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We live today in what might be called a time of “layered crises,” one on top of the other our lives are stressed by trials and threats, big and small, national and personal, so the question becomes, how should we then live/

Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #45 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.

Life happens, and since we live in a fallen world tainted by the curse of sin and the sin of our own hearts, this means crises happen – trials, emergencies, tragedies, suffering – both national and personal.

It could be called a time of “layered crises,” one on top of the other. While the 20th Century saw world wars and the Great Depression, the 21St Century has brought us: 9-11, Katrina, a global pandemic, an increase in refugees and immigration that’s produced humanitarian challenges in countries throughout the Middle East and the West. 

In large part due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we now have something called “food insecurity,” an inability to get sufficient quantities of grain that in turn yields hunger and possibly starvation, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. Human trafficking and slavery. Wars in Yemen and Syria, raging inflation, “Acts of God” as the insurance industry calls them, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, more, violence, ad infinitum.  

On a personal level, we face sudden illness or difficult prognoses re diseases like cancer, accidents and tragedies including loss of loved ones, job loss, financial duress, divorce and broken families, loss of hope, fear, paralyzing depression, and what’s now being called a “public mental health crisis,” especially among youth.

Meanwhile, the Scripture is replete with verses providing us with the promise of protection, stability, and hope:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Phil. 4:4-7

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Rom. 8:28

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8: 37-39

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way.” Psalm 45:8

A crisis is an emergency that is “unexpected, disruptive, a single event or multiple occurrences, and could lead to either positive or negative results.” It can be attributed to humans or nature, and it is an external uncontrolled force, unpredictable. 

So, during our lives we will live through national/international crises that may or may not affect us directly, and we most certainly will live through our own personal trials or crises. If you haven’t yet experienced a crisis in your life, you just haven’t yet lived long enough.

God is aware of our trials and sufferings. God is there to help us, even to walking through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23).

I remember a time when I faced the most serious crisis that had yet come my way. 

For some reason, my wife was gone over a weekend during which I wrestled with this, and I remember being so stressed that my stomach hurt, and I literally bent double under the strain.

At that point, I began reading the book of Psalms. I confess that up to that point in my life I had wondered about the shepherd king David, author of the Psalms, like “What’s wrong with this guy? He always seems to be whining, sort of crying out to the Lord, not able to deal with his problems.”

Well, now that I had hit the wall, I understood. For the first time in my life, I felt like David. I could not handle my own problems, and I knew it.

So back to the Psalms. I read, and I read, and I read some more. Ultimately, I read the entire book through three times in about a month. I found phrases repeated over and over, like God’s “unfailing love.” I later learned that in the NIV, the phrase God’s “unfailing love” is cited 32 times in Psalms.This phrase said to me that God knew exactly what I was experiencing, and guess what, I was still amid his “unfailing love.”

Another repetitive phrase in the Psalms was various versions of “God’s strong right arm” or “God’s right hand.” This conveyed to me God’s ability to deal with my problems and, frankly, to deal with me. 

Finally, I found various expressions of the phrase, “Let your face shine upon me.”

David wanted God’s favor, and he asked God to give this to him in the wonderfully poetic words of “make your face to shine upon me.”

What I learned facing that crisis is this,

  • God was entirely aware of my concerns,
  • The Lord was still there and capable of administering the crisis according to his will and my good,
  • And that I could not work through the problem in my own strength.

I learned to pray, “Lord I can’t handle this. I give it all to you and trust you to work through me as you wish.” I learned this is a wonderful prayer of release. It is personally liberating and professionally energizing. I was still responsible to work as unto the Lord, but the results, the outcome belonged to him.

I have prayed this prayer a few times since, and I recommend it to you. It is not weakness, no more than David was “weak.” It is realistic, wise, and healing.

Today, as America experiences daily crises, brought to us 24/7 on media and social media, older adults are saying they don’t recognize their own country, and many are turning to alcohol and opioids. Meanwhile, young people are suffering from rash anxiety and a skyrocketing mental health crisis.

Sadly, most of the adults and nearly all the youth do not know the Word of God, do not understand theology, do not comprehend God’s promises or his sovereignty, so they have nothing to fall back on. They have no failsafe, no backstop, no lifeline. Thus, their circumstances, life itself, overwhelms them and we get addictions, suicides, emotional PTSD.

How should Christians, then, speak into this cultural moment? How can we be a witness to peace and hope?

Several things we can do:

  • We can demonstrate that how we respond to crises is a choice. 
  • By how we live our lives, trusting God, we can demonstrate that circumstances do notdetermine our character or our faith, even if they often reveal them. 
  • We can illustrate that one’s response to any crisis is an opportunity.
  • Via the capital C Church, the Body of Christ, we can show a caring God.

Crises are challenging, perhaps threatening, but God can use them to bring people together.

What then should we do amid crises?

  • Pray, seek God’s face.
  • Read the Psalms.
  • Choose Resilience, Optimism.
  • Remember, every crisis ends – “This too shall pass.” 
  • Trust the Sovereign God.

Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com. 

And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2022   

*This podcast blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.  

Have you ever been persecuted for your faith?  I haven’t, though I’ve been ridiculed, but this is nothing.  I’ve met people, though, who experienced real persecution, and their faith is resilient.

Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #16 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.

Throughout the history of Christianity, persecution of individual Christians and the Church has been constant.

And today, persecution against Christians is increasing around the world. 

The ministry Open Doors, sponsors a “World Watch List,” that recounts the top 50 countries in which, in their words ,“it’s most difficult to follow Jesus.” 

According to The Watch List, more than 360 million Christians live in places around the world where they experience high levels of persecution. That’s more than the population of the United States. In 2021, some 4,761 Christians were killed for their faith, 4,888 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked, and 4,277 believers were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced, or imprisoned for their faith.

For 17 consecutive years, North Korea has been ranked #1 as the most dangerous country for Christians, only recently displaced in 2021 by Afghanistan. Add countries like China, Laos, Somalia, Libya, Nigeria, Iran, Syria, and other Middle Eastern or North African countries where persecution of minority religions, especially Christianity, is an ongoing experience. 

Persecution intersects with discussions of freedom of religion and belief, and it can be considered in at least two ways: persecution of others – how we should respond to it, and personal persecution – how we should prepare for and respond to it.

Persecution is defined by Merriam-Webster as: “to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict,” or “specifically: to cause to suffer because of belief.” The word is typically used in association with religious violence.

Periodically, I hear someone claim the American Church or Christians are experiencing “persecution.” But I don’t use “persecution” to refer to incidents in the US. Frankly, while churches in the US have been harassed by government or other entities, and while genuine persecution will likely someday come to this country, it’s not now. 

Meanwhile, persecution of the Church, Christians, Muslims, Jews, or several religious minorities is rampant elsewhere in the world. Indeed, restrictions on religious freedom is now a global crisis, in autocratic and religiously dominated regimes but also in democratic countries.

In my view, and I believe it is a biblical perspective, Christians should defend and promote religious freedom, the “first freedom,” for all human beings, whatever their religion or no religion at all. It’s part God creating us thinking, reasoning, choosing human beings made in his image, and it is part of Love your neighbor as yourself.

In the US, rather than persecution, we can talk about opposition, harassment, discrimination, even hostility, for example:

  • Eroding freedoms and a cultural tide that is more secular or pagan.
  • Increasing intolerance of Christian activity, evident in fines, lawsuits, jobs lost, and public disdain.
  • Increasing harassment and anti-religious or specifically anti-Christian bias in education at all levels.
  • Big Tech censorship of religious or Christian viewpoints.

Yet what we experience in the US, worrisome and negatively trending though it may be, is still different from the painful struggles elsewhere in the world that Christians are enduring because of their faith. 

Christians in the US still enjoy freedoms and protections rooted in the First Amendment that make profession of faith relatively easy or unthreatened compared to Christians living where owning a Bible could cost life and limb. 

This does not mean that persecution will never come to the US, nor that we should ignore anti-religious trends in government and culture. In fact, we should learn what God says about persecution, discover how we can assist isolated believers globally, and learn how we should prepare if God allows persecution to come to our doorstep.

Let’s think about what the Scripture says.

First, persecution is predictable.

  1. In John 15:30, Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”
  2. The Apostle Paul said, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” 2 Tim. 3:10-15. 

Second, the Scripture indicates persecution occurs within the will of God.  

  1. God uses persecution to purify the church. Persecution has always made the church stronger. “Yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”  13:21, Mark 4:17
  2. And persecution has been instrumental in generating the Diaspora, spreading the truth worldwide: “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus.And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.” Acts 11:19-21

Third, the Early Church suffered persecution.    

  1. The first martyr, Stephen, was arrested and stoned Acts 6:8-15, 7:1-60.
  2. The Apostles were arrested and imprisoned, and all but John were eventually martyred. Tertullian, one of the 2ndC, Church Fathers said, “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.”
  3. The great Apostle Paul said, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure,” 2 Cor. 11:24-28.
  4. And Scripture pays tribute to faithful followers of Christ, saying in Heb. 11:36-38, “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated. of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends.

Scripture also tells us what our attitude should be toward persecution and persecutors:

  1. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, fortheirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matt. 5:10-12
  2. “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”  5:44
  3. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”  12:14

How then should we regard persecution?

  1. Expect persecution
  2. Be informed and pray for those who are persecutedInternational Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church – first Sunday in Nov. See also Voice of the Martyrs, or read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563), William Tyndale – translator of Bible to English, burned at stake.
  3. Stand with persecuted Christians. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it,” 1 Corinthians 12:26.
  4. Provide practical help, as possible, for persecuted Christians, including immigrants.
  5. Be ready to give an answer, 1 Pet. 3:15-16.
  6. Trust God for the results– Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fiery furnace, yet Stephen was stoned unto death. God said, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life,”  2:10.
  7. And we’re provided perspective: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” Eph. 6:12.

In the providence of God, real persecution may indeed come to the United States. I do not know what God will ask of us. I do know he will build his church “and the gates of hell will not prevail against it,” Matt. 16:18.

 

Well, we’ll see you again soon. For more Christian commentary, be sure to subscribe to this podcast, Discerning What Is Best, or check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com. And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2022   

*This podcast blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.  

Are you stressed, distressed, obsessed, suppressed, repressed, oppressed, or just messed…up?

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.’

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;

it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:22-26).

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

I confess that when I think about not traveling and why we are limited or cannot travel re ongoing government-instituted C-19 protocols, I want to grit my teeth and throw things. 

But then I’m reminded of when I tried this approach as a kid and Mom – who must have been the model for Mrs. Walton who always quoted Scripture on “The Waltons” – would quote the KJV, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).

This was Mom's way of saying to an errant son, “Straighten up and fly right.” Who could argue with Mom, much less Scripture?

Mom was right. It's a great perspective verse:

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (ESV).

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Feeling low, depressed, discouraged, disillusioned, anxious, fearful, hopeless?
 
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.
 
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
 
Phil. 4:4-8
 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Things I pray for that may not be God’s will:

  • COVID-19 to end worldwide, now.
  • Social unrest, including in the US, to cease.
  • Polarization in culture to give way to productive consensus.
  • Authoritarian regimes to fall to democratic movements.
  • Religious liberty for everyone in the world.
  • No more wildfires, hurricanes, or other “bad weather.”
  • Abortion policy reversed; abortions reduced then eliminated.

That last one was the hardest one for me to write. 

The point here is not me suggesting God does not care or that He blesses such travail, but that the Sovereign God is in charge, that accidents or surprises don’t happen in the divine economy, that He works His purposes in spite of and through adversity and evil. 

So, I pray for His providential wisdom, His will, His mercy and grace.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.