banquets.

4. The government provides extensive welfare for the poor. In the case of the city of Rome, which had perhaps 1.2 million people around A.D. 170, government-provided “bread and circuses” (food and entertainment) helped to keep the masses content. About one half of its non-slave population was on the dole at least part of the year.

True, helping the poor shows Christian compassion (Mark 14:7). But such help also can lead to laziness and dependency (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). Such problems are especially likely when the poor believe state-provided charity is a permanent right or entitlement.

Is America on a downward cultural and spiritual spiral?

Considering this list of indicators of an empire’s cultural and moral decline, is it reasonable to deny that the United States has entered the stages of decadence and decline?

True, the tidal wave of social and cultural decay unleashed by the 1960s in America has ebbed some in recent years. The rates of abortion, divorce, illegitimate births, drug abuse, welfare dependency and violent crime have either declined or gone up much more slowly.

Furthermore, some indicators of decline have good, not just bad, results. For instance, some immigration is helpful. As skilled, educated immigrants arrive, they normally benefit America economically while being a “brain drain” from Third World countries. And, indeed, the United States has historically embraced vast numbers of immigrants.

Nevertheless, the present flood of immigrants, legal or illegal, equals in impact the wave that arrived at America’s shores around 1900. Today, they are far more apt to be a divisive force. Why? Unlike a hundred years ago, America’s intellectual elite overall has adopted multiculturalism (the promotion of immigrants maintaining their prior distinct cultures) and has rejected assimilation (adopting the existing national culture) as its ideal.

Today multiculturalism is the ideology underlying a potentially ultimate political Balkanization, wherein society is fragmented along ethnic and cultural lines. (For evidence, see the liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger’s 1991 bookThe Disuniting of America). A lack of cultural unity inevitably leads to conflict in a free society such as in the United States. (Quote source here.)

Note that Snow’s article was published back in 2011, long before the Covid-19 pandemic started in March 2020, and the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in May 2020 that started the rioting outbreaks in cities across America, along with Cancel Culture, the January 6th insurrection, #MeToo, BLM, the mass shootings, and everything else that has transpired leading to the latest polarization on the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court handed down on June 24, 2022. One can hardly take a breath before some new dividing point makes the headlines on the national news and social media. Let’s not even talk about the ever increasing inflation rate that is ongoing for who knows how much longer, and will prices ever go back down?

In Snow’s concluding remarks in his article, he writes:

Are we paying attention?

How should we react to the historical insights of Sir John Glubb Pasha’s “The Fate of Empires and the Search for Survival” as they relate to America, Britain and other related English-speaking nations?

As he notes in his examination of a number of previous empires, the processes of history often repeat themselves. We shouldn’t believe that America will automatically avoid the fate of other great empires that declined and fell in the past. (Quote source here.)

This brings us to the topic of hope. A Christian’s hope is not based on the survival of a nation, whether it is America or any other nation on the globe. A Christian’s hope is defined as follows (per GotQuestions.org):

Most people understand hope as wishful thinking, as in “I hope something will happen.” This is not what the Bible means by hope. The biblical definition of hope is “confident expectation.” Hope is a firm assurance regarding things that are unclear and unknown (Romans 8:24-25Hebrews 11:17). Hope is a fundamental component of the life of the righteous (Proverbs 23:18). Without hope, life loses its meaning (Lamentations 3:18Job 7:6) and in death there is no hope (Isaiah 38:18Job 17:15). The righteous who trust or put their hope in God will be helped (Psalm 28:7), and they will not be confounded, put to shame, or disappointed (Isaiah 49:23). The righteous, who have this trustful hope in God, have a general confidence in God’s protection and help (Jeremiah 29:11) and are free from fear and anxiety (Psalm 46:2-3).

The New Testament idea of hope is the recognition that in Christ is found the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises (Matthew 12:211 Peter 1:3). Christian hope is rooted in faith in the divine salvation in Christ (Galatians 5:5). Hope of Christians is brought into being through the presence of the promised Holy Spirit (Romans 8:24-25). It is the future hope of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6), the promises given to Israel (Acts 26:6-7), the redemption of the body and of the whole creation (Romans 8:23-25), eternal glory (Colossians 1:27), eternal life and the inheritance of the saints (Titus 3:5-7), the return of Christ (Titus 2:11-14), transformation into the likeness of Christ (1 John 3:2-3), the salvation of God (1 Timothy 4:10) or simply Christ Himself (1 Timothy 1:1).

The certainty of this blessed future is guaranteed through the indwelling of the Spirit (Romans 8:23-25), Christ in us (Colossians 1:27), and the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:26). Hope is produced by endurance through suffering (Romans 5:2-5) and is the inspiration behind endurance (1 Thessalonians 1:3Hebrews 6:11). Those who hope in Christ will see Christ exalted in life and in death (Philippians 1:20). Trustworthy promises from God give us hope (Hebrews 6:18-19), and we may boast in this hope (Hebrews 3:6) and exhibit great boldness in our faith (2 Corinthians 3:12). By contrast, those who do not place their trust in God are said to be without hope (Ephesians 2:121 Thessalonians 4:13).

Along with faith and love, hope is an enduring virtue of the Christian life (1 Corinthians 13:13), and love springs from hope (Colossians 1:4-5). Hope produces joy and peace in believers through the power of the Spirit (Romans 12:1215:13). Paul attributes his apostolic calling to the hope of eternal glory (Titus 1:1-2). Hope in the return of Christ is the basis for believers to purify themselves in this life (Titus 2:11-141 John 3:3). (Quote source here.)

Peter, one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus, wrote the following in 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV):

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

All five chapters in 1 Peter are focused on “a living hope” and they provide much encouragement in hard times, and at anytime, too (1 Peter is available at this link). It’s a reminder for us to keep our eyes focused on the One our hope rests in no matter what is going on in this ever changing world of ours.

While we do not know what the future holds, we who believe know the One who holds the future. With that in mind, I’ll end this post with the words of Paul from Romans 12:12 (ESV)…

Rejoice in hope . . .

Be patient in tribulation . . .

Be constant in prayer . . . .

YouTube Video: “Hope in Front of Me,” by Danny Gokey:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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