Saturday, June 27, 2020

What ever happened to her?

When you read about a character in the bible, don't you often wonder, "What ever happened to them?" Like: whatever happened to the Good Samaritan, whatever happened to the Demoniac after Jesus left town, or what became of the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well? 

I think that would make for some interesting blog material.

Radio personality and newscaster Paul Harvey had a program I loved and tried not to miss. Its was  called, "The rest of the Story." In this five-minute segment, he would discuss significant events in the life of a well-known person, and then - after a commercial - he would tell an amazing story about the person that was mostly unknown.

John the Evangelist describes the event when Jesus met a woman at "Jacob's Well" near the Samaritan town of Sychar, He showed His love by engaging her in a serious conversation. As a Samaritan, she was an outcast and unclean with five unsuccessful marriages, and was now living with a man who is not her husband. She had little to recommend her to Jesus. But He saw beyond her disqualifications. He saw her as one created for true love. He saw beyond her sin. Jesus saw her as one destined for a genuine relationship with God and with her fellow humanity. Jesus knew she was a bearer of His image and likeness. He beheld the accurate image in her. Despite her brokenness, He saw her as one created for a worshipful union with God and complete relationships with others. He invited her to partake of the living water of His love. 

We read in John's Gospel how this woman went into town and proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah to all who would listen, but did you ever wonder whatever happened to her after this encounter with Jesus?

Here is the rest of the story.

Baptized on Pentecost along with her five sisters and two sons, she took the name Photini meaning the enlightened one and followed the apostle John. 

She then began a missionary career, traveling far and wide, preaching the good news of the Messiah's coming, His death and resurrection. When Nero, the emperor of Rome, persecuted Christians, Photini and her son Joseph were in Carthage, in Africa, where she was preaching the Christian gospel. After Jesus appeared to Photini in a dream, she sailed to Rome. Her son and many Christians from Africa accompanied her. Photini's arrival and activity aroused curiosity in the capital city. Everyone talked about her, "Who is this woman?" they asked. "She came here with a crowd of followers and she preaches Christ with great boldness."

When Nero, the emperor of Rome, persecuted Christians, Photini and her son Joseph were in Carthage, in Africa, where she was preaching the Christian gospel. After Jesus appeared to Photini in a dream, she sailed to Rome. Her son and many Christians from Africa accompanied her. Photini's arrival and activity aroused curiosity in the capital city. Everyone talked about her, "Who is this woman?" they asked. "She came here with a crowd of followers and she preaches Christ with great boldness."

Nero ordered his soldiers to bring her to him, but Photini expected them. Before they could arrest her, Photini, with her son Joseph and her Christian friends, went to Nero. When the emperor saw them, he asked why they had come. Photini answered, "We have come to teach you to believe in Christ." The half-mad ruler of the Roman Empire did not frighten her. She wanted to convert him! Nero asked the saints their names. Again Photini answered. By name she introduced herself, her five sisters and younger son. The emperor then demanded to know whether they had all agreed to die for the Nazarene. Photini spoke for them. "Yes, for the love of Him we rejoice and in His name we'll gladly die." Hearing their defiant words, Nero ordered their hands beaten with iron rods for three hours. At the end of each hour another persecutor took up the beating. The saints, however, felt no pain. Nothing happened to their hands. Photini joyfully quoted words of a psalm by David: "God is my help. No matter what anyone does to me, I shall not be afraid." Perplexed by the Christian's endurance and confidence, Nero ordered the men thrown into jail. Photini and her five sisters were brought to the golden reception hall in the imperial palace. There, the six women were seated on golden thrones, In front of them stood a large golden table covered with gold coins, jewels and dresses. Nero hoped to tempt the women by this display of wealth and luxury. Nero then ordered his daughter Domnina, with her slave girls, to go speak with the Christian women. Women, he thought, would succeed in persuading their Christian sisters to deny their God.

Domnina greeted Photini graciously, mentioning the name of Christ. On hearing the princess' greeting, the saint thanked God. She then embraced and kissed Domnina. The women talked. But the outcome of the women's talk was not what Nero wished.

Photini catechized Domnina and her hundred slave girls and baptized them all. She gave the name Anthousa to Nero's daughter. After her baptism, Anthousa immediately ordered all the gold and jewels on the golden table distributed to the poor of Rome.

When the emperor heard that his own daughter was converted to Christianity, he condemned Photini and all her companions to death by fire. For seven days the furnace burned, but when the door of the furnace was opened, the fire had not harmed the saints. Next the emperor tried to destroy the saints with poison, Photini offered to be the first to drink it. "O King," she said, "I will drink the poison first so you might see the power of my Christ and God." All the saints then drank the poison after her. None suffered any ill effects from it. In vain Nero subjected Photini, her sisters, sons and friends to every known torture. The saints survived unscathed to taunt and ridicule their persecutor. For three years they were held in a Roman prison. Saint Photini transformed it into a "house of God." Many Romans came to the prison, were converted and baptized. Finally, the enraged tyrant had all the saints, except for Photini, beheaded. She was thrown first into a deep, dry well and then into prison again. Photini now grieved that she was alone, that she had not received the crown of martyrdom together with her five sisters, Anatole, Photo, Photis, Paraskeve and Kyriake and her two sons, Photeinos and Joseph. Night and day she prayed for release from this life. One night, God appeared to her, made the sign of the cross over her three times. The vision filled her with joy. Many days later, while she hymned and blessed God, Saint Photini gave her soul into God's hands. The Samaritan Woman conversed with Christ by the well of Jacob, near the city of Sychar. She drank of the "living water" and gained everlasting life and glory. 

That is the rest of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well who, when she encountered Jesus, her entire life changed forever. 

The love of God has the power to transform our entire being.

Do you have a life story to add that we can use in "The Rest of the Story?" If you do, visit and click on the "rest of the story" in the menu. And pick up a free book while you are there.

Bill Johnson

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Cost of Control

It was a cloudless day in San Diego’s Mission Gorge area. The marine layer had burned off early and it was another beautiful day in paradise. My spirits were high, and I was overflowing with the love of God. It was Monday, but very different from the rest of my Mondays at work. After returning from a men’s retreat over the weekend, I was basking in the afterglow of God’s presence. Morning had arrived too early, but lack of sleep could not destroy my sense of joy. At the office, most of the team was off on assignment so I dug into routine items that needed my attention, avoiding serious stuff.

At lunch time I took a leisurely walk down Mission Gorge to the Soup Plantation restaurant and for soup and a salad. Grabbing a tray and an enormous salad platter, I fell into line behind two well-dressed men having a rather animated conversation about Jesus. They were joyfully proclaiming the greatness of God and His work in their lives. While talking between themselves, their volume was loud enough to be heard by most people in line.  After paying the cashier, they sat down at a table in a corner. A desire to stay near their joyful enthusiasm led me to take the table right next to them..

After they sat down,  prayed, and ate, there was a drastic change in their moods. The loud joyful praise turned into a serious, subdued discussion, and their countenance transformed.

Suddenly I wanted to crawl under the table or sneak away without being seen. But God had other plans. He had a lesson for me to learn, but it took several months for me to understand what I heard and saw. There was no voice or outward manifestation but deep within my spirit there was a sense as if the Lord said to me, 

“Pay attention, this is important, I want to teach you something.”

Seated about six feet away and slightly behind them, one man was facing toward me, while the other had his back to me. I was only getting one side of the conversation, but eerily I heard from the man with his back to me while I missed what the man facing me said. I realized these men were pastors and the one whose back was to me was seeking counsel from the man facing me. Hearing only one side of the conversation was strange but revealing. To this day, I remember the exact words spoken by the pastor with his back to me.

“I know now why my church is having so much trouble, the members do not submit to me as their pastor.”

After more discussion he made a second memorable declaration, “The trouble with my family results from my wife not submitting to me as her husband.”

Almost immediately, I sensed a different voice speaking to me from some-where inside of me, “This man does not submit to God.” 

Fresh from a spirit-filled weekend with other spirit-filled believers, I was ready for anything. Being shy, I avoid confrontation, but today, on this day, if need be, I could go to that man, point my finger in his face, and declare, “You are having these problems because you do not submit to God.”

Then I remembered the earlier words, 

“Pay attention, this is important, I want to teach you something.”

That incident occurred over 20 years ago, and I am still learning its lesson.  When we get insight from the Lord, we like to share it, even when it is just for us. That evening at a home group meeting, a lady complained about her financial problems. (She had financial issues for years.)

Armed with my noon-time revelation, it compelled me to share my insight, “You are having financial problems because you have not submitted your finances to God.”

The woman’s face turned purple with anger and my wife looked at me as if I had just committed the unpardonable sin.

The meeting ended abruptly, but there was no escaping the woman’s wrath. She was our neighbor and was our ride home.

I had several more opportunities to give away my new insight but decided not to share. Then one day, unexpectedly, it hit me. Rita and I were driving up Balboa Avenue on our way to lunch when a light bulb lit up my mind. Slamming the dashboard with my right hand must have scared Rita, as I shouted, “I finally got it!” 

God protects that that belongs to Him. What does not belong to Him, He is not as much inclined to protect.

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. [James 4:7 (NKJV)]

The lesson God had been trying to teach me was now clear. The enemy of our soul is able to attack us in the areas of our lives that we have not submitted to God.

It is as if we are under God’s umbrella of protection as long as we let Him be in control, but when we tell Him that we would rather do it our way, He may back away and say, “Okay, go for it.” 

That is where we get in trouble - not submitting ourselves to God.

The word "Submission" evokes images of abuse and the sense of becoming a doormat. Yet both the Old and New Testaments show there are great benefits in submitting to God.[1]

The word translated as “submission” in the NT means to place or arrange under like products arranged on a display-table, or an army deployed ready for battle. Submission is also used to accept someone’s admonition or advice.

In our lives we often submit to our boss, the government, our spouse, our pastor, or a spiritual authority. We also submit to our possessions, pride, and sin.

Jesus Himself submitted to the Father. He did not do it from weakness but from strength. Our submission must be as Jesus modeled. Submission is not becoming a doormat. Submission is more like an elevator.

An elevator lifts things up. As we submit to God, we elevate Him. When we submit to our spouse, we elevate him or her to a higher position. The purpose of submission is elevation or exaltation. As we submit to God, we exalt Him.

The entire basis of submission is not control but love.

There is an enormous difference between obedience and submission. Think "Passive Aggressive." 

You can obey without submitting.

As we submit to God, we elevate Him above our agenda. As we submit to our spouse, we elevate him or her above our wants.

Submission is the cure for our control issues.

[1] Job 22:21; James 4:6-8

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Who will Survive

When the storms of life hit us, who will survive?

We live in a world where storms continue to torment the populous. Our storms are war, disease, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts,  wildfires, etc. All impact the physical, mental, and economic health of everyone in their path. They not only kill and destroy, but they affect our minds and attitudes. Today we faced the deadly COVID 19 pandemic with no geographical boundaries in our modern mobile society.

Lets face it, we live on a dangerous planet with hazard all around us. So how do we live with a major threat hanging over us? How do we keep our sanity when walking through this minefield called life?

In 2018, the number of deaths attributed to various conditions are shown below:
  • Heart disease: 647,457.
  • Cancer: 599,108.
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936.
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201.
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404.
  • Diabetes: 83,564.
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 55,672.

Survival formula

1. Maintain Flexibility

We lived in the state of Mississippi for many years during which we encountered dangerous tornadoes and hurricanes, including the famous names, “Betsy,” “Katrina” and “Camille.” But we survived many lesser and unnamed events. In the aftermath of these destructive storms, we gained insight on some important facts that can help us navigate the current pandemic.

Surveying the damage after the storm reveals a pattern of total destruction and repairable damage. They topple immense trees with their roots pulled right out of the ground, while nearby trees lost a few limbs and leaves. Earthquakes tear up highways and their bridges and viaducts while leaving some roads free from damage. 

What is the difference? Flexibility!

Flexible trees, roadbeds and buildings survive because they move with the wind while more rigid structures break or pull away. If we are rigid in our attitudes, lifestyles, or theologies, we are heading for a fall which could be disastrous. 

In the Old Testament, The Lord refers to the disobedient Jews as a “Stiff-necked people.” The Still-necked” are the ones who seem to receive the most trials.

In his famous 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle.” Mohamed Ali defeated George Foreman by using the “Rope a Dope,” technique. Rather than coming out fighting as his regular boxing plan, Ali took a defensive position, with his back against the ropes, allowing Foreman to tire himself out by landing many ineffective punches. When Foreman became tired, it was easy for Ali to land the decisive blows. When we are hit by the storms of life, a new strategy might be to take up a protective stance, ride out the storm, and then when it abates, be victorious.

In November 2010, a biopsy revealed Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The cancerous tumor had wrapped itself around a saliva gland. A simple thirty minute outpatient surgery lasted nine hours. The doctors followed this with several months of Chemo. We took up our defensive posture. Following the advice of doctors and cancer survivors, we changed much of our lifestyle and the foods we ate. And we maintained a positive attitude about the whole process. Two years later, Dr Bobby Graham declared me cured.

Today we are in the vulnerable class. So Rita and I are “Rope a Doping.” We have taken up a defensive position at home and only go out occasionally to pick up our on-line order at Walmart, or med.’s at the local drugstore.

2. Be Teachable

Maintaining flexibility requires that we be teachable. One of the things that has frustrated the many during the current pandemic is that the rules keep changing. What the more rigid of us fail to realize is that this virus is new and even the virologists are still learning things about it.

The Old Testament prophet Jonah was running away from God’s call. He got on a ship heading in the opposite direction - to Tarsus. A terrible storm came up that threatened the entire ship - its passengers, crew, and cargo. When Jonah realized his disobedience caused the storm, he told the crew, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.”[ Jonah 1:12 (NKJV)] Jonah became teachable.
After every major event, pandemic, hurricane, or other disaster there is a time for asking how did this happen, why did it happen, and how do we avoid a repeat? When you travel the coast after a major hurricane, you can see the changes being made. There are normally two distinct forms of remediation. The first is the “brute force” method which requires a redesign of buildings to withstand the forces of wind and surf expected in a hundred years. The second action which is even more effective is avoidance. Don’t build in the affected areas, and build on stilts, etc.

With COVID 19, there will be vaccines to prevent outbreaks, treatments, and social recommendations. Since all this is new, we have to remain teachable as the science develops.

3. Be Humble

Humility is a heavenly sanctuary to shield us from looking upon our accomplishments. Humility is a depth of self-effacement, which no robber can attain. Humility is a mighty tower in the face of the foe.[Climacus, John. The Ladder of Divine Ascent]

Humility is the cure for depression, judging our neighbor, undue envy, hardness of heart, lust, greed, gluttony, ill-will, hypocrisy, and stubbornness.
Stiff-necked people will not survive.

4. Trust God:

Jesus was with His disciples in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when a storm arose causing the boat to take on water and they were in danger and Jesus was asleep. They came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, “Where is your faith?”[Luke 8:24-25 (NKJV)]

Trusting God does not mean that He will always keep you from harm. Faith in God means you can trust Him because of His unfailing love for us. God is love and nothing can separate us from that love. This does not mean that you will not suffer or eventually die. There is an end to our life on this Earth, but then there is resurrection. Jesus died on the cross and rose again thereby defeating death.

Our faith is believing that God exists and that He loves and cares for those who ardently seek Him.[Hebrews 11:6]

As we go through life, don’t expect it to be free of storms, but always remember what Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. [[John 16;33]

Trust Him, there is no way we can be in control of all things. We can take precautions, but cannot completely control our environment.

Who will survive?

You will if you remain flexible, teachable, humble, and you trust in God.

May the Lord bless you and protect you through this difficult time. 

Bill Johnson

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Love is a four letter word

I notice that today, people are really quick to say, "I LOVE YOU,"  but what do they mean? Do they understand what love means? 

How would you explain love?

This is a trick question, don’t even try to answer it. Whatever you say will be inadequate.

The greatest need of the human heart is for love; to be loved and to be free to love others. Giving and receiving love are the hallmarks of our humanity. In order to truly be human, we must be able to receive love and release it to others.

But, what is Love?
The word “LOVE” is one of the most misunderstood and misused words in the English language. This simple, four-letter word can bring joy, peace, conflict, heartbreak, and disaster. What does it mean to you? That depends on your history, culture and vocabulary. Words are merely symbols - elements of language - that communicate ideas. 

 A group of psychologists delved into the meaning of love by asking a group of children aged 4 to 8 years age what “love” meant.
Their answers are truly amazing:
  • 'When my grandma got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandpa does it for her now all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love..."
  • "When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouths."
  • 'Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French Fries without making them give you any of theirs.'
  • "Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.'
  • 'Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."
  • "If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate."
  • "Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken.
  • "Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."
  • "When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you."
  • "You really shouldn't say ‘I LOVE YOU’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget."

Writers have attempted to define love in popular songs, motion pictures, and romantic fiction and it almost always involves getting our own needs met. Love is a warm puppy, a chocolate sundae, not having to say I'm sorry. 

Many of us look at love based upon what we can get out of the relationship;
  • “I will give if I am going to get.”
  • “He makes me feel so good!”
  • “I love the way that ice cream tasted.”
  • “She is so nice to me.”

 If we are truly honest, most of us would define love in terms of getting our own needs met. Even a generous act of giving to others is often based upon an expectation of what we will receive in return. When someone offers us attention, significance, or pleasure, we eagerly give, with the expectation that we will get what we so desperately want or need. But that is not love - that is selfish and manipulative. Even eight-year-old kids have a better understanding of love. 

Love involves giving, giving beyond oneself. It means putting another's needs ahead of our own. Love is the freedom to see beyond oneself in order to see another, not to see them as an object to meet my personal needs. Love sees another as a person worthy of love.

1 John 4:8 (NKJV) He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 

If God is love, our ability to understand LOVE is dependant upon our understanding of God.

Early church monastic, St John of The Ladder, examines the means of ascending to the highest degree of religious perfection by a series of thirty steps. Each step recalls a year of the life of Christ. The most holy example of religious perfection is achieved at step number thirty -”Love.”

The angels know how to discuss love, but even they are only able to do this according to their level of understanding. God is love, so the one who desires to describe this, attempts with dim eyes to weigh the sand in the sea. Love, from its very essence, is the likeness of God. As much as it possible for humans, in its action it is intoxication of the soul, and through its unique characteristic it is a spring of faith, and abyss of long-suffering, an ocean of lowliness. Love is fundamentally the exile of all opposing thoughts, for love thinks nothing evil.[1]

If you want to know love, you must first know God!

[1] The Ladder of Devine Ascent, St John Climacus

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Making the best from working from home?

While most of us are in quarantine and maintaining social distancing, many who still have jobs are working from home. Working from home has both positive and negative issues. It is a great opportunity to grow professionally and relationally, if you do it right.

Twenty-seven years ago, I began working from home and continue to this day.  As a home office veteran, I would like to share some of the things I have learned. It is great to have the freedom to set your own hours, take a break when you want, and not having the boss breathing down your neck. And you can be home with your family to share parenting duties with the “stay at home parent.”

Family dynamics:

After the first few months of working out of my home, I was curtly informed that my wife married me for better or worse, but not for lunch.

With children or without, the family dynamics change when you are home all of the time. Children and spouses have established daily rhythms and your presence in the house will disrupt that rhythm. This is a fact that you will have to understand and accept. There will be conflict over this issue. Be ready for it.


It is very easy to get distracted by family members going about their daily activities, cleaning, taking care of kids, and talking on the phone. You may be interested in what is going on and want to be a part of what they are doing and be distracted. It will take great discipline to avoid these distractions and focus on your work.


Our homes have been places of refuge, places where we can forget work, and a place to kick back and relax in our own comfort space. Now that comfortable place has purposely been converted to the workplace.

Develop a Business Mindset

The first step is to reprogram your mind to believe that you are no longer in your home’s comfort space, but that you are actually at work. When I first began working from home, my home office was in a shed behind the house which made it easier to feel like a business office. But still, it was too close to the house.

In an effort to reorient myself into the business mode, I began to commute to the office. I would get up at the same time I would when I went to a real office, get dressed, eat breakfast, get in my car, drive to the post office to pick up the mail, drive back home and go directly into my office. This set my mind into the business mindset. After years of practice, when I walk into my home office I am in “business mode.”

Establish a place

It is important to set aside a specific place for you to work. If you do not have a room you can set aside for your workspace, you can use a corner of a room.
Make sure that that space is to be used exclusively for business purposes. That is not only important for your mindset, but also for the IRS when you claim a home office deduction.

Keep it clear of personal stuff that may cause a distraction.
Keep your workplace neat.

Set working hours

Set for yourself specific hours to work. While at home, you may have the luxury
of setting your own schedule but make sure that it is consistent day-to-day. You will have the freedom to make adjustments when there are important things that you will want to do. But do not let them permanently interfere with your set schedule. It is easy to let extraneous things, destroy your schedule.

Explain to family

You must explain to your family that just because you are in the house, you are not available for interruptions unless there is an emergency.

Enjoy the benefits of working at home.

Make sure that you treat this time of working from home as a benefit. Enjoy the freedom it gives to you. Enjoy the fact that you are close to your family. Be grateful that you can set your own schedule.

Most of all thank God and your organization, that you still have a job while others are being laid off or furloughed.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Peace in the Midst of COVID-19

Why is there no toilet paper in the stores. Placed a pickup order with Walmart that included a modest two packages of TP and they were out. In the Super Wally World, there is no TP. Smart me, I went to Amazon, figured with Prime I could have some in two days. They were “out of stock.” I went to place a delivery order with Whole Foods, for two bundles of TP – they took the order, then texted me to ask if I would take a substitute. I figured they were out of my brand so told them to substitute. They delivered the order – no TP, they had substituted two roles of paper towels.

Where is the world’s supply of TP? Because of the Corona Virus panic some have become hoarders. They are acting like this is worse than Y2K, Swine Flu, E-Bola, Smallpox, Infantile paralysis, and other major epidemics.

And it appears that diarrhea is not even a symptom of the Corona Virus.

Wall Street is in a panic with the stock market falling at unprecedented rates.

If I had the money, I would be buying stocks now rather than selling. Somewhere I heard that to get rich you must buy low and sell high.

I guess I don’t understand the situation!

Or maybe I do. Yes, I realize that there is a pandemic – worse than an epidemic – but it is not the end of the world. The governments are imposing restrictions in an effort to control the spread of the virus, which will run its course in time, medical science will develop a cure, and there will be a vaccine.

Meanwhile, it seems that the effects of the virus are less intense than many previous health scares with the elderly and infirmed being the most at risk.

By the way, I am centered in that category. So why am I not in a panic?

The first half of my life was spent chasing objectives. Success was achieving the goal. Everything else, relationships, people, and personal health became secondary to the end.

Then, when it would seem that there was nothing more to strive for, I was faced with the realization that I was not in control of my life. Through a series of incidents - temporary loss of my eyesight, a bomb on the plane on which I was a passenger, and dreams of being in an airline crash – I realized how fragile our existence in this life can be.

As a result of this and other circumstances, I came to the realization that there was something more important than me. There is a God, who I am trying to serve, there is my family that I must care for, and there is the church to which I am committed.

This is not to say that I believe that I am immune from the virus or that God will protect me from catching it. I intend to do everything in my power to avoid catching the virus. We are hunkering down in our house, washing our hands,  careful to avoid crowds and being prudent. Our grandson dropped off enough TP to last until Walmart is restocked - which should not take too many days.

We are doing all that we know to do to protect ourselves and others, but we are not in control of the spread of the virus, nor are we totally in control of whether or not we contract it. We have to put our faith in the One who is in control – our Creator and Lord.

By the way, the quote we started with has been wrongfully attributed to Rudyard Kipling. What Kipling really wrote was the poem “If” which I want to share now. It reflects how we should truly live. It is worth the read, all the way to the end.

If you can keep your head when all about you
   Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
   But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
   Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
   And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
   If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
   And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
   Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
   And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
   And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
   And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
   To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
   Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
   Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

   If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run—
   Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!

[1] “If” a poem by Rudyard Kipling 1865 - 1936

Monday, February 24, 2020

Let's Get Wild!

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, 
with all your soul, with all your mind, 
and with all your strength.
[Mark 12:30 (NKJV)]

 What does it mean to "Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength?

Some have tried to define it as obeying. Obedience is surely part of loving God.[John 14:23-24; John 15:9-10] However, obedience is not loving God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength. You can obey someone - a superior officer, employer, or ruler - without loving them. Obeying God without a passion for Him is not love but discipline.  If discipline is all we have, it will fail in the end, while a man or woman in love will never give up. 

Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to Love God with passion, prayer, intelligence, and energy. A lukewarm, loveless version of Christianity may succeed in propagating a little religion here and there, but it will never capture the heart of a dying world.

A.W Tozer writes,
“God dwells in a state of perpetual enthusiasm. He is delighted with all that is good and lovingly concerned about all that is wrong. He pursues His labors always in a fullness of holy zeal. No wonder the Spirit came at Pentecost as a sound of a rushing wind and sat in tongues of fire on every forehead… Whatever else happened at Pentecost, one thing that cannot be missed by the most casual observer was the sudden upsurging of moral enthusiasm. Those first disciples burned with a steady, inward fire. They were enthusiastic to the point of complete abandon."

In a vision, Jesus told John to write a letter to the Church at Laodicea and tell them:
'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." [Rev. 3:15-16]

Why is it that most Christians have lost their passion and have become lukewarm? Maybe because it's not cool! So often we are too cool to be passionate. It may be the result of rationalism and modernism. Many of the early reformers worked hard to take emotionalism out of Christianity and make religion rational.

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, everyone had to have a nickname. Mine was “Wild Bill,” because I would try anything once. In the 4th Grade, Suzanne Schmitz’s mother would not let her play with me because I was too “Wild.” She was the first non-relative I ever kissed. 

Down the street from our house were three tall elm trees spaced about twenty feet apart. They were great climbing trees. We watched squirrels playing follow the leader as they went out on a branch of one tree and jumped across to a branch on an adjacent tree. The thought came to me, "That looks like fun, I’ll bet I can do that." 

There was a large branch that could hold my weight, the limb was strong enough for me to walk out and get within eight feet of a substantial limb on the next tree. So I shinnied up the first tree, stepped gingerly out on the limb. The limb was strong and supporting me. This was going to be easier than I originally thought. The branch in the opposite tree was there waiting - just a short leap away. I lept but had made a serious miscalculation and fell. As I grabbed for a large limb, all I caught were leaves and skinny branches. Holding on for dear life, I quickly fell twenty feet to the ground landing hard and breaking my tail bone. In my mind I will always want to make that leap and prove that I can do it, but the memory of the pain in my butt keeps me from making another attempt.

When we get hurt we tend to be more careful. Getting hurt makes us more cautious. If we get hurt often enough, we give up because we don't want to become vulnerable. That’s the way it is with love. When we love someone with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength we become vulnerable to the object of our love who then has the ability to hurt us. When a human being hurts us, we often transfer our distrust to God.

The Early Church was  wild, they lived in wild abandon trusting God for all their needs. They expected God to act on their behalf. They prayed and saw people healed. They raised people from the dead on a regular basis. Andrew the brother of Peter was strolling along the seashore and came upon as tragic shipwreck. The dead bodies of the sailors had washed up on the shore. Overcome with sadness and compassion, Andrew prayed and asked God to raise them from the dead. God obliged.

This wild abandonment for God lasted for a few hundred years. Then the church became more respectable as Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion. As Christianity became “Safe,” the wild ones moved out to the deserts of Egypt and Arabia. 

Much of the Church has become “Functional Atheists” A “Functional Atheist” is someone who says he believes in God, but lives his life as if God did not exist. A functional atheist is afraid to commit his life to God’s leadership. He attends church but does not expect God to show up. He believes God can heal but doesn’t expect Him to act. He may have God as his co-pilot, but never allows Him to take the controls. He relies on his own logic rather than the Holy Spirit. 

These are Christians in name only. They try to live the Christian life, but their life is dull and without fire or power;

“… if the Holy Spirit were completely removed from the world today, 90% of the work of the church would go on as if nothing at all had happened.”  - [R.T. Kendell]

Every generation has a group of wild ones in the church.

My fear is not that our great movement, known as the Methodists, will eventually cease to exist or one day die from the earth. My fear is that our people will become content to live without the fire, the power, the excitement, the supernatural element that makes us great. [John Wesley]

“The great sin of church is not that we’ve lost the power of God, but that we’ve become content to live without it.”   - [Charles Finney]

OUR nation was founded by “Wild Ones.” Now we are apologizing for believing in the one true God.